I consumed Mark Plaiss’ book No End to the Search in two days. Since I am a lay associate of New Melleray and Our Lady of the Mississpi Abbey’s I was eager to see how his experience of monasticism and mine compared. Mark writes as if he has a Go Pro on and he is just narrating what he is seeing and experiencing. If you want to explore this unique calling you will be rewarded in this book. The monks and nuns of these two monasteries have welcomed me into their worlds as best as anyone can welcome someone into their homes. Down through almost 40 years I have soaked up their wisdom and basked in their love. My goal continues to be to take the best of this experience into my life and let that season my relationships. Years ago Abbot General Dom Bernardo encouraged all Abbots and Abbesses to enter more deeply into dialogue with people like Mark and me. Out of this request grew a formal recognition by the Cistercian order to people attached to monasteries the world over. If you want to taste why we do this Mark will serve up a delightful menu, along with reflections on how this penetrates his daily life (and mine), so carve out some quiet time and sink into the quiet with No End to the Search.
It is a rare book that has me mentally shouting YES almost on every page, but Being Mortal by Atul Gawande has done that for me. After serving people who are trying to make sense out of the modern medical systems for so many years, it was a source of hope and joy to read this book. Taking into consideration the whole person who is trying to make their way through the bewildering options now available is the new frontier and it is the new “wild west”. Never in human history has so many questions of what it means to be human challenge us now. The physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual questions come at us at a pace that overwhelms the best of us. Reading this book and talking with our significant others is a great first step. Dr. Gawande tells the stories in a way that will help us recognize our own stories. He will be an able guide as we each confront Being Mortal.
Since I read this book the author was inter vied on Public radio and said this:
“There are many kinds of studies; the most powerful one, for me, was the study that Jennifer Temel, a Massachusetts General Hospital physician, did — led, which took care of stage four lung cancer patients. They lived only, on average, 11 months. It’s a terminal condition; no one lived past about three years. And what she did was, half of the group were randomized to get the usual oncology care, and the other half were randomized to get the usual oncology care plus a palliative care clinician, physician, to see them early in the course of their illness. And so it was sort of a radical idea — see them from the very beginning.
And what — the group who saw the palliative care clinicians from the very beginning did end up stopping their chemotherapy. They were 50 percent less likely to be on chemotherapy in their last three months of life. They were 90 percent less likely to be on the chemotherapy in their last two weeks of life. They were less likely to get surgery towards the end. They had one-third lower costs. They started hospice sooner. They spent more time out of the hospital. They were less likely to die in the hospital or die in the ICU. And the kicker was that they not only had overall less suffering, they lived 25 percent longer.”
You can listen to or read the entire interview here
Jenkins, Philip. The Many Faces of Christ. Basic Books. NY. 2015. What a read! As one who has a life long interest in the Bible and how it came to be; this book really opens up wide vistas on how the different peoples, in different times and places, made sense out of their experiences of God-ness. The sub-title “The thousand-year story of the survival and influence of the lost gsospels” is a very good summary of its contents. This scholarly, well referenced work will cause me to ponder in new and deeper ways.
Levine, Amy-Jill. Short Stories by Jesus. Harper Collins. NY. 2014. This is yet another book by Rabbi Levine that causes us to ponder and reassess what we thought we knew. By positioning ourselves in the crowds that listened to Jesus we see from their angle and come away challenged to think again. We people of the “second testament” will profit much from our “first testament” brothers and sisters. It will open us to new insights and new appreciation for the challenges of the parables. It will also make us aware of how we unwittingly sometimes perpetuate anti-Jewish stereotypes. This is a profitable read.
The Ethiopian Tattoo Shop by Edward Hays Stories supposedly told by a tattoo artist to distract the client from the discomfort of the process of getting a tattoo. These parables have meanings for those on a spiritual quest.
Journeys on the Edge: The Celtic Tradition By Thomas O’Loughlin brings us a look at what has been called Celtic spirituality. He looks at original sources of the first millennium, which can help us understand much of what we inherited from these early Irish ancestors in faith.
Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. Riverhead Books, Berkeley Pub. Co. NY. 1996.
Dr. Remen shares the fruit of her reflection on a life spent in helping people find meaning in their struggles to be whole. This is a book to keep handy for those times when you want to slow down and spend some time pondering deep truths. The stories told are usually two to three pages long, but you will find yourself leaning back after each one, needing to go within yourself to dialogue with the insights they evoke. This will also be a good book to have extra copies at hand, because you will find yourself saying: “I need to give? a copy of this book.
Colors: Stories of the Kingdom by John R. Aurelio A collection of 70 stories to help open up the scriptures. Out of print, but Amazon’s out of print service might help you find it. Stories that are as enchanting as the fables of Aesop or Anderson. Each story holds a beautiful lesson that will make you wonder, smike, and want to share.
Complaints Against God by Andrew Greeley
Greeley, with tongue in cheek, reflects on Gospel passages in ways that stimulate imagination. In 24 chapters, Greeley lodges complains about his friends to having been given freedom to choose.
Growing Strong at Broken Places by Paula Ripple Seeking meaning in the pain-filled moments of life. An exploration of the sources and effects of sullering in our lives. Finding meaning in our pain through the use of stories that can bring us growth.