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Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

A Spirituality for Real Life

by James Martin, S.J.


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The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

A Spirituality for Real Life

by James Martin, S. J.

Review posted September 3, 2016.
HarperOne (HarperCollins), 2010. 420 pages.
Starred Review

A big thank you to my friend Charles for recommending this book!

The title sums up the book well. This book takes a close look at how Jesuits approach life – and it applies to almost everything.

Charles recommended it as a good book for helping make decisions and figuring out your life path. I agree with him that it’s good for those things.

It’s a long book, and it took me a long time to read it, but it’s packed with good thoughts. The Jesuit perspective is a new one for me, yet from the same view of wanting to bring God into our lives. There are many good ideas and godly advice here.

James Martin begins the book by talking about Ignatian spirituality.

Ignatian spirituality considers everything an important element of your life. That includes religious services, sacred Scriptures, prayer, and charitable works, to be sure, but it also includes friends, family, work, relationships, sex, suffering, and joy, as well as nature, music, and pop culture....

In Ignatian spirituality there is nothing that you have to put in a box and hide. Nothing has to be feared. Nothing has to be hidden away. Everything can be opened up before God.

That’s why this book is called The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. 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. How God can be found in everything. And everyone, too.

Here are the kinds of questions that are proper to Ignatian spirituality, which we’ll discuss in the coming chapters:

How do I know what I’m supposed to do in life?
How do I know who I’m supposed to be?
How do I make good decisions?
How can I live a simple life?
How can I be a good friend?
How can I face suffering?
How can I be happy?
How can I find God?
How do I pray?
How do I love?

All these things are proper to Ignatian spirituality because all these things are proper to the human person.

That summarizes well the kind of things this book looks at – things about life and guidance and decisions and direction, things about love and friendship and a relationship with God. Father Martin’s style is personal and friendly, like a brother sharing his walk and his insights. He maybe rambles a little bit, but that adds to the non-threatening, friendly style.

The author interweaves his insights and advice with many, many stories – from his own life and from the lives of friends and mentors and people he has counseled. He also includes some Jesuit jokes! These are not abstract ideas, but time-tested wisdom – as the subtitle says, this is spirituality for real life.

James Martin ends the book with a prayer of total surrender, of offering all we are and have to God.

Why am I ending this book with such a “hard” prayer? To remind you that the spiritual life is a constant journey. For me, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say that prayer and mean it completely. That is, I still want to hold on to all those things. And I’m not sure that I can say yet that all I need is God’s love and grace. I’m still too human for that. But as Ignatius said, it’s enough to have the desire for the desire. It’s enough to want that freedom. God will take care of the rest.

So together you and I are still on the way to being contemplatives in action, to finding God in all things, to seeing God incarnate in the world, and to seeking freedom and detachment.

The way of Ignatius has been traveled by millions of people searching for God in their daily lives. And for that way – easy at times, difficult at others, but always moving us closer to God – we can thank our friend, St. Ignatius Loyola.