Three Kinds of Humility

St. Ignatius, like many spiritual masters over the centuries, suggested that humility was a prerequisite for the spiritual life. In his Spiritual Exercises, he described three kinds of humility: To humble myself to total obedience to God. To be ready for honor or dishonor, poverty or wealth, or anything else for God. To desire poverty, dishonor, and even be a fool for God, since Christ was. The last of these, he said, was the most […]

Contemplation to Attain the Love of God

The Contemplation to Attain the Love of God is a kind of capstone of Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. Sometimes it is phrased as “The Contemplation on Divine Love,” since God’s love is not something that we “attain” through our own actions. The aim of the meditation is to be aware of the gracious and abundant love of God and to respond in love, generosity, and freedom. Ignatius asks us to pray for the grace that we […]

Magis

A few years ago, I was visiting a Jesuit college and speaking to an eager and enthusiastic undergraduate. Our conversation turned to the idea of the magis, a popular and familiar word in Jesuit circles, especially in high schools, colleges, and universities. He said to me, “Boy, I really love the idea of the magis! It’s encouraged me to get the highest paying job that I can after I graduate!” I think I probably turned […]

Ignatian Indifference

Often, we think about freedom as freedom from interference from others, but St. Ignatius understood freedom differently. For him, human freedom is a freedom to grow in relationship with God and share in God’s redemptive work. This requires internal freedom or what Ignatius called “indifference.” Indifference means being detached enough from things, people, or experiences to be able either to take them up or to leave them aside, depending on whether they help us to […]

Ancient Roots of Spiritual Exercises

The French philosopher Pierre Hadot has studied the origins of spiritual exercises among Greek philosophers. There seems to be a straight line from Hellenistic philosophy and its influence on Church fathers like Ambrose and Augustine, to the early monastic tradition, to the medieval monks who influenced Ignatius Loyola. (At one point Ignatius wanted to be a Carthusian and even permitted members of his order to transfer into that order and return later.) Ignatius borrowed from […]

Free at Last?

There’s a meditation in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius called “Three Classes of People,” which is designed to help us understand our attachments. Three people are given a great fortune, and each decides, in a different way, what to do about the fortune. Let’s be clear. The problem isn’t the fortune; it’s the attraction to the fortune. This exercise doesn’t assume that God wants you to give the thing up. It may well be […]

The Ignatian Adventure in Oklahoma City

On February 17, 2017, hundreds of faithful in Oklahoma participated in a spiritual enrichment day titled “The Graces of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.” The day was hosted by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral. Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, led participants in a reflection on the “Grace of the Incarnation,” based on his popular, award-winning book The Ignatian Adventure, published by Loyola Press. The Roots of […]

Feeling the Joy with Jesus

A few years ago, a friend gave me some prints of the Laughing Jesus painting. When I saw it, I immediately started laughing. I wondered what it was about this image that made me laugh. Part of it was that Jesus seemed to have such a joyful countenance that one could really imagine him laughing, and it looked like “contagious laughter”—the kind where it’s impossible to resist joining in. It also made me a tiny […]

What Is an Unhealthy Attachment?

People who are familiar with St. Ignatius, the Spiritual Exercises, or Jesuit spirituality in general will sometimes use the term unhealthy attachment. What is that exactly? Let’s explore this by asking a few questions. Is there any physical habit I have that gets in the way of my being available to God? Do I turn to food, drink, sex, exercise, or sleep to avoid facing myself or my conversation with the Divine? What are my […]

The Purpose of Ignatian Repetition

Howard Gray, SJ, explains why much of the prayer in the Spiritual Exercises is repetition—multiple meditations on the same subjects or Scripture passages. The repetitions are efforts to engage mystery, to center on the depth of riches within revelation, and to discover how God specifically invites this particular man or woman to find the meaning of a gospel event for him or her. In other words, the aim of Ignatian repetition is to personalize prayer. […]

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