Several books are on my bedside table right now, as I reflect on the spirituality and political history of Northern Ireland (and Ireland in general) in advance of the Contemplative Spirituality and Radical Activism immersion experience coming up in August.
First, to deepen my sense of Irish history (particularly in relation to the politics of Northern Ireland over the last 50 years), I’m reading Ireland: A History by Robert Kee. It’s a sobering look at just how troubled Eire has been, with its sad legacy of colonialism and religious persecution.
To deepen my sense of the central spiritual question of the retreat — how to integrate contemplation and activism, particularly nonviolence — I’m looking at three books. Resistance and Contemplation: The Way of Liberation by James Douglass is a Vietnam War-era classic that considers this all important relationship between silence and peacemaking: what Douglass calls “The Yin and Yang of the Non-Violent Life.” Meanwhile, William H. Shannon’s Seeds of Peace: Contemplation and Non-Violence considers this issue particularly in regard to the thought of Thomas Merton. And Una Kroll’s Vocation to Resistance: Contemplation and Change provides an Anglican and woman’s perspective to the connection not only between contemplation and peacemaking, but also environmentalism, reconciliation, and resisting the idolatry of our consumer culture.
Finally, just to keep things light, I’m checking in with an old friend: John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, which seems as relevant, and poetically luminous, as ever.
So there you go. If you aren’t coming to Northern Ireland with us, at least you can explore the same spiritual geography with these books.