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Fall has fallen, winter is here and all good readers are back to the books in earnest: One more proof that God is good in every season!

To a friend who has lost her husband, I sent The Death of a Husband: Reflections of a Grieving Wife, by Helen Reichert Lambin (ACTA, 125 pages, $8.95 paperback), hoping that these 40 reflections of another wife in mourning might offer healing insights and hopeful direction.

Eyes on Jesus: A Guide for Contemplation (Crossroad, 271 pages, $14.95, paperback), by Jesuit Fr. Michael Kennedy, is a series of poetic reflections that invite the reader to connect the gospel story of Jesus with one’s own story. In the Ignatian tradition, Kennedy’s convictions issue forth as reflections in which he imagines and pictures Jesus in specific Bible passages, “placing our inner eye on Jesus,” sharing conscious companionship with Jesus. The reader is invited to relate more intensely to Jesus in a deepening intimacy.

Blessings All Around Us: Savoring God’s Gifts (Resurrection Press, 125 pages, $8.95 paperback), by Dolores R. Leckey, calls the reader to “a deeper awareness of God’s blessed largesse.” The goal of this well-known and much respected lecturer and writer is to assist the reader in becoming more attentive to personal experience where signs of God abound.

The Sound of Listening: A Retreat Journal from Thomas Merton’s Hermitage (Continuum, 126 pages, $13.95 paperback) is an account of Jesuit Fr. John Dear’s nine November days in 1996 on retreat in Thomas Merton’s secluded hermitage at Kentucky’s Abbey of Gethsemani.

Dear reports that, tired and despairing, he went to seek relief, but found much more. His hope is that the pages of his little journal will encourage others to pursue inner recovery: “the holy journey into the peace of God.” Chances are good that readers and seekers will not be disappointed, but, rather, will be cheered to discover (and perhaps imitate) the contemplative side of an activist.

John Shea’s many fans will be happy to see Elijah at the Wedding Feast and Other Tales: Stories of the Human Spirit (ACTA Publications, 153 pages, $12.95 paperback). This book is a collection of some 20 tales from diverse religious traditions and elsewhere, each accompanied by an explanation. The man does have a way with tales, and those who love to tell and read stories can expect to be glad with this find. I sent a copy off to a preacher who is sure to be inspired and inspiring with Shea’s masterful help.

And Fr. William J. Bausch’s many fans will be glad to see that retirement for the popular pastor from the diocese of Trenton, N.J., did not include retirement as a writer. His new book is The Yellow Brick Road: A Storyteller’s Approach to the Spiritual Journey (Twenty-Third Publications, 311 pages, $14.95 paperback). Characters from Kansas and Oz become guides for a journey, providing not just entertainment, but invitation and provocation to new perspectives on spiritual life.

I was happy to send a copy off to the Episcopal pastor of the church in which Judy Garland, Dorothy of the yellow brick road, was baptized as a child in Grand Rapids, Minn.

Women Saints: Lives of Faith and Courage, by Kathleen Jones (Orbis, 310 pages, $20 paperback), considers 40 female saints who challenge the traditional view of female sanctity as restricted to the virtues of passivity, submission and obedience. Including Catherine of Siena, Agnes, Clare, Monica, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Frances Xavier Cabrini and other heroic figures and recently canonized saints, this assembly is pulled together by a translator of The Poems of John of the Cross who has also revised two editions of Butler’s Lives of the Saints, which is to say she knows her way around the saints and has done here a fine job of highlighting what the title promises. The lives of these women should exhort all Christian people to lives of faith and courage.

I gave a copy of Hope Against Hope: Johann Baptist Metz and Elie Wiesel Speak Out on the Holocaust, by Ekkehard Schuster and Reinhold Boschert-Kimmig, translated by J. Matthew Ashley (A Stimulus Book, Paulist, 106 pages, $8.95 paperback), to Steve Ostovich who teaches philosophy and theology at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. Ostovich was a Fulbright Scholar who studied with Metz in Germany.

According to Ostovich, this book is a translation of separate interviews with Metz and Wiesel by two German youth ministers and graduate students. The interview format allows both for an overview of the thought of Metz and Wiesel and for making clearer the connections between their lives and their thoughts. The interviewers bring together a Christian theologian and a Jewish writer around their common concern with Auschwitz.

Schuster and Boschert-Kimmig are aware of the danger in doing this, especially as Germans, and they work hard to keep clear the difference between the positions of victim and perpetrator (in a way Paulist Press does not in its jacket blurb, which describes Metz as much as Wiesel as “broken by the horrors they witnessed during the war”).

For the most part, Metz and Wiesel are content to let common themes arise from the statements of each man: the grounding of hope in memory, the distrust of aestheticizing ethics and politics, the unique quality of Auschwitz and questions related to the goodness and justice of God. Differences appear, for example, in Wiesel’s suspicion of attempts to engage Auschwitz through Christology. The result is Metz’s theology becomes more familiar, and the interrelationship of Wiesel’s works, which has always been felt by his readers, can be seen as well.

Joseph Malanga is a permanent deacon on the staff of St. Valentine Parish in Bloomfield, N.J., and a graduate student in pastoral ministry at Caldwell College. He already holds an M.A. in scripture from Drew University. I asked him to look at Nourished By the Word: Reading the Bible Contemplatively, by Carmelite Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen (Liguori, 118 pages, $11.95 paperback).

According to Malanga, Stinissen’s book is informative and helpful. In six chapters, he invites readers to a better understanding of the significance of daily Bible readings, encouraging readers to see the Bible as a bridge to a personal encounter with the Living Word of God.

Hillaire Gallagher works in perfumery, and her avocation is work for her parish, St. Pius X in Montville, N.J. She is a graduate student in pastoral ministry at Caldwell College. She took a look at The Music of Creation: Fundamentals of the Christian Faith, by John Michael Talbot, a secular Franciscan (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 228 pages, $22.95 paperback). Gallagher found the book a fruitful account of a faith journey. Talbot’s hope is to introduce the reader to the many rooms in God’s mansion. By considering Jesus’ use of parables, he comments on sacrament, creation and the incarnation. Spirituality is the focus: “It is about the rediscovery of spirit so that the soul and body can find their proper and most harmonious relationship.” Gallagher found the book “a pleasant and sweet tour.”

I gave a copy of I Was Sick and You Visited Me: A Spiritual Guide for Catholics in Hospital Ministry, by Fernando Poyatos (Paulist, 141 pages, $11.95 paperback), to Crosier Fr. Roger Vaughn, director of pastoral care for the Sisters of Charity Health Care System on Staten Island, N.Y., and asked for his comment. He reported that as he began to read, one of the chaplains came in with the same book to report how very helpful it is to pastoral care volunteers in hospital ministry.

According to Vaughn, the book offers pastoral caregivers the challenge to embrace the healing ministry of Jesus, recognizing that all too often patients, not yet receptive to a pastoral relationship, are still comforted in a simple touch and a sometimes even silent prayer. The author assists the novice pastoral minister in various ways to be spontaneous and creative in offering prayer.

Fr. William C. Graham’s Sacred Adventure: Beginning Theological Study (213 pages, $24.95 paperback) has been published by University Press of America. He receives e-mail at NCRBkshelf@aol.com

National Catholic Reporter, December 3, 1999