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More recommendations from NCR readers

John P. Doyle
Arlington, Va.

Call and Response: Ordaining Married Men as Catholic Priests, by Frederick Luhmann (Dialogue Press). Fascinating reading in the midst of today’s church scandals. While celibacy may not be the villain behind clerical pedophilia, optional celibacy may offer one solution. Thus, many argue, Rome should permit a married priesthood. It flourished in the early church and continues today in the Eastern churches.

In fact, for 50 years the Vatican has been approving the ordination of a particular group of married men, namely, converted Protestant ministers. The author gives readers the history of this development.

He argues convincingly that the U.S. bishops should now secure approval for a “new pastoral provision” to permit the ordination of married Catholic men deemed fit for priesthood. This should be done to meet the pastoral needs of the faithful as the ranks of celibate priesthood continue their steep decline.

Mary B. Heyman
Endwell, N.Y.

Absolute Flanigan, by Jack Gilroy (Global Publications). This book carries the reader through the moral struggle of the hero, just coming of age at the beginning of World War II, to decide whether to serve or to take the moral position of refusing to register. He encounters Catholic leaders on both sides of the issue, including Dorothy Day.

He is sent to Danbury Federal Prison, where in 1943 he becomes involved in a strike there that ends segregated eating. As a former social studies teacher and longtime peace activist (six month’s imprisonment for crossing the line at Fort Benning), the author is close to his material. He received the Peace Hope International Writing Award for 2001.

Sr. Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF
Los Angeles

Biblical Characters and the Enneagram: Images of Transformation, by Pearl Gervais, Bishop Remi J. De Roo and Diane Tolomeo (Newport Bay Publishing). This book gives a sense that the people whose stories I read in the Bible offer a rich trove of modern behavioral parallels useful to my own life. The book requires some prior knowledge and understanding of the Enneagram, an ancient-and-yet-modern personality typing system that reveals root neuroses that shape our behaviors. I know the Enneagram, having studied, used and shared the system for many years as a means to spiritual growth. This book offered me something new: scriptural friends around the circle who behaved as I often do!

The writers present 18 Biblical characters from both Old and New Testaments -- two for each of the Enneagram’s nine numbers -- as representatives of the spiritual growth each personality is invited to accept. Some do; some don’t.

For me, there was David, a Three, serving as a brilliant king and administrator but fighting his inner demons of lust and duplicity; Martha, an Eight, challenging Jesus about her sister Mary’s unwillingness to work and Jesus’ own tardiness in arriving to save her brother Lazarus; and the Woman at the Well, a Seven, busy and preoccupied and trying to distract Jesus from calling her to face the core issue of her life. Been there, done all that.

The authors took me beyond psychology to link the nine number-spaces to the wholeness and holiness God invites us to claim. They stressed the energy of the Enneagram system, urging me to think beyond my one number to look at the flow and the process that exists on a larger level. They reorganized the nine numbers in fresh groupings. Most important, they stressed that this is not primarily an Enneagram book, but one that they hope will “open hearts and souls and minds to the indwelling divine energy, conveyed in the stories of the Bible, but always and ever alive in our own stories and lives.” It worked for me.

Marita Haffart
Minot, N.D.

Remarkable Women, Remarkable Wisdom: A Day Book of Reflections, by Sr. Mary Francis Gangloff, OSF (St. Anthony Messenger Press). A full year of meditation on women from ancient times to the present. Each day has a scripture theme and then a quotation from the woman being commemorated that day, or a quote about her and then a summary of her life or work, and then several reflective questions, concluding with a prayer.

One can keep company with remarkable women for a whole year. Or one can selectively focus on women of interest and read only those at random; the year of birth and country of origin is also included. For example: May 1: Kate Smith and “God Bless America.” Oct 6: Jihan Sadat, social activist from Egypt born in 1934 and still alive today.

Women have been authors, religious founders, mountain climbers, writers of etiquette books, physicians, piano virtuoso, composers, stateswomen, pioneers, diarists, social reformers, to mention a few callings of the remarkable women portrayed here.

Nancy McGunagle
Petaluma, Calif.

The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God’s Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives, by Brendan Manning (Harper San Francisco). We follow the author as he touches upon his struggles as a recovering alcoholic. We meet Mephisto, whose mystical, fatherly presence affects Manning in his darkest hour leading him into profound tenderness and care for others in similar straits.

We are given practical ways of exercising these same techniques in our own lives, such as choosing the most loving response to hurtful actions, comments and innuendo. If one wishes to open the door to experiencing the Father’s love and tenderness, Manning’s book makes an excellent locksmith.

Br. Patrick Hart, OCSO
Trappist, Ky.

The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria, by John Kiser (St. Martin’s Press). Coming out after the tragedy of Sept. 11, this book helped me to understand better the whole world of Islam. Besides being the most complete story of the brutal massacre of the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine by a Muslim extremist group in 1996, it brings out the complexities of the relationship that exists between the various factions of Muslims in Algeria by providing a solid historical context. The author is to be congratulated for explaining the complex political situation and providing an account of the international efforts extended throughout the world to free the monks. It should be required reading for all religious departments in seminaries and universities.

Al Dio Dati
Yonkers, N.Y

The Holy Longing, by Ronald Rolheiser (Doubleday). This book was written way ahead of its time. Fr. Rolheiser challenges his readers to walk with our Creator with a desire to help God bring this planet to completion. We do this by being God’s ongoing incarnation, putting skin on God, making God present on earth.

When we look for God’s guidance, we find it in voices here that complement the voices from heaven. Christian spirituality is not as much about admiring God or trying to imitate God, as it is about participating in the flow of God’s life. Because God took on flesh, we can experience God through the ordinary senses. God’s love must show in our faces. We are responsible together for the ministry of the church. This means we are mutually accountable to each other for our lives.

Kitty Steed
Kansas City, Mo.

Goddess Icons: Spirit Banners of the Divine Feminine, by Lydia Ruyle (Woven Word Press). Lydia Ruyle gives us an exciting opportunity to see powerful images of goddesses, madonnas and women saints from around the world. She has created banners that celebrate the images of the divine feminine from world cultures. Using materials traditional to women’s work, she has re-created the goddess icons in cloth, embroidery and weaving. They are reproduced in vibrant colors, accompanied by a short statement about each image and its history. This is sacred art. This is the book you will want to share with those who revere the many divine faces of the Great Mother.

National Catholic Reporter, October 11, 2002