Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saint Ignatius Loyola: The Spiritual Writings

I learned quite a bit from reading Saint Ignatius Loyola: The Spiritual Writings and highly recommend the book to those who are interested in a solid overview of the saint’s life, how the the Society of Jesus (aka the Jesuits) began, and what defines and explains their main spiritual training and practices.  I had in my mind only a brief summary of Saint Ignatius’ life when I began reading these excerpts written by the founding father of the Society of Jesus’ and annotated author Mark Mossa, SJ.  I have found this man’s life and philosophy of how to live out the teachings of Christ quite fascinating. 
Over the years, I’ve heard a number of people, Catholic and Protestant, who have done The Spiritual Exercises written and propagated by St. Ignatius.  I have not yet embarked on them, but my interest in learning more is piqued, and I could be easily persuaded to take on such a program for spiritual growth. 
I didn’t realize how much of modern day spirituality and prayer practices came from this particular saint and his prescribed methods of growing closer to the Lord.  Now that I have read excerpts from his memoir as well as his letters within the context of explaining certain passages of The Spiritual Exercises, I have a far greater appreciation of the wealth of wisdom he provided through his writing. 
Saint Ignatius Loyola: The Spiritual Writings is proof positive that there is a great deal we can learn from the lives of the saints and apply to our present circumstances and daily challenges to offer all that we are, have, and do for the Lord’s greater glory in time and eternity. 
A reminder that we need to have a measure of balance in our religious practices and spiritual lives is one important principle that this saint explores at length.  It’s not a new concept to me that spending hours in prayer daily without devoting any time to works of mercy or studying can actually go against what would be best for us. 
I have gotten into trouble far too often in the past when I have assigned greater value to one form of prayer or activity done for the Lord than I’d give to something else that is also part of the work I do for Him. 
For example, if a student were to neglect his studies in favor of spending all of his time in prayer, then this would likely go against what God intended for him.  In the same light, if a mother of young children offers to God the cooking, cleaning, teaching, and nurturing she does as part of her vocation of raising her family, then that is admirable and advised, even if it means that she is not able at that particular time in her life to devote as much time to study, personal prayer, or corporal works of mercy outside the home. 
Saint Ignatius Loyola: The Spiritual Writings is a wonderful introduction to this great saint and Jesuit spirituality and/or serves as a wonderful refresher on this man’s life and proposed prayer practices.  For more information, or to order your own copy, click here.       
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