Academic journal article Theological Studies

Ignacio Ellacuria and the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Ignacio Ellacuria and the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola

Article excerpt

TRAGICALLY, IGNACIO ELLACURIA first became widely known among North American theologians because of his murder at the hands of the Salvadoran military in the early morning hours of November 16, 1989.(1) To be sure, his philosophical and theological texts merit careful attention on their own terms, as doubtlessly would have become apparent even had he not been assassinated.(2) Painful as the facts are, the disturbing reality of his death is nonetheless an appropriate avenue into the thought of a man who persistently argued for a creative integration of theory and praxis, of faith (together with its intellectual auxiliary, theology) and work for justice. He strove to live this integration in his own work as a philosopher and theologian, as a university administrator, and as a political mediator in a protracted and vicious civil war. He was murdered for his work in the latter two roles, but it is important to see their continuity with the first two.

The tenth anniversary of Ellacuria's death will see the publication of a number of reflections on his life and work.(3) My own article aims to show how Ellacuria integrated two dimensions of Christian faith that modernity tends to sunder: spirituality and theology. As David Tracy has noted, this bifurcation is integrally related to modernity's other dualisms, especially that between theory and praxis.(4) Thus, shedding light on the way that Ellacuria integrated spirituality and theology can contribute to an understanding of his attempts to overcome other divisions that plague Christian life and thought today. Moreover, approaching his thought from this angle has the advantage of seeing Ellacuria as a Jesuit, as one who lived, worked, and wrote from a profound engagement with Ignatian spirituality. Finally, it can help us to understand how spirituality can be an integral and formative factor in contemporary theology.

That Ignatius's spiritual heritage has inspired generations of creative theological work is beyond doubt. Ignatian spirituality has had a significant impact on contemporary theology in the past century, mediated by figures such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Henri de Lubac, Karl Rahner, and Hans Urs von Balthasar.(5) My goal here is to show that Ellacuria should be added to this list. My thesis is that Ignacio Ellacuria is an important figure in the Ignatian theological tradition because his philosophical and theological work gave systematic conceptual elaboration to a stance toward history and being-in-history that is located in the depth-structure of Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises. I offer first a brief discussion of what is meant by an Ignatian theological tradition. I then determine Ellacuria's interpretation of the Exercises and argue that this interpretation offers a key for understanding Ellacuria's philosophical and theological project. Finally, I conclude with some general reflections on the dimension of Ignatian spirituality that most influenced Ellacuria's philosophy and theology.


Ignatius of Loyola was not a professional theologian, and no one theology corresponds to his spirituality. As Avery Dulles has written: "the Ignatian paradigm, while it gives a basic horizon, does not dictate any particular set of theological theses. A variety of competing theologies, bound together by a loose family resemblance, can all legitimately claim, in one way or another, to be Ignatian."(6) In Dulles's view, what binds and distinguishes this family of theologies is the way that its various members negotiate that set of dialectical tensions that are so integrally woven together in Ignatius's spirituality.

In the Spiritual Exercises themselves there seems to be an inbuilt tension between immediacy and mediation, between personal freedom and obedience, between universalism and ecclesiocentrism, between horizontal openness to the world and reverence for the sacred and the divine. Some theologians, such as Teilhard de Chardin and Rahner, put greater emphasis on immediacy to God, personal freedom and universalism; others, like de Lubac and Balthasar, especially in their later work, insist more on ecclesial mediation, sacramentality and obedience. …

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