Ignatian spirituality is a spirituality for daily life, and is rooted in the firm belief that God is actively, present in our lives in a personal way. This spirituality, is also known as the Jesuit Spirituality as it is followed by the Jesuit order (the Society of Jesus) founded by St. Ignatius. It is focused on a deep connection with God through prayer, which enables us to discern God’s will in all matters, and helps us to actively serve others. The Ignatian way of making a good decision is choosing the better good, out of two good choices, as that is what God wants for us. The motto of St Ignatius was, "In all things, to love and to serve" (Spanish: en todo amar y servir) .Benedict XVI said about St. Ignatius as "a man who gave the first place of his life to God" .
The one and only goal of Ignatian Spirituality is union with God, knowing His will and do it alone. The ideal way to accomplish this, is to do the Spiritual exercises written by St. Ignatius, in silence, solitude and after eliminating every disordered attachment to the things of this world. These Spiritual exercises will guide us to understand and choose those things that help us to do the will of God, and to get rid of those that mislead us.
The five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
The Jesuits practice this twice a day, at noon and at the end of the day, as this is one of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order . In this Ignatian year, let us also use this technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to better understand God’s presence in them and discern His will for us in a better way.
St. Ignatian Contemplation method of Prayer
In the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, contemplation is a very active way of praying with the imagination, a way of praying that engages the mind and heart, and stirs up thoughts and emotions. Ignatius was convinced that God can speak to us as surely through our imagination as through our thoughts and memories. We accompany Jesus through His life by visualizing the events of the life of Jesus as if they are happening before us right now, and pay attention to the details like sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings of the event. By contemplating a Gospel scene in this way, we are not simply remembering it or going back in time, but the Holy Spirit makes present a mystery of Jesus’ life in a way that is meaningful for us now.
St. Ignatian Discernment method
In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, there are various “rules for the discernment of spirits”—called principles of wise discernment. These four strategies is helpful to make a good decision.
Þ Write all the Pros and Cons.—The advantages if a decision is made, and if not made . Also, the cons.
Þ Try It . For a period of time imagine that the decision is already made and see how it affects you.
Þ Think How Would You Counsel Someone in Your Situation.– Think of the advice you will give to someone in your situation of dilemma.
Þ Think of the effect of your decision at the End of Your Life.– Think whether the decision you took make you happy or regret on your death bed
St. Ignatius says Confession involves healing, and there are three steps for a Sacramental Confession.
1.Confession of my faith which is actually an acknowledgement that there is something greater than myself and that life has a deeper meaning that we want to tap into. It means admitting that I am a part of an entire world of people striving together for this greater something.
2.Confession of my humanity which means accepting my humanness, and the strengths and weaknesses that come with it.
3. Actual confession of sins, which is more about restoration than about guilt. When we become so vulnerable to admit our faults and failings, healing comes in two ways– self healing which helps to forgive ourselves, and the healing of broken relationships with others, by forgiving them with the forgiveness we ourselves have experienced.
Daily Self Exam
Jesus knows all our sins better than we do. But telling it to Him in confession, encourages us to get to the root of our failures of the past, in the best possible way, correct them now, and avoid them in the future in whichever way possible. In the Confiteor we say, “ I have greatly sinned in my thoughts, in my words ,in what I have done and in what I have failed to do..” St. Ignatius writes we should do this in our daily self exam “Then you will think over the different hours or the different occupations of the day, examining your thoughts, words, actions, or omissions.” Once we go for a good confession, this practice of daily self exam, will help us to be in the right track of life. Through this self exam, we can analyze whether our thoughts, words, and actions have imitated Christ or whether we have gone astray. In fact, we can talk to Him about what we felt, said and did, and even the responses of others to us in all those situations. This self accounting of our lives in God’s presence will eventually bring us very close to Him, even without our knowledge. We have to constantly put an effort to visualize living a life right in front of God to improve ourselves.
Ignatius declares that “(the particular exam) goes direct to the predominant sin or vice of our character; in order to vanquish its enemies, it begins by isolating them and attacks them one by one.” Particular Exam is a Spiritual warfare - a battle against a particular sin. We have to keep track of how often we commit the sin which we are working to eradicate, so that we could systematically overcome that failure. A particular exam might need weeks or months. We have to spend time in analyzing the origins and “roots” of those habits/faults from our early life. Then we have to find out what triggers that now, and check whether there is any pattern of failure. We may feel that there is no progress at all, and the process can be slow and painful, but trust that if God wills it, it will happen. Real progress happens by deepening our relationship with Jesus, and by our constant efforts.
Ignatian way of Catholic Pilgrimage
Traditionally, Catholics make pilgrimages to holy places. To be in the spirit of St. Ignatius’ pilgrimage means an encounter with God. This means, Pilgrimage should be a daily undertaking, as it is a desire to encounter the living God in every person we meet, and in every place. When we
love our forgotten co-worker, the person in the street, or even our enemy, we are encountering God. God has designed history, geography, prayer, tradition, and our own gifts to be in places where there is a sacred meeting. When we are in a place, we are participating in what happened there in a
mystical way. In fact the holiness of a place depends on what happened there. To be a true pilgrim, we have to control our wandering mind, and be in the place with full concentration. Pilgrimage reveals not only knowledge and wisdom about the site itself, but also knowledge and wisdom about
the pilgrim who lingers at the site. True pilgrimage is made when we linger with our mind, memory, emotions, gifts, and sensuality to wherever we are and connect with the graces God has hidden there.
4 Principles of Pilgrimage that apply to the life of each one of us.
- Pilgrimage presents itself, but we decide to go or stay. Ignatius chose to reflect on his life and understand what God was saying to him. His pilgrimage truly began with his willingness to begin. God does not force us for anything, but invites us—through circumstances, through our intuition, through our gifts and opportunities, even through our trials. It’s up to us to make the decision to begin, and to make the daily decision to continue.
- The pilgrim path never goes in a straight line. We dream of something, but are guided, step by step, to another one. At each step, we should make discernment based on faith, though we cannot see the next step. This is how it is supposed to be.
- God uses our mistakes, our lack of knowledge, and our weaknesses all along the way. Just as God knew every weakness, every sin, and every desire of Ignatius and used them, God knows everything about each one of us as well. God knows our wounds, fears, talents and desires, and He uses all of it, making us capable of His mission on earth.
- We learn by walking. God cannot direct us if we are not doing anything at all, in our fear and over-caution, and our need to know every detail before acting. Ignatius was never passive or inactive. He stumbled and made mistakes and God simply redirected him through circumstances, prayer, and the counsel of others. He does the same with all of us.
Ignatian Spirituality of studying
Experiences of consolation in study, is a skill which Ignatian people learn, with help from spiritual direction. Christian concept of studies is the realization that prayer needs full attention, and therefore studying with full focus on the subject of study, is a spiritual exercise. The main Characteristic of Jesuit Education is that “the concern of Jesuit education is preparation for life, which is itself a preparation for eternal life” and for Jesuits, life is not a prelude for the eternal life, but is to be lived in such a way as to allow God to break into our lives here and now at this moment. Children should be given a formation by which they are able to find themselves, so that ultimately they can make their own unique contribution to those around them, be it in the school or in the society. In the Constitutions, Ignatius does say that Jesuit schools are for “improvement in living and learning to the greater glory of God and the common good.”
Ignatian Concept of knowledge
Ignatius strongly believed that true knowledge came through three infallible sources: God’s intervention, the Bible and the Church. According to Ignatius, knowledge and belief cannot be separated. According to him, knowledge is something that helps us to better understand God, which will eventually help in becoming closer to Him, and live a life for Christ. For him, learning is merely increasing the knowledge.
Ignatian Spirituality of teaching
According to Ignatius, we are to learn from each other. So Ignatius discussed spiritual things with others. He never claimed to have all the answers. In those conversations, Ignatius was receiving knowledge just as much as he was giving it. Also, everyone involved in the conversation would learn something that would help them serve God and one another and therefore, be better off for it.
Ignatian Spirituality of detachment or “indifference”
Ignatius, in his First Principle and Foundation, talks about “making use of those things that help to bring us closer to God and leaving aside those things that don’t.” He urges us to seek this freedom of detachment or indifference. By “indifference”, Ignatius meant enough detachment from things, people, or experiences, to be able either to take them up or to leave them aside, depending on whether they help us to praise, reverence, and serve God” (Spiritual Exercises 23). In other words, it’s the ability to keep a balance in life and to let go of what doesn’t help to love God or love others—while staying engaged with what does. The grace of detachment is in fact a fruit of prayer, which helps us to overcome our fears and worries, and trust God no matter what happens. It is the thought that “God’s grace will be enough for me.” This grace-filled detachment brings deep peace and trust in God, despite the fear that can accompany a situation. For Ignatius, irrespective of richness or poverty, health or sickness, in an assignment of enjoyment or not, comfortable or not, etc., one should be in a state of spiritual indifference, which enables one to continue to live the Gospel life without anxiety or possessiveness, and irrespective of circumstances should have a sense of spiritual joy by seeking only God's will.
Ignatian spirituality on Honoring Mary
St. Ignatius had a strong devotion to Blessed Mother, and it is evident from a life-sized statue of Ignatius cradling a doll-sized full-bodied statue of Mary attired in flowing blue and white, in the Loyola Family Castle (picture given here). Throughout his lifetime, he implored her to help him to become more like her Son, our Lord Jesus. Young Ignatius had contemplated on his sister-in-law's (Magdalena Araoz's) painting of Mary hanging in the family castle, which played a role in his conversion. As mentioned in an earlier bulletin, in the Vigil at Montserrat in 1522, he made the commitment to become a man of peace, and laid his sword and dagger down in surrender before the Black Madonna.
Ignatian Spirituality on the Cross of Jesus and our sufferings
St. Ignatius said " There is no better wood for feeding the fire of God's love than the wood of the cross. According to St. Ignatius," If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint."