The Ignatian Year XIV: Cura Personalis

The Latin phrase cura personalis translates as “care for the entire person.”  And, although we may speak about it less frequently than we do things like finding God in all things and the need for a personal encounter with Christ, cura personalis is an important element of Ignatian spirituality.

The term cura personalis was not used by Ignatius or other early Jesuits.  I read that it was first used in a 1934 letter from the then Superior General of the Society of Jesus in the context of Jesuit higher education, speaking of the need to provide personal care for students that looks beyond intellectual learning to the development of the faculties of the whole person. 

Although early discussion of the phrase seems to have been limited to the context of Jesuit education, in 2007, Superior General Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach gave a speech to an international workshop on Ignatian Spirituality titled Spiritual Accompaniment in the Ignatian Tradition. In that talk he defined cura personalis as not only a central element in Jesuit education, but also as “a characteristic of spiritual accompaniment.” While he may have had in mind the proper relationship between retreatants making the Spiritual Exercises and their spiritual directors, the term has come to be understood more broadly.

Cura personalis thus includes respecting the dignity of each person as a loved child of God and a concern for the personal development and well being of the entire person – mind, body and spirit. This implies a focus on meeting people where they are and giving them what they need.

And, since we are to love others as ourselves, it also means love and care for one’s own well being. Some of us need a reminder that we can’t serve God and others if we don’t also take time for self-care.

Note that this is a the fourteenth in a series of posts in celebration of the Ignatian Year, which began on May 20 of this year.