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A Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything May Not Be for Everyone.

The Miracles of St. Ignatius by Peter Paul Rubens


As I mentioned in a previous post, I am reading The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, SJ. There is so much wisdom here that I always come away with a valuable insight. Yet, I hesitate to recommend this book freely. My problem is not with Ignatian spirituality. My difficulty lies with Fr. Martin's application of this spirituality. As always, the devil (quite literally) is in the details.

For example, I found Fr. Martin's discussion of an Ignatian approach to prayer to be inspirational. The idea of bringing everything to God, holding nothing back, and of taking quiet time to listen to God's response caused me to slow down. It is similar to the reminder to pray a Rosary, not just say a Rosary. The difficulty comes with the lack of discussion of discernment. Fr. Martin speaks of our desires as urgings from God that we should listen to rather than resist or dismiss. He leaves the poorly catechized reader with the idea that one only truly desires what God wants. There is no mention of the fact that desires need to be carefully evaluated to see if they truly emanate from the Divine or if they are, in fact, part of a deception by the Devil.

In a discussion of the lectio divina method of prayer, Fr. Martin seems to suggest that reading the passage about Jesus preaching in the synagogue of Nazareth could give you courage to dissent from Church teaching. You are just being prophetic like Jesus was and you will be rejected by your hometown just as Jesus was, but in the end, you will be justified. As is often noted, the Devil can quote scripture just as well as the most faithful Christian. No single verse of Scripture can suddenly change something that is wrong to something that is right.

I am still reading this book and I am enjoying it, even though I am uneasy with much of the presentation. Fr. Martin writes the book with the hopes of it being accessible to believers and nonbelievers alike. I have not yet finished reading it, but I do not think I can make such a universal recommendation. I would hand this book to an atheist or agnostic because I think it would effectively challenge some of their misconceptions about believing in God. I could offer this to someone who is well-grounded in their Catholic faith because their understanding is sophisticated enough to recognize the gaps in the discussions of prayer and discernment and appreciate the heart of Ignatian Spirituality.

At this point I would not offer this book to the lukewarm Christian or the poorly catechized Catholic because Fr. Martin's words can easily be misunderstood as a rationalization for doing almost anything and calling it the Will of God or consistent with Catholic teaching. I still have a little more to read before I finish the book so I will let you know if my perception changes.

Any thoughts?


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