Free & Fit Reflection - Ignatian Faith, Fitness & Formation by Tim Cheux

Free & Fit Reflection - Ignatian Faith, Fitness & Formation by Tim Cheux

This reflection will discuss who Saint Ignatius was, how the ethos of Ignatian Prayer relates to Sport and how Sport and Ignatian Spirituality can be compatible missionary focused bedfellows.

The context of this assignment will be on contemplative fitness and sports related meditations similar to a secular Yoga, Pilates or Exercise meditation, but with a Christian and Jesuit focus.

Who was Saint Ignatius?

Saint Ingnatius was an Irish Jesuit who, when he first became a Catholic convert, decided to try and build a faith and formational practice which would support those, who like himself, could not relate to traditional Catholic Spiritual Christian practices. Saint Ignatius was somebody who felt it was okay to recognize the difficulties of life confidently in awareness and understanding of Gods grace. Actively trusting and living out his faith, with appropriate prayers practices, which were considered by the Church of his day to be heretical, was essential for Saint Ignatius to discover best practice of how to discern, make practical life decisions and reading his Bible in more creative, innovative and deeper spiritual ways than ever before.

Saint Ignatius was so excited about his new found faith that he wanted to help others establish theirs as well. Ignatius wanted to share the reason why he had hope for the future. To teach others how to be Christian and how it was possible, to find accessible prayers and make them appropriate and applicable to ordinary everyday life. In his time Saint Ignatius prayers, including the Spiritual Exercises, were unknown and unrecognized by the Church. This ultimately led to his pursuit of ordination, theological education and seminary study. Much like the author of this paper, Saint Ignatius impactful work happened before his academic studies and was to enter seminary later in life at thirty seven years old.

We open in prayer to describe his life through a collect dedicated to his own Saints Day:

“Almighty God, who called Ignatius of Loyola to the service of your Divine Majesty and to seek you in all things; Give us also the grace to labor without counting the cost and to seek no reward other than knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen. (Feast of Saint Ignatius, Accessed: Hoboken 2021).

Why does Ignatian Spirituality relate to Sports or Fitness?

The most significant Ignatian Spiritual leader of our day is the first Jesuit Pope St Francis. On reflection of this summers Olympics Pope Francis commented on how Sport and Spirituality can have a positive influence together.

“Indeed, the practice of sport stimulates one to healthily overcome oneself and one’s own selfishness and to train oneself in the spirit of sacrifice and … promotes loyalty in interpersonal relationships, friendship, and respect for rules (Ignatian Spirituality, Accessed: Hoboken, NJ. 2021).

The combination of Sport and Spirituality can be reflected through the Olympic ethos of the five core Olympic Values which mirror that of Christian values. In Luke 6: 27-28 Jesus is recorded as saying:

But I say to you who hear [Me and pay attention to My words]: Love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, [make it a practice to] do good to those who hate you, 28 bless and show kindness to those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28).