Ignatian spirituality is a distinctive approach to spiritual life based on the writings of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. The handbook he created from his own spiritual experiences, called The Spiritual Exercises, serves as a guide to Ignatian retreat directors.
Several practices based on the experience of the Ignatian exercises are fundamental to Ignatian spirituality. They include the daily Examen, Ignatian contemplation and the discipline of looking for God’s presence in all things.
Though the book of the Spiritual Exercises is found in most book stores, it is not really a book to be read, but the basis of an experience. Just as reading a book that details physical exercises does not change your physique, reading the Spiritual Exercises won’t have much effect on your spiritual life. Instead, make an Ignatian retreat under the direction of someone who has experienced them for himself or herself and is trained to guide others. Every Jesuit priest, brother and scholastic has made the full Ignatian Spiritual Exercises of thirty days.
Some men feel called to serve God and the Church in a religious order like the Jesuits, Dominicans, or Franciscans. If a man feels called to try out the Jesuit vocation, he contacts the local Jesuit Vocation Director, who assists him in his discernment. If the man and the Vocation Director both agree that this looks like something God may be calling him to, then the man makes a formal application to join the Society of Jesus by entering the novitiate. Such an application involves several steps. They are outlined in the vocation section on the U.S. Central and Southern Province.
If the man is accepted and enters the novitiate, he can expect to spend two years in this first phase of training before he makes his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. After vows, the typical course of studies is three years of philosophical and theological training, followed by three years of ministry, and then three more years of theological study before ordination as a priest. Some men wish to belong to the Jesuits without becoming priests; such men are Jesuit brothers, and have a slightly different training.
To spend your life without your own family is certainly not an easy thing. But for those who are truly called to it, and who live according to the vows and with a strong habit of daily prayer, it can be incredibly rewarding and life-giving, both for the Jesuit and for the people he serves. Jesuits are often known for the great things they do, but what is not so easily seen is the personal experience of friendship with Jesus that makes any truly effective Jesuit who he is.
If you are in the Dallas / Fort Worth area and are interested in meeting with someone to discuss a vocation to the Jesuits, please contact Fr. Randy Gibbens, S.J at (972) 387-8700 x407.
"I credit the Jesuits for helping me discern my vocation while a junior. They helped me recognize it and respond to it."
The late Rev. Patrick H. Koch, S.J. '44
"I learned about the Jesuits from the Catholic Encyclopedia and from a pamphlet entitled Jesuits in the Southland that I found in a wastebasket during my senior year at St. Joseph Central Catholic High School. I then joined the Jesuits and went through the regular course of studies"
Rev. John Edwards, S.J.
"I was a Mass server and already had felt a "call" to the priesthood but was attending a public school. My Jesuit experience determined the rest of my life in that I joined the Society of Jesus upon graduation (at age 16) and continue after 63 years."
Rev. Dick McGowan, S.J., '46
The Examen is a prayer unique to Ignatian Spirituality. St. Ignatius of Loyola developed the Examen as a way to stop twice daily to reflect on God's presence in our daily lives. During the Examen, one reflects on the events of one's day: looking at mistakes and sins and asking God's forgiveness; at blessings and graces and giving God thanks; and at the rest of the day or next day and asking God for help, strength, and guidance. St. Ignatius suggested that the Examen be done twice a day, once around noon and again right before bed. Three times a week at the beginning of period 7(1:11 p.m.) the whole school stops for five minutes and is lead in the Examen by Campus Ministry.