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Who is St. Ignatius of Loyola?
St. Ignatius Loyola was born in 1491, one of 13 children of a family of minor nobility in northern Spain. As a young man Ignatius Loyola was inflamed by the ideals of courtly love and knighthood and dreamed of doing great deeds.
But in 1521 Ignatius was gravely wounded in a battle with the French. While recuperating, Ignatius Loyola experienced a conversion. Reading the lives of Jesus and the saints made Ignatius happy and aroused desires to do great things. Ignatius realized that these feelings were clues to God’s direction for him.
Over the years, Ignatius became expert in the art of spiritual direction. He collected his insights, prayers, and suggestions in his book the Spiritual Exercises, one of the most influential books on the spiritual life ever written. With a small group of friends, Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. Ignatius conceived the Jesuits as “contemplatives in action.” This also describes the many Christians who have been touched by Ignatian spirituality.
Six Characteristics of Ignatian Spirituality
- It sees life and the whole universe as a gift calling forth wonder and gratefulness.
- It gives ample scope to imagination and emotion as well as intellect.
- It seeks to find the divine in all things—in all peoples and cultures, in all areas of study and learning, in every human experience, and (for the Christian) especially in the person of Jesus.
- It cultivates critical awareness of personal and social evil, but points to God’s love as more powerful than any evil.
- It stresses freedom, need for discernment, and responsible action.
- It empowers people to become leaders in service, men and women for others, whole persons of solidarity, building a more just and humane world.
From An Ignatian Spirituality Reader, edited by George W. Traub, SJ.