A review by Steven McEvoy
This is the third book by Father Jacques Philippe that I have read, and already I wish there were more than 4 available in English. I am certain he will go down in history as one of the spiritual masters like Brother Lawrence, C.S. Lewis and others. This book is written in such simple and accessible language, yet with a message so profound any believer could grow from encountering it.
Fr. Philippe's main message is that freedom, true freedom, comes from God as the source. And that interior peace sought by so many people in so many ways, yet it only truly comes from learning to be content in where God has us. Yet by learning to trust in God despite external circumstances and situations beyond our control, we can find that oft-sought-after peace. He will show you how to appreciate what you can control, which is your response to what life brings your way.
This book seeks to teach us to live from a heart and mind that has been liberated and set free. But it is not the freedom that most seek. It outlines that freedom as being free to do whatever we want, but true freedom is choosing to live for others, living with our responsibilities.
Fr. Jacques draws from many sources to illustrate his points: Holocaust victim Etty Hillesum, Georges Bernanos, Henri J.M. Nouwen, Catherine de Hueck Doherty and many saints from both the eastern and western traditions as well as the Jewish wisdom tradition. He draws most extensively from Hillesum's journals An Interrupted Life which is the story of her life during the year leading up to occupation and leaving for the concentration camps, and her work among the Jewish children at the holding camp. He uses her life and transformation from a secular Jew to someone in touch with God and trying to live that in the most terrible of circumstances.
Fr. Philippe has written an amazing little book that will explain to you the freedom many seek in faith, and how that freedom can lead to Interior Freedom or as a title of an earlier book of his calls it Searching for and Maintaining Peace. Or as Douglas Coupland puts it "Now -- here is my secret: I tell it to you with an openness of heart I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me to be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond able to love." in his book Life After God. So this is a little book by a little known author that is truly valuable for the spiritual seeker in this life.
(First Published in Imprint 2007-07-13 in the book review column.)
Searching for and Maintaining Peace:
A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart
A review by Steven McEvoy
I have had Father Jacques Philippe's books recommended to me on a number of occasions and by a number of different people. I have picked up the four I can find that are available in English. The title of this book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace, just grabbed my attention and had to be read first. The subtitle of this book is: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart, yet for a small book of 110 pages, it really packs a lot of punch.
This book was so good I have already put it back on my pile of books to be read. I know that I cannot glean all the great stuff from it in just one reading. For who in this hectic crazy world would not like a simple tool to help them find peace and to keep it once they have found it? This book will help you do just that. It is one I will add to my all time favorite list!
Here are some sample quotes from the book:
"The more our soul is peaceful and tranquil, the more God is reflected in it, the more His image expresses itself in us, the more His grace acts through us." P.5
"Because only this peace of heart truly liberates us from ourselves, increases our sensitivity to others, and renders us available to our fellow man." P.7
"It is that Christian life is a combat, a war without mercy." P.8
"Every Christian must be thoroughly convinced that his spiritual life can in no way be viewed as the quiet unfolding of an inconsequential life without any problems; rather it must be viewed as the scene of a constant and sometimes painful battle, which will not end until death - a struggle against evil, temptation and the sin that is in him. ... And this combat is, correctly viewed, the place of our purification, of our spiritual growth, where we learn to know ourselves in our weakness and to know God in His infinite mercy." P.9
"One of the dominant aspects of spiritual combat is the struggle on the plane of thoughts." P.13
Then the second section lists and goes over the causes of our loss of peace and how to regain it. There are some great tools for the spiritual life in this section.
The third section in this book is a series of quotes and excerpts from a number of Saints on the process of searching for peace, and on how to maintain that peace. These saints are:
* Juan de Bonilla
* Francis de Sales
* Teresa of Avila
* Marie of the Incarnation
* Francious-Marie-Jacob Libermann
* Padre Pio
These extended quotes will support and expand upon the information in the first two sections of this book.
This book is a must for anyone who really wants to grow deeper in their walk with God and in living in the peace that Jesus Christ promised to his followers.
Time for God
A review by Steven McEvoy
This is the second book by Father Jacques Philippe that I have read. It is just as good as the first and I must state that it is a must read for growth in the spiritual life.
Father Philippe writes a wonderful little book about the life of prayer and how to pray, and he goes through a number of the Saints of the church and their writings on prayer. He gives some amazing advice. First and foremost, he states that all forms and types of prayers in the Christian life should not become so ritualistic that they lose their spiritual benefits. He tells us that most spiritual practices in our lives are for a season, and what is fruitful and amazing now, may need to be changed in the future.
Philippe tells us that we are responsible for 5 attitudes in our approach to prayer. We must have faith, fidelity, purity of intention, humility and perseverance. If we are persistent in pursuing these 5 things, we will grow in the spiritual life.
Fr. Jacques also gives us 4 principles to remember in our practice of prayer: the primacy of God's action, the primacy of God's love, the humanity of Jesus, and God's indwelling in our heart.
Fr. Philippe is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors for spiritual reading. He touches upon that practice in this book as a tool for prayer. Spiritual reading is different from other forms of reading; rather than reading for the purpose of reviewing, or academic reading, spiritual reading is slowly digesting a book, stopping to pray when inspired, or stopping to meditate - reading something again and again if it really catches your attention. Its main purpose is to grow deeper.
Some samples of the gems in this book are:
"Prayer, no matter how brief, is very pleasing to God. Far from causing us to lose courage in perilous situations, prayer strengthens us." P.125
"The truth is everyone who sets off on the spiritual journey seeks God, but also in part, herself or himself." P.22
"It follows that all we have to do in prayer is to seek love and to strengthen it. This is the only criterion for judging whether we are doing badly or well in prayer." P.61
"There is no doubt that if we give God our time, we will be able to find time for others, too. By paying attention to God, we learn to pay attention to others." P.30
"Therefore, we do not pray because of the pleasure or benefits drawn from it - even if these are immense - but primarily because we want to please God, who asks us to pray. We pray not for our own delight, but for God's." P.21
"Moreover, the Mass in itself is more important than personal prayer. This may be true, but without a prayer life, the sacraments would have a limited effect." P.27
"Nevertheless, in this life, those who pray become increasingly capable of loving and spontaneously doing good, which initially required great effort. Thanks to the action of the holy spirit, it becomes easier and more natural to practice virtue." P.27
Those are just a few of the passages I underlined in this book. I randomly flipped through and picked out a few passages to share with you. I hope they will intrigue you enough to pick up the book and give it a try.
[It needs to be noted that there are three different versions of this book in English based on two different translations, the version by SinagTala was the original English translation and published under the name Jack Philip, Then Pauline Books and Media republished that edition in North America under Jacques Philippe and there is now a new translation by Scepter Press just released based upon a new translation, the meaning is the same, but the translations are significantly different.]