St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was the founder of the religious order known as the Society of Jesus, aka the Jesuits.
This remarkable man from a Basque village in northern Spain continues to have a profound impact on Christianity today. His writings, especially the Spiritual Exercises, were initially meant for laypeople.
In fact, there are more laypeople participating in the exercises than ever before, and this no doubt is a testament to the simplicity of his message.
St. Ignatius called us to “find God in all things.” He wrote that we should be searching to deepen our relationship with God in the midst of our daily living. He challenged us to do everything “for the greater glory of God.”
It was a chance encounter with a Jesuit priest that lead me into a friendship with St. Ignatius and a love of Ignatian Spirituality.
I was in Chicago for a conference at Loyola Press. After a long day of meetings, Fr. George Lane, the Press’ Publisher, sat at my table for dinner. I don’t remember exactly how it started, but we ended up talking about what Ignatian Spirituality was all about.
Up until that moment, I had never really heard much about St. Ignatius or the religious order he founded, The Society of Jesus. Growing up in California, I don’t think I had ever met a Jesuit priest. Living in Maryland, I had met a few, but we never really connected.
My conversation with Fr. Lane changed all that. As he was telling me about the philosophy of Loyola Press, he was also explaining the main points of a spirituality that resonated with me. My interest was piqued, and I wanted to learn more.
The next day, Fr. George gave me a couple of books on Ignatian Spirituality published by the Press. He also mentioned that it might be helpful to go on an Ignatian retreat after I returned to Maryland.
On my way back home, I devoured the books Fr. George gave me, especially What Is Ignatian Spirituality? written by David Fleming, SJ. In this little book, Fleming gives the reader easy to understand insights into Ignatius’ spirituality. He writes,
Ignatian Spirituality teaches us to discern the footprints of God in our own experience. It shows us how to look back on our lives, to sift through our memories in order to see the way God has been dealing with us over the years. It teaches us how to find God in the present moment- in the relationships, challenges, frustrations, and feelings that we are experiencing today. The tools and methods of Ignatian spirituality instill in us habits of prayerful, thoughtful reflection (p. 20).
Shortly after I returned to Westminster, I found an eight day silent retreat based upon the Spiritual Exercises. I made the retreat that summer and really enjoyed it. It was not totally fulfilling, but rather the beginning of something that would develop over time.
The following year, when I learned I was having some health problems, I went to the Grotto in Emmitsburg to pray. I took the journal I had written on the retreat the previous summer with me as I discerned what God was revealing to me. The review of that journal was the launching point for the transformation that continues in me today. Ignatian Spirituality was becoming a part of me.
This past summer, my intention on my eight day retreat was to discern if God was calling me to become a vegetarian. It was confirmed over and over again during those days, and it was on that retreat that I ate my last non-vegetarian dinner.
Beginning this fall, I began the 19th Annotation, which is basically a 34 week version of the Spiritual Exercises. In his wisdom, St. Ignatius knew that not everyone could make a 30 day retreat. So he added an outline on how to do the retreat over an extended period, praying daily and meeting weekly with a Spiritual Director.
Surely, completing the 19th Annotation was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. It was a huge struggle, but in the end, I am a new person because of it. In many ways, it was a fulfillment of the Scripture passage, “See I make all things new.” The seed of this blog was planted in my heart. You can read more about these changes in me and the insights God gave me through my daily blog postings.
A Pilgrim’s Journey, the autobiography of St. Ignatius
A Simple Life-Changing Prayer, this little book written by Jim Manney will help anyone interested in developing a daily connection with the Examen prayer.
Draw Me Into Your Friendship, A literal translation and contemporary reading of the Spiritual Exercises by David Fleming, SJ
Ignatian Spirituality A great source of information on this particular spirituality
Inner Compass by Margaret Silf
Loyola Press A tremendous resource for all things Ignatian
The Ignatian Workout by Tim Muldoon
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, preface by Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ
What Is Ignatian Spirituality? by David Fleming, SJ
The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien, SJ will guide you through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. The subtitle says it all: “Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius in daily life.”
On Line Retreat– Creighton University
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