It’s hard to really describe the value of a good book. A good book isn’t just one that is engaging and well-written. A good book isn’t merely something you enjoy reading. A really good good book reads you. For me, Andrew Krivak’s A Long Retreat was a really good book. (And, what’s crazy is that I picked it up a book store for a few dollars!)
Krivak tells his journey in search of a religious life (probably obvious considering the subtitle). Krivak is an excellent writer, and captures you while you experience this near-decade-long journey. What he discovers for himself is freeing and joyful. And, though the specifics of my journey are rather different from his, I too made some equally freeing and joyful discoveries walking with him.
Krivak gives insight into the ministerial formation aspiring Jesuits must go through. I was moved by the depth of their preparation, academically, vocationally, and spiritually. While I read through the pages, I reflected on my own formational journey. I believe through Krivak’s written experiences, the Holy Spirit brought to my own mind areas in which I have poorly neglected in favor for temporary fads and experiences.
Jesuit formation seemingly remains substantially unchanged century after century. The process towards ordination is long and arduous. Time is taken to discern one’s fit for ordained ministry. Once sufficient time is taken in discernment, a little more time is assigned for further discernment. I was struck by this.
Our temporal existence is so rushed. We move from experience to experience, rushing to an end goal we assume is waiting for us. Yet, this book caused me to stop and consider again whether the destination and the emphasis on getting there is rather out of place in our personal/professional formation. What matters is the journey, the process of change, education, formation, and reformation. Sadly, along my journey I’ve dispensed with things I felt unnecessary to my “ideal” destination. Reading Krivak’s novel caused me to feel some sorry that I willingly neglected valuable formative elements in favor for expediency.
While reading about Krivak’s education and spiritual formation, how those two elements seemed so well intertwined, I resolved to make some changes. I resolved to repent of my decisions to decide what I think is best for my formation and place myself again under the wisdom of those in authority over ministerial, professional, and, most importantly, spiritual formation.
Was it the Lord’s doing that Krivak’s book was at this particular bookstore, and that I just happened to see it without knowing anything of the book or the author? Was it something the Spirit inspired me to pick up? Was it a purposed reading that opened up issues within my own soul that this book strangely had a direct route into? I don’t know. I do know, however, this book was good, really good!
*Google image of book.