In his decades of giving workshops and seminars on Ignatian Spirituality, Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ, has trained countless individuals in this sacred discipline. In his latest book, he addresses what he believes is often missing in the training of spiritual directors: attention to their own spiritual formation.
The inspiration for Handing on the Fire: Making Spiritual Direction Ignatian came from years of Fr. Tetlow ruminating on his time as a practitioner of Ignatian Spirituality.
“I thought about starting to write the book for about a year before I actually began,” he said.
In general, he believes courses, workshops and seminars on Ignatian Spirituality are too focused on training particular technique and methodology and do not give adequate attention to the formation of the interior life of the director.
“If you’re going to give spiritual direction to others, you have to have the fire of the love of Christ in your own heart,” he explained. “It’s that love that you want to hand on. That’s something that no amount of technical expertise can bring about – it has to be done through extensive spiritual formation.”
The objective of Fr. Tetlow’s book is in the title: to “hand on the fire” to current practitioners of Ignatian Spirituality, in the form of zeal for their work, so that they may, in turn, pass that same fire on to those who come to them for spiritual companioning.
According to Fr. Tetlow, a spiritualty can be understood in terms of its principles, norms and practices. He divides his book into three parts which deal with these principles, norms and practices that underlie Ignatian Spirituality. He recounts many of his own experiences in directing and helps other directors reflect on their own formation and current practice.
“The direct purpose is to help persons already giving spiritual direction to further deepen their spiritual formation and interior life,” he said.
The book was written with feedback from several experienced Ignatian formators, including Carol Atwell Ackels, director of Ignatian Spirituality Institute in Lake Dallas, Texas and several Jesuits. Father Tetlow also credits the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies for their efficient help in creating the design of the book and with effective editing.
He hopes the book is encouraging to formators and presents them with an opportunity to reflect on their work.
“I kept this book relatively short because I wanted people to have time to reflect on their own without getting bogged down by too much information,” he said. “I want them to come away with renewed confidence that their work is meaningful, and that deep spiritual formation is the key to handing on the fire of Christ’s love.”
Father Tetlow’s book is now available for purchase through the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies website.