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Friday, November 13, 2009

Spirituality: What is Ignatian Spirituality?

During the European Renaissance, at the very beginning of the modern age, Christians were restless to find new kinds of holiness. They wanted saints who, though unworldly in their desires, remained fully in the world and wise in the ways of the world, searching for a spirituality that would combine the ancient Christian mysticism with dedicated and purposeful action on behalf of others in that expanding new world.

They were seeking a spirituality with the confidence of this new age, that embraced the beauty and goodness of the world, and trusted the power of thoughtful human enterprise to make good things happen in this world, shaping and reshaping it as best they could under the influence of God’s redemptive love.

For more than 450 years, the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola, based on his own mystical insights and realizations, and worked out at a deep schematic level in his Spiritual Exercises, has drawn women and men into a deeper intimacy with God and a renewed energy in their service of others.

Ignatian spirituality has at its center the life, the teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus, acknowledged as the Christ, and invites people to come to know, love, and follow Jesus more wholeheartedly, as Ignatius did. This spirituality teaches us that while we live in a world of much darkness and brokenness, God is passionately involved with all creation, working to bring healing and reconciliation, justice and hope, forgiveness and love to everyone.

Ignatius taught that God could be found at work in every situation, relationship, and experience of human life—in the daily stuff of working, raising children, caring for neighbors, seeking justice in civic life, protecting the earth, and building the human community, as well as in experiences of friendship, of solidarity in a common cause, in times of rejoicing and great happiness, times of sorrow and grieving, and times of loneliness and fear.

Finally, Ignatius developed, out of his own experience, an original contribution to the practice of spiritual “discernment" in the Catholic tradition, a practice that enables people to understand more clearly God's movement in their hearts and God's purposes for their lives.

Those who adopt Ignatian spirituality—whether they be Jesuits, members of other religious orders, or lay men and women—find themselves more and more being "contemplative in action," finding God in whatever they do, if they do it with their whole being; finding God in whomever they serve, if they are fully honest and attentive in their service. So too, in the Ignatian heritage, we seek to find God in friends and colleagues, with affection and gratitude; and in prayer, in song, in solitary thought, in periods of contemplation; and in working together with others for the transformation of the world and the liberation of all women and men from every kind of oppression.

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