Surrender, Fr Larry Richards, 2011, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
My first attempt at a book review and I’ve chosen a difficult subject. It’s just like me, if there’s an easy way and a hard way, I choose the hard way.
I’ll get the difficult part out of the way first. It’s difficult because it may seem a criticism, and it’s not. It’s a caution: If you are strongly prone to scrupulosity, read the book carefully, try to avoid your scrupulous tendencies. I think, to someone inclined that way this book will make them crazy. At first glance, it seems Fr. Larry presents rule after rule after rule of things you must do in order to go to heaven. You must spend 5 minutes a day in prayer, at a minimum, you must learn to offer things up, you must intercede in prayer for people, you must spend 10 minutes in prayer. Every chapter ends with a list of things you must do to surrender to God.
It may because I’ve been influenced too much by the Benedictine tradition, and because, too, I tend a bit to scrupulosity, but especially at the start, this book made me uncomfortable. All I could think of was, “I couldn’t possibly do all this!” However, I was able to take a step back to try to see what was going on. I remembered that while advice like this can be good, I needed to keep in mind the words of Dom John Chapman, “Pray as you can, not as you cannot.” A certain routine and direction in the spiritual life is good, but is not the point. Anyone who reads this book, needs to keep that in mind
Having said that, now the good news. Fr. Larry is clear on what the point of all this is. Each of us has a choice to make, whether we will love God or whether we will run from Him. We make that choice consciously and then, having made it, we must live it. Catholics can’t say they love God and not go to Mass or participate in the other sacraments. They’re giving lip service to their beliefs. No Christian can profess to love God and not spend time in prayer, according to the duties of their station in life, as the spiritual masters point out. You have to live what you believe. It’s Fr. Larry’s goal to make this clear, crystal clear.
He also, in fairness, makes it clear that when we do live out our love for God, we don’t do it with excessive scrupulosity, in fear and trembling. In the first chapter he writes, “Because God loves us, we do not have to be afraid. We talk about the fear of the Lord as being the beginning of wisdom, but the fear of God isn’t terror; it’s awe. ” Exactly right.
Fr. Larry has written a book that would be a good one for all Catholics to read. Surrender helps us to realize what is at stake as we make the central decision of our lives, how we will live and what we will live for. It’s too easy to take the issue lightly and not be mindful of the importance of making that decision now, today, for the rest of our lives. I would only add the caution, for those who focus too much on such things, that the rules presented are meant as a guide, not as a one size fits all regimen of how to become holy.