Just Soul Experience

Mary Ward is given an illumination or vision of a “just soul of indescribable beauty.” From this she gains an understanding of the qualities needed by those who would serve in her Institute. - Detail from the Painted Life No. 25Mary Ward is given an illumination or vision of a “just soul of indescribable beauty.” From this she gains an understanding of the qualities needed by those who would serve in her Institute. - Detail from the Painted Life No. 25While on retreat, and towards the end of completing the full Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius in 1615, Mary Ward received the last of the three significant illuminations that shaped her spirituality and her Institute.

The first, in London in 1609, revealed that the ultimate purpose of her still unknown work was the glory of God.

The second in 1611 pointed the road or the path to that goal: “Take the same as the Society”, (the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits).

The third illumination was received while on retreat in 1615. While Mary was at prayer, she received an illumination or vision of “a just soul of indescribable beauty”, a soul free from hampering earthly attachments, utterly committed to truth (“verity”), disposed and ready for every good work that served God and neighbour. Through this experience, Mary gained a great clarity about the qualities necessary for those with a vocation to her Institute. Mary Ward wanted those who were to serve in her Institute to strive for this state of openness to God that had been revealed to her, a state characterized by sincerity (truthfulness or integrity), justice and freedom.