In recent years the Catholic Church has seen the growth of a movement that arose from the reforms of Vatican II. Despite obstacles, there is an openness that will not be closed. It is a movement that we can learn from--one that puts prayer before programs and emphasizes the revival that comes only from this source. Catholic clergy who belong to that movement have written some of the most splendid devotional books on prayer. In what follows, Ella M. Rydzewski, Ministry editorial assistant, reviews two of these books.
A Tree Full of Angels: Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary Marcina Wiederkehr, Harper and Row, San Francisco, California, 1988, 155 pages, hardcover, $13.95.
Marcina Wiederkehr is a member of a Benedictine community and a retreat leader. Drawing on her extensive experience as a spiritual counselor, she calls on us to see the divine revelation that fills our daily lives and to encounter the Holy Spirit on a continual basis in our ordinary routines. We find the holy by immersing ourselves in the Word of God and discovering that He is not just in the Word but walks with us. Marcina suggests daily practices that include scriptural reading, meditating on the Scriptures, prayer, contemplation, and journaling ("saving the graced moments for future reference").
There is nothing remotely New Age about Marcina's approach. But in this day of so much uneasiness about the movement, it is unfortunate that in her attempt to reach the secular mind, she has used the term mantra. What she actually means by this term is the repetition of and reflection upon a different Bible verse each day--quite a different practice than that referred to by mantra in Eastern meditation.
Prayer That Heals Our Emotions Eddie Ensley, Harper and Row, San Francisco, California, 1988, 175pages, $8.95, paper.
The greatest need in the church today is for people who pray not just brief routine prayers, but deep, completely honest prayers. Eddie Ensley, director of a group called the Contemplative Brothers, offers concrete suggestions on how to embark on an active devotional life. The writer's emphasis speaks to the question What is God like? When we understand this, worship begins.
Ensley's book reflects the love of God for us on every page. He uses a two-pronged approach: (1) self-examination followed by acknowledgment of our needs and dependence on God to fill those needs, and (2) scriptural visualization. These steps are a part of each meditative exercise.
The 32 suggested prayer experiences cover human needs ranging from asking for and accepting forgiveness to healing relationships. The book manages to convey acceptance without being permissive.
Ensley states, "We are afraid to look at our sinfulness, for we don't understand how intensely God is ready to forgive us." And to acknowledge sin is to admit that we don't have everything under control. As we are forgiven, a deeper love and compassion for others grows in our hearts.
These healing messages are an invitation to try in-depth prayer and to experience how such prayer will change our human condition.