Christian Proficiency (London: S. P. C. K., 1959)

Martin Thornton stands alongside Kenneth Leech and Evelyn Underhill (at least, in my opinion) as one of the three most important Anglican Catholic writers of the twentieth century. In this book originally published in 1959, his language (like Underhill’s) can sound dated — he uses terminology like “mental prayer,” “recollection” and “colloquy” — but the warmth of his pastoral voice, the evident love for Christian spirituality, and the homespun, down-to-earth character of his writing, all combine to make this general survey of spirituality for the practicing Christian truly a delight. In calling the book Christian Proficiency Thornton points out that his intended readers are not the absolute beginners in the inner life, nor the experts — but rather those who seek a mature, adult spirituality, acknowledging the constraints that family life and career will place on the ordinary seeker. Nevertheless, Thornton points out that such elements as meditation, spiritual direction/accompaniment, and forming/following a rule of life, are all important and accessible elements of a committed life of faith. In the end, he succeeds in communicating to readers that an ordinary life of spiritual practice is truly extraordinary when suffused with the love of God.

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