Saturday, July 27, 2013

Catholic Book Club: Paths to Prayer

This week, I interrupted my previously scheduled spiritual and fiction reading when I received a book I had ordered from my summer reading list on Amazon Marketplace. Yes, I'm very distractible this way. :) It's a small book, and I've just been on this religious orders kick, and so I picked it up the evening that it arrived and read through it quickly.

The book is Paths to Prayer: A Field Guide to TenCatholic Traditions, by Pat Fosarelli. As the title suggests, the author selects ten religious traditions to highlight in an effort to guide readers to a spiritual path they may like to delve into more. The author's hope is that seeing the major schools of spirituality within Catholicism described in one place will aid a seeker in selecting one that would suit him or her best. The ten traditions that are highlighted are:

(1) Augustinian, 
(2) Benedictine,
(3) Cistercian,
(4) Carmelite,
(5) Dominican,
(6) Franciscan,
(7) Ignatian,
(8) Salesian,
(9) & (10) Lay and Mystical spirituality (these last two are a bit amorphous, obviously)

The others that are included are exactly what I was looking for, with Salesian thrown in there as a tradition that I knew little about, so I could learn something entirely new. I started reading eagerly.

Each tradition is summarized briefly, with information about its founder. There is a section breaking down the "Hallmarks of (fill in the blank) Spirituality", describing the charisms that make each order unique. Each chapter is concluded with a list of well-known members of members from that order, and a short bibliography of outside sources to consult for further information.

All right, so my review. This is a small book, and it does what it promises to do. I really wanted more in-depth information about the major orders (I could have lived without the last two chapters) but that's not what this book sets out to provide. I did enjoy what I read. It did seem to me that the "Hallmarks" of each spirituality could often be applied to many others as well, and perhaps that is because the book truly just skimmed the surface. I loved the introductory summaries of each tradition. Some were very short, others were a bit longer, but both types of coverage were solid. The bibliographies were also quite helpful. I went right on Amazon to look up several of the sources in my favorite traditions and put them on my wishlist (The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality is certainly a wish, at nearly $80!).

I am glad that I purchased this book and will have it on my bookcase as a reference. It confirmed my love of Dominicans and Carmelites, and got me quite intrigued in the Cistercians (and their offshoots, the Trappists), as well as in learning more about the Franciscan Poor Clares.

This is a good starting point, which was the author's objective, and this is an very inexpensive book at under $10 for Kindle, and right around $10 for a new or used print copy. It whetted my appetite to do more research and reading into the rich monastic traditions in the Church.


  1. Thanks for the book review! Sounds like one to read. Love your site and I will be back to read more of your posts. Found you through the link up.

  2. I've been wanting to know more about the traditional Catholic spiritualities and this sounds like a good resource. I'm off to request it from the library.

  3. Thanks so much to you both! So glad that you enjoy the blog!


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