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Spiritual Directors International

SDI is a global learning community of people from many faiths and many nations who share a common concern, passion, and commitment to the art and contemplative practice of spiritual direction.  

Spiritual Directors International began in 1989, in a gathering of spiritual directors of Christian faith at Mercy Center in Burlingame, California, USA. In the ensuing years, the community has become one of many nations and faiths. Click here to visit their website.

 

Book Reviews

Brief comments about books, old and new, that can challenge,
support, inspire, and nourish on our spiritual journey

contributed by George E. Schultz

15 Days of Prayer With Meister Eckhart  

by Andre Gozier, O.S.B. Liguori Publications (Liguori, MO, 2000). 100 pp. Liguori has published over a dozen books in this series of “15 Days of Prayer…” 
We could spend our 15 days with the likes of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Bernard, St. Benedict, or even Thomas Merton, or Charles de Foucauld, to name a few.  Each book is by a different author, but the subject book by Andre Gozier, O.S.B., a Benedictine at an abbey in Paris, presents us with one of the lesser-known mystics of the late Middle Ages.  However, Gozier follows the chapter “How to Use This Book” with “A Brief Chronology of Meister Eckhart’s Life” (4 pages), which will bring all newcomers up too speed on the importance of this mystic to the Christian contemplative tradition.  The 15 chapters that follow consist mainly of quotes from Eckhart’s sermons with comments and explanations by Gozier, with a few final questions for reflection. The chapters bear such titles as Without Asking Why, Suffering, and Let God Reign in the Soul.  Gozier warns us that when reading this book we should “…be prepared to be surprised.  If you have never been on a spiritual journey you should know that…descriptions [of it] that you might have heard are nothing compared to the real thing.”

Finding the Mystic Within You

by Peggy Wilkinson, O.C.D.S. ICS Publications (Washington, DC, 1999). 188 pp.

The Preface to this brief but in-depth volume on the spiritual journey, albeit with its emphasis on the “Carmelite Way,” gives us a wonderful picture of its down-to-earth author, who though married and the mother of eight, chose a spiritual path that included being ‘professed’ as a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites.  Peggy states that in the beginning her husband was a little wary of her newfound interest in spirituality, so she reassured him that her becoming a Carmelite would not interfere with their family life.  For this reason, she “kept a low profile” and made her prayer life as unobtrusive as possible.  For the next 160 pages she passes on to us what she has learned from St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.  Finding the Mystic Within You is the result of Peggy’s many years “…in leading Carmelite spiritual formation classes…giving workshops on the relationship between creativity and spirituality, [and] in leading classes on contemplative prayer in parishes…”

Her chapter, Spiritual Preparations for Contemplative Prayer, is a primer for those who’ve recently stepped onto the spiritual path, and it’s also beneficial for those who’d enjoy a refresher on the basics of the spiritual journey. At the same time, readers might find the chapter Mystical Knowledge and Rational Knowledge to be unnecessary and a bit “technical.”  Nevertheless, Finding the Mystic Within You, noted to be a practical modern guidebook for the spiritual journey, is well worth the read.

Too Deep for Words

by Thelma Hall, r.c. Paulist Press (Mahwah, NJ, 1988). 110 pp.

Spiritual director and co-director of the Cenacle Retreat House in Bedford Village, New York, Thelma Hall r.c. (Religious of the Cenacle) presents here a concise history and description of Lectio Divina, a “…time-honored way of prayer which…opens us to that deep level of communication with the divine.” In the first half of her book, Part One: The Call to Contemplation, Thelma reminds us: (1) that we are all called to become contemplatives; (2) that “To become love…is the sum and substance of Jesus’ teaching…”; (3) that any judgment of progress in our prayer life must be based on the long-term effects of prayer on our daily lives; and (4) that “…it is essential that we carve out, every day, some substantial amount of time for interior stillness and silence in prayer, and remain faithful to it as a true priority.” 

The rest of Too Deep for Words is arranged thematically.  Each of the final 50 pages is titled with a theme (such as Accepting Love, Gratitude, and Witness), and under each theme title are 10 quotes from Scripture. Thelma encourages us to select meaningful themes that seem “…personally appropriate, and then, slowly and prayerfully proceed to read through the summarized texts until one is found which evokes a personal response.” As Thelma states in the Introduction, Lectio Divina was a proven path to contemplation for centuries.  It is time to rediscover the gift.

Why Not Be a Mystic?

by Frank X. Tuoti. The Crossroad Publishing Co. (New York, NY, 1995). 192 pp., $12.95

Former Trappist monk and current resident of Tuscon, AZ, Frank X. Tuoti says the prime reason for this book is to tell us that the gift of a contemplative spirituality and the mystical life is open to all who would like to have it. He says that the contemplative tradition of Western Christianity is now undergoing a renewal, and that each of us can begin to take “…serious personal responsibility for our spiritual life, [which is] signified by our commitment to a discipline of prayer and meditation.” Tuoti’s primary complaint is that though our parishes have numerous programs and committees, they have nothing related to training in the art of meditation “…without which the inner eye of the soul cannot open to the Reality within it.” It is Tuoti’s contention that parish programs “…however useful and valuable, are nonetheless secondary to the spiritual life and peripheral to one’s inner growth and development.” Therefore, Frank Tuoti’s question and challenge to us is “Why not be a mystic?”

Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope

by Joan D. Chittister. Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI, 2003). 111 pp., $14.00

In this most recent of her books, prolific author and lecturer Sister Joan D. Chittister, a Benedictine nun in Erie, Pennsylvania, shares with us her thoughts on how we can not only survive but be transformed by the struggles we face in this life. “The great secret of life,” Chittister says, “is how to survive struggle without succumbing to it…how to come out of struggle better than we found ourselves in the midst of it. ” In Chapter 7, “The Gift of Independence,” she states that detachment is the ability to see that there are many things of value in our lives, some of them more suited to one time than another.  She goes on to say that the key to the practice of detachment, or spiritual indifference, is that I can be detached from the idea that there is only one way for me to go through life joyfully. Much of the book expresses a spiritual version of the if-it-doesn’t-kill-you, it- makes-you-stronger attitude.  Nevertheless, many will find this book filled with words of encouragement that will help them endure, survive, even be transformed if they’re open to the workings of God’s grace in their lives.

Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel

by Thomas Keating, O.S.C.O. Continuum (New York, NY, 1997). 148 pp., $12.95 If you have not yet heard about Centering Prayer, after reading this book you will realize that some day retired Trappist Abbot Fr. Thomas Keating will likely be remembered as the Father of Centering Prayer, and this book will be regarded as the bible of the centering prayer “movement.”  In Open Mind, Open Heart Fr. Keating explains that centering prayer is nothing new, but it is an attempt to present “the teaching of the Christian tradition on contemplative prayer…in an up-to-date form and to put a certain order and method into it.”  In this book, Fr. Thomas explains the difference between contemplation and centering prayer, and he asks us to “…keep in mind that the method of centering is only one form of prayer and doesn’t exclude other forms of prayer at other times.”  Also, he presents a detailed explanation of the method of centering prayer and the benefits of joining a weekly support group. For those interested in spending “quiet time” with the Holy Spirit, there couldn’t be a better primer than Open Mind, Open Heart.