What I Like about Ignatius Loyola

Saint Ignatius LoyolaToday we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. This is a big day for Jesuits and others in the Ignatian sphere of influence. Here are a couple of my thoughts on his feast.

Name a saint. Chances are one idea pops into your mind: Francis (poverty), Vincent de Paul (charity), Therese (simplicity in love). This isn’t so with Ignatius Loyola. Several ideas jostle for attention. He was a soldier, a mystic, a writer, a teacher. He founded an order renowned for education, missionary work, learning, and devotional piety. He invented the modern practice of spiritual direction. The more you learn about him, the more complex he seems. I’ve recently come to appreciate his accomplishments as a leader, a psychologist, a communicator, and entrepreneur.

This diversity of talents is appealing. Everyone can find something to like about Ignatius. We moderns like his story too. We can relate to a saint who often didn’t know what God wanted of him and made many mistakes trying to find out. The saint who invented discernment knew all about following Plan E after Plans A, B, C, and D didn’t pan out.

I like two things about Ignatius. A person formed in Ignatian spirituality is said to be a “contemplative in action.” Much ink has been spilled (and blog posts written) about what this means, but to me it’s simple. Bringing prayer and work together is what I try to do all day. It’s what my friends and colleagues try to do all day. Ignatius rightly said that this is the central challenge of life, and he had much to say about how to do it. Nothing is more relevant to life than this.

The second thing is a question that Ignatius would have us continually ask of ourselves: What do you really want? Peel away the layers of desires, fears, ambitions, and dreams, and get in touch with the deepest desire of your heart. Ignatius believed that when you touch what the poet Hopkins called the “dearest, freshness, deep-down things,” you’ll find God there.

What an optimist! That’s another thing I like about Ignatius.

Share your favorite Ignatian articles and experiences with the hashtag #31DayswithIgnatius.


  1. Thank you St. Ignatius for your life, the gift you have given to those who know and have done the Spiritual Exercises, and to the Society you founded! You are an example of deep humanity, struggling and winning the fight and of your love and commitment to Jesus and the church.Happy St. Ignatius Day to Pope Francis and all his brother Jesuits and to the Faithful Companions of Jesus, the Sisters who follow Ignatian Spirituality, and to all who are Ignatian Spiritual Directors and teachers. Thank you! You are changing lives!

  2. TY for the thoughts on St. Ignatius Loyola. I remember visiting the Church of the Gesu in Rome – many years ago – where dear Ignatius is buried. I had to laugh a bit (to myself) seeing the wealth associated w/ his tomb (huge ball of lapis lazuli – WWIgnatiusThink?), but I was very moved to be in his rooms & experience Mass at the altar which he used. There is so much to learn from not only Ignatius, but his followers, past and present – our strong mentors who are the men of the Society of Jesus. AMDG

  3. Thanks for the article and for the ongoing inspiration. I’m finding the Ignatian path to be the most helpful in living day by day. Happy Feast Day to all of you!

  4. Jim,
    Thanks for the thoughts on what you like about Ignatius. Very well said.
    For me, my favorites are the spiritual exercises and the insight that All is Gift. Life changing!!

  5. my brother bob a jesuit died this past october he told me his most precious gift was dying a jesuit he is home now with the god he served so well

  6. There are many things I like about Ignatius but maybe the thing I like best is his belief that God will interact directly with us. Happy St. Ignatius Day.

  7. Thank you for your comments:
    Denise — I too visited Ignatian sites in Spain. The pilgrimage deepened my appreciation for Ignatius and Ignatian spirituality.
    Rhonda — if you’re not much of a “saints person,” Ignatius should appeal to you. His story is fascinating and it’s integral to the “Ignatian” spiritual point of view. To read more about him start here .

  8. Thanks for sharing yuor experiences and insights on Ignatian spirituality. Bringing the sacred and secular into an integrated life is the road we all travel. I’m just glad the Ignatius shared his experiences and insights with others so we can all have some helpful hints along the way. Happy Feast!

  9. An optimist. I like that.
    “Peel away the layers of desires, fears, ambitions, and dreams and get in touch with the deepest desire of your heart.”
    Why are all the layers there? What is it about how we live our lives that makes it so? From what you’ve written, I suspect this is not simply a consequence of the obtuse, modern practice of separating the human and the spiritual from the obligations of daily life. Looks like maybe Ignatius had trouble peeling the layers away, too (“didn’t know what God wanted of him and made many mistakes trying to find out”).
    I’m not much of a “saints person,” but I have found that the most complex, flawed biographies are often the most appealing. In a sense, it’s finding God in spite of ourselves (not because we are so amazingly, enlightened-ly in touch with all things spiritual). Apparently Ignatius was among these complex characters.

  10. There is much to admire about St. Ignatius. When I was able to visit Spain, I got a deeper appreciation for him as a saint, and I’m remembering that trip fondly today. Thank you for helping us to celebrate him on his feast day.


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