In Flunking Sainthood Every Day: A Daily Devotional for the Rest of Us, author Jana Riess compiles spiritual writing across centuries to create a guide to 12 spiritual practices.
In case you didn’t get it from the title, Riess’s introduction makes clear that perfection is not the goal of this follow-up to her memoir, Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor:
Each day’s devotion features a question for reflection, a prayer, or a short action item to help you integrate the monthly theme into your life. These action items are not intended to be guilt-inducing; please don’t berate yourself if you only do some of them.
Why you might want to buy Flunking Sainthood Every Day:
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to do more spiritual reading, you can get a daily fix in this one little volume and read excerpts from well over 250 writers.
Riess deftly manages the difficult task of weaving writings ancient, modern, and everything in between along with her own. She adds a short scripture to boot.
The bulk of the book is the excerpts from writers from Henry David Thoreau to Phyllis Tickle, from St. Ignatius of Loyola to Frederick Buechner. There are poems and hymns mixed in with the prose.
Riess lets the authors do their work. Her comments serve to connect them with the spiritual practice she is focusing on that month. She even includes writers whose experiences do not reflect her own, says so, and leaves readers to their own conclusions.
She also eases readers in to the 12 spiritual practices — fasting, daily work, lectio divina, simplicity, centering prayer, the Jesus prayer, Sabbath, gratitude, hospitality, compassionate eating and creation care, fixed-hour prayer, and generosity. Centering prayer and the Jesus prayer are combined into one month, so January is devoted to the spiritual journey.
The scriptures, readings, and reflections are short. Most are just a paragraph or two. But they are expertly chosen. There is meat here.
Why you might not want to buy Flunking Sainthood Every Day:
If you are not interested in incorporating these specific spiritual practices into your life, the book will still hold value, but not as much. You’d probably be happier with a different devotional.
Despite the title, this book won’t let you sit idle, making you feel good. It expects you to work, but acknowledges that sometimes you won’t.
The readings on compassionate eating and creation care — a subject which interests me — were a bit touchy-feely for my taste. That might be enough of a turnoff for you to steer clear.
This is easily one of the best daily devotionals I’ve seen. The readings are diverse, but they don’t feel scattered. Riess has chosen from the very best material available.
I also like the way the book looks and feels. I don’t usually care about that, but when I expect a book to stay on my nightstand for a year, I want it to look good. This is a squarish, chunky book with a bright yellow ribbon to keep your place. It’s cheery, too.
That makes me want to pick it up again and again, which is exactly what I want in a daily devotional.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Flunking Sainthood Every Day from Paraclete Press. I was not required to write a positive review. This is my honest opinion.