Of course, not all that is considered ‘secular’ (or for that matter, ‘sacred’!) is of God or leads to God, and Ignatius was well aware of that. His reflection on his own experiences, as well as the learning he received, led to his writing of the Spiritual Exercises, the first version of these being drawn up while in Manresa. In these, he passes on what he learnt himself about ‘discernment of spirits’ or movements within the heart, and the necessity to stand in freedom and balance before all created things, so as to be able to make good choices that lead us to living the life for which we were created: a life of love and service to God and the world.
When his planned pilgrimage to Jerusalem did not work out as he had hoped, Ignatius returned to Spain and began to study, so as to be able to ‘help souls’. He came to realise that he would encounter God wherever he was present and labouring in his creation. Companions joined Ignatius in his venture, still desirous to make the Jerusalem pilgrimage, but when this became impossible, they travelled together to Rome to put themselves at the service of the Pope. The reason for this was that they recognised that he had a wider vision of the needs of the Church, and so would be better able to send them where the need was greatest. Ignatius was persuaded by Pope Paul III that the wider world was a ‘true and good Jerusalem’- his self-image as ‘pilgrim’ was thus expanded beyond the limits of his original desire. In this way, the Society of Jesus was founded in 1540. The fledgling Society soon grew in numbers, and sent on mission throughout the world. They remained united through their Vow of Obedience to their Superior General, the first of whom was Ignatius himself. Ironically, Ignatius himself spent the last years of his life largely at his desk in Rome, writing the Constitutions of the Society, and keeping in touch with those whom he sent out on mission.