Saturday, December 27, 2014


Is Pope Francis giving the Church and the world Ignatian spirituality and the spiritual exercises? The concepts of the Church as a field hospital in the midst of a battle, the culture of encounter, God's personal love for everyone and for creation, the motivation of the heart over the mind and so on, which have become synonymous with Pope Francis papacy do not originate with Pope Francis but with Saint Ignatius of Loyola!

I grew up in Augusta and have been pastor in Macon for the past 11 years. Both of these cities inherit the spirituality of the Jesuits as both were southern strongholds for the Jesuits, both having churches built by the Jesuits. I resonate with so much of what Pope Francis says and teaches because it is integral to both Macon and Augusta's experience of Catholicism precisely because of the Jesuits and Ignatian spirituality!

Watch the video and read about Ignatian spirituality and you will see Pope Francis in all of it! I report; you decide!

Ten Elements of Ignatian Spirituality

Ignatian spirituality is one of the most influential and pervasive spiritual outlooks of our age. There's a story behind it. And it has many attributes. This page provides an introduction to it.

1. It begins with a wounded soldier daydreaming on his sickbed.

Ignatian spirituality is rooted in the experiences of Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), a Basque aristocrat whose conversion to a fervent Christian faith began while he was recovering from war wounds. Ignatius, who founded the Jesuits, gained many insights into the spiritual life in the course of a decades long spiritual journey during which he became expert at helping others deepen their relationship with God. Its basis in personal experience makes Ignatian spirituality an intensely practical spirituality, well suited to laymen and laywomen living active lives in the world.

2. The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

This line from a poem by the Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins captures a central theme of Ignatian spirituality: its insistence that God is at work everywhere”in work, relationships, culture, the arts, the intellectual life, creation itself. As Ignatius put it, all the things in the world are presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. Ignatian spirituality places great emphasis on discerning God's presence in the everyday activities of ordinary life. It sees God as an active God, always at work, inviting us to an ever-deeper walk.

3. It's about call and response ”like the music of a gospel choir.

An Ignatian spiritual life focuses on God at work now. It fosters an active attentiveness to God joined with a prompt responsiveness to God. God calls; we respond. This call-response rhythm of the inner life makes discernment and decision making especially important. Ignatius' rules for discernment and his astute approach to decision making are well-regarded for their psychological and spiritual wisdom.

4.The heart has its reasons of which the mind knows nothing.

Ignatius Loyola's conversion occurred as he became able to interpret the spiritual meaning of his emotional life. The spirituality he developed places great emphasis on the affective life: the use of imagination in prayer, discernment and interpretation of feelings, cultivation of great desires, and generous service. Ignatian spiritual renewal focuses more on the heart than the intellect. It holds that our choices and decisions are often beyond the merely rational or reasonable. Its goal is an eager, generous, wholehearted offer of oneself to God and to his work.

5. Free at last.

Ignatian spirituality emphasizes interior freedom. To choose rightly, we should strive to be freedom-bird-in-flight free of personal preferences, superfluous attachments, and preformed opinions. Ignatius counseled radical detachment: We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. Our one goal is the freedom to make a wholehearted choice to follow God.

6. Sum up at night what thou hast done by day.

The Ignatian mind-set is strongly inclined to reflection and self-scrutiny. The distinctive Ignatian prayer is the Daily Examen, a review of the day's activities with an eye toward detecting and responding to the presence of God. Three challenging, reflective questions lie at the heart of the Spiritual Exercises, the book Ignatius wrote, to help others deepen their spiritual lives: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ?

7. A practical spirituality.

Ignatian spirituality is adaptable. It is an outlook, not a program; a set of attitudes and insights, not rules or a scheme. Ignatius' first advice to spiritual directors was to adapt the Spiritual Exercises to the needs of the person entering the retreat. At the heart of Ignatian spirituality is a profound humanism. It respects people's lived experience and honors the vast diversity of God's work in the world. The Latin phrase cura personalis is often heard in Ignatian circles. It means care of the person”attention to people's individual needs and respect for their unique circumstances and concerns.

8. Don't do it alone.

Ignatian spirituality places great value on collaboration and teamwork. Ignatian spirituality sees the link between God and man as a relationship a bond of friendship that develops over time as a human relationship does.Collaboration is built into the very structure of the Spiritual Exercises; they are almost always guided by a spiritual director who helps the retreatant interpret the spiritual content of the retreat experience. Similarly, mission and service in the Ignatian mode is seen not as an individualistic enterprise, but as work done in collaboration with Christ and others.

9. Contemplatives in action.

Those formed by Ignatian spirituality are often called contemplatives in action. They are reflective people with a rich inner life who are deeply engaged in God's work in the world. They unite themselves with God by joining God active labor to save and heal the world. It an active spiritual attitude”a way for everyone to seek and find God in their workplaces, homes, families, and communities.

10. Men and women for others.

The early Jesuits often described their work as simply helping souls. The great Jesuit leader Pedro Arrupe updated this idea in the twentieth century by calling those formed in Ignatian spirituality men and women for others. Both phrases express a deep commitment to social justice and a radical giving of oneself to others. The heart of this service is the radical generosity that Ignatius asked for in his most famous prayer:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.


Anonymous said...

This editorial from GQ Magazine is how the world sees Francis:

He is the "good guy", trying to "drag" the Church into the 21st Century, while Pope Emeritus Benedict is a "grump" and a "geezer". And people like you, Father, and Gene, and JBS, and Joe P., and John Nolan, are the "bad guys".

Gene said...

So, now, it is Ignatian spirituality that is the problem…I guess if you use the machine gun method to defend the Pope you will eventually hit something credible. Hey, maybe it is aliens…you know, the Pope was abducted by aliens and taken to the planet Zort where Jimmy Hoffa, Imelda Marcos, and Elvis brain washed him. Yeah, that's it…aliens.

Anonymous said...

They're not the "bad guys"...just the good guys who want DESPERATELY for it to be 1572....forever.

Supertradmum said...

I wrote about the Pope as a from a slightly different view in November

Gene said...

Anonymous, Nah, 1955 would be ok for me…or, we could keep penicillin and flush toilets and go back to 1850.

George said...

Are modern conveniences and technological gadgets an equal trade-off for good manners, a more prevalent piety, more families headed by a father and mother,respect for others, greater social harmony, less vulgarity in speech and behavior, respect for the law and political institutions, music and art worthy of the name, and entertainment which does not pander to the lowest traits of our fallen human nature?
Sure we have it good today but what of those things that are the most important?

Templar said...

Puh-leaze! Francis and Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises are night and day. Anyone who has even read the Exercises, let alone tried to follow them, would quickly conclude that they're all about discipline, the very think Francis lacks.

George said...

The Jesuits have produced quite a number of saints:

Some notable ones
St. Ignatius Loyola, St.John Berchmans,St.Francis Xavier, St. Robert Bellarmine,St. Jean de Brebeuf,St. Peter Claver,St. Peter Faber,Saint Stanislaus tsKostkan,Saint Paul Miki,Saint Isaac Jogues

Jesuits of note from our own time
Daniel Berrigan, Robert Drinan,Fr Leonard Feeney, John Courtney Murray

Between the lists above, which contains those that were more truly and correctly embraced authentic Ignatian spirituality? Although, to be fair, there are a lot of notable Jesuits between these two groups.

Ok. Below are some Jesuits from our own time that I believe were truly and correctly embraced Ignatian spirituality.

Fr John Hardon, Fr. Malachi Martin, Fr Mitch Pacwa

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or does anyone else see the resemblance between Francis and Alister Sim? I noticed this while watching the best version of A Christmas Carol.