These are the covers of “Abba, Give Me a Word: The Path of Spiritual Direction” by L. Roger Owens, “Seven Keys to Spiritual Wellness: Enriching Your Faith by Strengthening the Health of Your Soul” by Joe Paprocki and “Rediscovering Life” by Anthony de Mello. The books are reviewed by Sister Mona Castelazo, CSJ. (CNS)
“Abba, Give Me a Word: The Path of Spiritual Direction” by L. Roger Owens. Paraclete Press (Brewster, Mass., 2012). 171 pp., $15.99.
“Seven Keys to Spiritual Wellness: Enriching Your Faith by Strengthening the Health of Your Soul” by Joe Paprocki. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2012). 117 pp., $12.95.
“Rediscovering Life” by Anthony de Mello. Image Books (New York, 2012). 128 pp., $14.
Reviewed by Sister Mona Castelazo, CSJ
Catholic News Service
Readers will find helpful, practical suggestions in these three books on spiritual practice: “Abba, Give Me a Word” by the Rev. L. Roger Owens, “Seven Keys to Spiritual Wellness” by Joe Paprocki, and “Rediscovering Life” by Jesuit Father Anthony de Mello.
In “Abba, Give Me a Word,” Rev. Owens, a Methodist pastor, shares his own experience of meeting with a spiritual director, so as to encourage others who feel drawn to that path. The book provides background material on the practice, as well as making distinctions among types of direction, ranging from the original “word” given to novices in the wisdom tradition of the Desert Fathers to the process of journeying together as spiritual friends. Common to all forms is the belief that the Holy Spirit is truly the “director” when both parties earnestly listen together for inspiration.
The author shows that the most difficult task is to learn to let go, to allow another into one’s life and to receive the benefits of the other’s experience. He quotes Margaret Guenther, who writes that the spiritual director offers the other “a place to do one’s laundry” in safety. It is an opportunity to see through illusion and to become one’s true self in relating to God and to others.
Although the underlying basis of Paprocki’s book, “Seven Keys to Spiritual Wellness,” is the traditional list of seven capital sins, the tone and approach are positive. The author states that, unfortunately, Christianity today focuses more on a code of ethics than on a spiritual path.
He therefore concentrates on the virtues that “cure” the sins of pride, envy, anger, greed, gluttony, lust and sloth. The chapter titles read: “Seeing Yourself as You Really Are,” “Actively Seeking the Good of Another,” “Thinking Before You Act,” “Holding on Loosely,” “Recognizing and Setting Limits,” “Seeking Beauty,” and “Unleashing Your Imagination.” Paprocki gives numerous examples and checklists. The book, written with insight and humor, holds positive incentives for those seeking sound spiritual practice.
“Rediscovering Life” is the text of a retreat that Father de Mello, who died in 1987, gave at Fordham University in 1984. He suggests that our Western culture has programmed us to strive for success and to become dependent on approval to the point that we unconsciously let others control us. It is as though approval is a drug that we were given early in life that makes us crave achievement, attainment, triumph, prestige and possessions. Others can control us by withdrawing the drug, in which case we become upset and unhappy.
The author claims that no person or situation can actually upset us. We really upset ourselves because of our illusions about our happiness depending on other people or things external to us. Clinging to these illusions causes us to entertain unreal fears about the future and places us in an ongoing state of anxiety in the present concerning our relationships, our possessions, and the possibility of loss. Loss of these supposed necessities plunges us into depression.
To turn our lives around toward true happiness, Father de Mello prescribes contemplative practice, which helps us to uncover false beliefs and become conscious of illusions, thereby setting us free. We can then gradually withdraw from anxiety, possessiveness, tension and depression based on dependence on anything less than God.
True happiness is to be found in the present, once we rid ourselves of the desire for approval and possession. It is “no longer being at the mercy of an event or a person or anything.” We are not here to change the world primarily, but “to love the world.” Enjoy life as it happens, counsels Father de Mello. “Live in the present moment.”
Sister Mona Castelazo, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, has taught English for many years in Los Angeles. She is the author of “Under the Skyflower Tree: Reflections of a Nun-Entity,” published by iUniverse.
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops