Tony Jones’s book, The Sacred Way, has been out for a few years now (it was published in 2005). But it's topic and treatment is timeless. It is an eminently readable treatment of “spiritual practices for everyday life” (the subtitle). Jones describes and prescribes seventeen spiritual disciplines (in two sections, Via Contemplativa (contemplative approaches to spirituality) and Via Activa (bodily approaches to spirituality). It was, for me, a thoroughly enjoyable book, and one with which I identified strongly.
I settled into it like a reader sinking into an overstuffed chair, especially because my spiritual journey in recent years has been much like Jones’s, delving deeper and deeper into prayer and contemplation (though I struggled with jealousy as the author described pilgrimages to Taize, the Reading Boiler Room, and Assisi). The Sacred Way renewed my yearning to discover more pathways into the throne room of God.
But therein, I think, is the book’s only weakness. I frequently wondered how the book would speak to a person who has not walked a similar path into contemplative practices. I wondered if it adequately emphasized—for the “uninitiated,” for lack of a better term—why such (some on-the-surface strange) practices would be attempted, and what they would add to a prayerful life. To put it another way, would someone whose heart doesn’t (yet) beat with a contemplative rhythm yearn for these practices? I’m not sure. But, then, I tell myself, that person might not pick up Jones’s book in the first place, so maybe it’s no weakness at all.
In any case, I recommend The Sacred Way to anyone who is interested in discovering the kind of prayer life that animated such men and women after God’s heart as Thomas Merton, Thomas a Kempis, Henri Nouwen, Julian of Norwich, and John of Damascus (all of whom are quoted in the book).
It’s a book I can wish I had written.