Monday 4 August 2008

Ignatius of Layola - Seminar

Ignatius of Layola

If we are to understand the spirituality of Saint Ignatius, in the context of Christian spirituality, then we will need to understand Ignatius and his times. Ignatius had three stages in his life and development, the would
be romantic hero, the courtier or soldier, and finally the religious. Each of these stages played a specific role on his development. We will look briefly at each of these stages then move on to our specific text. Ignatius was born of noble family of significant influence. He was wounded in battle and during his convalescence had his conversion experience.

gnatius was in the first stage, prior to his injury, was very fond of romantic novels. From these he would sit for long periods of time and have 'fantasy's' or 'day dreams' of all that he could be, or do. With himself always as the romantic hero, and victory never in doubt, at least in his mind. To some extent this continued even after his injuries and carried over till a later period in life. This can be seen on page 245 of our text, in the first paragraph of 'A Soldier for Christ,' "And So whilst a fortress that the French were attacking …" we see here he was so convinced of the romantic fantasy that he persuaded his commander against all others judgments to fight and not surrender. It was only after his being hit by a cannonball that they surrendered. This period leads to the second period, that of the courtier or soldier.

We see now that after his injury he came to the conclusion that he would not win his fame in battle so he fantasized about doing so in court, and doing so to win the hand of a specific woman. He was so intent upon this goal he was willing to undergo unnecessary surgery in order to remove a lump from the repaired le, and treatments to stretch the leg to make their difference in length almost unnoticeable. On page 246 of our text there is a long and detailed account of his treatments and recovery. During this recovery he request some of fiction to read, but all that was found in the house was a 'Life of Christ' and a book on 'Saints'. During this period he read these two books many times and they started to have a positive effect upon him. And this is the turning point into the third stage of his life. That as religious thinker and spiritual leader, and this is the stage of his life we are most interested in.

Our first except if mostly biographical, but I would like to highlight a few key sections before we open this up to discussion. The first was his realization that some thought patters left him satisfied and some empty after he had pursued them. On page 247 he states "When he was thinking of those things of the world he took much delight in them, but afterwards, when he was tired and put the aside, he found himself dry and dissatisfied … but even after he put them aside he remained satisfied and joyful." As this passage goes on to say, he did not immediately make the connections but eventually he perceived the difference that reflections upon things of the world versus things of man could have upon him. Another key point in this section is the bottom of the last full paragraph on this page, "But his brother as well as all the rest of the household came to know from his exterior the change that had been wrought inwardly in his soul." Not only were his reflections and meditations having an effect upon him, but also that effect was noticeable to those who were around him. Now I would like to know what from this first passage was most significant to you?

Let us now move on to the Spiritual Exercises them selves. I will skim though what from these selections has impacted me firs. Then we will open it up to discussion. I would like to pass around the complete exercises now, as well as 3 modern versions of them to designed to be done by laity. Ignatius later realized that not all people could take 4 weeks to go on personal retreat and a modification of the Spiritual Exercises was written to be used over a longer period of time at home.

I was immediately struck by the focus of the four weeks, week one on consideration and contemplation of sins, week two focuses on the life of Christ up to the passion, week three focuses on the passion, and week 4 focuses on the resurrection and
ascension of Jesus Christ. As well as that each day of the exercises the prayer is to be done in the order of thanks, confession, examination of the day, confession, to make amends and close with the Our Father.

From these the major focus in the first exercise that I notice is the focus on sins Ignatius states on page 253: "I see how many people have been damned for committing a single mortal sin, and how many times I have deserved eternal damnation for my many sins", he also states on the next page "For one sin they went to hell; then how often have I deserved hell for my many sins!" What about this section has really impacted you, or have you noticed.

The final selection 'Rules for the Discernment of Spirits' are one of a series of appendix to the rules. The two rules here that impacted me most were rules four and five. That is "the Fourth, about spiritual desolation" and "The Fifth, during a time of desolation one should never make a change." Now I would like to ask you what did you see in this section.

What hit me most was that the Christian life would not necessarily be one of constant happiness and joy, or success. Much like the health and wealth gospel some evangelical's teach. But that there will be good times and bad times, and in the good time we are to prepare for the bad, and in the bad remember the good. Ignatius faced personal adversity both before and after his conversion. He developed the Spiritual Exercises which are one of the most widely used spiritual formation and mentoring tools today. They are a tool used widely within and without the catholic church. His contrib
ution to Christian spirituality has been immense.

If I can share on a personal level with you the class. I was in a period of desolation yesterday. My computer crashed because of my roommate and I lost my entire seminar just shortly after finishing it. I scoured my hard drive for any fragments of it, but to no avail. I had only worked on the computer so lost all my primary research and all my secondary sources. So I rewrote this seminar late last night knowing I had to work at 6am this morning. Last night I came close to dropping this course. I was tired stressed, my roommate was moving out. I am making plans for the wedding and furniture deliveries … involved with that. And rewriting this from scratch just seemed so daunting. But here I am writing the last lines, and smiling and thanking God. Consolation does come again.


  1. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.246
  2. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.247
  3. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.247
  4. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.251
  5. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.251
  6. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.253
  7. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.253


Tyson, John R. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. New York: Oxford UP, 1999

Caraman, Philip. Ignatius of Loyola : a biography of the founder of the Jesuits

Lonsdale David. Eyes to see, ears to hear : an introduction to Ignatian spirituality

Henry F. Birkenhauer et al. New introduction to the Spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius

Ganss, George E. Spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius : a translation and commentary

(First written for RS 383 Shapers of the Roman Catholic Tradition in the winter of 2003.)

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