Let the Spirit Move You

I was listening to "Speaking of Faith" on public radio one Sunday morning not long ago when I heard an interview with John O'Donohue, an Irish philosopher and poet who passed away in January 2008. I only paid attention because the topic that morning was "the inner landscape of beauty." Since we write so often about external beauty in this magazine, I was intrigued. As it turns out, O'Donohue believed that beauty is a human calling and a defining aspect of God. Best known for popularizing Celtic spirituality, O'Donohue also had a lifelong fascination with what he called the "invisible world." What Celtic spirituality offers is a bridge between the visible and the invisible so the two are no longer separate. It is a subject he explored in his best-known book, Anam Cara—Gaelic for "soul friend."

Marianne Dougherty
Marianne Dougherty

For most of us, Christmas and Hanukkah are a time for reflection. To that end, I recommend To Bless the Space Between Us, a book of blessings that was published after O'Donohue's death. "There is a quiet light that shines in every heart," he wrote in the introduction. "It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to see possibility, and our hearts to love life." In our fast-paced world, with its emphasis on gloss and glitz, O'Donohue's blessings offer a sense of warmth and protection. His desire was to offer timeless truths that can ease us through periods of change and transition—a new job, a new baby, a failed relationship, even death. "May there be some beautiful surprise waiting for you inside death," he wrote. "Something you never knew or felt, which with one simple touch absolves you of all loneliness and loss as you quicken within the embrace for which your soul was eternally made." O'Donohue was just 52 when he died. His death was sudden and unexpected, yet you get the feeling that he was comfortable with what he called the "invisible companion who walks the road of life with us from birth." Death, O'Donohue believed, is the "great wound in the universe, the root of all fear and negativity." But he also believed that friendship with our death enables us to "celebrate the eternity of the soul, which death cannot touch." Words worth pondering this holiday season, don't you think? —Marianne Dougherty, editor in chief, [email protected]

John O'Donohue's Anam Cara and To Bless the Space Between Us offer a rare combination of philosophy and spirituality.
John O'Donohue's Anam Cara and To Bless the Space Between Us offer a rare combination of philosophy and spirituality.

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