Elements of Hope – Ignatian Spirituality


What might an Ignatian approach to hope look like, especially in days that may feel turbulent? Ignatian hope is at root a Christian hope: Christians affirm in the Creed our belief in bodily resurrection and in eternal life. God is good, and God’s goodness always remains powerful and present, no matter what else is going on in the world.

But there are some elements of hope that feel distinctively Ignatian.

  • The Spiritual Exercises invite us to remember that we are all loved sinners. God loves the world even in its limitations and enters into this world in order to heal it; so can we. The hope is in the love. We can look at problems that need solving and instead of expecting perfection, start with care for what is human and go from there. If a friend is grieving a loss, I do not need to know exactly what to say or do, but maybe I can cook some food or express my sympathy.
  • The Exercises remind us that suffering and death are not the end of the story. God transforms suffering and gives us new life. This is the basis of hope for when we encounter suffering. We may experience grief in the midst of a loss and only much later experience God offering us healing and new life.
  • Spiritual directors who are accompanying others through the Exercises are encouraged to “put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement [rather] than to condemn it” (SE 22). We can all listen to others in a way that shows we hope to learn something from what another is sharing. For example, what if I listened to my political opponent with a view to learning a perspective that I do not yet have on the matter?
  • Indeed, all of the Exercises are about looking for moments of grace, seeking where God is creatively present to us in prayer or in life. Do I look for reasons to be hopeful by attending to how God is breaking through? For example, along with learning what I do need to know about injustice, do I attend to people or organizations that are bringing greater justice and love into the world through their work even now?
  • Ignatius asks us to become friends and companions to Jesus in our life’s work and relationships. It is hopeful to believe that God entrusts us with the freedom to act for justice, seek peace, and build up relationships of love. God did not create us to remain in spiritual childhood, but rather to grow into the maturity of acting as God’s friends, as so many saints have done—saints who were really just ordinary people who paid attention to the call.

When we find hope in God, we are led back to finding hope in our own capacity to build up a better world.

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Marina McCoy is a professor at Boston College, where she teaches philosophy and in the BC PULSE service learning program. She is the author of The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness and Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Philosophy. She and her husband are the parents to two young adults and live in the Boston area.

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