Counsels of the Holy Spirit: A Reading of Saint Ignatius’s Letters

by Patrick C. Goujon, SJ Translated by Joseph Munitiz, SJ

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.



The author, Patrick C. Goujon, is a professor of Spirituality and Theology at Centre Sevres and has Jesuit Faculties in Paris. He shows that through an examination of his letters that Ignatius really wanted to give scope to his correspondents and to their awareness of the work of the Holy Spirit within them. With the help of the translator Joseph Munitiz, SJ he offers a careful reading which reveals how conversations between those seeking spiritual succor and their advisor who can facilitate the process while enriching the spiritual journey.


The reader is shown how Ignatius deals with decision-making and with obstacles in the spiritual life. He is also revealed giving encouragement and correction and he advises the reader how to offer these to others. Ignatius’s aim is to help people grow in freedom which, in turn, permits them to live according to God’s will. Through his letters, the reader is allowed to enter not only Ignatius’s study but also the famous camerata in Rome while touching the hearts of all.


The author states: “The question that runs throughout this book arises from the tension between Ignatius Loyola’s fundamental conviction that it is God who communicates with persons, and his own desire to aid souls and to bring about mediation between God and individuals. Ignatius’s faith in God’s primary action, which precedes the desire someone might have to find the right way, sets the rules for his own help. He believes that it is always preferable for him to encourage the immediate relationship between God and his creature. It is for this reason that Ignatius has stood out as a spiritual master, who use his word and his wisdom to encourage and initiate that relationship with God. His counsel sets one of the right road for listening to the Spirit. He removes snares, strengthens the onward progress and opens up possibilities. However, the counselor sets himself limits. His skill lies in refusing to occupy completely the space opened up by an appeal for help. This restrain is especially evident in the letters, where the counselor requires his correspondent to practice patience in waiting for an answer and in looking to God alone for consolation. Such at least appears to be Ignatius’s strategy: not only does he emphasize the preeminent position of God in any giving of counsel, but he organizes his writing of letters on this theological presupposition.”


Ignatius was quite convinced that God provides us with the means to cooperate in his desire to save us; we can discover that he does not abandon us and grants us what we need to live our lives. But this gift requires an apprenticeship; and to begin at the most basic level, it is to know how to converse with those of like mind. In most cultures, there is someone or other who is more listened to. We approach the old and the wise in order to find our right place, without that discovery coming either from ourselves or from the master. The word of Ignatius was to allow those who sought his help to find in themselves how to delve down and become aware of that silent but vivifying heartbeat, the Spirit who urges and supports.” Anyone interested in Ignatian spirituality will read this book – it is challenging and transforming. Your life will be changed in reading this book.