by Ralph Martin
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
This book is an attempt to put together in one book, a picture and explanation of this spiritual roadmap as it is found in the writings and lives of the Doctors of the Church. Martin has tried as much as possible to let these saints of the church speak for themselves by a generous use of their own words, keeping his commentary to a minimum so as not to impede the flow of the ‘roadmap’.
Martin has restricted himself in the book just to those saints of the Western Church who have been recognized as Doctors by the Church and make a major contribution to our understanding of the spiritual journey. There are 33 Doctors of the Church in total. Some are recognized for their contributions to scriptural commentary; some for moral theology; some for defending against heresy; some for systematic theology; some for “spiritual theology” or wisdom about the way to union with God. Doctors of the Church have the highest level of authority and their teachings are recognized as being of universal value. There are of course Doctors of the Church from the East that have made important contributions in the area if spirituality, and many other saints and writers of the West as well, but in this book we will focus on only seven of these Doctors, all of whom made a major contribution to the understanding of the spiritual journey.
The seven Doctors of the Church whom we will be looking to for wisdom to guide us on this journey, including Bernard of Clairvaux , are preeminent among those “instructors” Bernard promised the Lord would provide. Martin sought the Lord’s help and the help of his friends and teachers, The Doctors and saints that form the substance of this book, so that this book will be useful in helping others to begin or continue or complete the journey to God, at the end of which we find the fulfillment of all desire. May we find in the voices of these saints, in the pages of this book, the voice of the Teacher Himself, guiding us on our journey to God.
Sometimes we can be overwhelmed with the challenge of making progress on the spiritual journey. Sometimes we can become discouraged and be tempted to think that we can never hope to reach our destination. Every saint and Doctor we have learnt from in the pages of this book wants us to know beyond a shallow of a doubt that this journey is for everyone, and that if we preserve by His grace, we will surely reach journey’s end. Let us meditate on these words of encouragement addressed to us by those who truly are our friends and companions on the journey.