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How Our Pope Loves Youth!


MY DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS: Pope John Paul II Speaks to Youth on Life, Love, and Courage, edited by John Vitek. St. Mary’s Press. 119 pp. $9.95.

Reviewed by CAROL ANN MORROW, editor of Youth Update, published by St. Anthony Messenger Press.

HE LOVES YOUNG PEOPLE, this pope of ours. Those who know that will want this book. Those who don’t know that yet should be sure to get this slim, nonthreatening volume, so they will also realize Pope John Paul’s affection for them.

The book comes with a CD single, on which the pope himself addresses them as, “My dear young friends...,” and Tony Melendez, musician and veteran of several papal visits, sings a song of the same title as the book.

It’s a user-friendly package and an excellent way for young pilgrims to prepare for World Youth Day in Toronto (July 18-28, 2002). It’s also a fine way to remember Toronto, which surely will hold papal challenges and inspirations like those collected in this book.

Fifty-two “sound-bite” reflections are included. They are the best of the best. Editor John Vitek asked some youth to assist him in selecting the papal passages and they did well. I suspect I share a teenager’s intolerance for Church-ese and multisyllabic prose, and these salient passages avoid both.

Every two-page segment begins with a Scripture passage, then a citation from the pope’s many messages to youth. Each citation is followed by three mini-sections: 1) Think About That; 2) Take Action; and 3) Say a Prayer.

Each spread also includes a short “Did you know?” about the pope. I had to flip through the whole book, just to read them all right away (to test my knowledge of the Holy Father). I was a little disconcerted that they were in no particular order (that I could discern), but that kind of linear thinking reveals I’m no youth, after all.

When I listened to the high-energy single, the pope’s voice reminded me how I felt he was speaking directly to me when I attended the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver. He may be frailer today, but the strength of his message is communicated well—in his own words and in those written and sung by Melendez.

This book is surely as important to the pilgrim experience as walking shoes and a water bottle. This is support and nourishment for the soul. All those who want to be with the pope in Toronto could make it with this little guidebook—even if they never leave home.

You can order MY DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS: Pope John Paul II Speaks to Youth on Life, Love, and Courage from St. Francis Bookshop.

EMERALD AISLE: A Notre Dame Mystery, by Ralph McInerny. St. Martin’s Minotaur. 225 pp. $22.95, U.S.; $32.95, Canada.

Reviewed by BARBARA BECKWITH, book review editor of this column and a graduate of Marquette University’s College of Journalism.

A ROMANTIC COUPLE of freshmen at the University of Notre Dame make a reservation at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus to wed seven years hence, on a Saturday in June 2002. But their relationship doesn’t last and the prospective bride and groom try to claim the date with other spouses-to-be. That’s the fresh premise of this mystery and explains the title, which, of course, is a horrid pun as well.

The Knight brothers are friends with graduating senior Nancy Beatty and almost-lawyer Larry Morton. Now Larry is trying to talk his old flame, Dolores Torres, out of the wedding reservation so he and Nancy can marry.

But Dolores, who now works computerizing the records of a law firm in Minneapolis, wants to marry her boss, Dudley Fyte, the firm’s hotshot with the mysterious past. Dolores resists giving up the date.

Dudley is also carrying on an affair with the wife of a real-estate magnate, who wants to donate his rare-book collection to the Archives at Notre Dame.

Roger and Philip Knight are hired as detectives to ensure the security of these priceless papers of Cardinal John Henry Newman. The detective business is a sideline for the oversize Roger who is ND’s resident Huneker Professor of Catholic Studies. His brother Phil jumped at the chance to move from Rye, New York, to South Bend, Indiana, after he was mugged for the third time in Manhattan, and because of his interest in Notre Dame sports. (Fan comes from the word fanatic, after all.) Phil does the legwork for the detective duo. When Phil’s on the road, the bachelor brothers keep in touch by e-mail.

The book collector’s wife is murdered. That has to be straightened out before anyone can wed anyone on an Irish aisle—or before any books can be sent off to the university archives.

The eccentric Knight brothers are continuing characters in McInerny’s Notre Dame mystery series. McInerny also created the Father Dowling and Andrew Broom mystery series, but this series is set closest to his real life. For over 40 years McInerny has taught philosophy at Notre Dame and is director of its Jacques Maritain Center.

The book is studded with McInerny’s love of learning: Latin phrases like bonun est diffusivum sui and esse est percipi; an outrageous crack about Ockham’s razor in referring to the Minneapolis curator who shaves off his lavish beard when he’s suspected of the theft and murder and flees; touches of local color in the use of Notre Dame settings like its residence halls, restaurants and Grotto; and the passion of the librarians and archivists who love what they preserve.

McInerny’s fondness for the “old” Church is also evident, particularly in his description of the basilica. Adultery is treated as sinful, named as such, and its harmful effects are shown.

In addition, a reader has to be willing to deal with a nonchronological narrative—at least in the first part; pure logical exercises in deduction; a complex denouement of murderer(s) and cause(s) of death; and an open question as to whether, in the end, the really guilty party gets the proper punishment.

The funniest bit occurs early when the brothers are flying over the Golden Dome and the pilot tells his passengers that the figure atop is Coach Knute Rockne. (Of course, it’s actually Our Lady, for whom the school is named.)

It’s an enjoyable book for those who know what they are getting. And for anyone who loves Notre Dame and the intellectual Catholic world, it’s a real treat.

You can order EMERALD AISLE: A Notre Dame Mystery from St. Francis Bookshop.

TOLKIEN: A Celebration, edited by Joseph Pearce. Ignatius Press. 204 pp. $12.95.

TOLKIEN’S ORDINARY VIRTUES: Exploring the Spiritual Themes of The Lord of the Rings, by Mark Eddy Smith. InterVarsity Press. 141 pp. $10.99.

Reviewed by BARBARA SONNENBERG, a native Cincinnatian and retired public librarian who serves on the St. Anthony Messenger Press Advisory Board.

WITH THE POPULARITY of the new movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has come a resurgence of interest in J.R.R. Tolkien as a novelist and theologian.

The first of the two books reviewed here is sub-subtitled “Collected Writings on a Literary Legacy.” Joseph Pearce’s anthology grew from an abundance of sources unearthed in the process of researching material for an earlier book entitled Tolkien: Man and Myth.

These 14 essays and one interview, largely unpublished or appearing in relatively obscure publications, range from delightful, very personal recollections of the man as family head (C.S. Lewis called him “the most married man he had ever met”), to deeply serious considerations on the place of myth and religious themes in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

George Sayer’s essay characterizes Tolkien as “a devout and strict old-fashioned Catholic” who liked to go to Confession before receiving Communion, was deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin and felt that the post-Vatican II reforms were “misguided and unnecessary.”

“Modernity in Middle-earth” by Patrick Curry is an intriguing consideration of applying the principles of Middle-earth to such modern concerns as industrialization, urbanization and materialism.

Five essays deal primarily with religious considerations of the works and range from “The Lord of the Rings—A Catholic View” by Charles Coulombe to “On the Reality of Fantasy” by James Schall, S.J., and “A Far-Off Gleam of the Gospel: Salvation in Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings” by Colin Gunton.

Some contributors zero in on aspects such as “The Sense of Time in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings” by Kevin Aldrich, who considers the characters’ struggles to deal with death on their own terms, be they elves who live as long as the world exists or men who leave earth after a time and find death a blessing.

Stephen Lawhead contributes an entertaining essay crediting Tolkien as his inspiration for writing the fantasy fiction that has made him a best-selling author.

As would be expected with such a limited theme, treated by multiple essayists, some repetition is to be found.

Literature students, take note! Teen-age to adult readers who wish to gain some in-depth perspective on J.R.R. Tolkien and his works will find this book to be an excellent study aid. High school and college libraries may wish to consider it for their literature and reference collections.

The other author, Mark Eddy Smith, was introduced to Tolkien at the age of 11 by his great-aunt Marion who gave him his first copy of The Lord of the Rings. Annual readings since have deepened his insights into the spiritual values portrayed by the Ring characters.

In this brief work he proceeds systematically through each of the six books enumerating perceived virtues and describing which characters and events best reflect them. Scriptural quotes touching upon the same character traits are also cited.

Some topics such as Perspective, Wonder, Mirth and Imagination might not fit a strict definition of virtue, but Smith builds a strong case for their inclusion. In Book 3, The Two Towers, he cites Providence as one of the chief weapons in God’s “arsenal of weaknesses” chosen to represent him, and compares Gandalf’s “Do not then stumble at the end of the road” with Paul’s directive to the Philippians, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Smith has produced an eminently readable, very personal journal of his Middle-earth heroes as characterized by their spiritual virtues. The immediate accessibility of the text, as opposed to the Pearce work, makes its appeal more broadly based across all ages and education levels, but familiarity with The Lord of the Rings is definitely required.

You can order TOLKIEN: A Celebration and TOLKIEN’S ORDINARY VIRTUES: Exploring the Spiritual Themes of The Lord of the Rings from St. Francis Bookshop.

HOW TO BE DAD, written and photographed by Nick Kelsh. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 48 pages. $14.95.

Reviewed by CHUCK BLANKENSHIP, who has spent over 21 years admiring his wife’s ability to mother, and learning to be the best dad he can be to their three children.

TOO MANY TIMES I’ve read books about being a father and come away with a general feeling of unease. Even the most inspirational have left me feeling inadequate, somehow just not up to the task. How, I’ve wondered, could I possibly live up to all these lofty expectations? How could I possibly react to the reams of information about fatherhood, role-modeling and the importance of being strong, wise and true?

But the moment I laid eyes on this attractive little gift book by Nick Kelsh, I knew I was looking at the subject through the realistic and compassionate eyes of another dad.

A “photographer-philosopher,” Kelsh bills himself. Just viewing the photographs in this book, I could see his philosophy of fatherhood emerging. I could see him standing in awe of the miracle that we call our children, photographing those open, accepting and hopeful young faces as they interact with “their dad.”

Kelsh’s photos capture everything from the delighted faces of children at play with their dad, to the peaceful countenance of an infant asleep on his dad’s chest. His photos speak of a child’s admiration, a daughter’s delight, a young child’s lesson in tenderness and care, plus a father’s unending effort to serve his family, even in a mundane midnight convenience-store setting.

But beyond the photographs, in the sparse but thoughtful text that accompanies the images, Kelsh shows himself to be a true philosopher. “Just who do you think you are,” he asks, “to be someone’s dad?”

Not only does he offer a wealth of practical tips on being a dad, but he casts some pretty sensible light on the whole enterprise.

“The possibility of being a happy old father,” he writes, “lies in giving your children the best you have today.”

He reflects on the best lessons a man can teach his son: “If a man can teach his son to respect women, he has given the gift of stepping outside oneself. He has taught him to care for people whom, in many ways, he has nothing in common with.” And he offers his thoughts on raising daughters: “The most valuable gift you can give your daughters is confidence.”

But best of all, Kelsh offers that, despite our feelings of inadequacy, klutziness and uncertainty, all dads share a common bond: “No man can give birth to a child, but no woman can give a father’s love.”

How to Be Dad is not just another little gift book to give your husband or your father on Father’s Day. This little gem is a gift book that will confirm and reassure any father in his best efforts to “be Dad” to those precious gifts he calls his children.

You can order How To Be Dad from St. Francis Bookshop.

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF POPES: A Spirited Guide to the Treasures of the Vatican, by Enrico Bruschini. William Morrow. 260 pp. $30.

Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., new editor of St. Anthony Messenger. In 1985-92 while working at the international headquarters of the Order of Friars Minor in Rome, he visited the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica many times.

“A WORK OF ART is a true work of art only if it moves your soul!” declares Enrico Bruschini. No guide can move someone’s soul, but experts can point out the details helpful to appreciate the beauty of a masterpiece.

Describing himself as a “good Roman,” Bruschini has spent many years in that city, serving as art historian and later Fine Art Curator at the U.S. embassy to Italy before his retirement in 1998. He has given Vatican tours to countless visitors, including Cokie Roberts, who provides an enthusiastic Foreword for this volume.

Bruschini writes, “The scope of this guidebook is to help you to choose the best route and, depending on the amount of time you have available, to get the most out of your visit in the most efficient way.”

The Vatican Museums occupy 196 pages of this book, including 30 pages on the Sistine Chapel. Four museums are described in less than seven pages. The rest of the book focuses on St. Peter’s Basilica, plus its piazza and colonnade.

Bruschini does not pretend to describe everything. He explains the art he considers most important, especially those works that influenced other pieces in the Vatican Museums. Technical details, historical anecdotes and famous comments about various works of art all find a place in this guidebook.

The 15 color plates and 41 black-and-white photos show the beauty described here. A 10-page index by artist, subject matter and title of each work makes locating specific items very easy.

There are reader-friendly comments about the best time of day to go to the museums, what to bring or not bring, how to know if the direct passage from the Sistine Chapel into St. Peter’s is open and welcome information such as “Halfway up the stairs, there is a small bathroom with cool drinkable water.” He even advances a theory or two—for example, Mary in Michelangelo’s Pietà is carved in the same posture as if she were holding the infant Jesus.

Commenting on the Sobieski Room, Bruschini explains how the cornetto became the favorite Italian breakfast roll. Although some digressions are more helpful, I found nothing here tedious. Several graffiti are identified and placed in context.

Bruschini was permitted several times on the scaffolding to see the Sistine Chapel’s fresco cleaning up close. Michelangelo’s design for the original scaffolding was only slightly modified for the cleaners almost 500 years later!

I was disappointed that Bruschini devoted seven pages to the Borgia Apartments but gave not a single comment about any work exhibited in the Museum of Modern Religious Art.

Several diagrams and four pages of information about Vatican phone numbers, hours of operation and how to make reservations enhance this book’s usefulness.

You can order IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF POPES: A Spirited Guide to the Treasures of the Vatican from St. Francis Bookshop.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CHRISTIAN MEDITATION: The Path of Contemplative Prayer, by Paul T. Harris. Introduction by Sister Madeleine Simon, R.S.C.J. 258 pp. Twenty-Third Publications. $13.95. (In Canada, Novalis Publishing. $18.95.)

Reviewed by GARRETT PATTERSON, a communications consultant in Ottawa, Ontario.

THE AFTERMATH OF the events of September 11, 2001, has left the world in a state of shock, epitomized by the threat of ongoing terrorist attacks, slumping economies, and a general fear and anxiety over the future of the world. That increasing level of fear includes the potential terrorist use of biological, chemical and even nuclear weapons.

Many people have taken these events as an opportunity to deepen their relationship with God.

In this, his eighth book on the subject of Christian meditation/contemplative prayer, Paul Harris offers us a thorough introduction to the way of prayer through a question-and-answer format.

Harris follows the teaching of the late Benedictine monk, John Main (1926-1982), one of the great 20th-century teachers of contemplative prayer. Main anchored his teaching in Scripture and the practice of the early Christian desert monks of repeating a short sacred phrase in prayer to bring one to interior silence in the presence of God.

The author, who has traveled the world teaching Christian meditation at workshops, retreats and conferences, draws on his 18 years of experience to provide a step-by-step explanation for the inquirer, the beginner and the curious. More than 50 questions cover the teaching of meditation, as well as questions concerning those who have practiced contemplative prayer, past and present, and questions relating to the ongoing journey of meditation.

In tune with the current world situation, Harris shows the efficacy, challenge and relevance of this way of prayer in a world of fear, distress and anxiety. In a global shortage of silence, he says, meditation can provide an oasis of peace, inner strength and contact with God.

Samples of the questions include: Why should I meditate? Is it difficult? What is a mantra? What is the mantra’s role in prayer? Isn’t prayer talking to God? Is meditation really prayer?

More than 15 pages of notes and bibliography provide an abundance of additional sources for further reading. In addition Harris recommends as a source of information the Web site for the World Community for Christian Meditation: www.wccm.org.

For readers, perhaps the most interesting section deals with well-known teachers of this way of silence and stillness in prayer. They range from the fourth-century desert monk John Cassian, to the anonymous author of the 14th-century English spiritual classic The Cloud of Unknowing; from the author of the Russian spiritual classic The Way of the Pilgrim, to the French Benedictine priest, Father Henri Le Saux, known as Abhishiktananda, who lived in India, practiced meditation and has much to say on the subject of silence in prayer.

The author also devotes short essays in answers to questions on such exponents of contemplative prayer as Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish girl who was killed at Auschwitz in 1943; Simone Weil (1909-1943), the French writer and social activist; Evelyn Underhill (1875-1943), the great Anglican spiritual writer, scholar and teacher, who helped pave the way for the contemporary renewal of contemplative prayer; Thomas Merton (1915-1968), one of the 20th century’s most articulate champions of the contemplative way of life; and Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche movement for the mentally challenged, who writes beautifully about the need for silence in prayer as the basis of the work of L’Arche.

Centuries ago the psalmist declared: “Be still and know that I am God.” St. John of the Cross once said, “God is the center of my soul.” Then as now, in fear and turmoil, daily serenity and silence in prayer can provide a solid foundation for the full Christian life. Paul Harris’s answers to Frequently Asked Questions extend a compelling invitation to journey to that center of inner stillness.

You can order FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CHRISTIAN MEDITATION: The Path of Contemplative Prayer from St. Francis Bookshop.

THERE’S A SPIRITUAL SOLUTION TO EVERY PROBLEM, by Wayne Dyer. Harper Collins. 259 pp. $24.

Reviewed by the REV. LAWRENCE M. VENTLINE, D.Min., Ph.D., a Catholic priest and licensed psychotherapist in Michigan. Founder of Cura Animarum Counseling, he is a longtime religion columnist for The Detroit News.

IN MOVING PSYCHOLOGY OVER, author Wayne Dyer places the spirituality and prayer of St. Francis of Assisi front and center in this, his 15th book. A counseling psychologist, Dyer titles the chapters of the second half of his two-part, 13-chapter book after the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.

Dyer asserts that love neutralizes hate, conflict, anger and aggression, using the solutions of St. Francis in problem solving. Claiming that problems are illusions, he looks at Genesis and God’s seeing all of creation as good. Disease, evil, disorder and the bad things people do are caused by one’s ego. That has to go, according to Dyer. For the author, a problem is a way of disconnecting one’s self from the Source. A return to the Source (God) and love dissolves problems, the metropolitan Detroit native says in this “easy” and engaging read.

Drawing from various traditions, Dyer sprinkles his experiences throughout his volume. With a deep reverence for St. Francis, Dyer acknowledges Francesco di Pietro di Bernardone’s (1181-1226) influence on his spirituality, writing in the opening pages: “Your spirit is always with me, and was particularly evident in the creation of this book.”

A detailed index helps the reader to explore spiritual solutions to his or her ailments. For example, among the problems listed are finances, resentment, suffering, disease, evil, weight and fear, among numerous others. “The cast of characters that create the illusory problems include fear, worry, guilt, vanity, anger, envy, greed, gossip, hypocrisy, hate, shame, jealousy and self-centeredness.”

Dyer names these as lower energies that one can remove from his or her life. They interfere with one’s happiness, Dyer writes. He concludes that, by accessing a “higher, faster energy pattern,” one can solve the
problem(s).

“Thinking is the source of problems. Your heart holds the answer to solving them,” Dyer says, reminding me of what my farmer father meant when he told me that I think too much. He felt grounded by working with his hands.

The task to solving problems with a spiritual solution is awareness of the energy of God moving within one, Dyer believes. Tapping into one’s awareness is key for the author in solving issues that rob people of happiness.

As a counselor myself, I have always used spiritual strategies with patients to pursue the path of healing. Psalm 46 encourages meditation: “Be still and know that I am God.” What one has in place of this psalm is, “Be anxious or fearful, and you will not know that I am God.”

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love,” proves St. Paul’s assurance that “Love never fails,” Dyer declares. Hatred is a major source of problems for many. The energy of love dissolves hatred and helps one heal.

Quoting outstanding voices, Dyer includes lines from Mother Teresa and St. Teresa of Avila as aids and spiritual solutions to issues confronting a troubled soul. For example, I have heard the following lines in speeches of C.E.O.s, and in the book I learned that Mother Teresa was their originator: “People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway....Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is all between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.”

A well of living water to quench one’s thirst or troubles, Dyer’s spiritual solutions serve up a buffet of answers for a happier, peace-filled life. The aroma is Francis of Assisi throughout, with other notable saints and Catholics who make one proud to be among them.

You can order THERE’S A SPIRITUAL SOLUTION TO EVERY PROBLEM from St. Francis Bookshop.

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Books can be obtained through St. Francis Bookshop at www.StFrancisOnline.com or 1618 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45210, phone 1-800-241-6392. All orders must be prepaid. Add $4 for postage and handling. Ohio residents should also add 6.0 percent for sales tax. The Bookshop offers a free catalog.


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