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Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life Paperback – June 25, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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)

About the Author

Phileena Heuertz, founding partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism, has spent her life in social justice work among the world’s poor. A member of the New Friar movement, for nearly 20 years she and her husband Chris served with Word Made Flesh in more than 70 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 of Pilgrimage of the Soul, 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." Phileena and Chris founded the Gravity Center in 2012 to support the development of Christian consciousness by making contemplative practice accessible to individuals, communities and organizations who engage the challenging social justice perils of our time.

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (June 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830836152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830836154
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I ordered this book after hearing three talks by Peter Scazzero on contemplative spirituality from an evangelical perspective. As an evangelical, I was intrigued by what he said and wanted to learn more about how to integrate contemplative practices into a faith journey that recognized the need for such things, but did not know how to do it. Because this book was first on the Amazon list after I entereted "contemplative spirituality," and because of its subtitle ("Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life"), I decided to give it a shot.

Let me first say that Phyllis Tickle is correct when she writes in the Forward, "But go easy, and follow softly, for there is mcuh pain here as well as much glory." I'm not sure about the "glory" part, as I didn't experience much of that, but there is a lot of pain. Much of her pain appears to be centered on a patristic culture, particularly as it is expressed in the church. More on that in a moment.

Heuertz takes the reader through "Seven Movements" that she says illuminate spiritual growth: Awakening, Longing, Darkness, Death, Transformation, Intimacy, and Union. These "movements" are discussed through her experience (along with her husband Chris) as they walk the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and experience a sabbatical at Duke University. Also providing a backdrop to these movements are their experiences through serving with Word Made Flesh, an organization that serves the most outcast of society's outcast (many kudos to them for their service!). While I would have preferred a linear process to the book, for example a "start-to-finish" journal of the pilgrimmage and sabbatical, these experiences come and go based on the particular movement being discussed.
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Format: Paperback
If you dare to follow in Phileena Heuertz's footsteps you will be following in the footsteps of countless Christian pilgrims over the many centuries that date back to Christ.

The question she poses - implicitly, gently - in this forthright, disarming, humble and thoroughly rich book is whether we are up to the task of pilgrimage, whether we are up to tasks of following Christ wherever he might lead. Because to follow Christ, as Phileena learned during her two pilgrimmages - one in the quiet of a cottage and the other on the Camino de Santiago - is to follow one who will most likely do violence to the preconceived notions of your life... especially religious ones.

Phileena's struggles, so bluntly stated in this memoir/confession/exhortation/spiritual guide, are many. They are born of societal, cultural, and religious influences. They are born of the human condition. But what Phileena, along with her husband Chris, does is to be discontent in her discontentedness. She refuses to sweep questions and pain and uncertainty and faith under the rug or into the subconscious or off until tomorrow. She sets off on pilgrimage. And as she writes, a pilgrimage is not a round trip. So we get the privilege of joining her on her journey and as she wrestles with her questions she ever so gently encourages us to wrestle with ours.

This is not a book to be read quickly. It is best absorbed bit by bit. Step by step even. As if on pilgrimage because, in fact, that is what we are on when we sign up to follow Jesus.

The great news, the joyful news is that our journey with him is rich and rewarding and if we have just that itty bitty smidge of faith wonders can happen. Or at least it seems to this reader that is one of the things that Phileena learned.
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One of the encouraging things to me about our church is how many folks are structuring their lives in direct response to their faith in Jesus. There is a genuine desire to journey along the narrow way of discipleship despite hardships and sacrifices. Careers, housing, education and neighborhood involvement are all issues I observe people wrestling with in light of their allegiance to Jesus.

Given the age of many in our church an outside observer could mistake this zeal for youthful idealism though I think something deeper is at play. Even so, I sometimes wonder how a young person's wide-eyed devotion to Christ can be sustained over the long haul. In other words, what are the practices and rhythms that can breath life into the Christian as adrenaline and naivete fade?

This is the type of question, born from years of experience, that weave throughout Phileena Heuertz's first book. Huertz has spent the past fifteen years with Word Made Flesh, "an international community serving Christ among the most vulnerable of the world's poor." After many years of service she and her husband took a five month sabbatical; the first month was spent on a pilgrimage along El Camino de Santiago and the remaining time was spent at a retreat cottage in North Carolina.

Heuertz organizes her book along seven movements of the contemplative spirituality that have come to sustain her work among the poor. These movements are described within the narrative of the author's pilgrimage and sabbatical as she experiences the dark night of the soul known by so many Christians in the past. (I'm sure the dark night is still experienced by many Christians, we simply don't understand or acknowledge this painful aspect of discipleship to Jesus.
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