Every spirituality has the aim to help an individual integrate his or her relationship with God and their life in the world. Ignatian spirituality like other Christian spiritualities derives from a particular experience and insight into the person of Jesus and his relationship to the human world. For Ignatius being a companion of Jesus in his salvific mission gave direction and purpose to life. Companionship with Jesus in mission is central to Ignatian spirituality.
The characteristics or basic elements of Ignatian spirituality listed below are drawn from the life and experience of St. Ignatius.
- God’s creative and redeeming love
In the Gospel of John we read that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Ignatius experienced deeply how much God loved him in spite of his sinfulness and in spite of his sinfulness called him to serve him in and through Jesus.
- God is at work in the world
Ignatius realized that God is at work everywhere: in our work situations, relationships, culture, and the intellectual life, in short in all of creation. All things in the world are presented to us “so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.” Thus Ignatian spirituality puts great emphasis on discerning God’s presence in the everyday activities of ordinary life. It sees God as active, as always at work inviting us to deeper companionship with him. Thus the world is a good place to live and work, because there we find God.
- To live and work as a companion of Jesus
God is active in the world in and through Jesus and Jesus invites to join him in his salvific mission in the world. The fact that the disciple is called to be with Jesus (Mark 3:14) and not just to be sent on mission, includes the call of the disciples to be companions of Jesus together. Thus Ignatian spirituality puts great value on collaboration and teamwork. Ignatian spirituality sees the link between God and human beings as a relationship, a bond of friendship that develops over time.
- To hear God’s word to the individual and to the community of disciples
Like Ignatius and his companions those who are formed by the Spiritual Exercises become reflective people with a rich inner life who are deeply engaged in God’s work in the world. They unite themselves with God through prayer and service. They seek to do God’s will individually and together with others. Ignatian spirituality leads those who follow it to become men and women not only for God but as well for others.
The Spiritual Exercises
The Spiritual Exercises are an organized series of spiritual exercises put together by Ignatius of Loyola out of his own personal spiritual experience and that of others to whom he listened. They invite the “retreatant” or “exercitant” to “meditate” on central aspects of Christian faith (e.g., creation, sin and forgiveness, calling and ministry) and especially to “contemplate” (i.e. imaginatively enter into) the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. With the help of a retreat director the goal of all this is the attainment of a kind of spiritual freedom, the power to act-not out of social pressure or personal compulsion and fear–but out of the promptings of God’s spirit in the deepest, truest core of one’s being–to act ultimately out of love (George W. Traub, S.J., Do You Speak Ignatian? A Glossary of Terms Used in Ignatian and Jesuit Circles).
The Spiritual Exercises are the foundation of Jesuit life and mission and also of Ignatian spirituality. The General Congregation 32, D 4, # 38, “Our Mission Today” states:
The well spring of our apostolate. We are led back to our experience of the Spiritual Exercises. In them we are able continually to renew our faith and apostolic hope by experiencing again the love of God in Christ Jesus. We strengthen our commitment to be companions of Jesus in His mission, to labor like Him in solidarity with the poor and with Him for the establishment of the Kingdom. Thereby we gradually make our own that apostolic pedagogy of St. Ignatius which should characterize our every action.
To learn more about and experience our spirituality, contact the Center for Ignatian Spirituality for their schedule of retreats and recollections.