Friday, October 14, 2011

Reviewing "At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time"

A Prayer That Will Be Answered
Anna Kamienska (Polish, 1920-1986)
Lord let me suffer a lot
and then let me die

Allow me to walk through silence
Let nothing not even fear linger after me

Make the world go on as it always has
let the sea continue to kiss the short

Let grass still remain green
so a little frog could find shelter in it

and someone could bury his face
and weep his heart out

Make a day dawn so bright
it seems there is no more suffering

And let my poem be transparent as a windowpane
against which a straying bee hits its head
This unusual devotional is a book after my own heart. Sarah Arthur has thematically arranged classic and contemporary fiction and poetry to look a little deeper at the worship inherent in the words.

Designed for use in Ordinary Time, themes range from "Seeking God's Face" to "Quarrels with Heaven" to "Rending the Veil." Readings are taken from such diverse fiction sources as The Wind in the Willows and Mansfield Park, and from poets spanning the Italian Christina Rossetti to Enuma Okoro, a contemporary Nigerian-American.

I must admit I've had this book since the beginning of Ordinary Time and now we are approaching the end of it. I haven't written a review until now because, to tell the truth, I do not know how to do it justice. However, I will try.

The daily readings pull one into an almost inadvertent practice of Lectio Divina*. It makes me slow down, look outward for God and inward for my self, and brings me to a place I haven't been before.

I usually am not drawn to poetry and the daily immersion leaves me feeling as if I've stepped out of real time when I'm done reading it. It shakes me up mentally in the best possible way. It is transformative, even if I can't label the transformation ... which, now that I think of it, may actually speak to the authenticity of the "shaking up" that these meditations carry for me.

I do wish that the publisher had provided room for the daily scripture readings instead of simply putting the reference. I, for one, am too lazy (yes, I said it and it's true) to go look up the references. It may have taken a few more pages but would have made At the Still Point a complete devotional. However, that is a small point and certainly one that is easy to remedy, if only I overcome my laziness with a bit of forethought in having a Bible to hand.

I hope that this book does well because I would really love it if Arthur did volumes for Advent, Lent, and Easter. Definitely recommended and not just for Catholics or Christians but for all spiritual seekers who love transformation through words.
Called to Be Saints
Christina Rossetti (English, 1830-1894)

The lowest place. Ah, Lord, how steep and high
That lowest place whereon a saint shall sit!
Which of us halting, trembling, pressing night,
Shall quite attain to it?

Yet, Lord, Thou pressest nigh to hail and grace
Some happy soul, it may be still unfit
For Right Hand or for Left Hand, but whose place
Waits there prepared for it.
Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, spiritual reading, or "holy reading," and represents a traditional Catholic practice of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to increase in the knowledge of God's Word. It is a way of praying with Scripture that calls one to study, ponder, listen and, finally, pray and even sing and rejoice from God's Word, within the soul.


  1. Oh I have that one. I'm not good at keeping regular devotions, but I do enjoy reading this one. It does have some nice works to read both for their poetic content and their Christian message.

  2. Your review makes me want to buy this book. You did an excellent, very well written piece.

  3. I love this book, and it's fun to read what others think about it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!