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Transcending One's Brokenness


A SPIRITUALITY FOR BROKENNESS: Discovering Your Deepest Self in Difficult Times
THE SEAMLESS GARMENT: Writings on the Consistent Ethic of Life
WANDERING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: The Sacred Heart Seminary Class of 1965
Depression Survival Tips

A SPIRITUALITY FOR BROKENNESS: Discovering Your Deepest Self in Difficult Times, by Terry Taylor. Skylight Paths. 158 pp. $16.99.

Reviewed by PATTI NORMILE, former chaplain, retreat director and writer for St. Anthony Messenger Press, Abbey Press and National Catholic Reporter. She is the author of John Dear on Peace: An Introduction to His Life and Work (St. Anthony Messenger Press).

TERRY TAYLOR has taken the brokenness of his pain-filled childhood and with faith has shaped it into a healing spirituality that he shares with workshop participants and retreat groups. Taylor is the executive director of the Louisville, Kentucky-based Interfaith Paths to Peace.

Now through this practical guidebook to wholeness, he invites readers to travel through the varied phases of pain toward compassion for their brokenness to new levels of health and wholeness.

His sharing of his personal journey is genuine but not maudlin, an approach that opens readers to their own life situations. Taylor's guidance can lead readers to areas of personal brokenness—physical, spiritual, emotional or mental—that are hidden in the past, exposing them to healing in the present.

Taylor also speaks to those who may feel broken but cannot express their brokenness because they are not aware of any traumatic events in their lives. Feelings of alienation from others or a sense of not being accepted are indicators that there are chipped places in one's past.

He outlines seven steps toward a spirituality for brokenness: recognizing brokenness, having compassion for it, understanding brokenness, finding meaning in it, moving on, transcending one's brokenness and sharing it with others.

Dipping into the wisdom of various faiths, Taylor creates a variety of pathways toward mending one's brokenness. The practices suggested do not seem to violate any of the faith bases which Taylor taps. Rather, there is a universality and unity expressed in the book's eight chapters. The practice of Sabbath slows life so that reflecting can happen, making mending possible.

Traditional lectio divina takes on a new view as readers apply this practice of praying the Scriptures to their own life story. Ancient traditions such as walking the labyrinth and journeying on pilgrimage move readers (literally, in some cases) to the center of their own being to discover the deepest self, which is rooted in the divine.

Community as a spiritual place where healing occurs and growth is nurtured in self and others is described as a "jewel" for sharing one's brokenness. Also available to the reader is a section entitled "Emotional First Aid," by Frances E. Englander, that contains suggestions for coping with feelings that may surface during the healing process.

More information on the spirituality of brokenness can be found at

You can order A SPIRITUALITY FOR BROKENNESS: Discovering Your Deepest Self in Difficult Times from St. Francis Bookstore.


THE SEAMLESS GARMENT: Writings on the Consistent Ethic of Life, by Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin. Thomas A. Nairn, Editor. Orbis Books. 305 pp. $30.

Reviewed by DON MILLER, O.F.M., Ph.D., who spent 25 years teaching and serving as an administrator and as a chaplain on both secular and Catholic campuses. His doctorate in moral theology is from The Catholic University of America.

IN 35 MAJOR presentations delivered between December 1983 and September 1996, Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin laid out his consistent ethic of life before a variety of audiences. Arguing that the ethical discussion of each life issue is unique in both method and content, he sees a common value in all.

Arguing further that all ethical discussions of life issues require consistency and coherence in principles, and clearly rooting his discussions in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Cardinal Bernardin defines the basic moral goal of his ethic as a defense of the intrinsic dignity of each human person.

Thus, while abortion, poverty, euthanasia, war or capital punishment must be discussed in distinct ways using very different arguments, in reality each issue raises a bigger one: the dignity of human life.

This underlying, core concern unites all life issues into a "seamless garment." For this reason, there is a unity in the diversity of issues and argumentation.

Commemorating in December 2008 the 25th anniversary of the Gannon Lecture at Fordham University in which Cardinal Bernardin first presented his consistent ethic of life, Nairn pays tribute to Cardinal Bernardin by gathering 35 of his formal lectures into one book.

In each presentation, the cardinal carefully adapted his core message to the concerns/issues of his audience. So whether he was addressing Amnesty International, the Right to Life Convention or the American Medical Association House of Delegates, Cardinal Bernardin carefully and clearly recognized and addressed the unique characteristics of the audiences and placed their specific concerns in the larger context of the consistent ethic of human life.

Because the book is a compilation of lectures, and because the cardinal in each case argued for the consistent ethic of life underlying each issue, the reader may find The Seamless Garment a bit tedious. There is a great deal of repetition in the speaker's arguments, and yet, on careful reading, the clarity of his thought and arguments grows over time.

This does not, however, make the book an easy read. While the book fulfills its mission of presenting a compendium of Bernardin's ethical approach, it leaves the reader with questions: What was the cardinal's influence on ethical thinking? Did he succeed in shedding light on the common core value underlying all discussions of human life? Where has his consistent ethic of life led the moral discourse on human life both in the Church and in society?

The answers to these questions are not the focus of The Seamless Garment. This book intends only to pay tribute to an ethical thinker by gathering into one place his major presentations on his major thesis: the consistent ethic of life.

Anyone interested in this insightful approach to life issues will find The Seamless Garment a valuable resource. Those who criticized Cardinal Bernardin for whitewashing the unique characteristics of specific life issues will, upon careful reading of his speeches, realize how mistaken is that judgment.

He, for instance, clearly states that he does not equate the specific content of abortion with that of capital punishment. Each is a separate issue with unique moral concerns. What he does forcefully argue is that all life issues are related in their common concern for the dignity of human life. Adopting that common concern can bring together the scattered forces of support in a united effort to defend the value of human life in all of its varying aspects.

You can order THE SEAMLESS GARMENT: Writings on the Consistent Ethic of Life from St. Francis Bookstore.


WANDERING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: The Sacred Heart Seminary Class of 1965, edited by William E. Richardson. Foreword by Gregory Baum, Afterword by Gerald Fogarty, S.J. Van Antwerp and Beale Publishers. 383 pp. $24.95 plus s/h. (Available from Catholic Book Store, 1232 Washington Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226 or 313-962-4490.)

Reviewed by NORM LANGENBRUNNER, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, ordained in 1970, former parish pastor 26 years, now engaged in preaching parish missions.

PRIESTS ARE COMMONLY divided into three cohorts: pre-Vatican II, Vatican II and post-Vatican II, sometimes called John Paul II priests. Ideally, there would be no such distinction, but on the practical level there is. These categories reflect the eras in which priests were trained and the dominant theologies which motivate them.

Wandering Between Two Worlds is the story of 17 men who were in training at the time of the Second Vatican Council—some of them were never ordained, some were ordained and some left the ministry. The biographies of the class of 1965 of Sacred Heart College Seminary, Detroit, Michigan, provide data for profiling the second of the three priestly cohorts.

The idea for this book of brief biographies of the graduates came from a class reunion in 2005. Only 17 of the 43 graduates submitted biographies; of that 17, eight went on to priestly ordination, but only two of them remain priests today. Most of those who were ordained and remain active today chose not to respond.

The 17 stories are spirited and engaging, sometimes humorous, sometimes heartrending. Each recaptures the spirit of the 1960s, both in the heady experience of the ecumenical council in Rome and in the cultural revolution in the United States. Most are critical of Church leadership but love the Church dearly. Many see priestly celibacy as more of a problem than a help to ministry; several reject the ban on artificial birth control but strongly support social outreach to the poor, the prisoner and the politically disenfranchised.

One of the writers, Tony Locricchio, while still a seminarian, crossed swords with Detroit's Archbishop Dearden over the archdiocese's use of federal funding for the poor. Shortly after the confrontation, seminarian Tony was in Bogotá, Colombia, when Pope Paul VI visited the city.

Hoping to get near the pope, he and a friend dressed as clergy and worked their way to the front of the crowd. When the papal car stopped inches from Locricchio, the crowd pushed forward, and Locricchio was forced into the circle of guards surrounding the pope. By chance, Archbishop Dearden was watching the scene on television and was nearly apoplectic when he saw his nemesis at the pope's side.

Gene Fisher, though never ordained, became deeply involved in Catholic-Jewish relations, and became the first layman to serve as director of a U.S. Catholic Conference secretariat. He recalls the occasion when he and a delegation of Jews met Pope John Paul II. When he was presented, Fisher bent over to kiss the papal ring, and the pope was startled that a Jew would do such a thing. The rabbi who was introducing the delegation called out, "It's all right, Your Holiness. He's one of yours!"

John Mulheisen was never ordained. Philosophical differences and the matter of celibacy led him to choose marriage instead. After 15 years, his wife divorced him. He confesses that he is still searching for faith.

William Richardson decided not to go on to the major seminary after college graduation; he married, his wife left him, he married again after a declaration of nullity, and his second wife was killed in a bike accident on their honeymoon. He married a third time.

The religious formation, seminary training and character of the men who explored the possibility of priesthood often led not to ordination but to other forms of service to God's people: One graduate went on to prison ministry, one to hospice work, one to law, another to marriage and family counseling.

No review can do the book justice. These stories reveal the experience and the mind-set of the priests of the Vatican II cohort. As one of that number, I am eager to recommend Wandering Between Two Worlds to priests of any cohort and to laymen and laywomen as well.

You can order WANDERING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: The Sacred Heart Seminary Class of 1965 from St. Francis Bookstore.


IMAGINATION AND THE JOURNEY OF FAITH, by Sandra M. Levy. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 190 pp. $18.

Reviewed by BARBARA SONNENBERG, a retired public librarian who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST and Episcopalian priest Sandra Levy suggests a broad and all-encompassing definition of imagination as "the inherent human power to transcend the concrete, to create new images or ideas that can open up new possibility and promise— the not-yet of a future we can envision, the re-valuing of a remembered past. Ultimately what I mean by imagination is that human capacity to receive and respond to God's revelation in our everyday lives."

Drawing on her dual life experiences, she describes imagination at work and then suggests practices to enhance its role in our faith lives. This reader found the excellent opening section a treasure trove of references to outstanding works from poets, prose writers, artists, musicians, movie producers and dramatists, acting out what Samuel Taylor Coleridge identified as "secondary imagination," the ability to reassemble perceived reality into new concepts in the search for the Divine.

The Bible, which Levy considers a grand epic story of human beings and their relationship to a transcendent God who cares about them and their history, is particularly well-delineated. Its authors drew from traditions handed to them from the past but added symbols, legends and traditions then current, as well as dialogue and creative narrative from their own imaginations, to portray the truth as they saw it. And what a story they created!

Aware of the absence of religious themes in most contemporary media or, at the most, their unflattering portrayal, Levy suggests we monitor our media selections. If our imaginations are transformed by what they take in, careful selection and interpretation are our responsibility.

While saints and sinners, contradiction and paradox, courage and cowardice will be portrayed, we can transform their examples into meaningful actions for ourselves. The leading characters in Flannery O'Connor's short story "Revelation," which her own mother found unsavory, provide an excellent example of the blindness that "good" people often have about their own faults.

Naturally, religious rituals receive special attention as to their portrayal of historic events and their relevance to the current day. A successful ritual combines physical action with an accompanying text, which deepens and expands the experience portrayed.

Thus, processing, bowing and kneeling are combined with accompanying readings, the sharing of food, pouring of water, extending of the hands, etc. The author warns that "[w]hen the community institutions—the Church, the hierarchy, the religious powers that be—suppress the free expression of new ritual, rigidity sets in."

The last 60 pages deal with suggestions for developing the imaginative mind with examples of rituals for use in the home, the community and houses of worship, and are earmarked especially for children. In addition to an index, there is an excellent appendix of practical resources, as well as a very useful bibliography.

I would especially recommend this book for those involved in liturgical planning, but any mature reader who wishes to expand his or her imaginative powers to appreciate how God reveals his presence in our daily lives would find it an excellent guidebook.

You can order IMAGINATION AND THE JOURNEY OF FAITH from St. Francis Bookstore.


PRACTICING CATHOLIC, by James Carroll. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 322 pp. $28.

Reviewed by the REV. LAWRENCE M. VENTLINE, D.Min., a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit for 33 years, now on special assignment. He is the director of the 10-year-old Cura Animarum. His latest book is A Tale So True of My Christmas Tree: Everything Belongs in God's World.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT for cooks, contemplatives and coaches. Or so it seems for author and former University of Notre Dame chaplain James Carroll. What he's practicing is Catholicism, but hurt, betrayal and disappointment take their toll, as he reveals in this tome. His personal story is that of a priest-turned-professional-writer at a price.

The roller-coaster ride that is the spiritual life has moments of desolation and consolation. Only God and math are perfect entities. People win some and lose some.

More of a memoir containing American Catholic Church history, this story of faith is woven by a fine crafter of words.

In 10 chapters, a Catholic chronology, acknowledgments, notes and an extensive index, this prolific author covers Vatican II to imagination and hope, religion and terror, sex and power, to Catholic scandal at all levels of hierarchy. Through it all, Carroll searches for meaning, fresh language and freedom enveloped in democracy. A tall order, for sure, to fill! Included, nevertheless, is a bit of bitterness and, perhaps, understandably so.

This National Book Award-winning best-seller explains why Carroll remains a practicing Catholic, set against the sometimes discouraging actions of the Church's leaders. Carroll calls for a more collaborative, interactive and responsive leadership. He charges Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, with making cruelty a "main fact of Catholic life."

Furthermore, Carroll claims that the late Pope John Paul II's decades-long pontificate may parallel those energies that brought about 9/11, since John Paul's pontificate since 1978 sowed "seeds of a related zealotry."

In an almost combative discourse, Carroll finds power and control portrayed in Humanae Vitae, papal infallibility, priestly celibacy and the role of women in the Church.

This head-turner of a book, however, kept me engaged, since Carroll was leaving the active priesthood for a career in writing at the time I was about to be ordained in 1975. His newspaper articles while he was a creative campus minister and Paulist priest in the 1970s appealed to me.

Carroll lists a litany of his heroes: Pope John XXIII, Trappist monk and bridge-builder of West and East Thomas Merton, Cardinal Richard Cushing and William Sloane Coffin. Also, the great events of our times such as Vatican II, the Kennedy era and the end of the Cold War are highlighted here.

Tending the new language of belief in a secular world, the writer stands opposed to fundamentalisms of "neoatheists" and born-again Christians. Carroll makes a point hard to agree with: "What Jesus offers is not salvation, which is only a negative rescue from damnation. Instead, Jesus offers a positive completion of life." This illustrates an unhealed wound, it seems, in Carroll's childhood story perhaps, when he writes about his wonder at Mass about people striking their breasts reciting, "I am not worthy...."

Practicing Catholic tells of faithfulness, outrage, ambivalence and compassionate dissidence, sprinkled throughout this one pilgrim's path. Carroll makes a claim for a fresh, rational and vital Catholic community. For him, faith is a practice, which, like all practices—cooking, music, whatever— aims at getting better each day.

You can order PRACTICING CATHOLIC from St. Francis Bookstore.


Depression Survival Tips

With fewer hours of sunlight, letdown from the holidays and our continuing economic recession, many people feel sad. Some slip into clinical depression. These books offer ladders to climb out of that black pit.

BEYOND BLUE: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes, by Therese J. Borchard (Center Street/, 288 pp., $21.99, U.S./$26.99, Canada), comes from the author of a daily blog at about depression. This book reveals her own experiences coping with mania and depression. Her humor makes her message easy to hear.

LET ME SOW LIGHT: Living With a Depressed Spouse, by Bernadette Stankard and Amy Viets (ACTA Publications, 151 pp., $10.95), takes its inspiration from St. Francis' famous prayer. These women offer a practical and spiritual approach to living with depressed husbands. They explore depression's effects on children, finances, sexuality and faith. They note that 80 percent of those who seek treatment for depression recover.

WHEN LIFE DOESN'T GO YOUR WAY: Hope for Catholic Women Facing Disappointment and Pain, by Katrina J. Zeno (The Word Among Us Press, 157 pp., $11.95). Zeno is the founder of Women of the Third Millennium ( She thinks that suffering can still show us a vision of the good God. She draws on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body..--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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