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The bishop of my home diocese, Duluth, Minn., was recently made coadjutor bishop of Anchorage, Alaska. So now, Roger L. Schwietz of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate is an Alaskan. I thought of him when the next book appeared on the top of this month’s box, and I sent it off to him right away.

Arctic Journal II: A Time for Change (Novalis, 350 pages, $32.95 hardbound), by Bern Will Brown, is the story of an Oblate who went as a missioner to the Canadian Arctic. In a foreword, Oblate Bishop Denis Croteau observes that few people have had the chance to taste the North in all its flavor as has Brown, whose first volume, Arctic Journal, was published in 1998.

Brown, who received permission from Rome to marry in 1971, remains at Colville Lake, above the Arctic Circle, with his wife Margaret, who is part Eskimo. Interesting chronicle!

A Confessor’s Handbook (Paulist, 153 pages, $11.95 paperback), by Benedictine Fr. Kurt Stasiak, is clearly the work of a thoughtful priest, well versed in church teaching and resources, with experiences as a sensitive confessor and as an educator of those preparing for priestly ministry at St. Meinrad’s School of Theology in Indiana. This book will be welcomed by those still in the seminary (professors and students alike), by new priests, old priests, good confessors and those who will be better confessors. I wish it had been available to me years ago when, as an inexperienced priest, I said to a penitent, “I don’t think that’s a sin.” She responded, “I don’t remember asking if you thought it was a sin.”

Those who think there can never be enough books about St. Francis will want to have Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures: A Modern Spiritual Path (Continuum, 144 pages, $14.95 paperback), by Paul M. Allen and Joan deRis Allen. The book examines one of Francis’ most famous prayers, considering along the way aspects of the saint’s life.

In Feminist Liturgy: A Matter of Justice (American Essays in Liturgy: Liturgical Press, 93 pages, $9.95 paperback), Janet R. Walton writes that the urgency and persistence of feminist liturgies are reminiscent of the ways that slave communities in early America dealt with the fact that white men controlled institutional worship. Even those who do not feel sympathetic to the aims and claims will agree that Walton’s work is well researched and presented in a manner that encourages reflection and discussion rather than anger and acrimony.

Christ in Ten Thousand Places: Homilies Toward a New Millennium (Paulist, 277 pages, $19.95 paperback), is by Jesuit Fr. Walter J. Burghardt, still preaching the good word and publishing at age 84. This book, the first part of the title of which is taken from a sonnet by fellow Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, is not just for preachers, but for all those who will live the gospel, appreciate encouragement and savor the holy of Christ’s redeeming presence in places and faces.

Spiritual Manifestos: Visions for Renewed Religious Life in America for Young Spiritual Leaders of Many Faiths (Skylight Paths Publishing [P.O. 237, Woodstock VT 05091], 226 pages, $21.95 hardbound) is edited by Niles Elliot Goldstein, with a preface by Martin E. Marty. Ten contributors to this volume, religious leaders in their 30s and from different religious traditions from Jewish to Catholic to Unitarian to Buddhist, offer their visions or manifestos for transforming spiritual communities and lives. Those who seek to add zest to religious experience and tradition will profit from reading these collected essays.

Experiencing Scripture in World Religions (Orbis, 178 pages, $16 paperback), by Harold Coward, is a good introductory text showing the significance of scriptures in world religions from the Torah to the Quran, with a look as well at the scriptures of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism.

In Stumbling Toward Justice: Stories of Place (Pennsylvania State University Press, 250 pages, $35 hardbound), Lee Hoinacki, a former Dominican priest, writes of his journey through the United States, Venezuela, Mexico, Spain, Germany and India. He seeks to illustrate what he considers his fundamental insight: “The promise of progress is a lie, a terrible and cruel trap.” He hopes to sow doubt, but does report having “found a hope hidden in contemporary existence.” His odyssey may be of interest to fellow travelers.

I sent Sacred America: The Emerging Spirit of the People, by Roger Housden (Simon & Schuster, 272 pages, $23 hardbound), to Bette Manter as she writes away on her doctoral dissertation at Harvard. She writes:

Sometimes a view from an outsider provides insight into who we really are. One might think of de Tocqueville of the 19th century or James Baldwin in the 1960s, to recall two clarifying moments in American culture.
Housden, who is British, does not, however, disclose much that Americans don’t already know. The dichotomy between the getting and spending that drives consumerism and the drive for religious and spiritual unity creates, for Housden, two Americas: the bad and the good.
He came to America in search of the good - that which he calls Sacred America. Housden travels broadly, yet his narrative moves like a slide-show presentation. And like a tedious host, he wants so badly for you to share his experience that, rather than trust your own responses, Housden draws conclusions for you. Finding himself in the remote soil of Montana, Housden browses a local directory and finds, to his amazement (and presumably yours), a bookshop specializing in spirituality and religion on page 2!

Manter concludes that those who enjoy travelogues of meaningful moments might find that this book makes excellent airport reading en route to one’s America of choice.

Fr. William C. Graham’s Sacred Adventure: Beginning Theological Study (University Press of America, 213 pages, $24.95 paperback) includes a chapter by Jesuit Fr. Avery Dulles titled “The Basic Teaching of Vatican II.” Graham receives e-mail at NCRBkshelf@aol.com

National Catholic Reporter, July 28, 2000