Family Spirituality foreward - Kevin Wells

Author: Kevin Wells

On this cold winter morning in America, my Irish imagination has prodded into my mind an image of David Torkington. I see the old Englishman slowly fading away, disappearing on a windswept field. Small pieces of him are breaking apart and lifting into the breezy sky, similar to a winter-forgotten scarecrow vanishing in the winds of a snow-covered cornfield. My eyes well up now. I imagine I feel this way for the same reason sadness overcomes a five-year-old boy looking out of a car window watching a solitary scarecrow disintegrating in a frozen field. From the back seat, with eyes unstained by the sin of the world, the boy sees the lonely and broken-hearted scarecrow from the heart of his own soul.

Torkington is this scarecrow.

For more than half of a century he has stood like a bruised reed, alone, in the dead center of the wild plain of a Catholic Church that has mostly dismissed mystical prayer. Although the world starves – perhaps today more than ever before – for union with an unseen God, Church leaders and clergy have mostly discarded the greatest tool to attain that mystic union. Decade after decade, Torkington has leaned into stiff winds of resistance in order to ward off crows, the circling vultures, and unseen demons to herald the centuries-old solution to the acceleration of what often seems a worldwide loss of reason.  “It is meditative prayer,” he proclaims. “If I had just a day left, it is all that I’d preach. Everything now must go to—and be received—from God.”

Although Torkington has written several books and numberless articles on mystical prayer and has spoken and led retreats on the Church’s ancient form prayer throughout the world, he is barely seen or listened to anymore. These unlisteners are like the Moms and Dads in the front seats of cars throughout the world, passing through farmland and thinking of the next thing or task – while the untainted child in the back seat sees the landscape through the eyes of his open naturally contemplative heart. Put another way, when the Church shifted to studying ways of loving God rather than just loving and contemplating Him – which it had practiced with consistency since Pentecost – consideration of God as a paternal Lover of souls began to slip away. Today, perhaps, the Church has never experienced greater travail.

Thankfully, because the old rugby player is a jolly old soul with storehouses of burning embers still remaining in his belly, he is writing and speaking like never before. He would tell you as much. In our midst, at least on this early winter morning in 2024, Torkington is an 86-year-old man who knows his time on earth is coming to an end. With a Catholic Church buried in a long wintertime, he knows it is no time for him to dawdle. So, each day from his home in the wilds on the southern tip of England, he stretches out his sore back, tinkers around in his garden, and takes strolls toward the beach to keep in shape and brace himself for the whirlwind. It is tiring proclaiming the most important message in the world directly into the crosswinds of society’s ever-blowing cacophony of distractions. So Torkington inhales deeply, then bellows like John the Baptist in the wilderness: I’ve come to know the path to the buried treasure in the field. I know where the pearl is, and I know how you can attain it. Come: Let me show you to the way of martyrs, saints, mystics, and of your ancient ancestors, who once lay their head against Christ’s heart in mystical prayer and gained heaven.

The achy-boned semi-hermit has written his magnum opus in Family Spirituality: Christ’s Gift to the Church. Before you open to Chapter One, though, I’ll suggest you make a prayer of petition to God that Torkington’s omnibus on mystical prayer begins to work its way into your essence and soul. And you might want to thank God while you’re at it – because in your hands is a gift that cannot be measured. This book is an aggregate of many thousands of hours of prayerful contemplation of God. It can be argued that no layman in the world today has spent more hours in meditative prayer than David Torkington. The chapters and words herein are like small constellations of shooting stars that you will find often leaves you marveling. Family Spirituality is a compilation on prayer from the soul of a man who has never stopped praying.

As a young boy growing up in post-World War II England, Torkington felt the benevolence of God’s love and care for him when he was mysteriously piloted through dark days of dyslexia. He had begun to pray ceaselessly for a small miracle of clear-headed classroom comprehension and lucidity – and shortly later, the gift was given. Thereafter, little David understood God was a Father who listened to and loved poor, pleading boys like him. The student then fell in love with the notion that union with God could be attained on earth through consistent silent prayer. He was fascinated with God listening so closely to him; in fact, he began to see that God heard every syllable out of his mouth. It was certainly “first fervor”, but the match was struck, and a pilot light blinked on.

The remainder of his life was given over to prayer, and the methods of learning it, or at least in the fashion where union with God could be attained.  The prodigious teaching, writing, and prayer born out of his childhood experience has helped make David Torkington the world’s foremost Mystical Theologian. You will find no better teacher this side of heaven. The pages before you are the synthesis of all he knows, of all God has spoken to the caverns of his heart.

If you’ve come to this book with a sincere desire to attain union with God in prayer – and you read Family Spirituality with consideration, care, and with a working highlighter – Torkington’s words might be the catalyst to take you to heaven. His kindly manner, storytelling, and readable writing style will act as handholds to escort you into the wide and wild land of mystical prayer. As you begin flipping pages, you may even begin to subliminally hear Torkington’s English-accented chuckle at memories of your own first fervor. But because he remembers so well how the sweet vapors of consolation came to an abrupt end in his own life – you might sense the gravity of his love for you as you read on and begin to weigh the cost of entering into, enduring, and even flourishing in your own dark night. And when, alas, you emerge from that pitiless but purposeful place, you might feel Torkington standing invisibly beside you, waiting with a steaming cup of English tea by the hearthfire. Why might you discover him mysteriously working his way into your soul this way? Because he loves you – and he knows that on the other side of your dark night – when the Holy Spirit has propelled your soul into the shattering reaches of union with God – he wants to speak into the depths of you: You have entered the mystic way. You are the small boy in the back seat – you’ve become the bright Alleluia of God’s purity and love. So go now, please, and show the face of Christ to an aching world that no longer knows how to prayerfully reach Him.

This book is a Last Will and Testament, a sort of summing up of the entirety of Christian spirituality. Because Torkington adores the old customs and ancient habits of prayer, he has written this A-to-Z blueprint to help bring back our vanishing and once-vibrant Catholic communities. Torkington smiles his knowing smile when rowdy folks point to Vatican II as the reason for the piecemeal Church collapse. If that person is willing to listen, though, Torkington will begin to explain how the collapse in prayer and devotion began more than 400 years ago. He traces the freefall in mystical prayer back to the rise of the false philosophy of Quietism. The Bride of Christ, he’ll tell you, began to grow brittle, wither, and stray from God’s heart in the 17th century more than a century after the Council of Trent. Quietism (a false mysticism), he says, injected a poisonous wave of spiritual myopia and disordered living into Catholic communities. In this book, Torkington explains the manner in which it happened, and how the philosophy has wormed so successfully into today’s Church.

This book, though, is not about dark things. It acts as torchlight for readers to see past false and twisted notions of modern ideas of Catholicism. This book points to ways of beginning to build your own small communities of sacrificial love constructed on the foundation of devoted prayer. This book points you to the harmony and way of the Church’s earliest Christian families.

Our long Church wintertime is why Torkington is begging harder now. Dear reader, this old man wants you to understand the urgency to find God in the silence of your personal prayer. He believes it will be holy members of the laity that will lead the Church back to a place of grace. And he will show you how you can be one of those torch bearers. One example: Torkington reveals how a prayer as short, sweet, and simple as the Morning Offering can re-route your entire life and put you on a path to sainthood. His words will carry you into the poor home in Nazareth, where he’ll teach your inner eye to see Mary seated on a wooden bench praying her own Morning Offering. Meditative prayer will seat you right beside her. He will unveil and teach you the prayer lives of the Church’s earliest titans and paragons.

A word of warning: This book will prove purposeless without an effort on the reader’s part to begin to declutter and pull away from peripheral activities, such as mindless scrolling, social media consumption, and sloth. For God to make His home within you, Torkington encourages readers to take his writing and prayer deadly seriously. Nearly a century of his wisdom and study cannot fully take root without an inventory of one’s own soul and discarding of things unnecessary and peripheral.

To begin the journey, Torkington says, meditate – slowly, slowly, slowly – on Beloved John’s depiction of Christ’s sacrificial love given in the Upper Room. As Jesus gave everything as the Slaughtered Lamb, you, too, should sacrifice time to hear His words in prayer. Torkington wants you to spend great amounts of time with Him in Gethsemane to see the horror in his eyes at prayer. Then see the magnitude of His Mother’s pain when He collapsed bloody and beaten in front of her, with His cross on top of Him, smothering and choking Him. Through meditative prayer, Torkington says, the Holy Spirit will begin to lead you to a fuller understanding of God’s intense love for you and the countless ways throughout the day that He knocks on the door of your soul.

Essentially, Family Spirituality is this: Torkington has given to you seventy-five years of experience, study, and untiring prayer for a single reason: He wants to reveal the manner in which God can seep into every corner of your life.

“The Mystic Way is a pure gift from God,” Torkington says. “But one can prepare the way to receive this gift through the daily practice of meditative prayer. What love desires is union, and after some time of this form of prayer, the Holy Spirit will begin to infuse you with an understanding of God’s love. And that’s when change happens – because the Holy Spirit has taken you into the Mystic Way.”

Is Torkington your own personal Simeon in the temple – the aged and wizened one who’s been waiting for you – the one aching to lead you to God? Is he the one whom we’ve all been waiting for in this time of societal chaos and a Church caught in pain and confusion? Is he the line-faced archetype we can gather round to keep warm during this long wintertime in the Church? Well, that’s for you to decide as you read on—but after reading Family Spirituality, I believe he may well be.

Why? Because he proposes and articulates what by and large the Church no longer does. He begs the laity to return to the way of prayer of the early Church—which was continually leaning one’s head against the inner chamber of the heart of Christ through contemplative prayer. Until his last breath, Torkington will mourn over the Church’s shunning of mystical prayer. The centuries-long shunning of Christ’s own method of prayer has crushed his heart.

“Why would the Church turn away from the very prayer of Our Lady, Christ’s disciples, the early martyrs, and Church Fathers? Going to the heart of God is the only solution to what ails us,” he says. “It is time to return to the Spirituality that God gave us and to learn from our earliest forebears. It is so clear, so simple and so totally transforming, for it transforms us into being one with Christ.”

Order your copy of Family Spirituality: Christ’s Gift to the Church HERE.