Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ignatius Loyola and Martin Luther

Given the recent interest in the pope and given that he's a Jesuit, perhaps there's more general interest too in Ignatius of Loyola and Ignatian spirituality. Today I came across a past article by Philip Endean SJ on the similarities between Ignatius and Martin Luther. I think many see Ignatius as an anti-reformation saint, but that's inaccurate, and Fr. Endean explains why in Ignatius in Lutheran light. It's a long article, but here's just a bit from the beginning ....

[T]he idea of Ignatius as a Counter-Reformation figure, as a man whose main aim was to resist the forces of the Protestant Reformation – this idea is still deeply lodged in our folk-memory. What follows is an attempt to dislodge it – at least a little. If we regard Ignatius simply as the hammer of the heretics, our understanding of him is significantly impoverished. This way of looking at Ignatius has its origins not in Ignatius’s most formative experiences of God, but in the situation of his Society at a later period. Serious Ignatian scholars are now agreed that Ignatius himself lacked any burning impulse to counteract Lutheranism .....

I would suggest, however, that it is possible to go further. There are in fact important parallels between Ignatius and Luther. In what follows, I want to point to three important points of resemblance. Firstly, there is a remarkable similarity in the way they both, as old men, looked back on their most formative experiences of God. Secondly, they both tried to establish a new ideal of ministry and pastoral care within Western Christianity. Thirdly, both had difficulties reconciling conscience and authority.


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