Books in the mail

I’m going to put up a review of Anne Rice’s Called Out of Darkness; A Spiritual Confession after I get around to writing it, (I highly recommend it), but I have also received two other books in the mail that may be of interest to some:

The first is a little prayerbook, Jesus is My All in All; Praying with the “Saint of Calcutta,” Mother Teresa. It is edited and introduced by Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., who did such a superb job with Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light – The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta, which I wrote about, here.

Jesus is My All in All is an intensive novena – a 9 day prayer – in which we use Teresa’s own words to draw more closely and live more intimately with Christ. The hardcover book has some nice color photographs and samples of her handwriting, but I am struck by the depths of her prayers which are deceptively simple yet pull you right into mystery. They have the cadence and intensity of litanies:

Jesus is the Word made Flesh.
Jesus is the Bread of Life
Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.
Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass
For the sins of the world and mine.
Jesus is the Word – to be spoken.
Jesus is the Truth – to be told.
Jesus is the Way – to be walked.
Jesus is the Light – to be lit.
Jesus is the Life – to be lived.
Jesus is the Love – to be loved.
Jesus is the Joy – to be shared.
Jesus is the Sacrifice – to be offered.
Jesus is the Peace – to be given.
Jesus is the Bread of Life – to be eaten.
Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed.

It goes on. If part of your new year’s resolution is about deepening your prayer life or your relationship to Jesus, this may be the book for you.

Also in the mail: Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness by Matthew S. Stanford, PhD, whose doctoral degree is in neuroscience. I have not had a chance to look too deeply into the book; it’s premise seems to be that there are some Christians who are unable to make distinctions between sin and mental illness and who thus “blame the patient” for their behavior, rather than the disease.

From the Press Release: Imagine a woman crawling down the aisle of your church, her legs clearly broken and dragging painfully behind her. Her eyes scan the congregation, desperately searching for someone who will help her. Upon reaching the altar, she is counseled…to stop sinning and pray more. A scene like this is almost incomprehensible. But what if the illness was not so easily identifiable at first glance?

Stanford is a man who has declared the Bible the “source of all truth” but points out that the bible alone is not always sufficient to treat many forms of mental illness.

I don’t disagree. My first thought upon receiving the book was to wonder if there are so many Christians out there who do disagree – and who cannot make distinctions between mental illness and grave sin – that there needs to be a book about it, and I still don’t know. To me, such thinking would be extreme and fringe, but that is, perhaps, because Catholics (at least those of us primed by the Baltimore Catechism) learn at an early age that grave sin involves “a grievous matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will.” So for us sin has always considered both the behavior and the state of the mind.

In any case, Grace for the Afflicted seems well-organized. Stanford looks at Depression, Bi-polar Disorder, Schizophrenia, ADHD, Dissociative Disorders, Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse and then asks, “what does science say and what does the Bible say about this illness?

Another great definition of sin.

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