Devotional Point of View and Authority

My Daily BreadMy Daily Bread by Anthony J Paone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was given this book as a gift, and–in need of a daily devotional–I gave it a shot. In a lot of ways, Fr. Paone’s work here really delivers. Many of the readings are convicting and encouraging, warning and uplifting at the same time. Frequently, I set the book down, and I was enlivened to face the day with vim and vigor, to turn a phrase.

But the book was not perfect. Fr. Paone frames the book as a dialogue with Christ–a dialogue in which Christ rarely quotes Scripture, occasionally speaks in the Person of the Father, and does not always present himself in the pattern of Our Lord, according to what we know through Scripture and the Church. Through Christ as a mouthpiece, Fr. Paone encourages spiritual behavior that has widely varying levels of success, and should only be pursued under the close guidance of a wise spiritual director (such as flagellation, for example). Fr. Paone (as Christ) also grants only grudging acceptance of anyone who pursues anything less than the contemplative life; while it is true that a life wholly dedicated to God may be holier than one drawn in multiple directions by the worries of this world, that does not make the rest of us second-class citizens. After all, we are obeying God’s commands, too–to be fruitful and multiply, and to reflect the love of the Godhead through holy matrimony and devout family life.

Most of the book is just fine, but I think Fr. Paone would have done better if he had not purported to be transcribing the words of the Living Word, but only his own spiritual advice. Alternatively, he could have used Scripture passages as the basis for each prayer, showing how–through the Written Word–God does intend for us to behave in the ways that Fr. Paone has encouraged.

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