For those of us who work in the real world of office politics, bitter competition, and muddy ethical waters, Mike Aquilina and Fr. Kris Stubna’s Take Five offers both inspiration and guidance. Drawn from the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, it offers 74 daily meditations connecting the rich heritage of Ignatian spirituality to working life.
At first blush, Saint Ignatius, whose life spanned the turbulent beginnings of the Reformation, can seem a distant figure, whose exploits and faith would have little to do with our bustling lives. But his spirituality isn’t for hermits sealed off in contemplative prayer but for people, like Ignatius himself, who are involved in the active life of the world.
“Most Christians spend a large part of their waking hours in activity related to their professional work,” say Aquilina, a prominent local Catholic writer, and Fr. Stubna, who works as the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s secretary for education. “Yet so many sermons and books on the spiritual life seem to pass over these matters that are important—methods of mediation, volunteer work, almsgiving—but that hold a marginal place of the ordinary lives of ordinary people.”
For Aquilina and Stubna, Saint Ignatius isn’t just a spiritual teacher but also a model of someone who was able to bring Christ into his working life in real, profound—and often highly effective—ways. His success as a spiritual teacher and an organizational leader was not accidental. In fact, he saw the Society of Jesus as filling what he believed to be a desperate need in the church: A community of priests who would work in the world at the service of Christ, helping laity to fulfill their role in Christ’s plan of redemption.
Saint Ignatius’s vision required a prodigious amount of work, and he threw himself into his task. During his lifetime, Aquilina and Stubna write, the saint oversaw the formation and ordination of thousands of priests, the establishment of what would become the “Jesuit tradition” of higher education, and the development of missions worldwide.
During this immensely productive time, he wrote almost seven thousand letters giving advice, making plans, and providing spiritual direction. “He found very practical ways to bring Christ into the workday, and he shared his methods with others,” Aquilina and Stubna observe.
“He wrote letters full of good advice about getting work done, and doing it with care, yet not wearying yourself; about getting along with co-workers; about dealing with office politics; and about the challenge of keeping your eye on the goal, which is not worldly success but godly glory.”
These letters form the backbone of the book’s meditations, which include a passage from Saint Ignatius, questions to ponder, a verse of scripture, and a thought to memorize and take with you throughout the day. For those who don’t currently have a daily devotional practice, the exercises, which can be read over breakfast, can be the beginning of a deepening encounter with God.
For those accustomed to seeing spirituality as something disconnected with the world or as a set of impractical platitudes, Aquilina and Stubna show how faith can flow into even the most mundane things: setting goals, meeting deadlines, dealing with office gossip, putting people before paychecks, and even asking for a raise.
Throughout, the meditations cultivate a way of seeing working life through Christian eyes, offering both encouragement and, at times, correction. Yet, as Saint Ignatius urged, we should not fear loving correction but should in fact encourage it as an act of charity. “It is with this solid love and honest desire that I speak, write, and advise you just as I should honestly wish and desire you to advise, urge, and correct me,” he wrote his brother Martin.
In a business world where looking out for “Number One” has become the mantra, Saint Ignatius offers solid spiritual footing. Across the centuries, he gives us the inspiration to live the faith in the working world and the courage to “blow the whistle”—on ourselves.
Order copies for all your co-workers: Take Five: On the Job Meditations With St. Ignatius.