In this article, Ong examines how the meaning of the motto "Ad majorem Dei gloriam" (or "To the greater glory of God"), has changed over time.  While it is now commonly found inscribed in books or on buildings as a "public proclamation," it has not always been used in such a manner.  In fact, it once had a more private meaning, which can be seen in the writings of St. Ignatius.

In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, A.M.D.G. means the moment of decision after one has searched one's soul trying to make a difficult choice.  When faced with these difficult choices, St. Ignatius directs his readers, one should make one's decision based on which option will be "for the greater glory of God."  To use this expression as a dedication in a book or on a building, Ong asserts, is inappropriate, for no particular decision has been made.  It is sufficient to pronounce that the book or building exists simply "for the glory of God," without the addition of the word "greater."

Nevertheless, there are times when St. Ignatius used A.M.D.G. to discuss the process he used to make decisions, the results of which were converted into procedures for others to follow.  In these cases, Ong believes that St. Ignatius used the phrase in a manner similar to that of current usage because his decisions were public proclamations.  If the phrase must be used in a dedicatory fashion as it now is, people should at least remember and acknowledge St. Ignatius' use of the phrase to mean a soul-searching process that can lead to a public proclamation.
 

Return to Listings