THE full 30-day Ignatian retreat is a life-transforming affair. As a young man, the late Joseph Cassidy made this retreat twice as part of his formation in the Society of Jesus. Both as a novice and later on during his tertianship, the young Canadian Jesuit would have undergone the experience of the Spiritual Exercises. By praying with the Gospel texts using a form of imaginative contemplation unique to Ignatius, he would have been led to contemplate and imitate God’s love in all his actions.
In Cassidy’s case, this would eventually mean a series of leavings. After 19 years as a Jesuit, he left the Society and his native Canada. After a spell teaching at La Sainte Union College in Southampton, he left the Roman Catholic Church, married, and, eventually, as an ordained Anglican, became Principal of St Chad’s College, Durham.
So much for the backdrop. It goes far to explaining his familiarity with Ignatian spirituality. But the book is not an autobiography. The six chapters, ably edited from his papers by Ann Loades, examine how it is to pray in the Ignatian way; the importance of discernment; Ignatius’s own world-view, with its focus on the ethical outcome of such prayer — explored in this case with reference to St Luke’s Gospel — and finally a subject close to Cassidy’s heart, spirituality and the Trinity. He writes: “Ignatian spirituality challenges us to tune in to the rhythms of divine activity in our universe, to believe that God is personally involved in our world not just as a passive companion or behind-the-scenes facilitator, but as someone who is working through and on behalf of creation to bring it to a splendid conclusion.”
This short book will be particularly useful to all in the wider Ignatian family, especially retreat directors. It is written in jargon-free, clear language and, at its core, has an enduring message about the impact of Jesus’s humanity on personal prayer.
Lavinia Byrne is a writer and broadcaster.
Living the Story: The Ignatian way of prayer
Ann Loades, editor
Canterbury Press £10.99
Church Times Bookshop £9.90