Book Review: The Soul’s Slow Ripening

The Soul’s Slow Ripening by Christine Valters Painter

Christine Valters Paintner has published another gem! This volume brings her artistic influences and grounded spirituality to our harried, modern times. Her personal touch is refreshing and needed in a religious world steeped in intellectualism and politics.

The book focuses on 12 Celtic practices. Painter provides stories, guided reflections, prayer journeys, and a slow steeping in the traditions well known in the Celtic monastic communities. She weaves in history and her own wisdom as readers are invited to embody the spiritual truths she teaches, not just read about them. Her image of “ripening” invokes the organic, gentle process of preparation and change. She invites the reader to discover “the grace of slowness.”

The author writes: Discernment is essentially a way of listening to our lives and the world around us and responding to the invitations that call us into deeper alignment with our soul’s deep desires and the dieters God has for us. She goes on to note that in times of radical change, those who seek spiritual direction have been thrust onto a threshold, often not of their own choosing… but sometimes it is born of a sense of needing a change.

These thresholds are the focus of the book. They are based on a spiritual practice from Celtic spirituality for the journey of discernment. She incorporates the stories of Irish saints who exemplify these practices, many of whom were new to me. She invites the reader to engage through the creative arts, especially using photography and creative writing.

Christine suggests skimming through the various chapters (disciplines) and allow a particular one to draw your interest. She suggests not looking at this as a cookbook approach to spirituality, but more of an experiential, creative, and reflective time of listening and responding to the Spirit.

A catbird on our back yard pond.

I found myself drawn to The Practice of Landscape as Theophany (chapter 11). I allowed myself to steep in it for a while. The living, breathing world we live in is often something I find myself walking through instead of walking in. Of late, I have been drinking in the dappled shade of the maple tree, or watching the dew evaporate from the grass. I watch the leaves whisper in the breeze, and count fireflies as dusk comes on a summer evening. In this slow mark of time, I find space to wait perhaps a little more patiently for what the Spirit might do next.

What will I see next… if I just look up?

The kindest words of all, found in the last chapter, were a blessing and an encouragement: If you have come to the end of this book expecting a huge revelation about your life purpose, but you are still wondering what that might be, take heart. Remember this is a journey, and sometimes our deepest purpose is discovered in living our ordinary lives with great reverence and attention. Your call may not be to change anything in your life other than your perspective. (p. 156)

The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred. Christine Valters Paintner. (c) 2018. Sorin Books, Norte Dame, IN. Paperback. 169 pages.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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