Jesuit missionaries to Canada.
We go in by their door, in order to come out by ours.
Enter Through Their Door: Reflecting on the Ignatian Spirit of Collaboration

March 1, 2017 - by Henry Frank

(During this Lenten season, we are taking time to reflect on some of the values that are fundamental both to the Ignatian life and to our organization. We will take a look at spirituality, spiritual direction, collaboration, leadership, and mission, focusing on how these values are understood in the Ignatian tradition.)

Collaboration is at the heart of the Ignatian mission. 

As a buzz word, “collaboration” is familiar to most of us. The word is plastered on ads for the latest cloud services or project management apps, right beside “efficiency” and “innovation.” But familiarity sometimes breeds vagueness, so let’s clarify its meaning in relation to the Ignatian life. 

To some extent, the intended meaning is straightforward. Glance at the history of Jesuit missions around the world, and you discover no shortage of examples of Jesuits collaborating with kings and queens, governments and politicians, business people, merchants, other cultures, and other religious traditions in service to their mission. That fact alone, that Ignatius encouraged his followers to be savvy, is not particularly profound – it’s good business practice for an effective organization. 

“Resourcefulness” is a bit closer to an Ignatian definition, but it lacks the sense of a genuine encounter that Ignatius has in mind. He said about Jesuit missionary activity, “We go in by their door, in order to come out by ours.” As we begin to grasp the depth of this statement and what it demands of us, we come to understand what true Ignatian collaboration means. 

We ought to start by taking Ignatius at his word – he is not endorsing guile or duplicity. He earnestly encourages his followers to “go in by their door”, fully aware of the vulnerability and imagination necessary for that kind of collaboration. 

Ignatian collaboration, therefore, requires honesty both with ourselves and with our partners – the type of honesty that comes from self-reflection. We must be attentive to the movements of the Spirit in our lives. We must listen to the people God puts in our lives, discover their challenges as well as their strengths, and engage them in their own space. For individuals, this entails more listening than speaking. For organizations, it requires that they analyze studiously the needs they seek to address, before offering solutions. Once we fully understand the circumstances, we can begin to imagine a way forward. 

Ignatius expects that entering through “their door” will change us, if we do it honestly. He expects his followers to dress, think, speak, and act differently as a result. He probably would not have guessed, for example, that 75 years after his death, his followers would paddle up the St. Lawrence river in birch bark canoes, dressed in beaver pelts for warmth, and preaching the Gospel to Algonquin boys in their own language – but it certainly would not have surprised him. 

Of course, the change wrought by Ignatian collaboration is not absolute. Collaboration is done with a purpose, and not for its own sake. The goal of missionary activity, after all, is to spread the Gospel – hence, “…in order to come out by our door.” 

Imagination is the companion of this type of honest encounter. What it looks like differs with circumstances, but the object remains the same. Can we imagine, can we see, how God is calling us to spread the Gospel among those around us? Have we listened to the needs of our brothers and sisters, and are we brave enough to enter through their door? Are we prepared for the arduous task of working together for a better church and a better world? 

Each of us may answer these questions differently, but all of us have an opportunity during this Lenten season to reflect on our own work and recognize the people with whom God is calling us to collaborate. 

It is trite to say that we can make a difference together, but Ignatius believed it. Our challenge is to summon the courage to be vulnerable and the creativity to imagine what it looks like to “come out by our door.”

Recent News

The Office of Ignatian Spirituality and the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College are pleased to offer a workshop for spiritual directors on April 21, 2018. This is third in OIS's series of professional development workshops for spiritual directors. Registration is now open!

On Sunday, Feb. 25, the OIS Hispanic Ministry hosted “Reconnecting with Ignatius,” a day-long program for graduates of the School of Igantian Spirituality (the “Escuela”), which was previously offered at the Loyola Jesuit Center in Morristown, New Jersey.

OIS is seeking an advancement professional to assist the Communications and Advancement Manager with the organization’s growing communications and development operation. This is a part-time position (approx. 10 hours per week) and is performed remotely on a flexible schedule with occasional local or regional commitments.

Rev. Dennis McNally, SJ, is a Jesuit artist who has directed more than a hundred individuals through the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life (19th Annotation). His paintings have become a way of praying, and he offers them for your consideration.

This past Saturday, the Hispanic Ministry of the Office of Ignatian Spirituality facilitated the first session of the School of Ignatian Spirituality (the “Escuela”) at St. Ignatius Parish in Chestnut Hill, MA. Seventeen people attended this day-long formation session, which focused on Ignatian forms of prayer.

When a man answers God’s call to join the Society of Jesus, he begins the process of Jesuit formation, an almost 500-year-old tradition -- adapted to today’s needs.

Merry Christmas from the Office of Ignatian Spirituality! Today we begin our celebration of this most joyful season.

view all news

Search news


"Jesuits" Magazine: Winter 2017

OIS Catalog of Spiritual Directors - Process

Jesuits Magazine Summer 2017

Bellarmine Retreat Center
Bellarmine Retreat Center is located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains by the Appalachian Trail on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. It is scheduled to close on Labor Day 2018.