Luca Fumagalli

In addition to the many splendid novels, Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson wrote three devotional books (not counting those dedicated to young readers).

In 1904 he collected several texts of Anglo-Saxon spirituality in one volume, entitled A Book of the Love of Jesus. After an introduction on the history and tradition of English prayers, the book is divided into four parts according to the subject of the prayers: the love of Jesus, his passion, the Eucharist and devotion. As an epilogue there is a short biography of Richard Rolle of Hampole, a religious and mystic of the fourteenth century.

The Friendship of Christ (1912) reveals Benson’s experience as a preacher. Divided into three parts, it deals with the bond between God and man, the sacraments and the Passion. Christ, with his incarnation and his sacrifice on the cross, is the horizon towards which all earthly friendships converge, the only possibility of liberation from the slavery of selfishness and sin.

At the outbreak of the First World War, for the spiritual consolation of those who faced the hard life of the trench every day, the monsignor compiled his last devotional text, a prayer book, Vexilla Regis, published posthumously towards the end of 1914. In the volume the prayers for the wounded, prisoners and enemies are of particular importance.

In general, Robert Hugh Benson’s devotional books deserve to be rediscovered and read. In the present gloomy times, they are a sure guide to help the soul to arrive at the heavenly port.