Book review: John O’Donohue

Walking on the Pastures of Wonder: John O’Donohue In Conversation with John Quinn

John O’Donohue

John O’Donohue

THERE WAS a day in January 2008 when suddenly the valleys, streams, rivers, and lakes of Connemara and the Burren lost their colour and blackened, when the silent music of the stones, hills, and mountains abated for just a moment, for at that moment, in far off Italy one of the few men who fully understood their physical and spiritual presence experienced, to quote his own words,

“...a very beautiful meeting between you and yourself and then you go into the invisible kingdom where there is no more darkness, suffering, separation, or sadness, and where you are one with all those that you love in the seen world and in the unseen world. Death in that sense is a time of great homecoming, and there is no need to be afraid.”

While this quote may epitomise John O’Donohue’s legacy, so could hundreds of others to be found in Walking on the Pastures of Wonder: John O’Donohue In Conversation with John Quinn, to be published later this month by Veritas Publications. It features conversations Quinn had with O’Donohue over a five year period and which were later broadcast in various programmes.

In his introduction Quinn tells us: “When John O’Donohue died suddenly in January 2008, he left a deep void in the hearts and minds of many people. For more than a decade prior to his death, his writings, talks and broadcasts had done much to feed the ‘unprecedented spiritual hunger’ that he had observed in modern society. His books on Celtic spirituality were bestsellers; his broadcasts and talks tapped into the needs of the sizeable audiences that tuned into them”.

In a beautifully paced foreword, Pat O’Donohue, John’s brother, tells us that his sibling’s “life cannot be encompassed within the one act of birth, life and death. He was not a finite act that existed and is now lost for evermore. He is a story that is written, spoken and lives amongst us. Just as we are and continue to be.”

The overwhelming success of this book is that it is what it says it is - a series of conversations. These conversations are alive and include the full engagement of the reader. Indeed those of us who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing John in his lifetime will find ourselves renewing, enjoying, and being further enriched by these conversations as we were by the ones held yesteryear, as though nothing has changed.

This is due to the subtle, sensitive, and inspirational translation of the spoken word to the printed page word by Quinn and to the fact O’Donohue, through these conversations, is rediscovering the nature of, not just the inner spirituality of human beings, but the spirituality that is ever present in the physical world.

Another surprising, and delightful, element of this book is that despite the fact it is made up of several different conversations that took place across five years, there is a continuous narrative throughout which culminates in what O’Donohue calls the final balance between the outer physical human being - you - and the inner spiritual being - yourself. It is in the consummation of these two different, though similar, presences, the final balance which is achieved at the point of death that the human being fulfils its destiny and enters into the eternal presence of a happy, joyful, and laughing God. It is an eternity open to all, no matter how the individual person sees his/her way to being there, and is echoing an old saying often used by my own father when speaking of someone whose life was seen at the time to be rather unconventional: “Sure, he is finding his own way to God.”

Walking on the Pastures of Wonder is a fresh well from which the thirsty pilgrim can drink at leisure and be refreshed.

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