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Franciscans Follow Holy Spirit's Lead


THE FRANCISCAN TRADITION: Spirituality in History
DOERS OF THE WORD: Putting Your Faith Into Practice
TAMING THE WOLF: Resolving the Conflicts Ruining Your Life
TAMING THE WOLF: Conflict Resolution Journal Workbook
Heroes Old and New

THE FRANCISCAN TRADITION: Spirituality in History, by Regis J. Armstrong and Ingrid J. Peterson, series editor Phyllis Zagano. Liturgical Press. 196 pp. $16.95.

Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., editor of this publication. He has an M.A. in Franciscan studies from St. Bonaventure University.

FRANCIS AND CLARE of Assisi continue to inspire a great variety of people to live the Good News of Jesus Christ generously. Regis J. Armstrong and Ingrid J. Peterson write: "With a penetrating simplicity, the Spirit of the Lord that enters the Christian soul at Baptism seems the only explanation for the universality, the all-embracing character, and the joy Francis and his tradition brought to the religious life of the Church. The Spirit, the Spirit alone, was needed by the 13th-century saint, perhaps the most popular saint in the Church's two-millennia history."

Later, they note that a chronological reading of Francis' writings shows the Spirit's role to become "ever more influential, drawing him into the very inner life of the triune God."

The "Spirituality in History" series covers the Dominican, Benedictine and Ignatian traditions and will include a volume on the Carmelite tradition. "Each volume in the series," writes editor Phyllis Zagano, "seeks to present the given spiritual tradition through an anthology of writings by or about persons who have lived it, along with brief biographical introductions of those persons. Each volume is edited by an expert or experts in the tradition at hand."

After chapters on the Franciscan tradition overall and on Francis (d. 1226), Armstrong and Peterson introduce readers to Anthony of Padua (d. 1231), Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (d. 1274), Felix of Cantalice (d. 1587), Junipero Serra (d. 1784), Maximilian Mary Kolbe (d. 1941) and Solanus Casey (d. 1957).

The Second Order is represented by Clare of Assisi (d. 1253), Colette of Corbie (d. 1447), Catherine of Bologna (d. 1463) and Veronica Giuliani (d. 1727). Clare was the first woman to write a Rule officially approved by the Church.

Angela of Foligno (d. 1309) introduces the section on the "Brothers and Sisters of Penance," as Francis called them. Mary of the Passion (d. 1904) and Marianne Cope of Molokai (d. 1918) convey the Third Order Regular charism. The martyrs of Nagasaki (d. 1597), Jean-Marie Vianney (d. 1859) and Matt Talbot (d. 1925) illustrate the rich variety among Secular Franciscans.

This book also presents the full text of the Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance (c. 1220), the Later Rule of St. Francis (1223), the Form of Life of Clare of Assisi (1253), the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (1978) and the Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular (1982).

The chapter on Matt Talbot is very engaging. Already addicted to alcohol as a teenager, he began his sobriety as a 28-year-old and maintained it for 39 years. Daniel Manning, Talbot's longtime co-worker, wrote: "I cannot think of any particular reason why I thought of him as holy—there was something about the man which I cannot explain. To all outward appearances he was just an ordinary workman. The other men restrained themselves in his presence. They respected him and did not regard him as being in any way odd or peculiar. He was the most extraordinary man I ever met; he impelled respect." In the words of the liturgy, Talbot had clearly become "a living gospel for all people to hear."

According to Armstrong and Peterson, in Adam's act of disobedience, "Francis perceived the two enduring tendencies of the human nature: to make its will its own and to exalt itself over that which really belongs to God." In different ways, everyone featured in this volume exalted what really belongs to God and in the process benefited the entire human family.

This excellent, reader-friendly volume from two eminent Franciscan scholars closes with six pages of notes and eight pages of bibliography.

You can order THE FRANCISCAN TRADITION: Spirituality in History from St. Francis Bookstore.


DOERS OF THE WORD: Putting Your Faith Into Practice, by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan. Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. 125 pp. $9.95.

Reviewed by ELIZABETH YANK, a freelance writer and homeschooling mother from South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

MY DAY IS jam-packed with the demands of motherhood, but I still want to spend time on spiritual reading and reflection. Trying to carve out more than a few moments each day can seem impossible. Therefore, I really appreciate a book that lifts me up, offers me something to reflect on and takes just a few minutes to read. Doers of the Word, by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, fits the bill.

This book is for the everyday man or woman. You won't find any heavy theological expostulating or deep philosophical ponderings, just practical guidance and inspiration.

The book is divided into seven topics such as "My Lord and My God," "Signs of Faith," "The Communion of Saints" and "Workers in the Vineyard." Each chapter presents several short meditations.

To pique the reader's interest, each reflection opens with a personal anecdote, a thought-provoking comment or an eye-catching phrase. Drawing on real-life experiences, Archbishop Dolan uses contemporary examples to explain timeless principles. For instance, when he visited a prison, he noted the tattoos on the prisoners and compared them to how we as Christians are also marked, but marked with the cross of Christ.

Archbishop Dolan closes each meditation with a short commentary or an instructional tidbit. He shares Church history, a poem, a scriptural reference, a quote from a saint or a prayer. For example, "The name Bethlehem comes from the old Hebrew meaning ‘house of bread.'" Then he quotes Micah 5:2.

Doers of the Word is Archbishop Dolan's reminder that God comes to meet us where we are. God wants us to grow deeper in our faith and offers us plenty of opportunities if we are open to them. With the eyes of faith, we can see God working in our own lives, in the everyday occurrences. As the archbishop says in the Preface, "He's [God's] there in the stillness; He's there in the messiness....Our call is to serve Him, discover Him, and find Him."

In the many examples throughout the book, God is found. He's found in the dying woman in the hospital who wants to receive the sacraments, not just an important visitor like the archbishop. He's there in someone who converted to the Catholic faith in order to be intimately connected with Jesus in the sacraments. He's there in the cab driver who carries a picture of the Madonna and child on his sun visor as a reminder that "Jesus and Mary are my only protection." He's even there in the six-year-old boy who explains to his younger sister that the baby in the manger "is God."

Perhaps the most powerful story is about two families who sacrifice much in order to bring joy to one another. Their lives bring pro-life witnessing to a whole new level.

More than easy to read and easy to understand, these stories are engaging. They hold the reader's interest, begging us to want to read more. That is a good thing, since we are actually being instructed in the faith without even knowing it.

What the readers won't find is lecturing or scolding. Archbishop Dolan speaks as someone who has experienced the same temptations and faults. He provides encouragement for the soul. His down-to-earth, personal style draws the reader in as though having a conversation at the local pub, while actually teaching about the Communion of Saints, the Blessed Mother, Our Lord and more.

In a world full of distractions, Archbishop Dolan's Doers of the Word offers a spiritual oasis, a refreshing retreat to meditate on the higher things.

You can order DOERS OF THE WORD: Putting Your Faith Into Practice from St. Francis Bookstore.


THE LEGACY OF JOHN PAUL II, edited by Gerald O'Collins and Michael A. Hayes. Continuum. 274 pp. $26.95.

Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, a teacher at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. His most recent book is Our Catholic Symbols: A Rich Spiritual Treasury (Twenty-Third Publications).

"I consider it my essential and personal mission not so much to produce many new documents but to see that [John Paul II's] documents are assimilated, because they are a very rich treasure, the authentic interpretation of Vatican II."

These words come not just from anyone, mind you, but from Pope Benedict XVI. Rather than chart his own course, Benedict XVI sees his papacy as one of continuing the teachings of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

With this thought in mind, Jesuit Father Gerald O'Collins, longtime theology professor at the Gregorian University, and Michael A. Hayes, a vice principal of St. Mary's University College (London), gathered a group of scholars, pastors and writers from Europe and the United States to examine the legacy of John Paul II. Twelve contributed essays focused on certain themes.

Unlike many historical figures, John Paul II not only was shaped by his times, but also shaped them. Attempting to avoid any armchair psychology, the journalist and papal biographer Edward Stourton stresses that Karol Wojtyla's war experience in Nazi-occupied Poland cannot be underestimated. In this maelstrom of destruction and death, Wojtyla's vocation and vision of Church were formed. Later, as pope, he would assert his country's independence, helping bring about the collapse of Communism.

Connected with Poland is John Paul II's relationship with Jews. Here Margaret Shepherd argues that John Paul II could well be considered the pope who did more to foster and develop the relationship between Catholics and Jews than any other pope. In this, he followed the lead of Vatican II's document Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.

This Polish pope appeared to use his personal relationship with his closest childhood friend, Jerzy Kluger, a Jew, and apply it to all of Judaism. John Paul II's legacy toward Jews is best captured in his visits to the Great Synagogue of Rome in 1986 and the Holy Land in 2000. In both places he reaffirmed that God's covenant with the Jewish people is blessed and irrevocable.

In regard to other world religions, it could be said that John Paul II speaks admiringly and substantively of them as well. Addressing the pope's relationship to Muslims, contributor Christian Troll writes that "differences in faith and doctrine and potentially conflictual opposition of doctrines and truth claims on the normative level are one thing, the pursuit of continuing a ‘friendly' dialoguing and visiting another."

Similarly, with ecumenism, John Paul II's concern for Church unity was long-standing. Connected with this globe-trotting pope's many pastoral visits throughout the world usually was an ecumenical event meant to build Roman Catholicism's relations with other Christian traditions.

As Jared Wicks notes, one visible expression of this dialogue was the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by Catholics and Lutherans in 1999. As Archbishop Kevin McDonald emphasizes, "Ecumenism was integral to his whole understanding of his ministry."

Though his teachings will be argued and debated for some time to come, one area in which John Paul II advanced Church teaching was in moral theology. Unlike the physiological or biological approach of the past, his foundation began by acknowledging the person.

Perhaps even more important, David Albert Jones points out, is John Paul II's use of Scripture in moral theology.

A theologian often associated with Pope John Paul II is Hans Urs von Balthasar. Though both Brendan Leahy and John McDade agree that von Balthasar was but one influence on this pope, they explore the theological, ecclesiological and Mariological connections between these two figures.

At times considered by many to be conservative, even repressive, in his theology, in some ways Pope John Paul II "broke new ground and developed some fresh lines of thought and practice for Catholics and, indeed, for other Christians," says Gerald O'Collins. He singles out for consideration the areas of divine revelation, human experience, suffering and the role of the Holy Spirit.

As pope for over a quarter century (1978-2005), John Paul II had an undeniable influence. His papal writings and actions will shape Catholicism for years to come. It is important that Catholics (and those outside the Church) understand better not only his person but also his theology.

In this regard, The Legacy of John Paul II is a clear introduction to John Paul II's life and teachings. On the whole, the contributors write appreciatively of his legacy.

Though several topics were left out—most notably, his teachings on social justice—the present work is a sure guide into any beginning studies of Pope John Paul II.

You can order THE LEGACY OF JOHN PAUL II from St. Francis Bookstore.


TAMING THE WOLF: Resolving the Conflicts Ruining Your Life, by Greg Stone. Pink Unicorn Publishing. 558 pp. $27.

TAMING THE WOLF: Conflict Resolution Journal Workbook, by Greg Stone. Pink Unicorn Publishing. 360 pp. $19.

Reviewed by MARY LYNNE RAPIEN, L.P.C.C., a clinical counselor in private practice in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a trained mediator. She is a former youth columnist for St. Anthony Messenger.

CONFLICT is a part of life. How we handle conflicts determines our inner peace and the quality of outward relationships. In these companion works, Greg Stone gives a framework for resolving conflicts. The Foreword promises that these books will "guide readers through the conflict resolution process, providing concepts and techniques that can be used to overcome the difficult challenges that impede resolution and reconciliation." That they do.

They are not stand-alone volumes. Although intended for personal use, the author acknowledges that the reader may at some time be working with a mediator or legal representative to help bring about resolution.

The 19 chapters of the first book correspond to the chapters in the Journal Workbook.

From the beginning, Stone entwines the story of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio with stages of conflict resolution. In brief, the wolf is killing people in Gubbio, so the people of Gubbio want to kill the wolf. St. Francis makes friends with both sides, discovers their individual needs and creates a solution that gives food to the wolf and protection of Gubbio by the wolf. Enemies are reconciled.

The book is very structured. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from "St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio," followed by a discussion of a mediation principle. Then a Franciscan view of that principle is presented by drawing an example from the life of Francis or a contemporary Franciscan. Chapters end with relevant Scripture passages.

There is much valuable information in Taming the Wolf. But it reads more like a textbook than a self-help book for the average person struggling with conflict. Readers would have to have above-average education to handle the material—or have a counselor walk them through it.

The other obstacle would be spiritual maturity. My suspicion is that many struggling folks would be left in the dust.

While the author says the book is not intended as a manual for mediators (which is the author's specialty), it would work well for that purpose.

The Journal Workbook is daunting. For one who has the discipline to work through it, however, the reward would be a better understanding of self and confidence in one's ability to approach conflicts in a constructive way.

The Journal Workbook begins with the pre-convening stage and goes through reconciliation. The journal questions are comprehensive, perhaps too much so. Hopefully, the insights and skills gained from the text and journaling should provide a framework that would carry over into other conflict situations.

The criticism that there can be too much of a good thing would apply to Taming the Wolf. At times, the excerpts from the Gubbio story seem forced. While the "Franciscan View" brings a spiritual depth to the topics, the mediation principles could stand alone. (That is not to deny the role of the spiritual in reconciliation and self-reflection.)

On a practical note, the Workbook is spiral-bound, so it lies flat for writing. The chapters, which correspond to the chapters in the book, are easy to find because of the prompts in black, visible on the sides of the pages.

The Journal Workbook could be of tremendous help to someone struggling with a particular aspect of conflict. It would be most effective if the seeker had a spiritual director or counselor to guide the process.

Greg Stone has provided a valuable resource book for conflict resolution of inner and social conflicts. His Journal Workbook provides another tool. For the average person, there may be more practical choices.

You can order TAMING THE WOLF: Resolving the Conflicts Ruining Your Life and TAMING THE WOLF: Conflict Resolution Journal Workbook from St. Francis Bookstore.



Heroes Old and New

Heroes span many time frames and countries, as these books attest.

AMERICAN CICERO: The Life of Charles Carroll, by Bradley J. Birzer (ISI Books, 280 pp., $25). In its series "Lives of the Founders," Intercollegiate Studies Institute includes a biography of Charles Carroll, the Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. Birzer, director of the American Studies program at Hillsdale College, shows why this man of intellect and integrity was considered brilliant in his time yet is largely overlooked today. Carroll argued for American independence as early as 1765, tried to create a country based on Roman principles and made his religion legitimate in the new nation.

MADE FOR GOODNESS: And Why This Makes All the Difference, by Desmond M. Tutu and Mpho A. Tutu (HarperOne, 224 pp., $25.99; available also as an e-book and in large print). Here the South African Anglican archbishop, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for opposing apartheid, and his daughter, also an Episcopal minister, argue that we are all made for goodness.

MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON: The Survivors of Flight 1549 Tell Their Extraordinary Stories of Courage, Faith, and Determination, with William Prochnau and Laura Parker (Ballantine Books/Random House, Inc., 254 pp., $25, U.S./$25.95, Canada). These two New York City-based writers (one for Vanity Fair, the other for USA Today) make the January 15, 2009, landing of this U.S. Airways flight riveting.—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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