The great “slayer of the soul.” This is what Ray Leonardini aptly calls “toxic shame.” In this, his latest contribution, Leonardini has penned a precious gift: he gives a voice to those who have no voice. By allowing prisoners to speak of their own shame we hear in their voices echoes of our own. These voices and echoes of voices reveals the one Great Silence whose voice rings out, “My love is stronger than your shame.”

Martin Laird, O.S.A. Lecturer, Retreat Director, and Author of An Ocean of Light


Leonardini’s manuscript is a gem! Through anecdotal stories and simple explanations, he gently awakens his readers to the reality of Toxic Shame and the destructive power it has on one’s psyche and spiritual life. For those who are incarcerated in prisons of brick and mortar or of their own minds, Leonardini opens the way for a deeper liberation from the wounds of Toxic Shame through contemplative practice and deep compassionate listening. His work is no doubt a timely and transformational contribution to the spiritual growth of inmates who struggle to come to terms with their own self-worth and the realization that they are indeed lovable.

Fr. Vincent Pizzuto, PhD, Teacher and Author of Contemplating Christ: The Gospels and the Interior Life


Ray Leonardini’s work on toxic shame is a welcome addition to the contemplative literature. Using practical examples drawn from his work with prisoners, he explores how this destructive dynamic operates in the lives of traumatized individuals and the healing that comes when it is addressed in the context of a contemplative group. In my experience, the pattern is endemic to many other groups and populations, including the recovery community, and his method bears study for use in other settings.

John Ensign, PhD, Jungian Analyst and Retreat Director