Ecclesial Mysticism in the Spiritual Exercises: Two Notes on Ignatius, the Church, and Life in the Spirit

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A striking paradox confronts any attempt to assess the place of the Church in early Ignatian spirituality.* This spirituality has exerted an important influence upon the Church over the past centuries, yet paradoxically the reading of the Spiritual Exercises themselves, their meaning and their influence upon Catholic piety, has terminated in very different and mutually exclusive conclusions. Qn the one hand, so perceptive a philosopher of religion as Baron Friedrich von Hügel maintained that among the elements in authentic religion, the Jesuit heritage has placed its greatest weight upon the institutional, with the commensurate emphasis upon authority, submission, and obedience that emerges from such an orientation.1 On the other hand, so heavily has the individual and the ascetical been accented in the standard commentaries on the Exercises, maintained Burkhart Schneider, that one must take issue with Lilly Zarncke and any number of traditional commentators to protest as a counterthesis that the Exercises are deeply concerned with the Church, that they "are not exclusively concerned with the single human being and his or her personal destiny." Schneider pays tribute to Hugo Rahner who "brought back to awareness the complete meaning of the Exercises and especially the central place the Church occupies within them."2 Emphatically institutional or emphatically individualistic or something in between, what is the place occupied by the hierarchical or institutional Church in the Spiritual Exercises?