Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat- Inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by Michael E. Gaitley (Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 2010), 427pp. (Review by Ana Braga-Henebry)
How many of us are able to drop everything and attend a thirty-day retreat? Save the rare priest who belongs to a monastic order, I do not know of anyone. This book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat- Inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius opens by stating exactly that—and giving us, normal ordinary people, a feasible option for a retreat we are able to “attend” on our own individual schedules.
The book is actually much shorter than it seems at a first glance, as there are hefty appendixes added at the end. This may be consoling to the busy housewife and mother of many little kids who may be discouraged at first.
The main part of Consoling the Heart of Jesus is the modified retreat itself, ending on page 196. It is divided into four main parts. The Introduction tells the reader about the retreat they will be finding within, and Part One begins to dive in the Ignatian spirituality retreat itself. Part Two goes through the five obstacles a soul may find in the attempt to console the Heart of Jesus, and the Conclusion goes over the material, giving practical insights and tips for the reader to apply to daily life.
The rest of the book is made of appendices for support, and references. The first appendix is a retelling by the author of St. Ignatius’ rules for the discernment of spirits, and the second is composed of selections from Saint Faustina’s diary.
Before I read it, I had heard for a long time about this book. In a very active Catholic Homeschool Moms online group, where lots of book references are procured and given, and Consoling the Heart of Jesus is mentioned and recommended so often as the best book for spiritual reading. I am very pleased I was asked to write this review, as after I read it I came to understand why this book is so admired and beloved by so many.
The simple, clear and helpful language of the author, I believe, is what is behind its popularity. Fr. Michael Gaitley uses simple analogies and uses his masterful gift in storytelling to convey to the reader the ideas in the book. He is at once constantly challenging us toward a higher, more profound spiritual relationship with Our Lord Jesus, while at the same time showing us in many different ways how achievable that is. For example, he counsels that: "We trust God to gently send his crosses that most benefit us and then we strive to accept them with a smile" (xx). I loved this statement, and it exemplifies the clear and truthful--and joyful--teaching of Fr. Gaitley in this book. There are so many spiritual truths that we know, and yet reading his words they seem to make them come alive again.
Fr. Gaitley somehow is able to bring to the reader a simpler, clear version of the famous Ignatian spirituality. The author takes us through many meditations, placing us in a specific time and place, be it in the contemporary world or in biblical times: "We are at the bottom of the hill of Calvary, also known as Golgotha, look up the hill and see Jesus at the top, hanging on the cross... He doesn't see us because He is surrounded by a huge crowd of people..." (xx). In this manner the author opens one of his many meditations. Readers can easily follow and enter the scene and benefit from the experience. Some are longer and some shorter, but all bring us another lesson to take in.
This book was born out of the author having given a one-day retreat at his parish, a retreat that was so well received that people begged him to write it down into a book.
I am so glad he did!
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
New book contribution
The author/editor just sent us contributors the cover and publication announcement for this new book. I was asked to write about one fo the books listed. My draft si below-- will se what the final edited piece looks like once I receive it.