Jesus, A Pilgrimage – We Have A Winner!

970992_10152306293894233_290989403_nCongratulations to Ellen Rowe, whose name was drawn from the many names of those who submitted a comment to my review of Jesus, A Pilgrimage, by James Martin, SJ. Thank you for reading the post and entering, one and all. Many of you came to the blog through the posts and tweets by James Martin and America magazine, please keep coming back! All are welcome here, and I do run frequent book reviews and giveaways. That is to the joy of some and the dismay of others! (I am not renumerated for these reviews, in the majority of cases, I initiate the process.)

PrintA book review of Dan Horan OFM’s latest book, The Last Words of Jesus, A Meditation on Love and Suffering (Franciscan Media) will run on Tuesday, April 8, and a copy of that book will also be given away. Please read and comment on that post to win a copy! I like to say that I knew Dan Horan before he was Dan Horan, because we met before his blog Dating God became a hit, and before he was a widely published author. He had not yet become ordained as a priest at that time either. He’s a great guy and a wise scholar and author at a young age. If you don’t know him, you will want to, so please stay tuned.

You can learn a little more about Dan and his book in this video:

Jesus, A Pilgrimage – Book Review and Giveaway

970992_10152306293894233_290989403_n In November 2004, I had a chance to visit Israel, a place that I had longed to see. At the time, the  Second Intifada was in full swing, the Carmel market in Tel Aviv had been hit with by a suicide bomb two weeks before I was to go, and Yasser Arafat died two days my prior to my arrival.  It was an uncertain time, but I was not afraid. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime, and one that truly impacted my faith. Before going, I read so many books about the Holy Land and about faith, although no book at that time could have prepared me for my journey.

In his new book, Jesus, A Pilgrimage, (Harper Collins, 510 pp, $27.95) Jesuit priest, author, and commentator, James Martin SJ writes about his own journey to Israel, his life of faith, and about Jesus. My initial reaction? Where was this book when I went on my pilgrimage?

Whether you are about to go to Israel or not, this book is a journey of mind, body, and spirit. With his deft writing skills well honed from years of working his craft, Fr. Martin leads us on a pilgrimage like no other. Weaving stories and anecdotes from his own recent visit to Israel, along with a remarkable breadth and depth of scriptural reflections and insights, he takes us on a journey to know Jesus.

It is the rare gift that someone can take scholarly material and make it accessible and easy to understand, without dumbing it down. Fr. Martin possesses this gift in abundance!  Whether examining scripture,  historical context, or a spiritual kernel of wisdom, the author takes us higher and deeper at the same time,  satisfying the intellect and the heart at once. He cleverly uses anecdotes from his own travel experiences and often in humorous ways, to illustrate a point, and Martin’s scholarly references provide a solid foundation for the conversation.

Whether or not you have ever been – or ever want to go to the Holy Land is not important. If you have an interest in Jesus, from any perspective, this book has something to offer you. For those of us who follow Jesus, we will find an invitation to deepen that knowledge through not only what we read, but because of the ways that this book invites one into prayer and reflection.

Smart, funny, inviting, engaging, wise, and deep, Jesus by James Martin is a pilgrimage like no other. You don’t have to leave your chair, but you must open your mind and heart, your transformation is optional, but it would be hard to imagine reading this book, and not being transformed in some way.

Jesus, A Pilgrimage. The journey awaits you- are you ready?

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Would you like to win a copy of this book? Here’s how… Please leave a comment on the blog; it needs to be a full sentence, not just a word. This post will appear on multiple blog platforms, but there is only one drawing. Multiple comments does not mean multiple entries. Deadline for leaving comments that will be entered into a random drawing is Friday, April 4, 2014, 11:59pm. Winner will be informed via email no later than Monday, April 7, 2014.

Laetare Monday

rejoiceIt has been a long winter, hasn’t it? And a long Lent, or so it seems to me. The weather was a real challenge this year; recent milder winters had lulled me into a cheery complacency about what snow and cold truly meant in upstate New York. And I say that knowing that those in the the mid-Atlantic states further south had it much worse! Hard to think about rejoicing, right?

Add to that, starting in October, and never (gratefully) with anything life-threatening, but I have been in the near constant care of doctors for one thing or another. I get it, I’m 56, and I have not always taken care of my corpus very well, but much like the winter, this all came as a startling and repeatedly disturbing challenge. Let it suffice to say that I think that I may finally be turning the corner into, God willing, some better health. That’s why I am calling this Laetare Monday!

Our Lenten journey is meant to be one of the kind of serious prayer and introspection that leads to change. This is not the navel gazing of my earlier years, when a faux seriousness pervaded my being, but was not very deep or authentic; I was Continue reading

Fasting as an act of love

FoF1cHaving just read a post about food, fasting, and mean abstinence over at Catholic Sensibility, I was reminded of this post. In fact I quoted a portion of it in a comment over there. This essay was posted on this blog in October 2012, but it was originally published early in Lent in 2008,  at The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor. How I wish that I could tell you that I wrote this essay, but I did not. A friend wrote it, and he wished to remain anonymous when it was first published. I honor that anonymity once again as I repost the thought provoking essay here today.

images-1One thing that is on my mind is this… Many of us fast from meat and eat fish on Fridays during Lent. But is eating fish really eating simply these days? Honestly, I must admit to having eaten ahi tuna this past Friday; it was hardly a sacrifice. How can we approach the Lenten fast with a sense of solidarity with the poor? What about Lent with an inclination to reveal our own inner poverty? This post continues to give us a lot to think and pray about. Fasting does not have to mean food alone, although it helps to connect eating small simple meals and sharing what we don’t eat or spend with others in some way. But there are many ways to open space for God.  Ultimately we must discern, what is God asking of us through our sacrifice and our fast? Read our guest post today, our guest re-post, I should say and see what touches you. 

10_15_Teresa_of_ÁvilaHow can the simple, everyday task of eating become an act of compassion?
One of my favorite saints is Teresa of Avila. She was a typical teenager – she loved boys, clothes, flirting and rebelling. When she was 16, her father sent her to a convent because he thought she was out of control. At first she hated it but she grew to like it due to her growing love of God and the fact that the convent was less strict than her father.

When the time came for her to make a decision between marriage or the convent, Teresa had a difficult time choosing one over the other. She had watched a difficult marriage destroy her mother. On the other hand, being a nun didn’t seem like much fun. Religious life won out, according to Teresa, because it seemed the better place for one “so prone to sin.”

What I appreciate about Teresa is her sense of humor and how her religious sensibilities helped her find peace and meaning as she focused on and became reliant on God’s tender and merciful love. She had the ability to seize the moment and live it to the full. Never one to allow sin, gloom and despair to Continue reading

Ask, seek, knock – and get a stone

seek_knock_askToday’s Gospel from Matthew offers this wisdom from Jesus:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread…”

My work as a parish secretary has changed me. Not that I was not welcoming before, but I don’t think I opened doors in the same way, literally and figuratively, that I do now. One of my passions about my work reflects this from The Rule of Benedict that says, “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received Me.” (Matt. 25:35). One thing that I try to do is to never, ever, ever say to someone who has a request, “are you a member here?” Those are the worst words in the Christian language if you ask me!

20130313nw544-300Today is also the one year anniversary of Pope Francis, who Continue reading

Lent thus far

We may be one week into Lent, but this submission from Shannon O’Donnell, written originally for the start of Lent, still holds true. How is your Lenten journey thus far?

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

For the first time or the twelfth or the sixty-third, we stand at the borderland of Lent. The bright promise of Easter and its celebrations of light, water, oil, and Eucharist Continue reading

Did we see Jesus? Where? When?

Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban's with "Homeless Jesus"

Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban’s with “Homeless Jesus”

He’s right in front of us. All the time. There’s no denying it. We see him everywhere and in everything.

If – and it is a big if – we choose to see him. And how often we choose quite the opposite… We either willingly, or unwillingly look away.

That’s the Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, in Davidson, North Carolina. Father Buck and his parish community, through a donation, installed a replica of the controversial “Homeless Jesus” statue originally created by sculptor Tim Schmaltz. In full disclosure, I know David Buck and have been to St. Alban’s; I was present when he and a dear friend of mine were married a few years back.

Today’s Gospel is the one that inspired the statue, Matthew 25. This famous chapter can be Continue reading

Lead us not into temptation

mediumTemptation. What does this word mean? For many of us it means things like avoiding the temptation to look at our phones compulsively, or to stay away from snacks. It might mean the feeling of wanting to buy something new, when we have a perfectly good whatever-it-is at home, but we want a new one. There are many sentences that begin with “I was so tempted to…” and end with something that does not seem very harmful. We pray, “lead us not into temptation,” but what do we mean when we say those words?

A long time ago, I was speaking to someone who was practicing the 12 Steps of AA. He said that rationalizing the dismantling of small boundaries was the road to ruin for him. Often he would be tempted to put himself in a situation that might not seem to be so bad, but one that he knew might be a trigger. And he might even do OK in that situation, not yielding to the magnetic force of his addiction. Then he would Continue reading

The discomfort of 40

Not the age, I haven’t been 40 for 16 years… No, the video.

At first I thought this was a little too whimsical, but then I realized my discomfort about was my problem. As usual!The simplicity of the images really started to permeate my heart and helped me to refocus on who it is I follow and why.

May your Friday and your weekend be blessed.

If I give too much to God…

6a00e5537b38b6883301538e107310970b-500wiToday’s Gospel from Luke shows us Jesus saying:

Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Which made me think of Thomas Merton wrote:

If we do not pray, it is because we sometimes hold superstitions, one form being this: if I give myself up too much to God, God will give me something hard which I cannot do.  

God very clearly gives us something hard to do. Jesus Continue reading