Book Review: A Season of Mystery

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A Season of Mystery is one woman’s approach to the pleasures and challenges of the last decades of life. The author, Paula Huston, is a Catholic convert who has been through a divorce, remarriage, raising a blended family and is now engaged in caring for her failing in-laws and mother.

She takes the reader through 10 times of life and discusses the spiritual dimensions of each of them in terms of the emotions and spiritual needs of the last half of our lives. She illustrates these 10 times of life and the life activitives she engaged in during them with her own spiritual practices.

Paula Huston is deeply attached to the contemplative side of Catholicism. Since she’s a writer, there does seem to be an obvious symmetry there. Her spiritual director, confessors, and most power spiritual friends are a group of monks who she evidently visits quite often.

Their quiet, reflective and indirect approach to thinking things through obviously has a great attraction for her. She relates stories about the monks, quotes the desert fathers and otherwise builds on them and their spirituality to make sense of the end years of life.

Her conclusion, that the goal of these last decades is to prepare us for the next life beyond death is a charming one with a lot of appeal and I think quite a bit of truth. However, I do tend to disagree with her a bit. I think all of life is a preparation for the next one, and at the same time, all of life, including the last years, has value in the here and now.

We are not here by accident and this life is not a way-station. It has meaning and purpose of its own. The last years of life are just as important as any other time we have.

But then, I’m not drawn to monasticism.

Ms Huston builds the book around 10 times in her own life from which she did things that she now sees as a sort of spiritual activity. For instance, when her children grew up and left home, she and her husband entered into what used to be called the “second honeymoon” and which she calls the “delighting.” It’s that easy time when you’re still young enough to enjoy life fully and suddenly free enough to do so. She calls it a “second adolescence.”

She goes through the times when maintaining what sounds like quite a lot of land and a house becomes too burdensome and she and her husband divest themselves of the things they acquired during their earlier years. She calls this “lightening.”

There are 10 such times in her life. Most people go through similar times in their lives, but I doubt if the situations fall into these exact patterns for everyone. Still, life has its seasons for all of us, and each season has its rewards and challenges.

The only way for anyone to meet these challenges is with God at their side. This book is written by a woman who infuses the times of her life with a monastic approach to God and who communicates that beautifully to the reader.

Even if monasticism and the desert fathers are not your way of walking with Christ, the book is still a thoughtful and enjoyable read.


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