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!

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11 years 2 months ago
If reading is the way to celebrate St. Ignatius of Loyola then let's not forget all the fine books on the Jesuits by James Broderick, S.J.; also, for something controversial written by a non-Jesuit read Jean Lacouture's Jesuits a Multibiography.
11 years 2 months ago

Dear Pete,

Yes, Ignatius often did things that would strike modern-day readers as imprudent.  At one point, after his conversion, a man insulted the Blessed Mother as he and Ignatius met up along a road.  Ignatius was furious, and decided that he would kill the man if his (Ignatius's mule) followed the man.  The mule chose the other road and the man's life was spared. 

The more Ignatius grew in wisdom, though, the more that he understood the need to discern carefully about what the right road of action might be...and prudence is always part of this.  That is an Ignatian 'tension,' between desiring to a 'fool for Christ' and being prudent enough to be able to carry out practical ministries to 'help souls' in the real world.  Even Ignatius recognized that some of his earlier actions were foolhardy.

Dear Mr. Stangle,

Yes, let's not forget those books!  (That's why included those by Silf and Lonsdale.)  Other fine books by 'non-Jesuits' would include books by Chris Lowney and Timothy Gallagher, OMV, as well as a great book on Ignatian spirituality from a female perspectives called The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed.

James Martin, SJ

11 years 2 months ago
Thank you Father, excellent information.  I'm currently finishing the Pilgrim's Testament before diving into The Spiritual Exercises (Avery Dulles, S.J. version).  Father, how should the modern reader interpret the deeds of St. Ignatius that on their face seem so highly imprudent yet are inseperable from the Christian saint that St. Ignatius wanted to be and that in fact he was - as for example, when St. Ignatius was returning from Jerusalem and the Spanish soldiers advised him not to continue down the dangerous road he was traveling and to take a different route instead, but St. Ignatius, with full trust and faith in the Lord, continued down the same road?  Can we imagine ourselves in any war-torn region of the world today taking any route other than the safest one?  I believe the Anima Christi was the prayer of choice of St. Ignatius.  Let us repeat it this week as we remember St. Ignatius and pray for the conversion of souls in the most dangerous places throughout the world.
11 years 2 months ago
I would recommend for the feast of St. ignatius a book which is a modern presentation and complete guidebook of the Spiritual Exercises for married couples, with the title:
"Spiritual Exercises for Married Couples: Finding Our Way Together with St. Ignatius - Manual for the Retreat" (http://marriageretreats.webs.com/manualfortheretreat.htm)
It is available through Google Books, with the title "Finding Our Way Together-Spiritual Exercises for Companions" http://books.google.com/books?id=XCrbe59hvxgC&pg=PP1&ots=LDtCqNpun1&dq=finding+our+way+together&sig=KZUBqsKQCOQPKJJ8osECI8sFILw
11 years 2 months ago
Good recommendations!  I've been reading The First Jesuits and like it very much.  Just read the part about the early Jesuits' contribution to interior private prayer.  I like William Barry too - have almost all his books.  What's neat is how much can be found about Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises online as well as in books.
11 years 2 months ago
Another book on the exercises, and one which I’m sure people would find very helpful, is Dean Brackley’s “The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times.”  Dean is one of the Jesuits who came here (El Salvador) to help replace the six Jesuits who were murdered here in 1989.  He teaches theology at the Jesuit university and is pastor of the university parish.  Bill Barry described Dean’s book as “wonderful” and “magnificent,” and said it was written “with passion and wisdom.”  Here’s the Amazon link:  

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