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Spiritual Progress: Becoming the Christian You Want to Be Hardcover – February 13, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Written by a Catholic priest who is the Vatican analyst for NBC News, this primer on the spiritual life is geared to "beginners in the broadest sense"—those just embarking on a religious path as well as readers in need of a refresher. Williams emphasizes the practical aspects of maintaining and growing in a relationship with God, covering such areas as discerning God's will, prayer and impediments to spiritual work. He illustrates his points with brief excerpts from writers like Jean-Pierre de Caussade and John Henry Newman, but his primary source is scripture, giving the book a broad appeal. Thomas touches on specific Catholic practices, such as the sacraments and the role of Mary and the saints in the spiritual life, but he does so by offering sound, simple definitions that explain rather than defend. Readers who are more advanced in the spiritual life may find his opening chapters elementary, but they are written for those who lack the spiritual formation presupposed by the authors of traditional spiritual manuals. Most helpful to anyone with more experience in the spiritual life will be the chapters on spiritual direction ("Your Own Personal Trainer") and the spiritual program, a structured, written plan outlining ideals, goals, obstacles and means of achieving objectives. (Feb. 13)
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"This astonishing book will be eagerly read by people who want to be serious Christians. The author's invitation to life abundant is winsome, lucid, informed, wise, and utterly persuasive." --Richard John Neuhaus
"What a wonderful book for Christians of all denominations! The warmth and depth Thomas Williams brings to his broadcast ministry come alive on every page. This book will change lives." --Keith Hernandez, former New York Mets all-star
Top Customer Reviews
Williams says that SPIRITUAL PROGRESS is "for beginners...in the broadest sense": those newly interested in spiritual growth; those "for whom starting over and over again has become something of a profession"; those who want to return after wandering for years. "In short, it is for anyone willing to take seriously Jesus' words: 'Unless you change and become like little children, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven.'" By "spiritual progress" or growth, Williams clearly means "Christian growth"; his theological reflection and world view is grounded in biblical exposition.
In the introduction, Williams delineates differences among categories of Christian books: self-help books, books of "devotional reading" and spiritual manuals, explaining that his current book is a spiritual "guidebook" that "helps chart a course" that the reader personally walks. This isn't about sitting in church; it's about loving God and neighbor and becoming Christlike.
As a guidebook, SPIRITUAL PROGRESS is very well organized and easy to follow. Internal chapter outlines lay out, for example, five "characteristics of Christ love"; five "fruits of prayer"; four categories of prayer (in terms of content, not posture); three false notions of humility; three "enemies of holiness"; and two dimensions of God's will. And there seems to be intentionality in the straightforward writing style. This is an author schooled in sound-bite communication. "Remember that the goal of the spiritual life is not personal perfection but love of God and neighbor."
Williams's guidebook of the Christian life is sprinkled with biblical stories and quotes but rarely with anecdotes that give any insight into his personal life in Rome. (He includes a few childhood anecdotes.) He's teaching the reader and leading you through Christianity 101 --- more than entertaining you.
The book's publisher clearly hopes that this Christian primer will be read and used by Protestant readers. And on most counts, the content --- orthodox in tone --- will suit, though many may disagree on his interpretation of the role and meaning of the Sacraments (he discusses three: Baptism, Reconciliation and the Eucharist). He also has included a chapter ("Honor Thy Mother: What Mary Has to Do with the Christian Life") on the role of Mary as role model, as intercessor and as mother of the church. "Isn't Jesus enough?" Williams asks. "Of course he is enough. But this isn't the question." Again, though Protestants may not agree with his biblical interpretation, Williams has done a great job of explaining Marian issues in a way that would address and answer Protestant perplexities (What's this Mary stuff?) and open dialogue across traditions.
The final chapters of the book give a cogent presentation of spiritual direction, including "three main qualities of a good spiritual director" and "ten qualities of a good spiritual program."
If you want 260 pages of basic principles of Christian living, try this book, which you'll recognize by its cover --- the photo of that "handsome young priest."
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
Book has lots of common sense and yet spiritual "new" thoughts. Especially interesting is the "humility" chapter - Mother Teresa's comments on reaction to being treated unfairly etc.
The bottom line for all of us....all accolades, praise, financial success here on earth truly are NOT why we are here.
Please read and re-read this book to gain down-to-earth insight to live a holy life (becoming the Christian you want to be) with an eye on the bottom-line success: Heaven with God!
I've recommended it to many - even my doctor who seemed interested.
You won't be disappointed. God bless.
I also keep buying copies for people I care about.