Into the Way of Peace, by Karen Kelly Boyce

Into the Way of Peace blends the mystical with the mysterious.

While a blizzard swirls around an inner city church, a desperate few pass within. Some seek shelter from the storm. Others desire consolation because of life’s overwhelming burdens. One young man hopes to escape a police manhunt.

Fr. D’Angelico welcomes each guest to worship before the Blessed Sacrament. He has served at Holy Rosary Church for fifty years, as curate, pastor and now a retired resident. In his younger days, he had fallen victim to the “heresy of good works.” At that time, he had believed that the success of his ministry depended solely on him. Now, aged, arthritic and terminally ill, he has learned through prayer that Jesus alone brings in the harvest.

The Lord has given this faithful servant the gift of reading souls. This night, Fr. D’Angelico’s special charism tells him that seven souls will kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and receive a life-altering visit from Jesus, himself.

Frankie the Bottle, an alcoholic, seeks a warm place to crash. He drinks to forget that his carelessness killed his wife and daughter. Two professional men enter, full of emotion and conflict—their wealth and position are the consequence of choosing the expedient rather than what they know to be right. Two women mourn for estranged children who will never speak to them again. A Polish Catholic survivor of Auschwitz, who has lived for others without appreciation, could do much more in life if she only recognized her unique but underutilized charism. Bobby, rich and spoiled—a prodigal son—desperately needs to accept God’s love.

Fr. D’Angelico and the seven souls interact throughout this interlocking collection of short stories. Some souls consider the monstrance and the host an idolatrous perversion of Christianity. Nevertheless, both the Eucharist and the Scriptures make a powerful impression on each as they deal with the hopelessness of their situations.

Karen Kelly Boyce has the knack of stitching together the earthy and the heavenly so that her gripping stories both startle and edify the reader. Many know her for her delightful Sisters of the Last Straw series, her darker novels like In the Midst of Wolves, or her inspirational Down Right Good and A Bend in the Road. Into the Way of Peace finds itself in good company.

Grace in the Wilderness: Reflections on God’s Sustaining Word along Life’s Journey, by Brother Francis de Sales Wagner, O.S.B.

waves-yupo

Brother Francis de Sales offers his readers a source of joy, leading them into the desert where they feast on the reality of God.

The Liturgical New Year will soon dawn, a time for new beginnings, not only with reflections on the saints of the day, but the profound messages of the scriptural cycles found in the weekend liturgies. Grace in the Wilderness guides the reader with daily meditations organized by common theme, using the table of contents and in relationship to the three liturgical cycles, using a Liturgical Year Index.

These meditations, the “fruits of (Brother Francis’) prayer, study and reflection (were) primarily gathered from posts on (his) personal blog (first, yokeofchrist.blogspot.com, and, later, pathoflifeblog.blogspot.com) from 2009 to 2013.”

He encourages other blog writers with these words: “Each meditation was written as an individual piece at a certain point in time. It so happens (after I finally heeded blog readers who urged me to collect the posts into a book), that when they were gathered, adapted and organized thematically, together the reflections seemed to coalesce around the theme outlined” in the table of contents.

Brother Francis de Sales’ reflections remind us that the God extends grace to aid us through our journey across the wilderness of life. God nourishes through the conversation of prayer and the feast of frequent participation in the Eucharist. God guides us to conversion from a world-oriented heart to a heart exploded with love for our Creator. The author reminds us that everything about us calls us to recognize the presence, actually the hand of God. The world celebrates the “Holidays,” forgetting their significance in a blitz of commercialism. Instead, those called to ride the rhythm of the liturgical year celebrate the deeper meaning of giving thanks, waiting through Advent for the coming of the Messiah and the celebration of Epiphany. We celebrate Easter best after a sincere Lent, meeting the Messiah on the road to Emmaus, not the warrior king but the suffering servant now raised from the dead.

We are called to the wilderness to empty ourselves of the world, but are reminded (by Saint Paul”: “Do not worry about anything,” he urges, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Treat yourself to a gift for all seasons, liturgical and otherwise by including a meditation from Grace in the Wilderness: Reflections on God’s Sustaining Word along Life’s Journey in your daily spiritual exercises.

Wagner, Br. Francis de Sales. Grace in the Wilderness: Reflections on God’s Sustaining Word along Life’s Journey. St. Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press. 2013

(© 2013 Donald J. Mulcare)

Figure: Rhythm in Glass, Alcohol Ink on Yupo by Nancy Ann Mulcare, © 2013