Wednesday 15 March 2023

A-Z of Spiritual Living - Fr Gerard Bogan

A-Z of Spiritual Living
Father Gerard Bogan 
ISBN 9781784691189
eISBN 9781784692261
CTS Booklet SP48

As of the reading of this book over the last few years I have read over 340 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. I stumbled upon them while doing research on an author, and have been hooked ever since. I have read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and I loved the books in the CTS Great Saints Series. I love reading about so many saints, their lives and their times. My other favourite books form the CTS are the Prayers and Devotions books. I picked this one to read next after read a Stations of the Cross by Fr Bogan. Some online editions of this volume have ‘Explore your spirituality: find it; experience it; live it’ as a sub title but I can only find that in descriptions or within the text itself. I even searched just phrases and only one appears at the end of the penultimate chapter of the book Fr Bogan states:

“Take the spiritual life seriously, but please do not be sombre. Live it joyfully and simply.”

The description of this booklet is:
“A practical resource, incorporating methods, tools, and examples to help each reader to explore their spirituality: to learn how to find it, experience it, help it to grow, and to live it.

‘Spirituality’ is a buzzword in our time, yet there is still much confusion about what it means. Arranged alphabetically by spiritual themes, Gerard Bogan opens the spiritual life to a world that is in danger of losing its sense of the divine or the spirit within; a world that has become uncertain about God but seeks God nonetheless – as evidenced by our unconscious daily thoughts and actions. Whether you are a Catholic, or of another faith, or whether you consider yourself to be ‘spiritual but not religious’, this practical resource is a rich source for reflection.

The suggestion given at the end of each section will help each reader to explore their own spirituality: to find it, experience it, help it to grow, and above all to live it.”

And even there it is in relation to the ‘Suggestion’ section at the end of each chapter. The chapters are:

Everyday thanksgiving
Image and likeness
Kairos (God’s moment)
Living reflectively
Redeeming the past
Word of God
Z to A

This volume was published in 2016 and the eBook followed the year after. For some reason there was a glitch and my highlights did not sync the first time I read this volume. The introduction states:

“Living with God is the most important way we have of expressing our understanding of human life. This is true for people of all the world’s main religions. Christians call it “the spiritual life”. What is written in these few pages comes from a Christian perspective, and within that, of Catholicism. That is simply because a Catholic priest is who I am. However, I think that it may have resonances for people of other religious groups. Moreover, I have attempted to write it in such a way that people who have little religious commitment, or even none, may find something valuable. For this reason what could be called “religious language” has been kept to a minimum. The search for God is also the search for Wisdom, the search for the fulness of life. It is useful to remember the story about the man who asked directions and was told that if he was going to that place, he wouldn’t want to start from this one. When it comes to the spiritual life, we all start from different places - different places geographically, and different stages of our lives. But we start from where we are, not from where someone else is, or from where we might have been. That is why these directions for the spiritual life are arranged as an alphabet. This way people can focus on the words or ideas which may be helpful for them. It is not necessary to start at the beginning and read through to the end. Pick it up when you are having a cup of tea. Read one and think about it.

A-Z of Spiritual Living is not comprehensive: it doesn’t cover everything. What it attempts to do is to cover some of the main themes in the spiritual life and present them in a way which may be readable for most people.”

I can see that hoping around as you feel led would be a way to work through this volume. And I might return to it from time to time for that purpose. But initially I did read in in a single afternoon over a large mug of tea. A sample chapters is:


Gratitude is a much underestimated quality in our everyday lives.

I do not mean the simple act of saying “thank you”. Although it would be a reasonable starting point, it could end up being not much more than the business of being nice and polite. Gratitude is more of an attitude, a disposition, an approach. Indeed, it is possibly at the heart of the whole spiritual life. It involves distinguishing between the positives and the negatives in our lives. We respond to the positive experiences and try to develop them. We recognise the negative moments, but instead of being beaten down by them we respond to them so as to learn that the value of the human person comes not from the things we do, but from the very humanity which has been given to us. In this sense, gratitude is an aspect of the relationship we have with others, with the world, and with ourselves.

Normally, we talk as if we have gratitude for a particular thing, but that is only because of the way we use the word. Are we really trying to get in touch with something deeper? In other words, by appreciating the actions of others and the wonder of the world around us, we make a bond with the other person, the wider world, and our inner selves. In discovering new depths to our lives by experiencing something good, we are taken beyond our everydayness. We are starting to grasp that life is so wonderful that it cannot be limited by time or place, nor need it be frustrated by our acts of selfishness. When we enter into this form of relationship with the human person and the world, we struggle for words to express how good it all is. Gratitude, then, is the rediscovery of a paradise lost by our selfishness, but not gone forever. We need a word for this something which is beyond our experience and our time and place, but is also with us in all of this. However, since this is all too much, do we give up and settle for less? No. We find the courage to use one word to express the wonder of it all. That word is God.

What are the things you are grateful for?”

This volume was a worthwhile read. It will not be for everyone. But, it does have a lot of great material contained within these 26 reflections. It is easily accessible and could be read by and secondary school student or beyond. My favourite parts were the suggestions at the end of each piece. It is a good book and one I can easily recommend. I believe it is one of only three penned by Father Bogan all published by the Catholic Truth Society. I am certain that only who took the time to work through this book would benefit from the exercise, therefore I can easily recommend this work. 

Note: here are samples of a 2 pages spread from both the print edition and the eBook edition of the book.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Father Gerard Bogan:

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