Pauline Books and Media) when they sent me a copy the eleventh book in this series, entitled Intimacy in Prayer: Wisdom from Bernard of Clairvaux. The other ten books in the Classic Wisdom Collection (arranged alphabetically) are linked at the end of this review.
In my recent readings on western monasticism, I was introduced to St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Before that, I thought he was just another saint in a long line of saints about whom I knew nothing. I learned that he wrote a treatise entitled "The Steps of Humility and Pride," which I consider life-changing. I also learned that he preached 86 sermons on the Song of Songs, before he died. 86 sermons on an eight chapter book, and he still didn't finish the entire book! Intimacy in Prayer: Wisdom from Bernard of Clairvaux contains excerpts from these 86 sermons and some of his treatises in order to better explain the soul's search for intimacy with God in prayer.
This book is under 100 pages and divided into 23 different chapters. Each chapter is three to four pages long. With this layout, one can easily read the book in less than a month by simply reading a chapter a day. I would recommend picking a consistent time reading it each day to develop a habit, and so that you will stick with it. If you read upon waking, your whole day will be pointed toward God. If you do it before you go to bed, you can accompany it with an Examination of Conscience and a reflection upon your whole day. There are tons of ways to read this book. The key is to actually read it!
I particularly enjoyed the brief chapter called, "Alone with God." As a lay person, I have often felt a longing to be closer to God. I believe sometimes that just getting away from everyone and everything and focusing on God, like monastics, would help accomplish this. I know this is not possible due to the responsibilities of my life and vocation. St. Bernard, thankfully, helped spell things out for me. He said, "You must withdraw mentally rather than physically, in your intention, in your devotion, in your spirit. For Christ the Lord is a spirit before your face, and he demands solitude of the spirit more than of the body, although physical withdrawal can be of benefit when the opportunity offers, especially in time of prayer."
This is a 5 star book that provides the reader with a small sample of the beauty of the Song of Songs mixed with the wisdom of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. It provided me with a deeper comprehension of this often misunderstood book of the Bible, and it also increased my appreciation for a saint about whom I am just starting to learn. If you are looking to draw closer to God in prayer, and honestly, who isn't, I would recommend this book to you. They also have ten other books (as seen below) for different challenges in your spiritual life that you might be facing.
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Comfort in Hardship: Wisdom from Thérèse of Lisieux
Courage in Chaos: Wisdom from Francis de Sales
Inner Peace: Wisdom from Jean Pierre de Caussade
Life’s Purpose: Wisdom from John Henry Newman
Path of Holiness: Wisdom from Catherine of Siena
Peace in Prayer: Wisdom from Theresa of Avila
Secrets of the Spirit: Wisdom from Luis Martinez
A Simple Life: Wisdom from Jane Frances de Chantal
Solace in Suffering: Wisdom from Thomas à Kempis
Strength in Darkness: Wisdom from John of the Cross