Book review: ‘The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God’
“The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God.” By Becky Eldredge. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2020. 212 pages. Paperback: $15.95; Kindle: $9.99; Nook: $10.99.
“…when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Mt 6:6).
For Becky Eldredge, the journey to her inner room began when she was a student at Louisiana State University, where an announcement at Sunday Mass led her to sign up for a “Busy Person’s Retreat.” Upon discovering that this retreat, unlike others she had participated in, revolved around not group discussion but individual spiritual direction and daily prayer, she admittedly had second thoughts. “I was a tad anxious because I had no idea how to really implement daily prayer into my life,” she remembers. “Minutes before the opening meeting ended, I almost changed my mind when I thought ‘What in the world did I get myself into?’”
Happily, she did not change her mind, and this book, “The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God,” is one of the many things that resulted. It was written, she tells us, to fulfill a promise she made to her dying grandfather, Boppy.
“Becksa,” he had asked, “promise me you’ll tell people what we understand about God’s love. Promise me you’ll tell people that they are not alone. Promise me you will not stop what you are doing and will keep sharing the Good News with others.”
The Inner Chapel that Eldredge shares with her readers is placed firmly within the tradition of Ignatian spirituality and is based primarily on praying with Scripture. Guiding readers to their own Inner Chapel, she leads one step at a time by sharing not only her life experiences but the things she discovered while on her own journey to a deeper relationship with God. Between the two, this book is a happy combination of both the practical and the inspirational.
Each chapter in the book focuses on a particular theme. In chapter eight, for instance, which is entitled “There is Rest for the Weary,” Eldredge poses a set of questions to help readers evaluate whether or not they are experiencing unacknowledged weariness – discerning, as St. Ignatius taught, whether they are in a state of consolation, “feel(ing) more alive, more connected to God and other people,” or in a state of desolation, which is marked by feeling “listless, tepid and unhappy” as well as a sense of being disconnected from God .
The remainder of the chapter then discusses how to go about finding the kind of “Sabbath” rest that God intended to renew our spirits. At the end of this chapter, as is the case with every chapter in the book, Eldredge invites readers to go to their own Inner Chapel. For this particular theme, the focus is on what she terms a “parched land meditation,” in which she helps the reader look for and finds Jesus’ living water. She then has suggestions for creating ongoing “rituals of rest,” and ends with Scripture passages for meditation called “Embracing the Promises of God.”
Other chapters deal with such things as “We are never alone,” “We Belong to Someone” and “We are Loved – Unconditionally.”
However, the overriding theme that ties the book together is the certainty that, no matter where we are on our spiritual journey, God is already in our Inner Chapel, waiting for us to enter and inviting us to an ever-deepening relationship with Him. “My prayer and hope for each of you as you read this,” Eldredge says, “is that you understand in a bone-deep, knowing way what my grandfather understood on his deathbed and what I came to understand. … There is an exquisite gift given to each of us – the inner chapel. And visiting it often allows us to discover the promises of God.”
Becky Eldredge is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator and author.
Passionate about Ignatian spirituality and teaching people how to pray, Eldredge has more than 20 years of ministry experience leading people through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In addition to spiritual direction, she offers weekly reflections on her own website, beckyeldredge.com, as well as reflections on Loyola Press’ Ignatian Spirituality blog, ignatianspirituality.com/welcome-to-dotmagis
Eldredge lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with her husband and three children.