The Light of the Heart's Desire: The Dark Light of Love

11:11 AM

Written prior to his death on November 11, 2013, Dark Light of Love was the 23rd book by Fr. John S. Dunne, C.S.C. Personally, Fr. Dunne was a teacher, a mentor, a spiritual guide, and a friend. (See also my post: Journey of the Heart's Desire: The Heart Comes Home.) When I returned from Chile, amid great personal distress, to begin a time of healing and a search for my next steps, this book was one of a handful that accompanied me. Reading the work brought Fr. Dunne's voice back to me, and I appreciated him accompanying me, through this work, amid a difficult period.

John, to be less formal, wrote his books a paragraph a day. Each morning, he would write one paragraph and the first sentence of the next paragraph. His prayer and heartfelt reflection would lead him the next morning to write the subsequent paragraph and first sentence. I lived with him two summers as he wrote. Like clockwork, he would take a sabbatical to write every fourth year, even if he did not need it to finish the book. It was his way to refresh and renew himself. This work revisits themes that I have heard from him many times, themes "ever ancient, ever new," to borrow from St. Augustine, that, at the same time, break new ground.

Written slowly, deliberately, this book is best read gradually, digesting the paragraphs, images, and concepts contemplatively. Every page, amid, citations from Kant, Rilke, Aquinas, Pascal, Tolkein, and Kierkegaard, the reader finds a phrase worth lingering:
Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness. (p. 5)
The test of loneliness reveals the human heart. (p. 34)
In the kindling of the heart our loneliness becomes love, and in the illumining of the mind we come to consciousness of the eternal in us. (p. 56)
It is living as if everything that belongs to our life shall enter into it and everything that enters into our life belongs to it. (p. 73)
Fr. John S. Dunne, C.S.C.
To go from facing oneself to being with oneself is to make friends with oneself and become gentle in disappointment. Hegel's phenomenology culminates in self facing itself, and this he considers absolute knowledge. Yet if we make friends with ourselves we come to realize we are a mystery to ourselves, unable to leap over our own shadow. (p. 23)
This last image of leaping over one's own shadow, in class, Fr. Dunne would illustrate, with vigorous movement, the futility of the effort. In the work, well-established themes re-emerge, like the heart's desire, as opposed to René Girard's mimetic desire, which Dunne answers with Dante: la sua voluntate e nostra pace (His will is our peace) (pp. 30-31). While all of his works build on one another, Fr. Dunne continues the journey in The Dark Light of Love as his heart (and thereby our's) is led, amid the dark light, toward God.

Pick up this book. Read it slowly. Personally, this work was a comfort in a difficult time. If you knew Fr. Dunne, it is a journey with an old friend. If you did not have the privilege, you will meet a beloved fellow traveler and guide and be enriched by the journey.

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