The Contemplative Hunger
by father donald haggerty
ignatius, 259 pages, $17.95
Fr. Donald Haggerty’s first book, Contemplative Provocations (reviewed here in December 2013), offered aphoristic counsel on prayer and contemplation, particularly in light of God’s concealment from those who most earnestly seek him. The Contemplative Hunger focuses on hunger for God: “The essential grace behind contemplative prayer is the fusing of an intense longing for God with a deep surrender to him.” This desire for union with God and the love of others are the heart of contemplative prayer; particular practices are secondary. For example, Fr. Haggerty writes, passivity toward God is not primarily a matter of refusing to engage any thoughts that come during prayer, as most contemplative prayer books say. This non-engagement is no bad thing, but “genuine passivity is an active inward disposition of receptive attentiveness and love toward God.”
In the first chapters, Fr. Haggerty prescribes contemplative prayer as an antidote to the ills of secular society. He takes Bl. Charles de Foucauld, who lived in poverty among the Muslim Bedouins of Algeria without making any converts, to be a model for Christians today. He discusses the place of doctrine, generosity to the poor, love of the Eucharist, and the thirst for silence in the spiritual life—always coming back to the soul’s surrender to God. If you wonder what you can do to bear a Christian witness in a hostile culture, or if you want to grow in prayer, read this book. But be careful: It is more provocative than its predecessor, and it will scour your soul.
—Nathaniel Peters is a doctoral candidate in historical theology at Boston College.