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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 9 December 2010
This very lucid and enjoyable book, which includes several "laugh out loud" moments, is a superb introduction to an approach to life which is at once practical and deeply contemplative. Much has been written about St Ignatius opf Loyola, the Jesuits and their approach to spirituality. However, I doubt there has ever been a clearer and more down-to-earth account, at full book length, than this volume. It quotes many of the other great works on Ignatian sprirutality anyway, so acts as a good gateway to the wider literature. I was already familiar with quite a few elements of Ignatian spirituality; this book filled in a lot of gaps and gave me a far deeper appreciation of all the major aspects. I particularly commend the exposé on "The Examen" - a daily exercise of counting your blessings and identifying where God was active in your life each day - as well as where you turned a blind eye or deaf ear to his presence. I've pasted the summary of the Examen from Fr Martin's book on my bedroom wall and using it has already greatly improved my gratitude for the here and now. I highly recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in what are, without wishing to sound morbid, truly matters of life and death - of a life well lived and well examined, and a death enfolded in hope.
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on 2 June 2011
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life

When I ordered this book I did not quite know what to expect. It was listed as a New York Times Bestseller, and sadly bestsellers on the topic of spirituality I have often found to be deadeningly superficial. However I was in for a surprise with this book, to an extent that I could hardly put it down. Just try to read the original text of Saint Ignatius Loyola's "Spiritual Exercises" and as Father Martin puts it in another context; snooze. However what Father Martin has achieved is to bring not only the Spiritual Exercises, but indeed the whole field of Ignatian Spirituality vividly to life. Further he has also managed this challenging task with both humour and deeply imbued humanity. Father Martin must be a wonderful person to know and what comes across is a very human person, with flaws very much like our own, but who through his twenty years as a Jesuit has learned to recognise God's presence and activity in every area of his life. But it must be said that this is not simply a book to be read, but rather one to be experienced and experimented with. Speaking personally, I believe that this book for me has been life-changing insofar as it has transformed my way of praying. I have no reservations in recommending this book and if you do read it, I hope that you will find it as enriching and life enhancing for you as it has been for me. This is a book to be read and re-read, and with each re-reading I suspect that deeper layers of meaning will emerge. I believe that this book will become a spiritual classic.
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on 2 November 2012
James Martin's book on Jesuit spirituality is a well written resume of the ideas and aims of the order.
Jesuits are sometimes liked , sometimes hated and sometimes feared within the Church and outside. This book gives an understanding of the manner and direction of the pattern of thought that has led to the success of the Jesuit order throughout the world. Many of the ideas stemming from Ignatian spirituality would be comfortable within the current school of cognitive psychology and the concepts of written consideration of alternatives and their analysis is widely used in current therapeutics. History shows that the Jesuits used these ideas long before the modern era.
Written from a personal perspective the book is an engaging , informative and extremely helpful guide to an education in an elite and powerful order within the Church . Thoroughly recommended.
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I first became aware of this book when it was featured on some television talk show I had been watching. I must admit at first I was disappointed because I thought it was going to be a much lighter read perhaps even a humorous account of some religious blunders a certain religious order had been found guilty of. On the contrary, I found the book to be very thoughful in nature, deep and philosophical. At first it intrigued me intellectually. Father Martin begins by informing the reader how the Catholic religious order of the Jesuits was founded by a recuperating soldier (Inigo de Loyola) in mid-sixteenth century Spain. Inigo, whose name in Latin is Ignatius, was ordained in 1537 and founded the Society of Jesus, officially approved by Pope Paul III, in 1540. What I personally liked was that although Ignatius "counseled the Jesuits always to carve out time for prayer, they were expected to lead active lives...they were to be active people who adopted a contemplative, or meditative stance to the world. The "contemplative in action", according to St. Ignatius Loyola, "not only contemplates the active world and sees wonderful things but also sees in those wonderful things signs of God's presence and activity. The contemplative in action is deeply aware of God's presence even in the midst of a busy life. It is a stance of awareness. Awareness of God."

The more I read this book the more I liked it. My favorite chapters, for instance, Chapters Twelve "What Should I Do? The Ignatian Way of Making Decisions" and Thirteen "Be Who You Is! Work, Job, Career, Vacation...and Life." were in the second half of the book.

Father Martin has a remarkable ability to reach others through his writing in a most compassionate and understanding way. I truly believe this is a gift he received from God. He left me with much to think about in my own journey. When you find yourself over 50, with advanced education, many years of experience and still not able to find a job after three years of unemployment, you start to wonder what purpose do you have. I realize however I am not alone in this. There are many out there just like me. I do feel, however, that deep prayer and meditation, keeping our faith in God, realizing he has a purpose for each and every one of us is the key. As Father Martin pointed out we all have gifts that come from God and prayer helps us connect with him to find the best ways of using them. I am left therefore feeling truly inspired and uplifed by Father Martin's writing. I strongly recommend this book to both Catholic and non Catholic alike.
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on 5 April 2011
If you feel the need for a guide to spirituality in this materialistic age, then try the Jesuit Guide. It's easy and informal style is the way in to a profoundly spiritual but acessible way to live at the present time. Moreover it's realistic about everyday life so that the busy person living in the world, not hived away in a monastery, can find realistic advice here. But be careful - it may change your life.
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on 25 April 2013
I'm glad I bought this book. It is both informative and informal. The author has a relaxed, easy style and the book is divided into short sections which make it easy to dip in for twenty minutes or so if time is at a premium. It gives the reader a clear understanding of the Jesuit point of view on (almost) everything and is of particular interest at the moment for those wishing to understand what motivates Pope Francis, who is himself a Jesuit. His wish to minimise the pomp and ceremony surrounding the papacy and to live a simple life are very Jesuit-inspired. I have no hesitation in recommending this book.
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on 10 March 2013
This is an excellent introduction to Ignatius and his spirituality. The only reason it does not get five stars as I think the author is a bit muddled as to whom he is writing for. Is iot peoplewithout faith or those well into it. I belong to the latter category and enjoyed it very much indeed and have given quite a number as gifts
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on 14 March 2013
This book speaks of relatively heavy theology in a simple and enlightening way a child can easily understand. I like these kinds of books that rob the so-called `theological expert' from talking through his hat as if he knows something the rest of us don't know.

In its quest to define deity, surprisingly, it is equally satisfying to both atheists and believers -unique in a partisan world which really does not want to consider those who may view the real world they live in and the supernatural world they dream of through different lens. Kind of reminds me of the best seller biography Murder by the Grace of God: The CIA and Pope John Paul I.

At the age of eleven, Albino Luciani (John Paul I) told his father who had placed him in a minor seminary, "I want to be a Jesuit." His atheist father, who intended his son bring change to the Church, knowing the boy could only rise to the papacy through the mainstream, talked him out of it.

I recall the newspapers when he was elected: "A champion of social justice, Cardinal Luciani's election is a signal to the world that the Church is steering a course from doctrinal conservatives who feel the Church is changing too fast toward progressives who say it is advancing too slowly."

There is a touch of this kind of thinking in this book. Yet, the shortfall is its audience is largely limited to Jesuits and the clergy. As the old adage says, `preaching to the choir doesn't grow the herd.' The sad part, few atheists will pick up this book. Yet, there lies its greatest worth.

I recommend the hardcover for your permanent library.
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on 12 January 2015
Highly recommend this book. It is not just for Catholics but for people of any faith and none as it really does open up new ways of thinking. Fr James Martin is a superb author, his writing is neither a technical overload or condescending. A must read.
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on 3 November 2015
(This is the review I added to my site Affirming The Faith - Bookshelf: )

James Martin SJ, The Jesuit Guide To (Almost) Everything, New York, HarperOne (Harper Collins Publishers), 2012.
ISBN 978-0-143269-9
Ignatian spirituality, it seems to me, is booming; all kinds of Christians follow the Spiritual Exercises, and conferences and courses, aimed at many disparate groups, are everywhere encouraging the use of St. Ignatius’s “way”. This book is surely part of that movement, or rather it has drawn much of its success (which it apparently has had, in the USA) from that surge of interest.
Yes, the book is very useful and practical, and derives much from Fr. Martin’s sharing of his own personal story, how the insights of the Jesuit founder – and many other subsequent Jesuits – led him along the path to full membership of the Society of Jesus.
To me, and perhaps most “ordinary Christians”, the most useful part was that dealing with the Examen, or nightly examination of the blessings and challenges of the day, and our own shortcomings (throughout the book, but particularly pp. 95-100). I would want to find out more about this, though the idea of examination of conscience has long been part of many Christian traditions, particularly, perhaps, in its possible connection with sacramental confession; but the idea of a daily, or rather nightly, spiritual assessment has much appeal.
Something else that I warmed to (which, as readers might expect, derives from Ignatius) is the emphasis placed on desire, which can also be described as a spiritual longing (none other than C. S. Lewis, in his sermon The Weight of Glory, refers to the unfortunate weakness of our desires, longings, and hopes) (Chapter 3, ‘What Do You Want?’).
If anything slightly surprised me it was the virtual equivalence which the author seems to give to the religious experience and spiritualties of Christianity, Judaism and Islam; I fancy this seeming to put the three (or rather, the third) on an equivalent footing with Christianity will discomfort some readers. He is realistic, in my view, about the potential selfishness of much New Ageism (p. 47). I have referred elsewhere to the surprising (to me) emphasis on God loving us, seemingly as we currently are, and accepting us as we presently are. The author’s willingness to express frustration with God’s seeming inaction is shown in a lovely story about his anguished prayer “How about some @#$% help, God!” - to which his spiritual director replied, “That’s a good prayer” (p. 124).
In all, the book seems to me to be unnecessarily long, and later sections verge on the repetitious; the middle chapters would surely be very useful to anyone contemplating admission to the Jesuit order – but most of us are not. A lot of information is included on the contributions of Jesuits, long past and more recent, to history and towards the creation of the societies we live in; there is bound to be something here that will surprise most people (eg. the Jesuit contribution to the development of theatre). I know little of the Society of Jesus, and have known only one Jesuit (I have the awful feeling, however, that for some there is allegedly a darker side to the order’s history, in which ‘Jesuitry’ means deception, but let’s hope I’ve got that wrong; you don’t read of that here, of course.)
One curious, but surely chance thing, is that my copy of the book (a rather solid paperback) has a strong smell (the paper, presumably) … but what, oh what, does it remind me of, just a little … yes, I know, incense …
October 2015
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