THE FURIOUS LONGING OF GOD, by Brennan Manning. David C. Cook
Publisher. 129 pp. $16.99.
Reviewed by the REV. LAWRENCE
VENTLINE, a priest of the Archdiocese of
Detroit for 33 years. He is founder of
www.interfaithwork.com and a longtime
religion writer for The Detroit News.
A board-certified professional counselor
and certified personal trainer, he currently
leads aerobic and chair exercises.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER and
know that God has a furious
longing for each of us:
This is the theme in all of
Brennan Manning’s books.
Grace is like that. The
reader relishes grace, savors it
and sits in God’s love like
the little boy in the tree mentioned
in Shel Silverstein’s
children’s classic, The Giving
Tree. The wild and wonderful
love of God is there eternally,
like the tree giving shelter
and shade until the boy grows old and
needs only to rest on the stump.
In 11 chapters, an introduction, end
notes, Bible resources and a couple
questions to ponder at each chapter’s
end, Manning addresses praying, healing,
giving and unimaginable love.
Manning’s voice kept calling me to
reread lines and taste of our Maker’s
mark in loving each of us with fury
and fire, as it were.
God showers us in a loving relationship.
Love is like that, isn’t it? We
want to remain forever in the Presence.
This book stands at the center of all
the books written by this former Franciscan
priest. His own trek through life
allows this 12-step-spirituality advocate
to lead retreats, teach seminary
students, capture hearts in packed arenas
and even live on the streets as he
battles his own demons on the way.
Known best for The Ragamuffin Gospel,
Manning in this spiritual read had my
heart locked into imagining God hovering
so close, in an intimacy that is
rare. With his ability to get close to the
reader, Manning paints God as One
closer than we realize. Perhaps the best
we can do is “eat his body and drink his
blood” at Mass.
Manning proposes we develop an
ongoing, real relationship with Abba’s
son, Jesus the Christ. And so it is for me
as each page is turned—an up-and-down
ride on the roller coaster of the
The Afterword of this
work has Mair, a diva and
ragamuffin, telling of her
broken, cracked-pot living:
“And now, the fury roars
again. The furious longing
of God has fanned that
spark of resident divinity
into a blazing flame of
burning love. I’ve been
swept into the embrace of
God, in all his fury. And
this fury, this sublime, ineffable
fury is not God’s anger. Oh no, it’s
his inexhaustible, unreasonable and
downright insane love.”
Rare is it for one to let us in so deeply
into his love affair with God.
You can order THE FURIOUS LONGING OF GOD from St. Francis Bookstore.
A TASTE OF HEAVEN: A Guide to
Food and Drink Made by Monks and
Nuns, by Madeline Scherb. Jeremy P.
Tarcher/Penguin. 209 pp. $15.95/U.S.;
Reviewed by CAROL LUEBERING, retired
St. Anthony Messenger Press editor, freelance
writer and ardent practitioner of the
SOME BOOKS DEFY easy classification,
and this is one of them. Part tour guide
and part catalog of palate-pleasing delicacies,
it offers a number of recipes
and a lot of monastic history.
Monastic life is, of course, centered
on prayer, but work is just as essential
an element. For centuries, cloistered
monks and nuns farmed to sustain
themselves. In the modern world, producing
wines and beers, cheeses, fruitcakes
and other products requires a
smaller workforce and reaches a wider
market more easily.
The goal remains sustenance, not
profit. Some monasteries have chosen
to limit production; others donate anything
above their needs to charity. For
all of them, creating culinary delights
is a way of sharing the delights of God’s
creation with the rest of the world.
As a tour guide, Scherb is delightful.
Each chapter focuses on a particular
type of product: spirits (beers, wines
and liqueurs), cheeses, sweets and
assorted “other edifying edibles.”
One by one, she takes readers to U.S.
and European monasteries that are
famous for their products (including
itineraries for visiting those clustered in
one area), introducing their history,
the surrounding landscape and the
rhythm of the lives within. You learn
which welcome guests and where their
delicacies can be obtained.
She thoughtfully provides phone
numbers, Internet addresses, retail distributors
and even some pointers on
monastery etiquette for those who
choose a stay. Each section includes
recipes that call for the foods these
The only problem I had with the
book—and it is a big one—is that it is
too rich for my blood. Few of us can
afford the travel involved in visiting
many of these places. Neither will the
ingredients her recipes require be found
in the average neighborhood supermarket;
you will have to turn to the
gourmet food sources she lists. Many of
the recipes call for adding eggs and
cream to dishes featuring the monasteries’
cheeses—not an option for anyone
who cooks, as I do, for someone on
a low-fat diet.
Still, if you’re willing to underwrite
your travels and your dining pleasure
with your imagination rather than your
credit card, here is your ticket.
You can order A TASTE OF HEAVEN: A Guide to
Food and Drink Made by Monks and
Nuns from St.
CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD, by Brenda Trunkhill. Illustrations by Jeff Carnehl. Concordia Publishing
House. 30 pp. $6.99.
SILENT NIGHT, by Vicki Howie. Illustrated
by Kriszta Nagy Kállai. Concordia
Publishing House. 29 pp.
Reviewed by SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER,
assistant managing editor of this publication,
with some help from her three children,
Maddie, Alex and Riley.
GETTING KIDS to think outside of their
own lives is not always an easy thing.
So I welcome any opportunity to
expand their worlds a little bit. Christmas
Around the World offered that very
The book explores how different
countries celebrate Christmas, answering
the same five questions for each:
How do they celebrate the Christ
Child’s birth? How do they decorate?
How do they say “Merry Christmas”?
What do they eat? What can we pray
The introduction to the book advises
parents that they may “want to focus
on one region at a time. Just as you
wouldn’t read an encyclopedia from
cover to cover in one sitting, don’t be
discouraged if your child doesn’t want
to read more than a few pages at a
But I was pleasantly surprised that
not only did my kids want to read and
talk about more than one at a time,
they kept going back to
ones we’d already read.
They marked various customs,
from each country that
they are looking forward to
incorporating into our own
Christmas celebration, such
as making seashell ornaments
as they do in the
Caribbean islands. And I
guess I better figure out
how to make jelly-filled
doughnuts as they do in
the Holy Land to celebrate the Festival
This book would make a great gift for
your family or someone else’s.
The book Silent Night tells the tale of
how the famous Christmas carol came
to be. It was written in 1818 to be
accompanied by guitar rather than the
This version of the story provides
the perspective and motivation of the
mice that are said to have chewed
through the organ’s bellows.
The mice are frightened
by the organ’s loud
music, so they decide to
chew a hole in the bellows,
thus rendering it useless
for Christmas Eve Mass.
The mice succeed, but
then immediately feel bad
for what they have done
when they see the sad
faces of the choir members
Father Joseph Mohr, not
knowing what to do, looks to the
crèche for inspiration. He saves Christmas
Eve Mass at the last minute by
writing the lyrics to the song and asking
his friend Franz Gruber to write
the accompanying music. Thus was
born “Silent Night.”
This book is a delightful take on the
story of one of Christmas’s most beloved carols, providing both its history
and a pleasant tale for the whole family.
And the illustrations are delightful,
You can order CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD AND SILENT NIGHT from St.
IN DUE SEASON: A Catholic Life, by Paul Wilkes. Jossey-Bass. 287 pp.
Reviewed by MITCH FINLEY, author of
more than 30 books for Catholic readers,
most recently The Rosary Handbook: A
Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers, and
Those In Between (The Word Among Us
Press). See www.mitchandkathyfinley.com.
IT’S BEEN SOME YEARS since a good
Catholic autobiography hit bookstore
shelves. One reviewer
went so far as to say that
this one will supersede
Thomas Merton’s classic,
The Seven Storey
Mountain. I wouldn’t go
that far—as I’m sure the
author would not—but
this is still an honest,
finely crafted account
of a life and the lessons
its author has learned
along the way in and
out, and in and out, and
back in the Catholic faith community.
Paul Wilkes has written some superb
books (e.g., In Mysterious Ways: The
Death and Life of a Parish Priest) and
produced exquisite video documentaries
(e.g., Merton for PBS). In this autobiography
the reader may find himself
or herself commenting repeatedly on
choices Paul Wilkes made in his life,
“What a dope,” and Wilkes would,
again, be the first to agree.
Perhaps the most profound insight
presented in this book, however, is not
the bad choices or the good choices
Paul Wilkes made along the way, but
the power of the Catholic faith into
which he was born to throw him a lifeline
again and again.
And the admirable thing is that
Wilkes continued to choose to return
to that lifeline until, in the end, he
realized that it was the only way he
could ever have a life worth living.
Wilkes narrates his life from its
humble beginnings in Cleveland,
through his years in
Catholic elementary and
secondary schools and a
Catholic university, into his
years in the U.S. Navy, on to
graduate school at Columbia
University, and into a
high-octane New York freelance
Along the way the reader
learns of more than a
few unremarkable choices
Wilkes made that are the
same stupid choices flawed
humans have been making since forever,
and they are basically boring:
booze, sex and drugs (ho-hum).
Into the mix is a so-called marriage
that ended up failing, years
of making do by attending
his wife’s Methodist church,
then a radical U-turn into a
life of voluntary poverty and
service to the poor that wasn’t
where he belonged, either.
Then came an attempt to
make a vocation to the Trappists
happen, and that also
Finally, salvation came to
Paul Wilkes in the most ordinary
of ways, by meeting
a good woman, accepting his God-given
vocation as a writer and living
the ordinary Catholic faith he shares
with innumerable other ordinary
One of Wilkes’s more recent books is
The Good Enough Catholic, and he himself—as this autobiography illustrates—is perhaps the best example of the
virtues that characterize such Catholics.
The author of this book is a good
enough Catholic, and that’s good
You can order IN DUE SEASON: A Catholic Life from St. Francis Bookstore.
DISPUTED TRUTH: Memoirs II, by Hans Küng. Continuum. 556 pp.
$34.95, hardcover; $24.95, paperback.
Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, a
teacher of religion at St. Xavier High School
in Cincinnati, Ohio.
IN RESPONSE to the ongoing debate
occasioned by his book Infallible? An
Inquiry, Hans Küng and the
renowned Jesuit theologian
Karl Rahner engaged in a
series of letters in the spring
of 1973. In one of them
Küng asked his theological
colleague to stop describing
him as a “liberal Protestant”
and think of him as a
Catholic theologian with an
This exchange of letters
speaks to the heart of what
Hans Küng, emeritus professor
of ecumenical theology at the
University of Tübingen and president of
the Global Ethic Foundation, seeks to
demonstrate in part two of his memoirs,
Disputed Truth. The volume covers from
the end of the Second Vatican Council
(1965) to the present day. Not only has
he been profoundly shaped by the
Catholic tradition but he also remains in
it as a believer, priest and theologian.
The book begins, interestingly
enough, with Küng speaking not of
himself but of his one-time colleague,
Professor Joseph Ratzinger—now Pope
Benedict XVI. Here Küng makes it clear
that, though their lives will keep crossing
time and again, he feels that
Ratzinger chose to commit himself to
the “Roman hierarchical system.”
Küng, however, purposefully placed
himself at the service of those both
inside and outside the Church. Unlike
many of their peers from the days of
the Second Vatican Council, he feels
that this later enabled him to resist the
tempting domestication and curialization
The years after the Council are eventful
ones for Küng, who emerges as one
of the Catholic Church’s leading theologians.
Numerous books, articles, interviews,
awards and trips follow. The year
1968 is pivotal with political, social, economic
and religious unrest everywhere.
Though some resort to relying on
authority and tradition, Küng stresses
the need for continued intellectual freedom and mutual respect, even toward
those with whom we disagree.
A major event in that year was Pope
Paul VI’s publication of Humanae Vitae,
which affirmed the Church’s ban on
artificial contraception. It provoked
Küng to write Infallible? An Inquiry (1970). In it, Küng does not shy away
from “disputed truth,” but demonstrates
that history is full of papal errors
which call into question the foundation
and dogma of papal infallibility.
It goes without saying that the book
brought forth a storm of conversation
Disciplinary proceedings against the
book soon follow from the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith. Küng,
well aware of the Church’s preferred
practice of private objections instead of
public challenges, holds fast to his position
even when asked to yield. Two
later and best-selling works—On Being
a Christian (1974) and Does God Exist? (1978)—only add more fuel to the fire.
The great question that surrounds
Küng’s work and his critics becomes
whether this is a battle for the truth or
a struggle for power.
For close to 10 years, Küng engages
in a game of chess with the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith and
the German Bishops’ Conference. Each
side makes measured and calculated
moves, hoping to get the other party to
concede. This only leads to positions
where concessions appear unlikely.
The hammer finally drops in December
of 1979, a few days before Christmas.
Though it suffers a public relations
disaster for its timing, the Vatican withdraws
Küng’s teaching mandate, effectively
forbidding him to teach in the
Catholic theology faculty at the University
As one of several pictures in the book
attests, however, he still remains a priest
in good standing. Deeply wounded and
feeling betrayed, Küng fights on and,
eventually, is allowed to stay at Tübingen
as the head of the Institute for Ecumenical
The book basically ends here with
Küng looking to the future with a certain
degree of hope, though somewhat
deflated by the process he’s just undergone.
As with all memoirs, Küng’s Disputed
Truth presents a life from one perspective.
Given all that he’s undergone,
though, it’s not mean-spirited. Rather,
it is an act of self-defense by someone
who has been one of recent Catholicism’s
most influential theologians.
You can order DISPUTED TRUTH: Memoirs II from St. Francis Bookstore.
SIGNS AND MYSTERIES: Revealing
Ancient Christian Symbols, by Mike
Aquilina. Illustrated by Lea Marie
Ravotti. 188 pp. Our Sunday Visitor.
Reviewed by BRIAN WELTER, who teaches
ESL (English as a Second Language) to
adults in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and
writes for a variety of Catholic publications.
He recently received a D.Th. from the
University of South Africa with a study
on Pope John Paul II.
MIKE AQUILINA and Lea Marie Ravotti
use symbols to introduce modern readers
to ancient Christianity. They make
this past come alive by connecting us
to the power these images held.
Modern Christians use many of the
same symbols as the ancients
did, of course, such
as Christ, “the alpha and the
omega.” These Greek letters
signified “fullness in God
alone,” which believers drew
from the Book of Revelation.
We have lost from early
Christianity the idea that
this book offers primarily a
message of hope. “In it
God—who is eternal, all-powerful
and all-knowing—guaranteed the victory of
the faithful over their persecutors.
Thus, the alpha-omega symbol was
a source of courage, a reminder of
the Christian’s hidden reservoir of
strength,” Aquilina writes.
Unsurprisingly, these symbols appeared
not only in churches but also at
ancient burial sites.
Western Christians have dodged
physical persecution for some time,
resulting in the loss to this symbol of
the meaning of strength under duress.
Yet at the same time, misleading movies
and bad theology based on the Book of
Revelation have given modern Christians
a sense of intimidation or embarrassment
from this part of the Bible.
Aquilina explains well the basic theology
behind symbols. The cross, which
was much less widespread among
ancient believers than it is among modern
Christians, leads into a discussion
on the simple power of Pauline theology
lost on us today.
Christians in the Roman Empire
didn’t often use this symbol because
the empire was still crucifying people,
and the faithful would therefore have
seen firsthand the horror and devastation
of this punishment.
Aquilina tries to recreate this symbol’s
shock value by describing in great
detail the process by which the person
crucified died a slow death, as the nails
in the hands and feet dug into skin
and bones, with breathing becoming
harder and harder until the person died
Signs and Mysteries also contains some
surprises, such as the Christian meaning
of the peacock. Like many Christian
images, it had been a Jewish symbol as
well: “Peacocks were, with gold and
silver, unmistakable signs of
King Solomon’s wealth.
With ivory and apes, they
bespoke a luxury so great
that it bordered on frivolity.”
Many symbols, such as
the dolphin, came from
pagan culture. Pagans believed
that dolphins had
superhuman powers and
carried the souls of the dead
to the afterworld. It was a
short step to using the animal
as a sign for Christ,
especially by Christian sailors.
Signs and Mysteries shows Christianity
as a holistic religion and path, with
encouragement and meaning for all
aspects of life. Ravotti’s simple illustrations
give the book added character.
You can order SIGNS AND MYSTERIES: Revealing
Ancient Christian Symbols from St. Francis Bookstore.