Review of Jesus: A Pilgrimage by Fr. James Martin

I purchased this book in response to being home from our pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  After ten days of  voyage, I may have been ready to see my family again, but I was not ready to stop living and breathing the sights, sounds & meaning of our profound experience.  Thankfully, I succeeded in drawing out our adventure, by reading the special & meaningful journey of another pilgrim, Father James Martin.

I read fewer “religious” books than I probably should.  For me, faith is so personal and private.  I hesitate because I worry that my very personal faith will be harmed in some way, or adversely impacted by another’s commentary.  I prefer to keep the wagons circled on my faith, but after our trip to the Holy Land, something told me to let Father Martin in, and I am so glad I did.

In this book, Father Martin asks his readers to explore Jesus’ question to his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”.  Father Martin allows readers to come to a greater personal understanding of Jesus, by looking at the Gospels through the lens of his studies, personal prayer life & pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  In each chapter, Father Martin describes the place he visits, the physical journey to get there, and then expounds on his reflections for that location.  His reflections offer a combination of history, theology and a window into his own meditations and prayer life with regard to that location.  The chapters end with the Scripture passage related to the site visited on the pilgrimage.

I was very grateful for the open & honest insight Father Martin  allows into his personal faith experience.  The question, “What is it like to live life as a Jesuit priest?” had not crossed my mind, but in reading his stories of meditation & prayer, I was offered a window into faith I had not expected to understand.  But this book is not only the personal faith story of Father Martin.   Stories of personal faith & reflection are richly combined with a variety of theological resources, carefully matched to an enriched understanding of the journey.

My favorite part of the book was at the end, so I will not reveal this piece – just to say that Father Martin’s telling of a final site they happened on during the last day of their pilgrimage was so moving for me – it was so vividly understood as I read it this afternoon in the sun, I could put myself right back there in Jerusalem when I closed my eyes.  I could imagine that I was right with him entering that unexpected, richly spiritual chapel in his last hours in the Holy Land.

Reading Father Martin’s book deepened my faith in a  profound way.  I was very moved by so many aspects of this book, that my Kindle “highlights” section is more like a verbatim rereading, than a greatest hits section.  I highly recommend this book.  It is evident that Father Martin has poured his heart and soul onto the pages.  Five years of writing & cultivating a final product is an esteemed amount of time to devote, and one that has certainly done justice to the topic of Jesus Christ.   Recently, Father Martin was interviewed about this book on MSNBC, and you can watch that right here.

For me, Father Martin has generated a real interest in Jesuit history & writings, which I had no real exposure to previously.  I am eternally grateful to have come across this book and plan to keep it in my bag on my next pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Rooster Rating:

Four Roosters: Very Good

Four Roosters: Very Good

First Church Library

I don’t know where I’ve been all these years, but while I was working in the church library with Julie Pohlman, I found this lovely volume of the Tao Te Ching, dipped into it …and didn’t want to leave!  This particular book is a new addition to the library, donated by a generous parishioner.  There are many other volumes, new and old, on differing topics, for us to borrow and enjoy….they’re worth checking out! (Yes, I meant to say that.)

Daily Reader for Contemplative Living, Excerpts from the Work of Father Thomas Keating

The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living, Excerpts from the Work of Father Thomas Keating, has been used by John Gerry-Karajanes as a resource for prayerful meetings with parishioners over the summer, and in some of the Praying the Scripture sessions that are currently underway.  Father Thomas Keating is a Cistercian monk, a noted retreat master, and founder of the Centering Prayer Movement and Contemplative Outreach.

“The spiritual journey does not require going anywhere because God is already with us and in us,” remarks Father Keating. Keating notes:

The Gospel calls us forth to full responsibility for our emotional life. We tend to blame other people or situations for the turmoil we experience. In actual fact, upsetting emotions prove beyond any doubt that the problem is in us. If we do not assume responsibility for our emotional programs on the unconscious level and take measures to change them, we will be influenced by them to the end of our lives. As long as these programs are in place, we cannot hear other people and their cries for help; their problems must first be filtered through our own emotional needs, reactions and prepackaged values.

In Keating’s view, the practice of Centering Prayer enables us to tap into the divine life within us by focusing on a sacred word. This review from Google books:

This work brings together for each day of the year three prayer practices for contemplative living: first, a brief ‘active prayer’; second, spiritual reading; and, third, “Lectio Divina”. The brief introductory prayer sentences are from various sources – the Bible and traditional prayers of the church or of well-known spiritual writers. The spiritual readings come from eleven of Father Keatings books and one audiotape, with a month’s worth of readings derived from each work. Each day’s entry concludes with a brief selection from the Bible, or “Lectio Divina”.

If you have questions or comments please note them below.  If you have been influenced by the works of Thomas Keating on your spiritual journey, we would love to hear more about it!

Kristin Thomas is married with three children, 2 cats and a lab puppy. Kristin is a lawyer, and works with her husband at Ruggers Rugby Supply in West Springfield, MA.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

This past Wednesday, Dr. Jay Terbush and a group of about fifteen others joined in a discussion of Anne Lamott’s small but powerful book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.  In an interview with NPR, Anne Lamott offered some insight for her readers:

On the prayer of Help:

“People say ‘help’ without actually believing anything hears that. But it is the great prayer, and it is the hardest prayer, because you have to admit defeat — you have to surrender, which is the hardest thing any of us do, ever.”

On the prayer of Thanks:

“Thanks is the prayer of relief that help was on the way. … It can be [the] pettiest, dumbest thing, but it could also be that you get the phone call that the diagnosis was much, much, much better than you had been fearing. … The full prayer, and its entirety, is: Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. But for reasons of brevity, I just refer to it as Thanks.”

On the Prayer of Wow:

“Wow is the praise prayer. The prayer where we’re finally speechless — which in my case is saying something. … When I don’t know what else to do I go outside, and I see the sky and the trees and a bird flies by, and my mouth drops open again with wonder at the just sheer beauty of creation. And I say, ‘Wow.’ … You say it when you see the fjords for the first time at dawn, or you say it when you first see the new baby, and you say, ‘Wow. This is great.’ Wow is the prayer of wonder.”

Please enter your reflections on the book or on the discussion sessions at church here in the comments below.  Can prayer be successfully distilled into these three concepts?