These two gems are part of Orbis’s Catholic Spirituality for Adults Series which seeks to explore various dimensions of spirituality, particularly in terms of what the various authors are learning to see as they seek to go beyond information into transformation.
Rupp’s book focuses primarily on personal prayer, both formal and informal, consisting of numerous modes intended to deepen the relationship with God. These modes include words and quiet listening, ruminations and silence, extending and receiving love, imaging and visualizing, searching, discerning, and deciding which are variously expressed through intercession, praise, contrition, gratitude, grieving, searching, celebrating, and struggling. Various methods can assist in the development of this relationship, whether recitation of Psalms, centering meditation, praying the rosary, journaling, spiritual reading, sacramental participation, or walking meditatively. However this book is not so much a manual on how to pray, nor does it outline specific methods of prayer, rather it seeks to inspire by helping people to see “prayer”, in its richly and varied dimensions, as essential for the nourishing one’s relationship with God and in doing so allowing one to be transformed by that encounter. Having “mined” insights from various prayer traditions and sources, the book readily provides pointers for further reading and reflection. Through stories, poetry, excerpts, reflections, questions, and challenges Rupp gently opens up the richness of the mystery of prayer, what she refers to as “an uncomplicated gesture of love” and invites the reader to go deeper into that relationship on one’s own path.
One of the strengths of Rupp’s approach is that she focuses on situating prayer within the context of one’s life: “Each part of who we are and how we are is what we bring to God” (82). This includes especially the parts one might wish were not there. Her fourth chapter, entitled “Turning Prayer Inside Out”, stresses that prayer is meant to “grow us”. Rupp opens one’s eyes to the ways in which unannounced and unwelcomed interruptions offer the greatest opportunities for spiritual growth, and that God is often found in the places one might least expect.
Morneau’s book focuses on the struggle between sin and grace that takes place in the heart of every human person, and thus the need for reconciliation. He explicates in clear and concise fashion the why of reconciliation as well as demonstrating the importance of the sacramental expression of reconciliation and the need for God’s mercy to transform both the human heart and the human society. The book offers a brief but significant glimpse at the capital sins as well as the workings of grace, and the fruits of the Spirit.
For me, Morneau’s book was an absolute delight to read. He effectively brings in artistic and literary traditions from Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Hopkins, and O’Connor to lesser known artists and writers, in a manner that concretizes what has often been left to the realm of abstract theological thought. The final chapter is a poetic perspective on reconciliation enlisting a variety of poems which deal with sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace which demonstrates the potential of metaphor and image to transform minds and hearts.
If these two works are indicative of the quality of the other books in the series, Orbis is to be commended.