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.
Image by Eric E. Castro under (CC BY-SA 2.0) (cropped and lightened).
This is mind-expanding and infinitely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.
That is truly an amazing code of conduct
Thank you, Ms Rebecca. OK lang po ba share ko sa mga graduates namin sa school? 🙂
P.S. my Mama’s name is also Rebecca.
Dante, you may share the link freely, but for any other use, please consult our permissions guidelines: https://www.loyolapress.com/general/permissions.
This is beautiful, Rebecca. I want to read and meditate on it through Lent. (And watch out for the deadly temptation to give Bob the glory!)
What a wonderful work to begin our Lenten season.
Thank you for your words calling us to do/be all for the greater good if God, not self.
Peace be with you.
This is so special. Thank you for this.
Having spent 8 years in the Jesuits in training as a Scholastic, I left the Society because, in honest retrospect, I was not sufficiently mature to have realized the treasure that God had entrusted to me. While reading Rebecca’s exposition, I was moved by her simple, since eloquence about the entire Ignatian experience that profoundly shaped her life, and in a very real way, has shaped my life as well.
As Jesuit novices, we all make a 30-day retreat following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, with the final week concentrating on the contemplation of finding God in all things, the Comtemplatio ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, a variant of AMDG. In retrospect, that retreat was the experience of a lifetime.
Like a few who commented above, I gradually but definitely turned my back on God in pursuit of the mundane trappings of the “good life.” I remained a spiritual person but not a religious person. In short, I stopped being a Catholic. Fortunately, many years later after my wife died, events prompted to move to another country, but a third-world county. God, in His infinite goodness, wisdom, mercy, and generosity, gave me the grace to return to Him here where He has welcomed me back like the prodigal son. The faith and devotion of these people of simple faith is exactly what I needed to experience and God arranged it all.
With what time God has allocated to me, I try to live AMDG every day, albeit now imbued with a good dose of Franciscan spirituality. I have come to appreciate the gift I squandered in my youth, a gift that I now treasure on a daily basis. I can never thank the all-merciful God enough for having given me a second chance.
My point in sharing this with you is to plead with everyone who commented above on Rebecca’s poignant narrative never to despair or give up hope even if life should cast you adrift from our Father for whom we made. No matter how much we might separate ourselves from our Creator and Father, no matter how much we might simply go through the motions, turn our backs, and even stop loving or ignoring Him, He loves us infinitely. So much so that He, Himself, took on the nature of His fallen children to, in some unfathomable way, become God Incarnate (the Word became Flesh) in order to rescue us from ourselves. If someone might by chance read my comment, someone who might have lapsed or fallen away, please know that perhaps God’s most marvelous attribute is His Infinite Mercy. We may abandon Him but He will never abandon us. Pax Christi omnibus in saecula saeculorum.
Thank you Alan. GOD lead me to your post almost two years from the day you wrote this….(Which happens to be my wife’s Birthday) We are going through tough times, but after reading Rebecca’s words up top and your response, I now know everything will work out the way GOD intended and not worry about anything.
Thank you! I’m gonna share this message to others so it may enlighten everyone! God bless!
This is still being read anew and enjoyed almost 3 years later. Thank you for this. My grammar school was Sister’s of the Presentation and we were required to put A.M.D.G. at the top of the page for all of our work. Back then I did it out of rote but I will start out again with renewed energy and recognition of what I am trying to do.
I also had the Presentation Sister in High School.St.Michaels in NYC.I also put AMDG @ the of all work.It was a long time ago.
Thanks for a great article!
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?
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.
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.
beautiful reflection am inspired
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!
Good for you, Bo Maximus! It’s a year later — how are you managing the “minefields” of living out a good Catholic life in our current world? 🙂
After watching Silence, by Martin Scorcese I looked and found your sublime interpretation, and felt… good. Thank-You.
Oh my goodness. All I can say is thank you for articulating the example of Jesus Christ so beautifully!
Most inspiring! I leave to go to work this morning knowing I can rise to the challenges.
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
I seem to not be finding joy in life
Ignatius inspires. Much food for thought and action in the poem. Well done Rebecca. God bless.
Yes, St. Ignatius is truly an inspiration and a blessing to so many – down through the centuries! Thank you.
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!
Thank you so much. Come Holy Spirit!
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!
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.
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!
Thank you for reading and for your thoughts!
Great ! God bless you and your family.
Pascoal B Noronha.
Thank you. God bless you and yours.
It’s beautiful! I love it… (and I quoted it :-))
Thank you for reading and for your kind words.
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.
Thank you for your kind words. Yes, we build the Kingdom together through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!
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!
Thank you for reading and for your kind words, Christine.
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.
Thank you. Truly, St. Ignatius and the Jesuits have formed many lives through these four letters.
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.
Thank you for your response and your kind words. How beautiful that your friend lives in this manner!
What wisdom!This is Holy Spirit breathed! Congratulations!
Thank you for reading – all glory to God!
This sums it up so thoroughly – and beautifully.
Thank you for reading and for your kind words. AMDG!
Exquisite! Thank you!!!
Thank you for reading and for your kind words. AMDG!
Your interpretation of AMDG breathed new meaning into an old acronym for me -thank you! Rob
I’m so glad it spoke to you. Thank you for reading! AMDG!