Photo from Facebook.

What is Ignation Prayer/Contemplation

What is Ignation Prayer/Contemplation

Fr. James Martin & Krista Tippett discuss an imaginative form of scripture reading called Ignation Contemplation, and mention a few other Ignation Spiritual practices.
Sermon length:
Topic Tags:
Fr. James Martin | On Being

This starter begins at 11 minutes and ends at 16:20, but you can listen from the beginning to get a fuller picture of James Martin.


MS. TIPPETT: So how would you begin to talk about the distinctives of Ignatian spirituality?

FR. MARTIN: Probably the shortest way of describing it is finding God in all things.

FR. MARTIN: And the idea is that God is not simply to be found in our prayer life, which is very important, or in worship services and Mass or in reading the Bible. All those are important and at the center of that kind of spirituality. But in your daily life, in your relationships, in your work, in the emotions that come up, in those moments that you see a sunset and you say, “My gosh that’s so beautiful. Why am I feeling like this?” Or you see an infant for the first time, like your niece or your nephew or your son or your daughter or granddaughter or grandson, and you say, “My gosh, where are these feelings coming from?” And these are ways that God has of communicating with us through our daily lives in all things.

And then the second way we look at it is being a contemplative in action. So, we’re not monks. We Jesuits are not monks. We’re out in the world. And yet we have that contemplative stance towards everything, so that every moment is an invitation to encounter the living God who wants to encounter us. So it’s a beautiful spirituality. It’s very kind of spacious, and it fits people, and it’s user-friendly.

I’m directing a young man through The Spiritual Exercises right now, and it’s wonderful to see how his life is changing. And I have other people who are spiritual directees, as they’re called in the trade, and it’s just beautiful to see. That’s Ignatius’s great gift to the world. The Jesuits’ great gift is not our schools and our high schools, as wonderful as they are. It’s Ignatian spirituality and The Spiritual Exercises. So, it’s life changing.

MS. TIPPETT: Like, for somebody who’d never experienced it, there’s this imaginative, visual aspect, which is very accessible.

FR. MARTIN: Yeah, so the kind of prayer you’re talking about is often called Ignatian contemplation, or Ignatius calls it “composition of place.” And it’s using your imagination to place yourself within a scripture scene and to see what comes up by way of emotions or feelings or desires. And it can be very transformative. So for example, you take a simple passage like the storm at sea, Jesus calming the storm at sea.

You would ask the person, on your own or maybe in a guided meditation, “Imagine yourself on the boat with Jesus. What do you see, first of all? What’s the boat look like? What do the disciples look like? What’s Jesus look like? What do you hear? What are the waves like? What do you feel? You feel the cold water on your back? What do you smell? Is there a smell of fish? What do you experience in terms of like what you’re wearing?” And you basically trust that God’s going to be with you ‘cause God created your imagination, and it’s an entrée into experiencing God.

And you notice what happens. And oftentimes, not always, some pretty amazing things can come up. For example, you see Jesus asleep in the boat. And you start to realize, “Wow, why is he asleep? Doesn’t he care?” You might connect it with something in your own life. You know, “Why is Jesus asleep? Why does God not care about me right now?” You see him do the miracle and still the storm, and you say to yourself, Wow, that’s really beautiful. Are there times in my life where I was worried that God was asleep, and things worked out OK? Do I need to have more trust?”

So, those kinds of feelings can come up. Just something as simple as “I’m angry at God for being asleep” can lead you into an encounter with God or a conversation with God, which can be very healing for people. So, it’s not for everybody. Not everybody likes it. Some people like more content-less prayer like centering prayer, which is just kind of quiet. But it’s the primary way I pray, and for most people, it’s really transformative.

MS. TIPPETT: It’s kind of interesting as I hear you talking about it. It’s kind of like a contemplative, visual Christian form of midrash, right? Jewish midrash

FR. MARTIN: It is.

MS. TIPPETT: … which is about kind of reading between the lines in order to understand the words better.

FR. MARTIN: Well, also, yeah. You also notice things that you would have not noticed.


FR. MARTIN: I did a meditation with a group a year or two ago, and it was the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. And in one of the stories, where Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fishes and feeds the crowds, there’s a little boy who brings five barley loaves and two fish. And this one woman in this group I was facilitating said, “I never noticed that little boy.” She said, “I’ve read this story probably hundreds of times and heard it at Mass, and I never knew he was there.” And she said, “I spent time just looking at him and noticing how he was able to bring what little he had to Jesus.” And that was her insight.

I mean, I’ve been a Jesuit for 26 years now, and that’s happened to me dozens and dozens and dozens of times. And I’ve heard it in direction. And I’ve heard it from my other Jesuit brothers. And it’s astonishing. I mean, the gospels become your own. And it’s great. I mean, you feel like you get to know Jesus, and that’s the goal of Ignatian spirituality in the end.

[music: “Wonder” by Hauschka]


Gathering Agenda

Below is a sample summary and question that could be used for an in-person gathering. Or you can use it inspiration as you craft your own. You know your community best.  


Written by

Sample Questions


alsdfjlkasdjfasdlkfj asdlfjlasdjfdsf

Gathering Agenda 
🚧 under construction 🚧

This section is still being written. We are working on...

1) A 2-5 minute primer meant to bring new folks up to speed and refresh memories.

2) A handful of carefully selected questions to get your community talking.

Click below to see a completed Gathering Agenda.

Sample Agenda

Sample Questions


alsdfjlkasdjfasdlkfj asdlfjlasdjfdsf


lasjdf alksdjf alsdkjflka;sdj fkdlaslfkjsd


This is some text inside of a div block.