on 1 September 2003
This is not a book you can rush. You have to take time over it. So often Eastern religions, as seen by Westerners, seem to have the monopoly on meditation and spirituality - when you think of Christians it is usually a different view that springs to mind! Nevertheless, this book is your reminder that there has always been a tradition in the Christian church of meditation, thought, questioning and acceptance and that it's not all about judgementalism, rules, giddy grins, oppression and superiority!
Gerard Hughes will not tell you what to do, so some may not like this because of that. He will, however, show you a way that you can find yourself, your position in life and your relationship with God. He shows that the relationship with God is a mystical experience as well as a Father-Child relationship.
So much modern Christian teaching seems to emphasise the child-like relationship with God. This book acknowledges that relationship, but starts you on the path through your Christian adolescence and into adulthood! It fills a great void and is a must for all Christians and should be read by all humans!
on 16 May 2007
I am an Anglican priest, and was introduced to this book at theological college. It is a wonderful piece of spiritual writing, and everybody I know who has read it has rated it highly. Gerard Hughes, a Jesuit and a Catholic priest, writes as someone who has made his own journey of faith and he can help others make the same journey. We need to lay aside the old, frightening images of God and accept Him as he is - the One who loves us and includes us. All Christians (whether Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox) will find something here to help them.
on 20 January 2000
A friend suggested I read this book as it changed her outlook on faith. Well it took my breath away too, with its insights into how to find God in your day to day life during both the highs and lows.
For anyone searching or expressing doubts or looking to re-affirm their faith then in my opinion there is no better book.
A wonderful practical exposition of faith, this book will be a modern classic. If you haven't read it, I urge you to do so now!
Have heard Gerard Hughes speak at a local Church and he was superb. His insight, wisdom and the way he challenges your faith is like a breath of fresh air blowing throughout the whole Christian church.
This book is for ALL denominations and one that I have found myself returning to. .... and if you get the chance to hear him speak on Church unity, do not pass it up!...... Tremendous!
on 14 November 2012
I struggled to get into this book at first and put it down a couple of times and restarted. But get beyond chapter two and the book becomes really interesting and useful, particularly the help in defining moods and attitudes. The author makes it clear that it is alright to be annoyed and even angry sometimes, but to recognize where that emotion is coming from, and deciphering whether it brings you closer or further from God. A good read especially if you take the time to do the exercises in each chapter. I particularly likes the exercise of reviewing the day and looking forward to the next one.
on 17 March 2014
Such a beautiful book, so thoughtful and insightful. Gerard Hughes goes back to the basics on how faith/our relationship with God and our spirituality should be.
What is so special about this book is the refreshing yet gentle way Hughes approaches the reader and the respect he has for the individual paths each person takes towards the great mystery of who God is. I have learned things from this book that I never learned before. I read it through once, pondering over paragraphs, pages, perspectives and ideas, rolling them around in my heart and mind and applying them to my everyday life. I will be reading it again.
It has really made an impact on my life, helping me see things differently. I particularly benefited from the chapters on meditation (which I had never done before). This is a book that I think I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Highly recommended! :)
on 17 July 2015
This book is a ‘self-help guide’ about Ignatian spirituality, aimed at a general readership. Starting with Jesus’ familiar parable of treasure in a field (Mt. 13:44), Hughes proposes that our true treasure is found in our soul: ‘the rich, complex inner life of thoughts, memories, feelings and desires.’ He observes that ‘our inner life affects the way we perceive the world, act in it, and react to it...’ , and identifies the presence of many conflicting desires within us which, if left unattended, will lead to suppressing emotions, inner disharmony, illness, and even eruption of violence. Only Christ, he believes, can heal and order this inner chaos.
Hughes proceeds to give ‘tools for digging’ in the field of our inner life, starting with techniques to help us pray using breathing exercises and rhythmic repetition of Bible verses, followed by guidance on Ignatian practices such as: ‘imaginative contemplation’ for reading the gospels which, according to the author, ‘may reveal layers of consciousness that are closed to the risen Christ’ ; and the ‘review of consciousness’, with its components of prayer, praise, contemplation and repentance. At the heart of this book is a simplified explanation of Ignatio de Loyola’s rules for ‘discernment of the spirits’: a process of ‘sifting our moods and feelings’, with the spiritual goal of ‘aligning the soul with God and dealing with those factors of inner chaos that seek to find satisfaction apart from God.’
2. Challenges to believers and the church community
Hughes’ book challenges contemporary believers towards a deeper spirituality, whereby Christ is ‘allowed in’ to heal and order our inner chaos of compulsions and desires. The idea of a spirituality based on alignment of our soul with the chief end for which we were created (‘to praise, reverence and serve God, our Lord, and by this means to save [our] soul’ ) is powerful.
In today’s context of materialism and hedonism we encounter two helpful spiritual principles for finding satisfaction in life: indifference and attachment. According to Ignatian thought, created things are useful in as much as they help us to achieve our created end, but must not control us in any way and need to be abandoned if they prove a hindrance in our spiritual life. As Hughes notes: ‘indifference describes the state of a person who is so attached to God that there is no created thing they are not ready to let go of, if God’s will should demand it.’
The book’s teaching also helps us to develop a less superficial perspective on repentance, a key to deepening our spiritual life. The author bemoans legalism that simply equates sin with individual wrongdoing or satisfying bodily appetites, noting that ultimately the greatest sin is pride and that true repentance is a ‘metanoia’, a change of mind and outlook. He observes that, ultimately: ‘Sin is the refusal to let God be God. Repentance is letting God be God in our lives.’ He believes that we develop complex defense and security mechanisms that stop us recognizing our needs for deeper process of repentance, so that we can let ‘God be God’ in the deeper layers of our consciousness. True repentance, he believes, will free us from self-preoccupation, bring joy and freedom, and make us feel more compassionate and drawn to God.
3. Conclusions: How does the book contribute to the wider topic of Christian spirituality?
The spirituality presented by Hughes makes a major contribution in the area of the understanding of our vocation as individual Christians. The fact is emphasized that we are God’s handiwork and that he has already placed in our deepest self, longings and desires that are part of his purpose for us. Thus Ignatian spirituality helps us focus on ordering the inner chaos and dealing with sin in order to understand these deepest desires as well as the external conditioning and false images of God that might have prevented us from recognizing and responding to these same desires. Vocation becomes something that is divinely inbuilt rather than externally inspired.
I also believe that some of the practices promoted in the book such as prayer techniques, ‘review of conscience’ at the end of the day, and ‘imaginative contemplation’ of the gospels, are entirely compatible with evangelical spirituality and could have a big impact in helping to deepen our relationship with God and our own self-awareness. Hughes also presents a spirituality that is pertinent to our ‘over busy’ times. As Bedolla and Totaro observe: ‘Ignatian spirituality has a distinctive pattern or process that encourages people to become contemplative in the midst of action.’
However, I do have two big reservations regarding the usefulness of the book and the spirituality it presents to the general (evangelical) reader:
a. Although the spirituality presented is strongly Christ-centred and emphasizes prayer, the book makes no attempt to relate the Ignatian principles to key theologies of regeneration and sanctification of the believer, nor is the role of the Holy Spirit in the transformation of the believer considered in any detail. The absence of these key doctrines might make many evangelical believers feel estranged and concerned from a Biblical viewpoint.
b. In the practice of the ‘spiritual exercises’, Ignatian spirituality emphasizes the key role of a mentor or spiritual guide. As Bedolla and Totaro note: ‘Successful completion of the exercises requires skilled direction.’ Some of the principles presented in the book are complex and not so easy to understand or apply, especially the ‘discernment of spirits’. In my opinion, it would be hard to put some of the exercises into practice without attending a workshop on the subject or having one’s own experienced spiritual guide.
Hope that the above review, written for an assignment with London School of Theology, is helpful!