Inspired by the example of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Hart kept a journal of daily spiritual exercises.
Debut author Hart’s spiritual journey was in part kindled by a series of brushes with his mortality. A decade ago, he suffered three heart attacks in three months, an experience that concluded with triple bypass surgery. Later, he discovered a book that resonated with him—The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola—a 16th-century “instruction manual for spiritual discovery.” In 2011, the author followed the daily program prescribed by the book, and he repeated the experience starting in 2016. This book is essentially a record of those efforts, a personal memoir that chronicles a self-governed spiritual retreat. The exercises break in four parts, or “Ignatian weeks,” which in standard calendar terms add up to 35 weeks. Each entry concentrates on a reading from the Bible, which is then used as a kind of legend with which to understand the author’s life. His reflections are broadly conceived, recounting his own experiences as a businessman and a family man. Hart meditates on the meaning of love, death, humility, and sin, to name some of the grand topics he discusses. He uses the central messages of Jesus’ ministry to make sense of his wife’s medical challenges, his depression following his ouster as CEO of a company he founded, and his early resistance to institutional religion.
Hart writes clearly and with admirable candor, always quick to forthrightly discuss his own failings and foibles, making this a very human and humble remembrance. His initial misgiving about religion was borne out of the perception that it was a force for balkanizing exclusivity, and he beautifully discusses his own conversion in terms of his discovery of Jesus’ unifying message: “I pray for the strength to remain firm in my conviction that the standards of Jesus Christ are first and foremost to serve others and to love my enemies. Forgiveness and inclusion remain the two most important words in my faith.” Also, the author’s reflections neatly combine the personal and the philosophical, and he freely and astutely draws from theological luminaries like Thomas Merton, Karl Jaspers, Meister Eckhart, and Augustine. Hart lingers on his political hobbyhorses, especially his distaste for Donald Trump, which may seem out of place in a spiritually oriented work. Also, especially given the length of the memoir as a whole, it’s so idiosyncratically personal that it’s unlikely to sustain the reader’s interest to the end, at least not a reader personally unfamiliar with Hart. He provides lots of information about his family, profiles of his siblings, and at one juncture, a chart detailing his positive and negative character traits.
A thoughtful reflection on spirituality that’s too long and personal to attract much attention beyond the author’s circles.