Exploring Ignatius the mystic
Ignatius the Mystic & Mysticism Today was the theme of a seminar given by Brian O’Leary SJ in Manresa Spirituality Centre on Friday and Saturday 2-3 May. This conference was built around four lectures delivered by Brian in England and Canada which he wished to offer to an Irish audience.
The first was talk was entitled “Ignatius the Mystic” and consisted of an exploration of the mystical experiences of Ignatius at Manresa and La Storta (recorded in his Autobiography) and during his last years in Rome (recorded in his Spiritual Journal). These can be called his “peak experiences”. The Spiritual Journal in particular is not widely known but has enormous value in revealing the Trinitarian nature of his mysticism.
In the second lecture Brian took an unusual approach. Entitled “Learning from Opponents” this lecture examined what the opponents of Ignatius (especially the Dominican Melchor Cano) criticised in the Spiritual Exercises. By focussing on the neuralgic points in these disputes Brian was able to show that even his opponents recognised the mystical orientation of the Exercises and of Ignatius’ teaching in general. This is precisely what they objected to!
The third lecture was entitled “Everyday Mysticism” and began by setting up a dialogue with contemporary culture. Calling on works as diverse as Edward Munch’s painting The Scream and Philip Groening’s documentary on life in the Grande Chartreuse, Into Great Silence (2005), Brian tried to show what everyday mysticism might look like in today’s postmodern world. It is accessible to all. (This lecture was made available on this website some months ago with a different title: ‘Ignatian Mysticism and Contemporary Culture’).
The final lecture called on the wisdom of the Jesuit Constitutions. Brian argued that although the Constitutions were written specifically for Jesuits, much of their teaching is relevant for all Christians. Two areas were given special attention: the interplay between the human and the divine polarities in our lives and the way in which Ignatius deals with prayer and its preconditions.
One of the attendees Brendan Comerford SJ spoke for many in expressing his gratitude for what Brian’s work over the course of Friday and Saturday. “Brian shared his immense scholarship of the Auotbiography, The Spiritual Exerices, The Spiritual Diary of Ignatius and of The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. In typical academic fashion, he also gave us the other side of the story – what Ignatius’ opponents were saying about him and his writings at the time. Finally, he led us in a reflection on the relevance of Ignatius’ writings for our ‘everyday mysticism’, as Rahner would have called it. A truly rich experience for all. Thank you Brian”.