They that Wait on the Lord: An Uncharted Journey. Neal Carlin.

Father Neal Carlin was ordained in 1964. He recently celebrated 50 years in the priesthood. Neal spent his early priesthood years in Scotland before returning home to minister in Derry at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Fr Carlin believed that the Holy Spirit was guiding him into the ministry of peace and reconciliation. He went on to found Columba House, a centre for prayer, healing and reconciliation. This progressed to the creation of the Columba Community in 1980. This community is regarded as a model for the renewal of the Irish Church. Since the formation of the Columba Community, Neal has also developed St Anthony’s Retreat Centre, White Oaks Rehabiliation Centre, the Iosas Centre and the Celtic Prayer Garden.
 In this book, Fr Carlin reflects on an eventful journey travelled in faith, that took him to America and Mexico to experience emerging new communities and houses of prayer, and led to the foundation of the Columba Community in his home city in the midst of The Troubles. It gives us, the reader, a real insight into his life and what this journey has been like for him. It also allows us to go on our own journey of faith as we read it.
Before embarking on this read, I was a little hesitant as to what I might find. As a Catholic I find that I have my own means of practising my faith and keep it private. I pray in my own time and talk to God when I’m alone. I was afraid that this book might lead me to believe that my own beliefs and attitude were perhaps insufficient or inadequate. However, I found the exact opposite. I realised that it’s ok to practice my faith in my own private manner. In many ways this read has helped to strengthen my own personal faith. 

This is a book which anyone can read. Whether you’re a practising Catholic or not, this will definitely prove a very worth while read. 
Normally I read a book in two or three sittings. This book however I read over two weeks. I felt it was important to take my time and capture as best I could all of Neal’s experiences. And I feel that I have!
As this story of Neal Carlin and the Columba Community unfolds, we get a true insight into the life of Burnfoot based Fr Carlin and the community. From his origins of faith as a young boy to his ordination into the priesthood we see his continued openness from then through to now in being led by the Holy Spirit.
As a young teenager in the 80’s I was present as St Anthony’s Retreat centre was developed. I recall many Monday nights going to mass there, and many happy evenings spent walking around, feeding the goats, and meeting the community. This book brought back many of those memories for me.
One of my favourite features of this book are the reflections written by Neal over the years. These give us a clear insight into his passion and love of nature and his visions of God in everything. These remind me of works by Patrick Kavanagh, one of my favourite poets, who saw the extraordinary in the ordinary. Fr Neal sees such also.
Throughout this book Neal shares his vision for the Church of the future and his hope that small basic communities, like the Columba Community, will ‘sprout up all over Ireland, like small springs to again irrigate this holy land of ancient saints and scholars’.
At the launch of the book in An Grianan Hotel, Burt, Bishop McKeown said that, ‘without memory we live in a mere present. Without density we live in a hollow present. We need memory. Time is experinece’. This sums up the book by Fr Neal. This book is experience. It is memory. It is a pathway for us to learn from the past and build a better future.

‘They that Wait on the Lord’ is published by The Columba Press priced €19.99/£16.99
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