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We Long for True Freedom

Q U I C K S C A N

FORGOTTEN AMONG THE LILIES: Learning to Love Beyond Our Fears
TO SING YOU MUST EXHALE
THE SLAUGHTER OF CITIES: Urban Renewal As Ethnic Cleansing
MONSIGNOR ROMERO: A Bishop for the Third Millennium
THE ARK: A Pop-up
BOOK BRIEFS


FORGOTTEN AMONG THE LILIES: Leaning to Love Beyond Our Fears, by Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I. Doubleday. 300 pp. $21.95.

Reviewed by MARK M. WILKINS, a teacher at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I STARTED READING this while riding a charter bus home with 28 noisy students providing the ambience for my spiritual reflection. Usually not the best circumstances for meditative reading! Yet I found the book engaging from the first section.

Father Ronald Rolheiser is a specialist in systematic theology and spirituality, as well as an author. He writes a regular column in his local Catholic paper and is the author of The Holy Longing and The Restless Heart, both of which address the issues of loneliness and isolation in the modern age.

In this book he takes the next step by focusing on our unhealthy obsessions and the origins of them. He writes that our preoccupations with romance, material goods or status are linked to the feeling that, no matter what it is we have, we are somehow missing out on what life really offers.

It is difficult to adequately summarize 72 essays and prayers in a brief review. Father Rolheiser has chosen to offer guided meditations on restlessness and obsession, death and loss, passion and patience, God’s love and human romance, social issues and prayer, as well as daily life’s obscurity and monasticism.

The Preface sets the tone for the whole work. He states that life as experience is rarely enough for us. In this culture, people are generally too driven and dissatisfied to be present to the life we actually live. We are regularly reminded that others have what we don’t have: power, influence, celebrity, wealth or the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Furthermore, we also live in fear of losing what we have or feeling guilty for enjoying what others don’t have.

The title of the work comes from St. John of the Cross’s poem, The Dark Night of the Soul. That Spanish mystic shows how our spiritual journey is meant to end up in a freedom that allows us to live beyond all of our obsessions, restlessness, fear and guilt.

The longing we have for fulfillment is a hint that we yearn for God. It is much easier, however, to fill ourselves with the tangible and material rather than with the mystical. Rolheiser writes that we have lowered our sights and trivialized our longings.

One of the key chapters for me was “The Martyrdom of Obscurity.” He writes: “Our lives always seem too small for us. We sense ourselves as extraordinary persons living very ordinary lives. Because of this sense of obscurity we are seldom satisfied, easeful and happy with our lives.”

This lack of genuine self-expression is a real death. Like death, it can be seen as terminal or paschal. If inevitable, then bitterness and broken spirits ensue. If linked to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to enter the hidden life of Christ and thereby transform our own lives. Later on, he writes on the monasticism of daily life, picking up these themes again.

Surprisingly, the other chapters that I came back to again were the ones on passion, love and fantasy. Rolheiser makes a case that the Church needs to reclaim the healthy and positive aspects of passion, love and fantasy as healthy signs of God’s fire within us. Channeled prudently and appropriately, they challenge infidelity, cynicism and lack of commitment rather than promoting them.

We are sexual beings with a drive for love and belonging. In looking for love, we are looking for home, he says, a place where we are accepted for who we are and how we are. This is real intimacy. A physical, genital relationship is simply the easiest and quickest way to experience that, but it only lasts a short time. Rolheiser has a very positive way of saying good things about human sexuality while pointing out that we are only discovering what is at the surface of our longings.

I would classify this as a prayer book because I sense that prayer is where it comes from and that is where it leads me. It fits into a busy schedule since the essays are usually about three or four pages in length. It often made me stop to create an interior place of quiet and solitude.

These essays helped me see again that being a contemplative or mystic doesn’t require a change in scenery, just a change in perspective. God is present all around and through all things. I just have to remember to treat God as something more than a tourist attraction.

You can order FORGOTTEN AMONG THE LILIES: Learning to Love Beyond Our Fears from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

TO SING YOU MUST EXHALE, by Kathryn Mulderink, O.C.D.S. Lulu Press (www.lulu.com). 113 pp. $13.95.

Reviewed by JEAN HEIMANN, a freelance writer, retired psychologist, poet and oblate with the Congregation of St. John. She is involved with several ministries in the Diocese of Peoria.

KATHRYN MULDERINK is a uniquely Catholic poet who enchants us with her most intimate thoughts and feelings. Her poignant, God-inspired words speak the truth to our hearts. In a way that no other literary work can, poetry extends beyond the intellect and touches the human heart.

Kathryn’s poetry conveys the intimate union she shares with God as a modern Catholic wife and mother of seven, and opens a door that directs us to the inner chambers of God’s heart, where the pure truth of his love exists.

All of the poems in this book share one golden thread: They were all composed in the Lord’s presence, spiritually, or before the Blessed Sacrament. The reader can instinctively feel and sense this while searching for a deeper meaning of God’s love in the poems, which range from casual free verse to formal sonnets.

Some are written in a simple manner, while others are a little more challenging and are best understood after a second or third reading. Reading good poetry requires one to think deeply and to meditate, as it challenges the higher reasoning processes. All of her poems are exciting, “electric” and cutting-edge, and convey a special message from God.

Kathryn presents poems written at different periods in her life. Some were written when she was an adolescent in suburban Chicago, others as a high school teacher, some as a young mother in the scenic orchard belt of southwest Michigan, and the most recent ones as a 30-something homeschooling mother.

Thus, Kathryn’s poetry touches and appeals to a wide range of readers—to those of various chronological ages as well as those at various stages of spiritual development and growth—as she reveals her own experiences and stages of spiritual growth.

The feminine aspect of Kathryn’s poems was most appealing to me. A gentleness, an acute sensitivity to the Divine and to the sacred, a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and an emulation of her sterling virtues, as they relate to the woman who seeks out spirituality in today’s world with its many challenges, are all evident in her work.

How does Kathryn cope with these challenges and reveal how God instructs her to live in the modern world as a Catholic woman?

Kathryn’s book of poetry writes a simple but powerful truth upon our hearts: To Sing You Must Exhale is her signature poem. Just as the concert soloist begins a piece by emptying her lungs and filling them with fresh air so that her voice fills the concert hall, the Catholic must do the same.

Our spiritual journey begins by emptying ourselves, surrendering our hearts to God, allowing the Holy Spirit to enter in and to purify us, accepting all that he has to give us, and exhaling, letting our voices sing out what we have learned through our words, our example, touching and molding the hearts and souls of those around us.

This is the heart of Catholic femininity—to nourish others as we have been fed. This is exactly what Kathryn accomplishes so successfully in her book of Catholic poems and this is exactly why I will continue to read these precious gems of truth over and over—they feed my soul.

You can order TO SING YOU MUST EXHALE from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

THE SLAUGHTER OF CITIES: Urban Renewal As Ethnic Cleansing, by E. Michael Jones. St. Augustine’s Press. 639 pp. $40.

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).

WHAT DETROIT’S MAYOR ordered in the mid-’80s was tantamount to ethnic cleansing through housing policies, concludes E. Michael Jones. This has happened in other places.

In a Prologue, 63 chapters, an extensive bibliography and an index, Jones documents that clearly defined ecclesiastical and corporate elites in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit orchestrated federal housing policy to destroy the political base of parishioners of Polish, Italian, Irish and other ethnic Americans in these industrial cities.

Jones, a critic of culture with a string of books to his credit, claims that the WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) establishment differs from other ethnic groups in that it is a ruling and authoritarian elite. When the mushrooming influence of ethnic labor unions on the auto industry became intolerable to Henry Ford, he called on local black ministers to recruit unskilled labor from the South, even though Detroit had many skilled workers. His new workforce was more willing to put up with deplorable living conditions.

Furthermore, Jones argues that the federal government’s WASP elite used southern blacks as pawns in its “psychological warfare campaign” against unassimilated white ethnics, particularly urban Catholics and their parishes.

Legitimately upset and perhaps paranoid, Jones castigates the planning elite and their patrons in Washington as he details the ghastly consequences of federal planning on urban neighborhoods. Jones blames federally coordinated social engineering for creating today’s ghettos.

Jones says that the federal government manipulated the housing market, making homes inexpensive for the Protestant immigrants from the South and pressuring local residents to flee to the suburbs. In fact, Jones documents that the Federal Housing Authority, along with the Quakers (the American Friends Service Committee), made loans available at low rates in the suburbs while refusing loans to those same ethnics to maintain their old neighborhoods.

Father Francis Skalski, pastor of St. Hyacinth Church in Detroit for decades, watched his community fade. He acclaimed this book: “The publisher is to be applauded for Jones’s outstanding and spectacular masterpiece.”

In fact, when Immaculate Conception Parish in Detroit was sold to General Motors in 1981 and Cardinal John Dearden announced the parish would be suppressed, a last-minute offer to move the church to another location was rejected by the archdiocese.

Seven months later, Father Joseph Karaskiewicz, the 59-year-old embattled former pastor of Immaculate Conception, died. To express their displeasure with the Church, some people turned their backs on the new archbishop, Edmund Szoka, as he passed by on the day of Karaskiewicz’s funeral. Father Skalski called Karaskiewicz someone “who tried to slow and sway the heavy hand of corporate, materialistic, economic objectives, masking themselves as the common good, while in actuality it would seem they were serving the rich.”

Urban renewal efforts in the East and Midwest from the 1930s through the ’60s get an entirely fresh interpretation by Jones. He blames intentional plans that were hardly about civic improvement (an abject failure in that regard) and more about ethnic cleansing.

The book’s jacket sums up Jones’s riveting indictment: “What began as the World War II intelligence community’s attempt to solve America’s ‘nationalities problem’ and provide workers for the nation’s war industries degenerated by the early postwar period into full-blown ethnic cleansing.”

This book is a courageous confrontation with ecclesiastical and corporate giants by ordinary citizens and parishioners who found little support except from their pastors. What is happening currently with clustering of suburban and city parishes in the face of shrinking numbers of clergy might be similar. The problem that now rotates around a clergy shortage begs for fresh imagination and solutions.

You can order THE SLAUGHTER OF CITIES: Urban Renewal As Ethnic Cleansing from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

MONSIGNOR ROMERO: A Bishop for the Third Millennium, edited by Robert S. Pelton, C.S.C. University of Notre Dame Press. 128 pp. $22.50.

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.

“THE BLOOD of the martyrs is the seeds of faith.” This phrase is often used to describe the martyrdoms and persecutions the early Church faced. As editor Father Robert Pelton, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, makes clear in Monsignor Romero, it can just as readily be used to speak of the Church today and one person in particular, Oscar Romero, the assassinated archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador.

The book is a collection of speeches given as part of an annual lecture series at the University of Notre Dame. Its chief purpose is keeping memory alive. This memory is not about Romero’s person, however. It is more about his commitment: the Church being the champion of the poor, victimized and dispossessed. As Romero’s assassination while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980, attests, this task remains unfinished.

Included in this work are the speeches of notable and distinguished prelates and priests, human-rights advocates and Latin American civic leaders. Demonstrating the breadth and depth of Romero’s social-justice concerns, the topics include: leadership; solidarity and the promotion of awareness of institutional violence; protection of God-given human rights; loyalty and commitment to the institutional Church; awareness of contemporary martyrs; and the role of Christian education, especially in the universities, to promote social justice.

The collection of essays begins with a brief biography of Romero. In them we discover a person of deep faith. Shortly after his appointment as archbishop in 1977, the social and economic disparities in El Salvador reached a boiling point. This is symbolized in the assassination of Romero’s longtime friend Jesuit Rutilio Grande.

For the next three years, Romero would face repeated death threats and daily denouncements on state-controlled media for insisting that the Church make a “preferential option for the poor.” His prophetic words challenged Salvadoran society at its very foundation.

Throughout his life and during his period as archbishop of San Salvador, Romero took seriously the social-justice teachings of the Church. Many speak of his story as one of conversion on behalf of justice. Romero himself liked to speak of it as an evolution, his gradual and growing discipleship in Christ.

Whatever the case may be, he didn’t allow his office to insulate or exempt him from the sufferings of his people. He became one with the countless victimized and nameless Salvadorans. Tragically, in the end, he would suffer their fate as well.

An important point brought up in this work about Romero is that, besides individual conversion, there is another form as important, if not more so. This is that institutional or social conversion needs to take place. So much of the violence and sin that exist in our lives today is not done by people individually but by economic, educational, social and political institutions built into society. What got Archbishop Romero killed wasn’t just a bullet fired from the gun of a lone assassin, but also his witness against and challenge to unjust social structures that existed in El Salvador (which were supported by the United States government).

Far from quelling the spirit and hope of Salvadorans, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero provided the inspiration and energy for thousands of people to demand their God-given human rights and justice for all. For those who have yet to be introduced to this “saint of our time,” Monsignor Romero is a powerful and substantial introduction to his person.

For those who already know him, this book provides new and interesting perspectives, from a wide range of people, on his life and continuing significance.

You can order MONSIGNOR ROMERO: A Bishop for the Third Millennium from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

THE ARK: A Pop-up, by Matthew Reinhart. Simon & Schuster. 12 pp. $16.95.

Reviewed by SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER, an assistant editor of this publication, and her six-year-old daughter, Madison.

IT’S BEEN QUITE A WHILE since I’ve seen a pop-up book, despite the fact that I have two young children. So Matthew Reinhart’s book The Ark promised to be a pleasant trip down memory lane for this reviewer.

The book tells the tale of Noah’s Ark with the help of elaborate batik-style artwork created using actual wood laminate. Within the main pages are hidden—I use that word based on my own experience—several smaller minibooklets containing text. Fortunately, my daughter was so enthralled with the artwork that she didn’t even notice that the story didn’t make much sense, thanks to the “hidden” text I completely skipped over.

Reinhart was the model maker for the Nickelodeon children’s show Blue’s Clues and has previously done other pop-up books, such as The Pop-up Book of Phobias and its sequel, The Pop-up Book of Nightmares.

This book is a visual dream for parents and kids alike. I only wish, given the intricacies of the artwork, that it could have been a little easier to read the story. Placing text behind flaps—some obstructed by the actual popup—made for some challenging and confusing reading. But with this book, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Madison got the story—despite all of her mom’s mess-ups.

You can order THE ARK: A Pop-up from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

Book Briefs

It was only eight years ago that Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997, and two since she was named “blessed.” Her holiness seems to grow the more we reflect on this remarkable woman.

A REVOLUTION OF LOVE: The Meaning of Mother Teresa, by David Scott (Loyola Press, 169 pp., $18.95), relies on personal letters uncovered at the time of her beatification to give new insight into the real woman behind the stereotype. Scott details the mystical visions that led to her decision to leave teaching to work with the poor and dying, and relays her profound messages on the dignity of every person, the importance of love in the home and the strength of a smile.

I THIRST: Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, by Jacques Gauthier, translated by Alexandra Plettenberg- Serban (St. Pauls/Alba House, 101 pp., $14.95), explores the commonalities in these holy women. Both believed they were called to relieve the thirst of Jesus on the Cross.

MOTHER TERESA, by Demi (Margaret K. McElderry Books/ Simon & Schuster, 40 pp., $19.95), is an exquisitely illustrated book intended for children ages seven through 10, but her life and ideas are not oversimplified. Resembling an illuminated manuscript, this oversize book comes from an award-winning creator of children’s books. Some of Mother Teresa’s prayers and even her “business card” are included.


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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