Ignatian spirituality, also known as Jesuit spirituality, started with St. Ignatius of Loyola and his desire to develop practical methods of prayer to help people meet God in everyday life. His spirituality has been adopted all around the world (Pope Francis, of course, is a Jesuit) and Ignatian styles of prayer are used widely in retreat settings.
Prayer in the Ignatian tradition starts with showing reverence to God and choosing a posture that will help you to keep that reverence throughout the prayer. The goal is to speak personally to God and to remind ourselves that He is very great but is also close to us and present in our everyday lives. Once we establish this we can move into deeper prayer such as meditation, contemplation, and discernment of spirits.
When we pray over words, images, and ideas in our mind it is referred to as meditation. We might meditate on stories from scripture and Jesus’ life and ministry, ways we can follow Jesus more closely as His disciple, how we can follow Christ in our everyday life, and so on. Meditation helps us to grow in our knowledge and living of the faith.
Using our senses, emotions, and imaginations to pray the scriptures (rather than “studying” them) is known as contemplation. The style of contemplation popularized by St. Ignatius Loyola is simply known as “Ignatian Contemplation.” This style of contemplation is very significant in Jesuit spirituality and is performed as follows:
- Use your imagination to enter into a mystery from the life of Jesus
- Are you in the audience at the feeding of the 5000? Are you on the boat with the disciples in the storm? etc.
- Use your senses to more fully understand the scene
- What do you see? Who else is with you? What is the setting like?
- What do you hear? Are others speaking or is it quiet? Do you hear wind or thunder? Are there animals making noises nearby?
- What do you smell? Is there a salty ocean breeze? Do you smell perfumes, or oils, flowers, fish, etc?
- Connect with Jesus through this experience
Discernment of Spirits
Understanding the good and the evil that are battling in a spiritual warfare in our lives gives us a better understanding of God’s will in our lives. One of the most important aspects of Ignatian spirituality is reflection on our lives each day and understanding the “motions of the soul.” As they explain at IgnatianSpirituality.com these motions of the soul are indicated by our “thoughts, imaginings, emotions, inclinations, desires, feelings, repulsions, and attractions. Understanding the motions of the soul helps us to see things from God’s point of view and helps us to live out His will in our lives.
What Stands Out About Ignatian Prayer
Ignatian Contemplation and the discernment of spirits are two pieces of Jesuit spirituality that make it stand out from other religious orders. The Examen is the third major component of this spirituality.
These components of prayer are used together with meditations and reflections in the Spiritual Exercises, a long-term retreat in the Ignatian way of spirituality.
If you are interested in learning more about Jesuit prayer I suggest you look through IgnatianSpirituality.com, where you will find many comprehensive resources.
Jesuit Retreat Centers in the United States