Set Me Free, Spiritual Direction & Discernment of Spirits,Reviewed by Nita Hill
Brian Gallagher MSC; Coventry Press, Australia, 2019
Drawing strongly on the thinking and works of Ignatius Loyola, other mystics and more modern writers such as Barry and Connelly, Gerald May, Rulla and Toner, Brian Gallagher has written a very detailed well-researched thesis on the role of discernment in the spiritual life.
His academic approach is augmented with practical examples illustrating ways of achieving inner freedom and discernment. Gallagher argues that this inner freedom work is crucial to spiritual directors being able to develop an increasing ability to accurately discern between God’s spirit and “spirits-not-of-God’. During a direction session he sees movements within the director as significant as interpreting the movements in the directee.
The book also addresses the need for developing inner freedom, the discernment of spirits and awareness of vulnerability within formation programme trainees. Gallagher uses examples from the programme he has devised for Australian Spiritual Director Training ‘Siloam’ throughout the latter part of the book and provides a more detailed outline of this programme in an Appendix.
I found the book thought provoking and helpful for reflection both on my own spiritual life and the role of spiritual directors in experiencing and applying Discernment of Spirits to their work. There is an element of repetition however, and the constant footnoting can be distracting when it interrupts the flow of the narrative. Some readers may find the use of models and charts to illustrate or summarise sections helpful.
Over all, I found the book a stimulating and worthwhile read and would recommend it to others interested in exploring discernment.