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By Amy Korpi

On May 23, 2021, thousands of people from across continents, ages, nationalities, and cultural heritages united in a virtual prayer experience called “Pilgrims with Ignatius” to launch the Ignatian Year, a global celebration marking the 500th anniversary of the saint’s conversion.

Pope Francis, one of the Jesuits who participated in the prayer event, expressed hope “that all who are inspired by Ignatius and Ignatian spirituality may truly live this year as an experience of conversion.”

What exactly does conversion mean? After all, St. Ignatius of Loyola had been an orthodox Catholic who followed the religious practices of his time.

St. Ignatius’s conversion “involved his deepest desires and commitments, that essential center of the personality in which [one] stands before God,” wrote Fr. David Fleming, SJ, in What is Ignatian Spirituality? “His religious practice and intellectual understanding deepened over time, but it was his heart that was transformed.”

Conversion is also ongoing, according to Pope Francis.

Ignatius 500He explained, “[It is] a daily matter; it is never once and for all. Ignatius’s conversion started at Pamplona, but it didn’t end there. All through his life he converted . . . And he did so through discernment. Discernment is not about always getting it right from the start, but it’s rather about navigating, about having a compass to be able to set out on the road which has many twists and turns and letting oneself be guided always by the Holy Spirit who is leading us to an encounter with the Lord.”

“Let us be signposts for others, showing the way to God. Conversion always happens in dialogue. With God, with others, with the world,” Pope Francis added. “I bless you with all my heart, that this year may really be an inspiration to go out in the world to help souls and to see all things new in Christ.”

Find more of Pope Francis’s message and other resources at


■ Making choices “by attending to the inner movements of our spirit.”
■ Going “beyond the merely rational or reasonable.”
■ Being guided “to decisions that will join us ever more closely with Christ and with our working with Christ in the world.”

— From What is Ignatian Spirituality? by Fr. David Fleming, SJ

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