Paths of Love

The Discernment of Vocation
According to Aquinas, Ignatius, and Pope John Paul II

Joseph Bolin

Cover Page for the Book "Paths of Love: The Discernment of Vocation" - by Joseph Bolin

"God loves us first, he makes us see and experience his love, and from God’s loving us 'first,' love can also arise as a response within us."     (Pope Benedict XVI)

Love is the beginning and the end of every human vocation. This book examines how the call to love manifests itself as a call to a concrete way of life, such as marriage, priesthood, or religious life. It is not a manual of instructions, but takes a spiritual approach to Christian life, following in the footsteps of the saints who speak to us in order to guide our lives: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. It aims to show the richness and wealth of the Catholic understanding of vocation in a simple and accessible manner. For this it looks especially to two great saints who have very different and yet complementary approaches to vocation: St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Ignatius Loyola. Examining what is common to both and the unique elements of each, it seeks to use these different approaches to show forth more clearly the fundamental essence and beauty of a Christian and human vocation.

"There is only one thing for us to do during the night of this life: to love, to love Jesus with all the strength of our heart."

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Book Reviews

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  • Most recent review: This book has an excellent analysis of both the objective presentation of Thomas Aquinas basing his argument for vocation on the good and the more subjective treatment of St. Ignatius who bases his argument on the personal perception of discerning the will of God.... [The] analysis of Pope John Paul joining the discussion is helpful as is his addition of many texts from Francis de Sales. Less helpful is the addition of the thought of Alphonsus Ligouri and von Balthasar to the discussion. In fact, the texts quoted by Baltasar seem to confuse the issue more. The author’s inclusion of English translations of some little known texts of St. Thomas and an insightful analysis of St. Ignatius are very helpful....

    The intention of the author to make a simple guide for ordinary people to aid in religious discernment is not fully realized by his final summary however. The good points he makes theoretically in the first half of the book are not completely carried through in his practical advice.

    The book is very helpful and highly recommended for its theoretical attempt to reconcile Aquinas with Loyola. It should be used more cautiously as a handbook to aid prospective vocations in discernment without a prudent director. (Review published in the Mar/April issue of Religious Life Magazine.)

  • "This book, I hope, will help remedy the tendency (as I see it) of young Catholic discerners to take an overly mystical approach to discernment. Many look for miraculous or semi-miraculous signs from God that will give them absolute certainty in their path.... But such "signs" too often merely affirm what we wanted for ourselves. God created us to be rational and free... and in the choice of our vocation, he expects us to use our reason and free will, as enlightened by faith.... Paths of Love is recommended for any Catholic ready to seriously pursue his vocation to holiness, and to discern in which way of life to do so.  -  Read entire review
  • "I highly recommend this book. Thought provoking and easy to read.... When I need a graduation gift in the future, this is what I will be getting!"  -  Read entire review
  • "The book is brilliant and well researched without being difficult to read. It is both intellectual and spiritual. In short, it is an excellent book on vocations to marriage, the Priesthood and Religious Life - a rare combination in one book, and one that I highly recommend." - Read original review (opens in a new window)
  • "This book synthesizes the thought of St. Ignatius, Pope John Paul II, and St. Thomas Aquinas and their different approaches on vocational discernment and resolves apparent conflicts in the different ways the saints over the centuries have talked about following God’s call in life. At the end, practical advice is given for discerners to consider for their faith journey.
    ...As a work on the different answers St. Ignatius, St. Thomas Aquinas, and John Paul II give to the question on how to know your vocation, this book is a gem. It is not, however, an encyclopedia on vocational discernment. Thus, it focuses mostly on different approaches these people have had towards discernment and so there are other aspects of different vocations that are not covered in this book. In addition, the book has the limitation in that the author restricts himself to speaking about vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and marriage. However, one can expand the notion of “priesthood” to “clerical state” and “religious life” to “consecrated life” as there is a call to the diaconate and other forms of consecrated life.
    ...I felt that this book may be beneficial... as I have personally found few books on discernment that are worth reading." - Read entire review (opens in a new window)
  • "Paths of Love... is a beautiful work." - Private correspondence
  • "... will help many people in discerning their particular vocation to love." - Private correspondence

  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: Two Approaches to Vocation
    Chapter 1: Principles of Christian Life
    Chapter 2: Aquinas and Ignatius
    Chapter 3: Comparison of Aquinas and Ignatius
    Chapter 4: Pope John Paul II on Vocation
    Chapter 4, Part II: Pope Benedict XVI on vocation
    Chapter 5: Conclusions for Vocation Discernment

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