Overcoming Spiritual Discouragement
The Wisdom and Spiritual Power of Venerable Bruno Lanteri
By Father Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V.
EWTN Publishing, 2019
119 pages, $14.95
To order: EWTN Religious Catalogue
By Sarah Reinhard
“Who of us does not struggle, at times, perhaps often, with discouragement in our spiritual lives? Who of us cannot benefit from help in overcoming such discouragement?”
Father Timothy Gallagher’s opening to the introduction of this book could have been penned yesterday. Or the month before. Or even tomorrow.
And yet, I read it before “corona” was something my 5-year-old talks about with the same comfort as he plays tractors (and with about the same level of ridiculous references). I filled the pages of Father Gallagher’s slim volume with book darts, reread chapters, and found myself needing to research Venerable Bruno Lanteri for myself … all before the pandemic struck the world.
In fact, I picked it up just as a wake of personal challenges hit, before the Lentiest Lent many of us have ever experienced.
“As you will see in this book,” Father Gallagher writes, Venerable Bruno Lanteri’s “counsel is warm, understanding, ever encouraging, ever a source of new hope. His practical advice about the spiritual life leads people to say, quite simply, ‘That’s doable!’ And in difficult times, when discouragement may readily surface, his firm call to trust and confidence resonates more and more deeply. In a way I could not have foreseen years ago, his message grows increasingly contemporary.”
Each of the six chapters in the book includes 114 quotations drawn from Venerable Bruno’s spiritual advice in his letters of spiritual direction, personal spiritual notes, and programs for the spiritual life that he composed for himself or others. The chapters contain quotations grouped according to topic, including living with hope, living the spiritual life, living the day with Jesus, living the cross and Resurrection, living with Mary, and living with courage.
After each quotation — which is focused on offering counsel, a proposal, or a teaching — Father Gallagher has offered a personal commentary, and, I found myself lifted and buoyed by the combination. It was much the same sort of delight as you may have when you watch two experienced dancers work together. Venerable Bruno offers wisdom and advice, and Father Gallagher unfailingly unpacks it and stretches the reader to apply it right now, right here.
If you want peace in this life, you must, first of all, decide to accommodate yourself to circumstances and not demand that circumstances accommodate themselves to you. You must, secondly, strive to practice uniformity of your will with God’s. It is he who disposes everything, arranges everything, and permits all that takes place. We need only seek and follow the plan of his fatherly love for our lives, which is always to provide us opportunities for practicing different virtues, at times one, at times another, so that he will have something for which to reward us.
“If you want peace in this life,” love, pray, give, and serve in your present circumstances, not waiting for a more opportune time that may never come. This is St. John Paul II’s Law of the Gift: As long as I seek happiness by insisting on my way, my time, my projects, my plans, I will never be happy; but when I give of myself in love and service to God and others, a wonderful thing happens — I become happy.
Blessed Solanus Casey counsels, “Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life that has come to you by the grace of God” (cited by a witness in the cause of canonization).
This is a book that you can read straight through, of course, but that you could also dip into, sampling as the day or time permits. It’s a book that encourages, certainly, but not one that forces its themes on you — unless you count that feeling that you can’t get an idea out of your head.
At a time when so many of us are struggling in so many different ways, this is a book that offers the gift of hope.