The Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, is coming up--on July 31. In preparation for that day, what should (or could) you do? Well, St. Ignatius would probably be happy if you went to Mass on that day, spent an hour in prayer, and did some good work for the poor. But rather than take my answer to the question "What Would St Ignatius Do?" (WWID?) why not go to the source? Another way to mark the day might be to start one of the many fine books by or on St. Ignatius.
Here's just a few to get you started...
John W. O'Malley, SJ's The First Jesuits is the gold standard when it comes to understanding St. Ignatius, the "first companions" and the founding of the Society of Jesus. It's a brilliant book. Treat yourself: It's the product of massive historical research, a probing intellect and the talents of a superb writer. The other day when someone asked about a good introduction to his life it was not any of the biographies that I thought of, but this book, which also includes in its opening chapter a short precis of the life of the man born Inigo.
William A. Barry, SJ and Robert Doherty, SJ, have written a concise book called Contemplatives in Action, which looks at specifically "Jesuit spirituality," which is sometimes distinguished from "Ignatian spirituality," in that the former refers to what applies to Jesuit priests and brother exclusively (for example community life, how superiors discern missions for their men, etc.) while the latter is a broader religious term that refers to how the worldview of Ignatius can apply to all believers. (Insert arguments here against that distinction!) It's a terrific book and looks at the "tensions" in Jesuit life (e.g., action vs contemplation, freedom vs. obedience) which also exist, in different ways, in all believers' lives.
Margaret Silf's marvelous Inner Compass and David Lonsdale's comprehensive Eyes to See, Ears to Hear, can be read profitably in tandem. Silf, a columnist for America, has written a highly popular "invitation" to Ignatius's spirituality, while Lonsdale has done a more scholarly treatment of that same topic. I would read Silf first, as a doorway into the subject, and Lonsdale second, for a more detailed look at such topics as discernment of spirits, consolation and desolation, and the like.
Of course the urtexts of Ignatian spirituality are the Autobiography, The Spiritual Exercises and The Jesuit Constitutions. One short book that reprints each of these texts, as well as excerpts from Ignatius's spiritual diaries, is St. Ignatius: Personal Writings, edited by Joseph Munitiz and Philip Endean. There are numerous versions of each of these works. You might also try Parmananda Divarkar S.J.'s lucid translation of the Autobiography called A Pilgrim's Testament. There are a zillion (conservatively estimated) books on the Exercises. For a good intro, try Finding God in All Things, by Barry and, for the expert or director the amazingly detailed line-by-line exegesis of the Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ, Understanding the Spiritual Exercises.
And Drew Christiansen, SJ, our editor in chief, suggested several additional resources, especially William Young's Finding God in All Things and Joseph Conwell's Contemplation in Action, now out of print, but well worth the search. Conwell's newer work on that foundational Ignatian idea is in Walking with the Spirit. His Impelling Spiritis also superb.
Readers are welcome to suggest their own favorites.
Happy reading, and Happy Feast Day!