A great love of God, and desire to do good, an attitude of openness to all good works, a freedom to refer all to God, and a readiness to follow the way of justice and sincerity in lightness of spirit: this is the charism that Mary Ward desired to shine through all our words and works.IBVM Constitutions 1.11
We have as our inspiration Mary Ward and her Companions. This intrepid pilgrim of the 17th century is a woman for our times, a woman of immense courage and great love.
As a young woman desiring to put God at the center of her life and respond to his call, Mary Ward was introduced to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. These became foundational for her spirituality. The Exercises offered her a way to contemplate the life of Jesus, grow in intimacy with him, and discern the way forward for herself and her Institute.
At the heart of Mary Ward’s spirituality is friendship with Jesus which gives meaning, inner peace, and real joy in life and expresses itself in loving action and service. She realized that the way forward for her Institute was not in the enclosure but in living the Gospel message in daily life by attending to the needs of her times. In 1611, she was given the insight to ‘take the same of the Society’, that is the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) founded by St. Ignatius. Mission in response to God’s love was at the heart of her way of life and that of her Institute.
I had no other desire than to give myself over in all these difficulties and place myself with these uncertainties into the hands of God.Mary Ward
Mary Ward wrote of the freedom she found ‘to refer all to God’ in what is known as ‘ The Just Soul.’ She described this interior knowledge and intimacy with God as ‘a fountain and best disposition for a soul to be in’. Her spirituality is grounded in God’s love for each person and seeks to impart an integral sense of sincerity and justice, freedom and joy. It is her own understanding of living the Ignatian way of ‘finding God in all things.’
Painted Life (pictured right) © Congregatio Jesu Mitteleuropäische Provinz, München. Foto: Studio Tanner, Nesselwang.
Mary Ward brought a feminine perception and expression to Ignatian spirituality that opened up to women the radical insight of how to wholeheartedly embrace the life and mission of the Church. Her spirituality is one of relatedness, wholeness, and finely tuned awareness to the inner movements of the Spirit so that people will make a difference for good wherever they can apply their particular gift. From this living encounter with Jesus, we continue to embody her vision to this day.
‘The true children of this company shall accustom themselves to act not out of fear, but solely from love, because we are called by God to a vocation of love.’Mary Ward