(Lumen Christi, 1999, 44pp. Available from the author for $6.00 posted, 154 Docker Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650)
The term "contemplative prayer" often brings to mind images of monks or nuns living cloistered lives, or great mystics like St Teresa of Avila experiencing ecstasies through the union of their mind with Christ's. It is, however, a form of prayer possible for all people to practise. The author of this booklet, Fr Fabian Duggan, compares the difficult but rewarding path to Divine Union, through contemplative prayer, to climbing a mountain. During the journey up the mountain we can stop to rest at three different points - "the Three Inns of Everlasting Happiness."
The book consists of 280 steps "designed to lead the devout soul gently from the love of created things to the love of the uncreated Good." It is written in the form of Jesus speaking to the reader, with each step offering the listening soul food for contemplation and also encouragement to persevere on the way to perfection. The "Three Inns" where we find solace provide three main focal points to enter deeply into the contemplative state.
The first is the Inn of Love Crucified, turning our mind to the crucifix, the crucified Jesus. The second is the Inn of Love Aflame, reflecting upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The third is the Inn of Love Abiding, the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. A section is devoted to each one helping the reader to contemplate Christ's boundless love in each of the three forms. Further chapters point out that humility and a healthy fear of God are needed in order to progress in prayer.
While The Three Inns of Everlasting Happiness is a slim publication, as the author points out, "It may take a lifetime to put into practice." An encouraging and beautifully written guide to the art of contemplative prayer, this book is real food for the soul.
Catherine Sheehan is a Melbourne Catholic writer.