Patrick Henry’s book, The Ironic Christian’s Companion: Finding the Marks of God’s Grace in the World is now available as an ebook. Patrick served as Executive Director of the Collegeville Institute from 1984-2004. Here’s Patrick writing on the occasion of the new edition of his book.
It matters what to say. It matters more when to say it. And it matters most of all to shut up, at least now and then.
It has taken me a long time to learn all this, especially the shutting up part. A white, well-educated, middle class, Protestant, American male, coming of age in the can-do Texas of the Eisenhower 1950s, I was programmed to take charge, set agendas, explain the world, and know what was best for everybody. I was overloaded with entitlements. I wasn’t unhappy but, pathologically self-sufficient, I was pretty rocky ground for God’s grace to fall on.
How do we learn from the past, from our own life and from the experience of others? The precondition for any learning is listening without interrupting. I’ve been carefully trained to be an interrupter, so I’ve had to unlearn in order to learn. In therapy, the fruitless times were when I went in to “report” what “happened” during the week. The electric sessions were the ones when I felt stuck and couldn’t “explain” anything. When I shut up, something could happen.
One of the things that did happen was my book, The Ironic Christian’s Companion: Finding the Marks of God’s Grace in the World. In it I try to convey the excitement, the tension, the mystery, the clarity, the growth, and above all the delight that I have found woven through my days lived with the God who can be trusted but not taken for granted. I’ve learned from the Benedictines to “listen with the ears of the heart.”
A letter I got from a student included this sentence: “Thank you for being a freedom fighter for me.” I’d like my book to broaden horizons and expand territory for the reader to move around in, and loosen up stiff spiritual joints so movement can be free and spontaneous.