Friday, February 25, 2011

My Other Self

A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence. A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him.
Sirach 6: 14-16

That first reading this morning reminded me about a faithful friend I have. What a friend I have in Jesus! It also reminded me of my favorite book, which has only recently come again into print. I have given away more copies of this book to friends, enemies, Christians and atheists than any other book. And I have never had anyone tell me it was useless.

The book, My Other Self, by Clarence J. Enzler has been around since 1957, but I first read it about 20 years ago. Now published by Ave Maria Press, it has recommendations by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Timothy Shriver, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, with a Foreward by Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I’m happy the book is back in print, but bothered a bit because the endorsers proclaim what a great “Catholic” book this is. Some of the highest recommendations I have received on this book have been from my non-Catholic friends. Nonetheless, let me make a few comments on this book.

The book is written in the writing mode Thomas a’Kempis used in his great book, My Imitation of Christ. The book is written as if Jesus were speaking to you, the reader. Throughout, the words are soft and loving, as a friend, gently explaining things to you, and constantly re-affirming how much they love you and wishing only for your well-being. Let me teach you, in my own way, the ABCs of sanctity, he says. You will put on my virtues. Identified with me, you will be my other self.

The book’s chapters are grouped into three areas: The Call, The Means, and The End. Within The Means are chapters on Detachment, Virtue, Prayer, Avoidance of Sin, and The Mass and The Eucharist. I particularly liked the chapter titled Avoidance of Sin, since it is largely a walk through the events of the Passion on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. It is excellent for Lenten meditation.

Jesus shows us, in the chapter, the horrible details of His suffering, like the movie called The Passion of Christ but almost more horribly so, since you don’t see the pains of Jesus, but He describes them in vivid detail, especially the emotional pains. I cry every time I read it. And at the end, He describes how it was all worth it, because He did it for us. Though my soul was sorrowful beyond measure, even to the extent of asking My Father to let this chalice pass from Me, yet I had one sweet consolation: the thought of My Mother, the saints, and you. You would understand me; you would be loyal to me; you would love me so much the more because these others hated me. … Thus, my other self, I was consoled. Knowing this, can you fail me? Can you ever, with full deliberation, sin again?

I don’t play “Bible Bingo,” where you ask God what He desires and then open the Bible and point. He blessed Augustine that way, and I know of others who God has spoken to in this manner. But God doesn’t work for me such that He is at my beck and call. However, most of my friends and I have found that at almost any time, you can pick up My Other Self and open to a chapter at random, and find words there that will give you peace. Despite all my reading, I know of few books which can do this, offer you a peace in each and every chapter. The chapters are further sectioned into thought segments of four or five pages each, and make for quick reading, yet they almost always compel you to stop and think.

At Christmas, I give book gifts to my friends, trying to match the best of what I read to the people I give to. My Other Self belongs on everyone’s gift list, for themselves. I have reviewed many books in the past, and I will probably review many more in the future. Yet I can’t imagine recommending one more than this. In this book you will find a friend, and he that has found one has found a treasure.


  1. I've given away about 20 copies in the last month. My Protestant bible-study friends liked it very much.