“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
The famous poetic assertion of Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins aptly summarizes the heart of Ignatian spirituality, an approach to God, prayer and life built upon the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, whose feast day we celebrate today.
This extraordinarily personal form of spirituality understands God to be not far off somewhere in the clouds, removed from our day-to-day experience, but present at the very centre of our daily lives, involved and infusing our actions and our world. Encountering God isn’t something that happens only in quiet times of prayer but occurs each and every day as we engage in the world and with each other.
Acknowledging the presence of God in every moment and every place lends our lives great purpose and meaning and influences the choices we make. If God is in all things, then everything we do is important. Our lives—and the lives of all people—matter deeply. This understanding at once helps focus our thoughts on what matters while freeing us from the earthly trappings that tie us down, whether a job title, a desire for material goods or the heft of our bank account. Nothing matters more than the gift of our relationship with God, available equally to all, lending dignity to each of us.
While the Latin phrase Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam, which translates to “for the greater glory of God,” is known as the motto of the Society of Jesus, it is also another way of articulating an Ignatian approach to living. Every part of every day is an opportunity to allow our lives to reflect and celebrate God.
One of the hallmarks of Ignatian spirituality is the Daily Examen, which was instituted by Ignatius and is prayed twice a day by Jesuit priests, as well as by many lay people. It requires reflection on the day’s events to recognize and ponder encounters with God, to offer thanks for those experiences and to consider what has been learned that can be applied to our lives going forward. Making the Daily Examen a routine can help recognize the call of God in our lives, inspiring us, as Saint Ignatius said, to “go forth and set the world on fire.”
A wealth of material exists on Ignatian spirituality, and many retreat centres offer special Ignatian-themed retreats, complete with spiritual direction. One of the publishers we distribute in Canada, Loyola Press, has an excellent website on Ignatian spirituality.
—Catherine Mulroney, Editor of Living with Christ