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The Way of Marriage: A Journey of Spiritual Growth Through Conflict, Love and Sex.

All manner of books on every aspect of life

Emphasis turns to caring and helping

The changing seasons call us back to Robert Frost's fresh vision in "Birches": "Earth's the right place for love./I don't know where it's likely to get better." The poet's hopeful's speaks to the reign of God among us. that same spirit animates most of the authors considered here.

Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves, by Robert Wuthnow (Princeton University Press, 334 pages, $14.95 paperback), arrived late. It was published in 1991, but Wuthnow's considerations are sisgnificant and timely. I wish I had seen his work sooner.

He wonders how we, who devote billions of hours to volunteer activity in care and compassion, can still be a nation of individualists who pride ourselves on personal freedom and the pursuit of self-interest. He asks how these paradoxical elements might be reconciled.

Through interviews and sociological research he shows how love, given away, influences many people. It's a compelling case for compassion.

Michael Martin, professor of philosophy at Boston University, is sure to outrage Christian readers who can manage his turgid prose. In The Case Against Christianity (Temple University Press, 273 pages, $18.95 paperback), he concludes that the doctrines of the resurrection, the incarnation and salvation itself are "problematic in their right," but also that "there is no known theory that plausibly accounts for them."

Not counting faith, I guess.

I heard recently from one of my high school teachers whose elderly, ill mother had died. She described the loss as "devastating." Few of life's pains can accurately be compared to the loss of a parent.

Cathleen L. Curry provides comfort and direction for those experiencing that sorrow. When Your Parent Dies: A Concise and Practical Source of Help and Advice for Adults Grieving the Death of a Parent (Ave Maria Press, 150 pages, $6.95 paperback) touches not only on prayer and spirituality but on practical adivce for the time of death as well.

This practical aspect might also serve those preparing for the death of a loved one.

Nicholas Lash knows that God's garden, fashioned in the beginning, does not lie behind us, but rather ahead of us in hope. And, in the meantime, all around us as our place of work. He puts into theological language the same point Martin Sheen made in a Sept. 4 interview in TV Guide. Asked if he were a communist, Sheen replied, "I'm far worse. I'm a Catholic." Lash and Sheen both have heard the call, command and invitation of the reign of God.

Lash has written Believing Three Ways in One God: A Reading of the Apostle's Creed (University of Notre Dame Press, 136 pages, $21.95 hardbound), an insightful examination of a central statement of the Christian faith. He echoes a Rahnerian sensitivity, seeing Trinity as God's ways of being rather than three persons. Trinity as three persons seems to express a profound religious truth in a way too easily confused with tritheism.

Those who seek a deeper understanding of the creed will find this book substantial but nontechnical, a learning text and prayerful tool.

In The Equipping Pastor: A Systems Approach to Congregational Leadership (An Alban Institute Publication, 196 pages, $15.95 paperback), R. Paul Stevens and Phil Collins assert: "Certain of the revealed, transcendent dignity and nature of the people of God, the equipping pastor can gain from systems theory in its multitudinous forms something more valuable than another firstful of how-tos." Sounds complex to me. Perhaps the complexity is one more reason that those who most need this kind of book are most often slow to make use of it.

Those who seek an introduction to the Bible's last book will be helped to mine its great treasure by Jean-Pierre Prevost in his How to Read the Apocalypse (Crossroad, 118 pages, $15.95 paperback). He is attentive to text, context and symbol. He make John the Divine's revelation accessible to average readers. It would be a good book for private use, group study and even for a college classroom, I think.

Grief: Climb Toward Understanding, by Phyllis Davies (San Luis Obispo, Calif.: Sunnybank Publishers, 271 pages, $12 paperback), may be a helpful resource for those who mourn.

The book is a collection of poems Davies wrote as she grieved for her 13-year-old son's tragic death. Also included is a checklist "of what you can do," and extensive information helpful at the time of death. The author's sensitive struggle may light the way for those who mourn, and for those who prepare for death as well.

I was once told by a well-respected editor that a book on Christian funerals just wouldn't sell. Dead people don't read, and living people don't want to plan for death, he told me. I hope Boston's Fr. Terence P. Curley proves that editor wrong.

His Console One Another: A Guide for Christian Funerals (Sheed & Ward, 100 pages, $8.95) might be a very important and helpful book.

Written in light of the new Order of Christian Funerals, the book is to assist those who seek to manage the pain of separation and loss in the context of the Christian community. It deals with the rituals and phases of grief, and deals also with special circumstances that complicate life and grief in turbulent times.

The book will be helpful for those who minister to the grieving, and for sensitive souls who hope better to understand ritual's role of response to loss.

How can Franciscan Fr. Kenan B. Osborne do so much so well? Ministry: Lay Ministry in the Roman Catholic Church: Its History and Theology (Paulist, 722 pages, $29.95 paperback) is written for both the laity and ordained. It is a comprehensive source book and analysis of the implications of ministry's development.

Until that great day when the social order is perfected and the reign of God fully realized, the Catholic Worker movement will be studied and analyzed for the great contributions it made and makes. Revolution of the Heart: Essays on the Catholic Worker (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 394 pages, $16.95 paperback), edited by Patrick G. Coy, is a thoughtful collection by thoughtful authors.

They answer questions and provide a great deal of interesting information and insightful commentary.

Robert Goss is sure to raise some eyebrows with Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto (HarperSan-Francisco, 240 pages, $19 hardbound). This gay activist and former Jesuit priest writes for "those queers who have internalized Christian homophobia and for those who have externalized their anger to fight back and stop the homophobic /heterosexist churches."

Goss has a doctorate from Harvard and a master of divinity from the Weston School of Theology. He is no stranger to academic discourse. He ably employs any number of resources in his consideration of Jesus as liberator, asserting that the risen Christ, the hope for justice, stands in solidarity with oppressed gay men and lesbians.

He moves beyond this point to assert that "it is only natural for queer Christians to reclaim Jesus as gay/lesbian sensitive and contruct a queer Christ." While he departs from traditional theology, he will certainly fuel the debate about the full integration of openly homosexual people into modern society.

Irish folk and wannabes will want to have The Celtic Year: A Month-by-Month Celebration of Celtic Christian Festivals and Sites (Element, 259 pages, $16.95 paperback), by Shirley Toulson. Her hope in linking the Celtic saints to the Celtic year is to help readers become more aware of times and seasons.

She introduces or reintroduces saints and offers poems, blessings and illustrations to animate the year's journey. This book might be helpful in planning daily prayer for those who have green concerns.

You Can't Grow Up Till You Go Back Home: A Safe Journey To See Your Parents as Human (Crossroad, 194 pages, $22.95), by William F. Nerin, might be helpful to those whos understanding of family is in need of healing.

Nerin has 27 years experience as a family therapist. He draws on that experience in compiling stories, ideas and suggestions that readers are invited "to consider how they might apply to you." He notes that those who find value in his proposals might be motivated to begin or continue with the great adventure or rerooting with family. A worthy goal, asnd a good book with which to begin.

Working in the Catholic Church, an Attitudinal Survey by the National Association of Church Personel Administrators (Sheed & Ward, 164 pages, $14.95 paperback) addresses important questions: What is it like to work for Catholic church adminstrative offices, parishes, institutions? How do priests, laypersons and members religious communities view the church as employer? How about working conditions? How about the laity whose family members work for the church?

The study is important for several reasons. First, assumptions must be set aside in favor of research. (As we were taught in the early grades, to assume makes an ass out of u and me.) Also, this survey will be significant for future historians who consider what we have done and how.

Personnel and affirmative action issues are raised here. These concerns must be addressed in this multicultural church that is preparing to enter the next century.

Enduring Grace: Living Portraits of Seven Women Mystics (Harper-SanFrancisco, 248 pages, $13 paperback), by Carol Lee Flinders, spans generations and centuries. The book brings mystics to life, including the monastic Clare, the reclusive Julian of Norwich, and Catherine, Siena's political activist.

Flinders offers what she terms introductory sketches, thresholds for those who may be moved to return to the writings of the mystics themselves. For seeking or praying, this volume will be helpful.

Doris Donnelly has written Spiritual Fitness: Everyday Exercises for Body and Soul (HarperSan Franciso, 178 pages, $12 paperback) to address the "task of humanness" that requires daily resolve, courageous involvement of one's full self, and a willingness to grow into the gifts God gives.

Those who seek to transform human life will find here a good guide, a sensitive writer, a sense of hope that can yield "a glimpse of the truth that what we love ardently detemines what we become." Her chapters attend to listening, praising, eating, working, weeping, laughing, forgiving and persevering, concluding with "Just Do It." I like this book, and the homely attitudes the author promotes.

In September's column, my summer students from the Institute in Pastoral Ministry at St. Mary's College of Minnesota pointed to current authors who serve current pastoral needs. Their insights were so well received, that some of their classmates offer their reviews this month.

Lorraine Cann is director of religious education at Nativity Parish in Green Bay, Wis., working with 1,576 students and 178 volunteer catechists. In her spare time, she also is responsible for adult education, so Bill Swindell's Fathers, Come Home: A Wake Up Call for Busy Dads (Greenlawn Press, 101 pages, $7.95 paperback) caught her eye.

Those who think they are too busy to pick up this book make a big mistake, according to Cann. Those who love them ought to get a copy and put it wherever fathers might find it. In Chapter 2, which Cann found was alone worth the price of the book, stories of children who feel abandoned by dad hit home.

Relationships can be changed. Children are in need. Fathers who will hear might spend some time listening to Swindell's wake-up call.

Mary Ann Graham, no relation to this columnist, is the director of liturgy and music at St. Joseph's Church in Grand Junction, Colo. She is a wife and mother of four. She chose Confessions of a Celibate Priest (Huntington, W.V.: University Editions, Inc., $12.95), by Gerry Fitzpatrick with Collette Caron.

The book details the journey of David Reddin from altar boy to priest who knew no intimacy. His intellectual, spiritual and psychological challenges prompt him to understand his own sexuality, celibacy and ministry.

Mary Ann found the book difficult to put down, noting that it spoke to the issues facing the church, which include but go beyond celibacy.

June Ingold is a pastoral associate at Ss. Edward and Isodore Parish in Green Bay. She has been a widow for eight years, is the mother of eight and grandmother of nine. She chose The Witness of the Worshiping Community: Liturgy and the Practice of Evangelism (Paulist, 177 pages, $12.95 paperback), by Frank C. Senn.

Senn asks how the unchurched might be welcomed and initiated into the faith without compromising the integrity of liturgy and evangelism. Part of the catechesis points to what is not always immediately obvious: Worship is more than an entertaining Sunday morning followed by brunch at a neighborhood restaurant. Genuine worship invites people into the gospel mysteries and gives witness to lived faith experiences.

Senn provides a look at the development of initiation practices in the early church and shows how that model of evangelism today.

According to Ingold, liturgists, RCIA coordinators and pastoral ministers will appreciate Senn's work.

Jo Anne Milton is director of religious education in Resurrection Parish in Eveleth, Minn. She is a wife of 25 years and mother of two grown children. She chose The Way of Marriage: A Journey of Spiritual Growth Through Conflict, Love and Sex (HarperCollins, 185 pages, $10 paperback), by Henry James Borys.

Jo Anne comments that this is not another how-to book, but rather the story of one couple's ongoing marital journey. It leads the reader to discover that there are no sure formulas, only paths unique to each couple.

The book is written in an engaging way, both personal and insightful, reflecting and expounding on concerns that committed couples often encounter.

"Practical, sensitive, spiritual! A keeper!" writes Milton, adding that it is great reading for couples weary from living in a noncommittal society. Good for those who minister to married couples, too.

Earth's the right place. There is no doubt.
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Author:Graham, William C.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 22, 1993
Words:2322
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