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The Choices of a Beautiful Soul

Q U I C K S C A N

LED BY FAITH: Rising From the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide
FUTURE AMERICAN SAINTS? Men and Women Whose Causes Are Being Considered
THE PERFECT MARRIAGE APTITUDE TEST
AN INTRODUCTION TO CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
THE PROMISE OF LUMBY
Real Leadership Today



LED BY FAITH: Rising From the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide, by Immaculée Ilibagiza, with Steve Erwin. Hay House, Inc. 202 pp. $24.95, hardcover; $14.95, paperback.

Reviewed by ELIZABETH YANK, an avid reader, homeschool mother and freelance writer from South Milwaukee.

THERE SHE WAS AGAIN, Immaculée Ilibagiza, on the cover of her new book. I had always wanted to read Left to Tell, but had never gotten around to it. Now she has written a sequel, Led by Faith.

In Left to Tell, Immaculée recounts her horrific experience of living through the 1994 Rwandan genocide. One million Tutsis were brutally murdered by the Hutus. Such a number is hard to imagine. Through the kindness of a Protestant pastor, the Catholic Immaculée huddled with seven other women in a tiny, cramped bathroom. Despite nearly starving to death and fearing death at any moment, she survived.

When she emerged, she discovered her mother, father and two brothers had been killed. One after another relative was reported dead. Rather than live a life of rage and resentment, she turned to God for healing. Through God's transforming power of love, she was able to forgive those who had so cruelly butchered her family and destroyed their home.

Now in Led by Faith, she picks up the theme of God's loving divine providence. After recapping the events of the genocide, she highlights the significant events of her new life and how she has continued to cope with her loss.

When the genocide was over, fear abounded. Two million Hutus had fled in exile, fearing reprisals. The Tutsis were afraid that the genocide organizers were regrouping in the thick jungles of Zaire.

The number of dead was staggering. Everywhere were the ruins of burnt-out or destroyed homes. Could the new government ever recover? More importantly, could Hutu and Tutsi families ever live side by side again?

Immaculée had lost everything—her family, her home, the possibility of a college education. She was adrift, yet God had a plan for her. While many were unemployed, she was able to find a job with the United Nations. When she was pressured to compromise her moral principles, she chose to live by faith. When all seemed lost, her courage and daring urged her on.

Ultimately, her adventurous spirit led her to come to the United States. Rather than live a life consumed with grief, she found a new life after the tragedies.

What makes this book a joy to read is Immaculée's beautiful soul. She doesn't pretend that a magic formula will answer all problems. She presents herself as fully human, experiencing the sorrow of missing her family, the anguish of not having been able to live a normal life, and the uncertainty of the future. After she meets her future husband and has children, she shares the happiness and love of her newfound family.

What is most amazing about Immaculée is that she chose not to become bitter, resentful or angry. She chose not to turn away from God or wallow in self-pity. She has allowed herself time for healing.

This does not mean that her journey of faith was easy. But instead of self-pity, she chose to help others. She sought emotional refuge in caring for Rwandan orphans. But she soon found out that they gave her far more than she could ever give them.

She is a role model for those of us who have suffered a great loss. We can learn from her childlike example of Christ's love to forgive the unforgivable. Yet what is most remarkable is that she does not say, "Hey, look at me. Follow my example." She is completely self-effacing. In a world of self-proclaimed experts, her humility is refreshing, her thoughts inspiring, her example encouraging.

You can order LED BY FAITH: Rising From the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide from St. Francis Bookstore.

 

FUTURE AMERICAN SAINTS? Men and Women Whose Causes Are Being Considered, by John F. Fink. Alba House. 194 pp. $9.95.

Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., editor of this publication and author of three books on saints. His interview with Catherine de Hueck Doherty, who is featured in Fink's book, appeared in the November 1976 issue of this magazine.

AUTHOR OF FIVE BOOKS about saints, John Fink presents biographical sketches of 51 men and women connected to the United States and whose causes have reached the "Servant of God" stage (now with the Holy See's Congregation for the Causes of the Saints). In fact, four have been declared Venerable: Felix de Andreis, C.M., Cornelia Connelly, S.C.H.J., Maria Luisa Josefa, O.C.D., and Solanus Casey, O.F.M.Cap. They will be beatified whenever the Church accepts a miracle linked to their intercession.

Although Fink lists Marianne Cope, O.S.F., as Venerable, she was beatified on May 14, 2005. These profiles are slightly revised from Fink's series in The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

After telling the stories of eight Jesuit martyrs in Virginia (1571) and five Franciscan martyrs in Georgia (1579), this volume presents the remaining 38 individuals, roughly according to the year that they died, from Eusebio Kino, S.J., in 1711 to Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., in 1992.

When they died, everyone in this book belonged to the clergy or to a religious community, except Pierre Toussaint (d.1820), Mary Virginia Merrick (1955, Christ Child Society), Dorothy Day (1980, Catholic Worker) and Catherine de Hueck Doherty (1985, Madonna House Apostolate).

Bishops Frederic Baraga (Michigan) and Simon Bruté (Indiana) are here with Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (New York) and Cardinal Terrence Cooke (New York). Parish priests Charles Nerinckx (Kentucky), Felix Varela (New York/Cuba), Demetrius Gallitzin (Pennsylvania), Michael McGivney (Connecticut) and Nelson Baker (New York) are described along with priest-chaplains Emil Kapaun (Kansas/Korea) and Vincent Capodanno, M.M. (New York/Vietnam).

Founders of women's religious communities include Henriette Delille (Sisters of the Holy Family), Mary Lange (Oblate Sisters of Providence), Mary Theresa Dudzik (Franciscan Sisters of Chicago), Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer), Marie-Clement Staub (Sisters of St. Joan of Arc), Maria Kaupas (Sisters of St. Casimir) and Angeline McCrory (Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm).

Fink also profiles Franciscan Magin Catala, Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P., Isaac Hecker, C.S.P., Mary Magdalene Bentivoglio, O.S.C., Stephen Eckert, O.F.M.Cap., Maria Theresa Demjanovich, S.C., and Walter Ciszek, S.J., as well as Frank Parater (seminarian) and the male founders of Maryknoll (James Walsh and Thomas Price).

The chapters on Sheen and Peyton are slightly longer because Fink knew them personally. In a future edition of this book, it would be good if the author could report that the causes of several married couples had completed the diocesan process.

This fine volume concludes with a four-page Bibliography for those who wish to learn more about these women and men who generously lived out the Good News of Jesus Christ.

You can order FUTURE AMERICAN SAINTS? Men and Women Whose Causes Are Being Considered from St. Francis Bookstore.

 

THE PERFECT MARRIAGE APTITUDE TEST, by Mary Carty. Glitterati Incorporated (available by title or by requesting PMAT on www.amazon. com). 144 pp. $18.95.

Reviewed by SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER, assistant managing editor of this publication.

WHEN MY HUSBAND, Mark, and I got married 14 years ago, the first argument we ever had was not over any of the topics we had discussed during our marriage-prep classes—sex, finances, household responsibilities. No, it was over peanut butter. He wanted it stored in the refrigerator; I thought that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard.

In fact, I can almost say with certainty that for the first year of our marriage we argued more about how to fold towels or load the dishwasher properly, or whose job it was to put down/up the toilet seat, than we did about any of the issues we had discussed in marriage prep.

Author Mary Carty understands that. In the Introduction to this book, she writes, "Couples create their marriage by the choices they make on a daily, minute-to-minute basis about thousands of situations that occur while building a life together. It is the element of choice of actions, thoughts, attitudes, and responses that determines the structure and quality of the marriage."

She also points out, "While there are many resources available to help couples plan their weddings, there is little information on how to prepare for marriage after the honeymoon." So she took it upon herself to help out by creating The Perfect Marriage Aptitude Test (PMAT).

The book includes 200 multiple-choice questions that gauge each partner's typical responses to everyday dilemmas, such as the temperature setting for the air conditioner, to larger issues of sex, intimacy and personal boundaries. His-and-her response sheets and a response assessment key are included with the book.

There are seven chapters of situations presented on topics such as food, fitness and health, family and friends, and togetherness. After couples individually answer the questions, Carty offers information on how to assess the answers and use them to improve communication in their marriage.

As an added bonus, Carty offers a number of extras, such as the ABCs of self-care and 100 ways to show active love, as well as a chapter detailing further resources.

With three kids and date nights few and far between, Mark and I found this book to be a wonderful way to reconnect as a couple. After the kids went to bed, we spent more than one evening answering the questions, discussing why we answered the way we did and discerning how we could come together on certain issues. After all these years, we even learned a few things we didn't know about each other or had simply lost sight of. That alone makes this book more than worth its price.

You can order THE PERFECT MARRIAGE APTITUDE TEST from St. Francis Bookstore.

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM, by Thomas Merton. Cistercian Publications. 390 pp. $39.95.

Reviewed by BRIAN WELTER, a doctoral student in theology from North Vancouver, British Columbia. He is a teacher of English as a Second Language to adults and holds a B.A. in history from the University of Saskatchewan.

THOMAS MERTON, the Trappist monk who died in 1968, goes over a profound amount of Christian spirituality and theology in these lecture notes for young monks at his Kentucky monastery. He takes the view that theology and spirituality, including mysticism, function best when they form a unified whole, as they did with the Church Fathers.

Merton's discussion of certain Greek Fathers such as Gregory Nazianzus shows why these teachers must be read more often by Catholics. They form the basis of our theology and spirituality. Moreover, they were theologians because they loved God and searched for a deeper relationship with God. From this quest, they gained theological knowledge. While they formed their theology on the tenets of the faith, they also based it on their relationship with God.

According to Merton, "In St. Gregory of Nyssa the dogmatic writings...have a direct orientation to the mystical life."

When discussing these Greek writers, as usual, Merton does not hesitate to use Latin and Greek expressions, which can be hard for readers with no interest in such terms. But for those with a keen sense of the intellectual heritage of the Church, Merton's wordsmithing adds greatly to the discussion.

For instance, he defines Nyssa's Greek term epectasis as "the ever-increasing growth of love and desire and penetration into the inexhaustible ocean of divine light."

Sentences like this are almost one-of-a-kind Merton. Very few people develop the intellectual and spiritual capacity to write such things. Merton's understanding of both the Greek and Latin lungs of the Church also helps readers to see the great debt the Western Church owes to the Greek Fathers.

In the Latin West, as he traces it, the split during the Middle Ages between theology and spirituality caused all sorts of issues. Fourteenth-century mystics in the Rhineland turned away from Church hierarchy and orthodox theology, and looked inward. They practiced a non-sacramental, non-hierarchical, highly individualistic and pietistic spirituality frowned upon by the Church.

Clergy, for their part, overfocused at this time on speculative theology and became corrupted by the Church's great material wealth and power. With their neo-scholastic theology, as taught chiefly at the University of Paris, the Schoolmen forgot the importance of lived, personal, Christ-centered spirituality.

Yet theology and spirituality are never so simple. Merton digs up some of the complications with his analysis of the Dionysian (from a fifth-century Greek theologian)-versus-Augustinian strands in medieval spirituality. Again, we read a sentence only Merton could write:

"The cosmos of Denys is then a vast ecstatic communion of intelligence striving to respond to the call of divine Love summoning them to unity in Christ, each according to his rank and degree of purity."

This is one of Merton's most demanding books, as he whizzes by centuries and geographical areas of theology, spirituality and religious culture, yet all the while on the search for the great love of his life—God. The enthusiasm behind the writing of this book comes from Merton's own lived experience of these ideas, which give immediacy and frankness to the analysis.

You can order AN INTRODUCTION TO CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM from St. Francis Bookstore.

 

THE PROMISE OF LUMBY, by Gail Fraser. New American Library (www.penguin.com). 459 pp. $15, U.S./$18, Canada.

Reviewed by BARBARA BECKWITH, managing editor of this publication.

WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH, I love to retreat into fiction. A good novel presents places where I'd rather be living, situations I'd rather be facing. The fictional town of Lumby, Montana, intrigues me for its warm, fully drawn characters and complex situations.

The first three books in this series have described a village that gives people room to reinvent themselves. But this time a new veterinarian has come to town and, after hearing only one side of the story of a mistake he made 20 years ago, the town withdraws its welcome.

When the people of Lumby try to correct their mistake, they go over the top the other way and create more problems.

The usual characters of a Lumby book are all here, except the fading-out Dr. Ellen Campbell, who is selling her veterinary clinic, and the absent Beezer son in South America. He is assessing applications for the micro-credit offered by the local monastery of Holy Cross Abbey.

The monks have done well with their rum-sauce business and want to share their wealth. As before, the monastery is intimately involved in the region's activities. Now the monks are receiving gifts of animals such as snow monkeys, rheas and camels to thank them for their generosity. What will they do with these amazing creatures?

The monks also face the decision of whether to partner in some way with a women's religious order from Oregon. The Sisters of St. Amand have overgrown their monastery and need more land to continue to raise grapes for the wine they sell. The sisters want to buy land and build next to the monks. The practical and prayerful way both the monks and sisters approach this decision is truly inspirational.

Pam and Mark Walker, owners of the Montis Inn, which they renovated from an old monastery in the first book, face their own dilemmas. Pam wants help in the kitchen, but is reluctant to share the kitchen with someone else. Mark keeps buying things on eBay, for example, a motorcycle with no wheels and a vintage truck with no engine. But the couple have generous hearts, shown by their willingness to open their new barn to shelter the Lumby International Zoological Park—at least temporarily.

But the main story involves the new veterinarian, Dr. Tom Candor, whose name hints at his problem. He conceals his history from the town, a critical sin of omission. He is attracted to Mac McGuire, who has her own construction company.

Mac's now-adult son, Terry, is bringing home a different girl every night, and has her worried. But I'm not sure that Mac's decision to take a vacation with Dr. Candor—despite his undeniable need of a friend right now—is setting the best example.

A second element in the book that disturbs me is how quickly newspaper owner Dennis Beezer exploits Candor's story without getting his side of it. (Such behavior makes me ashamed of my own profession.) The way Beezer and Jimmy D, the town's mayor, confront Candor is egregious. Yes, both feel they have a responsibility to protect the town, but at what human cost—as both discover later.

And then, of course, there's still the town's mascot, Hank, a stuffed pink flamingo who thinks he's a bald eagle and shows up at most all civic events in appropriate dress (such as tuxedo for the "shingle" party for Dr. Candor). He now has been seen in the company of a mannequin from Lumby Sporting Goods. In his own weird way, he is a model of tolerance.

Fraser's new book is as wonderful as the previous ones, providing characters to care about and situations that do not offer simple solutions. The book even concludes with recipes and a discussion guide for reading groups.

You can order THE PROMISE OF LUMBY from St. Francis Bookstore.

 

Real Leadership Today

These times of recession, downsizing and reorganization call for new leaders shaped by new thinking, like that expressed in these books.

THE CATHOLIC VISION FOR LEADING LIKE JESUS: Introducing S3 Leadership: Servant, Steward, Shepherd, by Owen Phelps, Ph.D. (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 144 pp., $14.95). Dr. Phelps, the former editor of the Catholic newspaper in Rockford, Illinois, and now founder of Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute, contends that each of us can increase our positive influence on the people around us. Phelps applies Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges's ideas about how to "Lead Like Jesus," a movement they founded in 2005, to Catholics.

SEVEN PILLARS OF SERVANT LEADERSHIP: Practicing the Wisdom of Leading by Serving, by James W. Sipe and Don M. Frick (Paulist Press, 230 pp., $21.95). Expanding on Robert Greenleaf's definition of servant leadership, psychologist Sipe and university professor Frick suggest that the best leaders are persons of character; put people first; are skilled communicators, compassionate collaborators and system thinkers; have foresight; and lead with moral authority.

A SERVANT LEADER'S JOURNEY: Lessons From Life, by Jim Boyd (Paulist Press, 174 pp., $18.95), comes from the late president of Weatherford College in Texas. As he confronted ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), which eventually claimed his life, he began to see leadership as an interior journey—not a way to "fix" other people.--B.B.


Books can be obtained through St. Francis Bookstore, 135 W. 31st Street, New York, NY 10001, phone 212-736-8500, ext. 324, fax 212-594-6025.

 


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