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The Gospel Mysticism of Ruth Burrows: Going to God with Empty Hands

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The Gospel Mysticism of Ruth Burrows

Going to God with Empty Hands

 Michelle Jones

One of the most popular and revered spiritual writers of the past half-century, the British author and Carmelite nun Ruth Burrows writes not as a detached observer of either the Christian journey or the Carmelite tradition, but through the lens of her lifetime of lived experience as a contemplative Carmelite nun in the 21st century. In the words of emeritus archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, this gives Burrows’s understanding of and writings on prayer “a very rare degree of honesty and realism,” making her one of the most challenging and deep exponents in our time of the Carmelite tradition. 

The Gospel Mysticism of Ruth Burrows presents for the first time a thorough synthesis of her thought. It is addressed to a wide range of readers, first of all to those interested in Burrows’s spirituality, but also anyone who wants to trace the graced unfolding of the Christian spiritual life. For readers just discovering Burrows, the book is a helpful roadmap to navigate the ideas she develops through her writings. It will have special appeal to anyone interested in exploring Carmelite spirituality. 

In addition to systematically exploring Burrows’s thought and writings, Australian theologian and author Michelle Jones mines a rich collection of unpublished writings, including personal correspondence, and live interviews with Ruth Burrows at her Carmelite monastery in the UK.

  • ICS code: GM
  • Format: paperback
  • Pages: 320  
  • ISBN: 978-1-939272-51-5

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The book includes an appendix, a full bibliography of Carmelite primary sources with a listing of all the published writings of Ruth Burrows, and an extensive index. “About this book” introduces the readers to a brief biography of Burrows and the author and how the book came to be. A conclusion summarizes the book’s contents but also invites the reader to explore the possibility of what many consider the greatest need of our time: a mysticism that is not only personal, but deeply ecclesial, able to radically transform the church and the world.

Reviewers praise The Gospel Mysticism of Ruth Burrows as “the most comprehensive, readable introduction to Burrows that is presently available,” …. “an important contribution to studies on spirituality and mysticism.” In this pivotal book, Australian theologian and author Michelle Jones not only presents Ruth Burrows to a wider readership but also provides an important contribution to the academy vis-à-vis the study of spirituality. Jones’s book shows why Burrows is one of the most important Carmelite authors in our time and what it means to be a Gospel mystic.

“It's hard to imagine a more lucid and enlightening introduction to the work of Ruth Burrows, one of the most compelling spiritual authors of our time. What becomes clear, reading these pages by Michelle Jones, is the unique Gospel strength and startling freshness of the Burrows vision.”
—Paul Murray, O.P.
Professor of Spirituality
The Angelicum, Rome

“In this much-needed work, Michelle Jones provides … the most comprehensive, readable introduction to Ruth Burrows that is presently available.
      This book is an important contribution to the field of spirituality and will, no doubt deservedly, become the textbook for studies on Ruth Burrows and her spirituality. It will also help clarify the concept of mysticism that should, in turn, help make more accessible to us the deep wells of the Christian mystical tradition.
       We are in debt to Michelle Jones for this work. It not only presents Ruth Burrows to a wider audience, an audience she has long deserved, but also is an important contribution to the academy vis-à-vis the study of spirituality.”

—Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I.
President, the Oblate School of Theology
San Antonio, Texas

“At a time when many are seeking not words about God but the experience of God, Michelle Jones writes of mysticism in precisely those terms. The church now has to become more mystical in order to be more missionary, and this book, drawing in fresh ways upon the Carmelite tradition, helps us understand what that might mean. It is both old and new, reaching for heaven yet down-to-earth.”
—Archbishop Mark Coleridge
President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Archbishop of Brisbane

“Fresh, frank, and fruitful beyond measure is the wisdom of Ruth Burrows about what it means to be a Gospel mystic.
       Michelle Jones has plumbed the depths of that wisdom and offers readers a clear and insightful exploration of Burrows’s guidance for the Christian willing to stake everything on the crucified Jesus.
       Jones’s book shows why Burrows is one of the most important Carmelite authors in our time.
       A caution: the wisdom of Ruth Burrows may change your life.”

—Keith J. Egan, T. O. Carm.
Adjunct Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame Aquinas Chair in Catholic Theology Emeritus,
Saint Mary's College