I am now reading St Alphonsus Liguori’s Meditations Suitable For All Times.
The saintly man had a way of writing that is very intimate and familiar; it is like a friend talking to you. There is a warmth in his writing that is not easy to convey unless it is in the writer’s heart first. However, one trait of St Alphonsus immediately attracts attention: he is very, and wilfully, repetitive.
At the beginning, this may seem a bit disconcerting, with the same concept (the necessity to repent and convert now rather than waiting or hoping that one will get a chance of final repentance later) constantly hammered in basically every second page.
It might seem too much; but after a couple of hours of reading, one understands the logic behind it.
I read an exhortation to repentance now, and I may find it useful or well-written. In order to make a lasting impression, it will need to be crafted excellently. It might well be forgotten after a while.
The Saint’s constant exhortations do not work in this way. Being written always in different ways, but always repeating the same concept, the basic message etches itself in the reader’s consciousness surely and effortlessly. It’s basically unavoidable that the message “gets in”, whilst avoiding the boredom because the writing style is, actually, varied. The “Meditations” all have a different starting point – which is the object of the real meditation – but they all come, invariably, back to the same concept: get your house in order now, because you could drop dead before dinner time. After a while, one gets in the rhythm and understands, or embraces, the underlying message and the author’s unusual writing style. And no: it’s never boring. This is a saintly man pouring out in a beautiful language the love for Christ he has in his heart, not a V II priests rehashing common places about the “joy of Christ”.
This also makes the meditations useful if read in very little pills. Whilst I don’t think many people read them one at a time, they could actually be read in this way, at perhaps two or three minutes each, perhaps whilst waiting for the bus, or for the coffee to cool down a bit.
St Alphonsus, who was clearly a smart guy, knew it and put the principle into action.