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James Martin, S.J.March 23, 2011

A great Jesuit spiritual master died yesterday morning.  Fr. David L. Fleming, S.J., was the longtime editor of the journal “Review for Religious,” the author of a contemporary translation of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, called Draw Me Into Your Friendship (of inestimable help to English-speaking followers of Ignatius), and more recently the author of a concise book called What is Ignatian Spirituality?  (That recent book is free online here on Loyola Press’s website.) 

Dave was a beloved Jesuit in the Missouri Province and beyond, and a generous man.  The obituary published by the Missouri Province noted, “When Dave was first diagnosed with cancer, doctors told him that there was no cure they could offer him yet asked if he would take experimental drugs that might provide helpful information for the treatment of cancer victims in the future. Dave agreed to these experimental treatments despite the discomfort and pain that often accompanying them. Even in his dying he gave of himself to others.”

His book Draw Me Into Your Friendship is a marvel: a translation into modern terms of the Spiritual Exercises, which stands side-by-side on the page with St. Ignatius’s original text.  In this way one can appropriate, deepen or explain some concepts that might prove difficult for the modern retreatant without sacrificing any of Ignatius’s original intent.  As a director, it is an invaluable resource.  Dave was also incredibly generous to me in my writing, and helped to deepen my understanding of Ignatian.  One quick example, among many...

When I was working on my book The Jesuit Guide, I sent him a copy of an early manuscript for his review.  At one point, I was discussing of the elusive concept of the “magis,” an important Ignatian idea.  I had written that the magis meant the best, the highest, the most that we can do for God.  This is what I had thought since my novitiate.  Not so, wrote Dave in a wonderful aside that I included in the book.  The magis is comparative, he explained.  The more, not the most.  The greater not the greatest. 

“Ignatius never works with superlatives,” wrote Dave.  “When we want to do the best, we may get frozen.  If we want to do what might be better, we might be able to choose.”

David Fleming, who lived the magis for God is now, we pray, united with the One to whom he worked so hard to bring others.  R.I.P.

James Martin, SJ


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Paul Howard
10 years 10 months ago
As a member of the class of '75-'76, Institute of Religious Formation, Saint Louis University, Dave brought us clarity and maturity with his lectures in theology, in the decade post-Vatican II.  I always remember his great quote when citing a topical bibliography of great writers and commentators. ''You have a feeling that this or that person has not prayed through this concept enough.''
Marie Pickard
10 years 10 months ago
We have lost a wonderful pillar in the Ignatian Spirituality community. It was always a blessing to hear him speak. I'll miss him at the conference this summer. Rest in Peace Fr Fleming. 
10 years 10 months ago

God rests his soul.   Thank you Fr. Martin for including Fr. Fleming's clarification of St. Ignatius' concept of "magis"..... more, not the most; greater, not the greatest.  It makes a lot of difference in our striving to practice the Beatitudes.
Thomas Nolan
10 years 10 months ago
His warmth and kindness were a gift to so many - always accompanied by a delightful sense of humor.  So glad America is recognizing him
Crystal Watson
10 years 10 months ago
I'm sorry to hear this.  I've been reading his online book about Ignatian spirituality and think it's really good.
david power
10 years 10 months ago
I had sworn off buying anymore spiritual books as I already have an arsenal that any seminary would envy , but this has piqued my interest. Any Jesuit who has managed to shed light on the Spiritual Exercises is a slamdunk for the Mansion . God accept him, and may he intercede for us and help us in our discoveries. 
Mary Keane
10 years 10 months ago
Sorry to hear this news, but it called to mind my lingering doubt that Jesuits ever really pass away, being busy with so much work and the like.  In any event, my spiritual director had me read Draw Me Into Your Friendship before beginning the complete exercises.  So while I never met Fleming, his work (and merciful translation and interpretation) influenced me.  Condolences to those who were close to him.  A loss for all. 
Elia Cuomo
10 years 6 months ago
I first used Father's book, Draw Me Into Your Friendship, before I made the Spiritual Exercises for Everyday Life for the first time.  His insight, clarity and beautiful language made Ignatius' writing modern and easy to understand.  Thank you Father David for your generosity and contribution to my spiritual growth. May God have you resting on His bosom today.

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