Saturday, March 13, 2010

Book Review: The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything

Don't let the title or the length of this book scare you! If you never heard of the Jesuits or you are scared of books longer than 300 pages, you might pass on A Jesuit Guide, but you would be short changing yourself. This book is full of useful teachings about prayer, introspection, lectio divina, community life, and the sacraments. After a first reading I immediately knew that I would be returning again and again to a Jesuit Guide----it's that good!

Never heard of the Jesuits you say? The Jesuits are a religious order started by St. Ignatius of Loyola who lived in 16th century Spain. Ignatius was a soldier and military officer who came down with a terrible disease. After a long recuperation period where he was bed-ridden he came to a deep knowledge of his sinfulness. After a while he wanted to start a religious movement that would help spread the gospel in Europe. The Jesuits are known today as teachers, preachers, and parish priests. Many Catholic colleges and universities are run by the Jesuit Order (Loyola, Fordham, Loyola Marymount, etc...). Jesuits are also missionaries working in Africa, Asia, and South America.

James Martin is the best person to write this book. He is presently an editor at America Magazine (a Jesuit based magazine), author, retreat leader, and priest. He knows the history, people, and spirituality of the Jesuits very well and has the ability to take this information and translate it for the common Joe or Jane Doe. The writing is clear, concise, and funny! Many times I found myself laughing out loud at Martin's funny stories about parish life or his own spiritual struggles.

The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything shows us that Jesuit spirituality is not just for Jesuits, it is for everyone! Martin shows that Jesuit spirituality is firmly rooted in the Bible and the Sacraments and that everyone, not just priests or members of religious orders, can read Scripture, help the homeless, pray, go on retreats, and use our God given talents and treasure for the Glory of God. All of this is contained in the sub-title of the: A Spirituality for Real Life. Indeed spirituality is for daily living not just on Sundays or when we feel like we need God.

A Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything should also include Everyone in the title because everyone can find something in this book. I highly recommend A Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything as a source of inspiration and study. A Jesuit Guide could be used in adult education classes, as a secondary reading for a college level class in spirituality, as a focus for weekend retreats, or for personal reading and reflection.

Martin also includes a section for "Further Reading" for readers who want to learn about the history of the Jesuits or Jesuit spirituality.