Book Report: Crisis Contemplation, Healing the Wounded Village by Barbara A. Holmes (2021)

We can identify three common elements in every crisis: The event is usually unexpected, the person or community is unprepared, and there is nothing anyone could do to stop it from happening…Bereft of words, all of us hold the same question: How could this be happening? Crisis Contemplation, p. 21

We don’t need to think very hard or very deep to identify crises in the last couple years. You may have experienced a personal crisis, alongside the communal ones our society has been enduring.

I don’t imagine many of us respond by moving into contemplation when a crisis strikes. Our more immediate response is action. This book does not negate that response, but at the same time Holmes encourages us to “allow for the possibility of contemplative refuge, respite, and renewal. To slow down and be still is to allow both the source of our troubles and options for recovery to emerge.” (42)

This is hard work and as Holmes points out this work does not mean retreating to our meditation pillows. She points out that “Contemplative porch practices are no longer required of me; they are part of me.” (42). Yes! I often urge my spiritual direction clients and my readers to develop spiritual practices now, before the unexpected, which will come, for sure. Ground yourself in your contemplative practice and they will be with you.

As I read this book, I felt as if I was sitting in the back of a room where Holmes was exploring and reflecting with BIPOC peoples. I had the privilege and pain of listening, opening my heart (I hope) to the trauma, the wounds across the generations and so present now. I attempted to read this book as a contemplative practice.

Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, author and scholar of African-American spirituality and mysticism, is on the faculty of Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) under the leadership of Fr. Richard Rohr, and it was in one of CAC’s daily meditations where I was introduced to her wisdom. I know I will eventually read one of her earlier books, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church (2017). And I am drawn back to books by Richard Rohr.

The Universal Christ, How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (2019) has become a touchstone book for me.

As I was writing this post, I remembered another book on my shelf, one I have recommended when personal crisis hits, The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart, An Emotional and Spiritual Handbook by Daphne Rose Kingma (2010). This book focuses more on individual issues, but still, there is much to contemplate here. The ten things, by the way are:

  • Cry your heart out
  • Face your defaults
  • Do something different
  • Let go
  • Remember who you’ve always been
  • Persist
  • integrate your loss
  • Live simply
  • Go where the love is
  • Live in the light of the Spirit.

As always, one book leads to another and another.

An Invitation: When you have been in the midst of a crisis, has there been a book that has been helpful or meaningful? I would love to know.

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