My Daily Bread by Fr. Anthony J. Paone, S.J.
One of the books I have been looking forward to sharing with you, has been the beautiful work by Fr. Anthony J. Paone, S.J.: My Daily Bread
It is one of a series of books from the Confraternity of The Precious Blood. It is an excellent summary of the spiritual life arranged and simplified for daily reading, reflection and prayer.
These books are approximately 13cm by 9cm or 5in by 3.5in. As you will see from the photograph they are excellent for carrying around on your person, fitting neatly into the hand for ease of use.
I do think that is important, as more often than not, I read spiritual books on the go, either whilst travelling or at work, where I can dip into them in short bursts for encouragement and inspiration.
This book can be bought individually or as part of a set. I have gradually acquired my five books in the series individually, with one or two still to buy, but there are savings to be made by buying all six as the set.
My edition of this work runs to 440 pages, so it is a content rich book that covers all areas of the spiritual life that you might need to fulfil your needs.
As we open the book, there is a lovely preliminary preamble on ’How to use this Book’. It goes along as follows…
“Every man dreams, at some time or other of the better person he might have been or may yet become. This book deals with that dream — self- perfection. True, there are different ideals and standards of self-perfection, but only one ideal, one standard alone, will stand the test at the judgment seat of God. The one and only standard of goodness and perfection is the standard which God Himself has given us. We do not have to establish an ideal for ourselves. Our Heavenly Father has already given us one — His divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And so the scene is set for our spiritual improvement, by the standards that Our Lord Jesus Christ has set for us, not those to which the world expects from us.
Each reading is precisely a conversation between Christ and the reader and follows a simple plan of a) Listening to Christ speak direct to you b) Reflecting on the message c) Answering Christ through prayer.
Here is an example to illustrate…
CHAPTER 37 – Invitation to Holy Communion
- a) CHRIST:
MY CHILD, often ponder My words “Come, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” These are My words, and you ought to receive them gratefully and faithfully. They are Mine because I spoke them; but they are also yours, because they were spoken for your salvation. Receive them joyfully from My lips. Let them be deeply carved upon your heart. In these holy words, you see My loyal and tender consideration for you. Do not let your conscience stop you from rushing into My arms. I know how unworthy you are of My friendship, but I love you in spite of that.
- In spite of your nothingness and your sins, I command you to approach Me with confidence. It is actually My Will that you should receive Me, the Food of Immortality. Through this heavenly Food, which is truly My own Body and Blood, you shall gain unending life and eternal glory. I say, “Come, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you! ” These are consoling words in the ear of a sinner. I, your Lord and God, invite poor and needy you to receive My holy Body. Do not say, “Who am I, that I should presume to approach You?” I command you to come and receive Me, for without Me you are lost.
- Prepare your soul with confession, if necessary, and with prayers. Then approach My altar with confidence and with a burning desire to please Me in your daily life.
God is so powerful, so great, so perfect, that we are as nothing compared to Him. The angels and saints in Heaven see God face to face and realize how very, very small they are in His presence. As a result they feel a deep indescribable respect for Him. Yet God, in His goodness, loves His creatures beyond all telling. He did many things to convince us of His love. He even sent His beloved Son to show His love in a human way. After living and dying for love of us, Jesus invented a way to remain with us in the Holy Eucharist. In this wonderful Sacrament He makes Himself the Food of our souls. Lest anyone refuse to receive Him in Holy Communion, He commanded that we should do so. It is His express wish that I receive Him in Holy Communion.
- c) PRAY:
Lord, why are You so gracious to me and so concerned about me? You know how full of defects I am. I offend You so often by my faults and my negligence. How dare I welcome You into my heart? I have often been selfish with You in spite of all Your generosity to Me. The angels and archangels stand in deep respect before You. The Saints and the just have a holy fear of You. Yet, You say, “Come to Me.” Were it not You that say this, Lord, who could believe it, and who would dare approach this holy table? At Your loving command I will come. I will think of Your Will and forget my unworthiness, and I shall eat the Bread of Angels. Amen.
You should see from this, that in spare moments throughout the day, it should be quite easy to dip into this book, straight from your purse or pocket, and make a connection with Our Lord.
When I first read My Daily Bread, I read it cover to cover. I couldn’t put it down, seeing the immediate benefits of regular spiritual communication with Christ.
However the book is so arranged that you can quickly turn to the comprehensive index and find an area that you need spiritual guidance in, and go quickly to the desired page for help, no matter whether you have read the preceding chapters or not.
As it is a book of spiritual growth towards perfection it is meant to be read again and again. But first time readers will love the setout as it takes you by the hand, or I should say Christ does, and leads you through the series of three books or sections: The Way of Purification, The Way of Imitation and The Way of the Union.
Each of these books is divided into twelve smaller section as follows:
The Way of Purification: Conversion, After Conversion, Temptation, Conquering Bad Habits, Self Conquest Through Mortification.
The Way of Imitation: Following Jesus in Daily Life, Virtues Leading Directly to God, Man’s relation to his neighbour and himself, Spiritual Combat.
The Way of the Union: Striving for closer Union, Union Through The Holy Eucharist, Union Throughout the day.
A quick glance at those, should indicate the spiritual richness that is found within this book. This is important, as the author wishes to cover the whole spectrum of Catholic Spirituality within these pages, in the form of spiritual conversations with Christ, in the space of one year.
Fr Paone’s goal is to guide you my daily readings along a journey of spiritual growth with the ever present aim of spiritual perfection.
No doubt when you buy this book, you will quickly find some favourite chapters that you turn to time and time again. I find myself turning back again often to those of Conforming with God’s Will and those dealing with Self Conquest and Mortification.
Whatever chapters or passages become yours, you will find that you will grow to love My Daily Bread, and will look to have it on you constantly as one of your regular spiritual teachers.