Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. (1893-1953), was a Discalced Carmelite priest, confessor and spiritual director. Most likely a mystic himself, he was also an expert in the writings of such venerated Carmelite Mystics as St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. For the last decade of his life Fr. Gabriel was the spiritual director for the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of St. Joseph in Rome. It was with their assistance that he compiled his writings and mystical insight, arranging his material to correspond with the liturgical year, while following the ascent of the soul to transforming union with God. This work he titled Divine Intimacy.
The brilliance of Divine Intimacy comes from Fr. Gabriel’s unique ability to balance spiritual depth with literary brevity: each daily entry typically is no more than three pages long. However, within those few pages the reader is invited to seek God through the direction of Fr. Gabriel. In the preface to Divine Intimacy, Father explains the structure for the daily reflections:
“The meditations in this book are based on this method:
We begin with the presence of God, an appropriate thought which brings us into contact with our Creator and orientates us toward Him.
“The reading provides the subject for the meditation. And as many spiritual persons apply themselves to meditation twice a day, each meditation offers two points.
“The soul then begins to reflect, using freely the text already read. In this way it will pass spontaneously to the colloquy which, according to the Teresian concept, is the “heart,” the center of mental prayer.
“That is why our meditations are directed toward helping souls especially on this point. To this end we have tried to give the colloquies a form that is sufficiently ample; nevertheless, they may be used freely as desired, each soul choosing whatever corresponds to the need of the moment. To make the colloquies more efficacious, we have selected suitable ardent expressions and thoughts taken by preference from the writings of the saints and other loving souls. Very often we have been obliged to make slight modifications in these texts, in order to adapt them to the intimate form of a colloquy. However, we always indicate their source in parentheses.
“The colloquies consist of expressions of love, alternating with petitions, acts of thanksgiving, and transports of the soul toward God; these are made concrete in the resolutions.
“We hope that these meditations, written in this way, will help souls to apply themselves to mental prayer according to the Teresian idea and method.”
The meditations themselves are based on the old, pre-conciliar, calendar. In fact, the subtitle of the collection is Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Liturgical Year. However, one need not attend the Traditional Latin Mass or observe the old calendar to appreciate them. Indeed, what is most striking for those who regularly read Divine Intimacy is the experiential knowledge and spiritual authenticity evident in Fr. Gabriel’s instruction. While continually demonstrating his familiarity with Sacred Scripture, Fr. Gabriel extensively draws upon the wisdom of the great Carmelite Saints, including St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.
One only need look at Fr. Gabriel’s meditation “The Necessity for Interior Purification” from the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima to appreciate the gift which is Divine Intimacy:
“Grace, the gift of God which makes the soul a participant in the divine nature, is poured forth into the soul in proportion to its degree of interior purity, which always corresponds to its degree of conformity with God’s will. Therefore, the soul that wishes to be totally possessed and transformed by divine Grace, must in practice strive to conform fully to the will of God, according to the teaching of St. John of the Cross, “so that there may be nothing in the soul that is contrary to the will of God, but that in all and through all its movement may be that of the will of God alone”. (DI, 78)
It has been over five years since Baronius Press first published their fine edition of this classic. Based on the English language version originally released in 1964, the Baronius edition is leather bound with quality end paper, gilded pages and features two color ribbons. Additionally, its durable binding is designed to withstand years of reading.
Since I was first introduced to Divine Intimacy two years ago, I have been surprised to find numerous other Catholics who have also discovered this work of Carmelite spirituality. Its depth and authenticity are undeniable. For those seeking divine intimacy, consider allowing Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen to be your guide.
Brian Williams is a convert who entered the Catholic Church in 2006. He is a graduate of Long Beach State University with a BA in History. Brian blogs on life, liturgy and the pursuit of holiness at liturgyguy.com. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and five children.
I love this book! A great pastor of souls sent it to me shortly before Lent last year and it instantly became one of my greatest treasures. It’s like the Catholic answer (and then some!) to “My Utmost for His Highest”. In fact, apart from periodic additional readings, my entire devotional life has become daily readings of the Missal in the morning and corresponding readings of Divine Intimacy at night.
It is a great book, no question. For those who may be unaware, Tan Books put it out years ago in a compact leather cover edition, though that has since become unavailable, as well as the larger version that Tan put out after the compact edition was no longer printed. Tan’s website lists it as out of stock and currently out of print. Thankfully Baronius Press still publishes it, and hopefully will continue to do so for years to come.
I have the larger Tan edition and have for several years. I took a year off from it, but realized how much I missed it.
I have created a calendar and maintained it the last several years at http://divineintimacy.larmour.us/ to help those who pray with Divine Intimacy to know what meditations are appropriate for the liturgical day. I hope this helps!
Please note: Ignatius Press published a 4-trade paperback edition of Divine Intimacy a few years ago. It lists Fr. Gabriel as the author. But it differs from the original in several ways: 1. The daily readings are arranged according to the current Lectionary; 2. References to Carmelite saints and authors have been reduced; 3. Newer references are inserted. These may be or refer to documents from Vatican II and other more contemporary writings; 4. While some of the meditations come directly from Fr. Gabriel, others are newly written. Bottom line: I would give the original DI 5 stars, the newer version 4 stars.