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.

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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