Apostolic Constitution of Pius XI on the efficacy of the Spiritual Exercises, dated July 25, 1922.
It has always been the chief concern of the Sovereign Pontiffs to commend, and highly to praise, to promote, and strongly to encourage, all that notably makes for the goodness and perfection of Christian life. Now a place in the front rank of all that helps towards this end has been won by those Spiritual Exercises that St. Ignatius, by a certain divine instinct, introduced into the Church. For although, in the goodness and pity of God, men have never been wanting to set forth aptly deep thoughts upon heavenly things before the eyes of the Faithful, yet Ignatius was the first to begin to teach a certain system and special method of going through spiritual retreats. He did this in the little book which he wrote when he was still a quite uncultured man, and to which he himself gave the name "Spiritual Exercises." This method was such as wonderfully to help the Faithful to hate sin, and to plan out their life holily after the model of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
To the power of the Ignatian method is due the fact that, as Our Eminent Predecessor, Leo XIII, avowed, the high value of these Exercises has been proved by the "experience of the last three centuries . . . and by the witness of all who during that time put forth the chiefest flowers of ascetical training and holiness of life."' Along with the many shining examples of holiness actually found in the household of St. Ignatius itself, who expressly declare that it is from the Exercises, as its source, that they have drawn their whole plan of asceticism, we love also to recall, from among the Secular clergy, those two lights of the Church, St. Francis of Sales and St. Charles Borromeo. Francis, when seeking duly to prepare himself for episcopal consecration, carefully retired in order to make the Ignatian Exercises, and during them mapped out for himself that plan of life, to which he ever thereafter clung, according to the principles for the "reformation of life" contained in St. Ignatius' little book. Charles Borromeo, as Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius X, has shown,' and as We Ourselves have proved in historical papers published before We were raised to the Supreme Pontificate. having experienced the value of the exercises and being led by them to adopt a more perfect life, went on to spread abroad their use among clergy and laity alike. Among holy men and women belonging to religious bodies, it will be enough to quote for example, that mistress of most lofty contemplation, Teresa, and Leonard of Port Maurice, the son of the Seraphic Patriarch, who rated St. Ignatius' little book so highly, that he owned he wholly followed its plan when winning souls to God.
Accordingly, this book—so small in bulk, yet so "wonderful"'—has, from its very first edition, been solemnly approved by the Roman Pontiffs; they have loudly extolled it, have sanctioned it by their Apostolic Authority, and have never ceased to lead men to use it, by heaping the gift of holy indulgences upon it, and gracing it with repeated encomiums.
We regard it as certain that most of the ills of our day start from the fact that "No man thinketh in his heart" (Jer. xii, ii). We deem it proved that the Spiritual Exercises, made according to the plan of St. Ignatius, have the greatest efficacy in dispelling the most stubborn difficulties with which human society is now confronted; and we have studied the rich crop of virtues that ripens today no less than of old in spiritual retreats, not only among members of religious congregations and the Secular clergy, but also among the laity, and, what in our age is worthy of special and separate remark, among the working classes themselves. Therefore we earnestly wish that the making of these Spiritual Exercises should daily spread wider and wider abroad; and that those Houses of Devotion, into which men withdraw for a whole month, or for eight days, or for fewer, there to put themselves into training for the perfect Christian life, may come into being and flourish everywhere more and more numerously.
This in Out love for the Lord's flock we beg from God; and therefore in answer to the earnest desires and petitions of the Sacred Hierarchy of both rites in practically the whole Catholic world, and also because We Ourselves are eager to its no doubtful sign of our gratitude towards the Holy Patriarch at this time, particularly when occur the third centenary of the canonization of St. Ignatius and the fourth centenary of the writing of this golden little book,—following the example of our Predecessors who have assigned patrons and guardians to various Institutions, having called a council of Our Venerable Brethren, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Catholic Church who preside over the Congregation of Sacred Rites, We, by Our Apostolic Authority, declare, constitute and announce Saint Ignatius of Loyola to be the Heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises, and accordingly of all Institutes, Sodalities, or groups of whatever sort, which bestow their care and zeal upon those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.
And We decree that these Our Letters are and ever will be firm, valid, and efficacious, and that to them belong and shall accrue their proper, full, and integral effects, notwithstanding anything whatsoever to the contrary.
Given in Rome, near St. Peter, in the year of the Lord 1922, the 25th of July, the first year of Our Pontificate.
Pope Pius XI