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

October 2, 2015 — All 28 Jesuit institutions are listed near the top of their category among America’s “Best Colleges” in the 2016 U.S. News & World Report rankings.

September 30, 2015 — The mission of the Jesuit Refugee Service has been to "be near the least and the abandoned," as Pope Francis has urged, for the past 35 years.

September 29, 2015 — Pope Francis concluded his trip to the U.S. Sept. 27 in Philadelphia, where he attended the World Meeting of Families and made a stop at Saint Joseph’s University.

September 28, 2015 — Pope Francis has named Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno as the new director of the Vatican Observatory. Br. Consolmagno is a planetary scientist who has been an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory since 1993.

September 25, 2015 — During his visit to New York City, Pope Francis addressed the U.N. and attended a prayer service at the 9/11 Memorial.

September 24, 2015 — Pope Francis delivered a historic address before the U.S. Congress this morning, during which he addressed not just Congress, but all Americans.

September 23, 2015 — Pope Francis was enthusiastically welcomed to the White House this morning, where he delivered his first speech on American soil.

view all news

Search news

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 - 10/12/15

America - 10/05/15

America - 9/28/15

Sioux Spiritual Center
The Sioux Spiritual Center, nestled amid the hills of western South Dakota, is the heart of the Diocese of Rapid City’s efforts to develop native clergy and leadership on the reservations.