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  Vol 49 no 3


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Ignatian Spirituality, Collaboration and Development: A Reflection from an Educational Perspective

If Ignatian spirituality was ever seen as the preserve of Jesuits alone, this is not so any longer. In ministries ranging from parishes and retreat houses to work with refugees and asylum seekers a wide variety of Christians (and sometimes others) work alongside each other closely to implement the Ignatian vision. It is perhaps in education that the implications of this collaboration have been most fully explored, as Michael Edwards describes here.

The Single Day of the First Week Exercises

Although the book of the Spiritual Exercises divides its material into four ‘Weeks’, and there is an expectation that the experience will last for about a month altogether, it is notable that Ignatius only assigns material for a single day of prayerful reflection to the First Week. In practice this is always supplemented with complementary meditations. Johannes Steinke suggests that there is much to be learnt from a closer examination of Ignatius’ text and the experience of early directors.

‘From Good to Better’ or ‘From Bad to Worse’: Exercises 335 with Diagram

A key theme in Ignatian teaching on discernment is recognising the basic direction in which the directee is heading. Only when this is identified can the significance of the movements that the person experiences be correctly interpreted. Here Gerald O’Mahony argues that there is a similar distinction that needs to be recognised among those who have progressed further in the spiritual life, drawing on psychology to illuminate its importance.

Spiritual Direction in Africa: A Need for a Different Approach?

Are standards of good practice in spiritual direction universal, or should we expect them to vary between cultures? Puleng Matsaneng trained as a spiritual director with people steeped in the Western tradition. But in trying to apply this in the townships of South Africa she encountered a need for adaptations that respected the very different background of those with whom she was working. What might it mean to develop a model of spiritual direction rooted in an African context?

An Ignatian Path to Gratitude

It has been said that the key grace for Ignatius was that of gratitude, a recognition that everything I have comes as a gift from God. Here Wilkie Au draws on the life and writings of his friend the moral theologian Bill Spohn to illustrate how gratitude can transform one’s approach to God even in the most challenging of circumstances, and how the experience of the Spiritual Exercises can foster such an approach.

Deceptions in Discernment

While discernment is clearly a key feature of the Ignatian path to God, it is not without its dangers. Central among these is that of self-deception. While professing that I seek only to know and carry out the will of God, all sorts of more self-serving motives can readily intrude, leading me to very different goals. Ignatius was very aware of this danger from his own experience, and Antonio Guillén looks at some of the safeguards against it that he incorporated into the Spiritual Exercises.

Ignatian Pilgrimage- The Inner Journey (loyola to Manresa on Foot)

When drawing up the initial training programme for the new kind of religious order that he was founding, Ignatius specified that recruits should pass through a series of carefully monitored experiences. Key among these was an extended pilgrimage, undertaken on foot and without money. This was in part to be a heightened experience of God’s providence working through the people encountered on the way. Brendan McManus undertook such a pilgrimage as part of his own Jesuit training, and reflects upon its lasting influence.

Ignatian Directed Retreats: The Dark Ages?

The history of the Spiritual Exercises is often told as if Ignatius drew up a programme for an individually-guided retreat, but this was rapidly abandoned as too labour-intensive, in favour of group experiences. Accordingly it was only in the late 1960s that the importance of one-to-one guidance was rediscovered. Tom Shufflebotham believes that there is plenty of evidence to call this understanding into question.


With 1,800 pages and nearly 400 articles, the two-volume Dictionary of Ignatian Spirituality, published by the Jesuits of Spain in 2007, is undoubtedly the finest single resource in this field that is currently available. However there are as yet no plans to translate the whole work into English. Here then, as a taster, we present a translation by Michael Campbell-Johnston of Antonio García Rodríguez’s article on ‘Love’.

From the Foreword

ALTHOUGH THE WAY IS SUBTITLED ‘a review of Christian spirituality’, its first love has been and remains that particular outlook that originated with the Basque knight Ignatius of Loyola in the sixteenth century, and which flows from the experience of the Spiritual Exercises that he formulated. It is part of the genius of this outlook that it been able to renew and adapt itself to the needs of very different times and cultures from those that Ignatius knew; and this process of renewal continues. In this year’s Special Issue we present a range of ways in which this spirituality is being reshaped to feed the hungers of men and women living at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Puleng Matsaneng raises the fascinating question of whether good practice among spirituality practitioners should aspire to universal standards, or should, rather, take on different features in response to the needs of different cultures. How far is it right, for example, to relate to a spiritual director in the way that one might to an elder in a traditional African community? Many would argue that good practice in Western church cultures at present necessarily involves close collaborative working between priests, religious and laypeople, and Michael Edwards considers what this looks like in Ignatian ministry, with particular reference to education.

When Vatican II considered renewal, one of its orientations was towards ressourcement, a return to the sources of Christian faith and inspiration. It is not surprising, then, that one way to carry forward the renewal of Ignatian spirituality is to look closely at the text of the Spiritual Exercises itself, considering aspects of it that might have been overlooked or undervalued. In this light Johannes Maria Steinke asks why Ignatius appears to give only material for a single day in outlining the First Week of the Exercises. Gerald O’Mahony takes a close look at the seventh of the Second Week’s rules for discernment, drawing on the insights of modern psychology. Wilkie Au’s concern is with gratitude, and how it can be fostered throughout the course of life by the experience of the Exercises.

The Ignatian approach is often typified as one that starts ‘from below’, in that it begins with human experience rather than with divine revelation. Ignatius built into early Jesuit training an experience of penury, making a pilgrimage on foot while reliant wholly on alms for food and shelter. Brendan McManus reflects on how this demanding undertaking has shaped his own faith, both at the time and subsequently. Demonstrating that it is possible to benefit from negative as well as positive experiences, Antonio Guillén learns to recognise where impulses go astray and self-deception enters into the process of discernment, in order to guard against such distortions more readily in future when seeking to do God’s will. The theme of learning from our history is picked up in Tom Shufflebotham’s article, which argues for a different reading of the twentieth-century rediscovery and renewal of the Ignatian individually guided retreat from that which is generally offered.

Any issue of The Way can only present a small selection of current thought on spirituality. This is true even if, as here, it confines itself to its core concern with Ignatian spirituality. In Spain the recently published Diccionario de espiritualidad ignaciana magnificently aspires to a complete survey of this entire field. While we wait for something comparable to be produced in English, an article on the theme of love by J. Antonio García Rodríguez can at least give a flavour of what is available beyond the English-speaking world.

There is much talk in the Roman Catholic Church today of a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’; it is suggested that Vatican II has too often been interpreted as representing a complete break with tradition, whereas it is better understood as being continuous with much of what went before. No doubt this question will go on being debated within the Church at large. Whatever the answer, it is certainly the case that Ignatian spirituality has in recent decades renewed itself in ways that exhibit clear continuities with practices dating back to the time of Ignatius, while fully respecting the varying outlooks of different settings and societies. Whether it seeks to help people experience God more fully in the townships of South Africa or the schools of Britain, the pathway to God first opened up by Ignatius shows no signs of losing its direction or reaching a dead end.

Paul Nicholson SJ



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