Customer Review

19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the best of the Saint Ignatius books around for its price and content., September 2, 2006
This review is from: Personal Writings (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
If you are looking for a common and useful type of Catholic spiritual exercise, you should know first that the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola may be a bit too dense and problematical for what you want. Many people like to pretend that they can do them on their own without an experienced Jesuit to monitor them. That is a 'new age' invention. It has nothing to do with how these exercises are actually praticed by those who hold the rightful ownership over them, namely the Jesuit order in full communion with the Holy See.

I would instead point you in the direction of The Divine Office (also called The Liturgy of the Hours) as a very wholesome and progressive type of daily prayer that is recommended to all the laity around the globe by the Holy See. The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola are certainly more than a little too heady and intense because of its meditations on topics like sinners in hell. I would recommend that you maybe read through the Spiritual Exercises and try to answer the questions without too much spiritual intensity (using more reason and logic than feelings) or adopting the extreme environmental settings that Jesuits would undertake in doing them. As laity you are not supposed to be doing these on your own anyway. After talking to a Jesuit, I found out that the exercises are not for everybody and the person undertaking the exercises, needs supervision. This can not be understated. Anything to the contrary would be a brand new invention by the reader.

God is love. Christianity without love is not Christianity.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola `Personal Writings' is a very interesting book that reveals a lot of details about somebody who many of us would have taken for granted as a person who was born into a Christian vacuum and probably had a life full of Christian happiness that made him a Saintly person. Nothing could be further from the truth. Saint Ignatius was a warrior who sought glory through armed combat. After having his legs shattered he spent months recovering with multiple corrective surgeries, while reading books about the lives of Saints. He then set out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to find himself and Christ, had many visions (which he continued to have until his death), sought alms, returned to Europe, often used his alms to support others in poverty, had one to one spiritual talks with people about Christianity, converted them, was accused by the inquisition of heresy several times, although never proven, wound up in Paris studying, went home to Spain, before going to Italy where he studied to become a priest and founded the Society of Jesus, whose members are better known as Jesuits today. This is all covered in Part 1 of the book called `Reminiscences' an 80 paged autobiography. It is interesting to note that Saint Ignatius appears to be a very strange character with possible delusions, doing many crazy things (like telling a wild ship crew that they better change their sinful ways while alone with them out at sea for months; feeling the sores of plague sufferers and walking through the middle of a battle) but none-the-less was sane enough to talk his way out of many a situation including the Inquisitions where he left many an impression on the Inquisitors and the local populace. The Holy See eventually got around to incorporating his style of conversion into the Church. Part 2 of the book is a spiritual diary that he worked on. It is here for more historical reasons than anything, often very repetitive and hard to penetrate, but an authentic writing about his private conversion experience. Part 3 is a short sample of letters from over a couple of thousand that he wrote. Part 4 are the Spiritual Exercises. I think the book is worth it for the autobiography and the letters for learning more about the historical record at this time. The Spiritual Exercises are also here, with a very good introduction. Although their value for the Church in the Middle Ages was undoubtedly of remarkable importance, post-Vatican II readers should apply great caution with them and seek guidance from clergy who have experience with them, or just read over them gently baring in mid that much of these perceptions have matured in the Church since Vatican II.
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