Jesuit Father Jim Conroy (Courtesy Busted Halo)
If you were able to conduct a free association exercise among Catholics, the term “Jesuit” would most likely evoke responses like “educators,” “intelligent,” “worldly” and perhaps even “liberal.” But as the largest male religious order in the Catholic church, the Society of Jesus—as the Jesuits are officially known—has nearly 20,000 members spread out across 112 nations around the globe who are involved in an endless variety of work ranging from education and pastoral ministry to medicine, the law, social justice etc. The one common bond that ties this diverse international group together however is their experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
Formulated in the early 16th century after Ignatius of Loyola’s conversion, the Spiritual Exercises represent Ignatius’ gradual understanding—through prayer—of how God worked in his daily life. It is a powerful tradition that enables people to understand their relationship with the divine through their own unique experiences in the world. While all Jesuits are required to do the Exercises in a 30-day silent retreat at the beginning of their formation, countless others—religious and lay alike—feel drawn to Ignatius’ spiritual insights and do the Exercises as well. The Jesuit Collaborative is a an East coast organization, headed by Jesuit Father Jim Conroy, whose mission is to promote the Spiritual Exercises outside the Society of Jesus. In an interview with Busted Halo, Fr. Conroy discusses the origins of Ignatius’ approach to prayer and why young seekers looking to make sense of their world are often drawn to it. Read his interview here.