Do You Speak Ignatian?
by George W. Traub, S.J. | Xavier University
by George W. Traub, S.J. | Xavier University
“For the greater glory of God.” Motto of the Society of Jesus.* [See “magis.”*].
Apostle is the role given to the inner circle of twelve whom Jesus “sent out” [on mission] and to a few others like St. Paul. Hence apostolate means a “mission endeavor or activity” and apostolic means “mission-like.”
As superior general of the Society of Jesus* for nearly 20 years, he was the central figure in the renewal of the Society after Vatican Council II,* paying attention both to the spirit of Ignatius* the founder and to the signs of our times. From the Basque country of northern Spain, he left medical school to join the Jesuits,* was expelled from Spain in 1932 with all the other Jesuits, studied theology in Holland, and received further training in spirituality and psychology in the U.S. Arrupe spent 27 years in Japan (where among many other things he cared for victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima) until his election in 1965 as superior general. He is considered the founder of the modern, post-Vatican II Society of Jesus.
A hallmark of Ignatian spirituality* (where in one-on-one spiritual guidance, the guide adapts the Spiritual Exercises* to the unique individual making them) and therefore of Jesuit education (where the teacher establishes a personal relationship with students, listens to them in the process of teaching, and draws them toward personal initiative and responsibility for learning [see “Pedagogy, Ignatian/Jesuit”]).
This attitude of respect for the dignity of each individual derives from the Judeo-Christian vision* of human beings as unique creations of God, of God’s embracing of humanity in the person of Jesus*, and of human destiny as ultimate communion with God and all the saints in everlasting life.
A process for making choices, in a context of (Christian) faith, when the option is not between good and evil, but between several possible courses of action all of which are potentially good. For Ignatius* the process involves prayer, reflection, and consultation with others-all with honest attention not only to the rational (reasons pro and con) but also to the realm of one’s feelings, emotions, and desires (what Ignatius called “movements” of soul).
A fundamental question in discernment becomes “Where is this impulse from-the good spirit [of God] or the evil spirit [leading one away from God]?” A key to answering this question, says Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises* is that, in the case of a person leading a basically good life, the good spirit gives “consolation”–acts quietly, gently, and leads one to peace, joy, and deeds of loving service–while the bad spirit brings “desolation”–agitates, disturbs the peace, and injects fears and discouragement to keep one from doing good.
Ignatius of Loyola* and his first companions, who founded the Society of Jesus* in 1540, did not originally intend to establish schools. But before long they were led to start colleges for the education of the young men who flocked to join their religious order.* And in 1547 Ignatius was asked to open a school for young lay* men.
By the time of his death (1556), there were 35 such colleges (comprising today’s secondary school and the first year or two of college). By the time the order was suppressed in 1773, the number had grown to over 800–all part of a system of integrated humanistic education that was international and brought together in a common enterprise men, from various languages and cultures. These Jesuits* were distinguished mathematicians, astronomers, and physicists; linguists and dramatists; painters and architects; philosophers and theologians; even what today would be called cultural anthropologists.
These developments are not surprising; the orders founders were all University of Paris graduates, and Ignatius’ spirituality* taught Jesuits to search for God “in all things.” After the order was restored (1814), however, Jesuit schools and scholars in Europe never regained the prominence they had had. Besides, they were largely involved in the resistance to modern thought and culture that characterized Catholic intellectual life through the 19th century and beyond.
In other parts of the world, especially in the United States, the 19th century saw a new birth of Jesuit education. Twenty-one of today’s 28 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities were founded during that century. These schools served the needs of an immigrant people, enabling them to move up in the world while maintaining their Catholic belief and practice in a frequently hostile Protestant environment.
After World War II, U.S. Jesuit higher education (as American higher education generally) experienced enormous growth and democratization under the G.I. Bill. Significantly, this growth entailed a shift from a largely Jesuit faculty to one made up increasingly of lay men (and more recently women). Further, Vatican Council II* (1962-65) released a great burst of energy in the Catholic church and Jesuit order for engagement with the modern world, including its intellectual life. Finally, Jesuit schools in the ’70s and ’80’s moved to professionalize through the hiring of new faculty with highly specialized training and terminal degrees from the best graduate schools.
These sweeping changes of the last 50 years have brought U.S. Jesuit schools to the present situation where they face crucial questions. Will so-called Jesuit institutions of higher education simply merge with mainstream American academe and thereby lose any distinctiveness and reason for existing—or will they have the creativity to become more distinctive? While taking the best from American education and culture, will they still offer an alternative in the spirit of their Jesuit heritage? Will they foster the integration of knowledge-or will specialization reign alone and the fragmentation of knowledge continue? Will they relate learning to the Transcendent, to God–or will spiritual* experience be allowed to disappear from consideration except in isolated departments of theology? While developing the mind, surely, will they also develop a global, cross-cultural imagination and a compassionate heart to recognize and work for the common good, especially for bettering the lot of the poor and voiceless [see “Men and Women for Others”* and “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice”*]–or will the dominant values present in them be self-interest and the “bottomline”?
Latin and English version of Pierre Favre, University of Paris student from the south of France who roomed with Ignatius of Loyola* and Francis Xavier* and together with them and several others founded the Society of Jesus.* Much of his ministry was in Germany. There he drew up guidelines for ecumenical dialogue with Lutherans, but these were, sad to say, hardly put into practice. Among the early companions, he was known to be the finest guide for those making the Spiritual Exercises.*
Ignatian* spirituality* is summed up in this phrase. It invites a person to search for and find God in every circumstance of life, not just in explicitly religious situations or activities such as prayer in church (e.g., the Mass) or in private. It implies that God is present everywhere and, though invisible, can be “found” in any and all of the creatures which God has made. They reveal at least a little of what their Maker is like–often by arousing wonder in those who are able to look with the “eyes of faith.” After a long day of work, Ignatius* used to open the French windows
in his room, step out onto a little balcony, look up at the stars, and be carried out of himself into the greatness of God.
How does one grow in this ability to find God everywhere? Howard Gray draws the following paradigm from what Ignatius* wrote about spiritual development in the Jesuit* Constitutions: (1) practice attentiveness to what is really there. “Let that person or that poem or that social injustice or that scientific experiment become (for you) as genuinely itself as it can be.” (2) Then reverence what you see and hear and feel; appreciate it in its uniqueness. “Before you judge or assess or respond, give yourself time to esteem and accept what is there in the other.” (3) If you learn to be attentive and reverent, “then you will find devotion, the singularly moving way in which God works in that situation, revealing goodness and fragility, beauty and truth, pain and anguish, wisdom and ingenuity.”
God – Various titles or names are given to the Mystery underlying all that exists–e.g., the Divine, Supreme Being, the Absolute, the Transcendent, the All Holy-but all of these are only “pointers” to a Reality beyond human naming and beyond our limited human comprehension. Still, some conceptions are taken to be less inadequate than others within a given tradition founded in revelation. Thus, Jews reverence “the Lord” (the name of God, YHWH, a name so holy it is not spoken, but rather an alternative name is used); and Muslims worship “Allah” (the [only] God).
Christians conceive of the one God as “Trinity,” as having three “ways of being”–(1) Creator and covenant partner (from Hebrew tradition) or “Father” (the “Abba” of Jesus’ experience), (2) “Son” incarnate (become human) in Jesus, and (3) present everywhere in the world through the “Spirit.” Ignatius of Loyola* had a strong Trinitarian sense of God, but he was especially fond of the expression “the Divine Majesty” stressing the greatness or “godness” of God; and the 20th century-Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner could talk of “the incomprehensible Mystery of self-giving Love.”
The reluctance of some of our contemporaries to use the word God may be seen as a potential corrective to the tendency of some believers to speak of God all too easily, as if they fully understood God and Gods ways.
The good news or glad tidings about Jesus.*
Plural. The first four works of the Christian scriptures (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that tell the story of Jesus*–each with its own particular theological emphasis –and thus invite a response of faith and hope in him.
Ignatian/Jesuit Vision, Characteristics of the – Drawing on a variety of contemporary sources which tend to confirm one another, one can construct a list of rather commonly accepted characteristics of the Ignatian/Jesuit vision. It …
No one claims that any of these are uniquely Ignatian/Jesuit. It is rather the combination of them all and the way they fit together that make the vision distinctive and so appropriate for an age in transition–whether from the medieval to the modern in Ignatius’ time, or from the modern to the postmodern in ours.
Youngest child of a noble Basque family fiercely loyal to the Spanish crown (Ferdinand and Isabella), he was named Inigo after a local saint. Raised to be a courtier, he was trying valiantly to defend the fortress town of Pamplona in 1521 when a French cannonball shattered his leg. During a long convalescence, he found himself drawn away from the romances of chivalry that had filled his imagination from an early age to more spiritual reading—an illustrated life of Christ and a collection of saints’ lives.
After his recovery, he set out for the Holy Land to realize a dream of “converting the infidel.” On the way he stopped in the little town of Manresa* and wound up spending nearly a year there during which he experienced both the depths of despair and great times of enlightenment.
Ordered to leave Palestine after being there little more than a month, Ignatius decided that he needed an education in order to be able to “help souls.” In Barcelona, he went to school with boys a quarter his age to learn the rudiments of Latin grammar, and then moved on to several other Spanish university cities. In each he was imprisoned and interrogated by the Inquisition, because he kept speaking to people about “spiritual* things,” having neither a theology degree nor priestly ordination.
Finally, turning his back on his homeland, he went to the foremost university of the time, the University of Paris, where he began his education all over again and with diligence, after five years, was finally awarded the degree “Master of Arts.” It was here at Paris that he changed his Basque name to the Latin Ignatius and its Spanish equivalent Ignacio.
While at the University, he had roomed with and become good friends with a fellow Basque named Francis Xavier* and a Savoyard named Peter Faber.* After graduation, these three, together with several other Paris graduates, undertook a process of communal discernment* and decided to bind themselves together in an apostolic* community that became the Society of Jesus.* Unanimously elected superior by his companions, Ignatius spent the last 16 years of his life in Rome directing the fledgling order, while the others went all over Europe, to the Far East, and eventually to the New
World. And wherever they went they founded schools as a means of helping people to “find God in all things.”*
The first three letters, in Greek, of the name Jesus. These letters appear as a symbol on the official seal of the Society of Jesus* or Jesuits.*
A modern theological concept that expresses a principle of Christian mission implicit in Ignatian* spirituality*–namely, that the gospel* needs to be presented to any given culture in terms intelligible to that culture and allowed to grow up in the “soil” of that culture; God is already present and active there (“God’s action is antecedent to ours”–Jesuit General Congregation 34 (1995), “Our Mission and Culture”).
Thus in the first century St. Paul fought against the imposition of Jewish practices on non-Jewish Christians. And in the 16th and 17th centuries, Jesuits like Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and Roberto de Nobili (1577-1656) fought to retain elements of Chinese and Indian culture in presenting a deEuropeanized Christianity to those people, only to have their approach condemned by the Church in the 18th.
Ideally, the gospel* and a culture mutually interact, and in the process the gospel embraces some elements of the culture while offering a critique of others.
Noun. A member of the Society of Jesus.* The term was originally coined as a putdown by people who felt there was something terribly arrogant about a group calling itself the Company or Society of Jesus, whereas previous religious orders* had been content to name themselves after their founder (e.g., “Benedictines,” “Franciscans,” “Dominicans”). Later the title was adopted as a shorthand name by members of the Society themselves, as well as by others favorable to them. Adjective. Pertaining to the Society of Jesus. The negative term, now that Jesuit as been rehabilitated, is Jesuitical meaning “sly” or “devious.” Jesus (also “Jesus [the] Christ,” meaning Jesus ‘[God’s] anointed one’)–The historical person Jesus of Nazareth whom Christians acknowledge to be, by his life (what he taught and did) and his death and resurrection, the true revelation of God and at the same time the exemplar of what it means to be fully human. In other words, for Christians, Jesus shows what God is like and how they can live in
response to this revelation: God is the compassionate giver of life who invites and empowers human
beings, in freedom, together with one another, to work toward overcoming the forces of evil meaninglessness, guilt, oppression, suffering, and death-that diminish people and keep them from growing toward ever fuller life.
In his Spiritual Exercises,* Ignatius* has the retreatant devote most of the time to “contemplating” (i.e., imaginatively entering into) the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, so as to become more and more a companion of Jesus. And when Ignatius and his companions from the University of Paris decided to establish a religious order,* he insisted that it be called the Company or Society of Jesus* [see “Jesuit” – noun].
Here is a version of the Judaeo-Christian vision or story, told with certain emphases from Ignatius of Loyola.* The great and mysterious Reality of personal love and self-giving that many call God is the origin and
destiny of all creation, the whole universe. God is present and at work in everything, leading it to fulfillment. All things are originally good and potentially means for those creatures called human beings to find the God who made and works in them. Still, none of these things are God, and therefore they are all radically limited.
Indeed, in the case of human beings (who somehow image God in a special way), their relative freedom results in a new dimension of being whereby not just good but also evil exists in the world: selfishness, war, domination-racial, sexual, economic, and environmental-of some over others. Human history, then, is marked by a struggle between the forces of good or “life” and evil or “death.”
God has freely chosen to side with struggling, flawed humanity by participating more definitively in human life and living it “from the inside” in the historical person of Jesus* of Nazareth. This irrevocable commitment of God to the human enterprise grounds and invites people’s response of working with God toward building a community of justice, love, and peace–the “kingdom” or “reign” of God that Jesus preached and lived.
As with Jesus, so for his followers, it takes discernment*–a finely tuned reading of oneself and one’s culture in the Spirit of God–to recognize in any given situation what helps the coming of God’s reign and what hinders it. In the face of human selfishness and evil, the way ultimately entails self-giving, going through suffering and death in order to gain life–indeed, life everlasting. And along the way, because the followers of Jesus are wary of idolizing anyone or anything (that is, making a god of them), they are less likely to become disillusioned with themselves or others or human history for all its weight of personal and social evil. Rather do they continue to care about people and the human enterprise, for their hope is in God, the supreme Reality of personal love and self-giving.
Dutch-born superior general of the Society of Jesus* since 1983, when the Jesuits* were allowed to return to their own governance after a time of papal “intervention,” until 2008, when he resigned at age 80.
He entered the Jesuits in 1948, went to Lebanon in the mid-1950’s, earned a doctorate from the famous St. Joseph’s University in Beirut, and spent much of his life there, first as a professor of linguistics and then as superior of the Jesuit* vice-province of the Middle East.
By his own admission, he was relatively “ignorant of matters pertaining to justice and injustice,” when he went from Beirut to Rome for General Congregation 32 and witnessed the faith-justice emphasis emerge from the Congregation under the leadership of Pedro Arrupe* [see “The Service Faith and the Promotion of Justice”]. Still, as superior general, he has worked tirelessly in collaboration with his advisors to implement and extend the direction in which his predecessor was leading the Society [see “Men and Women for Others”/”Whole Persons of Solidarity for the Real World”].
The people of a religious faith as distinguished from its clergy; within Catholic circles, however, members of religious communities who are not ordained (i.e. “sisters” and “brothers”) and therefore are technically members of the laity are often popularly ranked with priests and bishops and not with lay people.
Magis (Latin for “more”)–The “Continuous Quality Improvement” term traditionally used by Ignatius of Loyola* and the Jesuits,* suggesting the spirit of generous excellence in which ministry should be carried on. [See A.M.D.G. – “For the greater glory of God.”]
Town in northeastern Spain where in 1522-23 a middle-aged layman named Ignatius of Loyola* had the powerful spiritual experiences that led to his famous “Spiritual Exercises”* and later guided the founding and the pedagogy of Jesuit* schools.
In a now famous address to alumni of Jesuit schools in Europe (July31, 1973), Pedro Arrupe* painted a profile of what a graduate should be. Admitting that Jesuit*schools have not always been on target here, Arrupe called for a re-education to justice:
Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and women-for-others… people who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; people convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for human beings is a farce…. All of us would like to be good to others, and most of us would be relatively good in a good world. What is difficult is to be good in an evil world, where the egoism of others and the egoism built into the institutions of society attack us…. Evil is overcome only by good, egoism by generosity. It is thus that we must sow justice in our world, substituting love for self-interest as the driving force of society.
Following up on what Arrupe had said, the current Jesuit head, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach,* challenged the 900 Jesuit* and lay* delegates from the 28 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities gathered for “Assembly ’89” to teach our students to make “no significant decision without first thinking of how it would impact the least in society” (i.e., the poor, the marginal who have no voice). And eleven years, speaking on “the faith that does justice” to a similar national gathering at Santa Clara University (October 6, 2000), Kolvenbach was even more pointed and eloquent in laying out the goals for the 21st-century American Jesuit university:
Here in Silicon Valley some of the world’s premier research universities flourish alongside struggling public schools where Afro-American and immigrant students drop out in droves. Nationwide, one child in every six is condemned to ignorance and poverty… Thanks to science and technology, human society is able to solve problems such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or developing more just conditions of life, but stubbornly fails to accomplish this.
• • • • • •
The real measure of our Jesuit universities, [then,] lies in who our students become. Tomorrow’s “whole person” cannot be whole without a well-educated solidarity. We must therefore raise our Jesuit educational standard to `educate the whole person of solidarity for the real world!
“Solidarity is learned through “contact” rather than through “concepts.” When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Our universities boast a splendid variety of in service programs, outreach programs, insertion programs, off-campus contacts, and hands-on courses. These should not be too optional or peripheral but at the core of every Jesuit university’s
program of studies.
• • • • • •
Faculties are at the heart of our universities. Professors, in spite of the cliché of the ivory tower, are in contact with the world. But no point of view is ever neutral or value free. A legitimate question, even if it does not sound academic, is for each professor to ask, “When researching and teaching, where and with whom is my heart?” To make sure that the real concerns of the poor find their place, faculty members need an organic collaboration with those in the Church and in society who work among and for the poor and actively seek justice.
What is at stake is a sustained interdisciplinary dialogue of research and reflection, a continuous pooling of expertise. The purpose is to assimilate experiences and insights in “a vision of knowledge which, well aware of its limitations, is not satisfied with fragments but tries to integrate them into a true and wise synthesis” about the real world. Unfortunately, many faculties still feel academically, humanly, and, I would say, spiritually unprepared for such an exchange.
• • • • • •
If the measure of our universities is who the students become, and if the faculties are the heart of it all, then what is there left to say? It is perhaps the third topic, the character of our universities-how they proceed internally and how they impact on society-that is the most difficult.
In the words of [Jesuit] General Congregation 34, a Jesuit university must be faithful to both the noun “university” and to the adjective Jesuit. “To be a university requires dedication “to research, teaching, and the various forms of service that correspond to its cultural mission.” To be Jesuit “requires that the university act in harmony with the demands of the service of faith and the
promotion of justice.”
[A] telling expression of the Jesuit university’s nature is found in policies concerning hiring and tenure. As a university it must respect the established academic, professional and labor norms, but as Jesuit it is essential to go beyond them and find ways of attracting, hiring, and promoting those who actively share the mission.
• • • • • •
Every Jesuit academy of higher learning is called to live in a social reality and to live for that social reality, to shed university intelligence upon it and to use university influence to transform it. Thus Jesuit universities have stronger and different reasons than do many other academic institutions for addressing the actual world as it unjustly exists and for helping to reshape it in the light of the Gospel.
see “Religious Order/Religious Life.”
Having to do with Ignatian/Jesuit teaching style or methods.
In one formulation (Robert Newton’s Reflections on the Educational Principles of the Spiritual Exercises ), Jesuit education is instrumental (not an end in itself, but a means to the service of God and others); student centered (adapted to the individual as much as possible so as to develop an independent and responsible learner); characterized by structure (with systematic organization of successive objectives and systematic procedures for evaluation and accountability) and flexibility (freedom encouraged and personal response and self-direction expected, with the teacher an experienced guide, not primarily a deliverer of ready-made knowledge); eclectic (drawing on a variety of the best methods and techniques available); and personal (whole person affected, with goal of personal appropriation, attitudinal and behavioral change).
In another formulation (Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach from the International Center for Jesuit Education [Rome, 1993]), Ignatian pedagogy is a model that seeks to develop men and women of competence, conscience, and compassion. Similar to the process of guiding others in the Spiritual Exercises, faculties accompany students in their intellectual, spiritual, and emotional development. They do this by following the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm. Through consideration of the context of students’ lives, faculties create an environment where students recollect their past experience and assimilate information from newly provided experiences. Faculty help students learn the skills and techniques of reflection, which shapes their consciousness, and they then challenge students to action in service to others. The evaluation process includes academic mastery as well as ongoing assessments of students’ well-rounded growth as persons for others.
Both these approaches were developed in the context of secondary education, but could be adapted for higher education. [See also “Education, Jesuit” and “Ratio Studiorum.”]
A document the definitive form of which was published in 1599 after several earlier drafts and extensive consultation among Jesuits working in schools. It was a handbook of practical directives for teachers and administrators, a collection of the most effective educational methods of the time, tested and adapted to fit the Jesuit mission of education. Since it was addressed to Jesuits, the principles behind its directives could be assumed. They came, of course, from the vision and spirit of Ignatius.* The process that led to the Ratio and continued after its publication gave birth to the first real system of schools the world had ever known.
Much of what the 1599 Ratio contained would not be relevant to Jesuit schools today. Still, the process out of which it grew and thrived suggests that we have only just begun to tap the possibilities within the international Jesuit network for collaboration and interchange. [See also “Education, Jesuit” and “Pedagogy, Ignatian/Jesuit.”]
In Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity (less frequently in Anglican/Episcopal Christianity), a community of men or women bound together by the common profession, through “religious” vows, of “chastity [meaning “virginity” or “celibacy”], poverty, and obedience.” As a way of trying to follow Jesus’ example, the vows involve voluntary renunciation of things potentially good: marriage and sexual relations in the case of “virginity” or “celibacy,” personal ownership and possessions in the case of “poverty,” and one’s own will and plans in the case of “obedience.”
This renunciation is made “for the sake of [God’s] kingdom” (Matthew 19:12), and for the sake of a more available and universal love beyond family ties, personal possessions, and self determination. As a concrete form of Christian faith, it emphasizes the relativity of all the goods of this earth in the face of the only absolute, God, and a life lived definitively with God beyond this world. After Constantine’s conversion to Christianity (313 C.E.) and the establishment of Christianity as the state religion, “religious life” came into existence as a movement away from the “world” and the worldliness of the church. The monastic life of monks and nuns is a variation on this tradition. At the beginning of the modern western world, various new religious orders sprang up (the largest being the Jesuits*) that saw themselves not as fleeing from the world but as “apostles”* sent out into the world in service. In more recent centuries, many communities of religious women were founded with a similar goal of apostolic* service, often with Jesuit-inspired constitutions.
In 1975, Jesuits from around the world met in solemn assembly to assess their present state and to sketch plans for the future. Following the lead of a recent international assembly (“synod”) of Catholic bishops, they came to see that the hallmark of any ministry deserving of the name Jesuit would be its “service of faith” of which the “promotion of justice” is an absolute requirement. In other words, Jesuit education should be noteworthy for the way it helps students-and for that matter, faculty, staff, and administrators–to move, in freedom, toward a mature and intellectually adult faith. This includes enabling them to develop a disciplined sensitivity toward the suffering of our world and a will to act for the transformation of unjust social structures which cause that suffering. The enormous challenge, to which none of us are entirely equal, nevertheless falls on all of us, not just on members of theology and philosophy departments, campus ministry and spiritual development.
Catholic religious order* of men founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola* and a small group of his multinational “friends in the Lord,” fellow students from the University of Paris. They saw their mission as one of being available to go anywhere and do anything to “help souls,” especially where the need was greatest (e.g., where a certain people or a certain kind of work were neglected).
Today, numbering about 23,000 priests and brothers, they are spread out in almost every county of the world (“more branch offices,” said Pedro Arrupe,* “than Coca Cola”)–declining in numbers markedly in Europe and North America, but growing in India, Africa, Latin America, and the Far East.
The abbreviation “S.J.” after a person’s name means that he is a member of the Society of Jesus.
The spiritual is often defined as that which is “nonmaterial,” but this definition runs into problems when applied to human beings, who are traditionally considered “body-spirits,” both bodily and spiritual. In some modern philosophies and psychologies, however, the spiritual dimension of the human is denied or disregarded. And many aspects of our contemporary American culture (e.g., the hurried sense of time and need to produce, produce) make it difficult to pay attention to this dimension.
Fundamentally, the spiritual dimension of human beings can be recognized in the orientation of our minds and hearts toward ever more than we have already reached (the never-satisfied human mind and the never-satisfied human heart). We are drawn inevitably toward the “Absolute” or the “Fullness of Being” [see “God”]. Consequently, there are depths to our being which we can only just begin to fathom.
If every human being has this spiritual dimension and hunger, then even in a culture like ours, everyone will have-at least at times-some awareness of it, even if that awareness is not explicit and not put into words. When people talk of a “spirituality,” however, they usually mean, not the spirituality that human beings have by nature, but rather a set of attitudes and practices (spiritual exercises*) that are designed to foster a greater consciousness of this spiritual dimension and (in the case of those who can affirm belief in God) a more explicit seeking of its object- the Divine or God.
Ignatian* spirituality with its Spiritual Exercises* is one such path among many within Christianity, to say nothing of the spiritualities within other religious traditions, or those more or less outside a religious tradition. (“Peoples’ spiritual lives [today] have not died; they are simply taking place outside the church,” (Jesuit General Congregation 34, “Our Mission and Culture”)].)
Any of a variety of methods or activities for opening oneself to God’s spirit and allowing one’s whole being, not just the mind, to be affected. The methods–some of them more “active” and others more “passive”–might include vocal prayer (e.g., the Lord’s Prayer), meditation or contemplation, journaling or other kind of writing, reading of scripture or other great works of verbal art, drawing, painting or molding with clay, looking at works of visual art, playing or listening to music, working or walking in the midst of nature. All of these activities have the same goal in mind-discontinuing one’s usual productive activities and thus allowing God to “speak,” listening to what God may be “saying” through the medium employed.
An organized series of spiritual exercises* put together by Ignatius of Loyola* out of his own personal spiritual experience and that of others to whom he listened. They invite the “retreatant” or “exercitant” to “meditate” on central aspects of Christian faith (e.g., creation, sin and forgiveness, calling and ministry) and especially to “contemplate” (i.e. imaginatively enter into) the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Ignatius set all of this down in the book of the Spiritual Exercises as a handbook to help the guide who coaches a person engaged in “making the Exercises.” After listening to that person and getting a sense for where he/she is, the guide selects from material and methods in the book of the Exercises and offers them in a way adapted to that unique individual. The goal of all this is the attainment of a kind of spiritual freedom, the power to act-not out of social pressure or personal compulsion and fear- -but out of the promptings of God’s spirit in the deepest, truest core of one’s being–to act ultimately out of love.
As originally designed, the “full” Spiritual Exercises would occupy a person for four weeks full-time, but Ignatius realized that some people could not [today most people cannot] disengage from work and home obligations for that long a time, and so it is possible to make the “full” Exercises part-time over a period of six to nine or ten months–the “Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life.” In that case, the “exercitant,” without withdrawing from home or work, devotes about an hour a day to prayer (but this, like nearly everything in the Exercises, is adaptable) and sees a guide every week or two to process what has been happening in prayer and in the rest of his/her life.
Most of the time people make not the “full” Spiritual Exercises but a retreat in the Ignatian spirit that might last anywhere from a weekend to a week. Such a retreat usually includes either a daily individual conversation with a guide or several daily presentations to a group, as preparation for prayer/spiritual exercises.*
Ignatius had composed and revised his little book over a period of twenty-five or more years before it was finally published in 1548. Subsequent editions and translations-according to a plausible estimate – numbered some 4,500 in 1948 or about one a month over four centuries, the total number of copies printed being around 4,500,000. It is largely on his Exercises–with their implications for teaching and learning in a holistic way–that Ignatius’ reputation as a major figure in the history of western education rests.
People are often helped to integrate their faith and their life by talking on a regular basis (e.g., monthly) with someone they can trust. This person acts as a guide (sometimes also called a spiritual friend, companion, or director) for the journey, helping them to find the presence and call of God in the people and circumstances of their everyday lives.
The assumption is that God is already present there, and that another person, a guide, can help them to notice God’s presence and also to find words for talking about that presence, because they are not used to doing so. The guide is often a specially trained listener skilled in discernment* and therefore able to help them sort out the various voices within and around them. While he/she may suggest various kinds of spiritual exercises*/ways of praying, the focus is much broader than that; it is upon the whole of a person’s life experience as the place to meet God.
Convoked in 1962 by Pope John XXIII to bring the Catholic Church “up to date,” this 21st Ecumenical (i.e. world-wide) Council signaled the Catholic Church’s growth from a church of cultural confinement (largely European) to a genuine world church. The Council set its seal on the work of 20th century theologians that earlier had often been officially considered dangerous or erroneous. Thus, the biblical movement, the liturgical renewal, and the lay* movement were incorporated into official Catholic doctrine and practice.
Here are several significant new perspectives coming from the Council: Celebration of liturgy (worship) in various vernacular languages rather than Latin, to facilitate understanding and lay* participation; viewing the Church as “the whole people of God” rather than just as clergy and viewing other Christian bodies (Protestant, Orthodox) as belonging to it; Recognizing non-Christian religions as containing truth; honoring freedom of conscience as a basic human right; and finally including in its mission a reaching out to people in all their human hopes, needs, sufferings as an essential part of preaching the gospel. Today, Catholics are seriously divided on the question of Vatican II, some (“conservatives”) considering it to have failed by giving away essentials of tradition and others (“liberals”) feeling it has been too little and too imperfectly realized.
see “Men and Women for Others”
Native like Ignatius* of the Basque territory of northern Spain, Francis became a close friend of Ignatius at the University of Paris, came to share Ignatius’ vision through making the Spiritual Exercises,* and realized that vision through missionary labors in India, the Indonesian archipelago, and Japan. He was the first Jesuit* to go out to people of non-European culture.
Jesuit Colleges and Universities in the United States
credits: George W. Traub, S.J. | Xavier University