Cura Personalis

holding hands

Little is written about the Ignatian-Jesuit characteristic of cura personalis, which is Latin for “care for the whole person.” Cura personalis comes down to the respect for all that makes up each individual. As St. Paul reminds us, “the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

Our talents, abilities, physical attributes, personalities, desires, hearts, faith, and minds are all equally worthy of care and attention. The term cura personalis is typically heard in Jesuit universities and institutions. Why? Because their mission and purpose goes beyond the intellect of the head. When I worked at Georgetown University Hospital, cura personalis was a reminder to staff and patients that the hospital’s mission included not just the health of the body but also the health of the entire person.

In the same way, our Christian faith ought to involve not just head but heart, not just soul but body. Spiritual exercises are as important as physical exercises. Learning is as important as a good diet. We pray, learn, and eat healthy as ways to glorify God and care for our entire selves. Sadly, there is often great disregard for our minds and bodies, which are gifts from God. Obesity is an epidemic, religious involvement is minimal, and school dropout rates are too high.

St. Ignatius once wrote a letter to a Jesuit ordering him to take better care of his health after learning that he was not eating properly; his ministry was taking away from the proper care of his body. Ignatius wrote, “For the next three months, from now until September, you are to do no preaching, but are to look after your health.” Ignatius implored him to follow doctor’s advice under the vow of obedience.

The Benedictines have a deep spirituality of work and prayer. They know that the proper balance between work and prayer is necessary in the spiritual life. You cannot healthily have one without the other. In turn, they recognize that body and soul are both gifts from God.

Originally a call for the kind of care Jesuit superiors were to give to their subordinates, cura personalis is a call for you and me to love ourselves and others: the entire person, the entire gift of life from God given to us.Subscribe to dotMagis, the blog of Ignatian Spirituality

About Andy Otto 54 Articles
Andy Otto credits his relationships for a strong and ever-growing faith in God. After spending nearly three years as a Jesuit, he came to a deep appreciation for the practical application of Ignatian spirituality. He currently lives with his wife in California, where he works as a high school theology teacher. He is the author of God Moments and holds a master’s degree in theology and ministry from Boston College.

7 Comments on Cura Personalis

  1. This reflection gave a fond memory for me when I was still a young practical trainee in one of our schools. Being young and full of spirit and idealism, I was always up on my toes, at everyone’s beck and call until I got sick and then the community doctor has requested our Rector that I be given extra helpings at the dinner table to add to my nourishment. It was the start of Lent and as a community, we took as a Lenten sacrifice to skip snacks and desserts. I fondly remember how our Rector has ordered me via the vow of obedience that I am exempted from doing fasting and abstinence from our community Lenten vow. I can see the logic now that I have gotten older.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. I wrote a paper recently on this subject, but I had no idea it was called “cura personalis”, nor seen as characteristically ‘Ignatian’!

  3. God has given us His created natural world to use! Not to exploit, but to walk in harmony with. It offers us the ability to nourish and heal our bodies, to explore our minds and participate in His beautiful creation around us. To see with our hearts and feel with our eyes. Soli Del Gloria!

  4. I must say i did very well on my retreat with eating only one meal a day and trying to avoid the sweets and too much caffeiene, but upon returning home i have had to practice more discipline because everyting is so readily available. I,.too have to be careful because of the medication i am on and my body’s weakness after taking these meds. Thank you for this article and God bless you, br jeffrey

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