To hear a sample of Retreat for Beginners, click here.
Renowned as a public speaker and translator of the Bible, Ronald Knox was above all a priest, and in his sermons and retreat conferences we meet Msgr. Knox the spiritual guide. Among his most popular writings were the “Slow Motion” books, based on talks he gave to schoolgirls during the Second World War. Inspired by their success, a few years after Knox’s death Evelyn Waugh, published a collection of his retreat conferences for young people. In Retreat for Beginners we find the spiritual depth and imaginative presentation that were hallmarks of Knox’s preaching, and an informality that appeals to young people and to the youth in each of us.
When comparing Knox’s retreat talks with his sermons, Robert Speaight observed: “The voice is lowered; the tone is more intense; the humor peeps out more daringly.” This was especially true when he spoke to young people. He obviously enjoyed giving these conferences! But Knox never sacrifices serious doctrine on the altar of “entertainment.” He paid his young listeners the compliment of believing they wanted to hear the whole truth of the Gospel, its challenges as well as its comforts. For example, this collection contains three conferences on death, and another on Heaven and Hell; when do we hear about these things in retreats for adults these days, much less those aimed at the young?
The thread tying these conferences together is a deceptively simple question: How can I develop a deep, personal relationship with God? That question is at the heart of our lives as followers of Christ; although Knox is speaking to young people, his insights will help and inspire adults as well. He deals with the customary topics in a retreat: prayer, sin, the sacraments, vocation but always he returns to his fundamental question: “What I want you to consider in this retreat … is just this, What is the quality of my religion? Is it something personal to me, or something external to me?”
In the Book of Revelation, the church of Ephesus is warned: “I have this against you: you have lost your early love.” (Rev 2:4) Listeners of all ages will have their love for God rekindled as they hear Ronald Knox present the perennial truths of the Christian life with imagination, devotion, and more than a little humor.
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