Today, being the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the benefits that Ignatian prayer can bring to young people. According to IgnatianSpirituality.com, Ignatian prayer is imaginative, reflective, and personal—three characteristics that are crucial aspects of the spirituality of children.
- Imaginative—Children are the masters of imagination! Left to their own devices, children find ways to entertain themselves using their limitless imaginations. But children today, more than ever, need to be encouraged to develop their imaginations. Ignatian prayer places great emphasis on the power of the imagination to deepen our relationship with God. One of the principal forms of Ignatian prayer is imaginative reflection on scenes from the Gospels. In this form of prayer, children are invited to become participants in a Gospel scene, using their imaginations to create a context in which they encounter Jesus.
- Reflective—We do not live in a reflective society. And yet, reflection is key to our relationship with God, who is Mystery. Children have an innate ability to reflect, and they need to be provided the time and space to develop this capacity, getting in touch with their thoughts, imaginings, emotions, desires, and fears. Ignatian prayer is not just about speaking words to the heavens—it is about carving out reflective space where, in the midst of silence, one may encounter God within.
- Personal—One of the reasons that young people give up the practice of their faith after Confirmation is because they have not developed an affective relationship with Jesus Christ. Ignatian prayer seeks to develop an intimate and personal relationship with the Lord. St. Ignatius said that prayer should resemble “one friend speaking to another.” Children need to know that they are not alone and that God is near to them through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
The most effective and practical Ignatian prayers for young people are the daily Examen and guided reflections. Here is an example of a guided reflection by my friend and colleague Vinita Hampton Wright, based on the story of the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Finding God’s recorded guided reflections lead children into prayerful encounters with Jesus.
Happy Feast of St. Ignatius!