Jesuit spirituality

St Ignatius LoyolaIgnatius Loyola was the founder of the Jesuits. There were two features of the Jesuit ‘order' which attracted Hopkins:

  • their emphasis on a thorough intellectual training, which took seven years from start to finish
  • their emphasis on spirituality.

Visualised prayer

The Jesuits had a very disciplined prayer life, which centred on a particular form of meditation laid down by Ignatius.

  • For this, the individual is encouraged to visualise as intensely as possible in their imagination the events in Christ's life, especially these to do with his suffering. (Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, depicts the physical and mental suffering surrounding Christ's crucifixion.)
  • As the individual visualises this, he or she is then encouraged to imagine themselves as present at the biblical scene
  • Next, the individual is to reflect on how they feel and express these feelings to God. 
More on a poetic example: A good example in English poetry of a poet who was inspired by this method of meditation is John Donne, some of whose Holy Sonnets are meditations in the Ignatian method.

Poetry and meditation

Poets often visualize in much this way, even if it is only in recreating personal memories. Hopkins, who clearly possessed a very artistic nature from boyhood, found this method of meditation very similar to a poetic way of imagining and creating poems of intense personal feeling. In fact, for him, Ignatian meditation disciplined him to shut out anything irrelevant, and gave a greater devotional feel to his work.

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