The following elements of the Ignatian vision, arranged alphabetically, represent broadly the complex ways in which we hope to challenge and engage participants of our programs.
Contemplatives in Action
Whereas many see contemplation and action as opposites, Ignatian spirituality straddles the world of prayer and action. Contemplation is certainly at the heart of faith, because this is an attitude of receptivity, attention and awareness of divine presence and guidance. However, God does not work in a vacuum, but in the real world—and so must we. Being a “contemplative in action” means being a discerning person—one who is in touch with God and out of that relationship makes the choices and decisions of everyday living. This is why those influenced by Ignatian spirituality are often called “contemplatives in action.” They cultivate a habit of regular reflection in order to detect the presence of God in their lives. They employ the tools of Ignatian discernment to make sound decisions. The fruit of this contemplative effort is action. This sentiment is summed up in the way Ignatius often closed his letters, using words intended to challenge and inspire: “Go, and set the world on fire.”
Latin for “care for the person,” Jesuit education strives to care for the whole person. In the Judeo-Christian and Jesuit tradition, human beings are understood to be spiritual at their deepest level. This conception of human nature traces its roots to the biblical account of creation which portrays human beings as created “in God’s image and likeness.” Jesuits have long sought to reverence, celebrate and care for all that is best about human beings, and are noted for individualized attention to the needs of others, distinct consideration for unique circumstances and concerns and an appropriate appreciation for singular gifts, insights, abilities and skills. The goal is to strive for intellectual, physical, psychological, social and spiritual health and well-being in each person, in communities, societies and the entire world.
Discernment is an Ignatian spiritual decision-making process, when the option is not between good and evil but between several possible courses of action, all of which are potentially good. Ignatian discernment involves prayer, reflection and consultation with others, where an individual considers not only the rational reasons but also the emotional pulls. The key question in discernment is “Where is this desire from—the Spirit of God or a spirit trying to lead the person away from God?” “Consolation” and “desolation” are movements of the spirit within the practice of discernment that help us answer this question. Ignatius taught that the good spirit gives “consolation” – acts quietly, gently and leads a person in a decision to a sense of peace, energy, joy, connection and loving service. The bad spirit brings “desolation”—or it agitates, disturbs the peace, cuts us off from others or injects fear and discouragement to keep a person from doing good.
Finding God in All Things
This may be the one phrase that sums up Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius was convinced that God is working in everything that exists – not just in explicitly religious situations, but in the world around us, in our intimate thoughts and feelings, in our desires and our fears. Ignatian spirituality is thus about observation, wonder, opening oneself to what is new, listening and being ever attentive. Through such attention and an ongoing process of personal reflection, it becomes easy to notice God working in one’s own life and in, indeed, all things.
The Latin word for “more”, used to symbolize our commitment to the “greater good” and our potential to live into the fullness of what God intended us to be. Magis does NOT mean to always do or give “more” to the point of personal exhaustion. Rather, it is about being the best you personally can be, deepening your own self-understanding in order to be open to the larger world and generous in spirit. The ideal of magis undergirds a certain restless pursuit of excellence, a refusal to be satisfied with mediocrity. The theologian Frederick Buechner describes vocation as “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” When we arrive at this place and understand the fit between who we are and what the world needs of us, Ignatius urges us to be unafraid to live with the consequences of this realization. In so doing, we respond with generosity and seek to live into the magis. Magis is a central value to Ignatian spirituality and encompassed in the motto for the Society of Jesus, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam or “for the greater glory of God.” This phrase is believed to have been coined by the founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola. It is a summary of the idea that any work, even one that would normally be considered mundane, can be spiritually worthwhile if it is performed in order to give glory to God.
The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice
In 1975, Jesuits from around the world met to reassess their mission. They decided that a hallmark of their ministry would be its “service of faith” of which the “promotion of justice” is an absolute requirement. In other words, Jesuit education should be noteworthy for the way it helps students to move, in freedom, towards a mature and intellectually adult faith. This includes enabling them to develop a sensitivity toward the suffering of our world and the will to act for the transformation of unjust social structures which cause that suffering. Justice begins with the belief that every human being is created in the image of God, and thus has a right to at least the basic needs required for a decent life.
Women and Men with and for Others
It is not enough to be living in the world. We have to participate in transforming the world. To be attentive means to realize that our own lives are connected with the dreams of all those with whom we share the journey of human existence, which includes the economic, political and social realities that support or frustrate these dreams. However, it is also not enough to be “for” those who are marginalized, which implies a relationship build upon a power imbalance – we must stand in solidarity “with” those who are struggling for justice. Solidarity is to enter into relationship with those on the margins, a relationship built on mutuality and trust, and then to commit to the hard, long work of supporting that community as it strives towards justice. This is why graduates of Jesuit schools are not focused only on their own success, but consider success as impacting and uplifting the common good of the world. This is tied to the Jesuit idea that we cannot love God unless we love others, especially the most marginalized among us, and actively work for justice for all human beings and identify with them as sisters and brothers.