What Is Ignatian Friendship?

male friendsIs there a difference between an Ignatian friendship—a friendship inspired by the spiritual wisdom of St. Ignatius Loyola—and other types of friendship?

I posit that an Ignatian friendship is an intentional relationship modeled on the idea of magis, a word that means more, but for our purposes, we’ll expand that to define magis as the greater good. An Ignatian friendship is therefore grounded in the idea of one friend desiring the greatest good for the other.

Contrast that with most casual friendships based primarily on proximity. In a casual friendship, I may avoid difficult situations, never resolve long-simmering arguments, or deny the reality of necessary change, because it’s easier that way and I don’t want to cause friction or anger in the relationship.

In my Ignatian friendships, I expect a level of transparency and acknowledgment that we seek to know God’s will for us. We live in a way that honors a higher calling for our lives and our friendship and honors the centrality of God in our lives.

Other friendships may not require that much from me, only a little cleverness, an easygoing attitude, and a willingness to socialize on a regular basis. Essentially, if I’m a pleasant person to drink a beer with, hang out with, or go to a movie with, those traits hold together the relationship. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of friendship, unless it cannot sustain the hardships that life inevitably brings our way. When times get tough, we might discover we have—or that we are—fair-weather friends rather than real friends.

So when does a friendship grow from being a casual one to an Ignatian friendship? Almost by design, a friendship based on Ignatian spiritual wisdom truly kicks in when the hard times hit. I know a little something about this. My three best friends all stepped up the year my life went through a rough patch. Our relationships moved from being strong, life-long ones based on proximity, like-minded interests, and common experiences to something much deeper. Each one of my three friends nurtured me to see and remember the greater good in my life. They reminded me that I was good, I was loved, I had a purpose, and I was not alone. I feel blessed beyond words by their love.

I also had a number of professional relationships, many of which transformed into Ignatian friendships during that difficult year. For instance, I had a friend from work who showed up for me during my worst days, reminding me that together we would get through the worst of anything. Also, an out-of-state author I worked with called me regularly, sent cards, and made sure I knew he was praying for me. In both of these instances, the friendships became Ignatian friendships.

When we start to look for the magis in a relationship—the more that seeks the greater good for another and invites deeper caring, especially in the tough times—we are enjoying an Ignatian friendship. Consider the effect on the world if more of our relationships were grounded in God’s love and friendship and existed to promote the greater good of each other—that’s the power of Ignatian friendship.


  1. As I craft my daily reflection, your post makes me reflect on what I’ve done to cultivate a few friendships at the magis level.
    Doing so, could impact my life in several areas; spiritually, fatherhood, economically, careerwise, within communities.
    From the secular perspective, Keith Ferrazzi author of “Never Eat Alone” lights the way for me.
    This week, I endeavor to make catch up efforts with 20, and have three face to face meetings with old or new friends.

  2. Loretta, you are blest to be in such a group. I had a friend ( I still have her as a friend) but she moved away and now there is not anyone to discuss some things with. She had studied Theology and had been a nun. My eldest sister also a nun, but now in the company of deceased relatives ,is no longer a guide. I just wish the Jesuits in Australia had the things that I get from America. I belong to a church friendship Group, but it is just nothing about s Spirituality. Keep enjoying your group, and I will just keep on doing the best I can online & lonely. Thanking God for the 3minute retreats and all the other things they make available online. He who has God needs no-one else (Apparently)so said St Therese! I am not so Holy. No family near either. I’ll stop whinging now. A.M.D.G.

  3. Another way that Ignatian friendships develop is through small faith sharing groups. I am blessed to be in such a group, and we begin each CLC meeting by responding to the question: How has the Holy Spirit been present in your life since we last met?”
    People share the most intimate details of their relationships with God and their prayer. It is humbling, edifying and grace-filled. Over time, the connections strengthen as we pray together, remember, and non-evaluatively listen to one another. I highly recommend Christian Life Communities (CLC)!


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