Amid Passing Things
Friday Book Pick: Amid Passing Things by Fr. Jeremiah Shryock, CFR
No one will deny that our days and weeks and months are cluttered with myriad “passing things,” transitory things, things that will evaporate from memory ere the year is up. It is around these things that so much of our thought and worry are bound up. These passing preoccupations tend to consume our energy and have a way of wheedling into our inner lives, even dominating our prayers at times. Yet, often enough, we find that the eternal things, while immeasurably more important, receive exponentially less of our attention.
I dare say it would be impossible at present to find anyone whose mind has not pondered, and whose heart has not questioned life and death, sickness and health, heaven and hell, in the midst of these layered crises in which we find ourselves. We have been propelled by our circumstances to look beyond the threshold of our own unpredictable life span to what lies beyond. We are all, I think, looking at last at things eternal…aren’t we? This is a practice long recommended by wise and saintly people. (That is the meaning of the skull often depicted in images of St. Francis. “Remember your death,” the skull says, “remember what is coming next.”) Some people live this way at all times, not only during times of stress, anxiety and uncertainty; these are the contemplatives among us.
Published only last year, this is a new book on old topics. Amid Passing Things is a generous self-disclosure of a contemplative soul. Fr. Jeremiah reveals to his readers the possibility of living with feet planted in the firm soil of the real world, with all its temporariness, while having eyes, ears and heart open and receptive to the eternal. Or to say it another way, he shows us what a life receptive to God might look like. This is accomplished not by heady theological discourse, but rather with charming word portraits—in vignette after vignette of autobiographical disclosures of his musings and reflections. In the spiritual life, we are in an ongoing quest to learn to listen to God. Fr. Jeremiah, using varied examples of eternal light shining through people and places, joys and disappointments, searching and suffering, rather than telling us, shows us how to do this. The eternal and the temporal are bound together, and the fingerprints of God can be discerned in all created things if we learn to see, if we are poised to receive. Reading Amid Passing Things will cause you to want to pay better attention to the circumstances of your own life and to ponder more deeply what eternal meaning or message they might bear. Fr. Jeremiah stands before us as a teacher of the examined life. Not with an air of superiority—a master over subjects—but quite the contrary, as a fellow pilgrim Fr. Jeremiah, with touching humility and surprising vulnerability, teaches us with stories—as did the greatest of all teachers.
Mother Clare, CFR