In our last installment of book reviews, we took a look at The Art of Praying, and staying in the same genre, we now turn to the popular mystic of the mid-twentieth century, Adrienne Von Speyr, and her work, Book of All Saints.
Under the guidance of her confessor--the famous Hans Urs von Balthasar (Benedict XVI has compared him to Thomas Aquinas), Ms. Speyr was instructed to put ink to paper on the many visions she was receiving of individual saints, which included their life of prayer (these visions were received over a period of years). In many cases, Adrienne was able to dictate the exact words of the saint’s prayer. Out from these dictations, we gain many insights into the heart of each saint (or well-known figure not canonized), which in many cases, was a thirsting for more of God.
Book of All Saints is a reminder that the saints were ordinary people, but, who over time, became extraordinary in their perseverance in prayer. The saints remind us, while prayer is not easy; it becomes habitual in our determination, and joyful in our discovery of His goodness.
What’s more, to read Book of All Saints is to uncover not only what they had in common—the humility and unswerving commitment to do the will of God; even if it had no rational explanation, but also how unique they were. Indeed, one quickly discovers the beauty of the saints is found in their fidelity to virtue, BUT also the unique gift they were to the Church. In this way, we gain understanding into a much deeper truth regarding our own vocation to prayer and discipleship, which is this: there is only one of us, and God desires that we participate in His holiness, and allow Him to unveil the distinct plan he has for our lives.
If the visions of our favorite saints were not enough, our gracious God also granted Ms. Speyer visions of figures who we do not classify as traditional saints. On a personal level, this was most fascinating for me; to read about the prayer life of a Beethoven, Mozart, or Michelangelo--alongside the many great saints, was deeply intriguing.
I am most confident that this book will beguile you, not only in the almost hypnotizing visions of our heroes of virtue, but also in the simplicity of what it takes to become a saint. Caution: when you are done reading Book of All Saints, you just might find yourself wanting to be a saint!
This book is one of a kind in its nature, structure, and content. Simply, a must read.