Ignatian spirituality is one of the most influential and pervasive spiritual outlooks of our age. There's a story behind it. And it has many attributes. This page provides an introduction to the story.
1. It begins with a wounded soldier daydreaming on his sickbed.
Ignatian spirituality is rooted in the experiences of Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556), a Basque aristocrat whose conversion to a fervent Christian faith began while he was recovering from war wounds. Ignatius, who founded the Society of Jesus, gained many insights into spiritual life in the course of a decade-long spiritual journey, during which he became an expert at helping others strengthen their relationship with God. Its basis in personal experience makes Ignatian spirituality an intensely practical spirituality, well suited to laymen and laywomen living active lives in the world.
2. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
This line from a poem by the Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins captures the a central theme of Ignatian spirituality: its insistence that God is at work everywhere—in work, relationships, culture, the arts, the intellectual life, creation itself. As Ignatius put it, all the things in the world are presented to us “so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.” Ignatian spirituality places great emphasis on discerning God's presence in the everyday activities of ordinary life. It sees God as an active God, always at work, inviting us to an ever-deeper walk.
3. It's about call and response—like the music of a gospel choir.
An Ignatian spiritual life focuses on God at work now. It fosters an active attentiveness to God joined with a prompt responsiveness to God. God calls; we respond. This call-response rhythm of the inner life makes discernment and decision making especially important. Ignatius's rules for discernment and his astute approach to decision making are well-regarded for their psychological and spiritual wisdom.
4. “The heart has its reasons of which the mind knows nothing.”
Ignatius Loyola's conversion occurred as he became able to interpret the spiritual meaning of his emotional life. The spirituality he developed places great emphasis on the affective life: the use of imagination in prayer, discernment and interpretation of feelings, cultivation of great desires, and generous service. Ignatian spiritual renewal focuses more on the heart than the intellect. It holds that our choices and decisions are often beyond the merely rational or reasonable. Its goal is an eager, generous, wholehearted offer of oneself to God and to his work.
5. Free at last.
Ignatian spirituality emphasizes interior freedom. To choose rightly, we should strive to be free of personal preferences, superfluous attachments, and pre-formed opinions. Ignatius counseled radical detachment: “We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.” Our one goal is the freedom to make a wholehearted choice to follow God.
6. “Sum up at night what thou hast done by day.”
The Ignatian mindset is strongly inclined towards reflection and self-scrutiny. The distinctive Ignatian prayer is the Daily Examen, a review of the day's activities with an eye towards detecting and responding to the presence of God. Three challenging, reflective questions lie at the heart of the `Spiritual Exercises', the book Ignatius wrote, to help others deepen their spiritual lives: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ?”
7. A practical spirituality.
Ignatian spirituality is adaptable. It is an outlook, not a program; a set of attitudes and insights, not rules or a scheme. Ignatius's first advice to spiritual directors was to adapt the Spiritual Exercises to the needs of the person entering the retreat. At the heart of Ignatian spirituality is a profound humanism. It respects people's lived experience and honors the vast diversity of God's work in the world. The Latin phrase `curapersonalis' is often heard in Ignatian circles. It means “care of the person”—attention to people's individual needs and respect for their unique circumstances and concerns.
8. Don't do it alone.
Ignatian spirituality places great value on collaboration and teamwork. Ignatian spirituality sees the link between God and man as a relationship—a bond of friendship that develops over time as a human relationship does. Collaboration is built into the very structure of the Spiritual Exercises; they are almost always guided by a spiritual director who helps the retreatant interpret the spiritual content of the retreat experience. Similarly, mission and service in the Ignatian mode is seen not as an individualistic enterprise, but as work done in collaboration with Christ and others.
9. “Contemplatives in action.”
Those formed by Ignatian spirituality are often called “contemplatives in action.” They are reflective people with a rich inner life who are deeply engaged in God's work in the world. They unite themselves with God by joining God's active labor to save and heal the world. It is an active spiritual attitude—a way for everyone to seek and find God in their workplaces, homes, families, and communities.
10. “Men and women for others.”
The early Jesuits often described their work as simply “helping souls.” The great Jesuit leader Pedro Arrupe updated this idea in the twentieth century by calling those formed in Ignatian spirituality “men and women for others.” Both phrases express a deep commitment to social justice and a radical giving of oneself to others. The heart of this service is the radical generosity that Ignatius asked for in his most famous prayer:
Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I may your do your will.
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Over the last nine decades, the contributions of Loyola College to higher education has been highly influential and remarkable as a pioneer in the field of education that has created an avalanche of innovative and best practices for other educational institutions to inspire and emulate.
1. Educational Policies and Autonomy
In 1978, Loyola was one of the first eight colleges to receive autonomous status which helped the college to uphold its educational policies concerning admissions that aim at providing University Education in a Christian atmosphere for deserving students, especially for Catholics, Dalits and the underserved sections of the society.
2. Pioneering Programs
Loyola has been known for its path-breaking ventures like bringing forth some innovative programs and courses that have inspired many institutions to adopt them into their teaching and learning environment.
2.1. Visual Communication Program
One of the flagship programmes of the college and the only one of its kind that emerged as a precursor in the 1970s was the two-year Diploma in Visual Communication offered by Loyola Institute of Visual Communication (LIVCOM) as an evening program. Owing to the remarkable recognition from the media industry, the college started a full-fledged Degree in Visual Communication in 1989.
2.2. Foundation Course
Emphasizing the Ignatian pedagogy and spirituality, the Foundation Course was designed to inculcate values in the future leaders of our nation. The program is run by an exclusive academic unit, the School of Human Excellence (SHE), committed to guiding students in their values-centred pursuit of becoming men and women for and with others in society.
3. Research and Innovation
Loyola has a strong research culture. It is the only Arts and Science College which figured in Current Science magazine for research contributions to national development. Loyola is the only Arts and Science College in India to be recognized as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (SIRO) by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Government of India.
4. Student Support Services
A very significant contribution that Loyola College makes to higher education and society is the avalanche of Good Samaritan services it renders to the student community.
4.1. Resource Centre for Differently-Abled (RCDA)
Loyola College has set a trend nationally in stepping first to help the differently-abled students. There is an exclusive facility, Resource Centre for the Differently Abled (RCDA), established with the fund received from UGC-HEPSN and the National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment, Government of India. RCDA was chosen to serve as the Model Resource Centre of Disability Services (MRCDS), the first of its kind in the nation to fulfil the needs of the Differently-Abled students with specialized digital devices and resources.
4.2. Loyola Students Support Services (LSSS)
An exclusive service unit, LSSS, was established to offer academic, financial and personal support services, such as Scholarships, Management Concession, Free Noon Meal, Special English Program, Supplementary Education, Special Coaching, Remedial Programmes, Personality Development through Life Skills, Art and Literature and a Special Assistance to Foreign Students. One of its chief focus is empowering students from marginalized section of the society especially, the Dalits, to face the challenges in life with dignity.
Loyola pays a great deal of attention towards personal and mental wellbeing of the students through counselling which is predominantly carried out by AURA, the Centre for Counselling at the college. Loyola is proud to be a pioneer among educational institutes that have professional counsellors serving fulltime to attend to the needs and problems of the students at their intrapersonal, interpersonal and social levels.
Loyola has a staunch commitment to moulding the students through academic mentoring. The Academic Staff are trained exclusively to handhold the young aspirants as their mentors to guide, support and sort out the academic and personal issues and help them complete their studies successfully.
4.5. Financial Supports
Loyola offers a tremendous financial support to economically disadvantaged students. Every semester, the college management provides fee concession through Jesuit Educational Support (JES) to students from poor families. In 2018-19, the college has issued around 1.60 crore rupees as a management fee concession to 2600 students.
5. Reaching out to the Neighbourhood
One of the best practices for which Loyola has been well-known in the national higher educational arena is the effort constantly made to reach out to the local community in total humanitarian service.
5.1. Loyola FM 107.4
The college had ventured into an exceptional service by establishing Loyola FM 107.4, a community radio frequency over a radius of 15 km. Through Loyola Community Radio, the college addresses various issues related to the neighbourhood airing a variety of special programs for Transgender, gipsies, widows, visually challenged, street vendors, slum dwellers, auto drivers, etc.
5.2. Loyola Rain Relief Service (LRRS)
Another very unique service that has set trend among educational institutes across the country is establishing LRRS during the November 2015 rain, which initiated to provide the rain-affected people living in the slum areas of the city of Chennai with food materials and clothes. Loyola Rain Relief Services had 30 staff, and 250 energetic student volunteers, and a medical team consisting of 8 doctors offering medical treatment to nearly 1750 flood victims housed in Loyola premises. Through LRRS, a rain relief camp was initiated for Post Graduate students to offer their service to rain-affected areas especially the Gaja cyclone-hit areas in November 2018.
Another exceptional venture of the college is pioneering in community service through the Outreach Program that functions under the School of Service Learning. The college had taken up around 50 slums (urban villages or sub-standard settlements) around the college campus falling under the zones 5, 7 and 8 of the Chennai Corporation. The UG students are required to complete 120 hours of community service and PG students visit villages and experience life at the grassroots level to prepare themselves to serve these underserved people in their future.
Since 1925, Loyola College has been making impactful contributions to the economic growth of the country, formation of the brilliant minds, and shaping the young leaders of tomorrow in alignment with the motto of the college forming men and women in service of others.
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