The Holy Longing

By Ronald Rolheiser
DoubleDay/1999/257 pages

Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing is a modern classic.  It has been read and endorsed by clergy and lay people across the Christian world.  Essential reading for those seeking to understand and deepen their practice of Christian spirituality, this book explains the complexion of one’s personal spirituality and how to apply it to our worship, and our day-to-day lives.  This book is for folks with questions about what Christians believe and what it means to actually live life by faith, following the example of Jesus and the Saints.  It unpacks the key ingredients of an attractive, authentic spiritual life.

Rolheiser probes this question: “What is spirituality?”  He writes about the confusion that can surround this subject amid the wide assortment of spiritual beliefs and practices of our day.  With great sensitivity to debates and challenges swirling around the faith-life, he explains the “Nonnegotiable Essentials,” including the importance of community worship, the richness of ritual, the imperatives surrounding social justice, peacemaking, sexuality, the centrality of the Trinity, and more.  The book presents an outline of Christian spirituality that reflects the continuing search for meaning at the heart of the human experience.  Rolheiser writes about the search for love and wholeness in language accessible to all.

Ronald Rolheiser is a Canadian.  He hails from Cactus Lake, Saskatchewan.  He is a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.  He serves as President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, is author of the several books The Restless Heart, Forgotten Among the Lilies, The Shattered Lantern, Against An Infinite Horizon, and Sacred Fire: A vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity. He is a community-builder, lecturer and writer, and his weekly column appears in more than 90 Catholic publications.   Rolheiser received an honorary doctorate from Fredericton’s St. Thomas University in 2005.  A substantial selection of his articles and reflections are available online at

Selected quotes from Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing:

“Becoming like Jesus is as much as about having a relaxed and joyful heart as it is about believing and doing the right thing, as much about proper energy as about proper truth.”

“In this life, all symphonies remain unfinished. Our deep longings are never really satisfied. What this means, among other things, is that we are not restful creatures who sometimes get restless, fulfilled people who sometimes are dissatisfied, serene people who sometimes experience disquiet. Rather, we are restless people who occasionally find rest, dissatisfied people who occasionally find fulfillment, and disquieted people who occasionally find serenity.”

“Spirituality…is about being integrated or falling apart, about being within community or being lonely, about being in harmony with Mother Earth or being alienated from her. Irrespective of whether or not we let ourselves be consciously shaped by any explicit religious idea, we act in ways that leave us either healthy or unhealthy, loving or bitter. What shapes our actions is our spirituality.

“Write a book,” he told me, “that I can give to my adult children to explain why I still believe in God and why I still go to church—and that I can read on days when I am no longer sure why I believe or go to church.”

Gregg Finley


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