Glossary of Ignatian Terms

Glossary of Ignatian Terms and Phrases


Ad maiorem Dei gloriam

Often abbreviated "AMDG", a Latin phrase meaning “for the greater glory of God.” It is the motto of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and is attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola.


Apostolic Preferences

See the Universal Apostolic Preferences page.


Arrupe, Pedro

Spanish Jesuit and 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus (1965–83). He witnessed the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan and led the Society immediately after the Second Vatican Council. He emphasized the importance of the service of faith and the promotion of justice in Jesuit apostolates and founded the Jesuit Refugee Service in 1980 in response to the plight of displaced persons worldwide.


Catholic Intellectual Tradition

Refers to both a set of works and a way of viewing and approaching the world that reflects the Catholic imagination and intellect. As summarized by Monika Hellwig, this way of approaching knowledge (and the search for it) is characterized by: a commitment to the continuity and compatibility of faith and reason; a respect for the cumulative wisdom of the past; inclusivity and non-elitism; an acknowledgement of the communal nature of human life and action; emphasis on education as including integration of character, wisdom, and discernment; a recognition that the transcendent is mediated through material reality, and the accompanying sacramental imagination that sees all created things as potential windows to truth. To learn more, see this resource from Dr. Hellwig at Sacred Heart University.



In the teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola, spiritual consolation and spiritual desolation are two states that may be either intellectual or emotional (or both). Consolation refers to a movement toward God and is characterized by an increase in faith, hope, and/or genuine love of God, self, and others. Desolation is the opposite movement, and is characterized by fear, despair or discouragement, and/or selfishness. For more about these concepts, click here. See also discernment.


Constitutions of the Society of Jesus

The founding and guiding document for the Society of Jesus, written by St. Ignatius of Loyola and adopted in 1533. Learn more in the Documents and Speeches section.


Contemplative in action

Shortened translation of “contemplative at the same time as in action” (contemplativus simul in actione). St. Ignatius promoted a spiritual practice for busy, active people who continually reflect on the relevance of what they do in terms of their purpose in life. The term conveys the concept of the using the imagination as well as clear thinking when striving for what is perceived as a greater good.


Cura personalis

Latin phrase meaning “care of the person.” Characteristic of Jesuit education that recognizes the individuality of each person and seeks to integrate all aspects of that individuality: intellectual, aesthetic, moral, spiritual, affective, physical, and social.


Dignity of the human person

A foundational principle of the Catholic social and intellectual tradition. This principle affirms that every human person possesses dignity and worth and should be afforded respect and just treatment, including the material means necessary for human flourishing. More about this principle of Catholic social teaching is available here.



Process of making decisions in a context of faith, seeking to choose what is better rather than what is less good. See also discernment of spirits and consolation/desolation.


Discernment of Spirits

A process described by St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises that involves reflection and evaluation of desires, impulses, and other feelings when considering courses of action. This reflection allows the discerner to identify movements of consolation or desolation and respond accordingly. 


Eloquentia Perfecta

Latin phrase meaning “perfect eloquence”; derived from the 1599 Ratio Studiorum, it refers to the goal of Jesuit education to produce students who are capable of writing, speaking, and communicating for the common good.



Also sometimes called the “Consciousness Examen” or “Examination of Consciousness” (not to be confused with the “examination of conscience” that may precede the Sacrament of Reconciliation), the Examen is a method of peaceful daily prayer taught by St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises as a way to notice the presence of God in one’s daily life and to live in generous response to it. More about the Examen and several variations for specific circumstances are available at our Examen page.


Finding God in all things

Foundational, graced insight received by Ignatius after his mystical experience at Manresa. It has become a summary statement of Ignatian spirituality: the conviction that God and the sacred may be found in all things, in all persons, and in all circumstances.


General Congregation

The highest legislative body of the Society of Jesus, consisting of representatives from Jesuits around the world. These gatherings elect new superior generals when needed and address major issues of importance to Jesuit work and life. There have been 36 General Congregations in the history of the Society of Jesus, most recently in 2016 to elect the current superior general, Arturo Sosa.



First three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek; appears as a symbol of Christ on the seal of the Society of Jesus.



A member of the Society of Jesus. The term “Jesuit” was initially used as a pejorative term in the order’s early years, but was soon adopted as a positive one by members and friends of the Society. See also Society of Jesus.


Kolvenbach, Peter-Hans

Dutch Jesuit and 29th superior general of the Society of Jesus (1983-2008). His legacy is particularly important for Jesuit universities due to a series of addresses that laid out a view of the purpose and goal of Jesuit education. Read more in our Documents and Speeches section.



Latin term for “more,” used by St. Ignatius and Jesuits throughout the centuries to indicate a spirit of generous service that is not quantitative and never competitive, but is qualitative, especially in terms of love that leads to service. A useful shorthand for this concept is “the more universal good.” For a helpful exploration of this term, read "What Magis Really Means and Why It Matters" by Barton T. Geger, S.J.



Town in northern Spain where St. Ignatius had a powerful spiritual experience that led to his writing the Spiritual Exercises and formulating his worldview of “God in all things.”


Martyrs of the Universidad Centroamericana

In November 1989, six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and their housekeeper’s daughter were assassinated at the Universidad Centroamericana “Jose Simeón Cañas” (UCA) in El Salvador by U.S.-trained special forces of the Salvadoran military. The Jesuits had been vocal in their advocacy for social justice in El Salvador and thus were targeted by government forces. In recognition of the sacrifice of the Jesuit martyrs and their companions and their witness for peace and justice, many Jesuit institutions commemorate their deaths each November. Learn more at the Ignatian Solidarity Network.


Men and women with and for others

Pedro Arrupe, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus (1965-81) delivered a speech to alumni of Jesuit schools in Europe in 1973. In it, he emphasized that the goal of a Jesuit education should be to form “men for others... people who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; people convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for human beings is a farce.” In more recent years, Arrupe's original phrasing has been amended to reflect the call of all persons to this goal, as well as the importance of solidarity (“with”) alongside service (“for”).


Nicolas, Adolfo

Spanish Jesuit and 30th superior general of the Society of Jesus (2008-2016).



Provinces are geographical regions that organize the governance of the Society of Jesus. Each is headed by a Provincial who is appointed by the Superior General of the Society. Loyola Marymount University is located in the Jesuits West Province, whose Provincial is Fr. Scott Santarosa, S.J.


Ratio Studiorum

Document published in 1599 consisting of directives for teachers, administrators, and other individuals working in Jesuit educational institutions. The Ratio Studiorum (“Plan of Studies”) forms the basis for the tradition of Jesuit and Ignatian pedagogy that continues to inspire and animate Jesuit education today. Read more at our Documents and Speeches page (link).


Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice 

Hallmark of the Jesuits’ ministry; it was formulated at their international meeting (General Congregation) in 1975. The same spirit is expressed in the documents of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary as “to know and love God and make God known and loved,” and in those of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange as “that all may be one.”


Society of Jesus

Catholic religious order of men founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola and a small group of companions. Today numbering just under 17,000 priests, brothers and scholastics, members of the Society of Jesus (“Jesuits”) are found in almost every country of the world. The "S.J." appearing after the name of vowed Jesuits stands for "Society of Jesus.” Learn more about the Jesuits.


Sosa, Arturo

Venezuelan Jesuit and 31st superior general of the Society of Jesus (2016-present).


Spiritual Exercises

An organized series of activities, reflections, meditations, and other methods of prayer composed by St. Ignatius as means of exploring the central aspects of Christian faith and especially the life of Jesus. The goal of the Spiritual Exercises is for the participant to attain spiritual freedom, clarity, and the capacity to act in accordance with God’s will out of love and service. The Exercises also describe a vision of the human person and flourishing that form the basis for many insights and principles of Ignatian spirituality. While the original formulation of the Spiritual Exercises was intended to be experienced over 30 full days, few persons today undertake a full 30 day retreat. Various adaptations of the Exercises are available, ranging from 10 months of daily reflection to weekend or week-long retreats. For more information about the Spiritual Exercises and how to experience them yourself, visit the Center for Ignatian Spirituality.





Want to know more about these terms, or have a question about a phrase or concept not listed here? Visit the Office of Mission and Ministry on the first floor of Xavier Hall to pick up a free copy of "Do You Speak Ignatian?", or email Katherine Brown at