Four Keys to Ignatian Spirituality – 4

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To be prophetic in our world today


The fourth and final prophetic aspect of Ignatian spirituality that we wish to highlight is inculturation, an aspect that is a result of the others discussed above.

Through the practice of the spiritual exercises, discernment and listening to the call to a particular mission, the Christian who exercises and practises Ignatian spirituality understands in the Spirit how to announce the Gospel, with those categories, in that language understandable in today’s world.

This act of inculturation has been part of the activity of the Society of Jesus since its beginnings, through the figures of great missionaries such as Matthew Ricci, through the foundation of colleges, through theological reflection, through dialogue and often polemic with other Christian confessions, such as the nascent Lutheran or Calvinist or Anglican Reformed Church. Not to mention all the missionary activity that the Jesuits have carried out in places like Latin America, for example through the so-called reductions in Paraguay.

Inculturation is one of the characteristic aspects of Ignatian spirituality that comes from the tradition of the Church, because from the beginning Christians have had to announce the Gospel and tell the truth of the Son of God made man in a culture such as the Hellenistic and Roman cultures, which had their own preconceptions, cultures into which they grafted the Gospel message, which instead came from a Jewish cultural matrix.

St Ignatius, living in the same period of great theological and religious disputes and debates through the Lutheran Reformation, did not intend to found an apostolic body to defend the faith, but in fact, the early Jesuits, through the practice of Ignatian spirituality, found a way to dialogue with cultures and thoughts other than Christian and Catholic.

The ability to adapt to different places, times and languages also drew criticism on the Jesuits of being hypocrites, because they followed a principle that St Ignatius gave to the missionaries when he said: ‘Enter with your own and go out with your own’. But this does not mean pretending formal adherence to a culture and then hypocritically betraying it. Rather, Ignatius’ intention is to bring fruit to every culture, every place and every time from within, starting from those values, those seeds of the good, the true and the beautiful that are everywhere and are always the manifestation of God’s presence. Seeds that must be recognised and made to grow so that they may reach the fullness of Christ, as indicated by the Second Vatican Council in Ad Gentes 11 and taken up by Pope Francis with regard to the accompaniment of couples in Amoris laetitia 77.

Fr Giuseppe Trotta SJ

Carla Bellone