QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON VATICAN II, by Maureen Sullivan.
Paulist Press. 133 pp. $14.95.
VATICAN II: Forty Personal Stories,
edited by William Madges and Michael J. Daley. Twenty-Third
Publications. 231 pp. $19.95.
Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., editor of this publication.
When Vatican II began, he was a freshman in high school.
SULLIVAN, A MEMBER of the Dominican Sisters of Hope, has
written this book for her theology students at St. Anselm
College (Manchester, New Hampshire), for collegians everywhere,
lifelong Catholics and people in the process of becoming Catholics.
"The sad fact," she writes, "is that few Catholics who are
alive today really understand what the Council was all about."
She sees this volume as "a popular primer on Vatican II that
will help bring everything into focus and show that the Council’s
charter is not a dead letter, but a piece of history that
still lives and inspires the most serious Christians on the
Sullivan, who holds a doctorate in theology from Fordham
University, organizes her questions into nine sections: the
council’s preparation (2), each session (4), the immediate
aftermath, its legacy today and reflections on a possible
She points out that more than 100 Belgian and Dutch missionary
bishops helped the 24 designated bishops from those countries
adopt a larger view of the Church. She describes Karl Rahner’s
observation that Vatican II marked Catholicism’s emergence
as a world religion, taking seriously the many cultures and
diverse historical situations influencing its preaching of
the Good News.
Sullivan covers the major aspects of the Council well, but
I wish she had indicated how some actions outside the Council
influenced it: for example, Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical
Pacem in Terris, Pope Paul VI’s trips to the Holy Land
and to the United Nations, plus the appointment of more Latin
American, African and Asian cardinals.
Two minor mistakes: Sullivan refers to the Dogmatic
(instead of the Pastoral) Constitution on the Church
in the Modern World (p. 67) and has the wrong date for
the adoption of that Constitution (p. 122).
This engaging volume concludes with a five-page glossary,
two pages of suggested readings and an index.
The Madges-Daley book offers a fascinating glimpse into
how Vatican II influenced 40 famous Catholics—all but one
currently living in the United States.
The reflections have been grouped thematically. Madges,
chairman of the theology department at Cincinnati’s Xavier
University, and Daley, a teacher at Cincinnati’s St. Xavier
High School, each write three introductions to place sections
"We are our stories," note the editors of a volume aimed
at general readers, college students and people in adult-education
and faith-sharing groups. A sizable biographical note situates
each contributor within Vatican II and its aftermath.
The "Council in Context" section contains reflections by
Francis X. Murphy, Monika Hellwig, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Joan
Chittister, Michael Novak and John Catoir.
"Vatican II and the Liturgy" gives voice to Bill Huebsch,
Owen Campion, Joseph Champlin, Cyprian Davis and Basil Pennington.
In "What It Means to Be Church" we hear from Ladislas Orsy,
Martin Marty, Charles Curran, Richard Rohr, Daniel Pilarczyk,
Francis Sullivan, Lawrence Cunningham and Richard McBrien.
"Revelation, Scripture and Tradition" contains reflections
by Avery Dulles, John Dominic Crossan, Joseph Komonchak, Donald
Senior, Barbara Reid and Joseph Fitzmeyer. The wisdom of Roger
of Taize, Jeffrey Gros, George Tavard, Robert Drinan, Walter
Burghardt, Timothy Unsworth, Francis Cardinal Arinze, Eugene
Fisher and John Pawlikowski enriches the "Ecumenism and Interreligious
Mary Luke Tobin, Mary Jo Weaver, Elizabeth Johnson, Mary
Catherine Hilkert, Robert Blair Kaiser and Thomas Groome reflect
on "World Issues and Social Justice." Eleven pages of endnotes
complete the volume. Only five selections are reprints or
adaptations of previously published material.
This book offers a fascinating way to understand Vatican
You can order 101 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON VATICAN II
and VATICAN II: Forty Personal Stories from
St. Francis Bookshop.
REAL JAMES HERRIOT: A Memoir of My Father, Jim Wight.
Ballantine Books. 371 pp. $25.
Reviewed by EMILY McCORMACK, who is an author and adult
education teacher and adjunct faculty member of the College
of DuPage in Illinois.
IN 1972 the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Book World
published a remarkable review by Alfred Ames: "If there
is any justice, this book will become a classic of its kind..."
Ames was writing about All Creatures Great and Small.
Fortunately for book lovers everywhere, justice did indeed
prevail. Ames’s infectious enthusiasm catapulted the book
onto the best-seller list. Translated into several languages,
over 50 million copies of All Creatures Great and Small
and other books in the series have been sold throughout
the world. The highly popular television show based on the
stories ran for several years.
In telling his Creatures stories, author Alf Wight
used the pseudonym James Herriot. His true stories about life
as a veterinarian-surgeon in England’s Yorkshire make for
splendid reading. The tales are marvelous—heartwarming, eminently
believable and hilarious. Queen Elizabeth II once told Herriot
that several made her laugh out loud.
Now Jim Wight, Alf Wight’s son, has written about his father,
titling the book The Real James Herriot. It is a beautiful
memoir, very much in the tradition and style of the Herriot
works: honest, warm, gentle and hard to put down.
In keeping with his strong religious beliefs, at the beginning
of each of his four most famous books, Alf Wight (Herriot)
quoted the beautiful Christian hymn written by Cecil Alexander
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
From this loving biography, it is evident that Alf Wight
passed on to his son a deep reverence for life. Jim calls
his famous parent a Samaritan, recounting the times his father
listened to and encouraged others in their personal struggles.
Having gone through the dark night of the soul during his
own nervous breakdown, Alf Wight could speak from experience.
Alf Wight was a 20th-century Everyman: a devoted son and
family man; a true patriot, having served his country in World
War II; an author who shared his talent with the world; a
loving friend to all creatures great and small; a credit to
the human race.
Alf Wight, who died in 1995, will always be James Herriot
to those who love his books. After reading Jim Wight’s fine
memoir, we readers can smile and say: Like father, like son.
You can order THE REAL JAMES HERRIOT: A Memoir of My
Father from St.
DYING PEOPLE WANT: Practical Wisdom for the End of Life,
by David Kuhl. Doubleday. 317 pp. $25.
Reviewed by WAYNE A. HOLST, a writer who has taught religion
and culture at the University of Calgary.
"AS TIME IS the most valuable thing we have, because it
is the most irrevocable, the thought of any lost time troubles
us whenever we look back. Time lost is time in which we have
failed to live a full human life, gain experience, learn,
create, enjoy, and suffer; it is time that has not been filled
up, but left empty," according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a modern-day
"The moment someone is told that their illness will likely
result in death, time changes," writes David Kuhl. It is an
occasion unlike any other.
Kuhl, a Soros Scholar associated with the Project on Death
in America (based in New York City), specializes in helping
people better understand the experience of dying and bereavement.
He is committed to influencing change in the way our culture
The author, a Vancouver-based physician, believes that—dreaded
as it is—the realization of impending demise can actually
transform the experience of dying into a special time.
What Dying People Want offers a guide for people
who have a terminal illness, who know someone who has a terminal
illness, or who wish to enhance their understanding of the
dying process. It is based on the stories of people who knew
they were dying. It recognizes that these are not just stories
but someone’s life in the truest sense. The stories of dying
people can become healing medicine to strengthen and enhance
Chapters range from the significance of the present, human
vulnerability, being a wounded healer, healing touch and reviewing
life; to speaking the truth, longing to belong, self-realization,
and embracing life and its transcendent meaning. Dying is
a process that fully engages one’s whole being and integrates
body, mind and spirit.
The author views his patients as co-researchers. He considers
them authorities since only those with a terminal illness
know what it is like to live with such awareness. They hold
the knowledge of the lived experience.
Talking about death is difficult. As a young practitioner,
Kuhl realized that he was good at asking questions of the
patient but not so adept at getting the real message the speaker
was trying to have him understand. He had to set aside professional
bias and avoid trying to explain, predict or control. He undertook
a program in communication studies that changed his understanding
of what an effective doctor/patient relationship might be.
He began to "be with" that other person and to hear what
was really being said. "I had to stop being a detective,"
he writes. He now seeks to engage in an "I-Thou" relationship
and to enter the experience of his patient.
"I had to respect that...whatever those people were saying
was their truth, their reality, their experience of living...
[because] they were indeed living with dying....I wanted to
understand the complexities of the physical, psychological
and spiritual components of knowing what it is to live with
a terminal illness."
As the doctor took the time and really listened to his patients,
he began to learn some very important lessons. For example:
Time is now. Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop
of South Africa, spoke of his own experience knowing he had
cancer. "When you have a potentially terminal disease, it
concentrates the mind wonderfully. It gives new intensity
to life. You discover how many things you have taken for granted."
Communication is of the essence. The way a doctor
reveals bad news to an anxious patient can render ineffective
all the good that medicine seeks to accomplish and can even
increase the suffering. Kuhl has developed procedures for
informing a person who has contracted a terminal illness.
He has also created a process for allowing a patient to tell
his or her story and to deal with sensitive family matters
through a carefully structured meeting.
Speaking the truth. Truth spoken by a loved one,
no matter how difficult to hear, can change one’s life. Impending
death can provide a marvelous opportunity to say the right
word. It can break down long-standing barriers between family
Procrastination in talking about the end of life
is not in anyone’s best interest. "...it is never too early
to connect with the people we care about....If you’ve got
something you would like to say to someone, it is important
enough to say right now."
Dying is a time of transition, of moving from one place
to another. It is at this juncture, suspended between ordinary
time and eternity, that this book is such a wonderful contribution
to human knowledge and understanding.
You can order WHAT DYING PEOPLE WANT: Practical Wisdom
for the End of Life from St.
WAY OF FORGIVENESS: How to Heal Life’s Hurts and Restore Broken
Relationships, by Patrick J. Brennan. Charis Books/Servant
Publications. 216 pp. $10.99.
Reviewed by KATHLEEN FINLEY, who teaches, writes and
speaks about marriage and family topics, sometimes with her
husband, Mitch. Together they are the parents of three young
men. Her most recent books are The Seeker’s Guide to Building
a Christian Marriage: Eleven Essential Skills (Loyola Press)
and Savoring God: Praying With All Our Senses (Ave
WE LIVE in a world so clearly in need of forgiveness, whether
we look at the larger world scene or at the smaller scale
of our own lives. But although we’ve been told to say we were
sorry since we were old enough to hurt a brother or sister—and
that was pretty young—no one’s ever really shown us how to
forgive. Most of us, I would venture to say, do our forgiving
poorly at best.
Father Patrick Brennan has given those of us who need help
with forgiveness—which includes everyone I can think of—a
wonderful resource in his book, The Way of Forgiveness.
He brings his extensive pastoral experience and sensitivity,
as well as his background as a psychotherapist and his personal
honesty, to this topic. For example, he talks openly about
how impatient he can get with his aging mother and how he
needs to ask her forgiveness.
He offers helpful steps, stories and reflections for both
those seeking forgiveness and those seeking to forgive. He
also includes specific situations that may be especially difficult
to forgive, such as forgiving someone who has died or an abuser
or unfaithful spouse or forgiving systems, institutions or
groups—or even oneself.
Father Brennan reminds us, "To forgive is divine. To forgive
is to share in the power of God. It is to live in imitation
of God. If, indeed, we are made in God’s likeness, we must
forgive or we are violating our very nature. If we do not
forgive, we cut ourselves off from others, God and ultimately
The Way of Forgiveness may not make the process of
forgiveness completely easy for us, but we can no longer say
that we don’t know how to forgive after reading this gentle,
helpful resource. Share it with someone you care about—maybe
You can order THE WAY OF FORGIVENESS: How to Heal Life’s
Hurts and Restore Broken Relationships from St.
HOLY TWINS, by Kathleen Norris, illustrated by Tomie de
Paola. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 38 pp. $16.99.
Reviewed by MARJORIE FLATHERS, who has over 20 years
experience writing for children and adults. Her work appears
in numerous publications, including St. Anthony Messenger.
IS IT POSSIBLE for children today to relate to the saints
who lived hundreds of years ago? The answer is yes if these
saints are presented to them as appealingly as the two personalities
in the picture storybook The Holy Twins are.
Noted spiritual writer Kathleen Norris (The Cloister
Walk) and winsome children’s artist Tomie de Paola (Strega
Nona and many others) have combined their talents to present
the story of brother and sister medieval saints Benedict and
The story begins with their childhood in the mountains of
northern Italy, and Norris’s prose shines as she describes
how these youngsters played together and squabbled, especially
when Benedict would make up "too many rules" about their games,
and Scholastica "would laugh and ignore them."
Through both story and illustration, the twins’ temperaments
are contrasted. Benedict is seen as serious and rigid, while
Scholastica is portrayed as a merry, even sassy soul, who
nonetheless continually prayed about her brother’s many difficulties
The story continues as the twins move through adolescence
and into adulthood. In keeping with the times and the family’s
station in life, Benedict was sent to Rome to study, and Scholastica
went to live with a group of nuns in order to become literate.
Dismayed by the realities of city life, Benedict soon retreated
to the country to live as a hermit, but as his reputation
as a holy man grew, he was asked to be the head of various
monasteries and eventually settled as the abbot of the monastery
of Monte Cassino.
Meanwhile, Scholastica, contented with convent life, became
a member of that community, and brother and sister decided
to begin meeting once a year to renew their friendship and
It was at this time that Benedict developed his famous Rule
to help the monks in their everyday lives of work and prayer.
He had learned to temper his impatience and rigidity, and
Scholastica helped him to modify the Rule further with common
sense and room for experiment, showing him that love rises
above rules, however valuable they may be.
Norris, however, doesn’t sugarcoat this story as sometimes
happens in books about saints for children. Mention is made
of the cruelty and slavery Benedict witnessed in the city
and that many of the Christian clergy he encountered were
tempted by power and money. She also describes an occasion
where the members of an early community gave him poisoned
wine because he was such a strict and demanding abbot.
De Paola has used simple lines and basic, muted colors to
draw these engaging people and the Italian countryside.
The Holy Twins is a good introduction for children
into the rich tradition of saints and their stories. It shows
young people that even the most venerated saints were not
otherworldly beings but individuals similar to themselves:
people who had faults and failings but, by responding to God’s
grace in overcoming these flaws, were able to live more fulfilling
lives and give greater glory to God.
You can order THE HOLY TWINS from St.
THE CORNERSTONE: Christians Coping in a World of Chaos and
Confusion, by Susan Blum Gerding, Ed.D. Jeremiah Press.
126 pp. $9.95.
Reviewed by the REV. LAWRENCE VENTLINE, D.Min., a Catholic
priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and a licensed psychotherapist.
Keeping Christ in the forefront, Dr. Susan Blum Gerding
integrates spiritual solutions for pilgrims who are on the
path of holiness but fractured by stress, trauma, terror,
overload, scandal, anger, even rage.
Dr. Gerding is president of Isaiah Ministries and a convert
to Catholicism. She has received evangelization medals and
awards from Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.
Here she proposes four ways to heal from 9/11, sexual abuse
in the Church, a fractured economy and corporate corruption:
1) Name the feelings; 2) Identify the stumbling blocks; 3)
Call on God’s healing power; and 4) Become instruments of
Dr. Gerding quotes Pope John Paul II at Toronto’s 2002 World
Youth Day: "A new generation of builders is needed. Moved
not by fear or violence, but by the urgency of genuine love,
they must learn to build, brick by brick, the City of God.
Christ alone is the cornerstone on which it is possible to
build solidly one’s existence."
She goes on to present a down-to-earth, nuts-and-bolts,
ready-to-use process for healing the confusion in our culture.
Any formation program in the parish could augment the faith
of the People of God by using this book in as few as five
sessions. This writer helps readers through the dark night
of the soul.
You can order CHRIST THE CORNERSTONE: Christians Coping
in a World of Chaos and Confusion from St.