St Ignatius of Loyola lived from 1491 to 1556, dying only about 30 years before Mary Ward was born. With a small group of friends, Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. Ignatius conceived the Jesuits as “contemplatives in action”. During his life’s journey, this Spaniard learned how to discern God’s will and he became expert in the art of spiritual direction. He collected his insights, prayers, and suggestions in his book the Spiritual Exercises, one of the most influential books on the spiritual life ever written.
Mary Ward gained a love and deep knowledge of Ignatius’ spirituality during spiritual direction given to her by numerous Jesuits throughout her life. The characteristics of Ignatian Spirituality which influenced Mary Ward were:
- A belief that we are created, forgiven, accepted and unconditionally loved by God, and are called to a life of union with God now and for all eternity.
- A conviction that God is actively working in our world and our lives.
- An affirmation of the world, all the elements of which are created good and in which God may be found.
- A reverence for God and gratitude for God’s gifts leading to a response of love and service.
- A practice of contemplation and reflection on human experience, looking for and finding God, in all things, in action as well as in prayer.
- The need for continual prayer and discernment, attending in particular to interior movements of the heart through which God is manifest.
- An awareness that God deals directly with each person, and that each person must be treated with individual care.
- A reverence for the freedom of each individual to respond to the call of God.
- A clear distinction between God and all other things which are means to the love and service of God and others.
- A freedom from disordered attachments to any of these means in themselves so that we may clearly discern, rightly judge, correctly choose, and faithfully and lovingly respond to God.
- A critical consciousness of the distinction between the action of God and movements originating elsewhere that undermine freedom and love.
- A personal love for Jesus, which expresses itself in a commitment to work as his companion and to continue his mission in the world for the good of our fellow men and women.
- A dedication to the Church, the Body of Christ, and to the Holy Father his Vicar.
- A commitment to the welfare of our fellow humans — especially the marginalized, poor and oppressed— by a service of faith of which the promotion of justice is an integral part.