Praying with the 5 senses: the method of Saint Ignatius

Who has not been distracted in prayer by noises, visions, smells and other sensations… What if instead of trying to fight them, we transform them? Here you have four exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola to learn to pray with the five senses and savor the love of God

Who hasn’t experienced that deep desire to focus to connect with oneself and finally been overwhelmed by a wave of distractions?

Are banal but insistent, coming from the body, the imagination, external noises, smells or even the conversations of others…

The consequence? Discouraged, he begins to unconsciously treat his five senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste) as enemies of prayer. As if they were fit for contact with the everyday world but prevented contact with God.

The temptation is then to fight against them to get rid of them. Obviously, the result is worse: fighting nature is neither positive nor productive.

For Saint Ignatius of Loyola, prayer is an encounter of the whole man with God. Everything that has value in human nature is very precious when prayed for.

The five senses belong entirely to the nature of man, and nature is the way and the place of encounter with God.

For God, Saint Ignatius insists, the whole man is important. After all, God did not create us as angels, but as human beings: both corporal What spiritual. This is the precise reason not to turn away from the five senses during prayer.

On the contrary, it is fundamental to let the Holy Spirit transform and purify them through the Word of God.

Contemplate the scenes of the Gospel with the whole being

When you take the time to feel things, like looking at a beautiful landscape for a long time or making the music resonate within you after a concert, the experiences take on another dimension. This is stated by the Jesuit father François Marty, author of feel and taste (cerf):

“In the Gospel, we see Jesus participating in meals and parties as in Cana, admiring the lilies of the field. Jesus cries for his friend Lazarus, at another moment he exults with joy, finally, he allows himself to be touched by the sick that he meets.

When I take a scene from the Gospel, with my senses, I can see the scene, listen to the characters, feel their emotions, touch the leper with Christ, feel the wind of the storm with the disciples…

Contemplating a scene in this way allows me enter with my whole being and not just with my headwith my intelligence, like in a class assignment where you have to dissect a text to comment on it”.

But how to do it in practice? Here are four exercises by Saint Ignatius of Loyola to apply the five senses in his prayer.

1Look at


“The first point is to see people with the eyes of the imagination, meditating and contemplating in particular their circumstances; and make some profit from what we see»

spiritual exercises 122

This exercise goes through the gaze: it is about “connecting” your imaginary look. So she closes her eyes and with that inner look she observes the characters that participate in a certain evangelical scene. Start with a general image, then “concrete” little by little the events, the places, the characters. Then, also with your imaginary gaze, keep seeing the details. It is precisely these details that will allow you to enter into an interior knowledge of Jesus, Mary, Joseph or other characters in the Gospel.


“The second: hear with the ear what they speak or can speak, and
reflecting in my interior to take some advantage of it».

Spiritual Exercises 123

You are now invited to tune in. “Listening” is much more difficult than hearing. Instead of listening to the words of the Gospel, let yourself be carried away by the imagination listening to the words of the characters contemplated. Then it will be your words that will speak. They will adapt their language and the biblical passage in question will become their mirror. The distance that separates you from these characters will naturally decrease. Also, by seeing and listening to them, the image you have of yourself will change.

3smell and taste



«The third: to smell and taste with the sense of smell and taste the infinite softness and sweetness of the divinity, of the soul and of its virtues and of everything, depending on the person who contemplates himself, reflecting on himself; and profit from it.”

Spiritual Exercises 124

This exercise is a little more difficult. In contemplation, the use of smell and taste can seem truly amazing.

But for Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the perception of God’s gifts becomes more intense, richer and more complete thanks in particular to taste and smell.

Also, when we go looking for perfumes in the bible, We then find volatile perfumes, essences or incense, or even perfumes fixed on matter, in oil, which are intended for anointing and body care.

We marvel that the earth thus offers its goods: the scent of flowers and that of the fruitsthe sap of the trees and of the various herbsalso from the olives from which the oil will be squeezed.

The Creator gave different flavors to different things, but goodness, love, virtues also have their flavor and fragrance.

What cos'è l'odore di santità?  - it is

In this exercise, the Jesuit saint wants you to savor the taste of sweetness, tenderness, goodness and thus lead you to the goodness, tenderness and love of Jesus.

The scented being par excellence is Christ. As soon as one takes a close interest in the life of Christ, one sees that it is framed by perfumes.

At his birth, there is the myrrh offered by one of the Magi. And after his death, the aromatic spices that the women take to the grave.




“The fourth: touching with touch, for example hugging and kissing the places where these people step and are placed, always trying to take advantage of it.”

Spiritual Exercises 125

In this exercise Saint Ignatius invites us to a commitment what is a outward sign of faith. For example, you can kiss icon that is right in front of you, in the place of your prayer.

This simple gesture will eliminate the distancea historical one that separates us from the evangelical events and will allow us to descend into our hearts.

Taste fully the love of Jesus

Praying with all five senses may seem difficult at first, but with practice, this contemplative prayer allows you to fully savor the love of Jesus and reach a joy profound, as described by the great mystics.

When we read in the Bible “The Lord is my shepherd” or “You are my rock” or “You are precious in my eyes and I love you” we can then let all the images and sensations arise in us, take time to savor and savor them.

As Father Marty confesses, it allows you to see what is good for you, what gives you life, what gives you joy and peace. So we can feel where the Lord is calling us today.


Praying with the 5 senses: the method of Saint Ignatius