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Book Review: Spiritual Journey Begins with Forgiveness

By Sister Jean Peerenboom, OSF

Our Spiritual Journey: An Alternate Route by Richard Reichart (Paulist Press, $16.95)

The Spiritual journey does not lead us away from the world in a solitary pursuit of God. Instead, “it requires us to embrace the world as an integral dimension of seeking communion with God.”

We do this through a connection with Creation at all levels – the environment and all God’s creatures – human and not human. As Jesus’ disciple, “our love of others needs to be catholic not just within the community of disciples, but outward to all humanity.”

So says Richard Reichart as he explores this spiritual journey in Our Spiritual Journey: An Alternate Route. He uses the word self-transcending frequently as he leads readers through recognizing their creaturehood as the first step in developing a solid relationship with God.

At times the book is a bit “heady,” but he uses good examples from everyday life to illustrate his points, and each chapter has an excellent summary and good reflection questions to help readers.

He talks about forgiving ourselves and how hard it is to accept ourselves as we are. “Accepting our true selves demands radical honesty,” he says. Failure to do so makes an authentic relationship with God impossible.

God’s mandate to us is “not just to love God with our whole being, but to reach out to love our neighbors, too.” This goes beyond what we think of as the Golden Rule, he writes. “It requires faith to understand how we are to model our love of neighbor on the love we have for ourselves. We must first come to believe in and accept the inestimable dignity God has bestowed on us through unconditional love.”

There is nothing extremely radical here. Reichart himself outlines his goal as showing how we can gain new insights into the major teachings of our faith and our traditional spiritualities when we start with radical honesty about what it means to be a creature. That means being vulnerable, powerless to preserve ourselves in existence, lacking any self-derived worth, being driven by our selfish, self-preserving animal instincts, and being ultimately motivated by our unquenchable hunger to be important and safe.

Once we recognize and accept who and what we are, we can start to transcend ourselves and look to building a better relationship with the God who gives us unconditional love. That, in turn, helps us with the unconditional love we need to give other people and all of Creation.

Other points worth noting include:
• “We want assurances that our Creator considers us lovable and values us as worthwhile creatures.” We want our Creator to notice us – that’s what drives us.
• “Like the self-righteous Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like the rest of us, we are prone to assume a pious stance and convince ourselves we have played no part in the human family’s continuing history of greed, genocide, violence and oppression.”
• Our real challenge is to learn to trust in God’s unconditional love for us.
• To be a disciple of Jesus we have to think outside the box of conventional wisdom.
• God does not judge, we do!

Reichart ends with a beautiful “walk” through the Our Father – a line-by-line reflection that alone is worth the price of this wonderful book.

Sister Jean Peerenboom is the former religion/books editor from the Green Bay Press Gazette. Sister Jean is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross. She writes a monthly book review for the Holy Cross Family Blogspot.

To read all of Sister Jean Peerenboom's book reviews, click here.

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