St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spirituality for Today

Catherine Michaud, CSJ

As a member of the Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola and the first Jesuit Pope, Pope Francis has raised the world’s interest in the spirituality of the Jesuits and its founder. Many are wondering what Pope Francis, the Jesuit, believes about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the world? His latest encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si: On Care of Our Common House, begins with a quote from St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Creatures” in which the Earth is called “our common home.” While Pope Francis draws on the spirituality of St. Francis, his namesake, in Laudato Si, he grounds his encyclical in the theological vision of St. Ignatius. This vision is more than global; it is cosmic. St. Ignatius saw all of creation, all creatures including ourselves as held in existence by the one God. Like St. Ignatius, Pope Francis insists that all things exist for the greater honor and glory of God, and they must, therefore, be treated with respect— reverence even.

Pope Francis’s conviction that the way we attend to persons and to the “things” of this world reflects how well we know our Creator reveals his training in the spirit of St. Ignatius. For Ignatius, God is the infinitely loving and extravagant giver of gifts; God’s lavish generosity is poured out in Creation, in a universe that God passionately loves. Broken though our world is, this world and all of us who live here are the intense focus of God’s healing, regenerative forces of life and love. St. Ignatius sees God’s life poured out as cosmic reality, but he devoted himself to guiding individual souls into the consciousness and the embrace of God who is also concretely and personally present to them.

For this reason, Ignatian spirituality is best seen as a way of living “fully awake” to the practical events of everyday life, to every moment informed by the Holy Spirit. Christ’s Spirit heals us, redeems us, and draws us into Divine Glory—the fullness of life. Ignatian spirituality is practical. It began as the spirituality of and for laypeople. Ignatius was a soldier, not a monk. He had seen life at its grittiest, and that is where he discovered and learned to follow the Holy Spirit. Through his faithful following of the Spirit, Ignatius experienced healing, joy, consolation, salvation, and especially peace, the hallmark of the Holy Spirit.

St. Ignatius no doubt inspired Pope Francis in the writing of Laudato Si, for he writes that inner peace “is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life. Nature is filled with words of love.” All of creation exists, according to the spirituality of Pope Francis and St. Ignatius, ad majorem Dei gloriam—“for the greater glory of God.”