With its 1150 pages and a style and vocabulary that are sometimes difficult, I Want to See God can put off more than one inexperienced reader. Yet 60 years after the first edition appeared, the work continues to circulate and be translated in a constant progression.
Is I Want to See God a work for specialists in the spiritual life ?
No. I Want to See God was written to respond to a thirst for God, to teach contact with God in prayer and how to persevere in it. Its two titles, I Want to See God and I Am a Daughter of the Church, words attributed to St Teresa of Avila, are like a twin call to everyone.
Should it be read from beginning to end ?
You can read it by dipping into it at random. Each chapter was planned as a short treatise in itself. If you read the whole of I Want to See God, even if some passages remain obscure, you will understand that this book reveals the dynamism of life unfurled.
What chapters should I begin with ?
The chapter ‘I want to see God’, although a bit difficult, explains how God is present in the soul. ‘Silent prayer’ responds to the question of what prayer is. ‘Jesus’ reminds us that it’s Christ we have to cling to. Other chapters are more concerned with specific stages in the road towards holiness, but their teaching is also valid for anyone’s journey. ‘The prayer of recollection’ is very accessible for a first contact with God. The chapters on ‘The gift of self’, ‘Humility’ and ‘Silence’ describe attitudes that are always necessary. ‘Conduct of the soul’ describes the main features of the way of childhood of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus.
Doesn’t this very structured work run the risk of putting the spiritual life in a straitjacket and seeming like a recipe book ?
Can you pray with I Want to See God ?
Yes and no … You won’t find any meditations in I Want to See God. It’s not a prayer book. However, many passages will put the reader in an attitude of recollection. Parts of the chapter on ‘The prayer of recollection’ or ‘Spiritual reading’ will help to fix your gaze on Christ. A page from the practical conclusions of the chapters ‘Faith and supernatural contemplation’ and ‘Active night of the senses’ or ‘Contemplative dryness’ may help some people persevere in the desert that interior prayer often is. A passage from ‘Gift of self’ or from ‘The mystery of the Church’ may awaken your fervour and spur you to seek union with God. The many quotations from the Bible or the writings of the saints can also nourish this contact with God.