The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spiritualityby Ronald Rolheiser
Ronald Rolheiser makes sense of what is frequently a misunderstood word: spirituality. In posing the question "What is spirituality?" Father Rolheiser gets quickly to the heart of common difficulties with the subject, and shows through compelling anecdotes and personal examples how to channel that restlessness, that deep desire, into a healthy… See more details below
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Ronald Rolheiser makes sense of what is frequently a misunderstood word: spirituality. In posing the question "What is spirituality?" Father Rolheiser gets quickly to the heart of common difficulties with the subject, and shows through compelling anecdotes and personal examples how to channel that restlessness, that deep desire, into a healthy spirituality.
This book is for those searching to understand what Christian spirituality means and how to apply it to their own lives. Rolheiser explains the nonnegotiables--the importance of community worship, the imperatives surrounding social action, the centrality of the Incarnation, the sustenance of the spiritual life--and how spirituality necessarily impacts every aspect of human experience. At the core of this readable, deeply revealing book is an explanation of God and the Church in a world that more often than not doubts the credibility of both.
From the Hardcover edition.
– James Martin, SJ, author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
“A master weaver is at work here–I found my soul on every page. At last we have a guide who helps us know what to do with the fire of desire within us. At last a comprehensive, life-giving approach to sexuality. At last a dynamic understanding of how the paschal mystery plays in our own lives. At last a way to weave love for the poor and struggling people with the highest mystical love of God...I love this book.”
–Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking
“Rolheiser dares to ask the hard questions but they are our questions–the deep ones we are slow to let surface. Then he dares to answer them with clear answers delivered in simple, straightforward language. But he doesn't corner us with his clarity. He lets us look at different spiritualities, even a spirituality of sexuality. This is a book that engenders hope because it shows there are paths for each one of us.”
–Rev. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.
“Spiritual books abound but few hit the mark. Ronald Rolheiser's latest book is one of the few. Sound good sense and insight are combined with genuine sympathy and understanding for the majority of us who struggle spiritually.”
–Alban McCoy, The Tablet
“Spirituality is often given a bad name because it can mask a damaging sentimentality. The Holy Longing is a bracing alternative to religious posturing. Truly incarnational, Ronald Rolheiser grounds his vision of the spiritual life in hard real-life experiences and tells tough truths. In the end, it is the hard truths of compassion, forgiveness, and action in the world, that give us a true and lasting hope. A much needed antidote to the consumerist view of religion, this book is both a delight and a challenge to read.”
–Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral and author of The Soul's Journey
“He writes clearly and engagingly, his language can at times be lyrical. He is never sentimentaland all the time he is absolutely grounded in reality.”
–Herbert O'Driscoll, author of A Doorway in Time
“Without doubt, Ronald Rolheiser's The Holy Longing is one of the best books about Christian spirituality that has been published in many a year. Its insights are just what all of us need at this moment of history. It blends the old and the new in ways that few other authors can do.”
–Most Reverend Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B., Archbishop Emeritus of Milwaukee
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Read an Excerpt
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
Because the massman will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter,
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven't experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.
--JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, "The Holy Longing"1
What Is Spirituality?
"We are fired into life with a madness that comes from the gods and which would have us believe that we can have a great love, perpetuate our own seed, and contemplate the divine."2
Desire, Our Fundamental Dis-Ease
It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things and we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, and aching. We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction.
Put more simply, there is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies at the center of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul. We are not easeful human beings who occasionally get restless, serene persons who once in a while are obsessed by desire. The reverse is true. We are driven persons, forever obsessed, congenitally dis-eased, living lives, as Thoreau once suggested, of quiet desperation, only occasionally experiencing peace. Desire is the straw that stirs the drink.
At the heart of all great literature, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, and religion lies the naming and analyzing of this desire. Thus, the diary of Anne Frank haunts us, as do the journals of Thérèse of Lisieux and Etty Hillesum. Desire intrigues us, stirs the soul. We love stories about desire--tales of love, sex, wanderlust, haunting nostalgia, boundless ambition, and tragic loss. Many of the great secular thinkers of our time have made this fire, this force that so haunts us, the centerpiece of their thinking.
Sigmund Freud, for example, talks about a fire without a focus that burns at the center of our lives and pushes us out in a relentless and unquenchable pursuit of pleasure. For Freud, everyone is hopelessly overcharged for life. Karl Jung talks about deep, unalterable, archetypal energies which structure our very souls and imperialistically demand our every attention. Energy, Jung warns, is not friendly. Every time we are too restless to sleep at night we understand something of what he is saying. Doris Lessing speaks of a certain voltage within us, a thousand volts of energy for love, sex, hatred, art, politics. James Hillman speaks of a blue fire within us and of being so haunted and obsessed by daimons from beyond that neither nature nor nurture, but daimons, restless demanding spirits from beyond, are really the determinative factors in our behavior. Both women's and men's groups are constantly speaking of a certain wild energy that we need to access and understand more fully. Thus, women's groups talk about the importance of running with wolves and men's groups speak of wild men's journeys and of having fire in the belly. New Age gurus chart the movement of the planets and ask us to get ourselves under the correct planets or we will have no peace.
Whatever the expression, everyone is ultimately talking about the same thing--an unquenchable fire, a restlessness, a longing, a disquiet, a hunger, a loneliness, a gnawing nostalgia, a wildness that cannot be tamed, a congenital all-embracing ache that lies at the center of human experience and is the ultimate force that drives everything else. This dis-ease is universal. Desire gives no exemptions.
It does however admit of different moods and faces. Sometimes it hits us as pain--dissatisfaction, frustration, and aching. At other times its grip is not felt as painful at all, but as a deep energy, as something beautiful, as an inexorable pull, more important than anything else inside us, toward love, beauty, creativity, and a future beyond our limited present. Desire can show itself as aching pain or delicious hope.
Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality. Thus, when Plato says that we are on fire because our souls come from beyond and that beyond is, through the longing and hope that its fire creates in us, trying to draw us back toward itself, he is laying out the broad outlines for a spirituality. Likewise for Augustine, when he says: "You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."3 Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest. All of this, however, needs further explanation.
From the Hardcover edition.
What People are saying about this
Meet the Author
Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I., is a specialist in the fields of spirituality and systematic theology. His regular column in the Catholic Herald is featured in newspapers in five different countries. He is the author of the prizewinning The Restless Heart as well as Forgotten Amongst the Lilies, The Shattered Lantern, and An Infinite Horizon. He lives in Canada.
From the Hardcover edition.
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This book is very helpful if you are looking for a book to explore your spirituality. Every chapter gives you food for thought.
The book is a little slow in the beginning, but once you get in to it, it is absolutely wonderful. It really gets you to think about things using a different perspective. It offers a good explanation as to why we need church to have real faith. It also provides a good explanation of why face to face confessions are good for our souls. It also explains how if we substantiate God within ourselves, we do not need to hand someone the bible or to preach using words to bring God to others,but we will 'radiate the compassion and love of God,-in our faces and our actions.'
From the first paragraph of the preface to the final quote by Julian of Norwich, The Holy Longing was both tender hearted and intellectually stimulating. There was something to underline on 99% of it's 257 pages, and I crammed the margins with notes. (That great line from the preface was a quote from Tielhard de Chardin, who said that most sincere people who lack belief in God lack Him because they have never heard about Him in a correct way.) The Holy Longing compels engaged reading. This book contains the best annotation on The Lord's Prayer that I have ever read, and I love his chapter on participating in the Incarnation. As one person said, half in wonder, half in objection, "It can't be true because it is too good to be true!" As Ronald Rolheiser quotes from the Goethe poem in the first chapter, we are troubled guests on a dark earth. That is the state of everyone at one point or another, often over and over again. We are born with longings and desires, some that can be satisfied here and some which never seem to be. You can tell me that you don't have a spirituality, but as a human being you do have a spirit, with those desires and fears and hopes, and you are doing something about it. From Mother Theresa to Janis Joplin to Princess Diana, no human being- Religious or Irreligious- gets away from being spiritual. The question is, in those three women's lives, did their spirituality make them whole or did it help tear them apart? This fascinating first part would make great dialogue with any seeker, and once Mr. Rolheiser starts talking about specific Christian spirituality I don't think they would stop reading. He carries us from the general to the particular so gently that we can all make the journey. Once he has laid this framework he applies his winsome, conversational tone to the Church as a body of believers, the Paschal Mystery, and social justice and peace…. among other things. He writes real and he writes with reverence, just like he explains that the body of Christ contains the delightful and the unpalatable, and we are called to be in communion with both. And I'd recommend this book. Get ready to ask questions. Reading a good book is an experience, and not a passive one. (Just for example, these are some thoughts that this book inspired: "We live in a grand, detailed, singing world, and it begs us to respond to it. How can we not throw up our arms and embrace the pale blue sky?" "Like Ravi Zacharias asks, are we promised exactly what we want from the prayer vending machine, or are we promised the presence of Christ?" "If Christianity did not revolve around sacrifice, crucifixion, and stigmata all pointing to redemption, then all people in pain, depression, abandonment and illness, all those hospital bound and divorced and dying, they'd know we were lying about Divine and human nature." )
wow good book
I majored in Religious Studies at a private Catholic university. In my 4 years of study I found this particular book to be the most enjoyable and useful.