Ignatius of Loyola was a man who believed that we must first lead ourselves before we can lead others – and that leading ourselves as Christians calls for constant, focused attention.
A Child Of Privilege
Born into wealth, in a castle in Spain in 1491, Ignatius was a child of privilege. Though his family had wealth, however, he couldn’t buy his way out of the wars that were raging in his lifetime. Sent to fight with France in 1521, Ignatius was wounded in the leg by a cannon ball and sent to recuperate.
As he recuperated, he read books such as The Life Of Christ and Thomas a’Kempis’ The Imitation Of Christ, as well as stories of Saint Francis. Led to a profound conversion experience, Ignatius’ life call to teach the Church to pray has impacted saints for half a millennium (excerpted from How Is Your Soul? by Vineyard Resources).
Our Souls Are Dynamic
Ignatius devoted his days to training people to care for their interior life with Christ, giving them the capacity to heroically and faithfully impact the world.
The interior life is the life we live on the inside, that can often be cluttered by (and even confused with) our “exterior” life of activity.
He suggested that our souls “move” in and out of two states – consolation and desolation, all of the time. Like waves on the oceans surface, we are spiritually dynamic people, rather than static. Our emotions change, our bodies change, and our spiritual state needs attention as they do.
The Spiritual Exercises
Ignatius developed particular practices, what he called Spiritual Exercises, that can help us stay close to Christ as we do great things to impact the world.
In fact, if you’ve seen the movies The Mission or Silence, and you’ll see how Jesuits had a capacity to do great things for the greater glory of God (ad majorem Dei gloriam) – and therefore, for others (the idea of magis for the Jesuits).
The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises is “…To conquer oneself and to regulate one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment” (Louis J. Puhl, S.J.” Translation – The Spiritual Exercises.” Ignatian Spirituality. Retrieved 9 March 2017.).
In Ignatius own translated words,
By the term “Spiritual Exercises” is meant every method of examination of conscience, of meditation, of contemplation, of vocal and mental prayer, and of other spiritual activities that will be mentioned later. For just as taking a walk, journeying on foot, and running are bodily exercises, so we call Spiritual Exercises every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.
An Example: The Daily Examen
The Daily Examen is an example of one of the Spiritual Exercises, and is “a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.
The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience” (www.ignatianspirituality.com).
For me, the Daily Examen is the central spiritual exercise that has most impacted my life as a Christian.
Resources On The Jesuits & Ignatian Spirituality
To find out more about Ignatius and Jesuit spirituality, I recommend the following books and sites:
Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney
IgnatianSpirituality.com (Loyola Press)