I have had this book by Joseph A. Tetlow, S.J. for 2 years sitting in my to read stack, always near the top but somehow getting overlooked. Maybe it wasn’t time before now.
This book was excellent; of course, since it was written by someone “hailed as a world authority on Ignatian spirituality” it would be. But it’s not a heavy, textbook read. It made so much sense. I was taking pictures of the text and sending them to my friends and posting them on social media as I read. It is a very accessible book. I often feel like I am “always discerning” and it can get overwhelming and tiresome, not only for my brain but possibly others, if you know what I mean. Which you do if you are also “always discerning.”
The topics covered range from discerning in a Christian way, the great discernments in our life, why discernment is good, desolation and consolation in relation to discernment, gratitude and putting it all together. Each part has 4 to 6 short chapters, a section called “Touchstones” at the end of each part and a beef excerpt of a talk, homily or letter (usually, but not always) from Pope Francis. Fr. Tetlow also begins each chapter with a quote from Pope Francis. A feature of the book format I loved are the callouts, highlighting a key point on various pages.
One idea that has really stuck with me is about engaging our heads, hearts and hands in discernment. It is not about one of those aspects, it’s about using all of them to live out our baptismal call. The chapters on consolation were a help to understanding the concept better and seeing it in my life. He says, “but in fact, just accepting, on a dull workday morning, that God has made me holy is, in itself, a spiritual consolation.” Another often recurring theme in life is detachment, that line between wanting what is good and becoming consumed with it, letting the desire control you. Think about this instead: “Spiritual detachment requires accepting my true feelings and ideas but wanting to follow them insofar as they lead me toward God.”
There is much wisdom in this book. And it was written for us, in our time, using contemporary examples and writings to respond to them. Whether you are a student of Ignatian spirituality or not, you can gain much by reading this book. I know I will go back and read different sections again, as the need arises in my spiritual life.
Always Discerning is available on Loyola Press and Amazon.