Saturday, December 5, 2009

Book Review: St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer

I just finished reading St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer for The Catholic Company’s Book Reviewer Program. I selected this book because I appear to be a glutton for punishment I find St. Augustine to be rather fascinating. Of course, when delving into anything relating to St. Augustine I often feel like I’m drowning in a total overload of information. I suspect that he easily could have talked the ears off of a good many people much like my dad. To be honest, when I picked this book I was sort of expecting a summary of St. Augustine’s take on the 101 questions posed in this book, rather than a litany of quotes from the copious writings of St. Augustine. That simple fact left me a tad disappointed since I still don’t think I’ve recovered from my foray into St. Augustine’s Confessions.*
Now I will admit that I probably should have heeded what was obviously a warning (that’s usually the case when “a word of caution” is offered) to not read too much of this book at once from the author, but I was fueled by Starbucks last night and got a little carried away. Fr. Cliff Ermatinger, in his introduction cites that “The depth of many of St. Augustine’s responses is such that to read too many of them in one sitting can cause a degree of spiritual indigestion.”. Consider me your blogger with a serious case of “spiritual indigestion”. So if you choose to read this book, do yourself a favor and take the author’s advice to not power through it, even if it does seem like a relatively speedy read in some areas. I assure you that the information in the book will hit you later if it doesn’t while you’re reading it. And I strongly recommend not drinking a delicious Starbucks frappuccino prior to reading this book, lest you wind up like me.
Enough about my apparent stupidity, let’s talk about the book. The book’s question and answer format is very easy to follow. It is, like it says on the back of the book, a “catechism on prayer”. There is a line of progression in the book that takes you from the very basic question of “What is prayer?” to questions that are far more in depth [and likely to cause “spiritual indigestion” if too many questions are consumed too quickly (and yes, I’m going to beat that term to death)]. For the most part, this book is comprised of quotes from St. Augustine’s works, and scriptural references. The author interjects a few thoughts or words to offer clarity here and there, throughout. In essence, the author has sifted through the copious amounts of St. Augustine’s work to compile a more easily digestible account on St. Augustine’s thoughts/teachings on prayer.
I think this book would be a worthwhile read for anyone who is looking to deepen their prayer life. However, if you are unable to heed words of wisdom to proceed slowly, then you’ll get what you deserve…a nice case of “spiritual indigestion”. I don’t suppose they have Mylanta or Maalox for that, do they? Despite my apparent inability to take things slow (I'm blaming the coffee), I did enjoy this book, but as always when reading St. Augustine’s works, I walk away overwhelmed and feeling very aware of my inadequacies, but that’s ok since it keeps me from being complacent and moving backwards.
This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions. As a part of The Catholic Company Book Reviewer Program, I was supplied with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
*One might say I sustained a hefty case of “spiritual indigestion” from that book, too.

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