Book Review: Paul Coutinho’s “Awaken to the Divine” 

by Steve Givens

In Paul Coutinho’s slim new volume, “Awaken to the Divine: 52 Contemplative Reflections to Transform Your Spirit,” (2023, Twenty-Third Publications), the author and long-time friend of the Bridges community offers us more of his trademark simple and succinct style of inspiration and spiritual guidance. Focused as usual on our experience of the Divine, this new volume is reminiscent of several of his previous books, including two well-read and worn favorites of mine and others in the community, “An Ignatian Pathway” (2011, Loyola Press) and “How Big is Your God?” (2007, Loyola Press).

The book is a call and guide to deepen our understanding of the Divine Presence in our own lives, as well as seeing it more clearly in the world at large. Known for his approach and charism for combining Western and Eastern religion and philosophy, Coutinho has pulled together a small treasury of quotes, scripture and sacred stories that can be used for daily or weekly prayer or even perhaps your own personal retreat.

Fr. James Martin, SJ, writes of the book: “…we are privileged to experience the meeting between Eastern spiritualities and Ignatian spirituality. The result is an encounter with lasting calm and deep peace, an invitation to meet God in a gentle way. Paul Coutinho’s books always invite readers to see life with both open eyes and eyes of faith.”

As he writes in the introduction, Coutinho sees himself as more of a channel than an oracle, casting “pebbles of inspiration, and as the ripples begin, I consciously detach myself from the fruits of my ministry.” In true Ignatian fashion, he is aware of the importance of “getting his ego out of the way, so that the Spirit might work effectively in the minds and hearts of people.” 

Within the book, Coutinho invites readers to open their minds to a three-stage methodology that includes understanding, believing and knowing, following the spiritual insights of St. Benedict (Lectio Divina) and St. Ignatius Loyola (meditation, contemplation, and application of the senses), so anyone who has completed the Spiritual Exercises will feel immediately home in this book. 

Coutinho and his books don’t take us way out on a limb of meditation and the inner life and leaving us hanging there. Rather, they encourage us inward, to go deeper and further and come out the other side in service of the world and those around us — to become contemplatives in action, “fully involved in life, with our hearts rooted and grounded in the Divine Essence.   

“Awaken the Divine” will be a great addition to your Ignatian library and toolkit. 

Note: Paul will be our guest on the next episode of Bridges Conversations on Facebook Live, scheduled for Thursday, July 13 at Noon. Go to: