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Ignatian spirituality is a spiritual practice based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Ignatian spirituality insists that God is present in all things and active in our world and our lives. It is a pathway to deeper prayer, good decisions guided by keen discernment, and an active life of service to others. The cornerstone of Ignatian Spirituality is the Spiritual Exercises. The 30 day silent retreat is Ignatius' blueprint for spiritual freedom. The Exercises touch the soul by developing an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, was born in 1491 in the Basque Country of Northern Spain to parents of distinguished families in that area. He was the youngest of 13 children and was called Iñigo. At the age of 15, he served as a page in the court of a local nobleman and later embraced a military career and became a valiant soldier. Wounded in battle by a cannonball, which broke one leg and injured the other, Ignatius was taken prisoner by the French, who set his leg and eventually allowed him to go home to Loyola. He spent his time recuperating at the home of his brother. Confined to his sick bed, he was given pious books to read, which he grudgingly accepted. To his surprise, he enjoyed them and began to dream of becoming a "knight for Christ," pursuing the ideals of St. Francis and St. Dominic. He eventually promised to devote his life to being a knight for St. Peter if he recovered, which he did after nine months of convalescence. Ignatius noticed that after doing good deeds for the Lord, he felt peaceful — which he termed as a "consolation" — but when he thought of being a successful soldier or of impressing a beautiful woman where he had initially felt enthused, he later felt dry. Through this process of discernment, Ignatius was able to recognize that God was leading him to follow a path of service. Out of this experience he wrote his famous Spiritual Exercises. After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished theology studies in Paris. Many initially hated Ignatius because of his humble and austere lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted many followers at the university, including Francis Xavier. Quickly, Ignatius started his order: The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. He travelled to Europe and the Holy Land, and then settled in Rome to direct the Jesuits.