Ed. by Colleen Griffith & Thomas Groome (Paraclete, 2012)
At first glance, Catholic Spiritual Practices: A Treasury of Old and New seems only marginally important. Not so. Each of the book’s 27 short chapters is written by a proven and trusted spiritual guide. The contributors remind us of the spiritual wealth available to us through our Catholic faith tradition and instruct us in its practical application to our lives.
They also shine light on the primary reason our worldwide community has survived two scandal-marred millennia. The lives of popes, cardinals, and Christian rulers are the usual focus of written church history. But high-profile churchmen and secular leaders, especially those of Christendom past, are not the reason we remain spiritually vital today. Credit for that major miracle belongs to lay and religious Catholics, both female and male, who developed and passed on the spirit-nourishing concepts and exercises found in this wide-ranging collection from one generation to the next.
Among the book’s many highlights is Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister’s presentation of a radically more adult way to understand the meaning of fasting in one’s spiritual life. Esther de Waal reminds us that our most ordinary daily activities are sacraments of God’s love and presence. Mercy Sister Ana María Pineda calls us to the spirituality of hospitality, a grassroots virtue that is tepid or absent in too many parish communities.
This book has added value as a resource for faith formation, prayer groups, and RCIA catechumens. In his conclusion to Catholic Spiritual Practices, co-editor Groome points out the appropriateness of the term “practice” relative to spirituality: “Good prayer practices and spiritual exercises will help to sustain our reach toward fullness of faith, to approximate the holiness of God. If we keep on practicing, we’ll surely get better at it.”
This article appeared in the February 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 2, page 51).