Friday, November 9, 2012

Cultivating Prayer, The Dominican Way

Here is my November column from this weekend's print edition of The Catholic Post.  I invite your feedback.

“Without prayer, there is no chance for success in this world.”

Kind of grabs you, doesn’t it?  That was my reaction when I began to read the beautifully produced and spiritually rich new book from Paraclete Press, How to Pray the Dominican Way:  Ten Postures, Prayers and Practices that Lead Us to God by Angelo Stagnaro.

Stagnaro refreshes, without changing the essence of, St. Dominic’s “Nine Ways of Prayer,” a classic spiritual work, adding  on a 10th way of contemplative prayer.  (He describes the 10th way as an outflow of the other nine). Stagnaro wishes to convey in the book that our bodies can dispose our souls to great strides in prayer and closeness to the Lord, if we take the time to learn and practice these ancient postures and gestures.

I was actually unaware of “The Nine Ways of Prayer,” a short volume written by St. Dominic as a description of his ways to pray before the Lord, but what a treasure!  The nine ways are deceptively simple (for example, praying by prostrating, or  praying with hands raised), but rich in wisdom for growth in the spiritual life.

Stagnaro’s book updates St. Dominic’s ideas with a fresh eye and a mature spirituality born of his longtime work as a catechist.  In this volume, Stagnaro wants to fulfill the Dominican motto, “to hand the fruits of contemplation on to others.”  It offers a step-by-step guide as well as takes readers on a spiritual journey.

What I think makes How to Pray the Dominican Way especially worthwhile is that the high quality of printing paper; the just-right size of the lovely font (along with plenty of white space on each page), as well as the size of the book itself, makes it a joy to read.  It feels great in your hand, it’s  handsome to read, and therefore creates an atmosphere conducive to spiritual reading and growth.

Sometimes books have great content but can lack a certain polish. E-books can be convenient, and in general I’m no snob for “only” real books.  But while I recommend all sorts of books, it’s a real pleasure to recommend one so beautifully produced (and real) as How to Pray the Dominican Way.

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