Choosing Mercy: A Mother of Murder Victims
Pleads to End the Death Penalty, by Antoinette Bosco.
Orbis Books. 239 pp. $17.
You can order Choosing
Mercy: A Mother of Murder Victims Pleads to End the Death
Penalty from St.
Shaken Faith: A Mother of Murder Victims
Pleads to End the Death Penalty, by Antoinette Bosco. Twenty-Third Publications. 135 pp. $9.95.
Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M.,
associate editor of St. Anthony Messenger. He also works
an online outreach to inactive Catholics.
THE SUBTITLE of this first book establishes Antoinette
Bosco's tragic credentials to speak on this subject. In
1993 her son John and his wife, Nancy, were murdered in
their Montana home. They were shot by Joseph Shadow Clark,
the son of the couple who had previously owned that house.
He will be in prison for 40 years without eligibility for
This volume shows how Bosco's personal experiences have
led her "to become ever more convinced that the death penalty
is wrong, that mercy is the way of Christians." She identifies
capital punishment as possibly "the most wrenching moral
dilemma of our time."
As of June 2000, over 3,600 people were on Death Row in
the 38 U.S. states using capital punishment. Since 1976,
675 criminals have been executed in this country. Since
1972, 87 people on Death Row have been released.
Though readers might expect the mother of murder victims
to support the death penalty, Bosco writes: "The pain of
losing a loved one by the horrible act of murder is not
lessened by the horrible murder of another, not even when
it is cloaked as 'justice' and state-sanctioned. It is only
a delusion to believe that one's pain is ended by making
someone else feel pain."
Journalist, newspaper editor, columnist, Bosco was supported
by her adult children in opposing the death penalty for
Joseph Shadow Clark.
Her decision to forgive him came from the realization that
"if you don't forgive, you give the one who hurt you even
more control over you. If I didn't forgive Shadow Clark,
I would be emotionally handcuffed to him, bound to him in
a destructive way."
After Bosco joined Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation
[see article on p. 34], she met many other people with
losses similar to hers. Renny Cushing, whose father was
murdered by an off-duty police officer and an accomplice,
had previously rejected the death penalty.
Renny says, "For me to change my beliefs because my father
was murdered would only give over more power to the killers,
for they would take not just my father's life but also my
values. The same is true for society. If we let those who
murder turn us to murder, it gives more power to those who
do evil. We become what we say we abhor...."
Bosco expands beyond the death penalty to survey the U.S.
prison system, which now incarcerates two million people,
a fourfold increase since 1978. Private companies run 163
for-profit prisons in 26 states.
Bosco notes that polls show that approximately two thirds
of Americans support the death penalty. Regarding the deterrence
argument, Amnesty International notes that, according to
F.B.I. statistics, the death rate in states using the death
penalty is twice that of states which do not.
Bosco concludes Choosing Mercy with seven pages
of sources used in the book, a list of recommended readings
and two pages of addresses of U.S. groups seeking to abolish
the death penalty.
This is an important book, but not an easy one to read.
In Shaken Faith, Bosco revises a previous booklet
for Resurrection Press and uses some material from her column
(since 1975) for Catholic News Service.
Her book The Pummeled Heart: Finding Peace through Pain
had prompted many people hurting from tremendous loss to
contact her. Bosco writes, "Strangely, it has been my pain
that has opened up so many insights about God."
Later she observes, "One thing I have learned is that you
cannot be faint of heart on the faith journey. You have
to be passionate; the lukewarm never make it."
Bosco tells her story and those of many people who have
contacted her and reflects on highly publicized stories
such as the false sexual abuse accusation against the late
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
This book plumbs the intersection of faith, grace and human
freedom (used very destructively by some and constructively
You can order Shaken
Faith: A Mother of Murder Victims Pleads to End the Death
Penalty from St.
LIVING PEACE: A Spirituality of Contemplation
and Action, by John Dear. Doubleday. 226 pp. $19.95.
Reviewed by JAMES STEPHEN BEHRENS, O.C.S.O., a monk of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia.
"BLESSED are the peacemakers, for theirs is the Kingdom
of heaven." Page after page of the Jesuit writer and peace
activist John Dear's Living Peace brought these words
of Jesus to my heart. I often put the book down, closed
my eyes and prayedprayed for the peace about which
he writes and for which he lives. The book is an invitation
to live peace.
The finding of peace can be overwhelming for many of usour
lives are busy; there are treaties for that sort of thing;
it is too massive a problem; a what-will-be-will-be attitude.
These are only a fraction of the excuses we use to keep
at bay the need for living peacefullyfor living as
Jesus commanded us to live.
Peacemaking seems to be reserved for the powerful of this
world, for those who wield influence. The beauty of this
book lies in the author's embrace of a humble, loving and
lifelong path that each person can walk. He is aware that
individuals may walk differentlyeach of us has different
gifts to realize the peace that is within usbut we
are called to walk together.
The subtitle of the book is A Spirituality of Contemplation
and Action. The book is divided into three sections:
"The Depths of Peace: The Inner Journey," "The Heights of
Peace: The Public Journey" and "The Horizons of Peace."
These depths, heights and horizons are filled with men and
women who have both inspired Dear and walked with him. He
has learned from them, read with them, walked with them,
sat in jails with them, prayed and rejoiced with them.
Through it all he has grown in his conviction that there
is every reason to hope for and live the peace that Jesus
promises. The peace of the Lord is real. From Dear's experience,
peace is nothing other than Jesus. Knowing his presence
is knowing peace. Prayer is, then, at the heart of it all.
John Dear's book is a warm and inviting testimony of a
man who has prayed to know and live peaceand how the
reality of peace is the very person of Jesus. We are called
to live his peace. The last words of the book are "Nothing
can be more beautiful than living peace." The experience
of reading this book has been for me a sharing in that beauty.
Dear has found peace in the hearts of many people. He has
delighted in its presence as he has found it in the lives
of the poor and the not-so-poor, the high and low places
Dear shares a time when he was riding in his car and a
tire blew. He was a good distance from help and, after he
struggled to repair the tire, it was not too long before
another tire blew and he was then without a sparebut
not without a prayer.
Whereas I could see myself cursing the car, the manufacturer,
the road and my destination, Dear sat down and prayed. He
did not pray for a better tire or a nearby gas station.
He knows the importance of being at peace in the small frustrations
as well as the more ominous challenges in life. He does
a fine job of connecting the twothe seemingly mundane
with the glories of the universal.
In that little story of the blown tire he touches upon
the wisdom he has taken to heart in his many years of living
peace. It can be lived anywhere.
The wisdom is a learning to be at peace where we are and
to follow where the Lord may beckon. Peace is a living and
loving Mystery. Some may be called to write. Others may
be called to befriend a stranger. Others may be called to
be more focused in their search.
This book is a call to the reader to know that peace is
no further away than a prayer to the Lord that he might
come. And from that presence there are gathered two, and
then three, and then more. Hopefully, many will feel a call
to read this book and to take it to heart.
You can order LIVING
PEACE: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action from
LIVES OF THE SAINTS: From Mary and St.
Francis of Assisi to John XXIII and Mother Teresa,
by Richard P. McBrien. HarperSanFrancisco. 646 pp. $34.
Reviewed by JUDY BALL, managing editor of Every Day Catholic,
a newsletter published by St. Anthony Messenger Press, and
part of the staff for American Catholic.org.
THE WEIGHT of a book is hardly its most important feature,
though 2.67 pounds does hint at the breadth of its content.
And truly, Father Richard McBrien's Lives of the Saints:
From Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to John XXIII and Mother
Teresa is worth its weight in gold.
As the title implies, the book includes more than officially
canonized saints (and blesseds), many of them canonized
and beatified by Pope John Paul II. So we not only learn
about holy women and men who have long been on the Western
Church's calendarpeople like Catherine of Siena and
Thomas Aquinasbut also read about St. Fiacre, a hermit
celebrated in his native Ireland and in France, particularly
by the cab drivers in Paris. (Their vehicles are called
"fiacres." The first cab for hire was reportedly located
near the Hotel Saint-Fiacre.) We get a full accounting of
those who are on the road to canonization like Blessed Juan
Diego and Blessed Pope Innocent V, as well as Mother Teresa,
whose canonization many of us may witness in our lifetime.
But Father McBrien moves onand outfrom there,
offering biographical sketches of exemplary Christians whose
path to sainthood may not have been so smooth: Sisters Maura
Clarke, Ita Ford and Dorothy Kazel who, with laywoman Jean
Donovan, were martyred in El Salvador in 1980; Dorothy Day,
cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement; Salvadoran Archbishop
Oscar Romero. Also held up to the light are holy persons
held in high esteem by other Christian Churches, including
Greek and Russian Orthodox, Anglican and Episcopal and some
Lutheran. Non-Christians are highlighted as well, including
Abraham Heschel and Mohandas Gandhi.
One can only admire the scholarship and workmanship behind
the more than 600 entries. Father McBrien, the Crowley-O'Brien
Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, seems
to excel at such sweeping tasks. Recall the titles of his
other recent books: Catholicism, The HarperCollins Encyclopedia
of Catholicism, The Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs From
St. Peter to John Paul II.
Father McBrien's Lives is the work of a scholar.
The writing is clear. The biographical information is solid.
And the message the author sends is evident: The holy women
and men in these pages tell us something about the meaning
of human existence. At whatever time in history they lived,
they speak to us who seek to live the gospel boldly in the
But that's not all. It's the "extras" that make the book
even more noteworthy, including a time line integrating
the saints with major events in world and Church history;
saintly firsts (first Scottish saint, first pope to be canonized);
various saints' emblems in art and iconography. Also noteworthy
are introductory essays on the nature of sainthood, the
canonization process, saints and spirituality. If you want
to know the patron saints of particular places, you'll find
that, too: Armenia, St. Bartholomew; Mexico, St. Joseph;
El Salvador, Our Lady of Peace.
My personal favorite is a glossary of terms that helps
readers who may be able to pronounce the words Albigensians
and Jansenists but can't recall which heretics held
what false belief. The glossary will assist readers who
stumble over the major outcomes of the Council of Trent
vs. the Council of Chalcedon.
Father McBrien's Lives
of The Saints: From Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to John
XXIII and Mother Teresa would make a wonderful gift.
It is already a gift from the author.
You can order this book from St.
SNOW FALLING ON SNOW: Themes From the
Spiritual Landscape of Robert J. Wicks,
by Robert J. Wicks. Paulist Press. 119 pp. $11.95.
Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, who teaches at St. Xavier
High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has a B.A. in theology
from Xavier University (Ohio) and an M.A. in religious studies
from Villanova University (Pennsylvania). His articles and
book reviews have appeared in St. Anthony Messenger,
Momentum, Catholic Update, Youth Update and Religion
IN THE PROLOGUE to his book Snow Falling on Snow,
Robert Wicks, best-selling author and professor of pastoral
counseling at Loyola College (Maryland), describes an encounter
during a retreat with a missionary priest. The incident
is important for this book and for life in general. During
some free time, the priest approached Wicks and said: "As
I was reading your latest book I faced a dilemma. I wanted
to read it faster in order to see what you were going to
say next. But I was afraid if I did that, I would miss much
of what you had to say to me. Let me tell you: You are easy
to read, but you sure pack a lot into a little book!"
Therein lies the tension of both this book and modern life.
As Wicks suggests, we feel too busy and overwhelmed by life
today. Wanting to get ahead and maximize time, we hurry
along missing what is right in front of us. I need to let
the reader know from the beginning that this book is not
meant to be read but rather prayed with.
The title for it comes from a Zen image and suggests a
spirituality of gentleness. The author hopes the book is
"read slowly and quietly," offering the reader the possibility
that it "will soften your soul and open you more and more
to receive the love and enlightenment of God until your
whole spiritual landscape has been altered into something
even more beautiful than it is now."
Wicks suggests that this could be done personally, either
in the early morning before going to work or later in the
evening before going to bed; or in the company of others,
as a means of reflection for a retreat or faith-sharing
Wicks's "goal is to provide themes to seed the soul with
ideas, hopes and questions that would encourage a life of
greater peace, hope and love." The bulk of the material
for the book is drawn from five of his best-selling works.
They include: Touching the Holy, Seeds of Sensitivity,
Living Simply in an Anxious World, After 50 and Living
a Gentle, Passionate Life.
From these books the four spiritual and psychological anchors
of his work are drawn: experiencing the Lord, availability,
clarity and ordinariness. These are the themes that Wicks
wishes the reader to remember and pray over.
The thing that I was most struck by in the book was his
response to the question, "How is your prayer life?" He
sees no difference between this question and "How is your
life?" Though we often are tempted to compartmentalize our
lives, especially our spiritual lives, Wicks reminds us
that in the end the questions are one and the same.
As he has sought to do over the years and in this compilation
of his work, Snow Falling on Snow successfully integrates
psychology and religion, asking us all the while what is
truly important in our lives. The book itself is a nice
mixture of poetry and prose. It would serve well as a prompt
for those wishing to deepen their spiritual lives or as
a nice introduction to his work as a whole.
You can order SNOW
FALLING ON SNOW: Themes From the Spiritual Landscape of
Robert J. Wicks from St.