St. Ignatius Loyola presented a disciplined version of meditation that while disciplined also gave freedom to the soul to explore numerous images of contemplation about Christ and sin. As founder of the Jesuits, he incorporated a military type religious movement that not only characterized his order but also his meditation techniques. This disciplined form of meditation is key in helping the soul overcome the weakness of one’s fallen nature and creating a soul better equipped to reform and avoid sin. Christian Counselors as well as merely spiritual counselors can all find value in the writings of St. Ignatius and his spiritual exercises in regards to meditation.
Ignatian spirituality and meditation is clearly traditional in regards to approach. It is a contemplative based meditation that finds its peace in silence and solitude. The person meditating is to reflect on the life of Christ and apply the particular meditation to one’s particular situation. These usages of imagery help the soul excite inner yearnings for spiritual reform in Christ. While clearly outlined in the Spiritual Exercises on what particular meditations one should follow, St. Ignatius also gives the initiate freedom to expound on the required mystery within their own mystical experience. As one completes the Spiritual Exercises, they will discover they have meditated and contemplated on a variety of spiritual visions regarding Christ and the supernatural world that are purposely placed out to give the soul the most maximum benefit for spiritual reform and renewal.
One of the primary themes found in meditation by St. Ignatius is his great emphasis on sin and repentance. Many of the contemplations deal directly with the soul’s sins and how horrible sin is to the life of the soul. Hence many reflections revolve around the passion of Christ, Hell, and how sin has corrupted the human race. It is St. Ignatius’ goal to inspire within the soul a complete aversion of sin via perfect contrition that burns for the love of Christ.
This Christocentric form of meditation is obviously best suited for Christian Counseling but the rich spiritual nature of the meditations and exercises can also be applied to general spiritual counseling because it focuses on discernment and vocational choices as well. While Christocentric, the primary goal is help the soul escape sin and rid itself of earthly attachments. This is the key for most meditative processes.
By Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C