I don’t know what it is that attracts me to books with ridiculously long titles, but this weeks book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life sure had a knack for wordiness that, if I had been paying attention to the book cover, should not have come as a surprise.
I am actually a huge fan of Father James Martin. I had the privilege of seeing him speak at a conference I attended in 2012 and he was very funny, but unfortunately his wit is definitely more suited towards public speaking than towards writing.
If you are familiar with Jesuit ideals, the book will probably be very redundant for you. But if you are not familiar with the Jesuits and the kind of work they do, it is a great introduction. Martin does a great job of laying out Jesuit spirituality in its simplest terms:
- Finding God in all things
- Becoming contemplative in action
- Looking at the world in an incarnational way (meaning finding God within humans, within ourselves)
- Seeking freedom and detachment
I love this. I have always loved this idea that God is in all things, and can be found in everyone. I picked up this book to reaffirm the reasons I decided to attend a Jesuit University, and it did just that. Martin really captures the beauty of the faith by being frank and very down to earth. He uses a lot of experiences in his own life to show why Jesuit values are important and how they can be practically applied. The chapters cover a variety of ways to use Jesuit values in your life within prayer, living simply, friendships and relationships, chastity, work and career, and acceptance.
I think the biggest bit of wisdom I took away from Martin’s exposé of the Jesuit faith was probably in his discussion of desire in chapter three. Unlike Buddhism and other Eastern religions which require a detachment from desire in order to achieve enlightenment, Jesuit faith encourages its followers to pursue their desires, but not in the shallow, self-satisfying way you are thinking. Martin explains that the desire is a very human characteristic that is given to us by God in order to point us towards the things that fulfill us. The detachment encouraged by the Jesuits is more a detachment from physical things such as money, or clothes or cars. These things impair freedom – even owning a home takes up time and energy that could otherwise be spent in more fulfilling pursuits.
The authors advice to pay acute attention to what it is you desire and what fulfills you was exactly what I was searching for when I picked up this book. “Recognizing our desires means recognizing God’s desires for us,” he writes. I can sign on to that message.
When I was nearing the end of my undergraduate education I made a point of speaking with as many of my professors as possible for advice and one of the best pieces of wisdom that I got from a professor was to read, read, read everything I could get my hands on and to PAY ATTENTION to the books and issues I was drawn to. In other words, to pay attention to my desires, to the things that spark me. So some could say, that I am on some sort of spiritual journey with this reading project, I will just have to see where it takes me.
Overall Score: 6. Read it if you’re looking for some spiritual guidance, but skip over the boring parts.