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Free At Last! An Introduction to Prayer & Spiritual Life

Author(s): Noreen Mackey

ISBN13: 9781856076616

ISBN10: 185607661


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  • Many people believe that prayer is only for monks and nuns. Others think that praying consists of reciting some well-worn prayers. Free at Last! turns these ideas on their heads.

    It shows that prayer is as essential to all of us as the food we eat. It is an adventure, a response to someone who has called our name, a journey into relationship that will bring us our deepest hearts desire. If you want life, if you long to be free, if you have ever wondered how to pray or how to live a spiritual life, this book is for you.
  • Noreen Mackey

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    As Vatican II taught so rightly, every Christian is called to the life of holiness. Any number of spiritual movements over the last thirty years from centering prayer, the use of the Jesus Prayer or lectio divina to the re-discovery and appropriation of the writings of great mystics and teachers of prayer - underscore the fact that everyone is called into a relationship with God through prayer. Noreen Mackeys book, Free at Last! An Introduction to Prayer and the Spiritual Life is a fine resource and inspiration for the journey into relationship with God that will bring us our hearts deepest desire, as Mackey writes.

    I suppose many of us think that contemplation is the reserve of a few chosen souls in a cloistered setting. Years ago, while I was working in Soweto in the struggle years the longing for a contemplative life/style began stirring in me. I often went to spend a day or two at the local Carmel where I found great peace. One day I spoke to one of the nuns about this growing desire for prayer and attraction to Carmel. In one moment she swept away my romantic notions assuring me that most of them, though in a contemplative order, were neither contemplatives nor mystics. In a similar vein, Noreen Mackey recounts the story of trying her vocation in a contemplative order in France. What she learned from that experience was something that freed her to affirm her own call to prayer and intimacy with God within the context of her own gifts and uniqueness as a writer and lawyer in Dublin.

    Free at Last! is a very personal yet practical guide for someone who is serious about a life of prayer and relationship with God. It gives tips for getting started, presents the patterns of growth in contemplative prayer (which often seems to go backwards instead of forward), discusses the hazards and difficulties in prayer and offers other bits of advice for the journey. Mackey situates this quest for God our Lover within the Catholic tradition making good use of scripture and mystical texts. Its a very good read for
    beginners and proficients alike.

    - Jean Evans, RSM, Spirituality, January/February 2010

    Anyone who has read Mackeys two volumes of autobiography, The Secret Ladder and The Crystal Fountain, will know of her struggles to embrace the religious life in a convent and her final decision to return to the secular world, where she is a barrister. Unlike many, Mackey did not give up her religion when she ceased to be a nun and has since sought ways in which to be a Christian and lead a spiritually fulfilling life while holding down a job and coping with the day-to-day problems of ordinary existence. Thus what she has to say on this subject is the result of experience. Mackey believes that we are all drawn towards God and the spiritual, and seeks to show how these needs can be satisfied by a lay person in the real world. She sets out routines for prayer and meditation in straightforward lay language, how to pray and when. This is a book for the believing Christian who finds it hard to practise amidst the stresses and strains of everyday life.

    - Books Ireland, November 2009

    The aim of this most practical book is to encourage and to enable lay people to free their spirit from the everyday obstacles which block their ability to pray, to find the place where God and the human meet in truth.

    Often we sense a void, a loneliness in our lives, we hear an inner voice, that of our deepest self, urging us to find more meaning in our lives. We do not know how to respond to this unease. In times of more prosperity and less religions, we may try to fill this void with work and family and possessions, even with alcohol and drugs, but none of these satisfy the yearning which is our deepest self seeking the Being we call God.


    The author assures us that our spirit can meet God in the space created during the practice of daily contemplative prayer. This has been her experience and the experience of the mystic saints. St John of the Cross wrote if the soul is seeking its beloved, how much more is the beloved seeking the soul. As we are searching for God, how much more is God reaching out for each one of us.

    This guide will be welcomed by those of us who find that that they do not encounter God in traditional prayers or religious practises. Ms Mackey gives guidelines to help us begin contemplative prayer - designate a time and a quiet place, and follow her suggestions for focussing the mind on spending time with God.


    What happens during the prayer time will vary, there can be a sense of awakening to the truth, or of enlightenment, or a sense of peace in the presence of God.

    In later chapters the author addresses the changes people experience as they progress in their work to free the spirit. She suggests that it may be helpful to find a spiritual director or an anam cara to accompany them on this journey of liberation.

    I believe that this book will be extremely helpful to anyone (myself included) whose spirit has felt the longing to be closer to God and has not known how to start on that journey on which we will encounter God.

    - Barbara Pierce, The Irish Catholic. November 2009

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Free At Last! An Introduction to Prayer & Spiritual Life

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