SHOWING THE WAY TO GOD
The movie’s message, in a nutshell
The official website of the animated documentary says: “In his radical quest for God, Ignatius discovers in his mystical experience at the Cardoner river in Spain that God speaks to him not only in scripture or tradition, but is truly present in everything. In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius systematises his spiritual experiences into a path for all seekers of God. To this day, these Exercises are not only the spiritual foundation of Jesuits worldwide, but have shaped the relationship with God of thousands of people.
Speaking to mind and heart alike
For a response to the quintessential question, “What moves the Jesuits at their core?” Fr Godehard Brüntrup SJ has an answer that can be read here. He writes: “The classical answer to this question is: the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. But what are they about? What happens in the Spiritual Exercises? The film Ignatius – the God Seeker attempts to answer these questions with both educational information and compelling imagery and narratives: it speaks to the mind and to the heart.”
Using the approach of Ignatian-era painters
The striking artwork in the film, says Fr Godehard, is intended “to speak to the unconscious mind.” The artistic vision is partly based on images created by great painters of Ignatius’ time, like Italian Renaissance painter Tiziano Vecelli, better known as Titian, and Domenikos Theotokópoulos, the Greek painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance, who was best known as El Greco. “More than trying to intellectually grasp the meaning of those images,” he writes, “the viewer should let them sink into the subconscious mind which is so important for religious knowledge. The rational mind will get nourished by the expert interviews (embedded in the film) that provide essential knowledge about the Spiritual Exercises.”
Engaging all mental faculties
“True to this Ignatian method, the film uses artistic imagination to activate all mental faculties. There is a theoretical background in psychology at work in this approach. It is the thesis that our subconscious mind is not good at understanding propositional language. It does, however, understand symbols and pictures.
“It can be argued that Ignatius in his exercises discovered this psychological fact long before Carl Jung spoke about the collective archetypal unconscious, or before more modern psychological approaches discovered the holistic, non-linguistic subconscious information processing in the right hemisphere of the brain.”
The vision of the film’s director
Fr Christof Wolf SJ (pictured, right) was ordained in 2004 in Berlin and has served as CEO and President of Loyola Productions Munich since 2006. In November last year, a special screening of the film Ignatius – the God Seeker was held at the Carlo Auditorium at Missouri’s St Louis University, where Fr Christof had served as a visiting instructor at the University’s College of Arts and Sciences. His film, produced in four languages – English, Italian, Spanish, and German – highlights the essential insights and processes of the Spiritual Exercises and translates them into a vivid visual language. His background and multiple talents are summed up here.
Contemporary relevance of a 16th century message
The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises are the spiritual foundation of Jesuits worldwide and are central to any novice entering the Jesuit order. But there is also another aspect, for the Spiritual Exercises have also shaped the relationship that thousands of people around the world have established and strengthened with God. The Exercises are not only intended for Jesuits, but are also offered to anyone seeking religious experience. In general, they help us reorient our lives to God.