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Find Your Passion


THE 8TH HABIT: From Effectiveness to Greatness
DANGEROUS MEMORIES: A Mosaic of Mary in Scripture
WRAPPED IN JOY: Franciscan Poor Clare Sisters Share Special Stories

THE 8TH HABIT: From Effectiveness to Greatness, by Stephen R. Covey. Free Press. 411 pp. $26.

Reviewed by the REV. LAWRENCE M. VENTLINE, D.Min., a Catholic priest and licensed psychotherapist, who is currently on special assignment for the Archdiocese of Detroit. His latest book is Securing Serenity in Troubling Times: Living a Day at a Time (Xulon Press).

HIGHLY EFFCTIVE PEOPLE now need an eighth habit (or virtue). In 15 chapters, appendices and index, leadership specialist Stephen Covey introduces a new key to success. His book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (15 million copies sold in 15 years) provided ingredients for a seven-course meal on taking charge of one’s life and actions.

Now The 8th Habit is the dessert that can unleash one’s deepest passion. From the workplace and the family (covered by the first book), The 8th Habit takes us home to our deepest dreams for living.

Changed from effectiveness in 7 Habits to greatness in this 8th Habit, one’s purpose and yearnings are addressed here. Covey is vice chairman of the consulting firm Franklin Covey. He resides with his wife and family in the Rocky Mountains of Utah.

Concretely and clearly outlined, the book inspires the reader to find his or her passion and encourage others to find theirs. The late Father William Cunningham found his voice in co-founding Focus: Hope in Detroit after the riots of 1967. The other co-founder of this civil- and human-rights organization was Eleanor Josaitis, who still runs the campus. Their passion was to help others find their dreams and pursue them. Cunningham always said that everyone is a leader, leading either negatively or positively.

Oprah Winfrey embodies Covey’s eighth habit with her openness, empathy and intuitive skills that bring out the best in her audiences. Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa also had this habit.

When does one find this voice and purpose that Covey speaks about? In his eighth chapter, he calls it “the sweet spot.” As in sport or cooking, golf or tennis, when one hits the sweet spot, one is energized, enthusiastic, enlightened and excited.

That’s the way I would return from Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center where I was a substance-abuse counselor and spirituality specialist. I’d come home singing or whistling. I loved going to work, watching patients mend, move on and grow. It’s like the role of parents in helping their children to walk and eventually to walk away, standing erect and purposeful.

Covey illustrates this eighth habit with a match he lights and holds while he reflects on its potential. The match could destroy a house, or if two matches are held closely, one ignites the other to give light also. A candle is lit and it burns during the day and night. So the light and fire spread.

Fire in one’s belly may best describe the passion Covey’s 8th Habit inspires.

This reader couldn’t put Covey’s book down. I found myself wanting to get back to it after work or appointments. Like art, this book addresses and transforms yearnings of the human soul.

You can order THE 8TH HABIT: From Effectiveness to Greatness from St. Francis Bookshop.


THE LITURGY OF MOTHERHOOD: Moments of Grace, by Kathleen Finley. Sheed & Ward/Rowman & Littlefield. 216 pp. $45, cloth/$19.95, paperback.

Reviewed by SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER, an assistant editor of this publication and mother of a six-year-old daughter and three-year-old son.

IF I HAVE LEARNED anything since I became a mom, it is that everything else in my life seems to flow from that role. I can’t escape being a mom—and for the most part would never want to.

So this book was a welcome affirmation of that feeling. Kathleen Finley has put it into words for all of us mothers. Finley herself is the mother of three young-adult sons.

The Liturgy of Motherhood: Moments of Grace uses the various liturgical seasons of the Church to explore both the seasons and their connection to motherhood. Some of the connections seem obvious, such as the stories of new mothers in the chapter on Christmas. But others are more thought-provoking, such as Finley’s story of her and her husband, Mitch, losing their first child—born prematurely at five months. This account opens the chapter on Holy Week and Easter.

What I enjoyed the most, however, were the various stories sprinkled throughout the book. There’s nothing I love more than to hear tales of other parents struggling with the same issues. It reminds me that I’m not alone in this endeavor. My personal favorite was Finley’s trying to convince her very independent four-year-old son to put on a jacket before he went outside so that he would be warm. When he repeatedly refused, she says, “I mentioned that his fly was unzipped, too. As he reached down to zip it up, he boldly declared, ‘I’m a lot warmer now!’” What mom hasn’t had such a zinger thrown at her?

But Finley’s experience is not the only one included in this book. The wisdom of other mothers can be found in a section of each chapter titled ap-propriately “Mothers Speak.” Each chapter also offers “Models From the Tradition”—both canonized and non-canonized—as well as related Scripture passages, questions for reflection—either alone or in a group setting—and resources for the season.

One of the things I really appreciated about this book was that it doesn’t need to be read from beginning to end. In fact, Finley points out, “You don’t need to wait until a particular season to read that section, the liturgical year merely gives us a framework to look at the spirituality of mothers....” Having received the book just before Lent, I chose to begin with that section.

Another thing I liked was that, although it is Catholic in nature and written primarily with the experience of mothers in mind, Finley invites all Christians, fathers and other caregivers to read and reflect on this book.

Finally, I appreciated the actual set-up of the book. It is broken down into enough short sections that I could fit one in while waiting for dinner to cook or ballet to finish up or before I collapse into bed at night.

From one mom to another, I thank Kathleen Finley for recognizing and reflecting on the parallels between the actions of motherhood and liturgy. I’ll be keeping this book close at hand.

You can order THE LITURGY OF MOTHERHOOD: Moments of Grace from St. Francis Bookshop.


DANGEROUS MEMORIES: A Mosaic of Mary in Scripture, by Elizabeth A. Johnson. Continuum. 176 pp. $13.95.

Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, a writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He recently coedited (with William Madges) Vatican II: Forty Personal Stories, available through Twenty-Third Publications.

MANY CATHOLICS TEND to see Mary as someone outside their historical context, more as artwork than person, more as hymn than human. One colleague of mine says that, when he thinks of Mary, only the color blue comes to mind. I admit I generally see a statue with a crown on her head and a rosary in her hands.

This is the situation that Elizabeth Johnson, professor of theology at Fordham University, wants to remedy in Dangerous Memories (drawn from her previous work, Truly Our Sister). She frames the question this way: “How can we, living in a multicultural Church in the 21st century, appreciate Mary’s significance for our faith life and its practice?”

For Johnson the place to begin is Scripture. Here, she argues, we will discover not a saint on a pedestal but the woman of history, Miriam of Nazareth. This will enable her “dangerous memory” to be retrieved. In her examination of Mary through Scripture, Johnson introduces the reader to the three worlds of Mary—behind, in and ahead of the text.

The Mary “behind the text” section looks not so much at her person (so little is actually known) but at the political, economic, religious and cultural world that framed her life. Using the tools of archaeology, anthropology, history and sociology, Johnson writes that “Miriam of Nazareth occupied the lower rung of the social and economic ladder, and her life was lived out in an economically poor, politically oppressed, Jewish peasant culture marked by exploitation and publicly violent events.” This information can’t help but cast in a new light our prayers before a Nativity scene.

The Mary “in the text” part tells of a woman graced by the Spirit. Over the centuries, however, aided by the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Christians “tended to glorify her to the point where her really human, historical life slipped from view.” Johnson prefers to emphasize Mary as surrounded by grace rather than free of sin.

In Mary one realizes that God’s preferential option for the poor is nothing new, but something that has existed from the very beginning of salvation history. Here our faithfully sung Ave Maria’s take on new meaning.

In Mary “ahead of the text,” Johnson invites us to consider how we are called to live out the Gospel message in light of Jesus’ first disciple, Miriam of Nazareth. Johnson calls this connection between Mary’s past and our present the relationship known as the communion of saints. In this way we can see Mary as a companion in the struggle, one who is truly our sister.

Biblical historical criticism and feminist critique guide Johnson’s interpretation of Mary’s 13 appearances in the Gospels and Acts. Gender bias not only affected the writing of Scripture but also continued in its interpretation. Johnson challenges historical distortions of Mary as a submissive and passive handmaid. The scriptural stories of Mary provide a mosaic through which the color of her ”dangerous memories” shines forth. They are vital for the Church today.

The stories examined include the well-known infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, the annunciation, the scandal of her pregnancy, the visit of the Magi and, to avoid Herod’s sword, the flight to Egypt. “Respecting her particularity,” Johnson writes, “we remember her in solidarity with women everywhere whose life energies literally mother the next generation, and with all who use their generative powers to nurture and build up healthy lives in the social and natural worlds.”

Johnson offers a portrait of Mary that is engaging and relevant. Rather than a plaster saint, Mary emerges as a prophet and advocate of the poor. Johnson portrays a woman who is both appealing as a model of faith and challenging in her exercise of discipleship. This is the book on Mary I’ve long waited to read.

You can order DANGEROUS MEMORIES: A Mosaic of Mary in Scripture from St. Francis Bookshop.


THE GARDEN OF MARTYRS: A Novel, by Michael C. White. St. Martin’s Press. 359 pp. $24.95.

Reviewed by BARBARA SONNENBERG, a retired public librarian and current member of the St. Anthony Messenger Press Advisory Board.

IF YOU HAVE avoided reading works of historical fiction on the grounds that actual events are difficult to separate from the stories woven around them, please give this title a chance to convince you otherwise. The plot is based on an actual event in Boston in 1806; the major protagonists existed; primary sources of the time are provided to comment on the events. The work is so superbly researched that a vibrant picture of 19th-century Boston—from its customs, its manners of speech, its politics and even its smells—engulfs the reader.

Dominic Daley and James Halligan, Irish Catholic immigrants, were walking the Boston Post Road close to the time a young Protestant-American farmer was attacked and killed. They found his purse and proceeded to spend some of the banknotes. On the testimony of a 13-year-old lad, they were arrested, confined to five months in prison and summarily sentenced to be “...hung by the neck until you are dead. Furthermore, that your bodies be dissected and anatomized.”

Since they were unable to testify in their own defense and had only two days to meet with counsel, the decision was a foregone conclusion. Daley was 34, illiterate, and left his mother, wife and infant son, while Halligan, raised in a Franciscan orphanage in Ireland, had no known survivors.

Father Jean Louis Anne Madeleine Lefebvre de Cheverus is called by the Daley family, his parishioners, to serve as an intermediary with the attorney general. They wish only to visit Dominic and have been refused permission. Michael White introduces Father Cheverus in this way:

“Most of his parishioners were... newly arrived Irish immigrants, unlettered farmers and laborers and indentured servants, a hardy, rough-hewn, peasant stock. He himself was so unlike them, coming from such a different world, one of education and culture and refinement, a world of certain luxuries. He knew what they thought of him, what they said of him behind his back: that he was soft, weak, effeminate. And, worst of all, French.”

He and his superior, Father Matignon, serve at a mission in Boston and are the only priests currently in New England. They, too, face discrimination and must walk a thin line in tending their flock without alienating the political authorities. Pleading the cause of the imprisoned Irishmen could well jeopardize the hard-won acceptance the priests had built up.

Additionally, rumors of an Irish uprising to free the prisoners recall haunting memories of the wholesale slaughter of the French Revolution, which Father Cheverus had witnessed before escaping to England.

Michael White is a professor of English at Fairfield University in Connecticut and the author of three previous novels in addition to being the founder of American Fiction, an annual anthology, and editor of Dogwood, a Journal of Poetry and Prose. He deserves rave reviews for the creation of such a believable setting with its sympathetic depiction of flesh-and-blood characters.

Even with the foregone conclusion to the plot, which even the title gives away, the suspense is taut and held this reader’s interest. The relief of some of the harshness of prison living conditions due to the kindness of the jailer is a needed respite from the portrayal of so much hatred and injustice; good people do exist in the worst of times and regimes.

An interesting author’s note brings some closure by reporting that the governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, proclaimed March 18, 1984, as Dominic Daley and James Halligan Memorial Day, citing the role that religious prejudice and ethnic intolerance played in their arrests and trial and their lack of opportunity to prepare a defense.

I would suggest this outstanding novel for adults and young adults who enjoy well-researched and well-written historical fiction, as well as those interested in New England history, the treatment of immigrants, the French Revolution and the early Catholic Church in America. Book discussion clubs, especially with an Irish leaning or at least Irish sympathy, could find this an easily accessible yet thought-provoking title.

You can order THE GARDEN OF MARTYRS: A Novel from St. Francis Bookshop.


WRAPPED IN JOY: Franciscan Poor Clare Sisters Share Special Stories, by Sister Katherine, O.S.C., and Sisters. DWH Publishing (9707 Galway Drive, Dallas, TX 75218). 365 pp. $12.95.

Reviewed by JAMES VAN VURST, O.F.M., a Franciscan priest on the staff of this web site. He is one of the Franciscans who serve the Cincinnati Poor Clare nuns.

FOR MOST CATHOLICS, not to mention the public in general, there is something about a contemplative nun that is very mysterious. In spite of all their admiration for the religious life and dedication of nuns, people always ask, “Why and how in the world did these women ever find their way to a life such as this? How do they find fulfillment? There are so many other things they might have done.”

We have the erroneous idea that these women must have lived in a cocoon and were “preserved” for this very special and unique life of total dedication to God. I remember a cartoon that pictured a nun who had fallen on an icy sidewalk. As one courteous man made a move to help her to her feet, his companion warned him, “Stop, don’t touch her. She’s a nun. You know she’s consecrated! Better use the snow shovel.”

Wrapped in Joy is a book that gives you the real inside story of the remarkable lives and vocational journeys of 91 Poor Clare nuns. We all have personal stories; so do the Poor Clares.

It seems hard to believe that there are 20,000 Poor Clare nuns living in every continent and nearly every nation of the world. The sisters of Wrapped in Joy come from America, England, Canada and Korea. No two stories are the same. The sisters are diverse in age, experience and background.

One thing is certain from this book: These women do not come from God’s special “nun” cookie cutter. Some of the sisters are converts to the Catholic faith, as one sister writes: “I am a convert. Also I was an army nurse in WWII. I was baptized at a 9 a.m. Mass in the chapel of the 191st General Army Hospital south of Paris on Christmas Eve 1944.”

Some of them wanted to enter religious life from their earliest years: “I always wanted to be a nun. I knew in my heart Jesus wanted me.” Others didn’t have the slightest idea of what a contemplative nun really was, and a few speak of their fears at the thought that they might be called to such a life. Some had planned on marriage and a family. But circumstances, coincidences and, most of all, the mystery of God’s grace led them to this consecrated religious life.

Each sister who writes is convinced that she made the right choice and is exactly where God invited her and where she is happiest, truly wrapped in joy.

The sisters share how they heard Jesus speak in the quiet of their hearts, how significant events from their earliest years influenced them. For one, that special moment took place in preparing for First Holy Communion as an eight-year-old. For a Korean sister, it was a film about St. Francis that touched her very deeply.

Some of the sisters have been religious for as many as 76 years. Some sisters were members of active teaching and nursing orders, and then experienced a call to the contemplative Poor Clare life. As one nun put it, “Transferring from an apostolic to a contemplative congregation was very difficult but so very worth it. My heart has found its home.”

Some felt a sense of “being chosen by God,” and entering religious life seemed simple and easy. For others, their journeys were filled with detours, ups and downs, light and darkness. One sister sought entrance into the Poor Clares five times before being accepted.

The variety of backgrounds is great: a sister who was in the Peace Corps, one whose father was a Protestant minister, one who was a representative at the United Nations on disarmament, a sister who had been a wife and mother. Whether dramatic or not, each one truly has had a spiritual adventure.

The sisters write with humor, with honesty and with a deep sense of reverence for the mystery of God in their lives.

I personally found each sister’s account inspiring. Their stories will likely lead readers, no matter whether they are married, single, a religious or a priest, to reflect on their own journey and God’s mysterious part in it. It certainly did that for me.

You can order WRAPPED IN JOY: Franciscan Poor Clare Sisters Share Special Stories from St. Francis Bookshop.


Book Briefs

“Bring flowers of the fairest,” we sing at traditional May crownings. This is the time we remember Mary and her lovely prayer, the Rosary.

THE OTHER FACES OF MARY: Stories, Devotions, and Pictures of the Holy Virgin From Around the World, by Ann Ball (Crossroad Publishing Company, 183 pp., $14.95), shows the cultural diversity and universal relevance of Mary. These are lesser-known images of and devotions to Mary, like Vietnam’s Our Lady of Tra Kieu and Germany and Argentina’s The Virgin Who Unties Knots. My only disappointment with this fascinating book is that, with the exception of the cover, the photos are all black and white.

THE MYSTERIES OF CHRIST: A Scriptural Rosary, compiled by Nancy Sabbag (The Word Among Us, 110 pp., $12.95), takes its inspiration from John Paul II’s suggestion to marry each mystery (and here each bead) of the rosary with the “proclamation of related biblical passages.” The book includes the new Mysteries of Light that the pope recently introduced. Beautiful artwork from Flemish Renaissance painter Simon Bening illustrates each of the 20 mysteries.

THE ROSARY IN SPACE AND TIME, by Ruth Rees (Liturgy Training Publications, 140 pp., $16.95), begins with a foreword by Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., on staff at the Vatican Observatory. Going “far afield” leads the British Rees (actress, radio personality, writer) to parallel principles of physics with aspects of prayer.

Books can be obtained through St. Francis Bookshop on the Web or at 1618 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6493, phone 1-800-241-6392. All orders must be prepaid. Add $4 for postage and handling. Ohio residents should also add 7.0 percent for sales tax. The Bookshop offers a free catalog.

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