Robert Ellsberg brings together twelve spiritual masters who, he says, are successors to those who followed The Master, Jesus. These successors conveyed Jesus’ wisdom not such so much by written words but by living Jesus’ way of life. They learned this life by living it, by observing how the master prayed, worked, responded to the challenge of living a moral life. The reason Ellsberg chose these twelve masters “… is their ability to integrate a contemplative life with a compassionate response to the needs of the world.” Since we cannot live and learn with these masters he chooses some of what they have written to provide us with their wisdom. What the book contains, then, are brief quotes of about half a page on some topic dealing with faith, prayer, loving everyone, especially the poor. Each of the twelve is provided with a two and half page introduction detailing her or his life. This provides a context for the offered writings. Ellsberg is not new to editing saints’ lives. He is publisher and editor in chief at Orbis Books. He has written and edited many books dealing with saints such as Saints’ Guide to Happiness: Practical Lessons in the Life of the Spirit, The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, Blessed Among All Women: Women Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time.
The twelve masters are: Howard Thurman, Mohandas Gandhi, Henri Nouwen, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Thea Bowman, Thomas Merton, Oscar Romero, Don Helder Camara, Mother Maria Skobtsova, Madeleine Delbrel, Catherine de Hueck Doherty.
If you wish short readings on love, God, silence, faith, serving the poor, and prayer, then this book offers you some. It fulfills the editor’s goals and your needs. How can the book go wrong? These masters have been read by millions. Obviously their style, context, and life speak to what many people want and need. Hopefully in reading the selections presented here here a reader will read more extensively from one of the masters and be fortunate enough to discover, or become, a real live master.