Exercitia Spiritualia

photo of open devotional book

St. Ignatius of Loyola
Exercitia Spiritualia
Rome: Apud Antonium Bladum, 1548
6 1/8 x 4 3/8 in. (15.5 x 11 cm)
Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (49043050)

 

Moroni’s sacred portraits have been associated with the contemplative prayer popularized by texts such as St. Ignatius’s Exercitia Spiritualia (Spiritual Exercises). One of the most popular devotional books in the history of Christianity, the Exercitia Spiritualia was written by the founder of the Jesuit order in his native Spanish and first published in Latin in 1548. The four-week program instructs the devotee to imagine using all five senses for full immersion in the contemplation of sacred episodes. The text displayed here instructs the reader to confront human sin — as may be visualized in Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael — by first acknowledging the sins of all humanity and then the intercession of the Virgin and Archangel Michael:

"This will be to see the different persons: First, those on the face of the earth, in such great diversity in dress and in manner of acting. Some are white, some black; some at peace, and some at war; some weeping, some laughing; some well, some sick; some coming into the world, and some dying; etc. Secondly, I will see and consider the Three Divine Persons seated on the royal dais or throne of the Divine Majesty. They look down upon the whole surface of the earth, and behold all nations in great blindness, going down to death and descending into hell. Thirdly, I will see our Lady and the angel saluting her. I will reflect upon this to draw profit from what I see."