Monday, June 15, 2009
More Book Reviews for Loyola Press
During my 8 day retreat, I was able to read two other books from Loyola Press of which I would like to offer my own thoughts. The first book is entitled An Ignatian Spirituality Reader: Contemporary Writings on St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Spiritual Exercises, Discernment, and More by George Traub, SJ and A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God's Amazing Embrace by William Barry, SJ.
I think both books have some great material in them, and I would give both of them two thumbs up.
Traub's book is actually a collection of essays on the following topics: the life of St. Ignatius, finding God in all things, prayer, the Spiritual Exercises, and Discernment. Here, Traub offers to us well-written essays from a variety of authors on these specific topics. Furthermore, at the end of each section, he offers other recommended readings in case the reader is interested in continuing her/his exploration on a specific topic. The essays that Traub offers us, then, are not meant to be the definitive word on these topics.
Personally, I loved this book. I felt that many of these essays articulate Ignatian Spirituality very well. During my retreat, I definitely felt that my reading of these essays enriched my understanding of it. Also, since Traub offers us more than one essay per topic, I was not getting just one perspective. I appreciated, therefore, the variety of viewpoints on Ignatian Spirituality--viewpoints which, although different, were not contrary to one another. For anyone who is interested in learning about or enriching their understanding of Ignatian Spirituality, I highly recommend this book. It is an excellent resource in so many different ways.
Out of all of the Loyola Press books that I have read, this one is probably the most academic in nature. Yet, it is also very personable at the same time.
There's is actually a companion volume to this reader, entitled A Jesuit Education Reader. I would imagine that this book would be of great interest to teachers and educators in our Jesuit institutions.
Now, on to Barry's book, which I also enjoyed very much. In his introduction, Barry writes: "What I hope you will find in this book is an invitation to engage in a relationship of friendship with God and in a dialogue with me. In the book, I do not provide answers so much as make suggestions and ask you to either try a suggested approach or reflect on your own experience in light of my suggestions. I hope that this will help you become a friend of God; the book will not attain my purpose if all you get out of it are ideas" (xviii). Barry writes in a way that is meant to engage you. Littered throughout his book are probing questions and exercises that he asks you to consider. If the reader does not feel moved to reflect and engage these, the book will likely lose much of its flavor.
Much of the book is meant to explore the question: what does God want in creating us? Barry answers this question with the title of his book. He writes: "My stand is that what God wants is friendship." Because of my experience both as a student in Jesuit institutions as well as being a Jesuit myself, this understanding of God that Barry proposes is very much in line with my own belief in God. In my own prayer, I have experienced God as One who is very personable with me, who loves me deeply, and who desires to grow in relationship withe me (I'm sure Aquinas would have his own views on this matter). Thus, what Barry does is this book is not radically new for me.
Barry, however, seems to write this book more specifically for those who have a difficult time relating to God in this fashion (everyone has a history). Barry is aware of the complexities involved in his view that God wants friendship with us and is not afraid to engage these complexities. I applaud him for his courage to tackle some of these difficult questions, and I think many will be quite moved by some of his responses.
For those who are seeking to have friendship with God, or even for those who think friendship is not possible, I highly recommend this book. Just be prepared to engage it!