Ignatian spirituality is a method of prayer bequeathed to the Church by the 16th century Basque saint, Ignatius of Loyola. It is a spirituality grounded in the fundamental idea that God labors for us, that He is active in the daily life of man and woman. This spirituality is rooted in the Gospel and in the heart of the Catholic Church. This is a radical theological concept because, for instance, Muslims think it’s heretical to think that God became man (that the Incarnation is a fact) and that we could (a) know the will of God; (b) that we could have a personal relationship with Him (in Jesus & the Holy Spirit) and (c) that God is always present to us. So, what does Ignatius give us? He wants “above all…you to increase the pure love of Jesus Christ in the desire of His glory and the salvation of the souls which He has redeemed.” This is a spirituality that trains us to “find God in all things.”
Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises as a lay man with the singular intention of drawing others to Christ. The Exercises are guideposts, that is, notes for a spiritual director to use in orienting a retreatant on his or her retreat and are not meant to be read as one would read a novel. As other spiritualities are, the Ignatian way is unique for its constant attention to one’s intimate relationship with Jesus and discerning the will of God in each person’s life. It is not merely a technique for making good decisions; for that you can seek the counsel of your favorite philosopher; it is a personal way of living graces given to us God. You may say that Ignatian spirituality is way of acknowledging and living the happiness that God’s wills for each of us. I find Ignatius’ method to be a practical spirituality that’s particularly suited to the needs and desires of Christians today.
Ignatian spirituality sees God as actively involved in the world and intimately involved with us in every moment and place. We therefore say that God is in the center of reality, in the mess of history redeeming humanity. We can say with Saint Ignatius that “God’s love is poured forth lavishly like a fountain spilling forth its waters into an unending stream.”Withdrawing from the world into a quiet place in order to find God is understandable but withdrawing from the world is not particularly “Ignatian” for the long haul. That is why Ignatius spoke of those who follow the Exercises as living a life contemplation in action. It is perfectly acceptable to spend an 8-day retreat in the quiet of a monastery or a secluded retreat house. Nevertheless, the virtue of this type spirituality is that is God encountered everywhere –in our work and our relationships, in our family and friends, in our sorrows and joys, in the sublime beauty of nature and in the mundane details of our daily lives. One caution: our work, relationships, family, friends and any other possible detail doesn’t replace our relationship with God,nor does it replace the sacraments, Mass, personal prayer and sacrifice. That is, you can’t hold that “my work is my prayer” and think you are actually following an authentic spirituality. But it is true that God is present to us and we are present to God through all these things (the daily grind of our lives) because of the Incarnation.
From history we know that Loyola is the founder, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of the Society of Jesus, a religious order of priests and brothers called to preach Jesus Christ in communion with the Pope under the standard of the Cross. Since the 1960s a Jesuit defined himself as a sinner redeemed (loved) by Christ. The motto of the Jesuits is Ad maiorem Dei gloriam (To the greater glory of God) which is based on the Benedictine motto of Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus (That in all things God may be glorified, 1 Peter 4:11): hence, the work of Ignatian spirituality is a life spent glorifying God using everything God has given us in order to live in communion with Him.