The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything
By Lynn Lee
Reading Father James Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life is like talking to a wise and kind spiritual director who doesn’t shock at anything you think or say about God. Unpretentious, candid, Martin leads you back to what’s real, facing questions such as:
How do I know what I’m supposed to do in life?
How do I make good decisions?
How can I face suffering?
How can I find God?
How do I pray?
How do I love?
In a way, what Martin writes is not new. He is a Jesuit priest, trained in the tradition of Saint Ignatius, a sixteenth-century soldier-turned-mystic. Ignatius founded the Jesuit order and eventually wrote the classic text, The Spiritual Exercises, a four week meditation on the life of Jesus and a key to understanding Ignatian spirituality: what leads to God, what will give you greater freedom and what helps you live a purposeful life. But have you ever tried reading the Exercises? It’s written as an instruction manual and, well, let’s just admit that reading an instruction manual is a bit of a slog.
Here’s where Martin comes in. In The Jesuit Guide Martin offers insights (his own as well as those from his spiritual directors) on the Exercises, encouragement on how to pray, encouragement to try on an Ignatian way of decision-making. More than insights or techniques, however, this book is an approach to finding God, an approach to life (practiced for nearly five centuries) which I find bracing. This is one of those books I shall return to every few years and still encounter a restorative word.