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It is time already for my annual summer pilgrimage to Spike’s Lake in northern Minnesota, where both air and water are cool, the wood stove glows warm and all the mosquitoes are above average.

Wine and Bread, by Benedictine Sr. Photina Rech (Liturgy Training Publications, 118 pages, $15), is an excerpt from a volume previously published in German, translated by Heinz R. Kuehn. Rech explores the sacred mysteries in a mystical manner that invites new reverence: “Only the passionate desire of the divine to become one with humanity, to become the beloved -- in a manner incomparably more intimate than the bride and groom -- only that desire was able to create the eucharistic miracle.” I’ve sent my copy off to a young man about to be ordained, hoping that these reflections will quicken him in hope.

Made in God’s Image: The Catholic Vision of Human Dignity, edited by Franciscan Frs. Regis Duffy and Angelus Gambatese (Paulist, 157 pages, $14.95 paperback), grew out of a three-year seminar of Catholic scholars of various disciplines reflecting on the church’s consistent social teaching of the dignity of the human person created in the image of God. Six contributors reflect on God’s affirmation of human worth; human dignity, human rights and ecology from Christian, Buddhist and Native American perspectives; the threat of commodity-consciousness to human dignity; preaching about dignity or preaching with dignity; immigration; and reflections on ministry to people with AIDS.

Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life, by Benedictine Fr. Hugh Feiss (HarperSanFrancisco, 218 pages, $23 hardbound), is, as Kathleen Norris correctly suggests in her introduction, an excellent guidebook to the literature of monasticism. This selection of short texts from monastic authors, arranged by topics and prefaced by essays, is primarily for those who are not monks but who wish to ponder what monastic men and women have learned about being both whole and holy. I’ve sent my copy off to Trappist Fr. James Stephen Behrens for the guest room at Holy Spirit Monastery in Georgia.

The Invisible Father: Approaches to the Mystery of Divinity, by Fr. Louis Bouyer, translated by Benedictine Fr. Hugh Gilbert (St. Bede’s Publications, 319 pages, paperback; first published in French in 1976), is part of the revered theologian’s trilogy on the Trinity, which also includes The Eternal Son and The Paraclete. Bouyer traces the paths of God’s self-revelation and feeds the life of grace within.

Edith Stein: Her Life in Photos and Documents, by Discalced Carmelite Sr. Maria Amata Neyer (Institute of Carmelite Studies [2131 Lincoln Rd., NE, Washington DC 20002], 83 pages, $13.95 paperback), is translated by Waltraut Stein. The author served numerous terms as the prioress of the Cologne Carmel in which Edith Stein lived as Sr. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce before her murder in Birkenau in 1942. Stein was canonized in 1998, and this book chronicles the events, joys and sorrows of her life.

Jesus and Those Bodacious Women: Life Lessons from One Sister to Another (United Church Press, 213 pages, paperback) is by Linda H. Holies, director of the Outreach Office of the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. She sees bodacious women as unmistakable, remarkable and noteworthy. When Jesus Christ comes into a woman’s life, she becomes bodacious, and even the male compilers of the scriptures could not erase their remarkable feats. Believing that she is inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so, the author has compiled lessons about the women in scripture she sees as bodacious.

She gives a warning, however, that she has taken “great personal liberty with scripture!” She asks the reader to be indulgent in reading “what I saw and felt was intended!” Her considerations of Eve, Mary Magdalene, the pregnant Mary, the woman at the well and others may provoke helpful meditation in some readers. Those annoyed after reading this paragraph will do best to pass on this one.

Running to the Mountain: A Journey of Faith and Change, by Jon Katz (Villard, a division of Random House, 242 pages, $20 hardbound), is the reflections of an author turning 50 who had settled down, reflecting, “Any more settling and I would vanish into the mud like some fat old catfish.” Not religious (“Judaism, the faith of my parents, never spoke to me”), he tried Quaker meetings. “But sooner or later, people like me run into the same wall when it comes to organized religion: Those around us all claim to believe in God, and we don’t.” This interesting book may well be appreciated by others who, like Katz, feel orphaned in the promised land.

Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues, by Ian G. Barbour (HarperSanFrancisco, 368 pages, $21 paperback), is a revised and expanded version of Religion in An Age of Science (1990), winner of the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence and the Templeton Book Award. Barbour defends an ecological theology that is supportive of efforts to preserve the environment. He considers five challenges -- science as method, a new view of nature, a new context for theology, religious pluralism and threats to the environment -- in exploring religion in an age of science and to present an interpretation of Christianity that is responsive both to biblical faith and contemporary science.

Responses to 101 Questions on Islam, by John Renard (Paulist, 173 pages, $12.95 paperback), is part of a noteworthy series and is itself a valuable little resource for the curious and for use in comparative religion courses.

Unearthing the Lost Words of Jesus: The Discovery and Text of The Gospel of Thomas, by John Dart and Ray Riegert (Seastone [P.O. 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703], 105 pages, $17 hardbound), tells of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Nag Hammadi and includes the apocryphal gospel of Thomas with commentary by John Dominic Crossan. That gospel, said to be dictated by Jesus to doubting Thomas, looks to return to the ideal, primordial world first created. One returns to this state by a life of asceticism and celibacy, leaving worldly life behind.

I have no business commenting on Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team, by Jesuit Fr. Mark S. Massa (Crossroad, 278 pages, $24.95 hardbound). Its author was my dissertation director at Fordham where he is a well-regarded and popular professor. It is, however, too interesting a volume to pass without comment. I read the entire book on one long flight and considered it a page-turner. I mentioned that to the book’s editor at Crossroad who told me that he had the same experience reading the manuscript while waiting for jury duty. Massa sees the aggiornamento of Vatican II leading in directions that the council fathers never envisioned. The serendipitous journey of American Catholics into the mainstream -- beginning with Leonard Feeney and ending with the Fighting Irish of South Bend -- is, as Massa demonstrates, an interesting pilgrimage but also a well-told tale.

The Ironic Christian’s Companion: Finding the Marks of God’s Grace in the World is by Patrick Henry (Riverhead Books, 273 pages, $23.95 hardbound). An ironic Christian, asserts the author, “inhabits a world that is more ‘as if’ than ‘just like,’ a world fashioned by a God of surprises.” My copy of this interesting consideration of God’s grace will make a fine graduation gift for a young man who has just finished four years at a Catholic college.

Lay Preaching: State of the Question, by Patricia A. Parachini, a Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, (American Essays in Liturgy: Liturgical Press, 68 pages, paperback) considers who can or should effectively preach the message of the living God and also what effective preaching is. Parachini helps focus attention on the growing interest in lay preaching and to assess the needs of the people of God so that gifts may be used wisely.

Were I more generous, this very day I would give my copy of Jesus the Stranger: Reflections in the Gospels, revised and updated, by Missioner of Africa Fr. Joseph G. Donders (Orbis, 165 pages, paperback), to a local pastor whose daily homilies I often appreciate. This volume is great for preachers as well as for those who would reflect on the Word day by day. I will give it to him as soon as I show it to and use it with my students.

Denese Ferrera, a Caldwell College graduate student in pastoral ministry, belongs to St. Pius Parish in Montville, N.J., where she is involved with the liturgy of Word for children. I invited her to look at The Journey from Misery to Ministry, Living Creatively in a Broken World by Norbertine Fr. Francis Dorff (Ave Maria Press, 181 pages, $12.95 paperback). According to Ferrera, Dorff writes for fellow priests and all those on spiritual journeys, including religious sisters, ministers of other denominations, and lay women and men from different religious traditions or from no religious tradition at all.

He formulates an eight-stage process that focuses on the journey through suffering to ministry. Ferrera observes that at the end we seem to be back where we started, but we are clearly not in the same place. In our newfound ministry, our transformation allows us to bring compassion, hope and creative vision to those who are experiencing a misery similar to our own. Dorff’s style, Ferrera reports, is inviting, and his book is enlightening, uplifting and informational.

An Ideal Church: A Meditation, by Denise Lardner Carmody (Paulist, 95 pages, $6.95 paperback), is the 15th annual Madaleva Lecture in Spirituality sponsored by the Center for Spirituality at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind. Its concern is what the Christian church ought to be. Not avoiding what the church is, it muses about the better community that could be created. Lardner Carmody sees that “much in our church is beautiful, but a considerable amount is dreck.” Hers is not a call for fatalism or quietism but an acknowledgment of the mysterious way things are. This is a little book but not a small effort.

Fr. William C. Graham’s Sacred Adventure: Beginning Theological Study will be published in August by University Press of America. He receives e-mail at NCRBkshelf@aol.com

National Catholic Reporter, July 2, 1999