Category Archives: Ignatian Spirituality

Catholic Prayer: experiencing a deeper and authentic prayer life in the Blessed Trinity

Where and how do we seek communion in prayer with God? Catholics enter into communion with God through the Blessed Trinity. I purposely ask the question this way because so often I meet Catholics who have fallen into a quasi-Protestant manner of thinking and praying. They say, “My prayer is a relationship with Jesus.” They go no further. They also rarely give an indication that there are two other persons of the Blessed Trinity. Certainly, we all are to seek an intimacy with the Lord Jesus, but as Catholics our theology and its manifestation in the spiritual life through the sacred Liturgy and personal prayer is always in conversation with the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is an essential point in the spiritual life. You miss this point, you miss the point of Catholic prayer. In fact, all of our liturgical prayer, save for a few, is directed to the Father, through the Son under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Catholics ought not be functionally unitarian: prayer exclusively directed to one member of the Trinity but it ought to be trinitarian:  Father, Son AND Holy Spirit. In 1989, Cardinal Ratzinger, with his typical clarity, addressed this issue in a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some Aspects of Christian Meditation.” He said, in part:

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“From the dogmatic point of view,” it is impossible to arrive at a perfect love of God if one ignores his giving of himself to us through his Incarnate Son, who was crucified and rose from the dead. In him, under the action of the Holy Spirit, we participate, through pure grace, in the interior life of God. When Jesus says, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9), he does not mean just the sight and exterior knowledge of his human figure (in the flesh is of no avail”–Jn 6:63). What he means is rather a vision made possible by the grace of faith: to see, through the manifestation of Jesus perceptible by the senses, just what he, as the Word of the Father, truly wants to reveal to us of God (“It is the Spirit that gives life […]; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life”–ibid.). This “seeing” is not a matter of a purely human abstraction (“abstractio”) from the figure in which God has revealed himself; it is rather the grasping of the divine reality in the human figure of Jesus, his eternal divine dimension in its temporal form. As St. Ignatius says in the Spiritual Exercises, we should try to capture “the infinite perfume and the infinite sweetness of the divinity” (n. 124), going forward from that finite revealed truth from which we have begun. While he raises us up, God is free to “empty” us of all that holds us back in this world, to draw us completely into the Trinitarian life of his eternal love. However, this gift can only be granted “in Christ through the Holy Spirit,” and not through our own efforts, withdrawing ourselves from his revelation (20).

I would recommend reading Cardinal Ratzinger’s full letter to the bishops; it is linked above.

What am I doing for Christ right now?

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Thinking about the life-saving cross of Jesus, I am
recalling what Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught in his Spiritual Exercises about God’s unconditional love for humanity: no talk of the mercy and love is reasonable without kneeling before the cross. This was evident to me as I walked into the chapel this morning for Lauds and forced to navigate in the
middle of the aisle a cross with relic of the True Cross before it. I knelt for a moment of prayer and kissed the relic. It is striking to do this pious gesture because it brings home to the heart, the Christian reality that the cross is so very central to our life of faith; it is the altar on which we are saved; and it is the cross that is the key which unlocks the door to the Father’s house; it is the love that kills and transcends all sin.

Loyola offers a meditation

Imagine Christ our Lord suspended on the cross before you, and converse with him in a colloquy: How is it that he, although he is the Creator, has come to make himself a human being? How is it that he has passed from eternal life to death here in time, and to die in this way for my sins?

In a similar way, reflect on yourself and ask: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ What ought I to do for Christ?

In this way, too, gazing on him in so pitiful a state as he hangs on the cross, speak out whatever comes to your mind.

A Colloquy is made, properly speaking, in the way one friend speaks to another, or a servant to one in authority – now begging for a favor, now accusing oneself of some misdeed, now telling one’s concerns and asking counsel about them. Close with an Our Father.

(Spiritual Exercises 53 and 54)

Our vision baited to behold God’s beauty

Our methods of entering the divine mysteries are varied: some
use the spoken or written word (poet, some use photography, some will engage nature,
some may use music & dance and still others will use the time-honored
tradition of icons. Jesuit Father Stephen Bonian takes us through a variety of
fitting understandings of iconography and their use for prayer in his article,
Gateways to Prayer.”

For we see …

“In God’s beauty, all the earth is sanctified.
Tree and stone, wood and paint have glory
In His beauty.
Creation is transformed;
The fallen is made holy.
And man, beholding Beauty’s vision,
Shares His life.”

(“On the Beauty of God” by an anonymous Orthodox author)

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

St Ignatius Loyola.jpg

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

With the Church we pray: 

O God, Who for spreading the greater glory of Thy Name did, through blessed Ignatius, strengthen Thy Church militant with a new army; grant that by his aid and example we may so fight on earth as to deserve to be crowned with him in heaven.

The Litany of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saint Ignatius’ life in pictures

Business and Ignatian Spirituality

You won’t see me giving space to the “good work” of the Nat’l Catholic Reporter on this blog very often (almost never except for John Allen’s work) because of the NCRs frequent loyal opposition to the Church, but a recent article on the intersection of business and Ignatian Spirituality is worth noting. Read it here.

I highlight this article because I like the work of Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, the president emeritus of Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. Father Spitzer is a philosopher with significant grounding in faith and reason (science). He has hosted  a few programs on EWTN that are very worthwhile.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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