Book Review: All Manner of Things
Author: William Meninger, OSCO
Publisher: Dove Publications ISBN: 9781931598194
This is no ordinary book. This is an extremely contemplative book. This is a deeply spiritual book. It is not a book that should be read lightly or quickly; it is not a book that is to be read straight through. My personal experience has been that a single reading (which may be a page or two) requires more than a day or even a few days of meditation before I am prepared to move ahead to the next reading.
What is it that makes this book so special? I will answer this question in more detail in a moment, but first I should share some detail about the book in general. All Manner of Things is written by Fr William Meninger, OCSO, a Trappist monk and member of the St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado. I had the fortunate privilege to meet and be instructed by Fr Meninger in the summer of 2011 while attending the School for Spiritual Direction at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Pecos, New Mexico. I found Fr William to be a brilliant and engaging speaker and teacher.
The subtitle of the book reveals great detail about the nature of the book stating that it is, “Lectio Divina with Julian of Norwich.” Lectio Divina means divine reading and the expectation is that the Spirit of God will guide the reading and “speak” through the words to the one who reads. From the back cover of the book we learn more background information; Julian of Norwich (1342-c.1416) is considered by many to be one of the greatest English mystics. In 1373, she received a series of sixteen visions centered on the person and sufferings of Jesus and on the Trinity. A short time later, she wrote a short account of them, and much later, after much prayer and reflection, she wrote eighty-six chapters. This book is not a translation or a paraphrase of Julian’s Showings of Divine Love. Rather, it is a commentary intended to provide information, reflections, and further theological understanding that may enhance the modern Christian’s reading of Julian’s book. It may be read independently,, prior to reading her book, or together with it chapter by chapter. My opinion is that it is helpful to be familiar with Julian’s writings. I am familiar with Showings of Divine Love and still, I found myself returning to the chapters I was correspondingly reading on occasion.
Summarizing then, this book is a divine reading of divinely inspired writings from a series of divine visions. This is why it is no ordinary book. There is much to be gleaned from through the prayerful reading and meditation of these short chapters. In the introduction, Fr Meninger writes that some of his writing style, vocabulary, and sentence structure may seem a bit awkward because he wished to retain some of the Middle English flavor of Julian’s writings. I did not notice this awkwardness for the most part if at all.
In conclusion, I will say again, this is a deeply spiritual and prayerful work by Fr Meninger. I recommend it highly as a devotional aid that will inspire much reflection and meditation. It can be the impetus of a very rich time of union with God through prayer and contemplation. I think the words from Fr Meninger describe it best from the closing paragraph in his introduction, he writes; “It should never be forgotten that ‘lectio divina,’ whether Julian’s or our own is the first step on the ladder to contemplation. This book should not be read straight through as something that must be finished. The goal of ‘lectio’ is not to finish a book but to savor it, to allow it to sink from the mind to the heart. Then allow the heart to be touched and raised by a gentle stirring of love for God. We should rest in this love whenever and for as long as we feel inclined. The mind and the heart are companions on the journey to union with God. The heart is roused through love and ht mind through wisdom both of which are manifest in the workings by and reflections from dame Julian.”
Thank you, Dove Publications and Brother Anthony for your gift of this book, All Manner of Things; I will cherish it for years to come. It is a wonderfully moving and inspiring prayer companion.