The Spiritual Exercises
As a formal guidebook for other spiritual directors, and much later yet, came the Society of Jesus as an officially recognized religious order within the Church. In the beginning Ignatius was happy and eager simply to talk with people about where they found God in their lives.
Any Christian could be part of this conversation if he or she wanted to. Baptism, after all, creates a definitive bond between God and each person: the Holy spirit becomes the founder of a history that can be called divine but remains human – the long journey of each person’s freedom through random yes’s and no’s. A person’s “spirituality” is nothing other than the sum of moments in this journey as life of the Spirit grows within us. Little by little, an interior life develops. Prayer gets rooted and matures. Reflection clarifies relationships and choices. Responding to the action of divine grace creates a spiritual being able to respond ever more generously. Experience instructs where speculative insights offer nothing. And Ignatius was just as interested in the religious experience of people with whom he could converse as he was obsessed with his own experience.
The God whom Ignatius of Loyola incessantly sought is not found at the completion of a long and exotic journey, even though Ignatius traversed a great geographic distance from his homeplace in the Basque mountains to the conflicted streets of Jerusalem, and an even further cultural journey from the medieval world of his youth to Renaissance Paris and the rebuilding of Rome under artists like Michaelangelo and reformers like Charles Borromeo.
Ignatius’ God reveals Himself as a creative force to those whom He invites to co-labor with Him in a spirit of humility but also with initiative and in action. The Spanish nobleman experienced a profound conversion during which God led him “like a schoolboy” to see what was happening in his life.