13 December 2006

Ignatius of Loyola and John Wesley

Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491 and died in 1556. He was a contemporary of Martin Luther and had his dramatic conversion at about the same time that Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. The religious society that Ignatius founded (Society of Jesus - Jesuits) pledged its loyalty to the Pope, who Ignatius sincerely regarded as the Vicar of Christ on Earth. Clearly Ignatius was no Protestant!

John Wesley was born in 1703 and died in 1791. He was an Anglican clergyman and the son of an Anglican clergyman. Although credited with being the Father of Methodism, he did not set out to found a new denominantion. His interest was rather in a spiritual revival within the Church of England and bringing the message of the Gospel to those who were not readily able to hear it - especially the poor (who were normally not welcomed in churches).

In my opinion, Ignatius and Wesley had broad commonalities in their ministries. Both were passionate about God and Christ, both were passionate about living lives dedicated to discipleship and service, both were concerned with the development of people's prayer lives and both were concerned about practical help for the poor.

I also think that both men were "reformers" in the broad sense of the word - calling the Church of their time out of an institutionalised religion and into genuine service. Both were absolutely passionate about what Catholics term "Apostolic Ministry" and what Protestants term "The Social Gospel".

I love both St. Ignatius' prayer of commitment and John Wesley's covenant prayer. I'm not the first to spot the similarities, but one has to wonder whether Wesley's prayer was influenced by Ignatius' prayer. Or perhaps both prayers simply sprang spontaneously from the commitment that these two men felt for God?

No comments: