Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review -- Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from Saint Thomas Aquinas

Spiritual direction has been an essential part of Catholic tradition since the earliest days of the Church when desert fathers were sought out for their wisdom and guidance. Today, a renewed interest in attaining personal holiness and an ever-increasing attraction to monastic spirituality has put spiritual direction in the spotlight. In 2012, Emmaus Road Publishing released Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God by Executive Director of the National Catholic Register, Dan Burke. In it, Burke emphatically emphasized the importance and necessity of spiritual direction for Catholics in their spiritual journey.

Now Peter Kreeft, a seasoned author whom I greatly admire for his natural genius on topics of faith, has written a book on spiritual direction that Dan Burke describes as “his opus.” In Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from Saint Thomas Aquinas, Kreeft has combined 358 useful insights from Aquinas’ masterpiece, the 4000 page Summa Theologiae. Employing Thomas Aquinas as the reader’s virtual spiritual director, Kreeft answers the type of questions people ask spiritual directors, with quotes from the Summa. He breaks down each quote, explaining it in his own words, using modern language along with his own wit and sense of humor so that it makes perfect sense to the average person in the pew. In other words, the reader does not need to be a theologian or a philosopher to understand the spiritual counsel in this book, as it is both clear and comprehensible.

What is even more impressive is the fact that Kreeft used these 358 quotes from Aquinas to help him in his own struggles to develop a more intimate union with the Lord. His practical, personal, and priceless advice is the fruit of his labors to apply the insights of Aquinas in his own quest for sanctity, happiness, and union with the Lord.

There are a wide range of topics in this book, some of which include typical kinds of questions/concerns that we see asked most often by our Protestant brothers and sisters, such as, “Do Catholics worship Mary?” “Is Jesus really present in the Eucharist?” “What are indulgences and why are they right?” Others are more unique, such as, “Will the resurrected body have everything the present body has, e.g. hair and nails?” “Should Communion be given to the severely mentally disabled?” Just about any question about the faith you have ever thought of is addressed in this beautiful book.

Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from Saint Thomas Aquinas is not a book that you will want to read quickly, but it is a book filled with fascinating facts and solid information and advice that you will want to meditate and reflect on, savor, and return to long after you have finished it. It makes an excellent reference book for: the home, RCIA classes, the parish/diocesan library, and for spiritual directors/advisors. I highly recommend it for all who desire to learn more about the Catholic faith and to grow in holiness.

~ copyright Jean M. Heimann, January 2015

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