During Lent, our local priest (I will call him Fr. Trombone, in keeping with my bone-themed nicknames) gave me a copy of the 14 Rules of Ignatian Spirituality. They are succinct and, to my mind, coherent. Things that are both spiritually and intellectually satisfying are sure to get my attention and get me to dig deeper into them, so began my spiral into Ignatian Spirituality.
What is Ignatian Spirituality
This is the spiritual theory and practice of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. I have included his prayer card nearby–read his prayer. I would say that is the best summary of Ignatian Spirituality, better than anything I could say.
Ignatius was all about surrendering of the self, and mindfulness of sin and awareness of our own human nature. We cannot be perfect, sinners such as we are. Surrendering ourselves to God helps us to imitate John the Baptist when he said, “He must increase, I must decrease”. Awareness of our human nature helps us to know, manage, and even take advantage of the ebbs and flows of our own emotional journey. It is this latter that is the focus of the 14 Rules.
The 14 Rules focus on Desolation and Consolation of the spirit. Desolation is when things are bad, when we are despondent and find it hard to stoke the flames of faith. Consolation is just the opposite, when times are good and we are excited and excitable and over-commit ourselves. Both bear their own risks! Ignatius says, in times of Desolation, we must not make any major decision nor change our daily habits. This sounds like no small task, but for anyone who has struggled to get out of bed after being dealt a hard emotional blow, it should resonate. Sometimes just doing the same thing as yesterday takes a tremendous effort, and is a victory. Likewise, avoiding making major decisions while in a poor state of mind is a good way to avoid disappointment and frustration. This is just good life advice, in the same spirit of “don’t make decisions on an empty stomach” or the advice to “sleep on it”. In times of Consolation, we must not let ourselves get overexcited, but rather remind ourselves of our desolation and how challenging it was to get by when our spiritual fire was low. This has the benefit of tempering our excitement, and helping us to remain cool and level heads while going about our day, remembering that it is the grace of God that keeps us going.
Surrender the Self
The first pillar I mentioned above, however, was surrendering the self to God. Ignatius wrote The Spiritual Exercises in order to instruct and form Jesuits under his care. The theme, if I may draw one, is that we cannot do anything on our own. God is the source of our strength, and the goal of our efforts. We must actively seek to destroy at the root any tendencies to sin which impede our ability to grow in holiness. Surrendering the Self, or trying to do so, has the benefit of contenting ourselves with our daily struggles, going about our day in obedience, patience, and humility. Even for laypeople, it is easy to get caught up in worldly things that distract us from God. Looking past those things help us to remember what is truly important.
This is just a brief primer on Ignatian Spirituality, but it is something I have been excited about recently and I am sure I will return to it. It has helped me tremendously–to make it through Lent, to accept the struggles in my workplace, and to call to mind that I cannot fight sin but with the help of God.
Have you heard of Ignatian spirituality? What Saints inspire you?
Hat tip to Caralyn over at Beauty Beyond Bones for writing some blogging tips and inspiring me to shake some of my mental dust loose. Thank you Caralyn!