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Check It Out

Courier Article by David Locker
Sunday, December 17, 2000

Refresh Your Spirit With a Good Book This Christmas

Without Christmas I guess our economy would collapse. There is madness in the air at this time of year that some have characterized as a capitalistic orgy. Tension is high and shopping lists seem endless. Amidst the entire bustle, it is easy to forget that Christmas is a religious holiday. One good way to remember is to go your local library and uplift your spirits with a work of religious nonfiction. You may be doing your part to establish peace on earth during a season when the world seems to be going a little bit crazy.

Looking for Mary or, the Blessed Mother and Me by Beverly Donofrio (Viking, 2000).

The reason why this author suddenly began collecting pictures of Mary in midlife may be related to the fact that she had been a teenage mother, forced into an unwise marriage that didn't last. The Virgin Mary represented something that she was not.

How else explain why a liberal feminist and lapsed Catholic would find herself in Medugorje as a profane pilgrim searching for faith. Or was it because Mary was calling her?

You don't have to be a Catholic to enjoy this powerful, moving, and inspiring book.

Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancy (Zondervan, 2000).

Yancy is an evangelical writer with an ecumenical bent. While firmly in the conservative Christian tradition, he doesn't hesitate to favorably discuss Catholic and Jewish writers in his work.

Yancy is known for his realistic and humble approach to the problems of faith. He admits that it is hard sometimes to have faith in a God we cannot see. He doesn't try to prove God's existence, but for those with the gift of faith, he does recommend the discipline to keep on acting like you believe even when you don't much feel like you do.

He reminds us that if we want to develop a friendship with God we have to keep our appointments and spend time with Him on a regular basis.

The Close: A Young Woman's First Year at Seminary by Chloe Breyer (Basic, 2000).

Chloe Breyer went to the Episcopalian General Theological Seminary in New York thinking she would find a place where she could cultivate holiness apart from the world. It didn't work out that way.

For one thing she didn't really feel at home there. A Harvard graduate, she would have been more in her element in graduate school. She didn't consider herself a "weird" religious person. In addition, she discovered that the outside world has a way of penetrating the cloister doors. Before the year was over, Chloe was arrested protesting police brutality and spent an enlightening and harrowing few months as a student chaplain in the Bellevue Hospital psychiatric ward.

Two things that struck me about this book were the intricacies of Episcopalian liturgy and the intellectual honesty of their clergy. They don't claim to have all the answers, but they are focused on the right questions.

The Better Part: Stages of Contemplative Living by Thomas Keating (Continuum, 2000).

Keating is a Benedictine monk and former abbot and one of the leaders of the Centering Prayer movement. His book is about the nitty gritty of spiritual practice.

Keating believes that we all have a false self acquired when we were toddlers and based on our childhood needs for survival and security, affection and esteem, and power and control. For him God is a Divine Therapist who frees us from these things we no longer need. The way to freedom lies in disciplined prayer and contemplation. It is not an easy path, for we have to eventually pass through a dark night of the soul.

This book demands to be read prayerfully. If you like what it says, you might want to contact the Kordes Enrichment Center in Ferdinand, Indiana for more information on centering prayer.

David Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.