To Love and to Serve: Selected Essays Exploring the Ignatian Tradition
by Brian O’Leary SJ (Messenger Publications, €25.00 / £23.00)
From the beginning of his career as a priest and academic Brian O’Leary has been involved in exploring various aspects of spirituality, especially as they derive from the Ignatian tradition to which he himself belongs. Much of his lecturing and teaching has been at the Milltown Institute of Philosophy and Theology.
For this Ignatian year he has brought together a selection of his essays in this area. The title derives directly from the Spiritual Exercise where Ignatius asks for “interior knowledge of all the great good I have received”, to the end of serving the Divine Majesty in all things.
The essays have been arranged in five parts. The first two parts focus on The Spiritual Exercises and on The Jesuit Constitutions, which are perhaps less well known to a general readership. There has been in the last seventy years or so a change of approach, he suggests, which has led to a different approach to both documents. The aim is no longer to teach and use them as they were for so many centuries, but to try and understand them as they were meant by Ignatius himself and the fuller perspective we now see them in: to see spirituality as not some things for “the special occasion” but as permeating our daily round, “affecting all aspects of our lives”. This is an ambition which (on the evidence of the world around us) is not often achieved by many, except by the hidden saints of our time.
The essays in the last three parts are more varied, some more biographical. They strike off into new directions to a discussion of Ignatius and John Wesley for instance, and aspects of the life of St Pierre Favre.
But some are very relevant to the moment, such as his ‘Thoughts on the Election of Pope Francis’.
These essays were prepared for readers of specialised magazines and journals. They may well need to be slowly approached by general readers. But if anything is to be gained from this Ignatian year and its publications, it must be that readers will accept the challenges to understand posed not only by Brian O’Leary’s essays, but by the spirituality of Ignatius himself.
(In connection with these Ignatian books reviewed here, readers may like to be reminded to look back at our review of Ignatian Spirituality & Interreligious Dialogue: Reading Love’s Mystery by Michael Barnes SJ (Messenger Publications, €24.95 / £22.95) in our issue for 10 June 2021.)