In the winter 2014 edition of Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, in his article "Mind and Heart: Toward an Ignatian Spirituality of Study," Nicholas Austin, S.J., asks, "[I]s it possible to see study as a spiritual experience? Because of what Ignatius has taught us in the Rules for Discernment, it is relatively easy to notice, name, and talk about the experiences of consolation and desolation in prayer. At least, this is a skill which Ignatian people learn, with help from spiritual direction. Yet how can one name one’s experiences of consolation and desolation in study?"
To address this question, Austin turns to a writer recently addressed at this blog: Simon Weil. Austin writes:
It helps to note here that the effort to cultivate our ability to be truly focused on a single field of attention, whether that be listening to a person intently, studying a difficult text, or even paying attention to God in prayer, is not merely a means to greater productivity or effectiveness, but is a “Spiritual Exercise” in the full meaning of that term. No one has expressed this insight more pertinently than Simone Weil in her classic essay, “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.” She begins with this striking statement: “The key to a Christian conception of studies is the realization that prayer consists of attention.”
For more of Austin's insightful essay on an Ignatian spirituality of study, click here.