Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Book Review


For my first book review, I'd like to recommend "Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality."

This book finds its place in the long and venerable line of spiritual direction as exhibited by the Desert Mothers and Fathers. These wisdom figures would often receive visitors who would hail them with the greeting, "Abba, give me word of salvation." The Abba or Amma would then tell a story or give a short saying to the person. Such sayings or stories were not spontaneous aphorisms or Chinese fortunes, but rather the result of many hours of prayer and reflection.

Are you struggling with a long-held resentment over some slight you have suffered? Let us take this to Mother!

Gruge-Holder: "Mother, Give me a word of salvation! I am beset with a long-held grudge"

Mother Angelica: "Don't waste your time in life trying to get even with your enemies. The grave is a tremendous equalizer. Six weeks after you all are dead, you'll look pretty much the same. Let the Lord take care of those whom you think have harmed you. All you have to do is love and forgive. Try to forget and leave all else to the Master."

Struggling with being impatient?

Impatient Person: "Mother, Give me a word of salvation! I am most impatient with myself and with those around me!"

Mother Angelica: "Patience is adjusting your time to God's time."

Now it's obvious that this is no easy answer - nor should it be. The lessons and stories contained in this book are great material for prayer and reflection. Like the marrow bone that must be boiled for many hours to flavor a soup, many of these pithy statements and stories need to be reflected on in order for their lessons to penetrate deeply into the soul.

My only caveat: this is not a book to be read, necessarily, c0ver-to-cover. As it is helpfully broke up into sections such as "Sin and Temptation" "Living Prayer and True Spirituality" "Motherly Advice for the Family" "Everyday Holiness" one should bring one's struggles and questions to the text, open to the section addressing one's angst, and begin to read. Approach the text not as a How-To book of spirituality, but rather as a wisdom figure who has prayed and reflected for a long time. Come to the book and say, "Mother, give me a word" and ask your question. I have a feeling that she'll know just what to say.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Ryan,

I agree with you on the nobility of Mother Angelica's life long work. However, is not this considered career suicide? Will you know be banished to the ends of the Jesuit Earth,for even mentioning Mother Angelica in a positive light? Keep fighting the good fight, future "Prince of the Church"!

Paul Miki

Ryan Duns, SJ said...

Hi Paul,

It's funny you should mention that: another Jesuit was MORTIFIED that I would give this book my approval.

Here's my lens:

Would I use this book to teach a graduate-level course in spiritual theology? No. Would I say that it is the most important book I've ever read? No.

Would I, however, feel comfortable giving it to a member of my family? Yes.

My question in reviewing a book is this: Will it be helpful to someone? Is it going to hinder the road to God or is it going to facilitate the journey? In this case, I think it will help very many people.

I don't agree with everything Mother Angelica has ever said or done. I would definitely quibble with certain things. But that shouldn't meant that I dismiss her wholesale! I think her book is quite helpful and I can imagine large numbers of people for whom her advice will be life-giving and challenging. I would be remiss if I were to find something that acts as an aide to prayer and not suggest it.

Joe said...

What? You didn't read it in German?

You wimp!

-J.

P.S. I liked this book a great deal. It was pithy and useful and usable.

Ryan said...

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for the kind words about Mother and her book. I manage the web site for Raymond Arroyo. I have never posted when a blogger reviews Mother’s book before, however you’re the first fellow Ignatius Alumnus I have run across.

Part of Mother’s popularity was she understood you don’t need a graduate level theology class to understand His word. Her appeal was how well she communicated with the ‘regular guy.’

Good luck on your journey!

Ryan Milligan

Chris said...

Ryan,
Thanks for not dismissing Mother Angelica wholesale. It's obvious you are prudent!

C. Rakovec