Real Spiritual Practices for People Who Age: A Book Review

Book Review for A Season of Mystery by Paula Huston, now featured at the Patheos Book Club

A fresh voice is added to the chorus of writers who are helping those of us in what we are calling the “second half of life” find our spiritual moorings. Paula Huston in A Season of Mystery uses her own stories of walking with others through their years of aging, with a keen self-awareness that she is on the cusp on that process herself. Informed by her experience in coming to Christian faith as an adult and formed in the main by the community of the Camaldolese at the Hermitage in Big Sur, she delineates ten spiritual practices, which are of particular value to those of us who are facing the challenges of getting older.

Some of these practices seem contradictory, such as Lightening (what some call uncluttering!) and Settling, or Confronting and Accepting. Yet all ten of them have deep resonance with the process of discovering Grace when bodies, minds and capacities seem to diminish. By shaping her book around these disciplines, she underscores the reality that although aging is a universal journey, each person of faith brings her or his own particularity to it, needs to ask for wisdom of and trust in the Holy, and must navigate the path alone amidst the community. Underlying these stories is the reality that no matter how much plans and anticipates, there are always things that are surprises, and our control over our aging and dying is very limited. Yet there underlies that reality is the love of God in Christ, which does not let us go.

In her chapter on Departing, she faces that mystery of death without timidity or apology, and states toward the beginning of that last chapter: “… we begin our long good-bye to what we have loved most. And this is never easy” (117). It ends with a clear affirmation “That death does not end a thing.”(125). In my tradition we affirm that In life and in death we belong to God.” (PC (USA) Book of Confessions, “A Brief Statement”)

For this reader Huston’s life story of marriage, blended family, career and family juggling, made the practices and process of the second half of life, which could seem mysterious and removed, concrete and hopeful, as if real people in the second half life might be really be able to do them. I would have liked her discussions questions at the end to be a little more specific and concrete, but as they are they could prompt good discussion with a willing group.

I am grateful for finding this book, and will recommend to others in my age group without hesitation!

About Elizabeth Nordquist

Elizabeth Nordquist is a Presbyterian pastor, teacher, and spiritual director who writes on women's issues, spirituality and Scripture, and what is happening in the world--hers, her neighborhood, the Church and the world. Each day she looks for ways in which the Spirit is moving in and around her.

  • Donald L. Smith

    Yes, it may be about time for me to check this out. “Uncluttering” and “lightening” are becoming more urgent. Thanks for calling this resource to my attention.


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