December 21, 2011 – Blending his own life experiences and that of St. Ignatius, Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., Georgetown’s vice president for mission and ministry, has written a guide to the Spiritual Exercises called The Ignatian Adventure (Loyola Press, 2011).
“Ignatian spiritually has changed my life as a Jesuit and like many other Jesuits before me I want to share that tradition by helping people find a spirituality in the midst of their busy lives,” says O’Brien, S.J. (C’88), a former lawyer-turned-Jesuit.
St. Ignatius, who founded the Society of Jesus, took notes during his conversion about how God was working in his soul and in his life. He used the notes to guide other laypeople through a series of reflections, which became what we now know as the Spiritual Exercises.
“St. Ignatius was a very practical man and the book of the Spiritual Exercises is to be experienced more than read,” O’Brien says.
He called his book “a handy guide that invites people who pray to encounter the living God, who is active in our lives and the larger world.”
O’Brien notes in the book that his path to becoming a Jesuit began at 26, when he was a junior lawyer talking with an 80-year-old Jewish woman outside a Florida courtroom.
As a junior lawyer, he says his job was to comfort his client, who was in the midst of a difficult legal matter.
“One day as we walked outside the courthouse, the sun beating down on us, it hit me: I would rather be outside talking with Miriam than inside the courtroom,” he writes in the book.
In that moment, he writes “my patient and gently persistent God broke through my cluttered attention and clearly got my attention.”
Over about four years, several people at Georgetown used the early manuscripts for the book to minister the Spiritual Exercises to colleagues, faculty and administrators.
Feedback from both spiritual directors and those using the exercises helped O’Brien refine the book into its final form.
The book encompasses 32 weeks of daily prayer that can be adapted for retreats of varying lengths.
Georgetown offers a number of different Ignatian retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises, including the nine-month Nineteenth Annotation retreat for faculty and staff.
The university also hosts two weekend Ignatian retreats and two, five-day silent retreats each year and offers a weeklong Prayer in Daily Life retreat for students, faculty, and staff.
Janet O’Brien, a consultant in the Office of Mission and Ministry, used the Jesuit’s early materials with 25 members of the university who completed retreats.
“Whether you are Catholic, Protestant, an experienced professional or beginning your own spiritual journey, Fr. Kevin O'Brien's story and guided prayers will engage your imagination and deepen your faith,” she wrote in a review of the book for Amazon.com.
“Honestly, Kevin's book is dynamite reading, and has had a powerful spiritual effect on my retreatants,” she says.