Friday, May 23, 2014

Reviews: The Way To Christ, and Be Not Afraid

I purchased these two books separately, and they lay on my reading pile for a while before I recently read them back-to-back.  It was a fruitful way to absorb them.  The first was published in 1982, and consists of retreat talks by Bishop Karol Wojtyla to college students in Poland.  The second book contains excerpts from the words of Pope (Saint) John Paul II.  Both explain critical points of faith and love, and what it means to live life fully.  I plan to give copies to my Goddaughter as she graduates from high school next month.

The Way To Christ, Spiritual Exercises, has fourteen talks given by the future pope and saint, focused on God within us.  The talks are very personal; they speak to you.  Some were focused on the male and some the female students.  He gave both groups much to think about:

The Gospels are not a description of God.  In them, God  IS.
·         The antigospel has two main characteristics:  … the primacy of matter, material things (and) the belief that freedom is an end in itself.  In the world of the antigospel there is no place for forgiveness, no place for the parable of the prodigal son, because the world of the antigospel has no Father.
·         Today we are witnessing a certain crisis; one of its symptoms is that young people do not admire the family. … We are coming to have more and more homes FOR children, instead of homes WITH children.
·         The Church today is composed of three elements.  The first is the dignity of the human person. The second is that man lives out his own supernatural life within the community; the narrowest dimension is the family, (but) each parish is a special community with specific tasks because of the people of which it is composed.  The third element is the vocation of each individual Christian.  We must view ourselves, our life, our profession and our situation in the framework of the Church.  (This) means that in everything you do in your life by way of professional training and education and pursuit of your career must also contribute to some good God wants for the world.
As I read Bishop Karol’s words, I could almost see the rapt attention of the students as they listened and thought on what he was saying.  Reading these words, I think they will capture the attention of students today in the same manner.
Be Not Afraid, Wisdom from John Paul II, is part of Pauline Books’ Wisdom Collection.  I have found that most of the books in this series of fourteen are exceptional, and would provide excellent short meditative readings for any chapel.  This latest book, of 100 short pages, has 24 meditations on the Catholic faith, on the value of a person, and on how to live a fruitful life.   Here too you find many of the short, concise sentences that make you stop and think:
·         In the chapter To Young People we read: Life raises many questions, but one above all must be answered:  What sense is there in living and what awaits us after death?  This is a question which gives meaning to all existence.
·         In The Importance of Families is the note that: The love with which God “loved the world” makes it possible to address this message to each family, as a living “cell” of the great and universal “family” of mankind.
·         In Our Restless Hearts JPII states:  From the very moment of conception, and then of birth, the new being is meant to express fully his humanity, to “find himself” as a person.
·         And in Do Not Be Discouraged he says: “Bear your share of the hardship which the Gospel entails (2Tim 1:8).  (This) is an invitation to enter more deeply into the Christian vocation which belongs to us all.  There is no evil that Christ does not face with us, … no enemy Christ has not already conquered, … no cross that Christ has not already borne for us.  This is our faith, our witness before the world.
I said these books, in my opinion, are a good read for young people, but please don’t emphasize that point.  They are a good read for anyone, and especially those who normally don’t read much.  The chapters in each book are short; they are made for whenever you have just a few minutes to read --- or if that is your attention span.  With these books, those few minutes will be well spent.

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Spring has finally arrived in Michigan.  Although I am still taking antibiotics for the bugs which found their way into my body recently, the weather itself does makes one feel better.  The curbside flowers in front of my house are blooming beautifully --- albeit about a month later than they usually do, and yesterday I purchased two carfuls of flowers and vegetables from the nursery.  Tomorrow is planting day!
In all things and in all ways, God is good to us, if we would but open our eyes to His beauty.

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