For decades, I have been feeding on milk-like, soft spiritual books and Readings – not much over or beyond the Divine Office, Henri Nouwen’s the Wounded Healer, J Ratzinger’s diverse writings, R Rolheiser’s Restless Heart, Jim McManus’ Healing in the Sacraments, Walter Ciszek’s With God In Russia, Eternal Wisdom Of The Desert Fathers, St Therese’s Story of a Soul, Mother Teresa’s I Loved Jesus in the Night, Mother Angelica, Eucharistic, Marian and Deliverance literature. Just like, for years I wouldn’t go near Padro Pio or St Francis of Assisi, as their wounds, asceticism and spirituality were anything but appealing. I had been referred and encouraged to read Julian of Norwich, Jose Marie Escriva and St Louis Marie de Montfort, which I shelved.
And there was another book that I just wouldn’t touch and found tasteless or hardcore spirituality. And after lingering in In St Faustina’s School of Mercy, I found myself meddling in and relishing the pages of that time honoured and time-tested Imitation of Christ – at long last.
It was always too demanding a spirituality for me. Thanks to the lockdown, the slow down, the stay in, that deep is calling on deep in the roar of waters, in the depth of my heart. Thanks to the political, Brexit and media rampage through which the TV and News became an eye sore to many, and better to recoil or recline on online religious programmes, prayers and reflections than the disturbing viral media broadcasts. It is the Spirit that gives life, sensational entertainment, provocative journalism or populist democracy has nothing to offer. I now have to work or walk my way backward or frontward or upward – for you have made us O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
In that temporary or eternal ‘rest’, on that spiritual mountain in ecstatic consolations or down its desolate valleys with inevitable crosses, I muse or burst into melodies; and I groan with most of creation with these or similar lyrics:
When I am down and O my soul so weary, when troubles come and my heart burdened be; then I am still and wait here in the silence, until you come and sit awhile with me.
You raise me up so I can stand on mountains, you raise me up to walk on stormy seas, I am strong when I am on your shoulders, you raise me up to more than I can be.
Perhaps the yet spiritual threshold is not so much the reading but the nuanced shift of a persistent feeling of disgust and repulsion towards someone or some people for justifiable reasons, to empathy, compassion and mercy in prayer and positive thoughts.
For indeed, what is hardcore or deep spirituality without poverty (of spirit) and purity, without charity and chastity, without prudence and proactivity, without love and a cross in non-academic, idealistic or sentimental terms and conditions!
Saint Philip Neri, Pray for us.
Emmanuel Mbeh mhm