10 features of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

On the occasion of the “Ignatian Year”, the CPAL has organized the International Congress of Spiritual Exercises, among the exhibitors was the Mexican Jesuit, Francisco López Rivera, SJ who shares with Vatican News, 10 Ignatian and Jesuit traits that have most marked him in his life in his eagerness to find God in all things and all things in Him through the exercise of “in all things loving and serving”.

By Father Genaro Ávila-Valencia, SJ

As many know, the Jesuits and all the people who live and perspire Ignatian spirituality, rooted in the poor and humble Jesus of Nazareth, are celebrating the “Ignatian Year”; that is to say, we remember the 500 years since the wound in Pamplona of San Ignacio de Loyola that would be the starting point of his conversion itinerary. This commemoration began on May 20, 2021 and will end with the feast of Saint Ignatius on July 31, 2022. The motto that we have chosen as the Society of Jesus is “See all things new in Christ.”

Towards a greater “inner knowledge of Jesus”

Part of the commemorative activities that we have had was an International Congress of Spiritual Exercises [EE] organized by the CPAL (Conference of Provincials of Latin America); In said Congress there was a panel where several Jesuits and lay people, with deep experience in the accompaniment of the Spiritual Exercises, shared some brushstrokes of what the Ignatian spirituality of the Exercises has brought them to achieve, by grace, a greater “internal knowledge of Jesus who became a man for me, so that I may love him more and follow him” [EE,104]. One of the exhibiting teachers was the Mexican Jesuit Father Francisco López Rivera, SJ who entered the Society of Jesus in 1956. He was ordained a priest in 1969. He has a degree in Philosophy and Biblical Sciences. Professor of Holy Scriptures. Novice Master. Third Probation Instructor. Rector of the Free Institute of Philosophy and Sciences and of the International School of the Gesù.

Father Pancho, as we Jesuits affectionately call him in Mexico, was my trainer in the Novitiate and I found his presentation very pertinent and inspiring, since he is a great connoisseur of Ignatian spirituality and a lover of Jesus Christ. For this reason, in what follows I will share 10 Ignatian and Jesuit traits that have marked him the most in his life; These traces are the ones that he himself explained so beautifully during that Congress. I share them with all the hope that they will be of great help and a source of inspiration for many seekers of the Lord Jesus and pilgrims in constant pursuit to find God in all things and all things in Him through the exercise of “in everything loving and serving.”

Mexican Jesuit Father Francisco López Rivera, SJ speaker at the US Congress




Mexican Jesuit Father Francisco López Rivera, SJ speaker at the US Congress

Father Francisco López Rivera, SJ shares 10 Ignatian and Jesuit traits that have marked him most in his life:

loving humility

Ignatius of Loyola understands humility as “observance for love”, a love that is action and that translates into works of service in favor of others. Hence the strength of that Ignatian slogan of Contemplation to achieve love of the Spiritual Exercises “Love should be put more in deeds than in words” [EE,230]. We Jesuits are men of much action, yes, but also of much contemplation out of love and to serve.

deep mystique

Ignatian spirituality is a mystique for the world that seeks to take root in our most daily reality in order to be contemplative people in action. It is about a background mysticism and nothing superficial (there are no superficial mysticisms) that pretends to “be only in God”. Ignatius is not only the founder of a religious Order, but also a passionate pilgrim and a wise teacher of prayer.

Mortification

Although it seems like an old-fashioned word and almost in disuse, the truth is that it is not so. Rather it is a little understood word in our times. From the Ignatian proposal, mortification is understood as having the audacity to live centered on our “Principle and Foundation” [EE,23] and not moving to the ton and tune of our whims and “disorderly affections”, is to overcome ourselves, our inflated ego, to order our life based on a greater love.

Gratitude

Saint Ignatius said that gratitude is the source of all goods, hence this attitude is essential for a person who drinks from Ignatian spirituality. Hence, a good examination of conscience and any authentic prayer always begin and end with a “Thank you!” Likewise, our whole day is called to begin and end also giving thanks for everything and in everything, especially, what costs us the most and hurts us.

live from the heart

The heart is the source of affections, it is where we perceive the voice of the Lord and where we feel consolation or desolation. It is the seat of the discernment of spirits in the Ignatian way. A heart intrinsically united to reason, without division, to from there “know, love, follow and serve”. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24,32).

Jesus and the poor

St. Ignatius vividly reminds us that “friendship with the poor makes us friends of the Eternal King.” In the itinerary of the Exercises, we always contemplate a poor and humble Jesus, incarnated in our human frailty and compassionate before our needs. In EE entry 277 we find how Jesus “told the poor meekly.” Ignatius adds this adverb to the Gospel text. “In his exegesis, he underlines the delicacy of Jesus with the poor, that same delicacy to which all Christians are called”.

“Do and suffer for Christ” [EE,197]

It is a deep inner disposition, anchored in the experience of love and a personal encounter with Christ, which invites us “not to vain pain, but to generosity and courage in the face of the suffering that human life inevitably brings with it.” Perceive the presence of God not only in the good and the beautiful, but in the most painful circumstances suffered by the holy faithful people of God.

“Save the proposition of the neighbor”

This is the famous annotation 22 of the EE that Saint Ignatius places as a fundamental presupposition, both for the one who gives and for the one who receives the Exercises. It is an invitation to understanding and never to the condemnation of the experience of others; if perhaps I do not understand it, I am invited to do the impossible to ask the brother how it is that he understands it to avoid misunderstanding it and, if not enough, correct him with love and seek “all the convenient means to save him”.

Giving the Exercises authentically

This was one of the invitations that Father Pancho López, SJ, shared with us with more insistence. Have the courage to “strengthenedly” defend our Ignatian charism that places Jesus and his Kingdom at the absolute center of everything. “Not to make the experience of the Exercises a cycle of pious lectures, even if they are about the Exercises themselves; much less if they are about foreign subjects: sciences, arts, politics, sociological analysis, etc. Faithfully follow Ignatius’s recommendation to give the exercitants enough material so that, working on his own, they reach the lights and motions. And avoid tiring them with long dissertations, what we could call, ‘giving them the food already chewed’”.

Contemplation to achieve love

This is the masterful closing of the Spiritual Exercises, an authentically Ignatian contemplation in which we are invited to look with breadth, height and depth at the great generosity of God, which leads us with sincere gratitude, to devoutly express the offer written by the same Saint Ignatius of Loyola: “Take, Lord, and receive all my freedom, my memory, my understanding and all my will, all I have and possess; You gave it to me, to You, Lord, I return it; everything is yours, they dispose to all your will. Give me your love and grace that this is enough for me.

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