A Guidebook for the Spiritual Life
A Guidebook for the Spiritual Life: How should one live with God?
by Bernard Peyrous, translated by Myles Rearden, CM
The Columba Press, Dublin, Ireland, 2007
Reviewed by Margaret A.L. Blackie, PhD
A Guidebook for the Spiritual Life: How should one live with God? is aptly titled for the men and women who are engaged in a search for God. Bernard Peyrous writes, "The life with God is fascinating, but not always obvious. It has its periods of light and of darkness. It has a pleasant side, and also a disconcerting side. It is not always clear how one is getting on, or what to do" (9). Peyrous makes good use of quotes from a wide variety of source material and injects real examples into the prose in an easy and fluent manner. This provides levity and freshness into the writing, at the same time giving a sense of the depth of tradition which supports this work.
A Guidebook for the Spiritual Life is divided into three sections. The first section maps something of the theological and psychological territory to be explored. Peyrous appropriately starts with God’s desire for each one of us which is followed by the discovery of our desire to respond. This point cannot be over-emphasized, and it is useful to find it stated so clearly. The second section is an abridgement of the Seven Mansions of Saint Teresa of Avila. The material is clearly outlined, and the author’s grasp of the different stages is comprehensive. In the opening chapters, Peyrous takes pains to remind the reader that spiritual development occurs in many of ways. Unfortunately just one system of spiritual development is outlined fully in A Guidebook for the Spiritual Life. Doubtless this is because Peyrous has found this system most useful, most comprehensive, and most widely applicable. The third section of the book is an attempt to deal with different aspects of the spiritual life, ranging from different spiritual communities to the experience of a second call. It is clear that the inclusion of this material comes from the author’s experience as both priest and spiritual director. He is trying to provide some answers to frequent questions.
It should be noted that Peyrous is a Roman Catholic priest. While he is careful to avoid archaic language that is not well understood, he maintains an orthodox approach to his religious tradition. Anyone familiar with the sacraments and with traditional views of sin will find the essence of this work easily accessible.
I believe Peyrous wanted to produce a text which would help bridge the gap between personal experience and the great spiritual works. Such a task is ambitious, but A Guidebook for the Spiritual Life will certainly provide a useful source for those willing to engage with further study.
Margaret A.L. Blackie, PhD, trained and worked for four years at Loyola Hall, Jesuit Spirituality Centre in the United Kingdom. She has recently returned to Cape Town, South Africa, to take up postdoctoral research in chemistry. She continues to minister part time as a spiritual director.