On My Bookshelf: Under The Starry Night


This volume pictured here has been on my bookshelf for over two decades. As I’ve been indulging some old reads and discovering new things, I thought I’d share some recommendations, starting with this book.

I’ve had a membership in the Spiritual Book twice in my life. Not sure if it still exists; it used to be a book club. A now-deceased priest I worked with recommended it. The member gets (or got) five mailings a year–usually short books, never more than 200 pages. Twice I fell behind in my reading and twice cancelled my membership to catch up.

I’ve found my second time through Fr Billy’s book to be a richer experience than my first pilgrimage through its pages. Honestly, it didn’t much stick with me the first time. Not so in 2020. I’ve been reading each chapter over a period of three or four days.

He begins with a reflection on the artist Vincent van Gogh, and the end of his life in a mental health facility. He takes the reader on a pilgrimage in twelve chapters. If a Christian were on stay-at-home, this rich journey might be quite substantial fare. It is a more difficult journey at times–the inner life is often one of unexpected and difficult obstacles.

The author shares some personal experiences. These are mainly to inspire the reader’s memory of formative times in her or his own life. Each chapter concludes with a handful of questions. Some of these I’ve found useful for journaling. Some of them are basic and simple. A few have given me pause and stayed with me for a day or two.

The pilgrimage is a time-honored tradition, and not just for Christians. Making a journey removes us from the familiar. The familiar is safe. And safety is not always conducive to personal growth.

I would recommend this book, if it is still in print. If you were intent, you could make a fairly intense retreat of this volume, taking it at about a chapter a day. Any quicker, and I’d wonder if you were zipping over the difficult parts.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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