Jul 30, 2014
“The only known way to physical fitness is through physical exercise; wishing is not good enough,” writes W.A. Orr, Chief of the Air Staff in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). In 1961, an exercise plan was published for the RCAF, one for men and a corresponding plan for women. This old school, no-frills, no-nonsense program is intense, tightly structured, and personalized; it contains directives, cautions, and progress charts. The idea is to work all the muscle groups through calisthenics and aerobic every day in a short amount of time. The booklet explains what physical fitness means, why you should be fit, how the program works, and what your fitness goals should be. Every exercise begins with a directive: “Stand erect,” “Bend to the left and to the right,” “Lie on your back.” It is said that George Burns did the RCAF exercises every morning.
For those keen on spiritual fitness, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola are here briefly considered. Written between 1522 and 1534, they were finally approved by Paul III in 1548. It is a little-known fact that wealthy lay women, who had looked after Ignatius’ needs in his pilgrimage days, were the first to do the Exercises under his direction. They sought to intensify their relationship with God and serve others as the Lord’s disciples without being confined to the cloister as nuns. After the Society of Jesus was formed in 1540, the Exercises became the heartbeat of Jesuit training and of many religious institutes, who in the next century, could conduct their ministry outside the cloister. To follow the Ignatian way was to find God by serving others; it was a way of seeing the divine at work everywhere.
Structure and Contemporary Forms of the Ignatian Exercises