This book came to my attention as many books do - by being referred to in other books I've read. When multiple books from various disciplines refer to the same book - I usually end up adding that title to my "to-read" list.
Having grown up in a protestant family - I had no idea what a Jesuit even was until I watched that movie that came out forever ago - "The Mission" (any of you all remember that film? Robert De Niro - Jeremy Irons - holywooded-up history?) Even after having lived with an Austrian Catholic family for my entire junior year of high school - I still hadn't figured out who Jesuits were and/or what they were about.
Enter this handy book. What interested me most in this book thought was it's "how-to" discussions on some very old and very very old practices of prayer, self-examination and such. I have a nice little collection of discipleship books across many faith traditions - some from Inter Varsity - of course a couple from Navigators - one from Vineyard, one from a Lutheran church - so it's fair to say that I'm always interested in adding to my understanding of discipleship, disciple-making and Christian practices that have been handed down for centuries. There is so much more to deepening our faith than just reading our Bibles and highlighting or taking notes. So many of these practices were designed hundreds of years ago or even thousands to help Christians of all walks to deepen their walk - and if you go far enough back - there weren't denominational differences - there were just people (mostly illiterate) trying to model their lives after Christ.
The practice mentioned in this book among dozens of practices - that I enjoyed reading about most was the "Examen" - which he summarized on Page 97 in 5 steps:
- 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 form 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.
If you've followed along with this blog for very long - then you know that this is similar to the Grace Habit - a habit or practice which was the many topic of many of the first few months of posts on this blog. Before reading this book - I'd asked around in a number of various Christian Catholic and Orthodox traditions if anyone knew of anything like the Grace Habit - and turned up empty handed every time. Had I not turned up empty handed - I probably would've posted about the established (traditional) practice instead of launching into describing a new one. As much as the Examen is similar to the Grace Habit - it's not identical - and while the differences are perhaps slight on first glance - they cumulatively have a different feel ... I'd say it's harder to fall into guilt with the Grace Habit - yet it does offer true reflection.
The book returns to the Examen in nearly every chapter in some way or another - and highlights many other useful practices and so I recommend it - especially if you enjoy reading about other ways to further your walk with God.
I was able to borrow a copy of this book from my local library which is by far my favorite way to put my hands on a book - at least the first couple of times.