Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: The Gift of Faith

It is not important how many books you read.  The most important is to
find the books that are truly worth reading.  This book is one of them. 
-- Manuel de Almeida Trindaded, Bishop Emeritus of Aveiro, Portugal

 I wholeheartedly agree with the good bishop’s forward to this book, one of several.  Highly recommended by Fr Wilfrid Stinissen whom I deeply respect, I feel anything I can say about this book is totally inadequate.  The summary notes that the book is intended for those “seeking deep interior spirituality.”  I will be re-reading this book, and my many, many underlines and margin comments in it, often in the future.  It re-affirms in my heart what faith really is, what it has you do, and how it makes you feel.  Fr. Dajczer, a Polish priest who died in 2009, is said to have had great devotion to the Eucharist.  To any reader of his book, I can only recommend that you read it in the presence of the Eucharistic Christ.  And through Fr. Dajczer’s words, He will speak to you.
Faith and Trust are complementary words.  On the very first page, Fr. Dajczer notes that faith “permits us to rely on Christ, and to entrust ourselves to His infinite power and boundless love.”  And later, “Faith is sharing in God’s thinking,” and “Faith allows us to see that all that happens around us does not happen due to man’s power.  Faith allows us to discover the traces of God in creation, to perceive God’s will in phenomena and to see events as signs of God passing by.”  In our society so concerned about what happens to US and what WE do, I found these words refreshing.   It’s not about our thinking; it’s about God’s thinking.  We need faith that “He is present in your life no matter what you do.”

I found so many insightful lines in this book.  “An obvious sign of attachments is also your sadness in situations when God takes something away from you.”  “Distrust is the root and the source of sin.  If you do not want to trust, then consequences will follow – fear, the feeling of being threatened.  Suffering, fear, and the feeling of being threatened are an incessant call for you to be converted.”  And “The fight for faith as the process of conversion entails overcoming haste, restlessness, stress, and especially sadness.  Sadness is an evident indication of self-love severing the very roots of faith, the roots of abandonment to God.  (This concerns sadness that appears in situations of temporal difficulties – when something is taken away from us or we lose something.)”  And finally, “Leaving Jesus because of trials of faith happens again and again.  Some come through trials strengthened by trusting in God, others walk away from Him.”
There are many such lines throughout the book, lines that make you stop and think “Is He speaking to me?” as Fr. Dajczer speaks about many aspects of faith, including the necessity for communion and trust among men, and for talking and listening to God in prayer.  I liked one of his insightful conclusions: “Thanks to the light of faith, you come to know that the reformation of others should always begin with yourself.”  But enough of the many lines of wisdom, you can read them for yourselves.  I’d like to quote one more thing, however, where Fr. Dajczer speaks about his trip to see the saintly Padre Pio in Italy who was concerned about the value of his work (as I so often am):
“During my journey to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Father Pio, I met a scientist who had also traveled there in order to ask Father Pio to bless his work.  He came with two volumes of a published work that he called his opus vitae (life’s work).  During confession, he presented them to Father Pio and asked for his blessing.  Father Pio’s reaction was frightening.  He expressed his astonishment: “This is your opus vitae?  This is your life’s work?  Does it mean that you have lived these sixty years to write these two books?”  He almost shouted, “Is this opus vitae?  Is this what you have lived for?  And where is your faith?”  “All this in the name of ambition, to create this type of opus vitae?”  Padre Pio continued, “See what idols and attachments mean?  If you had done the same, but for God, everything would be different.  You claimed everything as your own, that this was your opus vitae, your own work.”  At the end of the confession, he raised his voice again, “If this is all you came with, via via, please leave.”  Father Pio was brusco as the Italians say, which means harsh, but behind this harshness laid a great love for each person and each penitent.  It was Father Pio’s love that was the reason for this shocking conversation and, together with confession, became the real turning point in the life of this scientist, who then really started to think differently and look at the world differently.”
Looking at the world differently, not from our view, is what we all need to do.
This book is a treasure to own, to read, to turn your focus to what is really important in life, to open your heart to faith.  We are starting The Year of Faith in the Catholic Church.  You wish to grow your faith?  This book is a good place to start.       

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