Cover image for The holy longing : the search for a Christian spirituality
The holy longing : the search for a Christian spirituality
Rolheiser, Ronald.
Personal Author:
First edition in the U.S.A.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 1999.
Physical Description:
xi, 257 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"First published in the United Kingdom in November 1998"--T.p. verso.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX2350.65 .R65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Ronald Rolheiser makes sense of what is frequently a misunderstood word: spirituality. In posing the question "What is spirituality?" Father Rolheiser gets quickly to the heart of common difficulties with the subject, and shows through compelling anecdotes and personal examples how to channel that restlessness, that deep desire, into a healthy spirituality.

This book is for those searching to understand what Christian spirituality means and how to apply it to their own lives.  Rolheiser explains the nonnegotiables--the importance of community worship, the imperatives surrounding social action, the centrality of the Incarnation, the sustenance of the spiritual life--and how spirituality necessarily impacts every aspect of human experience.  At the core of this readable, deeply revealing book is an explanation of God and the Church in a world that more often than not doubts the credibility of both.

Author Notes

Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I., is a specialist in the field of spirituality and is currently president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. Father Rolheiser is the author of the prizewinning book The Restless Heart, as well as Forgotten Among the Lilies. He writes a weekly column that appears in more than ninety Catholic publications.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest... [it] is about what we do with that incurable desire, the madness that comes from the gods, within us." Rolheiser (Restless Heart) contends that the late 20th century is marked by a kind of spiritual restlessness, even though the spiritual landscape is littered with a variety of "spiritualities." He argues that there is richness in such spiritual diversity and plurality, but that many seekers lack direction in their spiritual search. Rolheiser develops a Christian spirituality that he believes offers some definite direction for seekers. At the heart of a healthy Christian spiritual life, he says, there must be four essentials: "private prayer and private morality; social justice; mellowness of heart and spirit; and community as a constitutive element of true worship." At the base of Christian spirituality, he notes, is the Incarnation of God in human flesh. If Christians can focus on the embodied character of their theology, then the four essentials of Christian spirituality become easier to embrace. In the latter half of the book, Rolheiser develops sketches of a spirituality of community (ecclesiology), a spirituality of sexuality and a spirituality of justice and peacemaking. We can sustain ourselves in the spiritual life, he notes, by being a mystic, sinning bravely, gathering ritually around the Word and breaking the bread, and worshipping and serving the right God. Rolheiser's program for Christian spirituality is reminiscent of the best work of Henri Nouwen and Daniel Berrigan. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This book tries to be a guidebook of sorts for those who have found Christianity less than palatable. Rolheiser, a popular columnist for the Catholic Herald and author of several books (e.g., Against an Infinite Horizon, Crossroad, 1996), teaches the meaning of Christian spirituality and how to apply it. He tackles belief in the Incarnation, community worship, social action, and sustaining spirituality in daily life, using formidable substance, good sense, and compelling anecdotes to reach the everyday person. Though aimed at Christians, Rolheiser's spiritual lessons are stripped to their essentials with sensitivity to various traditions. Public libraries staying current in contemporary spirituality will want to add this title, as will those aiming to keep their shelves stocked with popular religious dialog.ÄLeroy Hommerding, Citrus Cty. Lib. Syst., Inverness, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Situation Tell a wise person, or else keep silent, Because the massman will mock it right away. I praise what is truly alive, what longs to be burned to death. In the calm water of the love-nights, where you were begotten, where you have begotten, a strange feeling comes over you when you see the silent candle burning. Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness, and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward. Distance does not make you falter, now, arriving in magic, flying, and finally, insane for the light, you are the butterfly and you are gone. And so long as you haven't experienced this: to die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth. --JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, "The Holy Longing"1 1 What Is Spirituality? "We are fired into life with a madness that comes from the gods and which would have us believe that we can have a great love, perpetuate our own seed, and contemplate the divine." 2 Desire, Our Fundamental Dis-Ease It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things and we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, and aching. We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction. Put more simply, there is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies at the center of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul. We are not easeful human beings who occasionally get restless, serene persons who once in a while are obsessed by desire. The reverse is true. We are driven persons, forever obsessed, congenitally dis-eased, living lives, as Thoreau once suggested, of quiet desperation, only occasionally experiencing peace. Desire is the straw that stirs the drink. At the heart of all great literature, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, and religion lies the naming and analyzing of this desire. Thus, the diary of Anne Frank haunts us, as do the journals of Thérèse of Lisieux and Etty Hillesum. Desire intrigues us, stirs the soul. We love stories about desire--tales of love, sex, wanderlust, haunting nostalgia, boundless ambition, and tragic loss. Many of the great secular thinkers of our time have made this fire, this force that so haunts us, the centerpiece of their thinking. Sigmund Freud, for example, talks about a fire without a focus that burns at the center of our lives and pushes us out in a relentless and unquenchable pursuit of pleasure. For Freud, everyone is hopelessly overcharged for life. Karl Jung talks about deep, unalterable, archetypal energies which structure our very souls and imperialistically demand our every attention. Energy, Jung warns, is not friendly. Every time we are too restless to sleep at night we understand something of what he is saying. Doris Lessing speaks of a certain voltage within us, a thousand volts of energy for love, sex, hatred, art, politics. James Hillman speaks of a blue fire within us and of being so haunted and obsessed by daimons from beyond that neither nature nor nurture, but daimons, restless demanding spirits from beyond, are really the determinative factors in our behavior. Both women's and men's groups are constantly speaking of a certain wild energy that we need to access and understand more fully. Thus, women's groups talk about the importance of running with wolves and men's groups speak of wild men's journeys and of having fire in the belly. New Age gurus chart the movement of the planets and ask us to get ourselves under the correct planets or we will have no peace. Whatever the expression, everyone is ultimately talking about the same thing--an unquenchable fire, a restlessness, a longing, a disquiet, a hunger, a loneliness, a gnawing nostalgia, a wildness that cannot be tamed, a congenital all-embracing ache that lies at the center of human experience and is the ultimate force that drives everything else. This dis-ease is universal. Desire gives no exemptions. It does however admit of different moods and faces. Sometimes it hits us as pain--dissatisfaction, frustration, and aching. At other times its grip is not felt as painful at all, but as a deep energy, as something beautiful, as an inexorable pull, more important than anything else inside us, toward love, beauty, creativity, and a future beyond our limited present. Desire can show itself as aching pain or delicious hope. Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality. Thus, when Plato says that we are on fire because our souls come from beyond and that beyond is, through the longing and hope that its fire creates in us, trying to draw us back toward itself, he is laying out the broad outlines for a spirituality. Likewise for Augustine, when he says: "You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."3 Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest. All of this, however, needs further explanation. Excerpted from The Holy Longing: Guidelines for a Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Fiftheenth Anniversary Edition of The Holy Longingp. iii
Prefacep. ix
Part 1 The Situation
1 What is Spiritualityp. 3
2 The Current Struggle with Christian Spiritualityp. 20
Part 2 The Essential Outline for a Christian Spirituality
3 The Nonnegotiable Essentialsp. 45
Part 3 The Incarnation as the Basis for a Christian Spirituality
4 Christ as a Basis for Christian Spiritualityp. 73
5 Consequences of the Incarnation for Spiritualityp. 82
Part 4 Some Key Spiritualities Within a Spirituality
6 A Spiritually of Ecclesiologyp. 111
7 A Spiritually of the Paschal Mysteryp. 141
8 A Spiritually of of Justice and Peacemakingp. 167
9 A Spiritualiy of Sexualityp. 192
10 Sustaining Ourselves in the Spiritual Lifep. 213
Notesp. 243