The broad appeal of Ignatian Spirituality

April 27, 2021 in Featured News, News

Jesuits belonging to or associated with the British Province have recently authored books with Messenger Publications as part of ongoing cooperation between the British and Irish Provinces.

These include Michael Barnes SJ, a renowned academic on interreligious dialogue, and Patrick C Goujon SJ, a Visiting Fellow in Spiritual Theology at the University of Oxford. Other contributors from the British Province who are engaged with Messenger Publications include David Stewart SJ, Paul O’Reilly SJ, Jack Mahoney SJ, and Joseph Munitiz SJ.

In Ignatian Spirituality & Interreligious Dialogue: Reading Love’s Mystery, Michael Barnes SJ draws on his experience both as an academic teacher and pastoral worker. The book also displays his abiding interest in the multi-religious world of contemporary culture and his conviction that Christian faith comes alive when it is brought into dialogue with what is other, different, or “even strange”.

Combining tradition with a degree of autobiography, his book crafts an interior dialogue between Christian faith and the challenging context of contemporary religious pluralism. What holds it together is the activity of ‘reading’ or engaging with all manner of ‘texts’. These range from the privileged text of scripture to the more open-ended conversations between people of faith, discerning in these conversations a love for humankind and for creation itself. This, according to the author, is what the Spirit always inspires in those who seek to discern the signs of divine grace.

Fr Barnes shows that when people travel with St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, they are on a never-ending pilgrimage characterised by what might be called a ‘holy restlessness’. Technological advancement continues to winnow the boundary between present and future as the world becomes ever more instantaneous, and yet somehow the Holy Spirit remains one step ahead, just as in the days of the apostles.

His book prompts the question: “Can people put aside the ‘instant prejudices’ of a world saturated with social media and listen for the movements of the Spirit of God as they cross all borders and challenge all preconceptions?”

In Counsels of the Holy Spirit: A Reading of Saint Ignatius’s Letters, Patrick C Goujon SJ follows on from Fr Barnes in paying attention to the workings of the Spirit in Ignatius’ writings. With the help of Joseph Munitiz SJ, who translated the book, Fr Goujon presents a vital study of St Ignatius in the saint’s own voice.

Fr Goujon notes that despite St Ignatius’s own emphasis on action in the world, little attention has been paid to his letters, with their striking ‘real time’ attempt to communicate his own spirituality to members of the young Jesuit order. This book manages to ‘slice off’ the coating of centuries and show Ignatian spirituality in the active mode in which it first came to be – to show it, that is, as an immediate response of Ignatius himself to the real conditions of those under his guidance, those in need of being consoled or advised or encouraged.

The book is not only for Jesuits. Other readers will find it an accessible and practical guide to the core concepts of Ignatian spirituality, given in the voice of St Ignatius himself.

It will be of help to spiritual directors also, as it provides examples of how St Ignatius gave guidance. And it will also benefit those who simply have an interest in Ignatian spirituality, as it provides a fresh and careful approach to reading Ignatius closely.

Fr Goujon explains that in recent decades the influence of Ignatian spirituality has been felt throughout the Christian world. The image of Ignatius as a soldier-priest or a disciplinary rule-giver has fallen away to reveal an everyday spiritual richness. According to the author, closer examination of the Spiritual Exercises and the Jesuit Constitutions has revealed documents and practices that centre God directly in ordinary life and provide the foundation for transformative experiences of spiritual direction.

Michael Barnes SJ is a British Jesuit who taught for more than thirty years at Heythrop College in the University of London. During that time he was Director of Westminster Interfaith and also ran the De Nobili Centre for Dialogue in Southall, West London. Now an Emeritus Professor at the University of Roehampton and a Research Associate at the School of Advanced Study in the University of London, he is the author of several books and many articles on various aspects of interreligious relations.

Patrick C Goujon SJ is a Visiting Fellow in Spiritual Theology at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, as of 2020-2021. He is Professor of Spirituality and Theology at Centre Sèvres – Jesuit Faculties in Paris. He is an advisor to the journal Études, and writes on the history of Ignatian spirituality.