As a spiritual director, I am always pleased to encounter a book that describes and encourages practices that deepen one’s journey of Spirit. Among seminary students I often found impatience with my stress on the necessity of grounding one’s self in spiritual practice as a starting place for ministry of any kind. One pastor of a church where I was invited to speak told me that although I had been invited to make a presentation, “Spirituality is a hard sell in this church.” The Sacred Year by Michael Yankowski acknowledges both the resistances and burnout that accrue in laboring in ministry, and the freedom that comes with engaging in spiritual practices, some with long traditions in the Church.
The book is a fascinating read just as a narrative and memoir. Yankowski has so much energy and passion about the life of faith that he inhabits that it is very easy to get caught up in its sweep and breadth, and wanting to know how it turns out! It is written with poetic metaphor and imagination, with a quality of prose that it rare to find in a book about spiritual practices.
More substantively, however, it offers one story of someone who almost against his own instincts, certainly with mountains of reservations and questions, enters into a year of spiritual practice under the careful mentoring of a spiritual director to find that a path has opened up to him that would enliven him, would deepen him and energize him for the ministries to which he is called. He is candid about the deficits in his early training in Christian faith, and about his skepticism that these new practices were really only means to try to make God love him more. He is equally candid about the shifts in awareness and love for God, for himself and the communities he serves as he learned to engage these practices. The year was a transformational one for him, for his lifetime.
Some of his practices would be a far reach for me, such as going to live in a cave for a week to practice solitude. However, he is guided to 19 practices that stretch from inner awareness and attention to pursuing justice in the world, in the context of life as he is living it, no matter where that is. He finds healing in those practices. The way of the Spirit becomes embodied in him on his way forward. Readers will also find energy and vision for their own journeys. I will love recommending it!
Read an excerpt from The Sacred Year at the Patheos Book Club here.