The Sacred Year became a 2014 favorite right away.
Michael Yankoski's writing epitomizes "productive contemplation" without ever devolving into navel-gazing.
This book is full of stories and he takes the time to tell them well, tasting, touching, savoring... meditating on each experience.
His observations in the opening chapter are spot on. We are all busy with working and caring and dealing with problems and chasing dreams. It's a crazy world, and we have noisy minds and often broken hearts.
It can all become one big carnival ride (inside our souls and out) and we can lose touch with reality as we live our lives.
We need something to bring us back, to center us, to reassure us and to hold us.
When Michael took his concerns to a spiritual retreat, an older monk understood the unasked questions. And this Brother guided him toward his first Sacred Year. Those intimidating and misunderstood things called "spiritual practices" would soon become the rhythm of his days.
The unfolding year was spent "trimming the sail" of his soul, hoping to better catch the Wind of the Spirit.
And Michael brings us into that year, through 18 chapters, each one devoted to a different practice.
As Brother Solomon carefully explained, these practices aren't methods of earning grace or getting God's favor.
In fact, they aren't strictly methods at all, in the sense of "systematic procedures."
There is a chapter about Daily Bread, the process of growth, harvest, and preparation that links us humans to our sustenance. It's funny, most of us eat three meals a day and it's so easy to forget that our food comes from the earth, and that nourishing is more than caloric intake. It made me want to go cook something.
There is Guilty as Charged, on confession. He delves into the heart of what confession is, the pain and darkness that we can feel, and then points to the merciful Hand that reaches down to us. He reminds us that confession should bring healing instead of shame, and be life-giving instead of threatening.
Into The Wild, this chapter is on seeking out nature. There's a reason why Anne Frank, St. Francis, and Dostoyevsky all found God in His creation. As Edna St. Vincent Millay cried in her poetry "O God, I push the grass apart and lay my finger on Thy heart!"
Taste and Become, a chapter on reading Scripture to soak it in and thus be transformed, rather than striving to dissect the text. He was dead on with his description of my own "skim and scavenge" reading habits. It may be efficient for completing a book, but is that the worthiest goal, to get things done fast?
Ah, all this review can be is a basic outline. If you read the book you'll get much more meat.
In full disclosure, I originally thought the subtitle "contemplating apples, living in a cave, and befriending a dying woman revived my life" made this sound like one of those trendy 12-Steps-to-a-Spiritual-High books.
Nope. The Sacred Year is the farthest thing from that.
This is his personal journey of communion and community, and something in here will assuredly speak to you. You'd better have a pen and a highlighter handy as you read, and then expect to give some copies out as Christmas gifts.
Final thought: The Sacred Year is delightful, ecumenical, and honest.
Thank you Litfuse for my review copy.