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A Road Map to Christian Maturity in the New Year


Catholic resolutions

All of my life I’ve sought to grow and become the best person I can be (though I have failed miserably on that attempt over and over). After so much seeking, I eventually realized Catholicism is the best, most proven path to self-improvement.

Father Ron Rolheiser, whose book “The Holy Longing” I reviewed previously, has written a follow up to that amazing work called “Sacred Fire” that delves into how we can become “mature Christians.” It’s essentially a road map to becoming fully who Jesus intends for us to be.

I love his writing, as he’s very theological and thought-provoking, yet approachable and readable at the same time. He takes a look at three periods in our lives, essentially youth, middle age and old age and examines how we can strive to reach our full potential at each stage.

A big portion of Fr. Rolheiser’s writing that resonates with me is realizing that “all symphonies remain unfinished” in this life. God intended us to be in full communion with him, and until we are, all things will pale in comparison. We all have this “sacred fire” within us, an “insanity for the light” — that full communion with God that we will find in heaven – that drives our actions.

Sacred Fire Ron RolheiserSome of us try to fill that burning desire through drugs and alcohol, sexual relations, pornography … and burn out too quickly. Others find a restless boredom with this life, which they try to end by moving to a newer, more exciting city, changing to a better more fulfilling job, marrying a different individual, becoming workaholics, undergoing plastic surgery… only to find we’re just as unhappy as we were before the change.

Christian maturity in midlife, which I am square in the middle of at age 40, comes from recognizing we won’t be fulfilled in this life and being OK with that rather than giving in to bitterness, disappointment and anger at where our lives have taken us. Fr. Rolheiser talks about maturity in this stage as trying to “give our lives away” by striving to live more for others than ourselves.

A topic I will delve into separately is the idea of how to handle those who release negativity at their failure to “finish the symphony” into your life and how to absorb that energy rather than giving it back in kind.

I also found most fascinating the discussion of old age as a time to “give your death away.” He discusses how all of us will likely end up in a radically altered state from our current lives, unable to care for ourselves in some way or another. We can be a blessing to the person who cares for us or a curse. We can fight to hold onto life or graciously let go, making it a gift to those we leave behind.

If you truly want to become a better person, a better Christian, a better Catholic in the New Year. Grab a copy of “Sacred Fire” by Ron Rolheiser. It will inspire you reach for heights you never imagined and you may just end up being a saint after all. 🙂

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

In this life, all symphonies remain unfinished…A Review of “The Holy Longing”

Holy Longing ReviewI chose this book because the author, Fr. Ron Rolheiser, has captured my attention with his newspaper columns which show up periodically in my local diocese paper and from his bi-weekly emails. He is extremely intelligent in his approach to Catholicism, yet somehow also really cuts to the heart of the matter in a plainspoken way in just a few short words. Provided for free by the Blogging for Books program, I grabbed this one the instant I saw it to hear this author expound in more detail.

After reading the blog, if you’ d like a copy, post a comment sharing why & I’ll give away 2 copies to random winners after 10 people have commented.

The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality,” which was originally written 15 years ago and is now updated and re-released, attempts to explore the longing, the burning, the dissatisfaction many of us feel or have felt in our lives… that unquenched desire we eternally have burning inside. Basically, he reminds us that we were not meant for this world, so we will not be truly consummated and fully happy until we reach heaven. As he says beautifully, “…in this life, all symphonies remain unfinished.”

This affects all aspects of our lives and is important to keep in mind when we despair over some event or circumstance. It also helps to explain suffering. We WILL suffer here because we have not reached our full potential and we should accept that and offer that suffering as work to our Lord — or through the Blessed Virgin to our Lord — that His will be done.

Here are some circumstances where you might find yourself, and where if you can accept its incompletion, you can find the most peace here on earth:

  • A marriage that is past the honeymoon stage
  • A family member who has fallen away from the faith
  • An unfulfilled dream or career
  • The loss of a job
  • Sexual desire unquenched by your significant other

Holy LongingFather Rolheiser says the realization that all will not be completed in this life must be mourned and allowed to ascent to heaven just as Jesus did:

“Each of us must, at some point, go into the desert and bewail his or her virginity. It is when we fail to do this, and because we fail to do it, that we go often through life demanding, angry, bitter, disappointed and too prone to blame others and life itself for our frustrations. When we fail to mourn properly our incomplete lives then this incompleteness becomes a gnawing restlessness, a bitter center, that robs our lives of all delight… We are built for the infinite, Grand Canyons without a bottom. Because of that we will, this side of eternity, always be lonely, restless, incomplete, still a virgin–living in the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable.”

While on first read, this sounds a bit depressing, I think that the realization that all will not be perfect in this life is far more beneficial than to go through life as, he says, bitter, disappointed and angry. I know far too many people like that. Instead, accepting that my dream to become a dancer one day or that my lifestyle is far from what I imagined it would be is OK and normal, gives me more peace than becoming a dancer or living in greater physical abundance would ultimately bring me.

For married couples, he addresses the loss of the honeymoon phase and how they need to accept each new phase of their relationship,letting the past incarnation go.

“To sustain anything in this life we must continually recognize that the first fervor, that special electricity we would die for, never lasts and that we must be open to receive a new spirit within the relationship,” he says. “The downside of this is that all honeymoons die, but the upside is that God is always giving us something richer, deeper life and fuller spirit.”

I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy philosophy and really digging into the depths of the theology of the Catholic church. As I just heard Teresa Tomeo say, “This is a thinking person’s religion.” I couldn’t agree more, and Fr. Rolheiser is one of its great thinkers of our age. Philosophy has always appealed to me, as does a good intellectual debate, and this book strikes that chord. It’s funny, I always thought religion was for the ignorant (I thought they were just blindly believing an ideology without questioning it), but how wrong I was. Catholicism is the ultimate for intellectuals. It is the true fulfillment of all knowledge by adding the element of faith.

To sum up this book, I love this quote: “The dream for perfect consummation, like the dream to become a superstar, must, at some point, be mourned and left to ascend. Otherwise…our daydreams will perennially rob us of the simple happiness of life.”

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.