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The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life Paperback – March 6, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Ignatius of Loyola's "way of proceeding" as lived by the Jesuits, the community of men he started in 1540, forms the basis of this spiritual handbook. Author Martin, a Jesuit for 20 years, claims anyone can benefit from the methods Jesuits employ in conducting their lives. This includes not only believers in God, but those who eschew religion, reject God, explore the spiritual terrain, or are just plain confused. After all, Martin writes, the Ignatian way is about "finding freedom," and the Jesuit founder wanted it to be available to everyone, not only members of his community. Martin provides a brief history of Ignatius and the Jesuits, followed by a how-to that covers prayer in its various forms; the Jesuit vows of chastity, poverty and obedience; friendship and love; discernment; and finding a life path. Readers familiar with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius-an ordered set of spiritual themes and practices-and other facets of Jesuit life will find this rather elementary, but Martin has done a creditable job of making the Ignatian way relevant to a contemporary audience.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
For over 500 years, the Jesuit Order of Catholic priests, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, have enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as a society of scholars, educators, free-thinkers, and activists. In this digestible account of all things Jesuit, James Martin, S.J., encapsulates the uniquely Ignatian concept of spirituality. Translating the essence of the Jesuit philosophy into layman’s terms, he uses both traditional stories and personal anecdotes to vividly illustrate the Jesuit approach to God, friendship, social justice, decision-making, prayer, simplicity, obedience, and self-actualization. Martin’s engaging, intimate tone will appeal to anyone interested in understanding the history, the efficacy, and the universality of the Jesuit mission and way of life. Martin, the author of My Life with the Saints (2006), has a way of popularizing serious religious issues without trivializing their impact and significance. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
If I had one word to apply to this book (I considered "inspiring," "educating," "enlightening," and "transforming") it would be clarity. We are in great need of a clear thinker as we ponder together the nature of our humanity and who we are called to be while alive on this earth.
With his rather bold title, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, James Martin, SJ looks like he would fall in the latter category. But happily, what we find here is a treatment of the Christian faith (through a Jesuit lens) which is not difficult to digest, but will challenge the reader to reexamine their stance toward faith. This is not just wordplay when I say "stance toward faith." Martin honestly and respectfully engages readers who may be atheists or agnostics, as well as any Christian still examining their faith. He does note that much of what he offers from his Jesuit life could be adopted by non-Christians. But give Martin credit for not being embarrassed of his faith and making a strong case for Christianity.
Martin acknowledges his own wordplay when he addresses his title. "It's not a guide to understanding everything about everything (thus the Almost). Rather, it's a guide to discovering how God can be found in every dimension of your life." The essence of the book is that every aspect of your life is spiritual -- faith is not just concerned with your thoughts on God, but what you say in those emails to a coworker. This is the first of four definitions that comes from Jesuit spirituality, namely, that everything in your life is important. The second idea is "contemplative in action," in which Martin outlines how a contemplative life translates into an active life. This theme plays a major role throughout the book as Martin explores how those of us who are not Jesuits can still actively incorporate spirituality into our lives. Third, not only is everything important, but God can be found everywhere. This carries the theological phrase of incarnational spirituality, but the idea is simple. Finally, many readers may be surprised to hear that people who pledge obedience see their spiritual life as one of freedom and detachment from distracting influences as opposed to a set of rules to follow.
Martin spends a great deal of time looking at the role of prayer in our lives. Again he is not afraid to challenge, as he does with the conventional excuse of "busyness," when it comes to why we find prayer challenging. One of Martin's strengths is that he understands the challenges of the working world. He came to his own faith decisions after a, ahem, active collegiate experience and after having a successful business career. He knows what many people deal with daily, and although not the head of a family, he understands the stresses the life of a parent has to contend with in addition to finding prayer time. But he points out that all relationships need nurturing, and our relationship with God is no different.
He offers several options, but his focus on "The Examen" is the most enlightening. This Jesuit prayer is central to the Jesuit way of life. Created by the Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius Loyola (and Jesuit spirituality is often called Ignatian spirituality), this prayer takes a person through five steps at the end of the day. The prayer focuses on the course of the day. In Martin's version (and we learn throughout that Jesuits are a pretty flexible lot on faith issues) we start with gratitude for what went well, and then review all actions of the day. When we recall events we are sorry for we have reached the third step, which leads naturally to seeking forgiveness, step four. Finally, we seek God's grace for the coming day.
Simple as it sounds, and it is simple, the prayer reinforces that idea of all aspects of your life are important to God. All our actions should reflect our faith, and when we fail, we should seek to remedy our wrongs. Regardless of one's faith inclination, a thorough review of the day and an accounting for one's actions is bound to create opportunities to move forward.
Martin's explanations of the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty are enlightening in not only understanding what those vows mean, but what they have to do with the rest of us. No, he is not promoting worldwide chastity in the normal sense, but he does argue that loving chastely lets those even in sexual relationships realize there are many ways to express love. In a sex-obsessed culture, this rather obvious line of thinking is desperately needed.
This is how Martin works throughout the book. He explains how Jesuit's think and why, and then looks to tie it in with everyday life for the non-Jesuits of the world. While it sounds simple, it is challenging in both content and translation to life. If you just want an easy "feel good" book or "10 steps to live like a Jesuit," look elsewhere. If you want to think about faith and how it underlies your life, this is the place to start. But not to worry, Martin does all this with a sense of humor. He knows when some thinking sounds funny, and he points it out. He loves to tell Jesuit jokes, almost always at the expense of Jesuits, and the book is filled with real-life stories to illustrate his points. How often do you get to read a priest talk about being overwhelmed by sexual obsession just weeks before ordination? Martin does, and he spares himself little in the telling of tales. But his honesty and humor make all this thinking that more fun. And after all, if we cannot enjoy our faith, we must be missing something.
Martin also keeps a friendly, informative Facebook page where you can read about his other comments on life.
What I love is that James Martin, S.J. has written this book in very simple language (but he also taught me a lot of new words I never knew existed). There is humor spread throughout the book and this is a good thing. For this is one of the central themes of the book - joy and laughter are divine and holy! Jesus wasn't a serious and moody person, he was joy itself! It is so true that we take religion and spirituality to be full of seriousness and gloom. There's a reason they say, "gloom and doom!"
The methods of St. Ignatius of Loyola like Examen, Ignatian Contemplation, Colloquy have taught me a new way to pray and contemplate on my own thoughts, words and deeds. The whole thing about Discernment and Presupposition are really helpful.
I had heard a lot about Jesuits, but frankly didn't know anything about them before reading this book. I think the world needs more of this type of living - where worshipping God involves living in the real world and being 'contemplatives in action' and helping our fellow human beings in our day to day lives.
The book also teaches you to love freely, without expecting anything back. This is so liberating! It also makes it clear that no matter how much you love anything or anyone in this world - God has to be #1. You have to love God and put your relationship with God before anything else.
I recommend this book to everyone, whether Christian or not.
Author of Shadows of Truth and Being an Indian Citizen - A guide to our Fundamental Duties
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She passed away shortly afterward.