What Is Ignatian Spirituality?

What Is Ignatian Spirituality?

by Joe Paprocki, D.Min.

What's your preference:
   Mac or PC?
   Coke or Pepsi?
   Dunkin' or Krispy Kreme?

It's nice to have options, isn't it? We do not live in a one-size-fits all world. Folks have different tastes and preferences when it comes to computers, cola drinks, and donuts, just to name a few.

Well, the same can be said for spirituality. When it comes to exploring and nurturing one's relationship with God, there are options available. One of the most popular options in Catholic spirituality is Ignatian spirituality. So, just what is Ignatian spirituality?

In his book, Christian Spirituality (Loyola Press), George Lane, S.J., defines spirituality as “a way to holiness.” Christian spirituality, of course, seeks holiness in and through Jesus Christ. Even within the Christian Tradition, there are numerous spiritual paths that come to us from the traditions of various religious communities such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Benedictines. One of the most popular and widely practiced spiritual paths in the Catholic Tradition is Ignatian Spirituality—a path articulated by Saint Ignatius of Loyola who founded the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1540. St. Ignatius outlined this spirituality in his Spiritual Exercises, originally written as a handbook for a thirty-day retreat. With this in mind, let's take a closer look at the characteristics of Ignatian spirituality.

According to Fr. Paul Brian Campbell, S.J., Ignatian spirituality encourages us to…

  1. find (recognize) God in all things

  2. develop a personal relationship with Christ and love for the Church (bruised and broken as it often is)

  3. live a life of reflection (self-awareness/discernment) leading to gratitude and a life of service (becoming a man or woman for others)

  4. live a life of contemplation in action—not a monastic existence, but an active one that is, at the same time, infused with prayer

  5. live with an inner freedom (the result of self-awareness and discernment)

  6. translate our faith into working for justice—the realization that there can be no true expression of faith where concerns for justice and human dignity are lacking

  7. recognize, like Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God”—the positive, energetic and engaged vision of God's constant interaction with creation

  8. live according to the maxim “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (For the Greater Glory of God)—praising God and dedicating oneself to participate in God's healing work in the world

  9. be flexible and adaptable, following the example of the 16th century Jesuits who wore Chinese robes and generally adapted to various cultures; respecting people's lived experience

  10. seek the union of minds and hearts—as brothers and sisters, we listen for the God who is present among us, admitting no division based on ethnicity, nationality, background, age or gender

These principles and ideas are not unique to Ignatius. Rather, they flow from the Gospel of Jesus. However, Ignatius has gathered and synthesized them in such a way as to create a path to Jesus—a path that countless millions of Catholics have traveled over the past 450 years, a path called Ignatian spirituality.