Book Review

Book Review

BOOK REVIEWS

Feb 14

Dying was the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me: Stories of Healing and Wisdom Along Life’s Journey
William E Hablitzel M D (Sunshine Ridge Publishing, 2006)

This award-winning book presents the professional and private life experiences of a gifted physician, medical educator and writer.  The leading piece is about a highly successful American businessman and public benefactor who enjoyed power and prestige till the day when he landed in the ICU. Assumed to be clinically dead; Alexander Kipton had a miraculous survival and learnt a precious lesson—to live in the present. The near-death experience became a passage for the man to live life more meaningfully. He lost his smug self-assurance and confessed that his “death was liberating.”

 At the beginning of his career as doctor, Hablitzel met Harold, a war veteran and farmer who faced death calmly. Harold refused machine support to sustain his life. At the point of his death he told his doctor, “I did not start to live until I started to die.” He had believed that he did not need to tell his family in words that he loved them. Now, facing death, he told his only son that he loved him. Dr Hablitzel considers Harold as his teacher.

One key piece of wisdom that the author shares is what he calls “the wisdom of medicine” as distinct from the academic “science of medicine.” He found he had much to learn from his students. Doctors of modern medicine in general scoff at miracle healings. Young physicians even feel threatened by healing methods outside their discipline. An interesting confrontation happened between a self-assured physician on the teaching faculty and a resident over a terminal case of cancer. The patient wanted to pray over her proposed chemotherapy before beginning the sessions. The resident agreed. The doctor would not. The student cites scientific studies that prove that prayer and religion work. Prayer and science are thought of as incompatible “just because our science has been too primitive to allow us to rationally deal with that we cannot see.” Medical practice is as much about healing the soul as it is about healing the body.

 

Amazing Grace for Fathers: 75 stories of Faith Hope, Inspiration & Humour
Jeff Cavins, Matthew Pinto, Mark Patti Armstrong
(Ascension Press 2006)

The focus of this collection of inspiring anecdotes from life is on the experience of Fathers from around the world–stories of family tenderness, survival through life’s crises, miracles and lots of humorous reflections, including cartoons. The opening story speaks of the miraculous survival of a man trapped in the World Trade Center attack of 9/11. He would have perished with his friends and colleagues and kept asking God the question, “Why me?” Surely had plans for him, as he would find out soon. He and his family grew closer together and became more devoted to serving others. Moreover, when his wife became seriously ill and he had to take over the care of their little children, he understood the real purpose of his survival.  In one of the stories we come to know how the heroic devotion of a widowed father of six children became the inspiration for his daughter to promote the idea of celebrating Father’s Day. Then there are tales of a “Father’s Strength” too; about how families and spouses survive crises by the power of faith and mutual support. In one story we see how a young father of two returns from a declared brain death by the power of prayer and family support. Canadian author Margo Pfeiff reports the story of Desiree Gill, a four-year-old girl in California who lost her father in an accident. She wants to contact him. On the occasion of his birthday the child is taken to her father’s graveside.  She dictates a letter to him which they attach to a balloon with the picture of a mermaid on it and sends it up. Miraculously, four days later a Canadian hunter recovers the balloon near the Mermaid Lake 1400 miles away from California. His wife writes back to the little girl with the gift of the book Little Mermaid. The series of improbable coincidences convinces the little girl of her father’s presence and love beyond the grave. When the media picked up the story, Desiree began to receive letters and gifts from people all over the world! The book has many more such stories.


Dr Gigy Joseph

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Jan 17

In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership
Henri J M Nouwen

Nouwen presents a series of short reflections on “servant leadership” which he saw as the essence of Christian ministry. At that time of writing, he was working in a community of mentally challenged people in Toronto, Canada. He avoids an academic approach and bases his thoughts on his experience with the people with whom he was living at the time in the new community “trying carefully to discern which of (his) own experiences and insights could speak to priests and ministers who live in very different circumstances.” Nouwen took one of the inmates of the community to join him on the stage as he addressed the large gathering.

One temptation among the religious is to be “relevant.” Nouwen likens this to the experience of Jesus who was tempted to turn stones into bread, to satisfy hunger. According to him, “the Christian leader of the future is called upon to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing but his own vulnerable self.” “Man does not live by bread alone.” Speaking on the question, “Do you love me? “ he observes, “The Christian leader of the future is the one who truly  knows the heart of God as it has become flesh—a heart of flesh—in Jesus.” There are two kinds of love that we experience—the love of God that is totally unconditional, and that of our fellow humans which is “conditional.” This second love is fraught with ambiguity and darkness as “only a broken reflection of the first love. Christian leaders are not simply to be well-informed people with opinions about the issues of today. “Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent intimate relationship with the incarnate word Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance. To be fruitful in the future, it needs to move form the moral to the mystical.” Like Jesus, his ministers are also tempted to be spectacular, which is tantamount to putting the Lord to the test.

Nouwen sees confession and forgiveness as the concrete forms through which we the sinful love one another. We have to shun the temptation to be powerful. “Power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love.” The Christian leader of the future “must choose to be radically poor.” And be led rather than lead.  Nouwen believes that the future Christian leadership needs a deep spiritual formation of the whole person, a “formation in the mind of Christ.”

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living Catholic Faith: 101 Stories to offer Hope, Deepen Faith and Spread Love
Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & LeAnn Thieman.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen are joint creators of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, which includes about forty international best sellers. This volume, focused on the Catholic faith, contains 101 real life stories covering various aspects of Catholic life and spirituality. The stories contain a variety of experiences—amusing, sad, heartwarming, miraculous—and include rediscovery and return to lost faith and so on. Some are about how people encounter the love of God in various real life situations in life, like a teacher encouraging a poor immigrant student in her class or a son honouring his mother at a school event. There is also an incident that recalls a youth’s encounter with Pope St John Paul in Rome during the 15th annual World Youth Day. There are also reports of miraculous experiences and healings, of the experience of conversions, of finding meaning in suffering, and the power of the sacraments, forgiveness and reconciliation. There are also nostalgic and humorous recollections by some whose convent school life experiences might bring an amused smile of recognition to those who have been through it. Each one is inspiring in its own different way, reflecting the experience of Catholic faith lived in the modern world by ordinary people. These testimonies can make us also recognize similar experiences in our own lives and help us with a deeper understanding of what it means to live the Catholic way today.


Dr Gigy Joseph

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Dec 16

The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This classic children’s fantasy narrates  an aviator’s miraculous meeting with a mysterious boy called Little Prince in the Sahara Desert. It is one of the most read books of the 20th century.

Crash landing in the remote Sahara, the aviator is visited by a golden haired boy. The Little Prince is from a tiny asteroid with lots of vegetation and three small volcanoes. He had been cleaning the volcanoes and weeding out the harmful vegetation. He speaks of a rose that he cultivated which demands much attention, but also shows him love.

            Previous visits to six other planets  are mentioned, where he meets a few absurd men—a king without subjects who issues orders that can only be obeyed;  a drunkard who drinks more to forget the shame of being a drunkard; a  solitary man on a planet, obsessed with being praised and admired as the only admirable person; a lamplighter on a very tiny planet where a day is only  thirty seconds, and a geographer who has never travelled or observed the things that he writes about. These are representatives of the adult world. The key message the Prince gives is what he learnt from a friendly fox: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Other gems: “lt is better to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom.” “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”

            The Little Prince tells his friend that, to think of him, he needs only look at the stars and recall his laughter and it will as if all the stars are laughing. A snake whom he befriended helps him die by biting him. But the next day the aviator finds that the body also has disappeared.

The Small Miracle

By Paul Gallico.

            Paul Gallico’s novella is a tale of the triumph of simple, innocent faith, recalling St Francis of Assisi. Pepino, a ten-year-old war orphan, lives in Assisi with his only possession—a docile donkey named Violetta. They are everything to each other. Pepino boasts about Violetta’s special smile. They earn their meagre livelihood running errands for the townspeople and rest in a little cave together at night. One day Violetta falls sick. Pepino is desperate. He is a devotee of St. Francis, who he knows was a great lover of animals. He requests the compassionate Father Damico to allow him to take Violetta to St Francis’s crypt beneath the Basilica to pray for a miracle cure. But that is not possible because donkeys are not allowed inside the church. There is a narrow underground pathway sealed off with brick, but it will not be broken for the boy and his donkey.

When his request to the Franciscan superiors is denied, Pepino entrusts Violetta to his best friend, and goes all the way to Rome to ask the Pope himself. He is sent away by the Swiss guards and the clerics. Pepino buys a small bouquet of flowers, attaches a greeting card to it with a request addressed to the Holy Father and hands it to the Swiss Guard. The guard is about to throw it away, but changes his mind and hands it over to a priest. Finally it reaches the Pontiff and Pepino gets his way. The Pope gives him a written order for the crypt to be made accessible for the donkey and the boy. Before they open the underground passageway, Father Damico tells the boy:  “Because of your faith in St Francis, he will help you and heal your donkey. But had you thought perhaps that he who dearly cared for all of God’s creatures might  come to love Violetta so greatly that he would wish to have her at his side in Eternity?” At first it is unthinkable for Pepino to lose his donkey, but then he murmurs, “I will give – if I must…” While the passage is being opened, a leaden box falls out of the brickwork. It contains things associated with St. Francis. The boy and the donkey finish their pilgrimage. We are not told whether the donkey was cured or not. But we are made to look at a child’s pure and tenacious faith which opens doors and our hearts.


Dr.Gigy

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NOV 14

Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation

by Matthew Kelly

(Beacon Publishing, 2015)

Running into forty short chapters, this book gives us in the simplest language what a real encounter with Jesus can mean and how it can change our lives.  Kelly says: “I only ask that you stay open to the possibility. He wants to have a dynamic relationship with you.” The book is “not about the words on the page. It’s about an encounter. … because, whether we are aware of it or not, what you and I need more than anything else is to encounter Jesus.”

God the Father wants us to know His Son. The important question for the Christian is how well we know Him, not through books, but through a personal encounter. Becoming a true Christian means developing a personal relationship with Christ.  “It is time to stop looking for something and start looking for someone—Jesus of Nazareth.” This is what we are invited to. In the early chapters Kelly deals with the person of Christ—his historicity, his personality and the claims to divinity, the radical nature of his life and teachings, and the fact of the Resurrection that is perhaps the most compelling truth of all his claims. The ‘main event’ in Christian history is the Resurrection. Kelly quotes the experience of the atheistic journalist Lee Strobel who studied the Resurrection, leading him into faith. For Kelly, “the soul and the heart of the Gospel” is “give and forgive.” Forgiveness brings peace. Life is a course designed to teach us love.  Prayer brings us closer and closer to Christ. “If you want to stay warm, it is best to stay close to the fire. If you want to live a Christian life, it is best to stay close to Jesus.” Sin is the problem, the sickness that keeps us away from God. We are called to lead joyful lives and share the joy of the Gospel to inspire others. “Allow God to inspire you, to fill you with His power, because he wants to send you to inspire others.”

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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It.

By Paul Collier

(Oxford University Press, 2007).

The book has received superb reviews, such as:

“The best book on international affairs so far this year”; “set to become a classic”; “Terrifically readable”; “Read this book. You will learn much you do not know”; “Provides a penetrating reassessment of why vast populations remain trapped in poverty”; “”One of the most important books on world poverty in a very long time”; “If you care about the fate of the poorest people in the world, and want to understand what can be done to help them, read it.”

The author is the director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University and a former World Bank economist. It was Collier who pointed out that nearly two-fifths of Africa’s private wealth is held abroad, much of it in Swiss bank accounts.

Collier speaks of four traps that keep the poorest countries poor: Conflict, presence of natural resources (!), which often increases the corruption and violence, being landlocked with bad neighbours, and bad governance.

Aid alone does not solve these problems. Globalization often makes the situation worse. What Collier proposes is a bold new plan supported by the Group of Eight industrialized nations. If failed states are ever to be helped, the G8 will have to adopt preferential trade policies, new laws against corruption, new international charters, and even conduct carefully calibrated military interventions.

Collier recognizes the need for international cooperation in addressing the four traps.

A book that makes the reader look at a tragic situation in a new way.

 

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THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN BY THOMAS MERTON

(PUBLISHER: HARCOURT BRACE, 1948)

Thomas Merton is one of the most remarkable minds of the mid-20th century Catholic world. The Seven Storey Mountain is his autobiography. Born in France, Merton came from an anti-Catholic background. He had a tempestuous life till his entry into the Catholic faith at age 23. After years of moral confusion, sexual profligacy and personal search, he became a Trappist monk at 31. Merton’s self-revelation appeals to the modern mind, especially the young in their deep-seated aspirations disappointments and confusions. God is not to be sought in visions and mystical raptures—not everyone gets them—but in the humdrum events and trials of ordinary life. The title is drawn from Book II of Dante’s epic The Divine Comedy, Purgatorio which presents Purgatory as a seven storey mountain. Leaving Cambridge after a life of debauchery, Merton at Columbia University courted Marxism. In the end he realised that he was “sick of being sick.” His observation at one moment is an incisive comment on the modern world: “Men who live only according to their five senses, and seek nothing beyond the gratification of their natural appetites for pleasure and reputation and power, cut themselves off from that charity which is the principle of all spiritual vitality and happiness because it alone saves us from the barren wilderness of our own abominable selfishness.” Merton also introduces us to some of the remarkable individuals that influenced him one way or other. In the conclusion his words echo St Augustine: “My God, it is that gap and that distance which kills me…That is the only reason why I desire Solitude… to be lost to all create things, to die to them… for they remind me of my distance from you.” Surprisingly the book became an instant success and continues to be read widely by seekers of faith a well as the faithful. Time magazine and The New York Times listed it among the best sellers for about a year. The critic William J. Petersen lists it in the 100 Christian Books That Changed the Century. Fulton J. Sheen called it “a twentieth century form of The Confessions of St. Augustine.”

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PROPHETS WITH WINGS: ACCOMPANYING THE YOUNG IN TODAY’S INDIA.

EDITED BY JESU PUDUMAI DOSS & SAHAYADAS FERNANDO (NEW DELHI: AIDBES, 2018. RS 300)

The sixteen chapters of this book, each written by a Salesian author and looking at one aspect of youth ministry today, bring us a fresh and competent look at the youth scene today and the ways we need to respond to it. Here are the themes dealt with: Responses of the young to a questionnaire; Rights in the Church; Intercultural approach to catechesis; Vocational discernment; Biblical models of accompaniment; The Centurion of Capernaum as a leadership model; Socio-political discernment of youth; Peace education for India; Perspectives of Indian educationists; Human enhancements and moral discernment; Accompanying the young in the spirit of Laudato Si; Social responsibility; Accompaniment of tribal youth; Motivational approaches; Spirituality beyond religions; Psychospiritual perspective. Much information and many insights and clarifications are found in the 369 large pages. India is a country of young people; the church needs to reach out to youth in loving and effective ways. This book provides much information on the world of the young, and sensible suggestions on how to make a difference for the better.

 

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Sep 10

Christ and the Media

By Malcolm Muggeridge  

Publisher: Regent College Publishing, 1977

Malcolm Muggeridge was one of the most celebrated British media personalities of the last century. During his production of the BBC TV programme  Something Beautiful for God (1968), he met Mother Teresa—an experience that radically changed this former skeptic and led him to the Catholic faith. Christ and the Media is a collection of his lectures on the mass media. Spiced with his caustic wit and sharp insights into the influence of the mass media in contemporary civilization, Muggeridge draws our attention to the way the mass media tries to substitute dangerous illusions in place of truth.

Muggeridge writes that future historians would see today’s people “as having created in the media a Frankenstein monster which no one knows how to control or direct, and marvel that we should have so meekly subjected ourselves to its destructive and often malign influence.”  He also takes note of the fake experiments and surveys attempting to gain scientific legitimacy to prove that violence and pornography on TV do not influence social behavior, while ironically the advertisers who spend huge sums of money for prime time know better!  “I find it fascinating that credulity about scientifically stated absurdities should thus exceed the wildest examples of religious superstition.” Recalling his refreshing experience of interviewing Mother Theresa, he observes : “What is required to make a successful Christian television programme is merely to find a true Christian  and put him or her on the screen.”

The book makes engaging reading for the common reader as cultural commentary sprinkled with personal anecdotes and witty comments and at the same time evaluating the modern mass media in light of the Gospel truths.  His main argument is that “the media have created and belongs to, a world of fantasy, the more dangerous because it purports to be, and is largely taken as being, the real world. Christ, on the other hand, proclaimed a new dimension of reality.”

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Mere Christianity

C S Lewis.

Fontana, 1952.

C S Lewis is one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the 20th century, besides being a brilliant academic, popular novelist and literary critic. At age forty, he gave up atheism and went on to write some brilliant works that are considered classics. Mere Christianity is based on a series of BBC radio broadcasts given at Oxford during World War II. It addresses Christian belief and Biblical truths from a rational and common sense point of view with sound logic.

Lewis writes about basic Christian beliefs. He speaks of it as ‘mere’ Christianity, as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions.  He sees Christianity “as a great house with a large hall. Different rooms leading off the hall are the different denominations.” He is not primarily concerned about which room Christians occupy, but he is concerned about getting them into the hall. He divides the book into four sections beginning with the moral argument for the existence of God. In the second part he deals with the basic doctrines, examining the rival conceptions of   God in the world. Presenting the arguments for the divinity of Christ, Lewis makes note of the attempts of various secular thinkers to reduce him to the status of a simple preacher, a sage or a good man. Lewis counters by saying that “a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic or else he would be the Devil. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” In the third Section, he elaborates on the Christian virtues, social morality, marriage, forgiveness, charity, hope and faith. The heartiest thing about the book is that it is theology accessible to the commoner written in a colloquial style.

 

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AUGUST 13

The Last Lecture

By Randy Pausch (Hyperion, 2008)

A touching bestseller that sold 5 million copies.

Randy Pausch was professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania. The book is based on the last lecture he gave, just months before his death at age 47. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a few months of life. The lecture was given in September 2007; Pausch died in July 2008.

Carnegie Mellon has the practice of inviting faculty members to give a “Last Lecture’’—a lecture in which a professor would share whatever s/he would consider his/her final message to the world.

The talk was moving, not only because of its contents and the enthusiastic and humorous way Pausch spoke, with but especially because his four hundred colleagues attending the lecture knew of his condition. His wife sat in the front row, struggling not to weep.

Pausch began with his childhood dreams, offering some lessons which he wants his children to learn from him. We should have fun in everything we do, he said, and life should be lived to the fullest, because we do not know when we will lose it.  He said making our life meaningful is about “enabling the dreams of others.” The key statement he makes is an inspiration for all. “It’s not about how to achieve your dreams; it’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself; the dreams will come to you.” He has this message for educators: “The best gift an educator can give is to get someone to become self-reflective.” The 2012 edition of the book features a short foreword written by Jai, his widow, reflecting on the time since her husband’s death…

 

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JULY 13

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson 

Rachel Carson was an American biologist who wrote two popular books on sea life. But her third book, Silent Spring, created an epoch—the epoch of environmentalism that has become the most vital global issue today, because human civilization stands threatened by a variety of man-made disasters in the making. The book changed the way we perceived the idea of unbridled progress based on industrialism and what was designated as the ‘Green Revolution’ dependent on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers used indiscriminately.  Carson was inspired by a letter written by her friend making a note of the disappearance of birds in rural America during the spring season. Many creatures including fishes and other forms of aquatic life were fast becoming extinct from the water bodies in Europe and America. Carson made an intensive investigation and came up with the book that graphically describes what happened. The extensive use of pesticides, particularly DDT, which was considered a magic solution to a variety of pest troubles during the years following the World War II. These synthetic insecticides were poisoning food chains, from insects upwards. Till that time the effect of chemicals in farming and domestic life had never been considered a serious threat to the various forms of life on earth. Carson’s book became controversial, inviting attacks from the industrial lobby and the political establishment that supported them. She was even branded a ‘communist.’  But she stood her ground, despite the fact that she was suffering from breast cancer…

 

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JUNE 16

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

By Nujood Ali. Delphine Minoui Linda Coverdale, Translator. 2010.

 This book is the autobiography of Nujood Ali, an illiterate Yemeni girl who received international attention for her courageous stand against barbaric social practices.

Nujood was born into a large Muslim family in Yemen. Her father practiced polygamy. Her brothers went to school. At age nine, she was taken out of school and married to a thirty-one-year old man. There is a Yemeni tribal proverb: “To guarantee a happy marriage, marry a nine-year-old girl.”  Raped by her husband on the very first night, mentally and physically abused by her mother-in-law, Nujood found life a horror. After two months of this, she escaped from the in-laws’ house. Her father’s second wife advised her to seek a divorce. In Yemen, such a thing was unimaginable. She ran away with the money given to her to buy bread, and went to the court. A judge took her into his protection and ordered her husband and father to be taken into custody. The advocates in the city and the press supported her cause.

The young girl’s courage and determination became a sensation in Yemen.  International media and human rights activists made her a heroine of human rights. Her case served to highlight the cause of young girls facing sexual slavery in the name of marriage. Nujood says, “I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.”  Shada Nasser (Nujood calls her as “second mother”), a women’s rights activist and advocate, represented her in court. Nujood became the first child bride in Yemen to win a divorce in a country where nearly half the prepubescent girls are married off to senior men. She returned to school with the dream of becoming a lawyer and helping girls in similar situations.  She faced government persecution. In 2008, Glamour magazine chose her, along with Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, as Women of the Year. One result of her action: Yemen raised the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18.

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Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time.

Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Penguin. 2006.

This memoir of Greg Mortenson, the co-founder of non-profit ‘Central Asia Institute (CAI), Pennies for Peace’ tells his experience of trying to build schools and hospitals in the remote villages of  Afghanistan and Pakistan during the days of Taliban terror. The title refers to the Afghan custom of hospitality according to which the third cup of tea shared with a guest makes him almost a family member. Mortenson had such an experience when he stumbled into Korphe, after his failed attempt to climb K 2, the second tallest mountain in the world to honour his late sister Christa, who was disabled. He ended up building a school for girls in the remote Korphe, tucked away among the Karakoram Mountains.  He saw children attempting to learn writing without the help of a trained teacher, writing with sticks in mud. In return for the villagers’ hospitality, he promised to build a school for them.

Mortenson saved money from his salary as a nurse. His missionary parents had built a hospital and a school in Tanzania where he and his sister grew up.  His struggle to raise funds received the generous support of the wealthy physicist and mountaineer Jean Horni.

Despite the perils of traveling and living in the difficult terrain, as well as personal tragedies at home, he finished the project. His wife and friends also joined in for support.

The CAI helped to build more schools in the mountains. But the violent Taliban and some mullahs were against girls’ education. The Taliban destroyed some of these schools. Mortenson himself survived two kidnappings and two fatwas. Organisational problems also plagued him in America. The Taliban terrorist groups built madrassas in place of secular schools where they trained boys for terror. He faced opposition and hate from both sides.  This book became an instant best seller and Time Magazine’s Asia Book of The Year.


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MAY 14

Amazing Grace for Those Who Suffer: Ten Life-Changing Stories of Hope and Healing. by Jeff Cavins & Matthew Pinto (Eds.). 2002

This book presents ten real life stories of suffering and faith. These are people who have gone through it and have actually experienced the work of God’s grace in their individual circumstances.
Each experience is unique. Some are plagued by physical disabilities and pain. Some struggle with unexpected losses—a child or spouse, or an unborn child Some struggle with addictions, persecution or abandonment.
Janet Moylan speaks about how she faced up to the loss of her husband and a child in the sea and she had to choose between God and despair.
Carl Cleveland was a successful lawyer who was framed on false grounds and had to spend a year and a half in prison, which changed his life in a way he could not have imagined. But he believes that God was sending him a message. “If we accept suffering in faith and turn to God without recrimination, salvation is truly ours,” he concludes. Peggy Stokes, a victim of childhood sexual abuse and its devastating consequences, finally finds peace in the assurance that in Christ there is hope, there is healing. Grace Mc Kinnnon has to struggle with poverty and cerebral palsy and survive.
In each of these stories we find people asking the question that we all ask: “Why does God allow me to suffer” Where is He when we need him? The answer is presented in the final section of the book in the words of St John Paul, “Down through the centuries and generations, it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace” (Salvifici Doloris, n. 26).

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Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
Henri J. M. Nouwen.

Henri Nouwen had a distinguished career as an academic, preacher and writer. He quit his post as a Harvard University professor and spent the last ten years of his life looking after the physically and mentally challenged. He wrote over forty books that enjoy wide readership.
This book was sparked by an encounter with a young journalist named Fred. Nouwen developed a deep friendship with him and the book is addressed to Fred. Fred’s life makes Nouwen realise that there are millions of undistinguished people who are possessed by a deep spiritual hunger. He, like Fred, is among them as a “fellow-traveller searching for life, light and truth.” The key idea is from the Gospel of Matthew 3:17: “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” It applies to each one of us who must take possession of that belovedness and grow into it. “The greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection,” the “enemy of the spiritual life, because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Each one therefore has to make that great spiritual journey to claim belovedness, transforming ourselves into that state of belovedness, letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say or do.”
How different would our life be, were we truly able to trust that it multiplies in being given away! How different would our life be if we could but believe that every little act of faithfulness, every gesture of love, every word of forgiveness, every little bit of joy and peace, will multiply and multiply as long as there are people to receive it…and that—even then—there will be leftovers!”


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