Another year and another Lent has passed. I enjoyed my Lenten reading last year, so I thought I’d do it again. And again, it was a mixed bag. Here are my thoughts…
- The Archaeology of Faith: A Personal Exploration of How We Come to Believe by Fr. Louis J. Cameli
- Immersed in the Sacred: Discovering the “Small S” Sacraments by Kathy Coffey
- The Jesus Advantage: A New Approach to a Fuller Life by Paul Donoghue
The Archaeology of Faith by Fr. Louis J. Cameli
The author, Father Cameli, uses his ancestry as a framework to discuss how faith evolves over time, not only in a historical context but a personal one, as well. He starts from pre-Christian times and moves forward through generational history, culminating in the present day. Along the way, he shares what was going on in the world and in faith during a particular point in time. He concludes each chapter with a reflection on how that chapter’s contents impacted his own personal faith journey and proposes questions to help the reader contemplate their own faith journey.
Fr. Cameli’s writing style is easy to read and the information is fascinating. It really made me think about how my own faith has been shaped not only by my own personal experiences, but by those of my family, as well.
I think this is worth reading, especially if you enjoy history.
Immersed in the Sacred
- Ms. Coffey is very good at being specific in visual detail — zebra-striped butterfly, snuggle into flannel wrap — but very vague when it comes to the topic of the book. She is never clear as to why or how the particular thing she’s discussing is “sacred.” I guess you’re supposed to read between the lines.
- She references things with the assumption that the reader knows what she’s talking about. These include passages from the Bible (not everyone is so well versed), persons in history (I had no idea who Thomas Merton was, nor that he was a priest), etc.
- Many of the views espoused in the book are clearly not Catholic. In fact, the last essay I read, which was about Merton, edged on heretical. I was quite surprised that a Catholic press would publish this book. This last point may not have been so much of an issue if it were not for the purpose I was reading this book.
At the beginning of Immersed in the Sacred, although the author states that the book was “shaped by a Catholic heritage,” I don’t think she understands what that means. Her views are not traditionally Catholic and lean more Protestant. I was already uneasy after reading the first chapter.
Then it became clear that Coffey’s writing is not clear. She skirts the edges of her topic, then leaps to conclusions without walking you through how she got there.
However, it was when she claimed that “maybe God shares the doubt” and “God is small and lonely too” I had had enough. God does not doubt. God is not small and lonely. If he was, he wouldn’t be God.
I had no need to read further. And I suggest you leave this one unread.
The Jesus Advantage
The premise of the book is that Jesus is a role model for how we can live our lives in wholeness, that he is an example of someone who is spiritually and emotionally mature. Each chapter tackles a different aspect of life, such as love, feelings, and thoughts. He shares stories from his practice, as well as stories from the bible and interprets how following Jesus’ example can help us in our own lives.
I found Donoghue’s perspective of Jesus interesting and I learned a lot about him and how to model him in my own life. To the author, Jesus is strong in ways you might not even think of. He gives love and is open to not only receiving love but asking for it, as well. He expresses delight. He is aware of his needs and how to fulfill them. These–and more–are all lessons we should take to heart.
I think this book is worth a read.
The Archaeology of Faith was the best of the three, in my opinion. And The Jesus Advantage was also well worth reading. However, I would leave Immersed in the Sacred alone. I was so upset after reading what I did of that book, I contacted Ave Maria Press about it. They never responded.