US Catholic Faith in Real Life

St. Ignatius, pray for me

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Ignatius of Loyola taught Bridget Purdome how to make time for prayer.

By guest blogger Bridget Purdome

Why would a progressive Catholic woman, who is passionate about empowering other women, call on a male saint who lived in the 16th century?  A saint who was a womanizer as a young man. A saint who used militaristic language in his writings. A saint who never accepted women as full partners in his ministry. Surely, there are enough female saints to turn to! 

Last fall, I signed up for a 7-month retreat in everyday life based on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.  As a graduate student at a Jesuit university, I thought I should learn something about Ignatius and his exercises. 

While convalescing from a battle injury, Ignatius experienced a spiritual conversion.  He realized that he no longer desired to fight for the King of Spain but rather for the King of Christ.  Throughout his life, Ignatius continued to notice and discern the movements in his heart, and eventually, he wrote a retreat manual called, “The Spiritual Exercises.”  The exercises include various types of scripture based meditations. 

For me, this retreat initially seemed like a huge obligation!  I had to commit to pray for an hour each day, and to participate in weekly meetings with a retreat director and a small group.  Who has this kind of time in her life? 

My prayer time didn’t start out so smoothly.  At night, I’d light a candle, wrap myself in an afghan, and open my prayer book.  Then I’d fall promptly asleep!  When I talked about praying, my daughters mocked me, “You mean sleeping, Mom!”  What they didn’t realize was that this was the best sleep I had ever had.  I wasn’t simply sleeping; I was dozing with God.

Eventually, my morning prayer time grew.  In his manual, Ignatius references the four key movements or graces that typically occur during the exercises – becoming aware of God’s unconditional love, walking the ministry of Jesus, experiencing the suffering of Jesus, and feeling the joy of the resurrection. 

Initially, the sun was my image of God.  As I sat on my back porch and reflected on scripture, I knew that I was basking in God’s love.  I had always been told to love God.  Ignatius taught me to let God love me. 

When the clouds rolled in, I prayed about all the stuff that blocks me from receiving God’s love.  I began to realize that this love for me really is unconditional. 

Next, I prayed through Jesus’ ministry.  One day, my husband came home and asked why the kitchen timer was set.  I used to set it to make sure that I got my prayer time in.  This time, I had set it to insure that I didn’t pray too long and miss a meeting.  This retreat had moved from obligation to invitation!

Then, I was asked to pray through the suffering of Jesus.  This was a fatiguing time, as I felt the pain of those in my ministry and in the world. 

Finally, as I prayed the resurrection of Jesus, I experienced a deep sense of joy, and I felt a new freedom to respond to God. 

Ignatian spirituality is about “finding God in all things.”  When summer came, my prayer naturally moved to the pool.  As I swam laps, I noticed the bright yellow sunlight sparkling on the clear blue water and the rays extending below the surface.  I knew that I was immersed in God’s love. 

Today, God continues to invite me to go deeper.

“St. Ignatius, pray for me.” 

Bridget Purdome holds an M.A. in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University Chicago and is currently working on a joint Masters of Divinity and Spirituality.  Her daily reflections can be found at

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Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.