"The desire for God is written in the human heart." (CCC 27)
Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was born in northern Spain to an aristocratic family. He was trained to be a courtier, a nobleman in the service of the Spanish royalty. While in this service, he was wounded in battle. During his period of recovery, he read a book on the lives of the saints and a four-volume life of Jesus Christ. The reading led him to reassess his life and dedicate himself to the service of God.
This period of recovery was also a time of personal transformation. Ignatius experienced the goodness of God infusing his life and all of creation. He developed the Spiritual Exercises, a guide for his personal reflection and a means to help others to discern the presence of God in their lives. Eventually he and a group of companions gathered to dedicate their lives to God and the Church; they became the founding group of the Society of Jesus, often called the Jesuits.
Ignatius and his companions realized that God was calling them to care for a world that seemed to be falling apart. The Church was in need of reform. People were in need of direction to discover what it meant to live in a relationship with God and others. Ignatius's contribution is relevant for our time as well as his own.
What are the fundamentals of what Ignatius offered? The following points were adapted from the Ignatian Partners Web site: (formerly at www.ignatianpartners.org)
a convict ion of the value of the human person as created by God
a desire to find the voice of God in and through the ordinary events of the day
an understanding of oneself as an agent of change in the world
a commitment to a life of justice
an outreach to people who are in need or excluded from society
Theologian Monica Hellwig comments, “Perhaps most characteristic of all, the whole [Ignatian Spirituality] process is geared to consciousness raising of the individual…, to be alert to one's own motivations and inclinations, and to learn to discern what is the voice of the Holy Spirit of God and what is the voice of a spirit that is counter to God's spirit, a spirit of destruction and disorientation.”
Ignatius was transformed by the notion that God loved him, redeemed him, and encountered him in everything around him. He learned how he could come to trust his instincts and inclinations as well as his creativity. He found a purpose and meaning that would illuminate his life and inspire his days. Through his writings and the Jesuit community Saint Ignatius of Loyola continues to offer us these insights today.