The Universal Dimension of Ignatian Spirituality
Ilanko Xavier SJ
Anything that is pertinent to entire humanity is universal. The Catholic Church as a universal body promulgates, through its Catechism, its principle of human life as human being’s inborn urge to seek, to know and love God with all their strength. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises (23) presents the Principle and Foundation of human life as an active dimension — to praise, reverence and serve God the creator, and at the end of the Exercises (234) he invites us to a contemplation to attain God’s love. When we combine service with Love of God, it becomes universal good. Thus, Ignatian spirituality implies a dialectic movement from service to prayer and from prayer to service.
Where does this universality originate from? Inigo’s family had been adventurously exploring the end of the geographical world! Inigo had imbibed this spirit of global triumph, and also a desire of appropriating the universally known people to his own. This was evident when he took the name of Ignatius, because name Ignatius at the time was more widespread and more common to other nations. But this openly naïve action turned into deeper passion. He also had a special devotion to St Peter. This Peter as the head of the universal Church had a disposition of universal mindset: “I am only a human being; God has shown me that I should not call anyone unclean” (Acts 10, 26&28). Inigo’s interest in humanistic studies at Paris implies his longing for universal understanding of humanity, and his personal and spiritual life resonates with the universal spirit of St. Peter.
Shift from defective understanding of externally universal to realizing interior and true commonality is the beauty of his spirituality. The coat of arms of Loyola family (seven red bars on a gold field and two wild gray wolves flanking a cooking pot), outwardly depicts their bravery and generosity.
But the real meaning it had was a warning to all descendants of the Loyola family about the way they saw the world: ‘not all men are noble; most are loyal only to the hand that feeds them; and so without the pot wolves will overcome them’. This misguided universal notion of generosity and the resultant insecurity, which is prevalent even among us, did not influence Inigo. He was able to share his experience and table with his companions because he was able to recognize the work of the multiple gifts of the Holy Spirit in others. Ignatian spirituality invites us to trust and share with others as companions irrespective of their nationalities.
Ignatian spirit is centered not only on salvation of self, but also overflows into the salvation of all. It takes the approach of compassionate outlook towards the deprived section of the people and prophetic outlook towards the senselessly depriving section of the falsely adored humanity.
Fundamentally Ignatian spirituality is centred on Jesus’ attitude of saving the entire humanity from the universally embedded falsehood towards personally felt universal Truth.
For the Jesuits, the spirit of the mission to serve the entire world under the Pope is the fruit of the universal spirit. Thus, it breaks the narrow crooked minded approach into an open-minded innocent straight path. It is centered on the universal principle that we all come from God and we go back to God. “The more universal you are, more divine are you,” — this motto characterizes Ignatian vision.
About the Author:
Ilanko Xavier M., SJ, was Novice Master of Madurai Province, currently serves as Socius to the Provincial of the new Jesuit Chennai Province and also pursues his studies at JDV, Pune. He has licentiate in Spiritual Theology from Comillas Pontifical University, Madrid.