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Blog Post #29 - St. Ignatius of Loyola: One of My Heroes

By Carol Kurivial, May 3, 2020

St. Ignatius of Loyola | Ignatian Spirituality | Prayer | Contemplation 

There’s something about the 16th century mystic, St. Ignatius of Loyola that appeals to my sense of spirituality. This is the guy who founded a Catholic religious order called the Society of Jesus (S.J.), also known as the Jesuits, but not before he went through a period of living life by his own rules! Prideful is just one word used to describe his not-so-holy presence prior to seeing the light! But I’m not writing about that today. If you want a glimpse of his past, Google for yourself and get the goods!

What I’d like to talk about in this post are some of Ignatius’ fascinating and fruitful founding guidelines. I guess you could say it was his way of living in relationship with God…his way of growing closer to his Creator. And he would be the first to say that we all need to find our own way through. In fact, he said it like this, “It is dangerous to make everybody go forward by the same road: and worse to measure others by oneself.” But if someone else’s way can help a person to also grow closer, then bring it on! So, let’s dig in.

For starters, Ignatius was big on finding God in all things. ALL THINGS, as in EVERYTHING!! So we’re not just talking church services, Bible studies, prayer and service projects here. We also talking weed pulling, funny jokes, dinner prep, annoying relatives, the “m” key popping off your computer keyboard, that lovely chat with your next-door neighbor, and 60’s music. Oh, and let’s throw corona virus-ing, fast food drive up experiences, and Zoom meetings in there too! Like I said, EVERYTHING!! Absolutely nothing is hidden from God, nor should it be! How cool is that?

Ignatius was also hyper vigilant about being more contemplative (meditative) about everything you see, feel, experience, encounter, and even smell or touch. It’s been described as “seeing the world as your monastery” while being “contemplatives in action.” So that might look something like playing Scrabble with your husband while praying specific prayers for his most current needs or riding your bike while praying the Our Father for the entire universe.

Looking at the world in an incarnational way (incarnation = God becoming man) was another Ignatian way of perceiving things. That would include believing that God can be found in the everyday events and locations of our lives…believing that He’s right there in your family room, office, or garage. If you’re looking for God, look around. Look at REAL things, happening in REAL places, to REAL people.

There is so much to be said for Ignatius spirituality, but I’ll add just one last founding keystone…seeking freedom and detachment. Detachment refers to not wasting your time and energy on unimportant things. (And that’s a whole bunch of stuff!) The present culture, in my opinion, is really good at wasting enormous amounts of time on things that are irrelevant and insignificant. Kind of reminds me of the quote “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe supposedly coined that phrase, and if that’s true, than I think Goethe and Ignatius would have gotten along rather well.

When you are enjoying interior freedom you are able to detach yourself from everything (even losing your job, getting a bad diagnosis, or a serious disagreement with your spouse, for example), and keep your relationship with God front and center. (Which, incidentally, should have some effect on how you respond to each of those examples.) Talk about true freedom and detachment!

The point is clear, Ignatius believed there is simply no part of life that cannot be transformed by God’s love. Not one, teeny-tiny piece of it! Even those things about ourselves that we consider worthless or sinful can be made worthwhile and holy.

Can any of these Ignatian Spirituality practices be an asset to your own journey? If so, don’t waste another minute…detach, get holier, and feel Heaven on earth by taking God along for the ride. After all, wasn’t it Ignatius who said, “He who carries God in his heart bears Heaven with him wherever he goes.”

P.S. If you’re at all fascinated by this post and want to dig deeper, check out The Autobiography of St. Ignatius, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, or Ignatius’ vast series of letters, of which there were 6,813 in total! 

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