One of the things that always happens while I am gone is that books accumulate for me to read and review on my blog. This week the pile is bigger than usual as Tom is starting research for a new book and keeps sending reading material my way. However the one at the top of the pile for me is Pilgrimage of a Soul by Phileena Heuertz. I wrote an endorsement for this book some months ago and have been waiting expectantly for its appearance. It is one book that I read cover to cover even in the original galley form in which it was first sent to me.
I love this book and think that it is perfect for summer reading, especially for those who want to spend some time retreating, reflecting and renewing their faith. Phileena beautifully weaves the story of her own pilgrimage walking The Camino in Spain with husband Chris, through the recounting of her life struggles, joys and spiritual journey.
Like me Phileena calls herself a contemplative activist. She and her husband Chris co-direct Word Made Flesh, giving their lives to building communities of justice, equality and opportunity amongst victims of war, prostitution and poverty. The walk to Camino was the first sabbatical the Phileena had taken in 12 years and Pilgrimage of a Soul is a powerful testimony to the value of such experiences in all our lives. Phileena draws from the life of Mother Theresa and the writings of Henri Nouwen, St John of the Cross, Parker Palmer and others to enrich her book.
I found myself laughing with her, crying with her and wanting to a part of what she was doing. I heartily recommend it not just to those who are contemplating a time of retreat or sabbatical but to all who want to enrich and deepen their faith. Well done Phileena and thanks for writing this book and allowing us to enter into your life in this way.
I would love to quote the whole book for you but will restrain myself and only give you a glimpse of one section. I will leave you with these words to reflect on:
In our modern world, it is much too easy to overextend our limits toward activity and productivity. Stillness, solitude and silence are not valued today like they may have been for our ancestors whose days were filled with these qualities simply by the nature of their life’s labour and limitations. We tend to see restrictions to activity and engagement as something to be avoided. But limitations and restrictions can be a grace for us. Within the context of our limitations, God can do for us what we cannot. The caterpillar can’t make herself become the butterfly – that kind of change requires confinement, solitude, stillness and receptivity to something bigger than herself. This is how transformation is made possible. remember, we cannot make ourselves grow; but we can choose to submit to or resist the process. And though much growth takes place in our active lives, all elements of creation are subject to contemplative stillness as an integral part of growth and transformation. The butterfly does not become the magnificent, colourful creature by a fury of activity. She submits to the confinement of the chrysalis – womb-like, tomb-like. She is still. She rests. She receives. She submits to a work more glorious than she could have ever conjured up for herself. (p135)