What do the Orbis authors offer to us Affiliates, both as individuals and as an expression of Maryknoll, lately? Here are four books that are very different, yet each makes a significant contribution to the discussion of issues and concerns facing the Affiliate world of today.
The Courage To Be Happy, by Pope Francis, is written for youth by an old man who hasn’t forgotten the best parts of being young. It is a spirituality of ascent for people in the first half of life. Pope Francis both understands and appreciates what the Gospel is calling youth to. Perhaps some of us who have moved into the second half of life have forgotten to hold onto that enthusiastic hope that once inspired us. This book will rekindle the fire of missionary zeal in all of us.
Choosing Peace, edited by Marie Dennis. It’s said that Maryknollers are better at declaiming than proclaiming. Choosing Peace looks at our prophetic voice of declaiming violence and proclaiming just peace. This assemblage of letters, essays, and reflections, written in conjunction with the April 2016 Conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace, proclaims the Gospel through many examples of positive, proactive voices for peace while declaiming a “fallen world” of war and systemic violence.
The Catholic Ethicist in the Local Church, edited by Antonio Autiero and Laurenti Magesa, explores the relationship of the local church with the universal church as a basis for understanding the complex and dynamic ecclesiology which Pope Francis is asking us to not only appreciate but live. The existential periphery, (read: The Field Afar, Not So Far Afield, mission, where you and I live) becomes the center point of our lived church experience. The notion of local magisterium rests on this understanding. In our complex world, culture, economics, and social structure all influence our moral decisions. It is not possible or effective to attempt to make anything more than broad statements at the universal level. So we are asked to reflect upon where lies the moral magesterium responsibility. The book presents local issues and questions from around the globe to illustrate this as a more mature approach to what it means to be church.
A side note: one interesting essay in this book deals with “digital localities.” With the growth of virtual communities and new ways of being Maryknoll Affiliates, what are the ethical questions surrounding the growth of the digital realities, electronic “places” with a sense of group identity. What are the components required for virtual communities to be real communities?
Cuentame: Narrative in the Ecclesial Present, by Natalia Imperatori Lee, is a “Latinx Church Experience for Gringos.” It introduced me to a whole vocabulary that I didn’t know that I need to know. This introduction to Latina/o church experience is written in English for an English-speaking audience. Imperatori Lee, of Cuban American heritage from Miami, uses narrative as a basis for her understanding of church. Our family story becomes the Story for us. Together our stories become the Story for the Church. And the Story is the truth, the Good News. Put in theological language, Sensus Fidelium is the basis of a narrative ecclesiology which the church has consistently taught to be infallible in its belief. Her narrative is an alternative story to the mainstream Catholic American story that has great truth and value. It places the sacredness of everyday life (lo cotidiano) as the source of holiness in the church. This storybook shares a vision that seems simple yet is profoundly perceptive. Imperatori Lee is a true teacher who puts rare understanding within the grasp of the many.
Affiliates receive 40% off at Orbisbooks.com.
The Book of Joy—Lasting Happiness in a Changing World,
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with Douglas Abrams,
On a recent “Landmark Birthday,” perhaps better characterized as a “Pre-Tombstone Birthday,” a good friend gifted me a copy of The Book of Joy. This book is the result of a week of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu at his Holiness’s home in Dharamsala, India, where he has lived since his escape from Tibet in March of 1959. Author Douglas Abrams has worked with Archbishop Tutu on other projects and does a masterful job of providing a framework of directed conversations over a five-day period.
Along with an introduction that highlights the great friendship and compatibility of these two major figures from different religious traditions, the book is divided into two major sections: “The Obstacles to Joy” and “The Eight Pillars of Joy.” As a sampling of the book’s content, the “Obstacle” section has chapters titled “Sadness and Grief: The Hard Times Knit Us More Closely Together,” and “Envy: That Guy Goes Past Us Yet Again in His Mercedes-Benz.”
I won’t give away all of the Eight Pillars, but one chapter is on Humor. Listen to the mischievous banter of these two ultimate jokesters.
The Archbishop pretended to scold him: “Are you listening?”
The Dalai Lama, who had missed the Archbishop’s comment, launched in with, “So that shows, really…”
The Archbishop continued to pretend that he was offended. “You see? He’s not listening.”
“Unless you use the stick, I will not listen,” the Dalai Lama said laughing.
“But I thought you were nonviolent!”
A strength of this book is how Abrams weaves writings of philosophers, theologians, and scientific researchers into the dialogue between his Holiness and the Archbishop. For example, from a psychologist, “Grief is the reminder of the depth of our love.” In one of the eight pillar chapters, one on Gratitude, research by UC Davis professors found that “…grateful people do not seem to ignore or deny the negative aspects of life; they simply choose to appreciate what is positive as well.” “People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.”
The last chapter is titled “Joy Practices” and is bookended with practices that Tibetan Buddhist monks typically do at the beginning and end of each day. Other approaches to meditation and mindfulness are provided in this rather extensive chapter of over 40 pages. As I reviewed the book for this article, it became obvious that I need to re-read it a little at a time so that the fullness of the wisdom of these two remarkable individuals can soak in.
A review of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild, The New Press, New York, 2016.
For the last five years, Arlie Russell Hochschild, a sociology professor from Berkeley, listened to, observed, and became friends with the people in the Louisiana bayou—Tea Party country. Her sociological study provides insight into the almost inevitable election of Trump. In her words, the political climate was “like a pile of dry kindling waiting for a spark to ignite it.” Hochschild’s stories flesh out her exhaustive study of the Louisiana bayou people who live in a very petrochemically polluted, poverty-riddled area.
We may feel really good living in our little isolated bubble. But there are many bubbles, large and small. How big is our family? We feel good when we are within our bubble, but Professor Hochschild’s study asks us to go outside our comfort bubble and be with others.
Strangers in Our Own Land speaks to a missioner’s approach when entering another culture. Quoting Max Warren, of The Church of Ireland Missionary Society, “Our first task in approaching another culture, another religion, is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy. Else we may find ourselves treading on other peoples dreams. More serious still, we may forget that God was here before our arrival.”
Like many Affiliates, I have an indelible memory of hearing that President Kennedy had been shot. On November 22, 2013, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, we and people across the country, including some at the SOA Watch Vigil in Columbus GA, attended Readers Theater performances of Project Unspeakable. ProjectUnspeakable.org was inspired by the Orbis hardcover book, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, by James W. Douglass.
Order this one now! (By L. Susan Slavin and Coralis Salvador, Orbis, 2013.) And while you’re at it, order copies for your family and friends! You’ll want to share it without losing your copy.
Bertha Haas – Portland Chapter A Review of: Jesus Was a Migrant, by Deirdre Cornell, Orbis (40% off all books for Affiliates!)
Need a book that is at once personal and theological? Or both easy reading and extremely challenging? Both academic and intimate? This is the book for you.