Living “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”

AMDG sign - Image by Eric E. Castro under (CC BY-SA 2.0) (cropped and lightened).

I remember the summer my father received his personalized “AMDG” license plates. He was so excited. A second-generation Jesuit grad, my dad is all about living Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

My high school friends saw the new plates and asked, “What does ‘AMDG’ mean?” Not knowing exactly how to define it at the time, I would just reply with the literal translation. “It means, all for the greater glory of God.”

It wasn’t until I embarked on my own journey through St. Ignatius’s writings in college that I was more able to comprehend what Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam means. I have learned even more about what it means from my co-workers in refugee resettlements over the past decade and a half. Amidst the greatest of atrocities, this family of Ignatian Volunteers, Jesuit Volunteer Corps members, and brothers and sisters of varied religions, cultures, and ethnicities works together daily to realize the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

Today, when I’m asked what “AMDG” means, my answer is a little longer.

To live Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam is a way of being that permeates every thought, every deed, every action and inaction—all is contemplated and weighed, all for the greater glory of God.

To live Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam is to lay claim to a legacy of “other-ness” that sets us apart 
     and puts us at ease with any culture or people,
A completely integrated other-ness that seeks to make all things whole,
That approaches the liminal without hesitation,
Finds God in all things,
     finds the Good in all things,  
     and seeks to proclaim His glory in all that we do. 

It is a heritage of service 
     However, whenever, and wherever needed, 
Of leadership in service 
     To those impoverished in mind, body, and spirit.

It is a call to respect the dignity of each human, 
The splendor of all creation, 
     unencumbered by societal constructs. 

It is a complete inability to be unaware of injustice 
     or impervious to inequality,
A Spirit-driven determination to find a way to right the wrongs,
To lift the downtrodden,
To bind the wounds,
To welcome the stranger, the nationless, the outcast,
To see the humanity in all those discarded by economies and policies. 
To rise to this challenge—for the glory of God alone.

To offer one’s heart and one’s hands,
One’s whole self, a Suscipe, 
In desolation and in consolation.
To give up even liberty 
     for the sake of the love of the other.

To be held to a higher standard,
To see through a lens that sees the good and the possible 
     in every impossible situation. 

To be aware of our place as privileged children of a living God 
     who demands only that we abandon all status and privilege.
To be the voice for the voiceless
Responding to the call of the Spirit
One with the harmonious resonance of all creation praising God.

To seek Him and to find Him in all things, people, circumstances, and places,
Unafraid to speak Truth to injustice
To embrace the contradiction of Love
Clothed in the power 
     of the One who died naked and penniless.  

To be unattached to any outcome except that which God wills,
Leaving behind comfort zones,
Releasing the ego into the bosom of the Creator.
Rooted in the confident security 
     and the joy of knowing Love beyond words.
Unattached to and surrendered to 
     none but that Love.

Called together at one table, unity in diversity, 
One family, working together to realize heaven on earth.
Answering the call to serve and to glorify, in all ways,
The Love that always finds a way.

This is to live Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

Next week is the feast of St. Ignatius, and we continue our 31 Days with St. Ignatius celebration with When You Think Someone Is Wrong.

Image by Eric E. Castro under (CC BY-SA 2.0) (cropped and lightened).

About Rebecca Ruiz 29 Articles
Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She has worked as an ethnomusicologist, composer, and writer, in academia, and, for the past 14 years, in domestic refugee resettlement in the Diocese of Arlington, VA. She and her husband have two children and live in the Washington, DC metro area. She strives, as St. Ignatius taught, to see God in all things and do “all things for the greater glory of God.”
Contact: Website

46 Comments on Living “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”

  1. Beautiful explanation! A friend of mine would write me the most beautiful notes and often inserted AMDG. I never fully understood it until your beautifully written explanation.
    I’m no spring chicken and I’m so blessed to finally grasp the meaning. This brought tears to my eyes because this is truly the way my friend lives her life! I will endeavor to do the same. AMDG!
    God bless you.

    • Dear Helen,
      Thank you for your response and your kind words. How beautiful that your friend lives in this manner!

  2. Well done, best definition/translation of Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam I’ve ever seen. Many thanks for sharing this. For me, your definition has summed up Ignatian spirituality in a nutshell very neatly.

    • Dear Anne,
      Thank you. Truly, St. Ignatius and the Jesuits have formed many lives through these four letters.

  3. Such an eloquent exposition of the term: it was poetic! I never took the time to reflect on it much even though I am super Jesuit educated as well. I love how you connected it to service, love, acceptance and surrender. I would love to see more of your work on this blog!

  4. Thus when we pray for ourselves, we pray for him. For the growth of his kingdom on earth. Thank you so much for your post.
    God with us.

    • Mariajo,
      Thank you for your kind words. Yes, we build the Kingdom together through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!

  5. Beautiful! Such a deep reflection on Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. No wonder the Jesuits went all over the world in the 1500s to spread the gospel! It seems that more of this is needed today. Great work!

  6. This post took me back to my schooldays when we used to head our daily schoolwork with the letters AMDG. At the time I just wrote the letters but somewhere in my sub-conscious I realised that whatever I produced must be to His greater honor and glory – it made me always revise what I wrote and critique what I did – that tied to my school motto “Serviam” has been a great guide in how I live my life. Thank-you for the reminder and affirmation. Marilyn A.

  7. Marilyn,
    Yes, those four little letters certainly do make us strive for excellence, don’t they? I always think that if I’m doing it for the greater glory of God, it better be the best I can do! The Jesuits have a subtle way of instilling this pursuit of excellence in those whom they educate. This is such a gift. Remembering that it is a gift reminds me of the Gospel passage that “those who have been given much, much will be demanded.” We are both privileged to receive and called to share our gifts, all for the greater Glory of God!

  8. Thank you so much for opening your heart to hear the Holy Spirit and for your creative gifts to express it so perfectly. Many blessings to you. AMDG!

    • Dr. Coelho,
      Yes, St. Ignatius is truly an inspiration and a blessing to so many – down through the centuries! Thank you.

  9. I studied Latin as well as the Ignatian spirituality several years ago and understood it. I am in the middle of drafting a principle/philosophy of service for my team and just thought of AMDG. I randomly googled it and found this profound piece of yours, written in very plain language. Gave me some chills, reaffirmed certain thoughts as well as renewed some challenges. Thank you so much for impacting me this moment. Thank you also for your devotion to evangelization through this simple method. God bless and give much success to all you do.

  10. I am inspired by the way you have given the meaning to AMDG. I have remembered when I wrote my resignation letter several years ago. At the end of my letter I have wrote these words in English. Now that years too have passed, it sink into my mind that indeed it has been woven into my system to give glory to God in all my actions whatever it is big or small.
    Thank you this article reminded me of how I should be conscious of living AMDG in my daily life.

  11. Rebecca,
    I am preparing to embark on a 19th Annotation retreat and came across your AMDG poetry doing a Google search.
    What a gift from God your poem is! It touched my heart and made me think a lot. I hope and pray that one day I may live your words 24/7. Your words remind me that my many shortcomings need much improvement. Crossing paths with you was not by chance, for I believe that God brings into my life’s radar all things for a reason. It is my privilege to accept the graces in your poem.
    Most thankful and appreciative,

  12. Thank you for sharing this. AMDG was key in making my decision to submit my application for diaconate formation. We are now half way through the process. When in doubt and when I ask why do this, the answer most times brings me back to AMDG. Paragraph 1571 of the catechism reminded me of AMDG this morning. I asked what does AMDG really means. Your piece has given me a wonderful perspective and will be valuable as I continue to discern the call to diaconate ministry.

  13. I’m in retirement age unaware over my early years to have lived some if not all (maybe) an “AMDG” life. In my constant research lately this indeed is the most closest explanation or meaning I have come across. A “Soldier of God” though I studied under a Dominican Order setting. Thank you.

  14. I find it the most eloquent translation over the many on the internet. As an ordinary layman, “living all for the greater
    glory of God” ___ I thank you.

  15. Dear Ramon, You are not alone in this!. I will pray that you find something to bring you some JOY again. Keep asking the Holy Spirit ! Ask and you shall receive. HE is there just waiting. Life can be a bit of a trial at times; for most of us. With God’s help we will smile again. God Bless & Good Luck. Meg

  16. After watching Silence, by Martin Scorcese I looked and found your sublime interpretation, and felt… good. Thank-You.

  17. I had the good fortune to attend an all boys Jesuit HS in Connecticut in the late 60’s. We were taught to put AMDG at the top of each page and I still write AMDG at the top of each To-do list I write for work. Thanks for the beautiful and heartfelt essay. I am trying to put some thoughts together for a retirement speech coming up soon. I have tried to live my life by the AMDG standards and what I experienced living in a L’Arche community in my 20s. I’m sure I fell short many times. Thanks again for the beautiful reflection on the true meaning of AMDG!

  18. I was never raised religiously as a normal Chinese, but yet I have strong connection to my Catholic China back to the 17th century, which Fr. Matteo Ricci SJ brought Catholicism to China and integrated into Confucianism. Yet, Chinese Catholicism has strongly rooted in Jesuit values. I’m grateful for this poem, and it is so beautiful. Now, I become a Catholic, and I will use all my power to assure that Jesuit will one day return to Mainland of China as it was 400 years ago. AMDG!

  19. Thank you for such an insightful and spirit-filled development of the idea of Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam. Beautifully written! I was blessed to attend a Jesuit university and although I left the Catholic faith for some years and am now back, I thank God for calling me home, and I strive ever more to do everything for His Greater Glory. Your words must be inspired and they have, in turn, inspired me to live ADMG.

  20. WOW — this was an amazing reflection on Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. We are coming up to the feast of the Sacred Heart on June 23rd and your piece has put in perspective for me the challenge — the love —and the many ways that you can find heart of Jesus in your life and your works. I have shared this reflection with my sisters. Thank you so much.

  21. Recently I have found this motto written in my church on glass painting in latin. I had read that words number of times while sitting in the church as it is directly above the Cross on Altar. Thanks for giving the complete meaning of that motto?

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