News Detail
Jesuit Father Bob Gilroy
Jesuit Leads Arts-Based Ignatian Retreats

October 18, 2013 — Jesuit Father Bob Gilroy has led arts-based Ignatian retreats around the country ever since he discovered the connection between art and prayer while lying in a hospital bed awaiting a kidney transplant at age 24. Now 54 years old, Fr. Gilroy works at Bread of Life Ministries in Sacramento, Calif., training spiritual directors to use art in their ministry.

Thirty years ago, on the morning of his kidney transplant surgery, Fr. Gilroy lay in his hospital bed and scribbled an image of Jesus reaching toward an unlit candle with a match. Previously, he had sketched other images — like over-sized pincushions to illustrate his dialysis treatment — but never something like this.

"I did that simple drawing, but it said so much,” says Fr. Gilroy, who joined the Jesuits in 1986 after studying art as an undergrad and training in art therapy. “It illustrates my prayer, which certainly was that I’d see the light in the world when I woke up. It was a natural bridge between [St.] Ignatius’s emphasis on the use of imagination and taking a step further and actually making what I saw in my imagination.”

One of Fr. Gilroy's works.The nonverbal medium of art, Fr. Gilroy says, is a powerful tool to help others draw deeper into their relationship with God.

“It gives people a language or tool to grow closer to God,” he says. “When you take the risk to go beyond what you know and to trust that God’s going to give you the color, the texture, the lines, the words that will help an image grow, it will reveal even more of who God is.”

Fr. Gilroy wanted to share this revelation with everyone, not just those on his retreats, and so he created Prayer Windows, a site that offers an online retreat to help people engage in prayer through many of his own paintings. He provides different phases of the Spiritual Exercises, too.

“In our media-savvy age, we’re so inundated with material messages, but this takes people in another direction,” Fr. Gilroy says. “They’re spending time on the web looking at pictures that might help bring them closer to God.”

Fr. Gilroy continues to use art to pray himself. He spends at least an hour a day in his studio, sometimes working five to six hours on a particular piece. He is also working to bring art into hospitals, helping patients transform their suffering like he did 30 years ago.

“The whole thing about Jesus is transformation through suffering,” he explains. “Once you put colors down to express your experience, you’re inviting God to help you see the healing element in all of this.” [Loyola Press]


Recent News

August 27, 2014 — The Marquette University community gathered to remember alumnus James Foley at a vigil yesterday at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee.

August 25, 2014 — Jesuit Father Brian Paulson, who first encountered the Society of Jesus in high school, is the new provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits.

August 22, 2014 — Loyola University's Stritch School of Medicine, the first medical school in the U.S. to accept undocumented students, welcomed seven DREAMers this year.

August 20, 2014 — Jesuit Father Pau Vidal of Jesuit Refugee Service offers a glimpse into life at a Kenyan refugee camp.

August 18, 2014 — Today is the feast day of Saint Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean Jesuit priest known for his engagement with Chilean culture and his work with young adults and the poor.

Washington, D.C., August 25, 2014 — This month, the Society of Jesus (also known as the Jesuits), the largest order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church, welcomed 33 men as novices in the U.S.

August 15, 2014 — Jesuit Father Ron Mercier became provincial of the Jesuits' new U.S. Central and Southern Province on July 31.

view all news

Search news

Publications
Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America - 7/7/14

America - 6/23/14

America - 6/9/14



Manresa Jesuit Retreat House
Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, located north of Detroit in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., offers retreatants a respite from the city on its 37–acre campus with almost 50,000 trees.