THE author, a former Roman Catholic who writes that he “left the priesthood” in 1982 before being received into the Church of England, offers a useful and well-crafted book on the important subject of well-being. Although addressed to “priests”, it is focused on those who work in a parish context; no mention is made of the particular needs of deacons or those newly ordained, although all would benefit from considering what has been written, even if not everything is applicable.
Drawing on many years’ ministry as a spiritual director and retreat-giver, just under the first third of the book offers helpful, practical suggestions about subjects such as the dangers of not having proper boundaries, developing a “saviour complex”, being driven to “meet targets”, and the need to be “good” at everything.
As the author writes, it is noticeable that, while he may have “left the priesthood”, there is still a priest inside him, something that becomes clearer as he begins to explore resources from a range of spiritual traditions, including Lectio Divina and Ignatian imaginative prayer, and encourages the use of spiritual direction and pastoral supervision. These are split into subjects such as “To be a pilgrim”, “Open yourself to the humility of God”, and “The body knows the moves”, many introduced by quotations from scripture or spiritual writers.
Throughout, I heard resonances from others who have addressed the inner life of the clergy, and there are many fine insights. I found myself particularly resonating with the statement: “What attracts and invites is not the priest’s perfection, but the sense of their intimacy with God.”
Nevertheless, I did wonder at his use of “model” when he writes: “the priest seeks to model what it is to be a human being open to God,” recalling something written in the 1930s by Evelyn Underhill: “The man whose life is coloured by prayer, whose loving communion with God comes first, will always win souls; because he shows them in his own life and person the attractiveness of reality, the demand, the transforming power of the spiritual life” (The Priest’s Life of Prayer, 1936). Less modelling, more being.
Following in the steps of other books on the subject, this is one that deals with clergy well-being in a thoughtful, reflective, and Christ-centred way, offering a useful resource both for parish priests and all in full-time ministry.
The Revd John-Francis Friendship is a senior team member at the London Centre for Spiritual Direction.
Send My Roots Rain: Refreshing the spiritual life of priests
Canterbury Press £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.30