Ignatian Ripples

Hedwig Lewis SJ

A Column in the
The Newsletter of the Jesuits
of the Province of Gujarat


The spiritual insights and inputs of St Ignatius Loyola have created ripples of inspiration down the centuries. Each month GJS will bring you one little “gem-stone” that Ignatius threw into the ocean of God’s Love in the world from which the ripple originated. This new ripples will be created by Hedwig Lewis SJ in this “corner” of GJS.

August 2011
1. Ignatian Paradox
September 2011
2. Finding and Being Found by God
October 2011
3. The Greater Good
November 2011
4. Men on Fire [Youth saints]
December 2011
5. Incarnational Spirituality
January 2012
6. The Title “Society of Jesus”
February 2012
7. Spirituality of the Heart
March 2012
8. The Term “JESUIT”
April 2012
9. Ignatian Formula 24/7/365
May 2012
10. Ignatius and our Blessed Mother
June 2012
11. Living Out the Fifth Week
July 2012
12. Ignatius the Frontiersman
August 2012
13. PC-70 Pointers
September 2012
14. Spiritual Tepidity
October 2012
15. Ignatian Nonviolence
November 2012
16. Jesuit Saints as Frontiersmen
December 2012
17. “Package tour” to Bethlehem
January 2013
18. Oblation and Surrender
February 2013
19. Spiritual Linguistics

1. Ignatian Paradox

“Pray as though everything depended on God, and work as though everything depended on you.” This is dubbed as “Ignatian Paradox”. The text is not found in Ignatius’s writings, but its implications are traced to several Ignatian documents. It first appeared in a compilation of adapted Ignatian sayings, Scintillae Ignatianae /Ignatian Sparks (1715), by a Hungarian Jesuit, Gabriel Hevenesi.

The paradox involves self-effort and trusting in God. Ignatius himself offers an apparently balanced view. In a letter (17 Sept 1555) to Francis Borgia he states: “I consider it an error to trust and hope in any means or efforts in themselves alone; nor do I consider it a safe path to trust the whole matter to God our Lord without desiring to help myself by what he has given me… I ought to make use of both parts, desiring in all things his greater praise and glory, and nothing else”.

“My trust in God should be so absolute, even instinctual,” explained a spiritual writer, “that I face a task with ease, assurance and mastery… There will be no anxiety or crippling self-consciousness. I can only step back and marvel as God comes through. God is doing everything.” Paradox?

2. Finding and Being Found by God

In his Autobiography, Ignatius described “devotion” as “ease in finding God”. Ignatius’ devotion always kept on increasing, till in his fading years, “more than ever in his entire life, at whatever time or hour he wanted to find God, he found Him (n 99).”

God can “easily” be found in our life-experiences if we consider them in the “conTEXT” of divine omnipresence. Experiences serve as “spiritual reading” during the Examen of Consciousness. They provide responses to questions like: Where and how did I find God today? How did God find me?

Unfortunately, many fall victim to pious conditioning and tend to “seek” God with preconceived notions of where he may be found. These often overlook God’s presence in the realties around them, in their own hearts. Those who liberate themselves from such blocks stop “seeking”. They “find” God wherever they look. Everything is sacrament.

When I possess faith in God’s universal-perennial presence, no longer do “I” have to do any searching. God reveals himself. The more I see of God, the hazier do the boundaries between the so-called secular-religious realms become, and eventually disappear; I move freely in God’s realm. Of course, faith is God’s gift!

3. The Greater Good

“Good, better, best, never let it rest, ‘til your good is better, and your better’s best.” To transform this into an “Ignatian ditty”, we must resort to outrageous linguistic licence, ending with “and your better’s ‘bester’”. Ignatian spirituality does not resort to superlatives. It always translates into dynamic comparatives in terms of tongue, talent, and technique. Ignatius motivates his men to strive after the “greater” (not greatest) glory of God. The Ignatian “Magis” leaves one with no choice: rest not content but pursue intent.

This impelling spirit has long been the hallmark of the Jesuits. It “is the Holy Spirit, passionate, creative, innovative, wildly beyond the rational, propelling, driving, pushing, blowing like an untamed hurricane with no predictable path” (J. Conwell).

“The Magis creates a whole series of tensions, which do not allow us to stop or to be satisfied with what has been achieved… We are impelled to do more, or rather to let God do more, in us and with us” (Kolvenbach). When confronted with two options, both of which are good, the challenge is to choose the “greater” good. After all, we are “co-labourers” of an Infinite God! So how can we set limits? AMDG!

4. Men on Fire

The Society is privileged to have four Jesuit youth models: St Stanislaus Kostka, 18; St John Berchmans, 22; St Aloysius Gonzaga, 23 and Bld Bernard de Hoyos, 24. They were MEN ON FIRE, who enkindled the hearts of all in distinctive ways.

Stanislaus displayed an iron will in following God’s call. He launched out into the dark, guided only by the flames of spiritual desire, to fulfil his dream. Berchmans, a man of steel, fuelled his dedication to duty by adding ‘extra’ to the ‘ordinary’. Aloysius, “a piece of twisted iron”, straightened himself out in the furnace of self-denial even to the extant of laying down his life in selfless service. Hoyos, a mystic, who’s heart was drawn to God “like iron to a magnet”, fulfilled the specific mission given him by Christ – through ingenious human networking – of enkindling Spain with devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Each of the 51 Saints and 150 Blesseds of the Society stands out for his individual charism, conviction, commitment, courage and contribution. All our Saints provide a singularly dynamic principle for attaining sanctity: Be a man on fire that kindles other fires! Ignite your corner of the planet to create a universal conflagration.

5. Incarnational Spirituality

The Trinitarian mysticism of Ignatius is centred in the Incarnation: the Word is made flesh; human and material realities are sacramental.

In contrast with “embodiment”, which is localized and static, “incarnation” is universal and dynamic. “Spirituality” focuses upon the transcendent and transpersonal, while “incarnational spirituality” is holistic: it is grounded in the spiritual nature of our physical, everyday selves and the sacredness of everything. “There is no reality that is only profane for those who know how to look… People working, laughing, and thriving together are signs that God is alive among us” [GC35 D2 §§10, 22].

Incarnational spirituality enables us “to trace the footprints of God everywhere, knowing that the Spirit of Christ is at work and which is full of his appeals and of his presence… in all places and situations and in all activities and mediations that seek to make him more present in the world… Fundamental for the life and mission of every Jesuit’s mission is an experience that places him, quite simply, with Christ at the heart of the world” [GC35 D2 #8, #4].

We do not bring God to people; we only witness to the God already present to people and in situations.

6. The Title “Society of Jesus”

St Ignatius and his nine “friends in the Lord” had special “Deliberations” in Venice in 1539 and unanimously decided to call their group Company of Jesus – with the focus not so much on the word company, as the phrase ‘of Jesus’.

The Pope initially did not want the Society to be called by the name of Jesus. Ignatius would not compromise. Characteristically, he promised God three thousand Masses as well as appealed to the King of Portugal and high-ranking personages acquainted with his men and their work, to send testimonials in their behalf to Rome. The Order was approved in the 1540 Bull of Paul III, Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae, and the title Latinized as “Societas Jesu”.

However, opposition persisted. In 1590 Pope Sixtus V ordered Fr General Claudius Aquaviva to suppress the title. The General obediently submitted to the Vatican Curia the draft of a circular he had written informing all Jesuits to abstain from using the title. The pope, pleased with this act of submission, said he would reconsider the matter. After a few days Sixtus V died. His successor had only a 12-day pontificate. The name-change was rested – for good!

7. Spirituality of the Heart

Ignatius never uses the expression ‘Heart of Jesus’ or ‘Sacred Heart’ in his writings, but he reveals the essence of these terms in his personal devotion to the humanity of Jesus, as is evident in his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Spiritual Exercises contain key directions for the fundamental attitude needed to develop a spirituality of the heart subservient to Christ.

Ignatius speaks of acquiring “intimate knowledge” of Christ, a “logic of the heart”. Ignatian “indifference” entails freedom of the heart that is brought about by an awareness of our sinfulness, by our total surrender to God’s will, a personal attachment to Jesus poor and humble. True and deep freedom of heart is to live united with Christ and like Christ, in renunciations and sufferings. Through unconditional love, we offer our “undivided heart” to God in the service of the Eternal King.

Those biased against the “devotion” – set of pious practices – to the Sacred Heart, may however adhere to the “spirituality” that undergirds it. The fundamental truths expressed in the symbol of the Sacred Heart, spring from basic realities of faith, which induce one to “consecrate” oneself to God’s everlasting and unconditional Love.

8. The Term “JESUIT”

The term “Jesuit” predates the foundation of the Society of Jesus. One finds it in Life of Christ (1350) by the saintly Carthusian Ludolph of Saxony: the book partly responsible for Ignatius’ conversion.

In 1539, Ignatius and his first companions gave their group its identity in the title “Company of Jesus”.  In 1540, the title was translated as “Society of Jesus” in the Papal Bull approving the order. The word “Jesuit” is not found in any of the founding documents. Ignatius did not use it in his writings; neither did any of the companions.

However, in 1544, barely four years after its foundation, Peter Canisius in a letter to Peter Favre notes that the members of the Society were called Jesuits in Cologne – but in a pejorative sense. Canisius believed that the custom originated in Louvain, where the name was applied in mockery. In the 17th century, in England, France and Germany, the term Jesuit was used in derision, connoting hypocrisy, intrigue and malice. On the other hand, those who appreciated the extraordinary contributions of the Society in various fields: science, education, missions… held the “Jesuits” in high esteem.

9. Ignatian Formula 24/7/365

The Ignatian formula for “contemplation” is 24/7/365 – each moment, every day, all-year round (366 this year!). This formula can be followed only through (1) personal conviction which comes from acknowledging God’s presence everywhere. (2) Living God-centred lives, which entails spiritual conditioning through consciousness of God’s presence in our ‘being’ and ‘doing’.

In a letter in 1551 to the Jesuit superior in Portugal, Ignatius instructs: “Considering the end of our studies, the scholastics can hardly give themselves to prolonged meditations… They should practice the seeking of God’s presence in all things, in their conversations, their walks, in all that they see, taste, hear, understand, in all their actions, since His Divine Majesty is truly in all things by His presence, power, and essence. This kind of meditation, which finds God our Lord in all things, is easier than raising oneself to the consideration of divine truths which are more abstract and which demand something of an effort if we are to keep our attention on them. But this method is an excellent exercise to prepare us for great visitations of our Lord, even in prayers that are rather short.”

[W. Young, Letters of St Ignatius of Loyola, p 237.]

10. Ignatius and our Blessed Mother

Ignatius had deep devotion to the Virgin Mary since childhood. There are several Marian shrines that serve as milestones to his spiritual progress. The first “companions” made their vows before the altar of Our Lady at Montmarte. Mary granted Ignatius his heart’s desire: “to place him with her Son” at La Storta The Society’s first headquarters were attached to the chapel of Our Lady of the Way.

Ignatius considered Mary his mediatrix and the intercessor for the Society. He introduced the “Triple Colloquy” in the Exercises to obtain graces that are significant and foundational. When Pope Marcellus II, a dear friend of his fell seriously ill, Ignatius sent four Jesuit priests on foot to the shrine of Our Lady of Loretto to pray for his recovery. Ignatius used a rosary formed by a series of beads strung on a cord. When he died, his body was placed for public veneration before the image of the Madonna della Strada. 

Every Jesuit, like Ignatius, has his own story of indebtedness to Mother Mary for his vocation and for her intervention in the effectiveness of his ministry.

[Further reading: Simon Decloux, Our Lady in Ignatian Spirituality, CIS, XIX, 1988]

11. Living Out the Fifth Week

During the Fourth Week of the Exercises the focus is on Jesus as the Risen Lord. He goes about comforting, strengthening, and consoling his mother and the disciples. The retreatant, too, experience the presence and power of Jesus.  Before his Ascension, Jesus entrusts his disciples with the task to carry on his mission. St Ignatius asks the retreatants to make Christ’s mission their lifelong commitment, in continuation of the graces received during the Retreat. So, the rest of our lives that follow the retreat is generally referred to as the “Fifth Week” of the Exercises.

St Ignatius and his first companions spent the Fifth Week, after the example of the Risen Christ, in “the ministry of consolation.” They brought strength, peace and consolation to the peoples throughout Europe through preaching, lecturing, holy conversation, and the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist.

When we consider our lives as the Fifth Week of our Retreat, we will experience Jesus’ Presence whenever we gather in his Name, respond to his Word, and in the Eucharistic Breaking of Bread; but especially when we practice “the ministry of consolation” following the inspiration of our founding fathers.

12. Ignatius the Frontiersman

During the 1990 restoration of Loyola Castle, workers discovered the sketch of a ship on the southeast corner of a window on the first floor wall. The tour-guide notes: “This ship is not stuck in the mud!” (Loyola means “clay”). The window “is a jetty where members depart and are welcomed back. The Loyolas were explorers!” Among Ignatius’ brothers, one joined Columbus’ second voyage. Another captained King Boabdil’s flotilla to Africa. A third took part in the conquest of the Americas. Three others were mercenaries in Flanders, Naples and Morocco.

And Ignatius? An apt response would be Teilhard de Chardin’s symbolism from The Divine Milieu: “Those who spread their sails in the right way to the winds of the earth will always find themselves borne by a current towards the open seas. The more nobly a person wills and acts, the more avid they become for great and sublime aims to pursue. They will no longer be content with family, country and the remunerative aspect of their work. They will want wider organizations to create, new paths to blaze, causes to uphold, truths to discover, an ideal to cherish and defend. So, gradually, they no longer belong to themselves…”

13. PC-70 Pointers

From Fr General’s “Panoramic Speech” at the Procurators’ Congregation, Nairobi, July 2012:

Life in the Spirit: “The key for determining the spiritual health of the Society depends on whether Jesuits continue to have the ability to give absolutely everything to the Lord, as Ignatius did and so many after him till the present day”. Check: danger of secularized values that have entered our mentalities; the need to be transformed by the integrating power of our spirituality; the disordered attachment both to work and to works.
Apostolic dynamism: Three dimensions – service to the poor, collaboration, and inter-Province networking... (Education highlighted). Challenges: redefining discernment, formation for leadership, enabling-deepening collaboration among Jesuits, and with lay partners.
Community life: “Overall … positive.” Some shadows: an attitude of individualism that manifests itself in a lack of financial transparency and dependence; in excessive attention to new forms of communication, electronic gadgets and social networking sites; and in tensions caused by generational, ethnic, tribal or racial differences.
Creativity: Engage in a deeper reflection on the signs of new life and apostolic creativity in both traditional and new ministries in the Society.
Relationship with the Church: Deepen pastoral responsibility.
Vocation promotion and formation: Areas where we can do better.

14. Spiritual Tepidity

St Ignatius refers to “tepidity” in the Spiritual Exercises (# 317). Tepidity means being “lukewarm, neither cold nor hot”. “I know it to be tepidity when my belly is full but my heart is empty,” said a spiritual writer. “If God does not entirely fill our heart, the world and the flesh will.”

In “ordinary” life, efficiency counts for everything. If we do not get on, we go under; if we do not advance, we are left behind. Not so in the things of God: we may grow slack, careless, or complacent, yet may not suffer for it in the public eye; and we may not notice any adverse effects on our worldly achievements. Our spiritual life is vulnerable to tepidity.

Tepidity of the spirit does not happen overnight. Somehow we set our souls into “sleep mode”. We sub-consciously delay, hastily fulfil or repeatedly ignore our spiritual commitments. We feel too lazy to open the door when Christ knocks. We become so insensitive that we do not reach out to those in need. Ignatius warns us against this state, which he terms “desolation”.

The only way out of tepidity is to set our “beds” on fire.

15. Ignatius and Nonviolence

Below is what Gandhiji would have said to St Ignatius:

Your work on The Spiritual Exercises is saturated throughout with nonviolence. In The First Principle and Foundation, you state how all creation is a gift of God’s love and our response is to use all things to deepen God’s life in us and to return this love to God. You constantly talk about the discipline that is needed to be free and detached to use the power of God’s love in your guidelines… You spend much time and thought on being aware and discerning God’s will, essential elements of nonviolence. Your main message of humility is following the standards of Jesus over the standards of the world. You ask your companions not to fear rejection and insults in seeking the Truth. You ask God to place you on the cross of Jesus, the greatest symbol of nonviolence in the western world. And in The Contemplation to Attain Love You seek to find God’s love, the power of nonviolence, and in all things to express our love in deeds more than words.

[Excerpted from: Bob Graf, Conversations Between St Ignatius of Loyola and Mahatma Gandhi




The feast the Society of Jesus celebrates on 5 November honours not only our 51 canonised Saints and 150 Blesseds, but Jesuits – famous or anonymous – who “loved and served the Divine Majesty in all things”, and who laboured faithfully under the banner of Christ’s cross. Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme fields,  in the crossroads of ideologies, in the front line of social conflict, there has been and there is confrontation between the deepest desires of the human person and the perennial message of the Gospel, there too, there have been, and there are, Jesuits [Paul VI, GC32].

St Ignatius nonchalantly read the Lives of Saints, but felt challenged: “If St Francis or St Dominic could do such and such, maybe I could do great things.” Likewise, those who study the biographies of our Saints are deeply inspired even today by the spirit which moved them to practice the “heroic virtues” of sainthood that made them exemplary human beings. Among the “saints” we have admirable “frontiersmen” on the geographical and spiritual fronts, pioneers in practically every field of human endeavour on earth, in oceans, outer space and the spiritual sphere.

Recommended: Hedwig Lewis SJ, Profiles in Holiness, Brief Biographies of Jesuit Saints.


Those who contemplate the Nativity tableau (“Crib”) with the Ignatian “composition of place” and “application of senses” can “draw much profit”.

St Ignatius suggests that you “compose” yourself so as to stay focused in prayer and find an entry point from exterior distractions to interior composure. Your imagination can then place you at the heart of the Nativity scene, so much so that you “smell and taste, with the senses, the infinite fragrance and sweetness of the Divinity.”

God speaks through your imagination just as he speaks to you through your relationships with other people, your ordinary experiences, desires, emotions and the like. And the active application of senses leads you to the passive reception of divine intimacy.

The “profit” you draw does not consist in the “lessons” learned during the contemplation. Rather, it is the realization of how God has impacted your mind-set through his word, powerfully enough to transform your life. The “profit” is God’s Christmas gift to you!

The Contemplations of the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises offer a “package tour” of the sacred spots in the Holy Land. Why not take advantage of this pre-paid ticket for a return-trip to Bethlehem this Christmas?



Through the Spiritual Exercises, a Jesuit makes two distinct commitments. The first is contained in the prayer to Christ the Eternal King, with phrases like: “I make my OBLATION: I want and desire… my deliberate determination … I bear…” [SE 98].  I commit myself to act as a worthy disciple of Christ. I am aware that God’s grace is absolutely necessary; I presuppose that Christ will “choose or accept me”. Nevertheless, this commitment is to a style of leadership centred on MY activity.

A second, couched in the prayer “Take and Receive” (SE 234), is the ultimate commitment suggested by St Ignatius. I SURRENDER my capacities to God. I make no promises to engage myself in God’s cause, or to accomplish or achieve anything. My inner faculties are at God’s disposal; God becomes the prime mover of my life. I place myself so completely in God’s hands that I do not even specify what God should give me. God’s grace “is enough for me’. I simply trust in God’s providence, with total Ignatian indifference. As GOD directs, I put my love into action.

Revive your Long Retreat commitment. Renew your oblation and surrender!


Take” and “receive”, in the prayer that sums up the Exercises, are not a play on words. Ignatius was very discerning in verbal usage. Each of these verbs contains within itself a unique spiritual dynamic and significance.

Ignatius observed levels of commitment [Classes, Degrees] in individuals. An enthusiastic beginner in the spiritual life, in an outburst of devotion, implores God to “receive” all he is and has. However, given his lack of spiritual understanding and experience, his “all” is defined. It does not include attachments apparently good in themselves (people, possessions, pursuits). As his first fervour diminishes, he gradually steers away from his Godward direction, and becomes increasingly drawn to his self-satisfying attachments.

For spiritually mature persons, the “all” is refined! They radically surrender the steering to God. They let God “take” complete control! “Take” emphasizes their total disposition towards God’s actions, even when these entail God’s stripping away “all” their attachments, including the justifiable ones. It is an unconditional offering. “Take” comes before “receive” so that the commitment remains focused on God, and the self-giving is long-lasting. When God takes ALL, my EGO dies; and empowered by his Love and Grace, I rise!

No comments: