Book Review: The Ignatian Adventure
Author: Kevin O’Brien, S.J.
Publisher: Loyola Press ISBN: 9780829435771
I purchased this book over a year ago on the recommendation of a friend, shortly after returning from an extended visit to one of my favorite monasteries. I have been a student and practitioner of the Exercises of Ignatius for a number of years now, and I’ve leaned heavily on several resources to assist my teaching and leading in the Exercises. I was relatively comfortable with my collection of resources, but the endorsement of my friend for The Ignatian Adventure prompted me to order it out of sheer curiosity… I’m so very glad I did!
My first reading of this book was shortly after I received it and consisted mostly of a “speed read” and general comparison of content between a couple of my other Ignatian Exercises resource materials. I was reasonably impressed with what I found, but planned to spend more “practiced” time with The Ignatian Adventure before writing out a review. Now, after journeying through thirteen plus weeks with a friend, I feel that I have the hands on experience I was waiting for.
For the record, the following titles are my ready resources for teaching and leading others in the Ignatian Exercises: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (there are various English translations and I don’t know that any one of them is necessarily better than the other), Inner Compass by Margaret Silf, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, S.J., Journey with Jesus by Larry Warner, and The Ignatian Workout by Tim Muldoon. While each of these titles has its place in my resource list, I’m putting The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien S.J. at the top of my list for the “go to” journey companion for working through the weeks of the exercises. Even with this affirmation, I think there are a few pro and con statements worth mentioning.
For the “pro” side, I think the methodology and instruction that O’Brien leads the retreatant through the weeks is better than any of the other resources I have in my possession. The instructions are clear, information regarding the process of the exercises is shared in “bite-size” pieces making them helpful in the meditation and reflection process, and he (O’Brien) sprinkles prayers, affirmation, encouragement, and anecdotal stories to help round out interactive elements of the experience. While I personally believe the Ignatian Retreat is best experienced with one or two people going through the Exercises together, the way Kevin O’Brien has ordered this guide makes it very accommodating for a single person experience (this also assumes that the single retreatant is reporting to or being guided by a spiritual director/companion who is familiar with the Exercises of St. Ignatius).
My only criticism is the lack of depth in background information surrounding Ignatius and the Exercises. There is information included in the Adventure, but it is surprisingly brief. It is for this reason that I think I would recommend supplemental reading or companion resources before recommending this book as a standalone resource. There is certainly enough background and information to get someone started, but because of my experience, enjoyment, and wisdom gleaned from other sources, I think a little more time spent in preparation and background instruction would be very helpful. On the other hand, if someone were in the position of choosing only one book for working through the Ignatian Retreat, this one would receive my hearty endorsement.