Paul Mariani's personal journey is powerful and compelling. While he shares with us his discoveries and reflections on evils committed in his life, he also is unabashed in his joyous sharing of God's revelations to him.
Some of this reads like an unabridged prayer journal, and some has clearly been reworked after the fact. Regardless, Mr. Mariani has a gift for words, and he tells a great story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
My only caveat is that this is Mr. Mariani's journey, not yours. Remember that what was revealed to him during the 30 days may not be pertinent to his readers.
Overall, it's an inspiration. I heartily recommend it.
Paul Mariani, a writer and English professor at Boston College, completed a thirty day retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. His journal reflections from this retreat are the basis of the book's content. For those who are familiar with the spirituality of St. Ignatius, as well as those who have completed the thirty day retreat or variations of this retreat, the book will be of great value.
The book has many strong points. The first has to be Mariani's openness to what the retreat may have to offer and his willingness to share what he has experienced while completing the retreat. His observations are a combination of poetry, theology, and a keen insight into himself. He freely draws upon times when the Lord has worked in his life as well as moments where he has blocked God's work. He is painfully honest in the book, freely sharing his love and admiration of his wife Eileen, who has not joined him for the retreat. He also shares intimate moments in his life, including the time when he left his wife and three sons which nearly destroyed his marriage. His book is honest, but not confessional which gives it a bit of an advantage over a standard memoir. The reader does not see just a person who has made mistakes, (or as Mariani openly admits, a sinner), but a person who allows himself to be an instrument through which God's grace flows and transforms.
People who have been on retreat at Eastern Point in Gloucester will instantly find themselves back at this powerful retreat house simply by reading the pages. Mariani writes descriptively about the retreat house and its beautiful natural surroundings. I usually make an annual retreat at Eastern Point but was unable to do so this past year, In many ways Mariani's sharing of his experiences as well as the atmosphere allowed me to take a vicarious retreat as I anxiously await the opportunity to make a retreat in Gloucester early in the new year. This book is destined to become a classic for those who love Ignatian spirituality. Fans of spiritual writer and poet Kathleen Norris may also enjoy this book. Like Norris, Mariani is also a poet as well as a scholar and biographer of poets. The spirituality of both Mariani and Norris permeates their writings and lives, and as poets perhaps they help us too see God in a vibrant and creative way that often eludes some great theologians.