Summer Books
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Issue Date:  May 20, 2005

By Ronald Rolheiser
Doubleday, 315 pages, $19.95
An encounter with the antidote to bitterness

Reviewed by RICH HEFFERN

“Rarely do we taste the food we eat or the coffee we drink. Instead we go through our days too preoccupied, too compulsive, and too dissatisfied to really be able to be present for and celebrate our own lives.” In these sentences, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser diagnoses a key ailment of our time, spotlighting the debilitating obsessions that too often rule our lives and offering down-to-earth guidance for learning to leave our fears, anxieties and guilt “forgotten among the lilies.”

Fr. Rolheiser is a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. His column is published in many Catholic newspapers. He is the author of 12 books on spirituality, including such bestsellers as The Holy Longing and The Shattered Lantern. His is one of the most eloquent voices on the spirituality scene these days.

Rolheiser addresses the difficulty we all find in living at peace within ourselves and with each other, to be calm, to have simple joy within our lives. “Despite the fact that we have virtually every practical reason to be happy … we experience anger, jealousy and woundedness. Seldom are we satisfied. Seldom are we truly free from bitterness, anger and feelings of being slighted or overlooked. Beyond this we live in a world that is full of painful division.”

He identifies the temptation that we all have in the face of this pain and brokenness, to be bitter, to withdraw, to be angry. These are the “roads to hell because bitterness is hell.”

The antidote he prescribes is reconciliation, and the first step toward healing “the tearful acknowledgement of our woundedness, our helplessness, our sin.” Ashes, he says, make the best fertilizer. In that encounter with honest remorse, “we learn that we are loved sinners. Gratitude is born. A genuine sanctity is born.”

Most of this new book is an expansion on that theme, that dynamic. Rolheiser’s wisdom is grounded in real life stories, in his own vast experience as a spiritual director and teacher. His book is a perfect guide and companion for a summer mini-retreat.

Rich Heffern is author of Daybreak Within: Living in a Sacred World, published by Ave Maria Press.

National Catholic Reporter, May 20, 2005

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