TO THE FIELD OF STARS: A Pilgrim’s
Journey to Santiago de Compostela, by Kevin A. Codd. Wm. B. Eerdmans.
271 pp. $18.
Reviewed by BRIAN WELTER, who teaches
ESL (English as a Second Language) to
adults in Vancouver, British Columbia,
and writes for a variety of Catholic publications.
He recently received a D.Th. from
the University of South Africa with a study
on Pope John Paul II.
SIMPLY PUT, this is great theology
because, faithful to the Church and
very mindful of tradition, Father Kevin
Codd brings doctrine alive. He focuses
on the physical and metaphysical,
the individual and
the social side of Catholic
beliefs and practice. On the
famous medieval pilgrim
trail through southern
France to Spain’s Santiago
de Compostela, he fully
lives the spirituality of the
The author’s romantic,
poetic grasp of God and
theology underscores the
book’s success; in fact, the
pilgrim trail attracts religious romantics,
people who do not think as most
people do in our money- and success-oriented
“[I]f you are satisfied being a very
contemporary person living in a world
formed by the likes of Descartes, Freud,
and Henry Ford, if you have no interest
in adventures of the spirit, or if you
have no desire to ramble on foot across
a fair piece of this earth’s lovely skin,
then the story I am about to tell you
will not matter to you.”
Codd’s excellent character sketches
of the personalities he meets along the
way enhance his theology. He uses his
personal struggle with people’s rudeness
or selfishness to teach something
about humility. He reflects on the community
spirit and openness to cultures
of people from different countries. He
appreciates the loving care which religious
sisters, brothers, priests and laity
offer to the pilgrims.
To the Field of Stars brings alive Christianity’s
basic fact as a materialist religion.
The Incarnation sanctifies the
physical world and reflects God’s loving
interest in it, and specifically in
the lives of humans.
The author lives with blisters, painful
tendons, a sore back and occasionally
tasteless food, relying on his hope and
faith, both of which pull him toward
The depth of this book, additionally,
comes from the lack of romanticism
from this romantic.
While he is a dreamer,
he also lets his angry feelings
and sufferings come
out in the book’s pages. He
doesn’t spiritually float toward
Like any spiritually mature
pilgrim, his romanticism is
deeper than childish feelings.
He describes how his
thoughts and feelings—including petty thoughts
and immature feelings—roam all over,
but how he never loses sight
of the big spiritual picture.
This includes a special
reverence for tradition’s
religious wisdom: “It may
seem ridiculous to us altogether
well-educated people of the
third millennium, but there
was a time, not so long ago,
especially in Europe, when
popular religious belief
often included an unshakable
sense that the space
between God and us in certain places
on the face of this earth was especially
One irritating point to the book is
very important. Codd criticizes the
comportment of priests at the Mass,
especially their speed, lack of holiness
and apparent inhospitality toward pilgrims.
It is surprising to this reviewer
that Codd, himself a priest, would
attend Mass as he would a movie or a
baseball game. He seems to commit
the error of asking himself whether he
and others had “gotten anything out of
Church.” He erroneously regards the
Church and the Mass as therapeutic
rather than sacramental.
You can order TO THE FIELD OF STARS: A Pilgrim’s
Journey to Santiago de Compostela from St. Francis Bookstore.
THE PERFECT GAME, by W. William
Winokur. Kissena Park Press. 342 pp.
Reviewed by MITCH FINLEY, author of
more than 30 books for Catholic readers,
most recently The Rosary Handbook: A
Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers, and
Those In Between (The Word Among Us
THE MOVIE VERSION of this book may
be out by the time you read this. Take
my word for it: If the movie is even half
as good as the book, it’s worth the price
of a ticket. Whether you enjoy baseball
or not, the book is one you’ll want to
share with everyone you
know and one you’ll never
The Perfect Game is the
true story of a Little League
baseball team from Monterrey,
Mexico, a hardscrabble
city. The year was
1957, and the boys who
made up the team went
from less than zero to winning
the Little League
The boys learned their
baseball skills quickly, and their team
spirit was second to none. They had a
skilled coach in Cesar Faz, who had
been a bat boy for an American minor league team and later a janitor for an
American major league team. Their
goal: to play just one game with an
American Little League team, which
they expect to lose, and then to return
home with their dream fulfilled.
Author Winokur makes it clear that,
from Day One, fundamental to the
boys’ lives and spirit was their Catholic
faith. Each Sunday after Mass, Padre
Esteban, the parish priest, lets the boys
listen to American baseball games on
his radio. The boys play their own
games on a dirt field. They have no
uniforms, no real bats and only crude,
But they dream big and, inspired by
Padre Esteban, they decide to organize
their own Little League team. Tipped
off by the priest about Cesar Faz’s background—he exaggerates a little around
the city—they talk him into being their
One thing leads to another, one
little miracle leads to another, and
one day the boys climb on a bus
headed to Texas. They wear their
new uniforms everywhere because
their regular clothes are threadbare,
patched and torn, and each one carries
a change of underwear in a paper
bag. They have a three-day visa and
barely enough money to pay for meals
for a few days.
But to everyone’s surprise—including
their own—they win their first game
with an American team.
The Mexican boys average 35
pounds lighter and six inches shorter
than their American counterparts. But
they win. And they win again and
again, and they refuse to take the field
for a game until they have received a
blessing from a priest.
And the little miracles continue.
After their games the boys go into the
crowd begging for money so they can
eat and keep traveling. Their visas are
extended through the kindness of a
Mexican businessman with some leverage
in the United States.
Eventually, against all imaginable
odds, the Mexican boys win the Little
League World Series, and they do it
spectacularly when pint-sized Angel
Macias pitches a perfect no-hitter.
Then, they visit President Eisenhower
at the White House, attend an American
major league game, and return to
Mexico as national heroes.
And it all really and truly happened.
I double-dare you to finish reading
this book without tears in your eyes.
You can order THE PERFECT GAME from St.
CHRISTIANITY AND SCIENCE:
Toward a Theology of Nature, by
John F. Haught. Orbis Books. 208 pp.
THE BIG QUESTIONS IN SCIENCE
AND RELIGION, by Keith Ward. Templeton
Foundation Press. 281 pp.
Reviewed by MARK M. WILKINS, a religion
teacher at St. Xavier High School in
Cincinnati, Ohio, for 33 years. For 15 of
those years he has team-taught with a
biology teacher a course in bioethics. He
has a master’s degree in theology from
Marquette University. The following is a
follow-up to his February review of six
books relating to Darwin’s theory of evolution.
UNDERLYING MUCH of the polemicism
about the viability of religious
faith in the 21st century is a clash of
worldviews. Some maintain their faith
by clinging to a pre-scientific worldview.
Others conclude that perhaps the
universe has outgrown the biblical God
said to be its creator. And that is where
the either/or dichotomy stalls.
John Haught, senior fellow in science
and religion at Woodstock Theological
Center, suggests that an
exploration of the “three infinities”
(the immense, the infinitesimal and
the complex) will provide an unprecedented
appreciation for the grandeur of
God, creation, Jesus Christ and redemption.
Haught’s book is for those who want
more than a cursory or superficial
analysis of the science-vs.-religion
debate. Showing a great appreciation of
the writings of Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Haught turns the focus of
faith from the past to the future so that
creation, evolution and scientific discoveries
open our eyes, our minds and
our hearts to the arrival of the future.
Toward the end of the
book, he writes that the God
of the Bible who “goes
before” the people of Israel is
also going before us in an
evolving universe. The
promise of God in Scripture
is not of a return to a golden
age where all was perfect but
of a new heaven and a new
earth that have been fully
and completely transformed.
Keith Ward, an Anglican
priest and emeritus professor
of divinity at Oxford University,
has written a book that takes on the
same topic in a more systematic and
thematic way. Each chapter focuses on
a different question about the beginning
or end of the universe, evolution,
miracles, the soul, as well as the impact
of science on truth, moral and religious
beliefs, revelation and faith in God.
Part of the popular myth of human
progress is that religion is a remnant of
the infancy of the human race and that
science will deliver us from superstition
and childish fears of the distant
Ward makes the argument that we
will never escape disagreements because
we see the world differently based
on our perceptions, assumptions and
He also states that believers and nonbelievers
should be duly cautious about
claims to ultimate truth. He does not
argue that truth is relative, but that the
human ability to understand and to
convey the “truth” is limited.
For those of us who are color-blind,
it is easy to understand. Not being able
to see certain shades of green has forced
me to rely on others to
understand that the traffic
signals are red-yellow-green,
not red-yellow-white. The
signal is green—regardless of
whether the cones and rods
in my eyes transmit that
information to my brain. Not
“getting it” is not the same as
it being untrue, false or
Both authors want to get
away from either/or thinking
which ranks material,
physical or corporeal experience above
immaterial, spiritual, emotional experience.
Haught holds that the mind/
matter dualism leads to the stance
that deadness is the normative state
of being (the cosmos will burn out in
the distant future); thus, life is the
exception. Both authors show that it is
equally credible and logical to hold
that life is the norm and we are moving
toward greater life.
Haught’s book makes the argument
that a theology of nature must do more
than look for the theological meaning
of scientific discoveries. Further, he
states that it must show that the content
of revelation can actually support
the mind in its quest for scientific truth.
Ward stakes the claim that religious
experience is like the experience of
truth, beauty and goodness—valid ways
to interpret or articulate what the world
To counter the argument that all
facts are publicly observable and agreed
upon by everybody, Ward notes that
three hot topics in quantum physics
(superstrings, probability waves for electrons
and superposed particle quantum
states) are not publicly observable.
Yet hundreds of Web sites are devoted
to discussions of these matters. The
world of science has become more paradoxical
and more difficult to understand.
Both authors state there still is a
place for common sense and for multiple
paths to “facts” and “truth.”
You can orderCHRISTIANITY AND SCIENCE:
Toward a Theology of Nature and THE BIG QUESTIONS IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION from St.
THE ARCHBISHOP IN ANDALUSIA:
A Blackie Ryan Novel, by Andrew M.
Greeley. Tom Doherty Associates. 269
Reviewed by DONALD J. McGRATH, a
retired English teacher of Roger Bacon High
School in Cincinnati, Ohio.
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY has produced
another one of his mystery novels
that has a contemporary setting. In
The Archbishop in Andalusia, Archbishop
John Blackwood Ryan, known to his
relatives and close friends as Blackie,
travels to Spain and ends up solving an
Blackie, who is coadjutor to Cardinal
Cronin of Chicago, has been invited to
a conference on American philosophy
in Seville. While in Spain, Blackie stays
at the residence of Cardinal Diego
Romanos, who is a friend of Cronin.
Blackie is, to say the least, a very
nontraditional archbishop. He is more
comfortable wearing jeans, a black clerical
shirt (sans collar) and a windbreaker
that looks as if it was obtained
from the Chicago Cubs.
Blackie wears the customary attire
of an archbishop only when absolutely
necessary. He differs from many other
members of the hierarchy because he
abhors long ceremonies. He explains
that when he was responsible for the
cathedral in Chicago he edited the
“ordeals” proposed by the liturgy committee.
He argues that the Roman liturgy
should not dawdle but should “move
along.” He maintains that we are not
Greeks who could not do anything
without shaking censers filling the air
with various suspicious oriental smells,
and we are not Ethiopians who had
been infected by the pagan African custom
of nightlong services. We are
Americans and the last thing we want
to do is to bore people. Liturgies should
not be boring!
Greeley allows the reader to know
the thoughts and feelings of Blackie.
Even though the archbishop’s life is
one of prayer and service, he experiences
the sexual ardor common to
men. Upon meeting Dona Teresa, the
duchess of Seville, he is so acutely aware of her feminine beauty that he mentally
summons the graces of Holy
Orders to help him retain his vow of
He muses to himself, “Blackie Ryan
is a man of the world, is he not? Is it
not true that he encounters many disturbing
women? He can take care of
himself, can he not, even
if this is the first Castilian
duchess who has disturbed
him? He is protected by
the grace of holy orders,
This reader found humor
in Blackie’s description of a
hallway in Dona Teresa’s
residence. The corridor had
an uncompromising dark
wood wall that ran the
length of the building. “The
place reminded me of the
convents we’d built in the United States
in the late 19th century: solemn,
gloomy and dead.”
The ambience of the mansion is in
sharp contrast to the intrigue and liveliness
that reside with the duchess
and her relatives. I found humor in
Greeley’s liberalism, and in the quips
he used throughout the book, such
as, “The American academic system
produces a lot of people who write
about philosophy but very few philosophers.”
While John Blackwood is in Seville,
someone attempts to kill Dona Teresa.
With the skills of a Sherlock Holmes,
Blackie solves this mystery by figuring
out how the would-be assassin obtained
access to Dona Teresa’s bedchamber
that was known to be always locked.
There is an array of engaging characters
in this novel. Senorita Maria
Luisa, Dona’s daughter, is just as stunning
as her mother. Isidoro de Colon,
with the inherited title of Admiral of
the Ocean Seas, is Maria Luisa’s fiancé.
As Maria’s rejected suitor, Don Teodoro
Guzman consistently causes havoc.
Don Diaz, a widower, is Dona Teresa’s
private lover whom everyone seems to
A secondary plot revolves around
Dona Teresa’s struggle to control the
money left to her by her deceased husband.
Distant relatives of Dona Teresa
maintain that they have a legal claim
to some of the money. The case has
been dragging in the courts.
A slight familiarity of 20th-century
Spanish geography and history would
be an asset to readers when navigating
this book. People might want to refer to
maps, noting that Andalusia is a region
in the south of Spain.
There is reference to the
Falange, a Fascist political
party born in 1938 which
advocated a totalitarian
nationalism to combat capitalism
Some of the minor characters
who dislike the duchess
are residual Falangists. The
Falangists wanted the Spanish
government to retain
control over the Catholic
Church, thus weakening its
ties with the Vatican.
The text is sprinkled with Spanish
words such as paseo (walk), siempre (always), de nada (it’s nothing), cierto (true), novio (fiancé), pasado mañana (day after tomorrow), amante (lover).
This does generate some Spanish ambience,
but a glossary would have
obviated constant references to a
John Blackwood Ryan is a person
whose company you enjoy while
respecting him for his integrity. His
persona is engaging throughout the
entire novel. His unexpected wit keeps
you alert from chapter to chapter. This
main character makes the novel worth
Fans of Father Andrew Greeley might
be relieved to learn that this 80-year-old
sociologist and author is recuperating
at home now from a serious auto accident
he had in November of 2008. He
has been making excellent progress
with intensive physical therapy, according
to his blog, andysword.com.
You can order THE ARCHBISHOP IN ANDALUSIA:
A Blackie Ryan Novel from St. Francis Bookstore.