Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Father Joe-The Man Who Saved My Soul by Tony Hendra

I just finished reading the book, Father Joe: The Man Who saved My Soul and it was a compelling read all the way through. I must admit that I was not prepared for Tony Hendra's life story but I was familar with some of his work on the movie, This is Spinal Tap, and his work with National Lampoon. After a strange beginning tale of an encounter with an older woman-he was 14-he is taken to meet Fr. Joe, a Benedictine Monk in England, where Tony Henda grew up. At times I was disgusted with where Mr. Hendra's life was going and the things he was doing as he left behind all connections to his Catholic faith and training. I was prepared for some Catholic bashing and skepticism which he brought out only to be pleasantly surprised by Fr. Joe's words, non-judgemental attitude and utimately his Christ-likeness in regards to Tony. The selfishness which is a large thread that runs throughout Tony's life was held in stark contrast to Fr. Joe's faith and love and forgiveness.
As one reads this book its easy to want to condemn Tony for all of the bad choices he made which,as all sin does, effects others as well. But it only takes a little reading of the Bible to see many of the great biblical characters and saints who have also fallen into the viscious cycle of sin. One must also reflect on their own life and the failings that we all have before we toss Tony under the bus.
In the end, it is God, working through this humble, odd looking priest, who emerges as the champion of the story.The one who communicates Gods love and forgiveness to Tony and a we see in the end through many, many people that Mr. Hendra had never met. Like most holy people, when you encounter them you feel like you are their best friend and the only one who has this special connection to them. Like I metioned earlier it was a compelling read and it made m hink of those people who come in and out of my life who have the abilit to communicate something of the love of God.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Review for the Catholic News Service of The Gospel of Fr. Joe

I must say that I liked this book and despite a few objections here and there it's hard to argue with a person who has committed their life to working with the poor and are actually living it out in the slums. The Gospel of Fr. Joe tells what life is like for the poor in Bangkok.
The author, Greg Barrett, a somewhat agnostic Southern Baptist, does a good job writing the story but his lack of understanding of Catholicism and his desire to equate all religions as one and the same misses some golden opportunities to explain the faith that leads his main, real life character, Fr. Joe, in his actions.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Wonderful Book by James Martin SJ "My Life with the Saints"

I first spotted this book while at the The Newman Center at Montclair State University. Fr. Jim Chern has brought a number of books for the center and that one caught my eye. I then saw the author on Comedy Central's Colbert and thought he stood his ground pretty well. Anyway, the book focuses on some canonized Saints such as Mary, St. Peter, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Little Flower, St. Charles Lwanga as well as some others like Pope John XXIII, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton. Fr. Martin's writing is easy to digest as he talks about these Saints as his friends that have helped him during different stages of his formation He intertwines the lives of these Saints and their struggles, chrism's and conversion with his own experiences. I highly recommend it. For myself it was nice to be reacquainted with Merton, Dorothy Day and St. Francis along with other Saints whom I knew very little about. He cuts though some of the popular 'myths' and stereotypes that have evolved over the years and focuses on when the person meets Christ and how that encounter changes the person forever. It's an easy read and each of the 17 chapters is 20-40 pages.