The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser

(New York: Image, 2014-03-11), 304

These notes from many years ago are preserved, but a richer presentation of Christian spirituality drawn from the Doctors of the Church can be found in The Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin.

Chapter 1 - What is Spirituality?

  • “Spirituality is about what we do with the fire inside of us, about how we channel our eros.” (11)

Chapter 2 - The Current Struggle with Christian Spirituality

  • Naiveté about the nature of spiritual energy
  • Pathological busyness, distraction, and restlessness
  • A critical problem with balance, leading to a bevy of divorces
    • Divorce between religion and eros
    • Divorce between spirituality and ecclesiology
    • Divorce between private morality and social justice
    • Divorce of the gifted child and the giving adult
    • Divorce by contemporary culture of its paternalistic, Christian heritage

Chapter 3 - The Nonnegotiable Essentials

  • Christian theology teaches a hierarchy of truths
  • Essential truths are those that are necessary for everyone, prescribed for everyone, and nonnegotiable for everyone
  • Four Nonnegotiable Essentials
    • Private Prayer and private morality
      • keeping the commandments is the only real criterion to tell real prayer from illusion (62)
      • lack of prayer turns what should be a relationship with a person into a philosophy/ideology (63)
    • Social Justice
    • Mellowness of heart and spirit
    • Community as a constitutive element of true worship

Chapter 4 - Christ as the Basis for Christian Spirituality

  • “What Jesus wants from us is not admiration, but imitation.” (74)

Chapter 5 - Consequences of the Incarnation for Spirituality

  • through the Incarnation God’s power is partially dependent on human action (83)
  • “We ask this through Christ our Lord” —> pray through the Body of Christ
  • “Concrete community is a nonnegotiable element within the spiritual quest because, precisely, we are Christians not simply theists. God is not just in heaven, God is also on earth.” (98)
  • “A Christian spirituality is always as much about dealing with each other as it is about dealing with God.” (99)

Chapter 6 - A Spirituality of Ecclesiology

  • The Church is the sarx the exzemed body of Christ
  • “catholic means universal, wide, all-encompassing. The opposite of a catholic is a fundamentalist, a person who has a heart with one room.” (130)
  • “…to be a member of the church is not to choose among these. It is to choose them all. Like our God in heaven, we too need a heart with many rooms.” (131)
  • Why I should go to church:
    • because it is not good to be alone
    • to take my rightful place humbly within the family of humanity
    • because God calls me there
    • to dispel my fantasies about myself
    • because ten thousand saints have told me so
    • to help others carry their pathologies and to have them help me carry mine
    • to dream with others
    • to practice for Heaven
    • for the pure joy of it, because it is Heaven!

Chapter 7 - A Spirituality of Mystery

  • the Paschal Mystery is a cycle of rebirth
  • the various deaths within our lives
    • the death of our youth
    • the death of our wholeness
    • the death of our dreams
    • the death of our honeymoons
    • the death of a certain idea of God and Church
  • we must let ourselves be blessed by the past

Chapter 8 - A Spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking

  • “To change the world in such a way that people want justice and are willingly willing to live in a ways that makes justice possible requires an appeal to the heart that is so deep, so universal, and so moral that no person of good conscience can walk ways from it.” (174)
  • “In Jesus’ view, if you wish to find God, go look among the poor…conversely, he tells us that there are immense spiritual and psychological dangers in being rich and privileged.” (175)
  • the Lord’s Prayer for Justice (189-191)

Chapter 9 - A Spirituality of Sexuality

  • “We will be happy in this life, deeding upon whether or not we have a healthy sexuality.” (193)
  • “Karl Jung once compared the incompleteness we feel in sexuality to the separated white and yolk of an egg. Together they make a one, a whole. Apart they are incomplete. The sexes are like that. Alone we are essentially incomplete and aching at every level for a wholeness that, at some dark level, we know we have been separated from. We experience ourselves as white or yolk, separated from our other half.” (194)
  • Sexuality vs. Genitality (194)
    • Sexuality is an all encompassing energy inside of us...
    • Genitality, having sex, is only one aspect of that larger reality of sexuality
    • “Having sex is admittedly not the whole reality of sex, but it is perhaps God’s greatest gift to the planet and it offers humans the opportunity for genuine intimacy available this side of eternity.” (195)
  • “Sexuality is not simply about finding a lover or even finding a friend. It is about overcoming separateness by giving life and blessing it. Thus, in is maturity, sexuality i about giving oneself over to community, friendship, family, service, creativity, humor, delight, and martyrdom so that, with God, we can help bring life into the world.” (198)
  • Nonnegotiable Christian principles about sexuality
    • Sex is sacred
    • Sex, by its very nature, must be linked to marriage, monogamy and a conventional commitment that is, by definition, all-embracing and permanent
    • Sex has an inner dynamic that, if followed faithfully, will lead its partners to sanctity
    • Sex always needs the protection of a healthy chastity (the appropriateness of any experience)
  • “In heaven…our sexuality will finally be able to embrace everyone.” (206)
  • “Solitude….is being alone, but it is being alone in such a way that our very incompleteness is a source of quiet strength and not of anxious dissipation.” (207)
  • Henri Nouwen’s four steps to turn restless incompleteness into restful solitude
    • Own your pain and incompleteness
    • Give up false messianic expectations
    • Go inward
    • It is a movement never made once and for all
  • “Among many other things, through his celibacy, Christ was trying to tell us that love and sex are not always the same thing, that chastity, waiting, and inconsummation have an important role to play within the interim eschatological age we live in, and that, ultimately, in our sexuality, we are meant to embrace everyone.” (209)
    • —> solidarity with the poor
  • “At the end of the day, given the scope and power inherent in our sexuality, what we really need from each other in deep relationships is precisely a confessor, someone before whom we can stop having to lie, someone before whom we do not have to try to measure up, and someone who can console us for the fact that we cannot disappoint him or her because, even at its best, the love we give each other is not enough. We are not gods and parts of us will always remain untouched, inconsummate, bursting with secrets kept silent for far too long.” (211)

Chapter 10 - Sustaining Ourselves in the Spiritual Life

  • “To pray, I think, does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people. Rather, it means to think and live in the presence of God. As soon as we begin to divide our thoughts about God and thoughts about people and events, we remove God from our daily life and put him into a pious little niche where we can think pious thoughts and experience pious feelings. ... Although it is important and even indispensable for the spiritual life to set apart time for God and God alone, prayer can only become unceasing prayer when all our thoughts -- beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful -- can be thought in the presence of God. ... Thus, converting our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer moves us from a self-centred monologue to a God-centred dialogue.” - Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome
    • “Regular prayer (both private and communal), the practice of charity and self-sacrifice (both at home and in the wider world), some concrete involvement with the poor, involvement within some church community, and a willingness to be vulnerable for love (as Christ was vulnerable).” (215)
  • Commandments for the long haul
    • Be a mystic…
      • we need a personal act of faith
      • personal faith depends upon prayer
        • “if you don’t pray, you will inevitable become depressed or inflated—or bounce back and forth between the two” (218)
      • prayer is pondering and carrying tension as Mary did
        • “Great joy depends upon first having carried great tension.” (221)
        • “Nobody will ever remain faithful in a marriage, a vocation, a friendship, a family, a job, or just to his or her own integrity without sometimes sweating blood in a garden.” (222)
    • Sin bravely…
      • be honest about our weaknesses
      • do not lie against the Holy Spirit (caution against sustained dishonest hand rationalization)
        • spiritual health is 90% about honesty
        • “If we are honest, eventually God, truth, and love will find us.” (230)
    • Gather ritually around the word and break bread…
    • Worship and serve the right God…

Created: 2021-03-09-Tue
Updated: 2023-02-07-Tue