We are in a time where it is common to speak of spiritualities, ways of living our transcendental experience or ways to better our life of faith.
As many are well aware, there are spiritual experiences outside the Roman Catholic Church, which at one time was inconceivable given the high amount of influence the Roman Catholic Church had on ordinary society. In fact, the Bishop of Rome, Pius IX, went as far as to declare, “outside the Roman Church there is no salvation” which is a statement that is out of all contexts in social, cultural and obviously religious and Christians context as well.
We should note that the Church of Jesus is one, but we are diverse and different in the way we feel and live. However, we are one in essence: love, forgiveness and service, things very characteristic and fundamental of the Christian religion.
We must also realize that the Holy Spirit enriches the Church of Jesus’ diversity, fulfilling a major purpose which is bringing it to harmonize with one another, without seeking oppressive uniformities. That is why it is necessary to always see the bigger picture not just a small corner.
This brings me to a point where I wish to look deeper at the convergence of two spiritual expressions that help to enrich and grow the way we experience Jesus in the world around us. These two spiritualities are Ignatian spirituality and the Old Catholic movement.
In general culture, many believe that Ignatian spirituality is something only practiced in the Roman Catholic Church. However, let us be clear, Saint Ignatius of Loyola is not owned by a church institution. Rather his teachings are part of the heritage of Christianity and humanity in general, as Saint Ignatius of Loyola brings a very important legacy when it comes to “humanizing God and faith”. So we can not think that St Ignatius is either owned by the Roman Church or by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Thinking this would be limiting and curtailing the richness and the magnificent contribution made by this man to a culture of spiritual discernment.
On the other hand, we find that the Old Catholic movement which has a rich history, and above all a diverse spirituality which greatly complements the process of humanizing God and making faith a human experience within our lives that was formed by Saint Ignatius.
Therefore Ignatian spirituality is not a distant concept in relation to the spirituality of the Old Catholic movement, rather, it highlights it and makes it more effective and more inclusive and open, but above all more rational and holistic.
Many believe that Saint Ignatius Loyola is reduced to being the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and so minimize the fourth vow to the Bishop of Rome. But how can we contextualize the reality of Ignatius in the Old Catholic movement? The answer is simple, we must remember that Ignatius seeks to love and serve, it is a motto that is well known in Ignatian spirituality, and it’s just to see the humanity of a man who is made available to seek and find the will of God in his existence. Therefore he teaches us that God is in everything and everyone, it is the way that leads us to believe that God is not owned by any one ecclesiastical institution or any one group of people. Basically God looks for us and opens his heart to all. The Old Catholic movement moves in the same direction as Ignatian spirituality. The Old Catholic movement is a movement that at its root is humanistic and inclusive, it is a movement that believes that faith is a matter of conviction instead of convenience or simple choice.
We understand the Old Catholic movement was born in the European academy and there it officially began a “humanity of faith and inclusion”. This was threatened by a dogmatic council (Vatican Council I) where personal expediency prevailed over the actual convictions of the community (papal infallibility). We should be clear that the Old Catholic movement is a movement that promotes individual consciousness of believers and sees that the consciousness of the people is fully respected without affecting their spiritual reality and their relationship with God.
Thus, as Old Catholicism seeks to promote human dignity, as well as inclusion and contextualization of faith as a reality – social and cultural. In other words, an open dialogue with everyone regardless of where they come from. This is where Old Catholicism makes a proposal of freedom, without confusing it with a flight of fancy, rather it is to think like God thinks and wants without missing the mark. That is where Ignatian spirituality makes its contribution in building bridges where there is unity and respect, but above all, it brings an awareness that we all build society. It shows us that we all depend each other and informs us of significant changes from that consciousness which lies dormant in the human interior.
Why is Ignatian spirituality also a humanist spirituality and therefore is in favor of justice and the promotion of peace? It is because it seeks to dignify people in every way; it seeks to give hope where it has been lost. Ignatian spirituality in the Old Catholic movement is an effective formula for a revival of our awareness that every Christian should be a bearer of hope in a God who believe in him, and continues to create hope in mankind. Therefore healthy spirituality is always open to dialogue and encounter as well as understanding and committed to answer the challenges of today’s world.
In conclusion, Ignatian spirituality enriches Christianity, but even more strongly contributes and strengthens the vision of evolution in faith and the human development of our consciousness of God. Ignatian spirituality in the Old Catholic movement exists as a way to show humanity that God is sovereign and acts where he wants and desires.
All to the greater glory of God …
Monsignor Castro is the Vicar General of Latin America in the Old Catholic Churches International. He has also started the Society of Saint Ignatius (Jesuits) in Colombia.