Better late than never, I am now reading “The Holy Longing,” Ronald Rolheiser’s spiritual classic about the search for Christian spirituality.

“This is a book for you if you are struggling spiritually,” he writes in his preface. I suppose that covers nearly everybody.

The book begins with the haunting poem from which Rolheiser takes his title. If you do not know it, here is, “The Holy Longing” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), a German writer, poet, and statesman.

The Holy Longing

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
Because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly, and you are gone.

And so long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.