Introduction to the Spiritual Life is another title from Ave Maria Press' Christian Classics imprint. Like other books from this imprint, we are presented with a fresh translation of an old text that is designed to help us grow in our Catholic life. I was unfamiliar with the author, Louis Bouyer, so I did some research and discovered that he was a French Lutheran minister who converted to Catholicism in 1939. Due to his intelligence, he was relied upon during the Second Vatican Council for the topic of liturgy.
In this book, Bouyer examines several aspects of the spiritual life including Tradition, Scripture, Prayer, Sacraments, and even Asceticism. To give you an idea of what this books discusses and the detail that it goes into, the chapter on prayer is broken down into many subsections. In one such section, he compares vocal prayer with mental prayer, expounds upon the Liturgy of the Hours, compares and contrasts meditation and contemplation. He even goes so far as to discuss the Ignatian Method of Prayer and the Sulpician Method of Prayer. I was familiar with the Ignatian Method, but the Sulpician Method was news to me. It is primarily for clerics, but is "summed up in three celebrated formulae: Jesus before my eyes, Jesus in my heart, Jesus in my hands." It sounds beautiful, but it's definitely out of my realm for prayer at the moment.
The most interesting chapter to me was Chapter 7, which focused on lay spirituality. "For the Christian, the circumstance in which he finds himself placed become a sign of the will of God as this is clarified by the teaching of the Gospel." Some of the expected topics discussed here include work, marriage, and parenthood. However, he also touches on fasting, almsgiving, and moderation. He also rightly points out that we must take our spouse and children into consideration when it comes to the practices we choose to take up. We can't take up something that might be beneficial for us if it will be a detriment to others. Very sage advice there that I plan to remember and take to heart.
Drawing from the teachings of the saints, both Eastern and Western, Bouyer provided us with a very detailed book for laity and religious on how to live the Catholic life. I wouldn't call it light reading, as it spans over 400 pages. However, I would call it straightforward reading, as he is very clear in this book on how to grow more closely to Jesus. This book will hold a special place on my shelf and will be one I revisit time and time again in the future as I continue to grow (hopefully) in my journey with and toward Christ. Five stars. Be sure to check out other titles from the Christian Classics imprint, like Origen's On First Principles and Basil Moreau: Essential Writings.
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