There are times in our lives when the spiritual journey seems clear and openings and insights light the way. More usually the path to God can feel hidden, we move in the darkness and can become very lost. We lose a sense of where we are and how we might continue on our way.
The Four Steps of Love offers us signposts for our spiritual journey in the shape of St Bernard's four stages of love: 'We love ourselves for ourselves; we love God for what he gives us; we love God for himself; we love ourselves for Gods sake.' Fiona Gardner takes these stages and links them with four questions that Jesus asks in the gospels: What are you looking for? But who do you say I am? Do you know what I have done to you? For whom are you looking? Through this framework, she explores the concept of metanoia, or change of heart , a continuous process that is never quite perfected in this life.
Drawing on the experience of others and complete with practical exercises for prayer and meditation, The Four Steps of Love is a perfect guide for all those seeking inspiration and guidance on their spiritual journey.
Fiona Gardner is a trained psychotherapist and spiritual director. She was chair of the Thomas Merton Society of GB and Ireland (2004-2008). She is co-editor of the Merton Journal and the UK advisor to the International Thomas Merton Society. She has published previously with DLT Journeying Home (2004) and The Four Steps of Love (2007) and with Routledge Self Harm: A Psychotherapeutic Approach (2001) and Researching, Reflecting and Writing about Work (2010).
Fiona Gardner speaks of the hamster-wheel character of the lives that many of us lead (p. 21). Such existence is frenetically busy but ultimately futile. She believes that it is possible to escape from this wheel and to live purposefully. For that to happen, a conversation must take place This conversion is not a one-off, initial experience, kick starting the spiritual life, but a condition that must continue to our journeys end in God. She commends and explores St Bernards four steps of love as a framework within which the converted life may be led. The first step is to love ourselves for ourselves. Then we must learn to love God. We love God - this is the second step-for what God gives us. But if we are true to this path we shall come to love God for Godself, the third step. Finally we love ourselves for Gods sake. Fiona Gardner is Chair of the Thomas Merton Society and her debt to Merton is apparent on many pages of her thoughtful book. Each of The Four Steps of Loves four sections is followed by a series of `practical suggestions. These are more deeply considered and well judged than many of the `things to do peppering slighter books of this genre.
- John Pridmore, THE WAY July 2008