THE GREAT TRADITIONS OF CATHOLIC SPIRITUALITY – PART V
– IN THE SERVICE OF THE KING OF GLORY
I. The Ignatian tradition was inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits.) That order, and the spirituality upon which it was based, was instrumental in the reconversion of parts of Europe and missionary activities during the Age of Exploration. It emphasized the strong, calm conquest of the mind and emotions that we may be at the greater service of Jesus Christ.
A. St. Ignatius was from a family of warriors and explorers and trained for military services. His spirituality built upon his military experience.
1. Ignatius was
injured while heroically defending a castle at Pamplona in 1521 for
the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. While recovering at a
religious hospital, he read Ludolf of Saxony's The Life of Christ
and a biography of saints called The Golden Legend. With
this reading and time for prayer, he experienced a profound conversion
that led him to desire to be a knight of Christ. He realized that
the saints showed all of the courage, dedication, loyalty, and generosity
of knights. The difference is that they served, not an earthly
king, but instead the King of Glory.
2. After a time
of discernment, he began studies for the priesthood in 1524. After
13 years of studies at Barcelona, Alcala and Paris, he was ordained
a priest in 1537.
he had gathered a group of brothers who eventually went to the reformist
Pope Paul III and asked for his approval for them to become a religious
order, whose motto would be Ad Maior Dei Gloriam (To the Greater
Glory of God.) The 1539 letter to Pope Paul III said that the
order was for people who "would fight for God under the banner of
the Cross and serve the Lord alone and His Vicar on earth."
It said that the community was "founded primarily for the task of
advancing souls in Christian life and doctrine, and of propagating the
faith by the ministry of the word, by spiritual exercises, by works
of charity, and expressly by the instruction of children and unlettered
persons in Christian principles."
- Pope Benedict
XV endorsed The Spiritual Exercises and declared St. Ignatius
to be the patron saint of spiritual retreats. Pope Pius XII said
they "will always remain one of the most efficacious means for the
spiritual regeneration of the world, but on the condition that they
continue to be authentically Ignatian."
C. After working with the poor of Rome for a time, this order, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) expanded rapidly throughout both Europe and the newly discovered lands East and West.
1. The Jesuits
would become central to the Church's missionary activities in the
Far East and the New World. The likes of St. Francis Xavier (1506-62),
St. Jose do Anchieta (d. 1597), and the North American Martyrs of the
seventeenth century were great heroes in the conversions of the Far
East, South American and North America respectively.
2. Within Europe, Jesuit teachers helped to bring large parts of France, Germany and Belgium back to the faith, as well as keep the likes of Poland in the faith. The Jesuits also spearheaded attempts to reconvert England and Sweden.
3. In this context,
the likes of St. Francis Borgia, St. Peter Canesius, and St. Robert
Bellarmine stand out. St. Francis was the third master general
of the order and a grand credit to his infamous family; St. Peter Canesius
was the greatest missionary to reconvert parts of Germany and Switzerland,
and St. Robert Bellarmine was a great Roman instructor. The latter
two saints are considered patrons of catechists and doctors of the Church.
D. St. Peter Canesius (1521–97) was known for employing his great learning in defending and explaining the faith to people of all classes, ages and educational backgrounds. The man of kind habits and mild disposition helped re-conquer much of Germany and Switzerland for the Catholic faith.
1. Born to a
reasonably well off family on the very day in 1521 that the Diet of
Worms handed down judgment against Martin Luther, St. Peter Canesius
had strong spiritual inclinations as a youth, but also a great deal
of unruliness. He joined the Jesuits at the age of 22 and made
great progress, both spiritually and academically. Over the next
30 years help found 15 universities and bring much of Germany back to
the Catholic fold. In 1580, he then assisted in the foundation
of a university in Fribourge, Switzerland, where he taught for the next
19 years. Pope Leo XIII called him "the second apostle of Germany
1. His family was very devout, of the noble class, but also relatively impoverished; and they struggled to maintain their position in the rapidly changing society.
b. In 1617,
he argued for a papal declaration in favor of the Immaculate Conception,
the first known cardinal to do so.
3. As with St.
Peter Canesius, he wrote voluminously in the face of administrative
duties. St. Robert Bellarmine is especially known for his catechisms
and The Controversies, his defense of the faith drawn from the
lectures he gave at the Roman College. In writing and preaching,
he especially emphasized the unity of eloquence, charity and wisdom,
saying, "Eloquence without charity and wisdom is only empty chattering.
Wisdom and eloquence without charity are dead and profitless.
And charity without eloquence and wisdom is like a brave man unarmed."
4. With St. Benedict,
but more so that almost anyone else, he believed in focusing on the
person or task at hand. Thus, when a visitor was with him, he
gave him total attention. And, when he was at prayer or studies,
people marveled about how fixed his attention was.
5. With St. Francis, he also very strongly emphasized disciplining bodily pleasures. But paradoxically, that very discipline makes one joyfully see God's presence everywhere. Thus, one his last books, The Ascent of the Mind to God by the Ladder of Created Things describes all of creation as a sacrament that draws us to God if we are willing.
born on October 4,the memorial of St. Francis, he always considered
that saint to be a central model of the spirit of poverty fitted for
a Christian, especially one who wishes to excel in the spiritual life.
D. Although there
is no women's side of the Jesuit order, Blessed Mother Theresa of
Calcutta formed the Missionaries of Charity largely along the lines
of Ignatian spirituality. In that order, there is a strong sense
of a radical openness to the will of God, and a sense that it is a privilege
to serve the poor, the beloved of Christ. There is also a special
vow to be joyful.
II. Ignatian spirituality is based very heavily upon a very powerful notion of serving Jesus as the great King and Lord of heaven and earth. There is a strong emphasis on discerning the will of God and being courageous and dedicated in carrying out His will.
A. The centerpiece of St. Ignatius' work is the Spiritual Exercises, which were written as a guide for a 30-day retreat, although the work is common used for shorter retreats as well.
1. St. Ignatius
begins the exercises with 20 "annotations," leading up to the goal
of discerning God's will and viewing all in creation as simply a means
to that will. As he says, "Man is created to praise, reverence,
and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And
the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that
they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.
. . . [Thus] it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created
things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is
not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather
than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor,
long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing
only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created."
b. One then
proceeds onto "preludes." In the prelude one uses the imagination
to sense the subject of the meditation (e.g., the birth of Christ or
conversion from sin) and ask God for something based upon this reflection
for the sake of serving Him better (e.g., a joy at the presence of Christ
or a sense of deep contrition.)
c. One then
proceeds onto a point by point consideration of the matter for meditation,
here using more the intellect.
d. One then
makes a "colloquy" with Christ about the matter, asking Him for
His guidance and strength to use our will to upon the will of God..
3. The Spiritual
Exercises themselves focus on meditations that cover: (1) repentance
from sins and a sense of the punishment due for them; (2) the earthly
life of Jesus Christ up to Holy Week; (3) the passion and death of Christ;
(4) the events from the Resurrection to Christ's Ascension.
But the book also describes a number of other subjects of prayer, such
as the Ten Commandment, the uses of the senses, and meditating word
by word over prayers such as the Our Father and the Hail Mary that we
B. There is a very strong notion that there are two kingdoms, one for God and one of evil, and that we cannot be neutral. One of the meditations in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises involves trying to "see a great field of all that region of Jerusalem, where the supreme Commander-in-chief of the good is Christ our Lord; another field in the region of Babylon, where the chief of the enemy is Lucifer."
St. Ignatius describes this life as a continual combat with the forces
of evil, both for our own soul and for the world around us. As
soldiers must train for physical combat through continuous exercises,
so we must train continuously, by prayer, self examination of life,
and sacrifice (especially of the will) to serve the king of glory.
In asking Pope Paul III for approval of his order first, he described
his rule as for men who would ""fight for God under the banner of
the Cross and serve the Lord along and His Vicar on earth."
And Pope Leo XIII's encyclical on St. Peter Canesius was entitled
Militantis Ecclesiae (Of the Church Militant).
There is a strong notion in Ignatian spirituality of not giving final
honor to earthly authority. Legitimate civil authorities are to
be obeyed, but with the understanding that their authority is simply
for the practical purpose of helping society. Thus, the Jesuit
missionaries to the New World were very willing to take on the French,
Spanish, and Portuguese nobles to defend the rights of the Native Americans,
and have been willing to take on dictators to this day. And St.
Robert Bellarmine became famous (and somewhat controversial in Catholic
circles) for his strong refutation of the idea that any human authority
over temporal affairs is absolute. Anticipating arguments that
would inspire the American Revolution, he wrote that power belongs to
the people first, who may delegate it to whom they think best.
He even, against much opposition, argued that the Pope's temporal
authority over the Papal States, was a human creation, to be used only
when helpful for the salvation of souls.
Ignatian spirituality certainly recognizes the primacy of grace in our
spiritual lives, but also insists that we must make continued efforts,
and receive continued instruction by God to win this battle.
C. St. Ignatius very much focuses on developing a Afelt knowledge of Jesus@ and on using the imagination, feelings, reason, and all aspects of the human person to develop this knowledge. In meditating on Scripture and especially on the gospels, he advises deeply imagining oneself in the scenes, including focusing on very specific details (e.g., the individual people present, the time of day, the tension in the air.)
- In the Exercises,
St. Ignatius advises that, when making an "election" one do such
things as imagine how one's decision will be seen at one's own death
and at the Final Judgment.
D. St. Ignatius also discusses
at length the Adiscernment of spirits,@
i.e., the ability to discern whether an inspiration is good or ill,
whether from God, from ourselves, or even from forces opposed to God.
One of his principle rules is that a good inspiration will be challenging
but will leave one with a lasting sense of peace in God=s presence, while an ill inspiration
will be immediately pleasing, but leave one with a sense of unease.
E. Ignatian spirituality
involves the ability to sense consolations and desolations and grow
through them. Consolations are strong senses of God=s
presence, which include both joy at His triumph and sorrow at sins.
Developing consolations by focused prayer and detachment from desires
are very helpful in discernment, as are consolations with no apparent
cause. Desolations are sense of anxiety and turmoil that are not
based upon difficulties in the world. They can be a result of
laxity in prayer, or can be a trial sent by God to strengthen the person.
In both cases, one=s response should be continued prayer
(or revived prayer in the former case) and not making changes in plans
during these times.
1. St. Peter
Canesius, building upon his own experience, emphasized that control
over emotions (particularly anger or a desire for worldly honor) is
essential for anyone to present the faith. St. Robert Bellarmine
emphasized that control over desire for glory or wealth is essential
if one is to teach the faith, rather than oneself.
G. There is thus an overall sense that, in all of this life, we are training, sacrificing, struggling, and thus advancing the kingdom of God of earth to be worthy of serving Him forever in heaven.