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Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness Paperback – January 1, 1984
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A member of the Calmaldolese order of monks, and well-known for his far-reaching interests in theology and science (he has explored the implications of contemporary physics with Fritjof Capra, the author of The Tao of Physics), Steindl-Rast does a wonderful job of exploring the relationship between prayer and that sense of gratefulness that comes with love, which is at the very center of what it means to be human. "To bless whatever there is, and for no other reason but simply because it is, that is what we are made for as human beings," he writes. Connecting contemplation and action, he affirms that contemplation may best be realized by "acting in love." "Thinking about God is important," he states, but "acting in God leads to a deeper knowledge. Lovers are closer to love than scholars who merely reflect on love. It would be a bit awkward to reflect on kissing while you kiss." --Doug Thorpe
From the Author
It makes me happy that, after almost two decades, this book still finds a steady stream of new readers. Now and then, I hear people who made Gratefulness their daily reading in a time of crisis, in sickness, or on their deathbed. This fills me with awe. So does that fact that groups who read and discuss books together have found this one helpful. What do I myself like about it? That it treats the main aspects of gratefulness in a systematic way, without I hope being dry. And I specially like the list of key words arranged from A to Z (yes, I even have one for X).-- Br. David Steindl-Rast, March 2002
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There are probably many reasons for the numerous readers of this work, including the fact that Brother David Steindl-Rast is a kind of hero in the retreat and talking world, a feat not to be belittled, for I came to know him by a tape I found meaningful: "We Dare to Say Our Father." Brother David is a Benedictine, and I have a reading list and a source for Benedictine books from the monastery New Camaldoli, Big Sur, California which I follow religiously. So you can say, I am reading required material. This is a good thing, for this book is a required text for Christians interested in the ideas of blessing and giving thanks to God, and in coming to some understandings about prayer which Brother David says, as quoted on the back cover, "God's will be done" I agree with the back cover statement, we are dependent on God's mercy. That is a religious thing to say, and this is a book for people interested in religious topics and understandings.
I think that you will find this a book on prayerfulness, too; that is one chapter title, "Prayers and Prayerfulness." I can think about this quote for a while, good advice from a man with a sense of proportion and humor: "Are my prayers a genuine expression of my prayerfulness? Do they make me more prayerful?"
The danger with reviewing this book is one is taken with the author, and wants to know more. He is a monk, and that is a mysterious thing, somewhat special to many people. The reader does meet the monk and the man in this book, his personality. Though at times a seemingly surface book of suggestions, like this one, "Most of us need a good deal of encouragement for giving. The way we are built (or, rather, forced into a warped shape by our society) the taking takes care of itself. It might be a good test if you checked for half an hour how often you say 'I take' and how often 'I give.'" He writes this in the chapter "Contemplation and Leisure." But the message, by its context, becomes enlarged. One is to pay attention to living the Christian life in the ordinary, during the day and in doing so be grateful for the things of your day and the life that has been granted. He believes, convincingly, "Thanksgiving, blessing, praise, all three belong to gratefulness."
Gratefulness is an acquired taste, so he says. "The banquet of life is the challenge to cultivate and broaden our taste." Because I have heard Brother David talk on the tape I suggest, his style and his "voice" come through all the more. This is a book written in a voice, a genuine voice of the writer. You will find this a palatable book.
There is another message to the book. It is within our reach to live a grateful life, and know something of gratefulness. Brother David says this is fun, and we can become more grateful, certainly better than complaining and cursing, by finding the play in the joyful mysteries of Living by the Word. He says, also in his words, they "teach us this playfulness." I like the light way he approaches things, many profound. Maybe there is a secret here "...The point of everything? Well, that's the point at the heart of each thing where the kernel for faithfulness is playfully hidden." So he writes in the chapter "Faith and Belief."
Another chapter title, "Love A "Yes" to Belonging." In "Fullness and Emptiness", another chapter towards the end of the book, he says in a mysterious way that we are becoming, by being alive, being grateful, which means becoming alive, becoming grateful. Being grateful is then a way of life, a joy. To get there, he quotes T.S. Eliot: "In order to arrive at what you are not/You must go through the way in which you are not."
Is this a book about a pathway. I say it is. Henri Nouwen writes the introduction in my copy published by Paulist Press. Hopefully, my concurrence with the opening sentences interests the reader of this review, and I find that the introduction makes a good end for what I have said. "This book is a true delight! It delights by its surprising insights, its unexpected perspectives and its gentle humor."
--Peter Menkin, Obl Cam OSB