Countless by now are the biographies, long or short, printed or electronic, of Saint Ignatius Loyola. Each author seems to have his or her “take” on Ignatius. Nothing at all unusual about that. As a Jesuit whose life is currently being assisted, I’ve read more of them than I can remember and each time I’ve read, I’ve grown.
Right now what fascinates me most about Ignatius is his agility. First his moving around geographically as a self-designated “pilgrim.” Just to trace on a map his many itineraries and to appreciate that so many of them were on foot or horseback, leaves a 21st-century traveler awestruck. How did he do it?
Then to realize that he incorporated into the Jesuit Constitutions the kind of mobility he himself had lived: no fixed abode, go anywhere to serve people in need, availability for anything. That demands both physical and psychological agility.
But the most important feature of Ignatius, at least to my way of thinking, is his attention to the interior movements of his soul. He began to notice these when recovering at Loyola from his battle wounds. His subsequent stay at Manresa honed his insight and led him to create the tools for discernment he later incorporated into the Spiritual Exercises.
One hears of service-based learning for youngsters. Ignatius offers us experience-based learning about God’s activity in our interior life. It takes time and practice to learn to discern the movements of our soul and that often benefits from the help of skilled directors. But it’s always movement, never stasis.
IVCers first move to reach out in charity to those in need. They then start to grow in their spirituality by reflection on their new experience. Soon they mature in the Spirit by little movements such as the monthly gatherings, the sessions with their Reflector, retreats, a deeper prayer life, etc.
It’s not just IVC. Look at the burgeoning of sister movements such as the Jesuit Collaborative, the Jesuit Connection, Ignatian Conversations for Women, Leadership and Ignatian Conversation, plus any number of blogs and podcasts. It sometimes feels overwhelming. And all it is is movement, agility, pilgrimage. The Spirit indeed is a-movin’.
Simon (Si) E. Smith, S.J is a New England Jesuit with a broad background and varied international experience. He taught at different levels in Baghdad College, Iraq, Boston College, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Nativity schools in Boston and Worcester. His major and preferred areas of instruction are Scripture and liturgy. He is known as an organizer and administrator, having spent a dozen years based in Washington, as Executive of Jesuit Missions for the U.S. and Canada. Si has published widely, is a popular lecturer, is fluent in French, Spanish and German and has traveled & worked extensively in the third world. And we are grateful that he also serves IVC as a Spiritual Reflector.