Writing this review on what in other years would have been the eve of the feast of Saint Benedict, I am sure that this Father of Western Monasticism would have been proud and would have blessed this book that has been produced by the monks of Saint Meinrad’s Archabbey, Saint Meinrad, Indiana. This book shares wisdom about prayer that these monks have attained concerning the Jewish–Christian tradition of prayer, a wisdom gained through the daily practice of prayer and through serious study. This is not a collection of pious aphorisms about prayer; rather it is a report, well conceived and clearly expressed, about the corporate experience of these monks and their insightful study of the tradition of prayer.
This book has three divisions, Part I: A History of Catholic Prayer; Part II: Liturgy: Prayer of the Church in Community; Part III: Special Topics on Catholic Prayer. Each essay is followed by a brief list of items for further reading. Helpful features are the scriptural index and an extensive index of subjects and names.
Too few homilies are preached about prayer and the wisdom of the Jewish-Christian tradition of prayer. However, homilists will find in this book excellent background to their own experience and study of prayer. This book by the monks of Saint Meinrad offers the homilist reliable, clear and richly textured presentations in a wonderfully broad swath of the prayer tradition. The whole story is not here and could not be, but there is more than enough to chew on for a long time.
Just as there are too few homilies on prayer, too few high schools and colleges offer courses on prayer whereby students can gain a reliable knowledge of the prayer tradition. This book can serve well courses about prayer on the high school and college level.
I can only imagine what richness was gained by the monks who took on the challenge of a project that clearly demanded intensive and extensive collaborative interchanges. Many outside of this Archabbey will benefit from this book, but I think that the greatest gain has, understandably, been attained by the monks themselves who have shown what can be done by a community endeavor that reflects what their monastic life is all about. Dom Jean Leclercq, O.S.B, author of The Love of Learning the Desire for God, would have appreciated this monastic undertaking which most surely has been for its authors an exercise that has increased their desire for God. Saint Meinrad’s Archabbey has shown itself to be what Benedict had conceived a monastery to be, a house of prayer that offers hospitality to all who wish to become more adept at prayer.