Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Reading of the legions of  30-something gals who are signing on for Bali these days, all I can think is that any spiritual seeker worth his or her salt has undertaken a journey so full of failure, hardship, and disappointment that no-one would want to follow it. Does anyone really want to follow in the footsteps of Simone Weil, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Christ? I can't think of anything creepier than someone trying to literally re-trace the path of another, hoping for the same "happy ending" result. Tip: There are no happy endings. Carve out your own path. Undertake your own desert journey.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty was a Russian whose journey as an émigré in exile took her to Canada where she founded Madonna House, worked with the poor, and wrote prolifically. In Poustinia: Christian Spirituality of the East for Western Man, she speaks of the difficulty of community life and observes:

"As you know only too well, the divisions, arguments, and power plays that take place at meetings witness to the fragmentation of humanity. By your presence in love, you have to witness to how much time is wasted, how much selfishness is going on, how much greed there is for power, attention, and recognition…If by prayer you have received food from God, you should be give the oil of tenderness and the wine of compassion, first to each other, and then to everyone you meet. All this is done silently, in the secret places of your hearts.

An incident from the life of [co-founder of the lay Catholic Worker movement] Dorothy Day expresses well what I am trying to say here. Dorothy went to Rome during the [Vatican] Council. Several years later when I met her in Rome I asked her what she did during the time the Council was in session. She said she had simply taken a room in the poor quarter of the city, and for ten days she fasted and bread and water and prayed for the Council. That was all she did! Then she returned to New York the way she had come—on a freight boat! Maybe this was the reason why the Council was so successful. In the eyes of God, who knows?"


  1. Wow Heather, I'm really impressed. I found out about you from Father Robert Barron's Word on Fire blog. I love his style and that he's a media savvy priest and I stumbled upon you, literally this morning and have been reading about you all day today, including wanting to order a copy of your book. Anyway, I always love to hear about converts to the faith. I'm a cradle Catholic and have all the theology but still don't know what my "apostolate" is. I'm trying but just wanted to say what a great soul you are. Keep up the good work. (and to think you are with NPR and are a Catholic? They allow Catholics to expound their faith??) that's truly amazing!!!

  2. "Undertake your own desert journey"--what wonderful advice. Found this blog through a friend of mine, who posted a link to it. I too am writing a memoir, about my first husband's suicide. He too was an alcoholic, and I too felt his was a spiritual disease. I'm so glad you not only made it out of the desert alive, but with so much to offer as well.

  3. Ha Ha ... I love the tag Bad Books. The Flannery O'Connor version is "Pray, Write, Die"


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