This book is an attempt to outline that love story of God and man, which achieves its consummation in the unity of the whole Christ; and to show that the spiritual life is a partnership of love between God and man which can be summed up in one word: Christ.
Dom Eugene Boylan OCSO
Can married couples become holy? Can anyone who is not a priest or a member of a religious institute reach the heights of mystical union with Christ? In this book, Dom Eugene Boylan, Trappist abbot and spiritual writer, shows how the faithful are invited into this intimate union with Him, regardless of their state in life.
Few works can match the completeness of Dom Eugene’s treatment of God’s loving plan for mankind in This Tremendous Lover. He explains how the doctrines of the Redemption and of the Mystical Body form us in holiness through our membership in His Church. A chapter on the Blessed Virgin Mary outlines her essential role in the spiritual life, while a chapter on Marriage and Holiness explains just how exalted and yet attainable, is the ideal of holiness for married couples.
First published in 1946, This Tremendous Lover sold more than a million copies. Decades after it was written, it remains a sure guide to understanding what the love of God for man truly entails.
Dom Mary Eugene Boylan (1904 – 1964), an Irish Trappist monk, is best known for the books that he wrote on the spiritual life. Born Richard Kevin Boylan in 1904, he discerned a calling to the priesthood early on and after finishing his secondary schooling he entered Clonliffe College (the diocesan seminary for Dublin). He decided to leave the seminary later and went back to his secular studies, first in University College Dublin and then the University of Vienna, where he spent three years. He eventually earned a Masters in Science and his scientific bent left its mark on his spirituality, as shown by the striking first words of This Tremendous Lover:
There is a phenomenon in the natural order which illustrates a great principle of the supernatural order; it is the structure and the growth of crystals. Each crystalline substance has its own characteristic shape; wherever complete crystals occur, not only the whole crystal, but also each unit of it, has that particular shape. If a crystal be suspended in a suitable solution of the substance of which it is composed—the “mother liquor” as it is called—that crystal will grow by drawing to itself material from the solution, forming it to its own image and likeness, and then uniting it to itself, yet so that the new and greater unity is an exact replica of the original nucleus and of each of the component units.
So it is with Christ. (…)
A distinguished scientific career seemed to lie ahead of him, until one of his Jesuit colleagues told him that he had a vocation to the religious life in Mount St. Joseph Abbey in Roscrea, a monastery of the Reformed Cistercian Order, better known as the Trappist monks. It was here that he adopted the name Mary Eugene. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1937, and was assigned to teach in the school attached to the abbey while also exercising his priestly ministry by hearing confessions and acting as a spiritual director to many of the young monks and to people from the locality. Inspired by his experiences as a spiritual father, he published his first book, Difficulties in Mental Prayer, in 1943, only six years after his ordination, followed three years later by his second book This Tremendous Lover. Both titles quickly became best-sellers (with This Tremendous Lover selling over a million copies) and were translated into many languages, including Chinese. These two titles won Dom Eugene such renown that people from all over the world visited and wrote to him for spiritual advice. He was invited to preach and to give retreats and lectures in various parts of Europe and the USA, where he went in 1958 and 1960.
Meanwhile, Fr Eugene received the honorific title “Dom” and was assigned as superior of the monks of Caldey Abbey, situated on an island off the coast of Wales in the 1955, during which he gave the Abbey a sound economic foundation. Recalled to his home monastery in Roscrea in 1959, he was elected its Abbot in 1962. Unfortunately, his life was cut short after he got into a severe car accident while on his way to the funeral of William MacNeely, Bishop of Raphoe, in December 1963. He died from his injuries on January 5, 1964.
Due to his experiences both as a young professional and as a monk, Dom Eugene was able to write in a way that deeply touched laymen and religious alike. The monastic cloister, far from rendering his words lofty and remote, gave his counsel the depth and grace-filled authenticity that could move people from every imaginable background to a renewed pursuit of the spiritual life. His writings flow more like conversations and are far from the tenor of the classroom. However, he certainly did not write to pander to what his audience wanted to hear. His books, and This Tremendous Lover in particular, do not flinch from showing the ideals of the spiritual life in all of their richness and sublimity, and therefore their unattainability by mere human effort. What he does in these pages is to present these ideals… and then remind his readers that with divine grace these are not out of reach for them, for God loves them and created them precisely to scale the heights of intimate union with Him.
This book is far away from platitudes and clichés that reduce prayer, spirituality and love itself to simple emotions or expressions of “self-actualization”. Dom Eugene was not out to comfort souls with a generic spirituality that has no real principles. Instead he reminds us that the spiritual life cannot be divorced from doctrine. Indeed to say that doctrine and spirituality can be separated is like saying that spirituality has nothing to do with truth or reality. If Christ is really the Son of God; if He really came down to redeem us and to communicate the life of the Trinity to us; if Christ really established a Church through whose Sacraments grace flows to the human soul; then anyone who sincerely wants to be united to God should know these truths and take them to heart. Precisely because this book challenges, it continues to be relevant.
Like many monuments of Catholic spiritual theology, This Tremendous Lover was temporarily forgotten in the aftermath of the 1960’s. Thankfully it has, since then, been rediscovered for what it is — a spiritual classic. It is the humble prayer of the monks of Mount St. Joseph that this new edition of Dom Eugene’s This Tremendous Lover will draw many more souls to Christ, whether by renewing in them their first fervour or by surprising them for the first time with the magnificence of what union with God truly means.
Dom Malachy Thompson, O.C.S.O.
March 25, 2019.
Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord,
The Abbey of Mount St. Joseph,
 The initials often found after Dom Boylan’s name, “O.C.R.”, stand for the Latin initials of that Order. Since the 1960’s the “Reformed Cistercians” have been better known as “Order of the Cistercians of Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.)”.
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