I finished today the book Union with God: Letters of Spiritual Direction by Blessed Columba Marmion put out by Zaccheus Press and it is rather hard to come up with a review that this book deserves. The format of the book is quite interesting. Dom Raymond Thibaut took a large number of letters used for spiritual direction written by Blessed Columba Marmion and arranged excerpts of them by topic with short introductions ranging from a sentence to a paragraph or more on the points that Marmion was writing about.
This book is pure gold. I started highlighting parts of the book when I came upon profound spiritual passages, but soon determined I would save time by simply dying the pages of the book yellow. So much of the book truly resounded with me and stayed with me throughout the day I as used this book a spiritual reading in the morning. He is able to put things so well that they really broke through to me even when I was pretty much aware of basic idea of what he was saying before. As always there is a great distance from head knowledge and truly understanding something with your heart.
Blessed Columba Marmion letters of spiritual direction included a large range of people. They were prominently addressed to women religious, but included those thinking of the religious life, those just starting religious life, and a range of people with various levels of spiritual perfection, along with heads of religious communities and married women. Regardless of where somebody was in the spiritual life Marmion was able to provide direction. His advice was always soaked with scripture and the obvious experience of a contemplative who knew the deep things of God. Marmion would advise and sometimes chastise those he corresponded with and even when he had to tell them he thought they were on the wrong path – the way he wrote it is doubtful if anybody could become angry from the loving way he wrote them.
The book contains lots of correspondence with those who were entering or living in Carmel and it was quite obvious that Blessed Marmion was quite familiar with Carmelite spirituality especially as related to the founders of the Discalced Carmelites St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila – whose words he used often. Blessed Marmion was himself a Benedictine and as fitting he also used much of the wisdom from the writings of St. Benedict along with a slew of other great spiritual writers like St. Francis de Sales.
Included in the book is a letter he wrote to the Pope in 1911 to add to the request for the cause of Servant of God for Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, now of course St. Therese. He obviously immediately recognized the greatness of the Little Way that was the basis for her becoming a Doctor of the Church. Another of his letters of spiritual direction was one written to one of the people under his charge as abbot of Maredsous Abbey. The person was considering leaving the Benedictines to join the Carthusians. In it you are certain that if Blessed Marmion had thought that this person had a vocation to the Carthusians he would have blessed him on his way, though in this case he thought it was a temptation and that must be rejected and he forthrightly told him so, but with much love.
Even though the advice in this book was largely aimed at priests and religious the usefulness of his advice is suited to everybody regardless of their state of life. I could not recommend this book higher.
I previously reviewed Blessed Marmion’s Christ the life of the soul here.
Note: I was given this book as a review copy by Zaccheus Press.