Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Review: A People of Hope

The People of Hope is, simply put, a book about New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan.  The book is a series of interviews he conducted with John L. Allen Jr., discussing topics ranging from his personal life story, to things impacting the Catholic Church and the people who sometimes call themselves Catholic.  It is a most open and honest book, a simple read.  As the author notes in conclusion, “Timothy Dolan is … the sort of guy you can feel comfortable with over a couple of beers, … a human being who’s flawed but who’s also genuinely interested in other people, … with real openness to alternative points of view, a refreshing change of pace.”
I don’t know if I can honestly say I enjoyed this book, as I might some others.  Although I learned much about Mr. Dolan the man and Archbishop Dolan the religious leader, I didn’t learn anything new about the Catholic faith, nor in general any unique defenses of arguments against the Church’s teachings or failures.  Oh, all those things are discussed, but Dolan is pleasantly open to discussing them, even things I might view as heretical and quickly close any debate about, but he doesn’t.  He acutely recognizes the value of each and every person, and treats them as such.  Perhaps that is a good reason to buy and read this book; there seem to be so few people like that. 
I expected Archbishop Dolan to be a man of deep faith, with towering prayer life, and of profound spiritual insight, but that’s not the man I read about.  In some ways I found his prayer life weaker than my own, and I felt him to be much more a manager of a business than a faith leader --- but even he recognized this in himself, and, I think, somewhat regrets he is not “more holy”.  But he expresses no regrets.  He recognizes that God has put him where God wants him to be, and given him talents to perform his duties, and he will do them tirelessly in the manner in which he believes God would have him do.  What more could we expect of a Church leader? 
I expect him to be a leader and voice of the Catholic Church in America for probably the next twenty years or so.  We need a man like him in the higher levels of the Church.
As usual, I think I can convey some of my delights with the book best by just offering some quotes:
  •  Regarding homosexuals:  “When God looks at you, he sees a work of art.  That’s who you are.  You happen to be sexually attracted to men, but that doesn’t define who you are. … There’s that wonderful line from Pastores Dabo Vobis, that the great temptation today is to define our worth by having and doing, not being.  (P67-8) 
  • Regarding Orthodoxy:  “I worry that we’ve become a glorified Rotary Club.  We’re so stumbling over the how of Catholic life that I think we’ve lost the who, meaning Jesus.  I know how that sounds, and I know it’s tough to define, but we had it once upon a time, didn’t we?  … It’s about reaching deep inside the human heart and stirring what’s best in it, and then boldly going out into the world and insisting that the better angels of our nature can prevail, that cynicism and ego don’t have to be the last word about the kind of culture we pass on to our children, and that the Church is an ally in every positive stirring and hopeful current in that culture.”  (P138-9) 
  • Regarding his prayer and sacramental life:  “I go every other week, here in town, (to the sacrament of Penance).  I go down here to Saint Francis and stand in line.  I don’t identify myself.”  (P176) 
  • And his prayers:  “There are times you, Lord, don’t make much sense at all, and I just love second-guessing you, but I’ve come to believe that even though sometimes it doesn’t make a lot of sense with you, it makes utterly no sense without you, and I don’t know where else I’d go. … I think God likes us to talk like that with him.”  (P184) 
  • Regarding the Church:  “We’re married to her, you know.  She’s supposed to be our wife, and sometimes we see her with curlers and Noxzema.  Sometimes she is a dazzlingly beautiful woman, who we picture walking up the aisle on her wedding day, and sometimes she’s a nag.  Sometimes she lets us down, and sometimes we think, ‘How in the hell did I ever hitch up with this one?’  But in the long run, she’s the love of our life, and we’re head over heels hopelessly in love with her.”  (P188)
A passionate man, a humble man, who might boldly stand up to God --- surely we can trust him to occasionally stand up to a president.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read this one yet, Tom. Thanks for the review! I'll have to pick it up!