Archives For Christian Spirituality

 

Crafting a Rule of Life would be an effective adult education study, seasonal endeavor, or personal exercise in pausing to organize one’s thoughts and feelings around a central calling from God. While it provides a taste of Benedictine thought, the Rule of St. Benedict is not the featured flavor of the month. Instead, it is a quiet, historic partner in the background and is accompanied by other classic and traditional flavors meant to provide accompaniment for a modern person of faith’s journey.

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“To Become More Fully Human”

A Review of
Two New Books on Christian Spirituality

Reviewed by Kevin Book Satterlee.


Monastery of the Heart - Joan ChittisterThe Monastery of the Heart:
An Invitation to a Meaningful Life

Joan Chittister.
Hardback: Bluebridge, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon ]


Soulful Spirituality:
Becoming Fully Alive
and Deeply Human
David G. Benner
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2011.
Buy now:
[ ChristianBook.com ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]


SOULFUL SPIRITUALITY - BennerAlthough Christianity has long been understood as by many as a set of doctrines confining people into a religion in which God and Jesus became life-depleting and discipleship was a soulless death, there has always been an undercurrent of life-giving, fulfilling Christian spirituality.  Thomas Merton helped many Christians to reimagine a life-giving spiritual pursuit over doctrinal stuffiness.  There are still many skeptics, but the publishing industry is pumping out new Christian spiritual books on a monthly basis.  Spirituality is en vogue in pop culture, especially in Christian pop sub-culture, but many of the resources are valuable.

Sister Joan Chittister’s newest book, The Monastery of the Heart:  An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, (BlueBridge) and David G. Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality:  Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human, (Brazos) are two new books for 2011 about life-giving and distinctly human spiritualities.  Chittister is a Benedictine nun and writes from her half-century in the monastic life.  Benner is a professor of psychology at Richmont Graduate University, whose work focuses on psychology and spirituality.

While the two books are about spirituality, they take very different approaches.  Benner writes about the psychology of spirituality and the spirituality of psychology.  He is a clinical therapist and applies the principles of spirituality to psychological health.  He comes from a Christian background and writes with Christian influence, however his pluralism of spirituality also dramatically influences his writing.  Chittister’s work, on the other hand, is a poetic commentary on St. Benedict’s monastic rule.  She is thoroughly Christian in her approach.

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A Brief Review of

The Impact of Attachment.
Susan Hart.
Hardback:  W.W. Norton, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Josh Morgan.

 

Attachment theory is one of the most well-respected psychological theories in the mental health fields. Focusing on the effect of relationships on people’s behaviors, moods, attitudes, thoughts, etc., attachment theory has influenced many professions and subsequent treatment modalities. Rooted in psychoanalytic theory’s history, attachment work tends to be longer-term and less concrete than managed care-friendly modalities, like cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Increasing neuroscience research has focused more efforts on understanding the role of the brain, its structures, neurotransmitters, and hormones on thoughts, moods, and behaviors. With the rising medicalization of mental health and improving psychotropic medications, longer-term and more transformative (rather than symptom-focused) therapies have faced greater challenges and less respect.

Susan Hart, a Danish psychologist, attempts to tackle many of these in her ambitious volume, The Impact of Attachment. This thick text is a comprehensive explanation of attachment theory, particularly connecting it with modern neuroscientific findings. The fundamental thesis of her work is that “a dichotomy of brain/mind, biology/experience, nature/nurture is not very productive, chiefly because it hampers the development of a theory that is capable of fully embracing the complexity that characterizes human psychological development” (xi). As a psychologist, I can attest to the fact that the increasing debate that polarizes qualitative and quantitative like modern American politics is creating more conflict with the mental health fields. Such conflict does not help build better treatments if we were all to work together to bring our unique areas of expertise to elucidate the shadows of the mind.
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A Brief Review of Two Recent Books
on Guidance and Discernment.
Decision Making and Spiritual DiscernmentBy Nancy L. Bieber.
Paperback: Skylight Paths, 2010.  
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Discovering Our Spiritual Identity:
Practicing for God’s Beloved
Trevor Hudson.
Paperback: IVP Press, 2010. Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed By William Mills.

Every year the market is inundated with new books on Christian spirituality: prayer, fasting, meditation, lectio divina, vocation, spiritual direction, and healing. Every year it becomes increasingly more difficult to sift through the wheat from the chaff and quite frankly it can be overwhelming.  However, two recently published books are essential for serious readers seeking thoughtful reflective books on the various spiritual issues among Christians.

Discovering Our Spiritual Identity is not just an ordinary book on Christian faith but one which encourages the reader to stop, reflect, and then act. Trevor Hudson is a pastor in the Methodist Church in South Africa and is the author of numerous books, most recently Listening to the Groans. He also works closely with the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Institute and travels to the United States several times per year to lead retreats and small conferences.

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An excerpt from

Water from a Deep Well:
Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries
.
Gerald Sittser.
Hardback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Soon to be released in paperback!

 

A Brief Review of
Catherine De Hueck Doherty: Essential Writings.
Modern Spiritual Masters Series.
Paperback, Orbis Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Prior to receiving a copy of the new book Catherine De Hueck Doherty: Essential Writings (Orbis 2009), my only encounter with the late Ms. Doherty was through her classic work Poustinia, which appropriates the Eastern Christian practice of poustinia (Russian: “desert”) for readers in the West.  One of the newest volumes in Orbis’ “Modern Spiritual Masters” series, this anthology of Doherty’s writings is a fabulous introduction to her life and work.  The book opens with a lengthy introduction by editor David Meconi,  S.J., which follows the complex story of Doherty’s life from her upbringing in an aristocratic Russian family, to her narrow escape from Russia during the Bolshevik revolution to her eventual settling and ministry in the United States and Canada.  Although never formally trained in theology, Doherty was one of the twentieth century’s most prominent thinkers in the area of Christian spirituality.  Having been raised by Russian Orthodox parents, but with a Roman Catholic grandfather, Doherty would herself ultimately settle within Roman Catholicism.  This rich heritage offered Doherty a unique opportunity to speak in broad terms about Christian faith and experience.  The categories into which the selections from her writings have been presented in this volume shed some light on the key themes of her work: “The Divine Presence,” “The Mystical Body,” “Christian Prayer,” “Christian Action” and “The Human Condition.”  Although Doherty’s most poignant writings could be described as mystical – probing our relationship with God and with one another – her life was clearly not one of isolation, but rather engagement – particularly in caring for the poor, a virtue that was nurtured in her by her parents from her earliest years.  The most striking section of the book for me were her writings on the human condition, which reflect the familial and cultural struggles that she faced throughout her life and yet demonstrate an unwavering faith in the sovereignty of God in the midst of these trials.  I highly recommend this book as a fine introduction to one of the most significant Christian women of the twentieth century, a visionary whose message is of great value even to us, as followers of Christ in the twenty-first century.