In Mystics in Spite of Themselves, R.A. Herrera takes an in depth look at four atypical saints and the tumultuous times in which they lived. Exploring the lives of St. Augustine (354-430), Gregory the Great (540-604), Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), and Ramon Llull (1233-1315), Herrera brings to life the cultural backdrop of these mystics and discusses the sorts of challenges they faced while living among the world, be it the burdens of work, ill health or their simple yearning for a different kind of life. He concludes thus, that each of these mystical saints proved it possible to be involved in the world (as opposed to the solitude of monastic life) without being immersed in it. They demonstrated the means by which one could be engaged in earthly particulars while also keeping the mind and heart set on higher things. As Herrera expertly shows, Augustine, Gregory, Anselm, and Llull each powerfully impacted their own world and the history of spirituality.
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