i have lots of books that i have read that i always intend to say something about on the blog but never quite find the time. life will probably take over but before a new intake of students start i'll try and at least mention a few i have read this year...
i picked up james martin's the jesuit's guide to almost everything when i was at st beunos on silent retreat. i found bumping into the jesuits a reminder of the extraordinary freedom there is in christ. it's ironic to feel this as the assumption lots of us make is that those who commit to particular ways of life would be constrained rather than free but perhaps those of us who just choose to do what the hell we like are less free than we imagine - are we are tied to consumerism and think we're free?! the jesuits were founded by ignatius and ignatian spirituality is the term for the charism or shape or gift of what is at the heart of the way of life of the jesuits that has helped thousands of people without having to be a jesuit! remarkably this book is a new york times bestseller. i can see why because it is so clear, well written, inspiring and practical.
spirituality is a way of living in relationship with god. and in the book martin lays out four things at the heart of ignatian spirituality - finding god in all things, incarnational spirituality, contemplative action, and freedom and detachment. he is wonderfully honest about his own life. it's extremely practical and down to earth.
desire is a big theme - paying attention to your own longings as a means of discerning where god is at work in your life. prayer is conceived of as friendship with god with some very helpful ways to pray. some such as the examen, imagining a scene in the gospels, silence are well known but i found it inspiring around prayer. and discernment is a big theme.
the thing i sensed when i was in silence was that i needed to 'be me' more fully - and there is a whole section in the book on what it means to be you which strongly connects with the theme of desire.
after reading it i couldn't help thinking how closely i share these four things at the heart of ignatian spirituality and how much it is like what cms is trying to be by way of a mission community. there is so much wisdom and so much treasure in these communities. and since reading it and encountering the jesuits i have found myself on several occasions remembering the freedom and joy that comes with following christ. i think too that i am particularly drawn to spirituality of communities that are spread out in mission to live in the world rather than spiritualities (e.g. benedictine) that are for communities who live in community in the same place.
it's a surprising recommendation no doubt - it took me by surprise too...