Recently in Ignatian Spirituality Category

I am uncertain of the history of this prayer, but Saint Claude does a good job capturing the heart of the matter...

My God, I am so persuaded that You watch over all who  hope in You and nothing can be lacking to those who  await from You all things, that I have determined to  live from now on without any concern, letting go and giving You all of my anxieties.

The daily grind of living is only made more fruitful when we take time to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  While not technically not one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Prudence (a cardinal virtue) is perfected by the Spirit's energy. How often do we move through our day without giving time to self-awareness, reflection on our "I" in action? The lack of a Trinity-diven examination of conscience in one's  spiritual life is a pitfall many post-moderns fall into. Any person wanting to know more about him or herself needs to spend time, if only 10 minutes a day, in reviewing points of grace and sin in life up to that point of the day while asking for the grace of root-and-branch conversion. For example, it is has been said that a measure of the person today is how he or she uses free time. Discretion is a fruit of the virtue of prudence; ask yourself if you have been sufficiently discrete in your undertakings.

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Spiritual infirmities such as tepidity are caused, not only by chills but also by fevers, that is, by excessive zeal. Saint Paul says, let your service be a reasonable service [Rom. 12:1], because he knew the truth of the words of the Psalmist, the king in his might loves justice [99:4], that is, discretion; and what was prefigured in Leviticus, whatsoever sacrifice you offer, you shall season it with salt [2:13]. In the same vein does Saint Bernard speak: the enemy has no more successful ruse for depriving the heart of real charity than to get him to act rashly and not in keeping with spiritual reasonableness. "Nothing in excess," said the philosopher. And this principle should be our guide even in a matter pertaining to justice itself, as we read in Ecclesiastes, be not over just [7:16]. If one fails to observe this moderation, he will find that good is turned into evil and virtue into vice. He will also learn that many inconveniences follow which are quite contrary to the purpose of the one who so acts.


San Ignacio de Loyola.jpgAn often confused issue in Ignatian spirituality as it is formulated by Saint Ignatius of Loyola is the concept of the magis. It can be an elusive but central Ignatian idea. But it doesn't have to be such. Many writers on Ignatian spirituality say that the magis means the best, the highest, the most that we can do for God. But these writers miss the point because Ignatius doesn't speak in superlative terms.

The recently departed Jesuit Father Dave Fleming contests this understanding. According to Fleming, the magis is comparative not superlative.  That is, it is the more, not the most.  Holy Father Saint Ignatius meant the magis to be interpreted and thus lived in view of the greater not the greatest.

Father Dave wrote: "Ignatius never works with superlatives."  Fleming explains, "When we want to do the best, we may get frozen. If we want to do what might be better, we might be able to choose." Thus, there is an emphasis on freedom in this more authentic interpretation of Ignatius than what one gets with using superlative language. Hence, the magis as a comparative applies to everything, not just a select point or two of one's life. Everything. A complete and sincere gift of self to God, and then to neighbor.

Pedro Arrupe documentary

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The film, Pedro Arrupe: His Life and Legacy, was produced in 2008 by Georgetown University and features rare footage of Father Pedro Arrupe and interviews with his closest advisers. 

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Father Arrupe was the 28th superior general of the Society of Jesus, from 1965-1983. Born in Bilbao, Spain in 1907, he studied medicine prior to entering the Jesuit order.  Before his service as superior general, he served as Japan's first Jesuit provincial; but a defining moment in Arrupe's life was his work caring for the victims of the Hiroshima's atomic bomb. He died in Rome on February 5, 1991, after suffering the effects of a debilitating effects of a stroke on August 7, 1981 just as his airplane landed from an exhausting trip to the Far East. He was succeeded as Father General of the Society by Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach.

Father Arrupe's writings are some of the best works on Ignatian Spirituality there is. One memorable piece is his reflection on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Before Father Kolvenbach was elected general, Father Arrupe's prayer was read to the elected delegates of the 33rd General Congregation, marking his true identity of being totally free to do God's will: "More than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth. But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God's hands."

This five-part documentary on Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ, is now available online on the Jesuit Channel, which is sponsored by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.

" . . . the glory of God is assumed fully, without limits and determinations . . . For us, the glory of God, being our end in all its breadth, is the measure of the quest for our own salvation and perfection, as well as for that of others."

~Achille Gagliardi, S.J.

I came across this entry in an old encyclopedia. In its brevity a lot of truth is revealed: we can work (asceticism) by reason, and the heart, to union with God. Consider for a second what the author, Fr Drum, has to teach. Also, remember that Ignatian spirituality is not the same as Jesuit spirituality. The two are not the same by any stretch of the imagination. Fr Drum tells us that it is possible through prayer and good spiritual direction to know, love and serve God in this world so as to do the same in the next. Many people today don't have the confidence that knowing and loving and serving God is possible at all. Some don't know that God wants our happiness today --in this life--that there is meaning to our life that includes suffering and love (& joy) and some reject the notion that we are oriented toward a final goal. Christians call this goal heaven, the Beatific vision, communion with the Trinity, etc. What else is there for the Christian who really prays and lives his or her life with the Gospel and with reason? I get the sense that they don't have the certainty that God knows us personally and intimately, never mind having a relationship with bodiless being.

I spent many years being formed by Ignatian Spirituality. My personal, cultural, ecclesial life (taken as a unity) is informed by what Saint Ignatius of Loyola proposed in his Spiritual Exercises. But I would not be telling the whole truth if I didn't say that other influences have had a strong influence in how I look at my life and life's work today. My life intersects with Msgr. Luigi Giussani, Saint Josemaria Escriva, Saints Francis & Dominic and Saint Benedict. The host of women saints and blesseds are too cumbersome to note here. The point, however, is not my interpretative lens except to say that I have benefited from the Spiritual Exercises and perhaps you might think the same if you gave the Exercises a chance. They are clearly an apostolic method in the spiritual life with an incredibly strong contemplative aspect. The Exercises are not for everyone, so be patient with them if you attempt to do an Ignatian retreat.

Ultimately, what the author of this entry names as the goal of the Christian life is my own, regardless of the influences: To live is Christ. It is entirely consistent with the motto of my coat of arms seen above: sequela Christi (to follow Christ). Ignatius (and the other spiritual masters noted above) could not conceive of life any differently. Would that be the same for all people!

The entry:

St. Ignatius of Loyola, Rome.JPG.jpeg

The spirit of Saint Ignatius was Pauline, -- intrepid yet tender; motivated by two great principles,--love of Jesus Christ and zeal for the salvation of souls. These two principles were brought together in his motto: A. M. D. G., "Omnia ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" (All for the greater glory of God). It was this spirit, which breathed in "The Spiritual Exercises," a method of asceticism, that is the very soul of the constitutions and activities of the Society of Jesus.

This little book is said to have converted more souls than it contains letters.

Certainly the results it has produced down the centuries cannot be exaggerated. The importance of its method is proved by the mere fact that 292 Jesuit writers have commented on the whole work. The purpose of the Exercises is definite and scientific upbuilding of the reason, will and emotions, by meditation and contemplation on the fundamental principles of the spiritual life and by other exercises of the soul. First, God is rated rightly as the soul's end and object.

Reason is convinced that God is the end for which the soul is created, and all things else are only means to bring the soul to God; hence it follows that that is good which leads the soul Godward, and that is evil which leads the soul awayward from God.

The soul's awaywardness from God results in sin; so sin is studied both in itself and in its consequences to the soul. Secondly, Jesus Christ is put in His place in the soul, by meditations on His ideals and contemplations on His private and public life.

The soul now aspires to the very height of enthusiastic and personal love to Him; and to the most self-sacrificing generosity in following the evangelical counsels.

Thirdly, the high resolves of the soul are confirmed by the imitation of Christ in His passion. Lastly, the soul rises to a sublime and unselfish joy, purely because of the glory of its risen Lord; and leaps with rapturous exultation into the realms of unselfish and perfect love of God, such as Saint Paul evinced when he cried out: "To me, to live is Christ; to die were gain" (Philippians 1, 21). 

Fr Walter Drum, SJ

The Encyclopedia Americana, 1919

When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection. 

Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Former Superior General of the Jesuits, 1983-2008

New Jesuit Review

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jesuit 1logo.jpgToday is the Feast of Saints Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell. It is also the launch date of a webzine venture called the New Jesuit Review -- guys trying to do the right thing. So far, so good.

God bless them for their effort. Perhaps editors can attract other good Jesuits to write for them. Time will tell if they can maintain the momentum of publishing worthwhile literature, unlike some other notable Jesuit sponsored publications.
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.
Crucifixion with saints AdelCastagno.jpgThinking 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 central to our life of faith; it is the altar on which we are saved; the cross is 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 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

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St Ignatius Loyola.jpgWhoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 

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

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.

The Daily Examen

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The Daily Examen is a spiritual exercise on the events of the day looking to be aware of God's presence and discern His will for us. Various recommendations exist on utilizing this gift of prayer but I think it's necessary to do the Examen twice a day: at midday and then at the end of the day. The whole point of the Examen is to ask the three questions Saint Ignatius Loyola asked: What have I done, what am I doing and what will I do for Christ. This venerable spiritual practice of the Church helps us to see God's hand at work in our whole experience.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola gave us a five-step Daily Examen:

1. Be aware of God's presence;

2. Spend a moment looking over your day with gratitude for this day's gifts;

3. Ask God to send you His Holy Spirit to help you look at your actions, attitudes, motives with honesty and patience;

4. Review your day in a particular way;

5. Have heart-to-heart talk with Jesus.

Looking at these prayer points:

More than 400 years ago Saint Ignatius Loyola encouraged his disciples to cultivate a conscious awareness of the Divine Majesty's work in our lives. He wanted us to live vigorously in the power of the Blessed Trinity. Loyola called this awareness is what the Daily Examen.

1. Become aware of God's presence. So often we forget that God is really present in the daily work we engage in. Here you are asked to look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you --a blur, a muddle. Ask God to for the grace of clarity and understanding. Wherever you are, you are a creature in the midst of the beauty of creation. As you quiet yourself, become aware that God is present within you, in the creation that surrounds you, in your body, in those around you. Ask the Holy Spirit to let you look on all you see with love.

2. Be concrete and let the important moments of the day come to mind! In a general way give a moment of reflection on what happened to you. Some people will recall the smell of morning coffee, the laugh of a friend, the fragrance of a flower, or the feelings brought forth by a kind word, or what you've learned. Consider what you received and what you gave.

3. Give thanks to God for favors received. This is an opportunity to appreciate the permanent gifts you have that allow your participation in this day; conversely recall your particular strengths in times of difficulty. God the Father gives you these to draw you into the fullness of His life. As you move through the details of your day, give thanks to God for His presence in matters large and small. "When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13) The Holy Spirit inspires you with the gift of growing freedom in your life. Here the freedom the Holy Spirit offers to us allows us to look upon yourself without condemnation and without complacency and thus offering us the opportunity to change, to grow. Ask that you will learn and grow as you reflect, thus deepening your knowledge of self and your relationship with God.

4. Recall the events of your day; explore the specific context of your actions. Search for the internal movements of your heart and your interaction with what was before you. Ask the Lord to show you the moments of grace and sin based on what you experienced since the last time you did the Examen. In what ways did you accept the Spirit's gifts and in what ways did you resist the Holy Spirit? As the Psalmist says, we have a divided heart. The Examen shows us the areas of this division --the wavering of the heart between helping and disregarding, scoffing and encouraging, listening and ignoring, rebuking and forgiving, speaking and silence, neglecting and thanking. Remember, the Examen is not a time to dwell on your sin and other shortcomings; rather, it is a loving look with the Lord at how you have responded to God's gifts. The idea is to notice where you acted freely, that is, cooperated with grace--the picking a particular course of action from the possibilities you saw. See where you were swept along without freedom. What reactions helped or hindered you? See where Christ entered your decisions and where you might have paused to receive His influence. "Test yourselves," Sain Paul urges, "to see whether you are living in faith; examine yourselves. Perhaps you yourselves do not realize that Christ Jesus is in you." (2 Cor.) Thus, you will come to know that Jesus Christ is with you. Christ continually invites you to love Him and your neighbor as yourself; He will strengthen you to do this.

5. Seek God's guidance. Ask Him for help and understanding. Pray for hope. Speak with Jesus about your day, about your concerns. Share your thoughts on your actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions. You may feel the need to seek forgiveness, to ask for direction, to share a concern, to express gratitude, etc. Express sorrow for sin; give thanks for grace, the enlightening presence of God, and especially praise God for the times you responded in ways that allowed you to better see God's life. Resolve with Jesus to move forward in grace-filled action.

You might like to finish your time with the Lord's Prayer and the Glory be.

The goal of our life is to live with God forever.

God who loves us, gave us life.

Our own response of love allows God's life to flow into

    us without limit.


All the things in this world are gifts of God,

    presented to us so that we can know God more easily

    and make a return of love more readily.


As a result, we appreciate and use all of these gifts of God

    insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.

But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,

    they displace God

    and so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance

    before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice

    and are not bound by some obligation.

We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,

    wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one.

For everything has the potential of calling forth in us

    a deeper response to our life in God.


Our only desire and our one choice should be this:

I want and I choose what better

    leads to the deepening of God's life in me.


Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises

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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