The Way of Ignatius: A Spiritual Portrait of Dialectical Oppositions

Maurice Giuliani, SJ

 Maurice Giuliani, SJ / Church Life / 26 February 2019

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Ignatius is born in 1491: Catholic Spain is completing the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula and consolidating its unity and the triumph of its faith; monarchs (and Christopher Columbus too) see themselves as invested with a divine mission.

Ignatius dies in 1556 at the height of the Renaissance, which has succeeded in developing a new conception of humanity and its relationship with God. Between these two dates, we see the slow evolution of a person who discovers little by little the form of life to which he is being gently led; his inspiration comes from above and leads him from service of a king to the service of God, from Jerusalem to Rome, from local interests to universal tasks. Ignatius himself reveals the secret of this interior power: the name of “Jesus, Savior of Humanity,” expressed with the three letters IHS.

The personality of Ignatius is made up of contrasts, whose unity comes from an equilibrium of action: rigor in his reasoning and a taste for “great things”; firmness and tenderness; “a fixed and immovable determination like a nail securely hammered in place” and extreme flexibility before situations and persons; a gaze always turned toward what is most universal and an almost scrupulous passion for the apparently smallest detail. Jesuit theologian Hugo Rahner affirmed that “we can never correctly speak of Ignatius without using dialectical oppositions.”[1]

Trust in the present time

A number of significant features nonetheless seem to indicate unity within the life of Ignatius. They contain a message that our time is particularly capable of understanding.

After his conversion, during the long months of convalescence[2] in his father’s house at Loyola, Ignatius discovers “the diversity of the spirits that move him.” He seeks out their meaning and draws conclusions from them for the reform of his life and, above all, for the definitive undertaking of the service of God alone. Next he learns progressively not only to practice the virtues, but also “the discernment to regulate and measure them.”

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