Most of the time when I get a new book I read it immediately. I sit down and zoom through it with great passion and zeal, and then just as suddenly it’s over, and I’m left yearning for the next literary fix.
That crash and burn technique serves me well; I am in the business of reading and writing. There’s always a deadline, always a new book that I must read. Of course, getting to review books for The Catholic Company is a bonus for me!
Last month when my review copy of Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire: The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How it Can Transform Your Own by Joseph Langford arrived, I was going to treat it like any other book — something that was going to give me some fleeting pleasure. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have a cavalier attitude about books. I love books. My ravenous consumption of books is probably rooted in my fundamental desire to read everything, or at least, everything that I can get my hands on.
When I sat down to read Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire something unexpectedly different happened to me. I slowed down.I savored the book. I turned to it, not in a frenzy to see what Langford says next, but to absorb and understand the message.
Joseph Langford examines Mother Teresa’s encounter with Christ through prayer, and it vicariously becomes ours. The lessons are profoundly deep and yet so simple that they can be distilled from the advice she so freely gives:
If you want to pray better, you need to pray more.
That simple command to pray more encouraged me to seek a new level of understanding within my own prayer life. The book captivated me with its life-transforming messages thanks largely to Langford’s expert handling of so esoteric a subject as prayer. After all, those of us who see prayer as a mysterious activity for the super holy have failed miserably to understand its nature. I attribute my own past failure to a fundamental inability to lay bare my soul in a vulnerable position.
Can you imagine anyone more vulnerable than Mother Teresa? And yet, she dedicated herself to seeking and helping those who were indeed more vulnerable. Her secret is exposed here for our benefit, so that we, too, can be transformed, and be transformational for others.
Langford deftly breaks down the essential attributes of prayer as expressed by Mother Teresa — to “pray from the heart” and to hold “inner silence.” That last one, especially, competes with every distraction continuously pulling at us. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
This beautiful labor of love, not just Mother Teresa’s magnificent legacy but also Joseph Langford’s insight into her secret fire, is a must-read for all of us at any stage of our faith journey.
[Her] message is something infinitely rich, yet infinitely simple. She has shown us that, as the burning desert yearns for water, God yearns for us. And the God who thirsts for us is not hard to find, since he dwells in our soul as his temple, and comes in the palpable disguise of our suffering neighbor, making it easy for us to find the unsearchable God, and to come face-to-face with Christ.
Get it. Read it. Embrace the transformational power of her secret fire.