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Posted July 24, 2013
In his first major publication, Jesuit priest Kevin O¿Brien righ
In his first major publication, Jesuit priest Kevin O’Brien rightfully states that the purpose of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises is practicality, in that we “grow in union with God, who frees us to make good decisions about our lives and to ‘help souls’” (14). O’Brien, who currently serves as the executive director of campus ministry at Georgetown University and has taught on both the high school and collegiate level, has created a definitive volume dedicated to all facets of the 19th annotation. In presenting a guidebook which is geared for both Spiritual Directors and retreatants, O’Brien offers personal events from his journey to the priesthood (e.g. his service to the poor and marginalized of India, and the death of his father), which are quite moving, and create an even greater narrative which should appeal to a wide audience.
Father O’Brien considers that we are adding our own narrative to the Gospels in seeking a greater relationship with Jesus through the Ignatian Exercises. He further sees the goal of his excellent volume, and the 19th annotation, as an aid to “draw… [us] closer to God, not mechanically running through all of the exercises in order or in unison with others. In other words, the end of the Exercises is a Person, not a performance” (19). As to discovering one’s personhood, O’Brien effectively allows us to grow in the Spirit by incorporating the voices of legendary figures, which shine through his narrative. In addition to portions from the writings of Ignatius of Loyola, we encounter prayers of inspiration from such noted Jesuits as Pedro Arrupe, Karl Rahner, Teilhard de Chardin, and Joseph Tetlow. O’Brien also allows the thoughts and prose of Thomas Merton, Mary Oliver, and St. Teresa of Avila to further guide us along the Ignatian path.
The Ignatian Adventure breaks down each week of exercises during the 19th annotation. Father O’Brien describes the activities to be performed each week in detail, including daily prayer from Scripture, and suggestions for deeper reflection. In the chapter dedicated to Week of Prayer #5 entitled “The Principal and Foundation,” O’Brien does an excellent job of defining indifference, which he cites as a humanity, which call us hold “all of God’s gifts reverently, gratefully, but also lightly, embracing them or letting them go, all depending on how they help us fulfill our vocation to love in everyday, concrete details” (63). Father O’Brien later reflects that God has created us out of love, with both strengths and weaknesses which become fully revealed to us over time.
Father O’Brien has produced a guidebook for the 19th annotation which is highly recommended. His work is extremely well-written and easily accessible for both Spiritual Directors and those who wish to reflect further upon the Ignatian Exercises. O’Brien displays much wisdom in this volume, especially in admitting that these “guidelines are not a magic formula that will automatically summon certain graces. We cannot control the movement of God in our lives, but we can take concrete steps to make ourselves more open and receptive to how God speaks to us” (28). However, one will assuredly learn that the “concrete” steps taken during the Ignatian adventure are certainly worth undertaking.
Robert P. Russo
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Posted January 29, 2012
Posted January 8, 2013
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