Although not well-known in the English-speaking world, Fr. Ambroise Gardeil, OP (1859-1931) was a Dominican of significant influence in French Catholic thought at the turn of the 20th century. Conservative theologians like Frs. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, Michel Labourdette, OP, Jean-Hervé Nicolas, OP and many others hailed him as a careful expositor of the supernaturality of faith, a defender of the theological nature of rational apologetics, and a spiritual master. In his controversial Le Saulchoir: Une école de théologie, Fr. Marie-Dominique Chenu, OP praised Fr. Gardeil as an important Dominican initiator of reforms in historical theology, presenting the latter as a kind of precursor to one of the streams of what is now referred to historically as the "Nouvelle Théologie." And one cannot read the words of Fr. Gardeil’s contemporary Fr. Antoine Lemonnyer, OP, without hearing echoes and re-echoes of common cause regarding our lofty spiritual vocation, resounding within the halls of the Saulchoir. With such a broad appeal, it is no surprise that in private correspondence, a young Yves Simon, writing to Jacques Maritain, referred to Fr. Gardeil as "The Great Gardeil."
The True Christian Life provides a thorough and stirring introduction to Fr. Gardeil’s work in spiritual theology. The volume was originally published posthumously through the collaboration of Fr. Gardeil’s nephew, Fr. Henri-Dominique Gardeil, OP and Jacques Maritain. Fr. Ambroise, prior to beginning work on his masterpiece on spiritual experience, La Structure de l'âme et l'expérience mystique, drafted nearly eight-hundred pages that would have set forth a full presentation of moral-ascetical theology. While drafting this massive work, his reflection on the soul’s receptive capacity for grace led him to the two-volume study, La Structure, and he never was able to finish his original designs for a comprehensive study of the Christian moral-spiritual life. Soon after his death, his nephew gathered several essays from the Revue thomiste and Revue des Jeunes, along with a complete-but-unpublished study on prayer. Drafting a lengthy introduction on the basis of Fr. Ambroise’s unpublished notes, Fr. Henri-Dominique assembled a volume of moral / spiritual theology that sets out the principles of many important themes: divinization through grace, Christian prudence /conscience, the virtue of religion, devotion, and prayer.
In his In memoriam written after the passing of Fr. Gardeil, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange emphasized Fr. Gardeil’s ability to meditate on a given topic’s central principles, like someone who sees the highest peaks that give structure to the entire mountain range of theology. In this volume, the reader will find a clear and rhetorically striking presentation of the central mysteries of the spiritual life, presented with stirring and beautiful rhetoric by a theological master from the Thomist tradition.
"The kind of book that one rarely sees these days. Reminiscent of some of the great classics of mystical theology such as the works of Columba Marmiom, Paul Delatte and others. I cannot imagine that there is anything comparable to it today for both its theological depth and vision."~Benedict Guevin, OSB, St. Anselm College
"Ambroise Gardeil may be the most underestimated Thomist scholar and spiritual master of the twentieth century. Here we find his most accessible spiritual treatise. Readers with a basic foundation in scholastic thought will profit mightily from Gardeil’s clear thinking, incisive analysis, and global vision of the Christian life centered on the practice of virtue and the gift of grace."~Bernhard Blankenhorn, OP, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
"Fr. Gardeil is able to rise up to sixty thousand feet in considering the greatest themes of divine revelation and yet navigate them with detailed precision. He has the vision of an artist or a poet able to capture the whole in a few words or images but also the precision of an expert who can delve into the finest details with clear distinctions. His work represents a certain height of reflection in a tradition that has matured over centuries but until now has remained inaccessible to English-speaking readers. The contemporary work of theology to render God’s revealed truth in today’s terms benefits greatly from this masterpiece now available in English thanks to Matthew Minerd."~Boniface Hicks, OSB, St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA
"In this faithful and alert translation of Ambrose Gardeil’s theological reflections, Minerd illumines for us Gardeil’s conviction that the "true" Christian life bears a mysterious leaven within it of theosis, whose fermentation touches all we do. Minerd’s graceful rendering of three master principles of the Christian life immerses us in Gardeil’s own experience of unitive life with God and confirms for us that spiritual theology is less a work of independent genius or a set of arcane debates than it is a contemplative and docile response to divine love."~Heather M. Erb, Lock Haven University