Ronald Rohlheiser is a specialist in the fields of spirituality and systematic theology. His regular column in the Catholic Herald is featured in newspapers in five different countries. He is the author of the prizewinning The Restless Heart as well as Forgotten Among the Lilies. His book The Holy Longing has more than a quarter of a million copies in print. He states that The Holy Longing might be seen as "Discipleship 101 — The Introductory Course" and the bulk of this volume as "Discipleship 201 — The Graduate Course."
Taking a cue from the writings of St. John of the Cross and other Christian mystics, Rohlheiser lays out three levels of discipleship:
• Essential Discipleship where we struggle to get our lives together.
• Mature Discipleship where we struggle to give our lives away.
• Radical Discipleship where we struggle to give our deaths away.
The first stage of Essential Discipleship has four constitutive demands as laid down by Jesus: Private prayer and private integrity, charity and justice, involvement within an ecclesiastical community, and forgiveness and mellowness of heart.
During the "Mature Discipleship" stage, followers of Jesus ponder the many ways in which they can give their lives away more deeply, more generously, and more meaningfully. Rohlheiser warns committed Christians that they will face many demons during the adult years of their lives including loneliness, the resentment of duty, frustration with work, boredom, envy and jealousy, pride and more.
Real life depends on staying the course. Rohlheiser suggests that we take a long hard look at Jesus' ritual of washing the disciples' feet. Even as God is compassionate, the same is expected of those who follow Jesus. Two other approaches are signs of mature discipleship: total commitment and pondering as practiced by Mary, the mother of Jesus.
In addition, we need to draw strength from prayer to sustain our goodwill and energy. Rohlheiser believes that the high point of deep maturity is the capacity and willingness to bless others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested that blessing is "a visible, perceptible, effective proximity of God." The author fills out this definition with three other components of blessing: (1) Blessing as seeing someone, (2) Blessing as speaking well of someone, and (3) Blessing as giving away some of our own life so that someone else can have more life.Just to give the final amplification to this probe on mature discipleship, Rohlheiser provides the crowning glory of "Ten Commandments for Mature Living" — gems we know you will want to savor over and over again.
The last section of the book gives us only a glimpse of "Radical Discipleship." Rohlheiser is concerned here with the ways in which we decide to make our death into a blessing for family, church, and the world. We look forward to another book that will do justice to this topic.