Ignatian spirituality was first introduced to me through my association with the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ Sisters), an international congregation of religious women founded by Venerable Marie Madeleine d’Houët in 1820 France. I had not long been appointed the role of Mission and Identity Promoter for Australia, when someone commented, “Oh, yes, the Faithful Companions of Jesus—they’re very Ignatian.” I nodded somewhat vaguely in agreement, unsure of how to comment since both the FCJs and what was meant by “Ignatian” were brand new to me. Perhaps my ignorance was in itself a grace, because I have come to see and learn about the FCJ charism and Ignatian spirituality both in theory and in practice, through my ongoing relationships with people.
While a lot can be said about how the FCJ community expresses Ignatian spirituality, one thing that stands out is companionship. The Sisters live in community but are fully integrated in the world to accompany, share, and work with others for God as contemplatives in action. A significant prayer in the Spiritual Exercises asks, “for the grace to know Jesus intimately, to love him more intensely, and so to follow him more closely.” (#104) In Ignatian terms, this is the magis, the idea of living life and making decisions which lead to a greater depth of awareness and experience of God, who, as Ignatius affirmed, is in all things.
The invitation to live as “magis people” expects a response. This was no different for Marie Madeleine, whose vision was founded on this principle through her work with the poor, uneducated, and vulnerable. Perhaps Marie Madeleine never called it magis, but her vocation was to, “accompany [Jesus] in his journeys and his labours, ministering to him even to the foot of the Cross”¦” (Memoirs*) , never shying away from the realities of human experiences in all brokenness and potential wholeness, alike. The radical mission of the Gospel invitation became her life’s response to God’s love.
To this day, the legacy of Marie Madeleine d’Houët continues through the lives and work of the Faithful Companions of Jesus Sisters worldwide. Each expression is as unique as each individual, as is one’s prayer life and relationship with God.
* Marie Madeleine d’Houët, in the Memoir of Fr. Ferdinand Jeantier, SJ, November 1860.