An Early Review

Ignatius Loyola–The Spiritual Writings has been out about 4 weeks, and “Prints of Grace” has been kind enough to offer a review.  Here’s an excerpt:

“I didn’t realize how much of modern day spirituality and prayer practices came from this particular saint and his prescribed methods of growing closer to the Lord.  Now that I have read excerpts from his memoir as well as his letters within the context of explaining certain passages of The Spiritual Exercises, I have a far greater appreciation of the wealth of wisdom he provided through his writing.”

Read the rest here.

The Reviews Are In!

I was excited recently to find myself pictured on the cover of America magazine (see photo).  How that happened I’m still not quite sure.  But I’m even more excited by the latest issue of America!

Emilie Griffin has offered a very kind review of two books by Fathers named Mark, Fr. Mark Thibodeaux’s book, God’s Voice Within, and my own book, Already There.  It’s a nice commentary on our similarly-themed, but very different books.  Here’s how she starts:

“Ignatian wisdom is universal and has blessed many (including me). No question, St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, meant this practical spirituality to speak in all times, places, cultures and all life’s seasons. That original vision is fine-tuned and fresh in the hands of two very different Jesuit spiritual masters. Mark Mossa and Mark Thibodeaux, both Jesuit priests who are creative teachers, directors and ministers, bring life to the ancient path. And it is good; we who were once formed by it have reason to welcome these new treatments of spiritual life in all its depth and surprise. Each author pins down for the reader a yearning, a sometimes disturbing voice, coming out of real stories, personal pitfalls and God’s sometimes puzzling response.

Mark Mossa, long a minister for young adults, now teaches theology at Fordham University. He seems to have spent most of his life growing up; he wants to help others through the same self-doubt, darkness and blundering. With chapters like “Living in Palookaville,” “Taking the Scary Bits Out of the Freezer,” and “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” Mossa buttonholes the reader. After stumbling through most everything in life (that’s his version of the story), he puts his practical insight to work for us. “Already there” is the seemingly casual phrase he uses—insists on—to tell us how he eventually learned (and has to keep relearning) that the Lord was with him through every dilemma, every pratfall . . . “

Enjoy the rest of the review here.

Today’s Discussion

You can stream today’s discussion of Already There here, or download it by clicking on “hour 2” here.

They were very nice, and I love the New Orleans accent.  Sister Bridget sounds just like one of my good friends from New Orleans, who also loves to talk about “Mama”!

Much thanks to Fr. Albert & Sister Bridget!

Join the Discussion!

Tired of hearing interviews with me?  Here’s your chance to get someone else’s take on Already There!  Fr. Albert Haase announces:

My sister, Bridget OSU, and I have our monthly visit with Sean Herriott and the listeners of “Morning Air” on Relevant Radio (go to find your station or listen live) on Thursday morning, December 16 from 7am-8am (Central). We’ll be discussing ALREADY THERE: Letting God Find You by Mark Mossa, SJ (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2010).

I’ll be interested in what they have to say!  (I hope they’ll be nice.)

Check out Fr. Haase’s website.

Letting Love Find You

The best reviews are the ones that make it clear that what you’ve written has given somebody the opportunity to reflect on something in their own lives.  My friend Mike Hayes offered just such a “review” this week, by using my book as a jumping off point for a reflection of his own.  It’s a good one!:

” . . . As I look back on my life, I often see myself searching for love and occasionally finding someone to love. At times, I’m afraid, I didn’t find that love returned. Was love unable to find me?

As I searched more deeply, I realized a stark truth: Quite often in my life, I was too afraid to be found by love.

Have you ever found a person who just takes your breath away? Dennis Miller, the brilliant comic, said of the first time he saw his wife, “I’ll pass out if that woman comes anywhere near me.” Apparently, he conquered that fear. But often it’s not fear of approaching love, but fear of not being good enough to deserve the love of someone else. Perhaps even when love is found, fear keeps the revelation of self that we all have to offer back to our love from really happening. What if she doesn’t love that part of me? What if she doesn’t agree with my opinion? We act like addicts afraid of being unable to get our next fix. What if the love runs out?

Marion, my wife, helped me get over that. I think I fell more deeply in love with Marion when we had our first fight. Now that sounds completely ludicrous, but in fact it’s true . . . “

Mike has much more to say, and it’s worth reading the whole thing.  Check it out here.

Already There–In Ireland!

A review from across the pond!

Ireland’s newspaper The Irish Catholic was kind enough to review my book!  Here’s a bit of what they had to say:

“The Jesuit author of this book is an American who has worked as a minister in various parts of the United States, but now teaches theology at Fordham University.

In writing this book, he uses incidents from his own life to illustrate his theme. He is himself an epileptic, and he uses his need for daily medication to stay well as an illustration that we need religion all the days of our lives, and not as an aspect of crisis management.

The book follows the way of St Ignatius, as is to be expected, in ”finding God in all things”. Fr Mossa makes extensive use of scene from popular films and TV shows, from Marlon Brando facing a moral choice in On the Waterfront to the philosophic doubts of Kermit the Frog from the Muppets . . . ”

read the rest here.

“Marriage Counsel”: A Review of Longing to Love

In the latest America magazine, I review Timothy Muldoon’s wonderful spiritual memoir, Longing to Love:

“In a time when spiritual memoirs are long on dysfunction, anger and tragedy, Tim Muldoon’s Longing to Love offers a refreshing contrast. Though not a story absent a tragedy of its own, it is primarily a memoir of falling in love and staying in love. It is a compelling portrait of what many college-aged young men experience but rarely write about: negotiating the demands of romance and practicality while falling headlong into love . . .”

read the rest at America’s website.

My Favorite Book by Fr. Jim Martin (so far) . . .

One of the exciting things about being a priest, especially a Jesuit priest, is that we are not always sure what kind of situations we might find ourselves in that demand our ministerial skills. The recent General Congregation spoke several times, as has the Pope, about how often as Jesuits we are especially called to be on the “frontiers” of faith and culture. Some of my most privileged moments of connecting with people have been outside of typical “church” contexts. Traveling from one place to another, for example, you never know what kind of need you might encounter. Often there’s a chance to help someone, or listen to their story in a way that is part of my priestly vocation, even if that person doesn’t even know that I’m a priest (I don’t wear clerics 24/7). But I also like it when I’m with a group of people, my fellow German language students one summer, for example, in which I just happen to be a priest sharing an experience with them. A lot of the time the fact that I’m a priest doesn’t make a difference, but there are times that it does. There are the conversations—what’s it like? And there are the times when people do have a need to talk about something, or ask for help, and they know that I’m someone who they can probably count on.

I’ve noticed recently that I run into a lot of people that I would term “religiously indifferent.” They’re not hostile toward God or religion. And they are often very good people. However, for some reason, it hasn’t occurred to them that God should be a part of their life. It makes me wonder what it would be like to be “chaplain” to a group of people that one is not typically chaplain to. Like bikers, circus performers, journalists, buskers, CEOs or something like that. Those are interesting “frontiers” one could explore!

Father Jim Martin has offered a peek into just such an experience in his bookA Jesuit Off-Broadway. Don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t a light-hearted reminiscence on one Jesuit’s brief dalliance with the New York theatre world. It is a remarkably engaging and often deeply moving account of being a priest on the frontiers of faith and culture, of finding God in new and surprising ways. He almost seamlessly moves from his account to being theological advisor to the off-broadway production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot to reflections on some of the most profound theological questions, and does so by showing us how the troupe of actors which he came to know and love struggled with those same questions. Fr. Martin admits to being a little star-struck at first, especially having the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman as the play’s director. But he soon enough got over that to see how real these people were, and how serious they were about honoring the lives and beliefs of the characters they were portraying—Saint Monica, Saint Thomas the Apostle, Judas, Jesus, Mother Teresa, etc. As his story progresses, we witness not only the sometimes uncomfortable birth of a work of art, we see how Fr. Martin and the cast are transformed by the experience. All this is placed in the context of the Christian tradition in a revealing and enlightening way, and as one continues to read, one starts to feel as if they know and love this group of people, just as Father Jim comes to know and love them too. And one sees how the Spirit works in varied and surprising ways because a priest has been introduced into what at first seems a “foreign” context, but which eventually is revealed by compelling portraits of each of the cast members, as a place—a holy place—not so foreign at all. I think I’ve become one of this book’s biggest fans.

One of the most moving parts of the book for me, came at the very beginning, in the foreword by the playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis. He explains:

“I asked many questions that, perhaps, one is not supposed to ask, and, on occasion, Father Jim would reply with answers that perhaps he was not supposed to give. I tried to—and needed to—leave no stone unturned, and Father Jim, secure in his faith and his priesthood, never did anything but supply direct answers to pointed questions. And he did so kindly, thoughtfully, and with both a passion for the subject and a wealth of com-passion for me—his confused, often irate and disconsolate lapsed Catholic Interrogator. In short, he was everything I think a Priest should be: caring, thoughtful, strong, unimpeachable—and up for the challenge. In short, I have no doubt that Father Jim is one of Jesus’ true soldiers. And trust me: I’m not the doubt-free type. I drown in doubt, and to the degree that that’s true, Father Jim, from our first meeting and right up to today, is slowly teaching me to swim.”

The Song of Muldoon

My friend John commented that the last post reminded him of Song of Songs, a.k.a. Song of Solomon.  This book of the Bible is often trotted out as a way of proving that God is not stuffy (true!) and/or God doesn’t think sex is evil (also true!).

This because of its opening lines, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!  For your love is better than wine, your anointing oils are fragrant, your name is perfume poured out; therefore the maidens love you” or, further on, “Upon my bed at night I sought him who my soul loves.”

But with all its poetic flourish, some if its descriptions seem less than flattering, like:

“How beautiful you are, my love, how very beautiful!  Your eyes are doves behind your veil.  Your hair is like a flock of goats [I bet you say that to all the girls! ], moving down the slopes of Gilead.  Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them is bereaved.  Your lips are like crimson thread, and your mouth is lovely.  Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.  Your neck is like the tower of David, built in courses . . .”

Hey, this stuff might have worked back in the day, but I doubt few would be flattered today to be compared to livestock.  We have found our own time-appropriate ways of expressing such things.  We often hear them in songs, see them in movies, and read them in books.

This summer, I was fortunate to pick up Tim Muldoon’s new book, Longing to Love.  It’s a moving account of his relationship with his wife from their early days of dating, through a time of distance, up through their wedding and the struggles of married life.  Muldoon offers his own poetry in the book, saying of his new marriage: “My heart was full.  Never before had I known such a pervasive sense of rightness, of being at home in this world.  Never before had I felt so right in my own skin, this flesh made word to her, this earthen vessel holding gifts to her that only I could give.”

Muldoon tells the story of his love affair with his wife in both poetic and down to earth ways we can relate to.  He is honest about his failings, and his reluctance to face some of the difficulties in his marriage.  He also share his struggles with their decision to adopt their two daughters from China.  And how, when they did decide, he fell in love a second and a third time.

It’s a short book, which can be read in a few days.  But it is also a rich and honest book about love, marriage and life choices that people today can relate to.  It’s a short investment with a long return.  I definitely will recommend it to the couples whom I preparing for marriage.

“In the end,” he concludes, “I have learned to attend to the whisperings of desire to find the places where God might be inviting me to grow, to change, and to stretch toward the freedom of the real me, the person who can share joy with the women he loves most.”

Call it the song of Tim Muldoon, with a Celtic and Chinese score.

Win a Book

Karen in Mommyland was not only kind enough to write a review of Already There, she’s giving a way a couple of copies:

I mentioned to Fr. Mark last week that I was planning to host a giveaway of Already There here on my blog and he liked the idea so much that he offered to contribute a signed copy. So I have not one, but two copies of this great book to offer up for this giveaway.  To enter this giveaway simply leave a comment.

To enter, just leave a comment here:

Thanks to Karen for doing this, and to all of you for your interest and participation!