Ignatius of Loyola was a former soldier who was known for extraordinary bravery and discipline. After a serious injury left him alone for a long and painful time of recovery, Ignatius read about the life of Jesus and the stories of the saints. He found a new calling for his life and dedicated up to seven hours of his day to prayer.
While praying in solitude, he developed his Spiritual Exercises which formed the foundation of the Jesuits, a spiritual order he founded later in his life along with a group of friends.
The legacy of Ignatius is difficult to untangle. Was he a Catholic mystic on the brink of heresy? Was he a zealous counter-reformer who opposed the Reformation? Where does his legacy of spiritual direction and spiritual practices fit into how we remember him?
Even the Jesuits, whom Ignatius founded, remain divided over his legacy. However, as more Catholics and Protestants discover his work, there’s no doubt that many have benefitted from his emphasis on meditation and awareness throughout the day, such as his use of the Examen. One writer sums up his influence in this way:
“The Spiritual Exercises focus not only on our intellect, but also on our feelings and emotions. It is through all of our senses that we can come to know and experience God in our daily lives.”
Whatever Ignatius would have thought about a Protestant writer leaning so heavily on his spiritual practices today, Christians from every background and denomination can enter into prayer with greater awareness and freedom because of the practices he passed on to us.
Paraphrase of the First Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises
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 from 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 these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to 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 a 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 God’s deepening his life in me.
Source: Ignatian Solidarity Network
Ask God to deepen his life in you today.