Every Age Needs figures of spiritual inspiration, but in times of difficulty and uncertainty, they are essential in helping us to rise above despair and to search for God deep within ourselves.
In this book, Michael Ford invites four spiritual masters-Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Anthony de Mello, and John ODonohue-onto the same stage to show how they speak, not only to our own times, but for all seasons. In particular, he examines their legacy against the background of America and the world in recession, showing how their message of nonviolence, compassion, and inner integrity is much needed, not only in the "remaking of America" under Barack Obama, but also through the example the United States president has set for the rest of the world.
Through unpublished interviews with these spiritual masters, encounters around the world with their friends, and reflections from readers who have been inspired by their writings, Michael Ford journeys across the United States and Europe to assess their place in the world of contemporary spirituality Included in his journey is a visit to Lambeth Palace in London to discover Thomas Mertons influence on the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Blending the spiritual with the journalistic, Michael Ford presents four unique writers as "spiritual masters for all seasons."
Michael Ford is a broadcast journalist and author of a number of books on contemporary spirituality including Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri J M Nouwen (DLT 2005) and Disclosures (DLT 2004).
Dr Michael Ford is a religious broadcaster for the BBC and he is the author of a number of highly acclaimed books. He has written extensively on Henri Nouwen. His programmes on the BBC are invariably interesting and stimulating.
In this book he writes about four important spiritual writers and thinkers - Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Anthony de Mello and John ODonohue. Michael Ford is not just a fascinating broadcaster on radio. He has the rare gift of bringing his subjects to life in his books.
Thomas Merton is even more popular today than he was when he died in 1968. His words have a contemporary relevance and, indeed, a truly prophetic quality. A wonderful spiritual guide, Henri Nouwens deeply sensitive, profound insights continue to touch our hearts. His sensitivity caused him to suffer, but it led to a deep awareness of our human condition with its many failings and weaknesses as well as its strengths.
Anthony de Mello stepped outside the boundaries of traditional orthodox Catholicism in order to explore the human condition and find answers to our incessant questioning on the road to God. After his death an investigation of his work and ideas was ordered by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger (the present Pope Benedict XVI.). The Notification that followed expressed many concerns about the authentic Catholic nature of de Mellos ideas.
My own favourite section of Michael Fords book is his superb piece on John ODonohue, the writer-philosopher from Co Clare, who died unexpectedly in January, 2008, at the age of fifty-two. Michael Ford visited and interviewed ODonohue in the West of Ireland and he manages to capture his extraordinary personality and imaginative, poetic soul. ODonohue spoke and wrote a lot about loneliness and death and the beauty of nature and place.
Ford writes: Again, ODonohue is strikingly reminiscent of Nouwen when he describes cosmic loneliness as being the root of all inner loneliness. The presence and shelter of love can transfigure loneliness, but nobody can hurt you as deeply as the one you love. When you allow the Other into your life, you open yourself to vulnerability.
Patterns of behaviour can change dramatically, with rancour and resentment swiftly replacing a sense of belonging and affection. But the soul needs love as urgently as the body requires air, notes ODonohue. The more people love and allow themselves to be loved, the closer they come to the kingdom of the eternal.
Michael Ford quotes John ODonohues friend, Lelia Doolan: The really startling moment was when he spoke in public, his voice, with its unaffected accent, carrying his message for a time of change and uncertainty. His profound grasp of philosophy and theology provided the subject matter, the structure, and the concepts, but it was his genius with the play of language and ideas that turned these into accessible, poetic and merciful possibilities for his listeners.
She added that there was something mesmerising and trancelike in his words that made them soar. I often saw people in a dreamlike state declaring themselves revitalised when they emerged after one of his talks.
I have personally found much of ODonohues writing consoling and full of hope and Michael Ford makes this point: The consoling effect of ODonohues writing was described to me by a bookseller in Galway who had known people whose traumatic experience of illness or bereavement had been calmed by Anam Cara.
The author had the special gift of looking at the mountains, valleys, rivers and seas and being able to give them a spiritual explanation. He remembered a widow who had suffered deeply after her husband had died. She read Anam Cara and, a couple of years later, walking in Co Clare, touching the landscape, and using ODonohues words, she felt the presence of her husband beside her and was no longer frightened of being alone.
Spiritual Masters for All Seasons is a joy to read.
- Anthony Redmond, The Irish Catholic, 28th January 2010