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The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness: Ten Steps to Healing Channelling the Inner Fire: Ignatian Spirituality in 15 Points

07 February 2023

The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness: Ten Steps to Healing

Marina Berzins McCoy

Channelling the Inner Fire: Ignatian Spirituality in 15 Points

Brendan McManus SJ

Messenger Publications, Dublin, 2020 and 2022

Review by Henrietta Howarth, Prayer and Spirituality Coordinator for the Anglican Diocese of Leeds

<strong><em>The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness:</em></strong><strong><em> Ten Steps to Healing</em></strong>
<strong><em>Channelling</em></strong><strong><em> the Inner Fire:</em></strong><strong><em> Ignatian Spirituality in 15 Points</em></strong>

In Christian circles, Ignatian Spirituality is again gaining more interest, maybe because it is practical, experiential and purposeful and therefore connects well with the present human need and desire to make sense of our spiritual journey in an increasingly messy and chaotic world. These two books, even though the second one with only 43 pages is more a booklet, offer in the spirit of Ignatius of Loyola a pathway to transformation.

In her book on forgiveness, Marina Berzins McCoy, a professor of philosophy and a spiritual director, draws regularly on her experience as a volunteer in a men’s prison where she encounters much pain and the need for people to forgive and be forgiven. The ten steps to forgiveness are a road map with Jesus as a guide. The terrain will be different for each person. The steps encourage people, amongst other things to be in touch with their inner feelings such as anger, to befriend time and not rush the process, and to create a new narrative. With God’s abundant compassion at the centre the process of forgiveness will lead to a celebration, like in the parable of the prodigal son, and a life set free to love and serve God.

At the outset Marina makes a strong case that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Even when reconciliation or restoration of the relationship does not take place, forgiveness brings freedom. Forgiveness takes place primarily between the person and God and therefore is a deep inward journey of healing.

I would without a doubt give this book to anyone who is working through pain and hurt caused by others because it recognises how hard forgiveness can be. The book is gentle, generous, sensitive, and pastoral. It offers real life examples and beautiful prayers, mostly written by the author herself. It would have been interesting to hear more about the relationship between forgiveness and justice. As I was reading the book, I had the passionate words of Greta Thunberg ‘We will never forgive you!’ in my head. She spoke these words at a United Nations meeting for global leaders in 2019. There are unjust situations in our world which are more complex than a ten steps guide to personal forgiveness might suggest.

Brendan McManus, a Jesuit priest, spiritual director and retreat giver in Belfast (Ireland), has written his booklet to give people tools and practical knowledge to advance spiritually. He draws from his personal experience of previously having had a successful career in IT and finding a new vocation by encountering the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.

His 15 points are succinct and almost sound like a guarantee to success — he finishes the booklet with the words ‘Good luck with it!’ He clearly conveys the theologically important idea that God is not an authority figure outside of our lives, but God is present in all aspects of our lives, including our emotions, experiences, and consciousness. The purpose of growth and change is to turn outwards to serve God in the world, like Jesus did.

The value of both these books for preaching is that they don’t stop at theological considerations and biblical references to God being present in our lives, but they offer practical steps, tools, prayer suggestions and personal testimonies. If preachers take to heart the Ignatian practical and experiential methods, sermons would not just be interesting to listen to but could lead to real change.

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