Ignatian Contemplation

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was a profound spiritual director in the sixteenth century. His legacy not only includes founding the Jesuit order, but also combining contemplative and spiritual formation exercises into every day life.   He wrote and traveled all around Europe preaching, teaching, and offering spiritual direction to people from all walks of life.

One could also call this practice praying with your imagination.  It has been described to me in different ways.  A few of those are as a “viritual film experience,” “a sensory prayer,” and “putting yourself in the story.”

This is just a small sampling of this particular method, but I would encourage anyone who finds a connection to explore more resources and learn about Ignatius.  His life is fascinating.

How to:

This is best practiced in a group, where there can be a narrator, but you can also do this by yourself.

Select a short passage that has a particular story or a few metaphors.  The Psalms with “I” passages work well, as do many of the teachings of Jesus.  (see the bottom for more examples).

If there is a facilitator have them explain that you’re about to go into a sensory experience of the verses.   It is like watching a movie except you’re there in it.  The following questions are great to ask as you are in the meditation:

Where are you?

What do you see?

What do you smell?

What role are you?

What are you feeling?

How is your body responding? Relaxed? Tense?

Where is Jesus?

What is he doing?

Try not explain the entire exercise away.  Too often we try to “figure it out.”  By explaining it and going right into the practice, it allows people to sit in the mediation and meet the Holy Spirit in it while not trying to figure out “how to do it” before even practicing it.

Sitting in a comfortable position either in a group or by yourself have a designated reader read it or read it to yourself a couple times through.

Then allow for at least 10 minutes of silence (some people recommend doing this for more than 30 minutes, it just depends on you).  The reader can re-ask the questions above after reading the passage, but it’s important to have a time of silence too.

After the designated time has passed, gently call the people out of the meditation or awaken yourself by setting a timer to go off.

Spend time debriefing and know that there is no “wrong” way to do this practice.  If you ended up just floating above the scene, that is fine… if you didn’t see anything, that is okay. If you ended up playing a role in the scene that’s great. Explore what you saw and why you’re feeling the way you are. The Holy Spirit meets us where we are and in whatever we experienced.

Passages to try – Psalm 23; Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42); The bleeding woman (Mark 5:21, 24-34); Jesus walks on water (Matthew 14:22-36)

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