New faith-based books: 11-28/29-09
A fire's life lessons: 12-1-09

Contemplating the journey: 11-30-09

Twelve or 15 years ago, I met J.T. Knoll of Pittsburg, Kan., who, when he's not being a counselor, writes wonderful stories disguised as columns in the Morning Sun there.


We both were attending one of the annual conferences of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and we began to read each other's work.

Well, J.T. has a new book of these stories out. It's called Where the Pavement Ends: Retreats at Assumption Abbey and Other Contemplative Journeys. And it's a lovely book. My one-sentence review is found on the back cover: "J.T. does not walk sightless among the daily miracles."

J.T. approaches life from a Catholic sensibility. He is marinated in the faith, and his columns are infused with the language of faith in much the same way that Annie Dillard's language is. It's not overt stuff. Rather, this language flows out of the heart of who he is and who she is.

So today I'll share with you just a few sentences from a few of the columns in J.T.'s new book:

* As I drove I felt a surge of heartache thinking how, generation after generation, we keep going to the cemeteries until the day we step off the lip into the bottomless mystery of the grave and what precious little time is given here to savor a song, a laugh, a dance, a breeze or a morning parade.

* Anyway, it seems to me that the main function of a religion should be to provide a community of people who can support one another on their spiritual journey. A diverse community, some of whom can "keep the faith" when others in the community are struggling with theirs, and have the good sense to laugh when they take themselves too seriously.

* ASSUMPTION ABBEY -- At breakfast yesterday morning I visited with Brother Mike, a novice around my age. When I discovered he'd been a Marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam. I gave him a hug and said, "Welcome home." He went silent and moist-eyed, then said, "You're just the second person who's ever done that."

As I like to say, support your local columnist.

* * *


In advance of tomorrow's World AIDS Day, Pope Benedict XVI has called for both prayer and action (which many would argue includes prayer) to relieve suffering. Good call. Now, can he also get more realistic about the role -- partial and fallible, yes -- that condoms can play in slowing the spread of AIDS?

* * *

P.S.: For your holiday giving, don't be shy about buying my new book, They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, co-written with Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn. To read about it and find several ways of ordering it, click here. And remember, all the royalties go to Holocaust-related charities, so feel good about buying lots of copies.


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