In The Discernment of Spirits, an Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living, Fr. Timothy Gallagher has endeavored to write a “how-to guide” on the reading of the Ignatian Rules. He has broken down each rule and explained what is meant by it. He supports his descriptions with vignettes from the lives of users of the Ignatian method of Spirituality in order to better demonstrate and describe each rule.
As a member of the religious order Oblates of the Virgin Mary, which is dedicated to retreats and formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Fr. Gallagher has given retreats on Ignatian discernment of spirits numerous times. He wrote this book as a guide for those interested in living their lives according to the Ignatian Rules.
The prologue of the book focuses on the conversion of St. Ignatius. This example was used to explain the discernment of spirits in the broadest sense. Each chapter examines a rule and uses real life examples to support the description. St. Ignatius laid out fourteen rules for living. They include such topics as moving away from God, moving toward God, spiritual desolation and spiritual consolation. The rules help one to understand what draws away from God, what draws toward Him, and why spiritual desolation is allowed to occur.
This book is not a light read, nor is it a quick one. The Discernment of Spirits is to be read and digested and re-read. It is a book from which you will glean new information with each read-through. It can be used to study a particular rule in great depth, or to review what you already know about these rules. This is a tool to be used continuously, not a book to be read and cast aside. Fr. Gallagher leads the reader to an understanding of Ignatius’ methods with the anecdotes he uses to illustrate the meaning of each rule.
I will continue to use this book as a tool on my own spiritual journey. I have been interested in Ignatian spirituality for some time and this volume arrived just as I started to delve more deeply into discernment in my own life. I would recommend this book to anyone seeking a deeper relationship with God, and anyone who seeks greater understanding of the discernment of spirits.