“Living with the Lord always before them”

“Living with the Lord always before them”: considerations of spiritual guidance offered by Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard

A Facebook posting lead me on a search of essays about how the Jesuits saw Desolation and Consolation. Now I’m reading the


Nestled in Chapter Six of his inspiring book, Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard emphasizes the importance of identifying and emulating the wisdom of true spiritual practitioners (e.g., Billy Graham, Teresa of Calcutta, William Law, Martin Luther, Ignatius of Loyola, as he names a few) who have “walked the walk” of following Christ as Willard asks the provocative question: “How did they come to be able to live with ‘the Lord always before them?'” (1) Willard goes on to assert in his response: “We learn from them how to do that by making them our close companions on the way.” (2) Inspired by Willard’s inclusion of Ignatius of Loyola, in particular, in his list of spiritual practitioners, the work of this essay seeks to explore the spiritual guidance offered by Dallas Willard in the company of Ignatius of Loyola with the assertion they both can serve as viable and relevant companions for contemporary spiritual seekers who desire to engage in the process of spiritual formation and transformation into Christ-likeness. (3)

As guides who are skilled in the art of spiritual formation, both Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard, although centuries apart, can invite us to ponder how God offers grace in abundance, not only as God did for each of them, but as God desires to do for each one of us. Furthermore, since Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard can effectively model for us a significant depth of personal authenticity, we can relate to them as real persons–especially since their writings give evidence that they have pondered life’s challenges in light of their evolving relationship with Christ. For “at the heart of Christianity, the Christian believer confidently expects to find religious experience: an existential encounter in faith with his [or her] God … Moreover, religious experience is not an esoteric event but a dimension of his [or her] ordinary living.” (4)

Since the writers in the Christian tradition generally offer their spiritual guidance primarily through the legacy of their classic spiritual texts, the work of this essay revolves around the textual settings offered by The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola and Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard as a way for us to tap into the rich legacies of both of these spiritual guides. The motivating questions of interest in working with excerpts from their selected texts in the context of spiritual formation can be formulated as follows: First, what is their main message regarding the essence of spiritual formation in each of their texts? Second, how might they offer guidance to contemporary spiritual seekers who desire spiritual formation in Christ? Third, what might be the experience of contemporary spiritual seekers who may look to Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard as spiritual guides through accessing their spiritual texts, The Spiritual Exercises and Renovation of the Heart, respectively? Each of their texts reveals a working document, not simply a text to be read and put aside, particularly since The Spiritual Exercises and Renovation of the Heart are both written in such a way as to invite the reader into a clear response filled with discernment flowing from a desire to embody the teachings of Christ. In particular, their texts have the potential for offering a significant blueprint for guiding spiritual seekers toward fuller and more explicit expression of their spiritual longings. Thus, it may be accurately asserted that Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard have the capacity to be relevant, applicable, inspirational, and devotional as they function as spiritual guides via their classic texts that are intended to be, as Willard effectively asserts, “intensely practical.” (5)


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Looker, Catherine


Looker, Catherine. “‘Living with the Lord always before them’: considerations of spiritual guidance offered by Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard.” Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care 3.2 (2010): 181+. Academic OneFile. Web. 9 June 2013.
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