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Book of All Saints Hardcover – April 30, 2008
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About the Author
Adrienne von Speyr (1902-1967) was a Swiss medical doctor, convert to Catholicism, a mystic, wife and author of over 60 books on spirituality and theology. She collaborated closely with the renowned theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar, her confessor for 27 years, and they co-founded the Community of Saint John. Her numerous writings, published by Ignatius Press, are recognized by leading theologians and writers as a major contribution to the mystical and spiritual writings of the Church. Among her most important works are Book of All Saints, Confession, The World of Prayer, Handmaid of the Lord, and The Passion from Within.
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Top Customer Reviews
She provides portraits on the prayer and inner life of a great of a great assembly of people, including for example on great saints like Saint Francis of Assistand Saint John of the Cross, on lesser known people like Edith Stein and Pseudo-Dionysius, and on people we have not heard of, and even on a small number of famous figures like Michelangelo, Shakespeare and Charlemagne.
Personally, I particularly appreciated the insight her portraits of Matthew, Mark and Luke on how their inspiration as sacred authors worked. I also was particularly interested in the portraits of the great Fathers of the Church, their spiritual personalities and authorship.
There have been times in my life when I spends weeks when every day I read one or two of these portraits. Now I am doing the same, usually reading one or another during odd moments, even while I sit as I warm up my car.
Lately, this book has been having a serious effect on my prayer as I learn about the prayer of these people, sometimes from their limitations in this regards, sometimes when it comes to scope of prayer in their life and work.
I especially recommend this book if you think there are only so many ways to pray or if you think your own prayer life "needs something." The author describes a variety of "saints" at prayer and their relationship/attitude before God. Like snowflakes, no two are alike, something I would have not thought possible before reading this book. The most important thing I learned was that everyone's prayer life is unique and therefore my own prayer life is perfectly good and valid and worthy.
I find myself returning again and again to this wonderful book as there's always something new to learn from it. No matter what your level of spiritual maturity, this book will open your eyes.
Of all Ms. Speyr's works, this is perhaps one of the easiest to read. The stories of the people here are told in a direct and straightforward manner with helpful footnoting by the translator where it is needed. Fr. Balthasar asks her readership to suspend their skepticism and appreciate Ms. Speyr's words as objective data on the actual habits of men and women like St. Bridget, St. Francis, and even Shakespeare (!); nevertheless, this can prove difficult as her own opinions seem to be incorporated in many of the records. She does not simply review prayer behaviors, but frequently judges the motives and relative success or failure of the saints in a manner that seems largely dependent on her own social understanding (rather than simply on Catholic Orthodoxy). This may prove problematic for some readers, particularly those well-versed in the historical and cultural backgrounds of the figures she describes.
However, if your need is to be inspired to pray, and to connect with the prayers of historical Catholics (or speculated Catholics) this book may serve you well. It may also be useful for scholars who are interested in the mid-century attitudes toward the saints and mystical Catholic ways of re-interpreting them.