BOOK OF MEDITATIONS is almost necessary to keep the mind from drifting around in a fog. There are plenty of works, old and new, that have everything that is demanded in a true book of meditations. . . . Each point contains some striking truth presented in a clear, forceful, and concise manner, in such a way that once we have reflected upon it, we are inevitably led on into a loving and practical conversation with God.
We are about to begin the holy season of Advent, a season of eager longing, quiet waiting, renewed trust in God’s provision for our needs, and, most of all, of interior preparation for receiving the Word of God into our hearts, our lives. Do you have a plan for what spiritual reading you will be doing? It will make Advent so much more fruitful if you take up a serious book suited to the season and read a portion of it every day, rain or shine. If it can be arranged, setting aside time for quiet prayer during and after reading that portion of the book will make the season even more fruitful, but in any case, doing the reading itself is already a spiritual discipline that will bear fruit.
THERE ARE SO MANY great classics out there that I hesitate to recommend any one in particular, but in case you don’t have a bookshelf already loaded with books you’ve bought and not yet read (a problem that I face to an almost ridiculous extent), here are a few you might consider.
One is called Divine Intimacy, by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. Another is the adaptation into daily meditations of the spiritual works of Blessed Columba Marmion, O.S.B.: Words of Life on the Margin of the Missal (out of print but sometimes available used). An attractive feature of both books is that the meditations follow the course of the liturgical year and therefore present prayer, the three ways of the spiritual life, the life of Christian virtue, etc., as a participation in the mysteries of Christ as given to us in the liturgy.
A third recommendation, if one is looking for something a bit more intellectual, is Fr. Bede Jarrett, O.P.’s Meditations for Laymen. This is a Thomistically-informed set of meditations that cover all the major topics in the spiritual life, based on the fundamental principle that truth and truth alone sets us free, and that we must therefore root ourselves in the truth before we will be capable of any spiritual progress.
Other books that have deeply nourished me and many of my friends over the years:
Fr. Jacques Philippe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace
Fr. Jean C. J. d’Elbée, I Believe in Love
Bd. Columba Marmion, Christ, the Life of the Soul and Christ in His Mysteries
Reading books like these, which may take a bit longer to finish than Advent allows — they might take you well into Lent and Easter and out beyond Pentecost! — is a way to ensure a season of spiritual growth in faith, deeper insight into the mystery of Jesus, and the burning of a brighter flame of charity.