I received Paula’s Huston’s By Way of Grace: Moving from Faithfulness to Holiness for review from Loyola Press and just finished it. The book is a very well written and interesting spiritual biography that follows a format of chapters on the virtues. She discusses a particular virtue and relates it the the struggles in her life. Along the way she tells mini biographies of a saint that relates to the chapter and uses quotes form various Catholics throughout history. St. Thomas Aquinas and his writings are often used to explain the virtues and other points.
Her spiritual journey entails being raised a Christian and then like so many others losing her faith as an adult and became a self-proclaimed atheist. A spiritual reawakening brings her back to Christ and a conversion to the Catholic Church. Though within this journey was also paths through Cafeteria Catholics and bits of Eastern religions and then visiting a Camaldolese Benedictine Monastery and an event at the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem that moved her forward in the fullness of the Catholic faith.
I could really relate with her with she describes the period of a a converts zeal where you really feel out of phases with others especially your own relatives. You come to think that everybody should be at the same point of the spiritual journey as you are and you just can’t understand while they are not also on fire for God. The silliness of this demand on others does not immediately dawn on you or that just a short time ago you were just as spiritually lax.
You can easily remember a list of virtues, but actually seeing where you are lacking and what to do about it when you do start to glimpse this is another thing. This is what I most enjoyed about this book was her frank discussion of her own struggles and the path to slowly overcoming them. The mini saint biographies are also very well done and even though I was mostly familiar with the saints mentioned, I still learned something from them.
Paula’s Huston is obviously well read and was able to draw on the treasury of the Church for examples and quotes to use. I do think at times that some of her explanations were lacking a little bit of rigor. Like for example saying that faith is "a theological one, because it comes through grace", when it fact it is theological because its immediate object is God. Though these minor problems don’t distract from the overall value of the book. One part I could certainly have done without dealt with the enneagram. When she first brings it up she announces skepticism about it and then writes about the values of the insights they gave her into her own personality. Doubtless good can come from even problematic things, but when she describes St. Teresa of Avila as "St. 3." I found that quite annoying and I almost put the book away after that. This though was the exception to an otherwise fine book.