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Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life Paperback – June 25, 2010
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"Contemplation is the meditation of the soul. Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life urges contemplation as part of a healthy spirituality, connecting the conscious to the subconscious. With plenty of discussion on faith and thought, Pilgrimage of a Soul is an intriguing and intellectual read for any Christian studies collection." (James A. Cox, Library Book Watch, September 2010)
"As a co-director of Word Made Flesh, an international community of Christians who live and serve among the poor, Phileena Heuertz understands active faith. In Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life, Heuertz describes her transforming journey into another aspect of faith--learning to rest in and surrender to God." (Sojourners, September-October 2010)
"For some reason we imagined that just the 'thinking life' would elicit and feed the Christian spirit. The soul is fed much more by the 'symbolic life' too, where action and contemplation meet, where the inner and the outer learn to operate as one, where words become flesh, where God is no longer just an idea but the heartbeat of life itself. This marvelous book gives you many avenues by which to live such a full and enfleshed life. Phileena tells you to stop 'thinking about it' and to try it! That is when it works." (Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico)
"A courageous and groundbreaking effort to build a bridge between those two communities of Christians, still largely unknown to each other, where the heart of Christ burns so brightly: the evangelical and the contemplative." (The Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, Ph.D., Episcopal priest, author and retreat leader)
"Pilgrimage of a Soul is a delightful book that engaged me every step of the way. I was engrossed with Phileena's journey as she entwined her personal story with the account of a pilgrimage in Spain and theological insights she gained along the way. I heartily recommend it to all who are searching for a deeper commitment to God and to the contemplative way of life." (Christine Sine, author, contemplative, activist and executive director of Mustard Seed Associates)
"Part memoir, part guidebook for the contemplative activist, Pilgrimage of a Soul reads like a good conversation with an old friend. Heuertz's honesty about her own struggles created a space for me to see how wisdom from a host of spiritual guides speaks to my life. It's a gift to all of us, but especially to a guy like me who needs the graciousness of prophetic women like Phileena. I finished the book and felt refreshed, eager to enjoy a walk around my neighborhood." (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of New Monasticism and God's Economy)
"In Pilgrimage of a Soul, Phileena Heuertz does something quite countercultural: she goes on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James in Spain and then on sabbatical in Durham, North Carolina. However, this is a travelogue like no other. Her journey becomes ours as she accompanies us through important landmarks of the spiritual journey: awakening, darkness, transformation, union and points in-between. In doing so, she provides a wise and helpful guidebook for the spiritual life. I've heard it said that the best writing is so individual that it has a universal appeal. And Phileena's book has just that!" (Albert Haase, O.F.M., author of Coming Home to Your True Self and Living the Lord's Prayer)
"Weakness, inferiority, absence and death are turned upside down in these pages, as Phileena Heuertz engages the reader's holy imagination with Christ's good gifts of strength, mutuality, presence and life. Prepare to be transformed." (Margot Starbuck, author of The Girl in the Orange Dress and Unsqueezed)
"In my journey for justice, I've discovered that contemplative practices are the practices that best help me to face the world with love instead of fear, vulnerability instead of shame, and openness instead of defensiveness. Pilgrimage of a Soul is an excellent and accessible introduction to the Christian contemplative tradition and its intimate connection to social justice action." (Christena Cleveland, author of Disunity in Christ)
"The astounding book you hold in your hands has the potential to change you in unimaginably deep ways. Read it slowly, paying as much attention to the things that arise within you as you do to the words on the page. Received with hospitality, these arisings will lead you forward as you make your own pilgrimage of the soul. I can think of no better companion on that journey than Phileena Heuertz." (David G. Benner, founding director of Cascadia Living Wisdom School, author of The Gift of Being Yourself)
About the Author
Phileena Heuertz is a founding partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism. For nearly twenty years she and her husband Chris served with Word Made Flesh in more than seventy countries, building community among victims of human trafficking, survivors of HIV and AIDS, abandoned children, and child soldiers and war brides. Spiritual director, yoga instructor, public speaker, retreat guide, and author, Phileena is passionate about spirituality and making the world a better place. She has led contemplative retreats for a number of faith communities including Word Made Flesh, World Vision International, and Compassion International. In addition, she is sought after as a speaker at universities, seminaries, and conferences such as Q, Catalyst, Urbana, and the Center for Action and Contemplation. Phileena was also named an "Outstanding Alumni" by Asbury University and one of Outreach magazine's "30 Emerging Influencers Reshaping Leadership."
Phyllis Tickle is the founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly, the international journal of the book industry, and is frequently quoted in print sources like USA Today, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times as well as in electronic media like PBS, NPR, the Hallmark Channel, and numerous blogs and web sites. Tickle is an authority on religion in America and a much sought after lecturer.
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"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 labor 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… 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 our growth and transformation…”
During my days on the Camino Primitivo, I was challenged and graced with more hours of stillness, and silence than I had ever known. Phileena helped me prepare for that pilgrimage and for its continuation today as I step ahead in silence, solitude, and stillness even while carrying on in the midst of the slums of Bangkok.
If you are not familiar with contemplative Christianity, Phileena Heuertz does an excellent job of explaining its disciplines, particularly contemplative prayer as taught by modern Christian mystic Fr. Thomas Keating. She also clearly explains the importance of recognizing the false self (which she describes as "the shadow of who we truly are, the expression of who we are that pales in comparison to the truth of who we were created to be") and allowing God to reveal through His grace the "true self" He has designed for us in His own image.
There are many reasons I continually recommend this book to others, but two in particular make it especially significant to me. The first is Phileena's honest look at suffering. She writes very openly of how following Christ's directive, walking in His example of serving the broken, the widow, the orphan, the prisoner - can leave you feeling broken as well. We realize this and resist it, shying away from suffering. Phileena turns that attitude on its head, redefining suffering in the light of Christ and offering it as a beautiful, while still painful, part of our communion with Him and His children. She also addresses the suffering we can feel when God seems to turn away from us, to be deaf to our cries - a time that our church fathers and mothers have called the Dark Night of the Soul. This is such a terrifying experience that many of us fear to even speak of it to each other, yet here Phileena pours out her own experience as an offering, showing the value of those times and their place in God's process of growing our faith.
Second, Phileena's view of womanhood is eye opening. She speaks of discovering her own feminine spirituality and that of God in a way that is revolutionary when compared to either the "men and women are equal and therefor the same" or the "women were made to serve" viewpoints that so polarize Christianity. Primary to her understanding of how women must allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ is the idea that our sins can differ from those of our male counterparts - specifically that while men often suffer from the sin of pride, women are far more likely to suffer from the sin of self abnegation.
This is a book I will read again and again, returning for wisdom, for comfort, and to be convicted when I have become complacent. I thank God for putting this book on Phileena's heart.
Phileena Heuertz well understands that many who serve do so behind the mask of needing affirmation and self-worth from other people. This self-effacing affirmation may be achieved when first embarking upon the "mission", but soon fades away, causing the person to work harder in their attempts to regain their self-worth. This form of "what can I do for God" will eventually drain us. Instead, we need to learn how to surrender to God and remove our pride that prevents us from accepting what we want from God. This book is an honest and painfully truthful recounting of the steps Phileena needed to take in order to become the person the Creator made her to be, and is an encouragement to the rest of us who need to likewise take a hard look at who we are.
Drawing upon her personal pilgrimage and the writings of the spiritual classics, Phileena helps the reader to accept that it is good to step back from our rush to serve and ensure that we first have the solid foundation that only an intimate relationship with God can provide. Only then can we faithfully serve from the gifts we have been endowed with.