“Francis is a Jesuit and his long, arduous formation as a priest was founded on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.” – UK Telegraph
“To think that the leader of the Catholic Church is one who follows in the tradition of Ignatius, whose life has been devoted to finding God in all things.” – Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
As we stated in a recent article, Contemplative Spirituality – the Source of the Catholic Church’s Expansion,” contemplative prayer (mysticism) is the tool used to grow the Catholic church. It is also the tool that is drawing all religions together (though called different things in different religious traditions: Sufism, Kabbalah, Samadhi, etc.). In the UK Telegraph article below, the subtitle reads “The power of prayer is bringing Canterbury and Rome together after 500 years.” The article says that Pope Francis’ spirituality is based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are named after the founder of the Jesuit Order, and have typically been used by Catholics. However, according to one source, “[b]eginning in the 1980s, Protestants have had a growing interest in the Spiritual Exercises. There are recent (2006) adaptations that are specific to Protestants which emphasize the exercises as a school of contemplative prayer.” Traditionally, Ignatian Spirituality is practiced in a retreat center setting usually with the assistance of a spiritual director. As with other contemplative practices, it is believed that if the Ignatian exercises are practiced, the practitioner can conquer self and become more Christ-like (this is why Ignatian Spirituality is often included in Spiritual Formation programs). There is much that could be said here about Spiritual Formation but we will reserve that for another time.
It is correct to say that Ignatian Spirituality is part of contemplative spirituality. We could give many examples but one case in point to illustrate this would be James Wakefield’s book, Sacred Listening: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola (Baker Books, 2006). We discuss certain aspects of Wakefield’s book in our The Jesuit Agenda booklet tract. Right now, we’d like to draw your attention to his book to show its ties with contemplative spirituality. The book includes instructions on various contemplative practices such as lectio divina and quotes and references several contemplative advocates, including Tilden Edwards. Edwards, the co-founder of the panentheistic Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington DC. made the revealing statement that “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality” ( Spiritual Friend, p. 18). It couldn’t have been said more accurately, which is precisely why Lighthouse Trails continues its efforts to warn about contemplative spirituality.
When one considers how evangelical leaders such as Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Focus on the Family, Beth Moore, and many others have promoted contemplative spirituality for many years now, is it really any wonder that Protestants and Catholics are being drawn together? Couple that with efforts such as the Manhattan Declaration (endorsed by numerous Christian figures and organizations) that drew evangelicals and Catholics together from a “moral issues” point of view, and separation between the two didn’t have a standing chance. Put it all together, and the evangelical church is in big trouble. Remember the price that many believers had to pay for breaking away from the Roman Catholic church. They paid with their blood and lives. What would they be saying to us now if they were standing here with us?
For further documentation that Pope Francis is founded on contemplative practices, a statement was issued from the AJCU (Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities) reaffirming the pope’s “Ignatian spirituality,” stating that:
All Jesuits share the experience of a rigorous spiritual formation process marked by a transformative experience with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. To think that the leader of the Catholic Church is one who follows in the tradition of Ignatius, whose life has been devoted to finding God in all things, and who is committed to the service of faith and the promotion of justice, fills me with great hope. This is a great day for the Jesuits and the worldwide Church. (source)
Article from the UK Telegraph:
“A new Pope, a new Primate and a new life for Christianity”
The power of prayer is bringing Canterbury and Rome together after 500 years
by Charles Moore
So far, the combined media knowledge of Pope Francis has not been impressive. We, the public, have been told that he likes travelling on public transport, that he played a controversial role among his fellow Jesuits in the years of the Argentine military dictatorships, and that he “is a conservative but cares for the poor” (that “but” tells you the politics of most ecclesiastical reportage). That’s about it.
I know that the Catholic Church is a huge global organisation, so lots of its cardinals, including Pope Francis, have the cheek to come from funny, faraway places. But one feels that if Jorge Bergoglio had been an Argentine footballer rather than an archbishop, plenty of experts would have been on hand to impart useful information. When it comes to religion, our media are very provincial. We project on to it our Western obsessions, which are mainly sexual. We are alarmed by its breadth and its depth. Click here to continue reading.