Before becoming a Jesuit in 1988, James Martin graduated from the Wharton School of Business and worked with General Electric for several years. He is the culture editor of America magazine and author of numerous books including My Life with Saints. St. Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556) was a soldier-mystic who founded a Catholic religious order called the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. According to Martin, these priests and brothers are busy "finding God in all things." That is why everyday spirituality is so important to them. They also have found a way to meld contemplation with social action. They have excelled in education and offer a path to finding freedom and detachment. And they believe in looking at the world in an incarnational way. Together their practices, methods, emphases, accents, and highlights became known as "Ignatian spirituality." In this wide-ranging and up-tempo guidebook, Martin examines what this means.
Over the past 450 years, the way of Ignatius has been taken by hundreds of thousands of Jesuits. They have studied his books and tried to incorporate his wise counsel into their lives. Martin begins with a look at the six paths people have taken in their search for God: belief, independence, disbelief, return, exploration, and confusion. He then goes on to probe desire and the spiritual life, beginning with a thought-provoking quotation from Margaret Silf's Wise Choices.
"We tend to think that if we desire something, it is probably something we ought not to want or have. But think about it: without desire we would never get up in the morning. We would never have ventured beyond the front door. We would never have read a book or learned something new. No desire means no life, no growth, no change. Desire is what makes two people create a third person. Desire is what makes crocuses push up through the late-winter soil. Desire is the energy, the energy of creativity, the energy of life itself. So let's not be too hard on desire."
Desire, according to Martin, is an important way that God's presence and voice in our lives is discerned and celebrated. Feelings of incompleteness, common connections, uncommon longings, exaltation, clarity, desires for holiness, and vulnerability are signs of our yearning for the Divine.
Ignatius of Loyola created a prayer designed to help believers find God in their lives. Martin presents his version of "the Examen," which has five parts, followed by suggestions on looking at prayer in terms of a friendship with the Holy One.
• "Gratitude: Recall anything from the day for which you are especially grateful, and give thanks."
• "Review: Recall the events of the day, from start to finish, noticing where you felt God's presence, and where you accepted or turned away from any invitations to grow in love."
• "Sorrow: Recall any actions for which you are sorry."
• "Forgiveness: Ask for God's forgiveness. Decide whether you want to reconcile with anyone you have hurt."
• "Grace: Ask God for the grace you need for the next day and an ability to see God's presence more clearly."
In the rest of the book, Martin shares Jesuit wisdom and insights on Ignatian traditions of prayer, the simple life made possible by the freedom of downward mobility, friendship and love, obedience and suffering, making decisions, work and career. Throughout these chapters the author includes thoughtful quotations and personal examples of God's activities in his own life. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin shines a light on the essentials of everyday spirituality and contemplative action in the world.