Ignatian spirituality is rooted in the experiences of Ignatius of 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 men’s religious community, 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 well suited to laymen and laywomen living active lives in the world. 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-deepening walk.
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 interpretations 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.
The Spiritual Exercises are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and
contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola to help people deepen
their relationship with God. For centuries the Exercises were most commonly
given as a “long retreat” of about 30 days in solitude and silence. In recent years,
there has been a renewed emphasis on the Spiritual Exercises as a program for
laypeople. The most common way of going through the Exercises now is a
“retreat in daily life,” which involves a months long program of daily prayer and
meetings with a spiritual director. The Exercises have also been adapted in many
other ways to meet the needs of modern people.
Ignatian spirituality is adaptable, it is an outlook, not a program; a set of attitudes and insights, not rules or a scheme. 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. It is an active spiritual attitude – a way for everyone to seek and find God in their workplaces, homes, families and communities.