The Jesuit order was established in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola, a Basque courtier who experienced a religious conversion when he was 30 years old.1 Believing that God is active in history, Ignatius developed a method for discovering and responding to God's presence in all things in his work The Spiritual Exercises. The experience of the Exercises lies at the heart of Jesuit spirituality. It "represents the central meaning of what it means to be a Jesuit... bringing people to God and experiencing the love of God."2
Ignatius developed a spirituality that wedded faith to intellect in new ways. He learned through his own spiritual development and education that study could be a form of prayer, an act of love of God. Many previous religious orders directed their members to find God in contemplation in the monastery. Ignatius and his companions who founded the order were "contemplatives in action" and sought God in and through all things. They learned to be part of the world, not apart from it.