Father figure

St Ignatius is so much more than a spiritual guide. Almost five centuries ago, he created the building blocks for institutions that allowed him and the earliest generations of Jesuits to pursue their mission in a way that was efficient and effective.


Fr Quyen Vu SJ, Provincial, The Society of Jesus in Australia

Each year the Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola is an opportunity for celebration. For Jesuits and so many of our partners in mission, St Ignatius is Father Ignatius, our spiritual guide. Ignatius was a profoundly spiritual person. As we know, he did not see being spiritual as conflicting with living in and engaging with the world. For Ignatius, the world is the place where we can labour with the Lord, striving to build the Kingdom of God.

Ignatius was ever the pilgrim, but he was also a builder of human institutions in the service of the Kingdom. He was deliberate and strategic in the relationships he built within the Church, with governments, with civil associations and with individuals who could be influential in serving the mission of the Society of Jesus. These relationships became the building blocks for institutions that allowed Ignatius and the first generations of Jesuits to pursue their mission in a way that efficient and effective.

The Spiritual Exercises are an amazingly helpful way to grow in relationship with Jesus. They allow a space for discernment, so that a person can come to know and take up the call of God in their lives. In a sense the discernment of the Exercises led to the call to form the Society of Jesus and for the whole Society to take up the call of the ‘Formula of the Institute’, the basic guide for what Jesuits, and so their ministries, are called to do.

The Society of Jesus was founded chiefly to share and defend the Christian faith by traditional ministries: by sharing the Word of God, the Sacraments, by education as well as by guiding people through the Spiritual Exercises. The Society was also called to “reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those in prisons or hospitals, and indeed to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good.”

In a way the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, which are our strategic starting point in this ten-year period, are a kind of restatement of that Formula for our context. We are called to share our faith in a God who loves us by accompaniment in the model of the Spiritual Exercises, especially walking with the poor whose dignity is not recognised, the young who yearn for hope and meaning, with a care for common home which is the place we are called to build the Kingdom now.

We do these things out on the road, with one foot raised. We do these things through the institutions we sustain and the new ones we build to make effective and lasting our efforts. In the building of institutions Jesuits collaborate, just as Ignatius did, with partners in mission who share our way of proceeding in seeking to build the Kingdom.

As Jesuits we are blessed by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience we take to live in the Society as brothers. We are blessed by the mission we have inherited and which we seek to serve. We are blessed by the institutions that help us in that service. We are blessed by the partners in mission who join us in our work. We are blessed to follow in the footsteps of St Ignatius in our love and service of Jesus Christ.

Video by Janark Gray.

Feature photo: Society of Jesus