success stories

Posted March 11, 2003

Book: The Holy Longing
Author: Ron Rolheiser
Doubleday, New York, pp. 257

Excerpt from Preface:

This is a book for you if you are struggling spiritually.

Teilhard de Chardin, who was both scientist and mystic, used to ask why so many sincere, good persons did not believe in God. His answer was sympathetic, not judgmental. He felt that they must not have heard God in the correct way. His religious writings are an attempt to make faith in God more palatable for those who, for whatever reason, are struggling with it.

This book, in its own modest way, tries to do something similar, namely, to be a guide-book of sorts for those who have not been exposed to Christian spirituality in a way that makes it palatable.

And many good, sincere persons struggle today with their faith and with their churches. Lots of things contribute to this: the pluralism of an age which is rich in everything, except clarity; the individualism of a culture which makes family and community life difficult at every level; an anti-church sentiment with popular culture and the intellectual world; an ever growing antagonism between those who see religion in terms of private prayer and piety and those who see it as a quest for justice; and a seeming tiredness right within Christian churches themselves. It is not an easy time to be a Christian, especially if you are also trying to pass your faith on to your own children.

Hopefully this book will, in the midst of all of this, help make the things of faith a little clearer, a little more acceptable, and a whole lot more hopeful. The hope too is that a bit of God's sympathy and consolation might seep through and touch you as you struggle with faith and church in a very complex time.

A comment is in order too regarding the language and the style of the book: I have tried to use as simple a language as possible. First, because the spiritual writer who most influenced our generation, Henri Nouwen, used to re-write his books over and over again to try to make them simpler. That, it seems to me, is the ideal. Jesus spoke the common language of the people of his time and was understood at family tables and not just in academic classrooms.

Second, I belong to a religious congregation, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, whose charisma it is to serve the poor. The poor have many faces and there are many kinds of poverty. To serve the poor also means to try to make the word of God and God's consolation available in a language that is accessible to everyone and not just to those who have the privilege of advanced academic training. Hence, as much as I know and value the critical importance of the more technical language of the academy of professional theologians, this book will try, as did the founder of the Oblates, to speak the dialect, the patois of the poor. Hopefully it will find itself at home in the living rooms, workplace, and conversation of ordinary people for it is meant, like Jesus' table-fellowship, to be religious talk, done over wine, beer, and food.

Excerpt from Book:

At Odds with Circumstances

In his autobiographical novel, My First Love, Czechoslovakian novelist Ivan Klima struggles with some painful questions. He is a young man, full of sexual passion, moving among young men and women his own age who are less hesitant than he is. Klima is reticent, celibate and not sure why. Certainly it is not for any religious reasons. So he wonders: Is it because I respect others more than my peers and am less willing to be irresponsible? Is it because I carry some high, quasi-religious, moral solitude that I'm rightly hesitant to compromise? Or, am I just uptight, timid, and lacking nerve? Am I virtuous or sterile? He is not sure:

"Suppose I spent my whole life just waiting, waiting for the moment when at last I saw that starry face? It would turn its glance to me and say: "You've been incapable of accepting life, dear friend, so you'd better come with me!" Or, on the other hand, it might say: "You've done well because you knew how to bear your solitude at a great height, because you were able to do without consolation in order not to do without hope!" What would it really say? At that moment I could not tell."

His question is, ultimately, a spiritual one. It is also a difficult one. It is not easy to know the right disciplines by which to creatively channel our most powerful and intimate energies so the result is happiness and delight in life. No matter what we do, some questions will always haunt us: Am I being too hard or too easy on myself? Am I unhappy because I am missing out on life or am I unhappy because I'm selfish? Am I too timid and upright or should I be more disciplined? What is real growth and what is simply my ego making its demands? Where do I find that fine line between discipline and enjoyment? Why do I always feel so guilty? What do I do when I have betrayed a trust?

The Table of Contents

Part One: The Situation
1. What is spirituality?
2. The current struggle with Christian spirituality

Part Two: The Essential Outline for a Christian Spirituality
3. The nonegotiable essentials

Part Three: The Incarnation as the Basis for a Christian Spirituality
4. Christ as the basis for Christian spirituality
5. Consequences of the Incarnation for spirituality

Part Four Some Key Spiritualities Within a Spirituality
6. A spirituality of ecclesiology
7. A spirituality of the Paschal Mystery
8. A spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking
9. A spirituality of sexuality
10. Sustaining ourselves in the spiritual life