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Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity

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"When one reaches the highest degree of human maturity, one has only one question left: How can I be helpful?"--TERESA OF AVILA Beloved author Ronald Rolheiser continues his search for an accessible and penetrating Christian spirituality in this highly anticipated follow-up to the contemporary classic, "The Holy Longing." With his trademark acuity, wit, and thoughtfulness, "When one reaches the highest degree of human maturity, one has only one question left: How can I be helpful?"--TERESA OF AVILA Beloved author Ronald Rolheiser continues his search for an accessible and penetrating Christian spirituality in this highly anticipated follow-up to the contemporary classic, "The Holy Longing." With his trademark acuity, wit, and thoughtfulness, Rolheiser shows how identifying and embracing discipleship will lead to new heights of spiritual awareness and maturity. In this new book, Rolheiser takes us on a journey through the dark night of the senses and of the spirit. Here, we experience the full gamut of human life, pleasure and fervor, disillusionment and boredom. But, as Rolheiser explains, when we embrace the struggle and yearning to know God we can experience too a profound re-understanding to our daily lives. "What lies beyond the essentials, the basics?" Rolheiser writes. "Where do we go once some of the basic questions in our lives have been answered, or at least brought to enough peace that our focus can shift away from ourselves to others? Where do we go once the basic questions in our lives are no longer the restless questions of youthful insecurity and loneliness? Who am I? Who loves me? How will my life turn out? Where do we go once the basic question in life becomes: How can I give my life away more purely, and more meaningfully? How do I live beyond my own heartaches, headaches, and obsessions so as to help make other peoples' lives more meaningful? The intent of this book is to try to address exactly those questions: How can we live less self- centered, more mature lives? What constitutes deep maturity and how do we reach that place? And, not unimportantly, what constitutes a more adult, Christian discipleship? What constitutes a truly mature following of Jesus?" As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke suggests, "Live the questions now." In "Sacred Fire," Rolheiser's deeply affecting prose urges us on in pursuit of the most holy of all passions--a deep and lasting intimacy with God.


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"When one reaches the highest degree of human maturity, one has only one question left: How can I be helpful?"--TERESA OF AVILA Beloved author Ronald Rolheiser continues his search for an accessible and penetrating Christian spirituality in this highly anticipated follow-up to the contemporary classic, "The Holy Longing." With his trademark acuity, wit, and thoughtfulness, "When one reaches the highest degree of human maturity, one has only one question left: How can I be helpful?"--TERESA OF AVILA Beloved author Ronald Rolheiser continues his search for an accessible and penetrating Christian spirituality in this highly anticipated follow-up to the contemporary classic, "The Holy Longing." With his trademark acuity, wit, and thoughtfulness, Rolheiser shows how identifying and embracing discipleship will lead to new heights of spiritual awareness and maturity. In this new book, Rolheiser takes us on a journey through the dark night of the senses and of the spirit. Here, we experience the full gamut of human life, pleasure and fervor, disillusionment and boredom. But, as Rolheiser explains, when we embrace the struggle and yearning to know God we can experience too a profound re-understanding to our daily lives. "What lies beyond the essentials, the basics?" Rolheiser writes. "Where do we go once some of the basic questions in our lives have been answered, or at least brought to enough peace that our focus can shift away from ourselves to others? Where do we go once the basic questions in our lives are no longer the restless questions of youthful insecurity and loneliness? Who am I? Who loves me? How will my life turn out? Where do we go once the basic question in life becomes: How can I give my life away more purely, and more meaningfully? How do I live beyond my own heartaches, headaches, and obsessions so as to help make other peoples' lives more meaningful? The intent of this book is to try to address exactly those questions: How can we live less self- centered, more mature lives? What constitutes deep maturity and how do we reach that place? And, not unimportantly, what constitutes a more adult, Christian discipleship? What constitutes a truly mature following of Jesus?" As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke suggests, "Live the questions now." In "Sacred Fire," Rolheiser's deeply affecting prose urges us on in pursuit of the most holy of all passions--a deep and lasting intimacy with God.

30 review for Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tom LA

    A book about the concept of maturity and "growing up" from the Christian perspective, by the Canadian theologian Ronald Rolheiser. My impression in a sentence: overall, I found it way too superficial, especially from the theological standpoint. Too much cloudiness, blurredness and vagueness if I compare it to my favorite spiritual authors (mainly: Ratzinger, Barron and Cardinal Ravasi). In part one, Rolheiser centers on the first stage of spirituality characterized by emotional swings, restlessn A book about the concept of maturity and "growing up" from the Christian perspective, by the Canadian theologian Ronald Rolheiser. My impression in a sentence: overall, I found it way too superficial, especially from the theological standpoint. Too much cloudiness, blurredness and vagueness if I compare it to my favorite spiritual authors (mainly: Ratzinger, Barron and Cardinal Ravasi). In part one, Rolheiser centers on the first stage of spirituality characterized by emotional swings, restlessness, loneliness, morality, security – the temptations that plague us in our youth. We come to the end of this first stage successfully when we selflessly put others before our own desires and dreams. In part two, he offers a study of mature discipleship in which we give our lives for others. The struggles at this point are often severe when we become angry and frustrated at our own weaknesses. The author states that desire for maturity does not come without a struggle—a struggle that is fraught with our lingering inclinations to be willful, self-centered and bitter. Ok... Rolheiser’s talks about Mary praying and pondering the many events in her life from the annunciation to the crucifixion leads her to a higher level of spirituality, where bitterness and pain are transformed into love and forgiveness. The chapter dedicated to the transformative power of prayer is probably my favorite. The author defines prayer as our attempt to reach God, to express our love for Him and to receive His love. Recognizing that sometimes prayer does not seem to be working, he advises persistence: focus on God, not on ourselves, and in the end we will arrive “at an ever deepening intimacy with our God.” He concludes that prayer gives us “the strength we need to be virtuous.” In the end, prayer helps us to give our lives for others. Rolheiser writes in a very fluid style, almost as if he was talking instead of writing - including MANY repetitions and, unfortunately, a lot of elusive paragraphs. It's great that he challenges the reader to step up as a Christian, to not go back to usual cycles or habits but to direct one’s life towards a constant development and growth. This made me think of a quote that I read somewhere (not in this book): "The only person I want to be superior to is myself yesterday". Great. But there are also passages that didn't resonate with me - mainly because of their lack of precision or even, honestly, their lack of a specific point. The author writes in a very poetic style, but I found that most of the book stops at a rather generic, abstract level. You can never bite into anything. Examples: "Jesus does not just ask us to give in charity to the poor, he also asks us to work at correcting all the social, political and economic structures that disadvantage the poor and help keep them poor. Justice seeks to correct the structures that help create that poverty." - Ok, BUT, everyone today has a different opinion about exactly HOW to achieve this, and Rolheiser does not say anything about the "how", which is the most important part, so the whole paragraph feels useless to me. This made me think of the book “Toxic charity”, that warns about the huge danger of doing social justice work that fails or backfires because it’s not sustainable or for other reasons. Very easy to "think" and speak and write about social justice, but extremely complicated to put it in action in a truly effective and sustainable way. "Purity of heart does not mean that we will not have any sexual fantasies. It means that those fantasies will not be lustful." - this is also pointless. I would almost say that it's not even a sentence with a clear meaning. “Sexual fantasies that are not lustful” are never defined. What are they? Is it when you are fantasizing about getting your wife pregnant? : ) Let's try to be real. From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: "Lust = a strong sexual desire". What's abnormal about that? From one specific perspective, the author comes across as preaching for everyone except for himself: that’s when he talks about adulthood as “letting go of your dreams of fame and success” . All good, until you realize that HE achieved exactly that - fame and success as a popular author, which is a dream that MANY adults, including many priests, have to put away in the closet forever while they go about their daily boring job. So ... the message comes across weakened by that. “Do as I say, not as I do”, a bit like Bernie Sanders when he wants millionaires to pay more taxes, but when he’s asked why he, as a millionaire, doesn’t give the example by paying more taxes, he shouts “I’m already paying all the taxes I need to pay!!”. And then we come to my biggest gripe: the "water purifier" concept (aka "If you want to be an adult, act like a sponge"). Ohhh, this is a bad one.... "In terms of moving toward deeper maturity, of moving from goodness to greatness, this invitation to become the sponge that absorbs tension inside of family, church, and community is perhaps the premier one. Indeed, it is the criterion for adult discipleship." A couple of problems with this (number 2 the most important): 1) the author goes on to mention, later in the book, at least another 2 or 3 crucial criteria for adult discipleship, like "giving thanks" and "forgiving", each one "the most important" of all, which weakens this point and makes one think the book wasn’t properly edited; 2) despite addressing the danger of only "taking it all in" and never giving back the negative tension to people (which can literally kill you with cancer or heart problems), Rolheiser provides a guidance on "how to do this" that is, again, extremely vague: for example, according to him, you need to distinguish between situations where you receive "regular negative tension" and situations of actual "abuse", and I guess you need to distinguish that by yourself. Good luck with that interpretative effort. Second, you need to find a "healthy release" to the tension away from the person who gives it to you. Unsurprisingly, Rolheiser never gives practical examples of these healthy releases. Most importantly, Rolheiser writes without ever acknowledging that different people have VERY, VERY different personalities and different levels of how much they can take in before it's too much for their nervous system. People have different physical or biological strength, and with that I mean also mental strength, but to be clear, I'm talking about the strength that you are born with. People are born with very different nervous strength and physical capacity as well. The stronger you are born, the more generous with your natural energy you can be. To encourage someone who wasn't born with a strong nervous system (or even someone who is borderline mentally ill, which most of us today are) to become a "water purifier" of all the hatred and negativity around him/her is contrary to ANYTHING that any good psychiatrist or mental health professional would tell you. Take, for example, a man or a woman who has troubles asserting herself in various relationships. Would she be more “mature” as a Christian because she is taking all the negativity inside of her without ever pushing back? Hell no, that would not be maturity. That would be immature passivity. That would be someone who needs to grow up. To this woman, you should say “don’t let them push you around like that. Push back yourself.”. Of course, she should try to push back with a serene demeanor, and perhaps that is what Rolheiser means with "not giving back in kind", to remain calm when someone is showering you with anger or anxiety, but even that is not something that you should encourage EVERYONE to do, and the book doesn’t provide any clarity on this point. It stops at “don’t give back in kind”, which is, again, not useful. The less specific you are when you write and give advice, the less useful. Always. On the other hand, to a man who is naturally and arrogantly spreading his tension around without any problem or remorse, then of course you should say “You need to take in that energy and not constantly give it back in kind.” Although, in my experience, people with that type of personality and God-given energy never listen or learn anything, unless something really atrocious happens to them. In any case — my point is, I wish the author had talked about the different roles that everyone can and should play in their community, based on their different personalities, instead of generalizing the “be the water purifier” condition. It does not work to determine adulthood for everyone. Some differentiation and more practical examples here would have helped. That "water purification" process reminds me of the big black guy in the movie "The green mile". No wonder he was a giant in the story: it takes a non-existent superhuman strength to do that. Pushing people to adopt that superhuman behavior without any caveat about personal differences is almost irresponsible. I really found this whole portion of the book difficult to digest because, at least the way I see it, the billions of Christians around the world are different people with different skills. I just don’t think Rolheiser does enough in this book to push against the deeply wrong stereotype that a mature Christian is someone who just needs to take it, and take it, and take it, without ever pushing back. I think he should have spent at least a few words about the importance of saying "no", because it sounds like, for him, a mature christian should only say “yes”. That’s shallow and horribly incorrect. The reality of this world is that the people who "do good" get exploited, and the people who think about their own good and intimidate others get to the top. For many people, saying "no" is much more difficult and important than being a water purifier. This would have been a deeper psychological approach. Missed opportunity. Many people can be very mature even without acting like a remissive sponge. Jesus offering the other cheek had nothing to do with being remissive - and yet, every time I hear that part of the Gospel, almost no one qualifies it the way it should be, which is subtle and has to do with the meaning of purity and impurity (and left and right hands) in the ancient Jewish world. To take the message of Christ as "if they hit you, just offer to be hit again" (I'm not saying this is what Rolheiser is doing here) is not only deeply wrong, it's also something that Jesus would have found stupid. Finally, a comment on 2 gospel passages that are quoted in the book: 1) The Syrophoenician woman: " Deeper maturity will bring with it the tension of stretched loyalties. Jesus, in his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman, offers us a model of how to properly carry that tension .". Really? Does he really? By first totally ignoring her plea and then by calling her a dog? I've studied this gospel passage in depth, and I'm aware that Jesus preached for the Jewish people, and not for anyone else. This woman was a "nobody" to him. A "dog". It seems to me like the only thing that’s being stretched here is the meaning of the story narrated in the gospel, especially in the following part of the chapter, where Rolheiser draws a parallel from this gospel passage to an example where a woman from a different congregation shows up and asks a priest to be baptized even if she hasn't participated to any of the preparation courses. In the example, the priest cannot help the woman, but then the woman wins over the priest by leveraging the universality of Catholicism. This example has very little to do with the episode of the Syrophoenician woman, who, in the gospel, is called a "dog" by Jesus because his message lacked the universality that it took later on, and who wins over Jesus not by quoting the universality of the Christian message or even by showing a special "faith", like it's often repeated by priests, but simply by insisting and by giving a very clever reply. The Jewish tradition LOVES people with a silver tongue. The woman was quick - good for her, because that impressed Jesus. That’s what I’m taking away from that passage. 2) Martha. " Like Martha in scripture, it is easy to feel resentment because we SEEM to be doing all the work while others are getting more of a free ride." Back up, back up, back up. First of all, Martha does not SEEM to be doing all the work: she IS doing all the work, while Mary is doing nothing and sitting with Jesus. Many commentators focus on the fact that for a woman it was unheard of to be sitting next to the rabbi, and that's the point of the story, and that's important, sure, but also does not explain the deep injustice of Martha being chastised for doing all the work for her guests (by her own guest). Also: " One of the demons we wrestle with during our adult years is the resentment of Martha, that is, a joylessness bordering on anger for, ironically, being burdened with the privilege of health, work, and status ". In other words, Rolheiser is saying: "Martha should have shut up and felt grateful that she had work to do, instead of complaining about Mary not helping her." And this makes NO sense to me. The gospel story is not describing two women who are arguing about who is doing more work and who is doing less work: they are arguing because one of them is doing ALL the work, while the other one is enjoying herself, listening to this famous rabbi. This is the DEFINITION of injustice, despite any conceptual somersaults that the author, like many others, tries to do here. Please go on and challenge me on this. I still haven't found one single convincing argument.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joy Matteson

    Everything that Ronald Rolheiser writes is filled with meaning, wisdom, and grace. I'm almost always challenged to take a new step of faith after reading one of his works. This is technically a followup to his classic work "A Holy Longing", but one could read this work without reading that one first--but both are simply awe-inspiring. The humility of the writer, combined with deep soul-searching about what constitutes Christian maturity in discipleship, is never harsh or demanding, but speaks so Everything that Ronald Rolheiser writes is filled with meaning, wisdom, and grace. I'm almost always challenged to take a new step of faith after reading one of his works. This is technically a followup to his classic work "A Holy Longing", but one could read this work without reading that one first--but both are simply awe-inspiring. The humility of the writer, combined with deep soul-searching about what constitutes Christian maturity in discipleship, is never harsh or demanding, but speaks softly and with clarity that marks the truth of the words on the page. My favorite quote, which is so timely in a world filled with ugly culture wars and mud-slinging: ""We are mature when we define ourselves by what we are for rather than by what we are against. The capacity to praise more than to criticize defines maturity. The crowning glory of maturity and discipleship, as we saw, is the capacity and willingness to bless others." Get your HANDS on it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margaret D'Anieri

    I'd give this six stars if I could - perhaps the best book I've ever read about what it means to live a good life as a middle-aged person; it has already changed my perspective and approach to daily love. It is a Christian book, but I imagine would be helpful to many who don't claim to be people of faith. I'd give this six stars if I could - perhaps the best book I've ever read about what it means to live a good life as a middle-aged person; it has already changed my perspective and approach to daily love. It is a Christian book, but I imagine would be helpful to many who don't claim to be people of faith.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Christian spiritual writer, Fr Ron Rolheiser, OMI, is seeking to cover the span of life in three main works. 'The Holy Longing' looked at how we began the Christian journey and the themes that we are initiated into when embracing a Christian lifestyle. In this book, 'Sacred Fire', Rolheiser looks at how we mature on the way. It is about giving our life away in service of family, Church, work and world. It looks at prayer, at witness, at celebration and loss, at ageing. In a final section, it loo Christian spiritual writer, Fr Ron Rolheiser, OMI, is seeking to cover the span of life in three main works. 'The Holy Longing' looked at how we began the Christian journey and the themes that we are initiated into when embracing a Christian lifestyle. In this book, 'Sacred Fire', Rolheiser looks at how we mature on the way. It is about giving our life away in service of family, Church, work and world. It looks at prayer, at witness, at celebration and loss, at ageing. In a final section, it looks towards another book he is writing about giving our death away. Those familiar with Rolheiser's style of personal anecdotes, stories, poems, quotes and exercises seasoned throughout the text, will feel home. An enriching read for anyone seeking to explore how the Christian life is a life we give away.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I gained a lot from The Holy Longing, and while Rolheiser and I don't land in the same theological tribe, there is so much to gain from his writing and experience. This book is worth the read in particular if you're over 40 (which I barely am, but the content is towards the latter part of life). Chapter 7 on blessing others was challenging in a way that brings life! I gained a lot from The Holy Longing, and while Rolheiser and I don't land in the same theological tribe, there is so much to gain from his writing and experience. This book is worth the read in particular if you're over 40 (which I barely am, but the content is towards the latter part of life). Chapter 7 on blessing others was challenging in a way that brings life!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    This book is about purposely having a life of meaning. From a standpoint of writing and examples, this book does not deserve five stars. But, if one considers the importance of the subject matter and the no holds barred discussion, five stars is justified in my opinion. The author provides excellent source material for those who want to consider the subject more deeply.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eli Johnson

    Though I found the first half much more instructive than the second, there was a sense of, “Yes! That’s exactly how I feel!” Learning to give your life away during the second and longest portion of life comes with embracing the mundane routines, letting go of what your life is not, and looking outward.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    What I really needed from this book was in the last section: Giving Our Deaths Away. As I watch and participate in my mother’s decline, this chapter offered me much to reflect on regarding the process of accepting without bitterness the necessary passivity as our bodies decline, and seeing this stage as God’s good design which can be a lasting gift to our friends, family, community.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    Rolheiser has written one of the wiser commentaries that I've read on what it means to be a Christian. At the heart of his commentary is a passage in the middle of the book which tells the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus who fail to recognize Christ. It is not because of a lack of faith, but a lack of imagination. He sees Christ as potentially present in anyone's life, but it's difficult to recognize him because of our narrowness of vision. To make Christ meaningful involves an effo Rolheiser has written one of the wiser commentaries that I've read on what it means to be a Christian. At the heart of his commentary is a passage in the middle of the book which tells the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus who fail to recognize Christ. It is not because of a lack of faith, but a lack of imagination. He sees Christ as potentially present in anyone's life, but it's difficult to recognize him because of our narrowness of vision. To make Christ meaningful involves an effort of the imagination. If we overcome the obstacles that stand in our way, then God, Christ, and an ensuring church enter our lives in a deeper way. The author discusses four qualities of a Christian. He or she is a person who practices private prayer and private integrity, is committed to personal charity and public justice, is committed to public worship, and believes that these can be done with a "mellow and forgiving heart." Perhaps one of the most difficult tasks facing a g a Christian, especially in the second half of life, is acquiring the ability to forgive. As the author puts it, "in the end, it is our greatest psychological, moral, and religious struggles. It is not easy to forgive." People reach adulthood with all kinds of grievances, and in both small and large ways have "been treated unjustly, violated, hurt, ignored, not properly honored, and unfairly cast aside. We all carry wounds, and with these wounds, we all carry anger, bitterness, and some unforgiveness." I think Rolheiser is most insightful in mediating on the meaning of death.. Jesus Christ, the paradigm of Christianity, had an existence made up of both what he did and said in his life, and how he died, and the focus of his followers is often on his life. Equally important is his death. In a sense Christ made a gift of his death, but it is so entangled with what he did with his life, that it's hard to see it for what it was. The question for the author is how individuals might live so their deaths are "gifts" to their families, and to the world. What we leave behind is either anger, regret, and bitterness, or forgiveness, the same choices that Christ made in the garden of Gethsemane. The strange thing about death is that the essence of the dying person is only grasped on their demise. Their presence is finally understood in a much deeper way than when they were alive. But to enter into death, that "dark night of the spirit" and realize what is happening is not easy. "We are alone, mostly without preparation, without mentors, and without communal support." No wonder that most people put off the thought of death until it is thrust upon them. and in our society, obsessed with living, the journey into death is especially difficult. Rolheiser stresses, though, that there is much examination of what this dark journey means in the tradition of the great Christian mystic writers, beginning with the desert monks such as Evagrius and continuing with John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila, as well as the wisdom found in Buddhist and Hindu teachings. The author's conclusion is that in some form the Christian rites of Ascension and Pentecost occur after every good death. "Ascension", originally referring to Christ's departure from earth, relates to the individual's death, and "Pentecost", originally the infusion of the Holy Spirit on Christ's despondent, followers, relates to the spirit and memory that the individual leaves on those left behind. If it is a good and nurturing one, lacking bitterness and regret, it will be, imaginatively, biblical blood and water - that is to say, a force that is alive and cleansing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Christian writer Ronald Ronheiser, in his new book Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity, makes the point that spirituality and discipleship have stages and seasons and, accordingly, different challenges and tasks. (The developmentalist in me stood up and cheered! Seriously, I could not stop underlining this book.) He explains: The first phase, essential discipleship, is the struggle to get our lives together.* The second phase, mature discipleship, is the struggle to gi Christian writer Ronald Ronheiser, in his new book Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity, makes the point that spirituality and discipleship have stages and seasons and, accordingly, different challenges and tasks. (The developmentalist in me stood up and cheered! Seriously, I could not stop underlining this book.) He explains: The first phase, essential discipleship, is the struggle to get our lives together.* The second phase, mature discipleship, is the struggle to give our lives away. In the first phase we struggle largely with external things, physical appetites, and our place in the world--who to be. In the second phase the struggle is more internal as we figure out how to be (and specifically how to focus away from ourselves and be generous--a la Erickson's stage of generativity). To illustrate his point he uses the parable of the prodigal son in a really interesting way: "Someone once quipped that we spend the first half of our lives struggling with the sixth commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery) and the second half of our lives struggling with the fifth commandment (Thou shalt not kill). That may be a simplification but it is a fertile image. Indeed the famous parable of the prodigal son and his older brother can serve as a paradigm for this: the prodigal son, illustrating the first half of life, is very much caught up in the fiery energies of youth and is, metaphorically, struggling with the devil; the older brother, illustrating the second half of life, struggling instead with resentment, anger, and jealousy, is metaphorically and in reality, wrestling with God" (page 6). In my church (as with life, actually), there are a parade of milestones that happen in the first 20-30 years of your life--covenants and rites of passage that serve as religious training wheels and give a sense of spiritual momentum. After that flurry, I have found the next phase to be a different kind of challenging in the quest to sustain progression in what seems like a developmentally stagnant time. Sacred Fire gave me a lot to think about, reframed some old assumptions, and generally reinvigorated my thinking about Christian spiritual progression. --- *Rolheiser's earlier book, The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality addresses this first phase

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bob Price

    Ronald Rolheiser may be the wisest man who has ever lived. Or not...but he has a lot of great things to say. In Sacred Fire, Rolheiser continues the thoughts he began to develop in Holy Fire and promises to bring to a conclusion in the third volume in his work. Sacred Fire deals mainly with the 'middle years' of spiritual development. He talks about our need to give way our lives and prepare to give away our deaths. Whereas the earlier book was pro-scriptive in it's scope, this book is more descri Ronald Rolheiser may be the wisest man who has ever lived. Or not...but he has a lot of great things to say. In Sacred Fire, Rolheiser continues the thoughts he began to develop in Holy Fire and promises to bring to a conclusion in the third volume in his work. Sacred Fire deals mainly with the 'middle years' of spiritual development. He talks about our need to give way our lives and prepare to give away our deaths. Whereas the earlier book was pro-scriptive in it's scope, this book is more descriptive in its orientation. He talks about the big picture, the things that people will and do struggle with rather than giving 'spiritual practices' that we can easily examine our lives with. The only weakness about this book is that he spends a great deal of time telling us what he's already told us in the first book and explaining what he is going to tell us in the third book. After a while, we want to know about the subject he promised to deal with. He does this, but I think if you compare this book to the Two Towers you will see the obvious weakness in being the middle part of a trilogy. Not to say that you can't learn a great deal from this book and you will. I highly recommend this book to pastors and to all interested in the spiritual life. Grade: B+

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    How can I give my life away more purely, and more meaningfully? How do I live beyond my own heartaches, headaches, and obsessions so as to help make other peoples' lives more meaningful? These are some of the questions that Ronal Rolheiser attempts to answer in his new book Sacred Fire. You may know Ronald Rolheiser from his book The Holy Longing, which was written as a foundational book - a Spirituality 101 course. Or possibly you know him from his column in the Catholic Herald or one of his ot How can I give my life away more purely, and more meaningfully? How do I live beyond my own heartaches, headaches, and obsessions so as to help make other peoples' lives more meaningful? These are some of the questions that Ronal Rolheiser attempts to answer in his new book Sacred Fire. You may know Ronald Rolheiser from his book The Holy Longing, which was written as a foundational book - a Spirituality 101 course. Or possibly you know him from his column in the Catholic Herald or one of his other books. Or maybe you don't know him at all. Either way, you should read this book! Sacred Fire is the follow on book to The Holy Longing. Where The Holy Longing answered the basic questions, Sacred Fire goes a little deeper. He follows the concepts of St John of the Cross and tries to apply them to regular folks (instead of to priests). This is a thought provoking, meditational book. I really enjoyed it and find that it has helped me a lot. I am sure I'll be referring back to it quite often. I'm so excited to have an extra copy to give away! Not only do I have a copy of Sacred Fire to give but I also have a copy of The Holy Longing!! If you'd like to enter the drawing, visit my blog and leave a comment. http://melosbookshelf.blogspot.com

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Culbertson

    I really wanted to like this book, but in the end, I couldn't stand it. The way Rolheiser puts together arguments (particularly in his treatment of language, history, and authorial intent) simply isn't compatible with the kind of thinking that I respect. A few of the more practical chapters have some interesting insights to think about, but on the whole, I can't really recommend the book. The worst part, I found, was that Rolheiser's entire approach to spiritual formation seems to run along the I really wanted to like this book, but in the end, I couldn't stand it. The way Rolheiser puts together arguments (particularly in his treatment of language, history, and authorial intent) simply isn't compatible with the kind of thinking that I respect. A few of the more practical chapters have some interesting insights to think about, but on the whole, I can't really recommend the book. The worst part, I found, was that Rolheiser's entire approach to spiritual formation seems to run along the lines of "Buckle down and try harder, because your spiritual transformation is up to you!" I do not take this to be representative of the gospel or to leave much room for the working of the Holy Spirit, and I certainly do not find it encouraging.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    Wow, what a powerful and challenging book on growing in spiritual maturity in the second stage of life. I was looking for something that would explore and push me deeper into what it means to follow Jesus well in this season and it didn’t disappoint. Rolheiser has a way of getting the scalpel right down into the crevices of the human heart to ensure that nothing is left there to rot, but does so with such grace, hope and understanding that it is inspiring rather than intimidating. Apart from one Wow, what a powerful and challenging book on growing in spiritual maturity in the second stage of life. I was looking for something that would explore and push me deeper into what it means to follow Jesus well in this season and it didn’t disappoint. Rolheiser has a way of getting the scalpel right down into the crevices of the human heart to ensure that nothing is left there to rot, but does so with such grace, hope and understanding that it is inspiring rather than intimidating. Apart from one or two chapters where a different theological perspective meant I needed to adjust the application of the principle a little, I found the content to be highly relevant and the writing style accessible. This is a work I will return to and highly recommend it to those in middle age. What a joy to have a book that deals particularly with the challenges of radical discipleship for this life stage! 4.5 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adam Shields

    I don't know how to comment on this. I read it over too long of a period. There were quotes and ideas that were helpful, but a lot that I just did not get. One of the problems of books on the Christian life is that they can be either trite or unintelligible. This one was recommended by several in my spiritual direction class as helpful. I found it mostly unintelligible. Not unreadable, but I just wasn't really sure what it was doing too often. I probably would get more from it if I read it again I don't know how to comment on this. I read it over too long of a period. There were quotes and ideas that were helpful, but a lot that I just did not get. One of the problems of books on the Christian life is that they can be either trite or unintelligible. This one was recommended by several in my spiritual direction class as helpful. I found it mostly unintelligible. Not unreadable, but I just wasn't really sure what it was doing too often. I probably would get more from it if I read it again more quickly a second time. But it is also intended to be a more advanced book to one of his earlier books. So maybe I should read that earlier books first and then come back to this. The problem is that I have way too many books. And I never know when a book is worth spending more time on to understand better and when the book is just not for me and I should move on to something else.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amy Cuneo

    I usually find christian books BORING but this was a real slow burn giving me much to think about. I find his style endearing if a little opaque from time to time. The last chapter was odd. At the end I thought if many parts to go back to read so that's a good sign for me. I usually find christian books BORING but this was a real slow burn giving me much to think about. I find his style endearing if a little opaque from time to time. The last chapter was odd. At the end I thought if many parts to go back to read so that's a good sign for me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rev. M. M. Walters

    This is the follow-up to Rolheiser's book, The Holy Longing. If the first book could be considered Spirituality 101, this one is the graduate level course. It took me longer to read and I wasn't underlining as much but I still found the book helpful. Some of the concepts introduced in Holy Longing are revisited in Sacred Fire but with more depth. Both books should be read by anybody who is interested in developing his/her spiritual life but it would be important to read them in the proper order. This is the follow-up to Rolheiser's book, The Holy Longing. If the first book could be considered Spirituality 101, this one is the graduate level course. It took me longer to read and I wasn't underlining as much but I still found the book helpful. Some of the concepts introduced in Holy Longing are revisited in Sacred Fire but with more depth. Both books should be read by anybody who is interested in developing his/her spiritual life but it would be important to read them in the proper order. The spiritual life is like the natural life in that maturity consists in a deepening knowledge about things. In our youth, when everything is new, our discoveries are exciting. When we become more mature, new discoveries are rarer and the depth of knowledge and experience are not as exciting but, in the long run, are more important as we grow into adulthood. Ultimately, our life is supposed to be a blessing to others. This book sets us on the journey. The author promises us a third book that will deal with the final stages of life as we make our deaths a gift that crowns our lives.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Bounds

    Rolheiser is an excellent speaker and conversationalist – I've been lucky enough to be at a conference where he was a keynote speaker – but his writing is engaging and challenging. This book certainly challenged me to think about the spiritual life in maturity, and what it means to live 'beyond generativity'. He seems to have not only a refined understanding of scripture, but to be able to draw on Eastern and Western spiritual classics, which would be far out of my league. I will take a way a re Rolheiser is an excellent speaker and conversationalist – I've been lucky enough to be at a conference where he was a keynote speaker – but his writing is engaging and challenging. This book certainly challenged me to think about the spiritual life in maturity, and what it means to live 'beyond generativity'. He seems to have not only a refined understanding of scripture, but to be able to draw on Eastern and Western spiritual classics, which would be far out of my league. I will take a way a renewed interest in investigating centring prayer and in meditation — provided I find the time!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ellen

    This book is a follow-up to Fr. Rolheiser's The Holy Longing. Those who found the first book rewarding - as I did - will no doubt be equally challenged and enriched by this book. I took a long time to read it, as each section demanded time for reflection and self-examination. Fr. Rolheiser's vision of "giving your death away" - based on John of the Cross's "dark night of the spirit" - is one of the most challenging things I've read by a contemporary spiritual author. Time engaging this book will This book is a follow-up to Fr. Rolheiser's The Holy Longing. Those who found the first book rewarding - as I did - will no doubt be equally challenged and enriched by this book. I took a long time to read it, as each section demanded time for reflection and self-examination. Fr. Rolheiser's vision of "giving your death away" - based on John of the Cross's "dark night of the spirit" - is one of the most challenging things I've read by a contemporary spiritual author. Time engaging this book will be time well spent.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    "The human soul is like a fine wine that needs to ferment in various barrels as it ages and mellows. The wisdom for this is written everywhere, in nature, in scripture, in spiritual traditions, and in what is best in human science...such is the effect of a conspiracy between God and nature to mellow the soul." This is beautiful and profound! "The human soul is like a fine wine that needs to ferment in various barrels as it ages and mellows. The wisdom for this is written everywhere, in nature, in scripture, in spiritual traditions, and in what is best in human science...such is the effect of a conspiracy between God and nature to mellow the soul." This is beautiful and profound!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis Fredericksen

    I used this book as a daily meditation and really liked it. Like Rohr, the author presents ways for a mature person to grow closer to God and to others. The last section discussed making your death a gift to others. Very thought provoking. Highly recommend this book and the author.

  22. 4 out of 5

    JasmineB

    Deep insights showing different perspectives, yet it speaks to you because it mirrors the truth

  23. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    Picked this book to read on a contemplative retreat. What a perfect choice! Another Rohlheiser gem!

  24. 4 out of 5

    JP Shinn

    Slow read Really drug on for me, but a few nuggets. I probably don’t agree with some of the theology, but good to read someone who thinks differently than I.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jackie St Hilaire

    When we act like God: we get to feel like God. Fr. Ronald Rolheiser is a visionary and like most visionaries he is often challenged for his teachings. There are no frills on Fr. Rohlheiser stance on being a Christian. Either you are or your not. You make the choice and he doesn't make it easy. It's not about theology, beliefs but about action. Fr. Rolheiser talks like Jesus, what you see is what you get. No beating around the "bush". Like Jesus he uses stories. One of his most poignant stories is th When we act like God: we get to feel like God. Fr. Ronald Rolheiser is a visionary and like most visionaries he is often challenged for his teachings. There are no frills on Fr. Rohlheiser stance on being a Christian. Either you are or your not. You make the choice and he doesn't make it easy. It's not about theology, beliefs but about action. Fr. Rolheiser talks like Jesus, what you see is what you get. No beating around the "bush". Like Jesus he uses stories. One of his most poignant stories is the rich young man who approaches Jesus and asks him what must I do to gain eternal life? Luke 18:18. Fr. Rolheiser uses this story to ask each one of us: "Do you want to be a good Christian or a great Christian?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is the best book I've read so far on how to live as a mature disciple of Christ. Rolheiser is a Catholic priest with a wide view of all religion and takes an unswerving look at hard issues of aging, dying, and serving - all within the context of a mature spirituality. His interpretations of Biblical stories and parables were particularly useful. For instance, the image of Mary as a "ponderer" and his explications of all that entails provides me plenty of material to ponder. I will likely re This is the best book I've read so far on how to live as a mature disciple of Christ. Rolheiser is a Catholic priest with a wide view of all religion and takes an unswerving look at hard issues of aging, dying, and serving - all within the context of a mature spirituality. His interpretations of Biblical stories and parables were particularly useful. For instance, the image of Mary as a "ponderer" and his explications of all that entails provides me plenty of material to ponder. I will likely reread this. It's that good.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Lochhead

    While this book contains a great deal of wisdom and spoke to a faith shrouded in reality, making it more accessible yet not watering down its truth; I found that a bit of editing could have made it more succinct. Too often I felt more words were used than needed, reiterating the same point over and over. That being said, I look forward to re-reading my notes in hopes that the gems written will be inlaid in my soul.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katie Rimer

    I return to this book over and over. If you are a Christian (or you think you are, or you are trying to be) who at times feels beleaguered by the trials and tribulations of this life, turn to this book. Rolheiser is anything but dour - he writes of joyful freedom in Christ while acknowledging all the burdens of responsibility we face. How do we find the balance between joy, freedom, and responsibility? Highly recommend. I'm not even Catholic! I return to this book over and over. If you are a Christian (or you think you are, or you are trying to be) who at times feels beleaguered by the trials and tribulations of this life, turn to this book. Rolheiser is anything but dour - he writes of joyful freedom in Christ while acknowledging all the burdens of responsibility we face. How do we find the balance between joy, freedom, and responsibility? Highly recommend. I'm not even Catholic!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie Lowrie

    I've just finished this book and feel like I need to read it again! It's dense but beautiful and I've learnt so much. It's a book you can't read quickly- I think that would defeat the purpose. It's a book that lingers and I still need time to let the truths in it continue to do work in my soul. It's a great book for anyone going into or in the middle of the second stage of life it feels like a spiritual handbook for grown ups! I've just finished this book and feel like I need to read it again! It's dense but beautiful and I've learnt so much. It's a book you can't read quickly- I think that would defeat the purpose. It's a book that lingers and I still need time to let the truths in it continue to do work in my soul. It's a great book for anyone going into or in the middle of the second stage of life it feels like a spiritual handbook for grown ups!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie Towers

    This book got better as it went on. I would have given it a 5 but it's content was more for those in the second third of life. (Holy Longing for the first third of life). Hope Ronald ends up writing one on the third third. Chapter 6 Drawing Strength From Prayer was worth the entire book. It is golden. Definitely worth a re-read. This book got better as it went on. I would have given it a 5 but it's content was more for those in the second third of life. (Holy Longing for the first third of life). Hope Ronald ends up writing one on the third third. Chapter 6 Drawing Strength From Prayer was worth the entire book. It is golden. Definitely worth a re-read.

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