Spirituality is essentially about how we see, experience, and respond to the world in which we live, and name God’s presence in it. Every religious congregation reflects the spirituality of its founder. Mary Ward understood God’s will for her apostolic congregation to be modelled on that of the Society of Jesus. For the Jesuits, and therefore for us, the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius are the foundational experience.
These Spiritual Exercises grew out of the reflected experience of the young Inigo de Loyola (1491-1556). A nobleman from the Basque country of Spain, Inigo sustained a serious injury in battle and spent months of convalescence reflecting on the various movements of consolation and desolation in his life. Ignatius came to realise, through these experiences, that God’s presence is to be found in these inner movements of the Spirit.
By learning to listen to and feel with these movements, the desires God has for each one ‘can lead to ‘finding God in all things and all things in God’. Priorities move, and the service of others becomes a concern. Being in relationship with God and others lies at the very heart of Ignatian spirituality.
Various simple daily opportunities for reflection help in finding God in all things – practices such as the Daily Examen, discernment principles, meditation and contemplative prayer. All have the desired outcome of growing into relationship with God, oneself, others and all of creation.
The Constitutions of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary are those of the Society of Jesus, adapted for women. In them, the members of Mary Ward’s congregation find inner strength and an understanding of what it means to be focused solely on the ‘greater honour and glory of God’, always ready to be sent where the discerned needs are greatest.