What Does it Mean to "Serve"?

“Service” is a central idea in Ignatian spirituality. But what does it really mean?

Here is an excellent article by David Fleming, SJ, that unpacks the Ignatian concept of service. Service is humble. Ignatius spoke of being helpful–not something that conjures up “great deeds and great accomplishments,” Fleming notes. Love is the foundation of service, and service is expressed in deeds more than in words. But service cannot be restricted to certain actions:

To follow is to serve, to be available is to serve, to believe and to trust is to serve, to accompany is to serve, to forgive and to be compassionate is to serve, and to celebrate the Eucharist is to serve . We also learn that to serve is always to share what we have been given. That is why serving always follows upon loving —because lovers share their gifts.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Serving is an act which can only be done in love. Anything else is not serving-it’s completing a task or job-at best. No-one can make you serve. Someone might make you fill a spot in a food pantry-but without love,without wanting to radiate and reflect Christ to everyone you meet, well then you are just “doing a job”
    Yet you must also serve yourself. How? By being kind,compassionate,and nurturing with yourself. Only by doing this will you have the inner peace and wisdom to reach out to others and realize that you wish to share your feelings with others and that serving might be a way to feed your soul while helping another experience God’s abundant blessings in their lives.


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