Incorporating meditative breathing exercises into Catholic prayer is a fascinating concept, but is it useful, licit and the key to world peace? The answer is maybe, not exactly and sort of, but Richard Galentino makes a fairly strong and surprisingly poetic case for “yes.”
The book begins with a short history of Yoga and the rosary, as well as information outlining some historical connections between yoga and Catholicism. The flow of the language and Galentino’s writing style are often both moving and inspiring, such as when he reflects that “every breath is God’s gift of life to us.”
While the prose is impeccable, the book is pretty light on information. There are many places that would benefit from being fleshed out, especially for the reader who’s familiar with Catholicism, but not familiar with the practice of yoga.
There’s a good mix of inspirational message and practical how-to information, including both the mysterious origins of the rosary and the benefits of meditation on the heart and respiratory system. But the grandest claims made in this book are that meditation is the key to world peace, and that the Hail Mary prayer is best used as a mantra.
It is traditional Catholic thought that individual prayer is the beginning of world peace. Peace begins within, to a certain extent, and Galentino uses the lives of Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi to illustrate how prayer and meditation can give someone the divine energy and purpose to act “humbly with authority,” as they both so famously did.
The book is written in building-block style. In the beginning Galentino makes a very strange and unexplored assertion that people "like war" because they “like the feeling of community…” And he begins his solution to this by asserting that the simple act of exhalation (as opposed to action of any sort) is the secret to affecting world peace.
Fortunately, he does expand on this idea. The breath is only the beginning, which leads to conversations with God, which leads to action when the meditation is ended. Mother Teresa, as an example, didn’t stop at the exhale. She took her conversation with God into the world and made a difference, both in the lives of the people she served through her charity work, and in the lives of the people she inspired during her lifetime and will continue to inspire long after her death.
The practical sections follow a similar path. The beginning of this part seems bizarre, if you know that the rosary already is a tool of meditation and prayer. Generally Catholics meditate on the mysteries of Christ, but Galentino recommends instead meditating on one’s breath. Which is an interesting twist and not entirely compatible with Catholic theology. Catholics are to look to Jesus for strength, peace and clarity, not themselves.
But again, he goes on. Instead of "joyful mysteries," "sorrowful mysteries," etcetera, he suggests meditating on “the birth,” “the resurrection,” and so on. The meditations become increasingly complex and longer. They all include 10 to 40 Hail Marys, and begin and end with a Hail Mary said aloud. Why the rest of the rosary prayers are ignored is not addressed.
From a Catholic perspective, this could be a good addition to a God-focused prayer life. The meditations seem to be focused on discerning God’s will, and are more akin to the idea of praying to better oneself than praying as an act of worship. Some of the meditations end with suggestions for action to take after finishing based upon clarity attained during the meditative process. Interestingly, the meditation for “breathing peace into the universe” does not.
This is a fine resource for people who already make prayer and/or meditation part of their lives and are looking for a way to deepen or expand upon what they’re already doing. It’s probably a bit much for someone just starting out. Many book recommendations are included at the end for those who want to study further. For those not familiar with yoga, a primer would be helpful.Powered by Sidelines