Deb, in her comments to my previous post, has got me thinking I should write more about Fr. Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen's remarkable Carmelite devotional manual Divine Intimacy. There are some cheap copies available on Amazon but I whole heartedly recommend the Baronius Press edition, the binding is durable, once the book is open it remains open with no stress on the spine. The pages are beautifully type-set and I feel it is worth the money. It will last a life time.
I'm not going to write a book review however. The rest of this post is just a rambling on the reasons why I find it an inspiring book.
A few weeks back I was talking to our parish priest and he kept repeating a phrase about how priests are expected to live in "a monastery of one". I think he was driving at the loneliness or atleast the solitaryness of his vocation, perhaps with some envy of those who have a monastic life in a community. No doubt life as a parish priest can have its lonely times, coming home to a ready meal for one in a large and draughty presbytery after being stuck for hours in a tedious meeting with the diocesesan health & safety committee, must be grim. Family life too can be a lonely experience. Caring intimately and patiently for sick loved ones is a lonely experience. Sorting out family finances is a lonely business. Going to work and working in an increasingly secular and at times anti-Catholic environment is blinking lonely.
People who know me well, know that they shouldn't ever expect sympathy off me. I do hope our parish priest wasn't looking for sympathy.
There is a type of loneliness that I do believe is a healthy part of our spiritual development. We can feel very lonely when our emotional response to a situation is significantly different to those around us. However, if our response is due to our increasing desire for intimacy with God, then surely this loneliness is wholesome and good. Surely Our Lord felt a little alone from the people around him when he calmed the waters round his little fishing boat. Surely Our Lady felt very alone when she had to let others know of her pregnancy. Loneliness is good if it is a result of an increasing desire for an interior life united to the Lord. Infact surely it is inevitable and surely is it just as likely to happen in a convent, in a draughty presbytery, in a suburban semi, in a large and loving family.
I feel that somehow over the centuries we have lost track of our innate prayerfulness, our desire for intimacy with God, our desire to turn every gesture, movement and utterance over to Him, to do His will. This is not just for priests and religious. It is for all. Anything that helps us do this, when coupled to the sacraments and the prayers of the full Body of Christ, is worth pursuing.
The book does need some knowledge of the pre-1970 liturgical calendar and I find that I still have difficulty reading the writings of the Little Flower the book contains, she is such a demanding and inspiring yet "insipid in style" Doctor of the Church.
Those of us who do retire to our secret rooms to spend time in contemplation and prayer can find we relate to hermits in the desert and find Carmel an inspiration.