This is a little gem of a book.
Its 61 pages condense spiritual advice from a seasoned spiritual director, a masterly summary of the case for solitude in our busy lives, and a succinct summary of three established methods of meditation and contemplation in the Christian tradition.
Written by Good Shepherd Sr Elizabeth Lim with freelance writer and regular retreatant Melanie Lee, it works at one level as a commemorative book on the Oasis centre, a serene retreat house at Marymount, nestled on a hillock overlooking MacRitchie Reservoir.
Here, thousands have come in search of the quiet voice of God within them, including co-writer Lee, whose clear, elegant prose adds grace to the narrative, accentuated by the simple beauty of photographs of the rooms and grounds at the retreat centre.
Quiet Journeys belongs to the category of books on solitude and spirituality written by spiritual directors and practitioners of the contemplative life, offering practical advice and guidance for those who want to embark on this journey.
It is to the writers’ credit that the book holds its own even in the crowded market of spiritual guide books, offering a very good introduction to the value of solitude in the Christian journey.
It makes a compelling case for the place of solitude, meditation and reflection in modern life. Most valuable of all is the section on different methods of meditation, which give readers a clear, easy-to-follow summary of how to begin the spiritual practices.
But as Sr Elizabeth makes clear repeatedly, personal reflection at home is no substitute for taking time out for retreats with God, where time is allocated for daily conversations with a trained spiritual director.
Such a director provides an added layer of check so that one does not end up reflecting on one’s own distorted versions of truth.
The value of this book is twofold: to present a readable introduction to solitude and silence as a spiritual discipline; and to tell readers in Singapore and the region of the resources available to guide them in this journey at the Oasis. n
Quiet Journeys: Finding stillness in chaos (Armour Publishing) is available at Katong Catholic Book Centre (6345-1413) and CatholicNews Book and Media (6858-3066). Price: $14 excluding GST.
By Isabel Chua