By WILLIAM C. GRAHAM
It is time again for my annual pilgrimage to Spikes Lake in northern Minnesota. Lakeside by one of the 10,000, I read, splash, write, splash some more. And later this afternoon will jump in the lake as my annual gift to faithful readers who often want to and even do cry out, after reading some review or other, Oh, go jump in the lake!
The Vision of the Beloved Disciple: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John, by Marianist Fr. George T. Montague (Alba House, 86 pages, $5.95 paperback), is an insightful look at Johns gospel. He notes that the disciple whom Jesus loved has no name, and thus we are invited to put our own name there, confident that each of us is that disciple.
Reason is Beguiled:On the Mystery of Martyrdom and of Total Self-Gift (Alba House, 142 pages, $10.95 paperback) is written by Michele T. Gallagher with a poets sensibilities and sensitivities. The author, an English professor, employs scripture, poetry and the writings of the Fathers in her exploration. This book is a find and will surely provoke meditation, joy and wonder.
I heard the controversial, retired (but not retiring) Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong recently, suggesting that the biggest threat to the established churches comes not from new, fundamentalist churches, but rather from the largest Christian group, which Spong calls Christian alumni, those who no longer have anything to do with any institutional church. We have bored them almost to death, he asserted.
Jesuit Fr. Herbert F. Smith also sees many as having wandered away, and he suggests that part of the problem may be a lack of the devotions that stirred hearts and emotions in days gone by. Those who think he may be onto something might look at his Homilies on the Heart of Jesus and the Apostleship of Prayer (Alba House, 225 pages, $12.95 paperback).
Finding Your Way after Your Spouse Dies, by Marta Felber (Ave Maria, 159 pages, $9.95 paperback), offers the reassurance of a survivor who has traveled the path of loss. These short chapters with scriptural suggestions and short prayers are sure to offer comfort and confidence to those who suffer loss. I sent this one away to a recently widowed colleague.
Celtic Spirituality (Paulist, 550 pages, $29.95 paperback) is the latest volume in the Classics of Western Spirituality series. This collection of texts translated from Latin, Irish and Welsh includes saints lives, sermons, devotional texts, liturgy (the Hymn at the Lighting of the Paschal Candle is quite beautiful), monastic rules and penitentials (these collections of penances to be imposed for certain sins are very interesting). This is a welcome addition to a fine series.
That All May Be One: Catholic Reflections on Christian Unity (Paulist, 192 pages, $14.95 paperback) is by Blessed Sacrament Fr. Ernest Falardeau, director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Santa Fe, N.M., archdiocese. Drawing on his 30 years of pastoral experience, he looks for healing of the scandal of division and reflects on Christian unity as spirituality, nurtured by the Eucharist and celebrated in the liturgical year. This book is an antidote to the discouragement and disillusionment that some feel since unity has not come completely in the years since the Second Vatican Council.
The Seekers Guide to Building a Christian Marriage: 11 Essential Skills, by Kathleen Finley (Loyola, 212 pages, $11.95), would be a fine shower, bachelor party or wedding gift, and it deserves the serious attention of those who would make a marriage work. These practical strategies to build self-esteem, personal maturity, family systems, communication and more are readable, interesting and challenging.
Guests of God: Stewards of Divine Creation, by Monica Hellwig, with illustrations by Erica Hellwig Parker, her daughter (Paulist, 127 pages, $9.95 paperback), is about our relationship to the creator, one another and the rest of creation. The book raises questions about matters often taken for granted, and the author advises that the best way to use it is in the context of a small faith community that can pray over the ideas expressed. Those concerned with far-reaching questions that have both a public and an intimate aspect may find here a thoughtful guide in the ongoing discussion.
Faith Works: Lessons from the Life of an Activist Preacher (Random House, 357 pages, $23.95 hardbound), by Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine, is an invitation to reflect on what faith means for the world today, asking what it means to stand up for what one believes, and how beliefs can be put into action. Both those already familiar with the author and those who begin to feel the urge and need to get involved will profitably read this book.
Capuchin Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy asks Does God Suffer? (University of Notre Dame Press, 310 pages, $22.95 paperback). Turns out the answer is still no, but this scholar from the University of Oxford considers the arguments in light of the modern worlds sin and evil, and shows the inadequacy of those arguments in light of Gods love as revealed both in the scriptures and tradition. He articulates the mystery of Gods relationship to human suffering by clarifying the various Christian mysteries associated with it. Impressively researched and interestingly presented.
Broken Tablets: Restoring the Ten Commandments and Ourselves, edited by Rachel S. Mikva (Jewish Lights Publishing, 148 pages, $21.95 hardbound), is a collection of provocative essays by 12 Jewish spiritual leaders considering the unusual power of the commandments. The radical objective of the commandments becomes clearer with the help of these authors, that of uniting a community around common obligations rather than common interests.
Elsa Tamez is a Mexican theologian and the president of the Latin American Biblical University in Costa Rica. Her When the Horizons Close: Rereading Ecclesiastes (Orbis, 170 pages, $18 paperback), translated from the Spanish by Margaret Wilde, finds a current message in the ancient scriptural book. This book is not a classical commentary, but proposes a way of reading scripture for our hopeless times. She explores the utopian reasoning of the scriptural author in the midst of his own third-century B.C.E. frustration and seeks some critical word to give us a better understanding of certain modern-day situations and attitudes that occur when horizons are closing.
In Moral Purity and Persecution in History (Princeton University Press, 158 pages, $19.95 hardbound), Barrington Moore, Jr., suggests that genocide is the result of moral pollution; one group, considering itself morally pure, persecutes and kills another they consider religiously, ethnically, politically or economically impure. He begins with the invention of monotheism by the ancient Hebrews, and sees moral purity limited to the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. So, while not the primary source of Nazism or ethnic cleansing, he identifies organized persecution as a product of monotheism.
However, the decay of an Asian system of belief and social order has provided fertile soil for the most cruel versions of a search for moral purity. Moores vision is not hopeful, and it awaits discussion and dispute. n
Fr. William C. Graham, a priest of the Duluth, Minn., diocese has accepted an invitation to be guest professor of religious studies at Lewis University, a Christian Brothers university in suburban Chicago for the 2000-2001 academic year. He receives e-mail at NCRBkshelf@aol.com
National Catholic Reporter, September 1, 2000