You might not expect contemplative spiritual exercises to be the lasting legacy of a 16th century Spanish knight, but Ignatius of Loyola was no ordinary Spaniard and no ordinary knight. We can press fast-forward on his wealthy upbringing as the youngest of 13 children, though you might be interested to know that he came to faith while recovering from a wound he sustained in the Italian War of 1521-26...
After his conversion he forgot about his military antics and instead spent a lot time praying, hanging out with Franciscan monks and studying theology. As he sought to connect with God, he developed a series of spiritual exercises which eventually became integral to the mission-loving, God-prioritising life of the Jesuits, the religious order he founded.
The exercises were completed twice a day – at noon and in the evening - and provided a contemplative means of connecting with God in busy, everyday life… and this was long before anyone had the distracting wiles of Twitter to contend with. Taking time out probably isn’t even on the radar for most of the young people we come into contact with, and with liturgy ever-sidelined, following a led exercise isn’t often a popular option.
But what Ignatian spirituality offers us is a well-worn method for pressing pause on life and connecting with God. You don’t need to whip up another session plan or an activity. Some ex-knight worked it out. As part of our rich Christian heritage, we can step into it - these spiritual exercises are there for the taking.
I don’t know what this looks like in your context, or how it fits into your youth ministry, but its effects might surprise you…
To find out more about Ignatian spirituality, come and join us for a day’s retreat with Mark Yaconelli. We’ll be working through Ignatian exercises and looking at how to use them with young people. Click here for details.
The Ignatian retreat is taking place at St Ann’s Church, Manchester on 21st October ahead of innovative youth ministry event, The Youthwork Summit on 22nd October.