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Ignatius: Reform in Continuity

It is well known that during his convalescence, Ignatius of Loyola read the Life of Christ and this reading prompted his radical turning to the Lord. The author of the book that so influenced Ignatius was Ludolph of Saxony, also known as Ludolph the Carthusian, though he had been a Dominican Master of Theology before entering the Carthusians.

The fine "General Introduction" to the Paulist Press volume, Ignatius of Loyola, says of Ludolph:

Ludolph wanted his readers to have a warm piety firmly based on sound doctrine, and he hoped to lead them toward salvation and rich spiritual development. In all this he exerted a deep formative influence on Ignatius' mentality by orienting him in the same direction.

Ludolph gives directives for reading the life of Christ meditatively and prayerfully. This was the procedure used by Ignatius in his readings at Loyola, and it was to reappear in his Exercises, but totally reworded and fitted to his own purposes.

The "Introduction" then quotes from the beginning of Ludolph's Life of Christ a passage that reflects Ignatius' own procedure in the Spiritual Exercises. Rudolph addresses his readers and exhorts them:

If you want to draw fruit from these sayings and deeds of Christ, you should put aside all other preoccupations; and then, with the affection of your heart, slowly, diligently, and with relish, make yourself present to what the Lord Jesus has said and done, and to what is being narrated, just as if you were actually there, and heard him with your own ears, and saw him with your own eyes.

For all these matters are exceedingly sweet to one who ponders them with desire, and far more so to one who savors them. Although many of these facts are recounted as having taken place in the past, you nevertheless should meditate upon them as if they were taking place now, in the present.

The "Introduction" states that Ludolph concludes each chapter of his book with a prayer which serves as climax of the meditation, "much as Ignatius will later ask his exercitants to conclude their meditations by a 'colloquy' expressed in their own words." As with Rudolph, so with Ignatius (and with us), the prayers are offered "to the praise and glory of God"—ad majorem Dei gloriam.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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Happy St. Ignatius Day  :)

Ludolph likely got the technique from Bonaventure who perhaps got it from Willian of St. Thierry.  In the preface to his Mediations on the Life of Christ, Bonaventure (or Pseudo-Bonaventure accoirding to some) wrote:

‘If you wish to gather fruit from these matters, make yourself as present to what is recounted about the sayings and actions of the Lord Jesus Christ as if you were seeing them with your own eyes and hearing them with your own ears; do this with all the affection of your spirit, carefully, lovingly, and slowly, leaving aside all your other concerns and cares.’ 

Although from the time of Dionysius the Aeropagite some were skeptical of using the imagination in prayer because of the danger it posed, others like those mentioned above and certainly Ignatius understood the imahination very differently.  Not something to be feared but to be enbraced for the way it allowed people to enter into the mystery.


Happy Feast Day!

Alan Mitchell,

Thanks for the quote from (Pseudo) Bonaventure. With regard your last paragraph, it brings to mind a recent book: "Rekindling the Christic Imagination" :-)

Buona festa!

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