The subtitle of this book is A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints. Ralph Martin, a leader within the renewal movement, has taught on this subject in many different settings and in many different ways. In this book he examines seven of the 33 Doctors of the church and how their writings contribute to the understanding of a spiritual journey. These studies are done through the three stages of spiritual growth.
Those three stages are: the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way. These are also the three major sections in this book. Yet throughout, he draws heavily upon our seven Doctors: Catherine of Siena, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Augustine, St. Francis De Sales, and St. Therese of Lisieux. This book is at least a third quotations, which takes us back to the source documents and draws out the spirituality of these saints to help us grow in our own lives.
The strength of this work is its accessible language; it is well written and opens up topics and authors that are not always approachable. Martin takes us on a journey through the saints and through our own spiritual lives. This book can be a roadmap that you use for spiritual growth, renewal, and to enrich your life - and through that the lives of those around you. Martin states: "What really holds us back from a wholehearted response to the call of Jesus, of Vatican II, of the repeated urgings of the Spirit, is not really the external circumstances of our lives, but the interior sluggishness of our hearts. We need to be clear that there will never be a better time or a better set of circumstances than now to respond wholeheartedly to the call to holiness. Who knows how much longer we'll be alive on this earth? We don't know how long we'll live or what the future holds. Now is the acceptable time. The very things we think are obstacles are the very means God is giving us to draw us to depend more deeply on Him." p.7 This book is designed to help overcome that internal sluggishness.
Martin then uses the three stages to examine the spiritual journey deeper into God. "Various attempts to classify the stages of spiritual growth have been made over the centuries. The predominant classification, used by a number of the Doctors we are drawing from and many other writers as well, is the three-stage division of purgative, illuminative, and unitive." p.11 Martin outlines how each stage has a number of characteristics and how the saints can help us move through each stage as we grow closer to God.
The drawback of this book is that if you have struggled with the original writings of these saints, there are so many quotes you will feel like you are reading them again. The strength is that Martin brings years of experience teaching and trying to learn from the saints and live out what he has learned. He will open them up to you in new and exciting ways.
This book will be a great pick for many reasons - first if you want to grow deeper in your spiritual life, second if you want to understand some of the Doctors of the church more, and finally if you have struggled with some of the mystics, this book will help you understand them more. This book will be a great addition to any Catholic library.
A differrent review of this book was published in The National Catholic Register January 14th 2007 as 'The Doctors Will See You'.