Forty Weeks by William Watson, SJ, available from the Sacred Story Institute and on Amazon.com
This book is an intro into Ignatian Spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola. It was originally used with teachers in the Archdiocese of Seattle and there is also a program for students. My eighth grade class a few years ago was part of the pilot program for schools and there are some really wonderful things as part of that program. The idea is that you can go through this book and learn how to meditate and use the Examen prayer of Saint Ignatius. It is obviously a huge commitment to 40 weeks of reading.
I wanted to love this book. I love the Spiritual Exercises, and have done the yearlong retreat twice with a spiritual director. I had a fabulously supportive group attempt the book with me, but we got about halfway through and couldn’t finish. I think the pacing was a little slower than we wanted and for me personally, the emphasis on sin overshadowed the emphasis on God’s redemptive love. I understand that focusing on sin is an important part of Ignatius’ plan in the exercises, but in this book we just kept circling back to sin.
I also missed the presence of scripture in this book. It sort of followed the movements of the Spiritual Exercises but it lacked the substance that scripture readings would have provided.
Watson’s ideas on the Examen were interesting and refreshing to me- he breaks down the five movements of the prayer into meditations on Creation, Presence, Memory, Mercy, Eternity. I will say that looking up his guided meditations online would help introduce those concepts aside from reading the book. Even though I didn’t finish the 40 weeks, I did find the 5 movements to be a powerful way of praying the Examen.
I think this would be a great program for many people- it just wasn’t for me.
Popcorn: 2- this book is a huge commitment and a lot of work.
Stars: 2- If the book had moved a little faster, focused less on sin and had more substance I would have rated it higher.