One can easily argue that the term ‘consolation’ describes the heart of Ignatius’ spiritual experience of God. In The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius essentially defines ‘consolation’ as a movement towards ‘any increase of faith, hope, and love.’ The term consolation is found throughout Ignatius’ spiritual writings. But almost equally prevalent if the term ‘devotion’. What does Ignatius mean by ‘devotion’, and how does ‘devotion’ relate to our ordinary daily spiritual practice?
The word ‘devotion’ is found only four times in The Spiritual Exercises. However, Ignatius uses the term ‘devotion’ frequently in The Spiritual Diary and in the Jesuit Constitutions. Though not equivalent to ‘consolation’, ‘Devotion is an aspect of consolation, an experience we have no power on our side to arouse or sustain and which we must not put down to our own account.’ To ‘find devotion’ is to ‘find what I want’, in other words, an increase of faith, hope, and love. Devotion is the catalyst that points the individual to consolation. Examples may include an object, such as a work of art; a place, such as a shrine; a person, such as the life of a saint; style of prayer, such as contemplation or the rosary; or an event, such as a pilgrimage. All of these examples point one to deeper consolation. ‘Thus in prayer one should “rest until satisfied” at the point where one has found devotion.’ Any experience, encounter, or memory that ‘facilitates finding God’ forms the essence of devotion. Ignatius describes what he meant by devotion in his summary of his spirituality as recorded in his Autobiography. He was ‘always growing in devotion, i.e. in facility in finding God, and now more than ever in his whole life. And every time and hour he wanted to find God, he found him. And that now too he had visions often, especially those which have been talked about above, when he saw Christ as a sun. This often used to happen as he was going along talking about important things, and that would make him arrive at assurance.’ Devotion is the result of God’s activity, always laboring to move us towards deeper faith, hope, and love.
As we grow in our spiritual understanding and experience, may we be more attentive to the role of ‘devotion’ in our lives—and how God continually labors for us to ‘increase faith, hope, and love.’
Fr. Kevin Leidich, a native of San Francisco is an experienced Spiritual Director and has been a member of the JRC Pastoral Staff since August 2014.