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Issue Date:  May 26, 2006

Running into the Arms of God by Patrick Hannon RUNNING INTO THE ARMS OF GOD
By Patrick Hannon
ACTA Publications, 128 pages, $15.95
Essays that give rise to epiphany

Reviewed by RENÉE LaREAU

Books on everyday prayer and spirituality are a dime a dozen these days, and when I first picked up Running into the Arms of God I was skeptical. As someone whose bookshelves are stuffed with the works of contemporary spiritual writers, I wasn’t sure I’d find shelf space for this modestly sized collection of memoir-style stories about prayer. But in the book’s foreword, author Brian Doyle’s promise was enticing: “There are stories that matter in these pages,” Doyle wrote. “One or more of them will startle you into epiphany.”

And startle they did, one by one. In each of his 21 essays grouped according to the Liturgy of the Hours, Holy Cross priest Patrick Hannon shows that “we probably pray more than we realize.” In the essay “Making Donuts,” a meditation on the donut-munching, newspaper-delivering early-morning rituals of his childhood, Hannon wryly yet truthfully observes that “rising from the bed is not unlike rising from the dead.”

Fr. Hannon’s stories illustrate the manifold forms that prayer can take. In reflecting on the death of a fellow Holy Cross priest, Fr. Hannon writes: “A job well done, a life well lived and brought to completion. This too, is prayer.” Fr. Hannon grew up in a household with nine siblings, and his ruminations on the ups and downs of family life -- from an out-of-wedlock pregnancy to a harsh father-son disagreement and subsequent reconciliation -- are especially moving.

In his introduction, Fr. Hannon describes an ancient monastery built on top of a rock seven miles off Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula, marveling: “We all hunger for the same things those Irish monks hungered for so long ago -- just to be an inch closer to God.” Reading Running into the Arms of God reveals that not only does this hunger become prayer but that “there is no place too far, too high, too dark, or too secret for God to find us and bring us home.”

I haven’t yet carved out bookshelf space for Running into the Arms of God, but that’s only because I’ve already lent it to many people. This is a delightful book for both church professionals and people in the pews.

Renée LaReau is the author of Getting a Life: How to Find Your True Vocation.

National Catholic Reporter, May 26, 2006

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