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"What’s Your Decision?" by J. Michael Sparough, SJ, Jim Manney, and Tim Hipskind, SJ

July 8, 2010

When I read the book What’s Your Decision, co-authored by J. Michael Sparough, SJ, Jim Manney, and Tim Hipskind, SJ, I thought to myself: “Too bad that a few years ago, when I had to make important decisions for my life, the book wasn’t out yet!” But it’s a book not only for the big decisions in life, like: Should I take on the new job? Do I want to become a priest or get married? Is it better to break up with my boyfriend? It is a book for everybody who is convinced that God is active in our lives and cares about what we are doing. It’s a book for all those who desire to choose the good, to discern God’s will and to become “free enough to make the best choices.”

For an “outsider” like me, it was an interesting introduction into Ignatian spirituality. I had heard a lot about it, but I never really went into details. I learned that the Ignatian techniques for discernment are rooted in the personal experience of a young man, Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the order of the Jesuits. And I learned that discernment is not only for people who are looking into religious or ordained vocations, but for all people who want to go deeper in their relationship with God. In fact, when Ignatius developed his approach of discernment as decision making, he was a layman, discerning between a military and religious career for his life. Through observation and prayerful listening to the movement of the spirits in his life, he came to believe “that we can accurately discern God’s will when we get in touch with our deepest desires.”

The layout of the book is very systematic. After learning about Ignatius’ spiritual background you get a list of “Rules for Discernment of Spirits”, followed by “Rules for Subtle Discernment” and “Pillars for Sound Decision Making.” Certain passages read like a “guidelines” to use for your own reflection and discernment. But you are not on your own in this process. You travel with Steve who is considering looking for a new job; and with Anne who is unhappy with her decision to go to graduate school; and with Tiffany who doesn’t know if she should marry her boyfriend Tom or become a nun; and with many other people and their stories of decision making that help you understand Ignatius’ process of discernment and to relate it to your own life.

The book was an easy read. I enjoyed learning more about discernment, Ignatian spirituality and the stories of many people who are trying to discern God’s will for their lives. It doesn’t give answers, but it helps you to ask the right questions. And it helps you to stay focused on the “one thing necessary”: To love God first!

Birgit Oberhofer

(You can order the book on the website of Loyola Press.)

 

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