The jesuits have derived their spirituality from the experience of their founder, St. ignatius of loyola, and from the spirit that he inculcated in his growing order. The writings that he left—his Autobiography, spiritual exercises, Letters, Spiritual Journal, and Constitutions —give an idea of what these were, although he did not present them systematically or didactically. From this material it is evident that the principal features of Ignatian spirituality can be traced back to St. Ignatius' personal concept of God and to his concept of the behavior and the prayer life of the spiritual man.
Concept of God. After his interior transformation at Loyola, Ignatius remained at Manresa from March 1522 to February 1523. "At that time," as the Autobiography declares (n. 27), "God treated him exactly as a schoolmaster treats a child—He instructed him. This can be seen in the five points that follow." These five points describe the mystical knowledge he received about the Trinity, creation, Christ in the Eucharist, Jesus in His humanity, Our Lady, and finally, of all things seen in a new light (Autobiography 28–30). Thus God revealed Himself to Ignatius as the transcendent Trinity, which creates the world, sends the Son to it in the Eucharistic Sacrament, and brings all back to Itself through the mediation of Jesus and the Virgin, following a design that embraces all terrestrial reality in salvation.
These elements of Ignatian spirituality are expressed in the Exercises and perhaps more explicitly in the Spiritual Journal. He emphasizes in his "Contemplation to Attain the Love of God" (Exercises 230–237), which seems to be the goal of his Exercises, that it is God who gives blessings and Himself. It is He who lives in His creatures and works through them for us, He who is the source of all good things. It is He who moves the will and brings to one's mind what he ought to do (ibid. 180) by His love that descends from above (ibid. 184), for it has designs for us, a holy will (ibid. 1, 91, 135) that is dynamically made known in the inner recesses of our being.
Such a concept explains the titles that Ignatius easily gives to God, calling Him, for example, Creator, Goodness, and Providence. These terms had a very concrete sense for Ignatius. They imply a divine action exercised upon us and one that we can "feel." In the Trinity the
God of infinite fullness pours Himself forth in an unceasing creative act and in an operation that in us is light, incitement, and union. Ignatius' letters generally were concluded with some such expression as "I close asking that God will grant us grace to know His holy will and perfectly to do it." The will of God is a "divine motion" (Monumenta historica Societatis Jesu "Epistolae" [Rome 1932–] 7.465). "I hope in the Lord," he wrote, "that if my prayers win you any favor, it will be entirely from on high, descending from His infinite goodness" (ibid. 1.339). "May it be pleasing to His divine clemency to communicate Himself so intimately to you and to direct your house and all that is entrusted to your care with a providence so particular that it may be known in a tangible manner that it is His divine majesty that disposes and watches over all in this matter" (ibid. 3.14). In heaven "all our wickedness will be entirely consumed in the furnace of the everlasting love of God, our Creator and Lord, when our souls shall be completely penetrated and possessed by Him and our wills thus totally conformed to—or rather, transformed into—His will, which is rectitude and infinite goodness" (ibid. 1.627).
This divine influence passes through Christ. Jesus Christ is at the center of Ignatian spirituality. He is "the Creator who has stooped to become man" and who became "the eternal Lord of all things" (Exercises 53, 98); He calls us, and our whole destiny consists in knowing the Lord intimately in order to love Him more and follow Him more closely (ibid. 104). Thus the will of God is done through Christ, who incorporates it and brings it to fulfillment. Through the work done in Him (ibid. 95), the story of salvation is completed. During the year and a half between his ordination and his first Mass, Ignatius frequently asked Mary to "put him with her Son"; before celebrating Mass, he had a vision in the chapel of Storta near Rome in which Christ, carrying a cross and accompanied by His Father, said to him: "I want you to serve us." One enters the "Company of Jesus" to "fight under the standard of the Cross and to serve the one Lord as well as the Church, His Spouse, under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff, who takes the place of Christ on earth" (Formula Instituti 1). It is not surprising that the great majority of spiritual authors of the society in their works have emphasized assimilation to Christ, the Incarnate Word, or that the Jesuits have been ardent promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The Spiritual Man According to St. Ignatius. From this view of God, an idea of the behavior that befits a Christian is easily deduced. In the presence of the Divine Majesty who is the source of all good, man must respond with reverence and grateful attention. He should feel what Ignatius calls "loving humility" (Spiritual Journal March 30) and a eucharistic kind of gratitude that causes him to say: "You have given me all, I give it back to You, Lord" (Exercises 234). He is aware that priority in the spiritual life must be given to "the interior law of charity and love that the Holy Spirit writes and imprints in our hearts" (preamble to the Constitutions ). That is to say, the creature is called upon to abandon itself to belong to its Creator (Epistolae 1.339), to become docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in it, to submit itself lovingly to the divine will. Because of this, Ignatius attached great importance to self-denial, spiritual discernment, and obedience. One must be attentive in following the divine will in all decisions that he makes (Constitutions 3.1, 26); the examination of conscience, to which St. Ignatius held so strongly and which is the daily repetition of the "Contemplation to Attain the Love of God," is for the purpose of causing one to keep check upon the rightness of his dispositions.
However since one is engaged in work with Christ, one must have a spirituality that directs the heart, with Christ's, toward others, the Church, and the design of God that must be fulfilled here on earth. Ignatian spirituality is essentially apostolic, that is, concerned with the kingdom. Ignatius frequently used, especially in the Constitutions, the formula "to help one's neighbor"; his eternal King calls each in particular "to the conquest of the world" (Exercises 95). Man is created to serve God and Christ in the enterprise of the salvation of mankind (ibid. 146). Reverence toward the God of majesty is expressed in the service of others accomplished under the impetus coming from this same God, who is at work on earth through Jesus Christ. For St. Ignatius, the glory of God always connotes an apostolic perspective, a reference to neighbor, to the "universal good"; a truly remarkable view of this is found in the Spiritual Journal. After his mystical insight into the divine essence, the Persons of the Trinity, the humanity of Christ, Ignatius was moved to a profound, reverential love for these great things and was also moved in an extraordinary manner by the Lord, to a similar loving reverence for creatures (Spiritual Journal, March 30). The whole Ad amorem of the Exercises is there; it is "to love and serve the divine majesty in all things" (Exercises 233). If this apostolic ideal in the society presupposes a magnanimous docility on the part of all, it nevertheless demands a strong cohesive bond tying Jesuits one to another: in his Constitutions Ignatius insists upon fraternal charity as well as upon obedience.
Ignatian Prayer. Faithful to the graces he had received, Ignatius placed the life of prayer more in work undertaken under the impulse of love than in the repose of contemplation. His Lord is a God of action, present in the world and in history; it is a duty of man to "seek God in all things," to "love Him in all His creatures" (Constitutions 3.1, 26), to "serve Him in all" (Exercises 233). Thus one ought to be, according to the formula of Ignatius' confidant, G. nadal, a "contemplative in action." In union with God in every thing and activity, St. Ignatius saw an eminent form of prayer. He declared: "Occupations undertaken for His greater service and in conformity to His divine will interpreted through obedience, can be not only the equivalent of the union and recollection of uninterrupted contemplation, but even more acceptable to God, proceeding as they do from a more active and vigorous charity" (Epistolae 4.127).
That is not to say that he belittled prayer. He wanted novices to be taught "the way of praying and meditating" (Constitutions 3.1, 20), and although he generally dispensed his students from meditation, leaving them the Mass, two examinations of conscience a day, and vocal prayer (ibid. 4.4, 3), he wished for those religious who have arrived at the term of their formation that "there should be no other rule except the one that prudent charity would dictate" (ibid. 6.3, 1). He himself had recourse to long prayers as is revealed in his Spiritual Journal.
There was a tension in him between mental prayer and contemplative action. In his order this tension soon took on the form of a conflict between the contemplatives and those who held to practical prayer. In 1590 C. acquaviva, then general of the society, ended the debate by determining that the daily prayer hour for all, instituted by Borgia, should remain in the rule, but that formed religious should not be forbidden to exceed that time, nor should those who had the grace be forbidden to practice higher forms of prayer provided these did not prove to be an obstacle to apostolic works. Forty years later M. vi telleschi approved the teaching of Louis lallemant on contemplation.
Even if some Jesuits have shown opposition to mysticism, one could not fairly accuse the society itself of it. Ignatius was a mystic, as were several of his companions and first disciples, and in the long course of its history the society has given great spiritual writers to the Church. At the end of his book An Ignatian Approach to Divine Union (tr. H. L. Brozowski, Milwaukee 1956), Louis Peeters, SJ, names about 100 Jesuits who were mystical authors. It remains true, nevertheless, that the spirituality proper to St. Ignatius is complete "familiarity with God" that causes one to be a "united instrument" of God (Constitutions 10.2).
Conclusion. St. Ignatius, who so often received "visits from the Lord," always kept to himself his nostalgia for the luminous abysses of the Trinity; but he knew he had been chosen more to transmit the divine light than to enjoy it. God called him to the work of the redemption, to the service of the Lord in the establishment of the kingdom. Thus he chose to be a soldier under the standard of the cross. Above, and at the same time the source of both contemplation and action, there is "love" (Exercises 230). However, though loving action often demands that one renounce the pleasures of contemplation, these are not lost without compensation in the holy gifts and spiritual favors from the Lord (cf. Epistolae 2.236; Exercises 316). Such a spirituality reminds one of St. Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, "urged by a love of Christ" and living in the intimacy of the Spirit.
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