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Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life Paperback – Jul 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830836152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830836154
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,177,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr Duncan McFadzean on 5 April 2012
Format: Paperback
I watched "The Way" recently, with Martin Sheen walking El Camino de Santiago. He apparently walked a lot of the distance of the pilgrimage, but Phileena Heuertz walked all of it. And the story of her journey, as set out in this book, is very much worth reading. In the foreword Phyllis Tickle talks of it as a "tender book" and she is right. You can, at many points, feel the pain of the pilgrimage itself, but also the pain of being stripped of many aspects of who the author is, that she might discover more of the true person.

The book is well written, and easy to read. But the most helpful aspect to me was in applying it to my own life, as I began to realise in reading it that being self-aware of weaknesses and failings in my own life was not the end of the journey, but merely the beginning of God doing a work in me. And that even in the darker moments, this was a period of preparation for spring and rebirth and transformation. It's an incredibly hopeful book, even if it reminds you that in life, like this story of pilgrimage, you have to spend time in awakening, longing and darkness and death for a period.

If, like the author, you grew up in a conservative evangelical framework, you will find some of this causes you to rethink through your own dogmas. That to me is the mark of what makes an exceptional book. I wrestled with this book at points, but always came of it glad for having done so. I've been led to rethink my own willingness to journey rather than just consume, to consider how I can submit myself to serve the woman I love that she may be more of the woman she was created to be, and challenged to rethink my meditations.

Great book, very glad I read it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Still,halfway through this, can I really review?
I can say it is well written and thoughtful with lots of helpful insights. There are many quotes and reflections on a wide range of other writings on the contemplative, which I enjoyed and will encourage me to read more widely. The the central narrative is about the author's experience of the Spanish pilgrimage, the Via Camino, with reflections about her life and the challenges and changes along the way. The actual physical pilgrimage is well described and interesting. Also the book, while written by an American, is not too "US" in tone, it is an honest and relevant account. I may even finish this one!
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Amazon.com: 20 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Not What I Expected 11 Feb 2013
By D. Redford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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. As a result, I'm not sure what she would say are the most important things she learned as a result of these experiences. She mentions many insights and thoughts, but the reader is often left wondering what experience motivated it. Some other thoughts:

1. A recurring theme is her "fight" against a patristic culture and church, "the breaking or dismantling of patriarchal paradigms that has stifled me from reaching my full potential" (p.32). So, what is her solution to this patriarchy?-To join the Catholic Church, perhaps the most patriarchal institution in Christianity! Of this decision she writes, almost as an afterthought, "My decision to join the Catholic Church can only be understood within the paradox of God-a God who often dumbfounds us by choosing "the other" (p. 119). That's it; that's the entirety of her explanation for this move. I'm sorry, but after more than 100 pages detailing the evils of patriarchy, an explanation this shallow (essentially, "God did it") is not sufficient. It leaves too many questions unanswered and makes one wonder if she really believes what she wrote.
2. Multiple refences to her menstrual cycle and its role in illustrating spiritual truth. While it is apparently significant to her, I have to think that there are better illustrations to be found. She relates that she began her period on the first day of the pilgrimage, an event that caused them to "impede our journey, in order to take care of feminine necessities" (p.81). She was unaware and unprepared for this event? Isn't it called a "cycle" for a reason? Did she not know it might be a possibility?
3. A complete unwillingness to prepare physically for a 500-mile walk. They did not train or prepare in any way for an arduous physical task. Much of what she relates on the pilgrimage is a direct result of the pain they experienced because they did not prepare.
4. There is more of an emphasis on psychology than Scripture. If you're looking for ways to integrate Scripture, meditation, and silence into your everyday life, this book does not detail that journey. It does show you how silence and meditation can be beneficial during a pilgrimage or sabbatical, but there's not much Scripture here.

While I appreciate her willingness to write, the book does not even fulfill its subtitle and was a disappointment in that respect.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
If you dare... 23 Jun 2010
By Kim Kuo - Published on Amazon.com
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Sustaining Christian Spirituality 11 Aug 2010
By David Swanson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.) Pilgrimage of a Soul isn't quite a memoir though Heuertz includes enough personal stories to give the seven movements tangible context. Less a prescription for the young and passionate Christian, the book is a description of the process- sometimes painful- of being reborn to greater union with God.

The world needs more devoted people dedicated to pursuing the mission of God wherever it takes them. Even more, our world needs women and men whose lives are caught up in ongoing transformation in Christ. This alone will sustain the Christian for a life of service. Pilgrimage of a Soul is a gift both to the wide-eyed novice on this journey and the weathered pilgrim in the midst of a dark night.

_______________________
A review copy of this book was sent to me upon request by IVP Books.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The marriage of activism and contemplation 10 Jun 2010
By Chad D. Brooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is about a journey. It doesn't serve as a handbook for contemplative faith, but instead tells the story of a sabbatical that Phileena took several years back and how it affected her forever. During this time, Phileena and her husband took a month long pilgrimage trek to El Camino de Santiago. They also spent an extended stay at Duke University directly afterwards. During this time Phileena went through what St. John of the Cross called the "Dark Night of the Soul". The story of pilgrimage and sabbatical takes us through a deep personal journey.

Pilgrimage of a Soul is a personal book. It is a book about one person interacting with the Creator of the universe. While the praxis side of contemplative spirituality is in the book, if you are expecting a paint by numbers by a famous "justice'er", it's not going to happen. In the end, Phileena shows us that this is a long and arduous process. It is worth it, but it takes a willingness to rethink just about everything and allow Christ into the very inner workings of the heart and mind.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
relatable 1 May 2013
By julia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
it's like phileena took the journey i am in the midst of and put it down on paper. i could relate to so much of what she said and what she has gone through. her book has given me grace and hope. grace for myself and the work God is doing in me at his own speed. and hope that the work will one day come to fruition.
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