America Magazine

February 23, 2021

I would admire these women and like their stories if they lived in Timbuktu. But as it happens, they both live in my home state of Louisiana (and I have not met either one!). Lyn Holley Doucet . . . is a spiritual director and a composer. Robin Hebert, former national president of the Theresians of the United States, has been a pastoral counselor, spiritual director, retreat leader and speaker. The book is an informal collection of personal stories, each one signed by L.H.D. or R.H. These pieces feel like journal entries or personal letters from a friend. Yet much instruction is embedded in them, introducing the reader to major figures in spirituality, including Thomas à Kempis and Thérèse of Lisieux, explaining various approaches to spiritual formation and transformation. The writers describe journal-keeping, spiritual direction, the prayer of examen, lectio divina and many other useful practices. But there is another level in this book more important than instruction. Every page offers some kind of joyful expectation, a sense of God’s real presence. ‘I sat on a swing in a big pasture in Grand Coteau, Louisiana,’ writes Doucet, ‘on a clear and sunny day during a retreat . . .’ She is pondering the Transfiguration of Christ. Musing on this, she is carried back in memory to a village where she and her husband lived long ago, raising their young son. She remembers a vivid experience of light: ‘not the light of the sun or anything familiar. It was my inner light, or God’s light, projected, a gauzy radiance that wrapped around everything, transforming individual things into a sacred whole.’ After retrieving in memory this vision of light and wholeness, Doucet returns to her retreat office, where she hears stories of loss and brokenness from women at the retreat. But her sense of God’s light and peacefulness transforms everything. Robin Hebert has a similar gift for seeing God’s presence. ‘The climax of my weekend came with an image I received as I completed my reading about Thérèse . . . Thérèse saw herself as a little child at the foot of a long staircase, looking up to her Father standing at the top of the steps. As she placed her foot on that first step, in his almighty love, God swooped down to draw her up to him.’ Hebert identifies with the child Thérèse at the foot of the staircase. And she learns how to let go. ‘I cannot relinquish anything on my own. All I can do is desire to surrender, and God does the rest.’ Not every selection is quite so intense; but every one provides glimpses of transforming grace. In a time when some are dubious about the future of Catholic life, I find these books reassuring on many levels. They draw on our ancient Catholic heritage. They show us how contemporary life and study may shape our faith. I am encouraged that such good new writers are coming onto the current scene, to tell us what God has in store.

We would love for you to receive our newsletter and update emails. Please subscribe here.