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Silent Fire: Bringing the Spirituality of Silence to Everyday Life

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Overview

“In meditation the journey of an entire life will be manifest as a state of relaxation and a state of activity, forever a balancing act between sleeping and waking. In life, meditation will form a daily practice that will permeate all your actions until one day you will feel unspeakable joy while standing in line at the bank.”
—From the Prologue

Twenty-five years ago, James Connor, a newly ordained Jesuit priest, was called in to console a couple whose baby had been killed in a freak accident. At a loss for ...
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Overview

“In meditation the journey of an entire life will be manifest as a state of relaxation and a state of activity, forever a balancing act between sleeping and waking. In life, meditation will form a daily practice that will permeate all your actions until one day you will feel unspeakable joy while standing in line at the bank.”
—From the Prologue

Twenty-five years ago, James Connor, a newly ordained Jesuit priest, was called in to console a couple whose baby had been killed in a freak accident. At a loss for words to explain this cruel blow and comfort the anguished parents, he began to question his faith, and eventually retreated to a lonely cabin in the interior of British Columbia, Canada, to try to reestablish his relationship to God.

In this luminous memoir, Connor has found the words to describe the indescribable: his circuitous, sometimes faltering, always passionate journey into the heart of humanity, its darkness and its light. With stubborn curiosity, touching humility, and raucous imagination, Connor gropes for meaning in percolating coffee and washing dishes as well as in the rising sun; in the arrhythmic companionship, sick sense of humor, eager gossip, or drunken belligerence of his eccentric neighbors; with the native bats, loons, bears, salmon, and stars; and in the encroaching fire that’s been burning for months in the hills, no less than the piles of books he’s stacked around himself and the ancient traditions of Eastern and Western spirituality. Ultimately, Connor searches silence and solitude for a way to rekindle his faith, feeding his spirit with simple breath and contemplation, to find that just as the flamejumps up and consumes his grief, anger, shame, and other unwelcome, all-too-human intruders upon Nirvana, it throws into light the blessedness of ordinary things.

The story of Connor’s lurching spiritual quest will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to climb to higher ground or been humbled by the challenges of meditation. The good-natured instruction woven seamlessly into his tale will introduce fellow seekers to the healing power of silence and encourage them to keep climbing.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This exquisite book is desperately needed in a world too much in love with auditory stimulation. It also is extremely timely in the wake of recent terrorist attacks on the United States. Connor's message about the importance of cultivating silence is sure to be welcomed by those who have grown more reflective in the aftermath of the tragedy; it may also spell relief for all who have been numbed by the tidal wave of words from pundits and commentators attempting to make sense of what happened. Connor, a former Jesuit priest, began his own passage into silence when he could not make sense of an unthinkable event: An infant tucked safely into a car seat had been killed when a rock tumbled off a cliff and onto her parents' car. As a priest, Connor was expected to have answers, or at least words of comfort. He had none. Two days later, he fled into the mountains to face the silence. His ensuing retreat became his "first circle of silence," a place of no words that was modeled for him in part by an elderly Native American man who "swam in silence, breathed it, ate it." Connor goes on to describe his encounters with the second, third and fourth circles of silence, conveying both his thirst for silence and his struggle to master it. His ability to draw on principles from several religious traditions, including Catholicism and Zen Buddhism, will give this book wide appeal. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812991024
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/19/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.55 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

James A. Connor lives in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania with his wife, two border collies, and two stray cats. He is currently teaching English at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. For eighteen years, he was a Catholic priest and a member of the Jesuit Order, where he served as a teacher, worked in parishes, and ministered to Native peoples—notably the Shuswap, Nez Perce, Moses Lake, and Navajo. A winner of the Iowa Journal of Literary Studies Essay Award, he has a collection of short stories entitled God’s Breath and Other Stories.
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2002

    Delightful and Enlightening

    Connor's account of a retreat to the Canadian outback is delightful and enlightening. Called as a priest in rural British Columbia to comfort the parents of an infant crushed to death by a boulder falling upon the rear of their passing car, Connor finds himself as unsettled and nonplused by the pathos and inscrutabilty of the event as the gieving parents. Seeking to regain his spiritual and emotional bearings, he finds refuge in a remote lake cabin where his slowly (and often comically) reawakened communion with the landscape and its few inhabitants clarify the continuum of suffering and serenity, death and life, and the salvation of replacing agitating, rational self-consciousness with accepting, spiritual self-awareness--with a truly contemplative life. Rendered in graceful prose, Connor's memoir ranges from exquisitely lyrical to warmly humorous to intellectually rigorous. The landscape and characters are vividly drawn, and the informing scholarship of contemplative literature and tradition is brought to bear in a natural, delightfully anecdotal way.

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