A Spirituality of the Heart – A Reflection on Ignatian Spirituality at the Feast Day of St. Ignatius

By Sister Clare Walsh, MHSH

Why did my heart leap at the chance to make a pilgrimage to Spain to follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius?  After all, Ignatius is the founder of the Jesuits and I have been a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart for 45 years.

Ignatian spirituality is a spirituality of the heart and that is what my life as a Mission Helper is all about.  Ignatius referred to it as such centuries ago and that has been the experience of those who have followed in his footsteps ever since.

What brings us together as religious is that we are called to be companions of Jesus, so we find ourselves companions to one another.  Jesus is the one essential friendship that gives direction to our life together.  My love for Ignatian spirituality is simply because Ignatius, a 16th century Basque, has led me over and over again to Jesus.

Ignatian spirituality was born out of a turbulent time in Ignatius’ life.  Simply noticing or “taking note” became the cornerstone of his spiritual life. When a cannonball shattered his knee in 1521, bored and restless while he recuperated, he noticed the various movements of his spirit.  He paid attention to his heart.  This served him well as he continued his journey.

The Quest for God

His own moods—reflectors of his hidden inner movements—helped him find his way forward on his journey to God.  As he moves through this interior struggle, he records his experiences in a notebook, which forms the basis of the Spiritual Exercises. These notes have helped countless thousands through the centuries to uncover their own hidden movements in the quest for God.

Ignatius came to understand that active loving was God’s most outstanding quality.  This is his foundational image of God, and he arrived at it by noting how God dealt with him in his body, soul and spirit as well as through the people and events in his everyday life.

The goal of Ignatian spirituality is reflecting on lived experience leading to a magnanimous response of our hearts.  Intimacy is the central grace of the Spiritual Exercises.  To whom do we belong?  This is the question that is ever before us.

The late David Fleming, SJ, an Ignatian scholar, wrote:  “The words ‘mission’ and ‘ministry’ have a lofty connotation. Ignatius described service much more simply.  He used the Spanish word ‘ayudar,’ which means ‘to help.’  Ignatian spirituality manifests a profound respect for the work that God is doing in the lives of others.  We help others respond to God’s invitation.  We work with Jesus.”

Everyone can help.  Helping does not require extensive training and years of academic pursuit.  The work is God’s.  We are simply helping with it.  Heart and Helper are the core of who I am as a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart.

Praying in the cave in Manresa, Spain, where Ignatius wrote much of the Spiritual Exercises, I knew that paying attention to the state of my heart was central to embodying the heart of Jesus.

What is the state of your heart?  To whom do you belong?

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2 Responses to A Spirituality of the Heart – A Reflection on Ignatian Spirituality at the Feast Day of St. Ignatius

  1. Dolores Chepiga SSJ says:

    Thanks, Clare, for sharing so well. My community was founded by a Jesuit and 6 women back in the 17th century so Ignatian spirituality was part of our novitiate training back in the 50’s.
    God bless! Dolores SSJ

  2. Thanks, Clare. We hope to use your reflections in our small group gathering today. The Spirit is alive and active as we go into the future. Gratefully, Mary Ita

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