“Who Am I, Lord? Finding Your Identity in Christ” by Joe Heschmeyer. Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Indiana, 2020). 227 pp., $16.95.
“The Tao of Ordinariness: Humility and Simplicity in a Narcissistic Age” by Robert J. Wicks. Oxford University Press (New York, 2020). 227 pp., $21.95.
“Faith for the Heart: A ‘Catholic’ Spirituality” by Thomas H. Groome. Paulist Press (Mahwah, New Jersey, 2019). 295 pp., $21.95.
By Kathleen Finley | Catholic News Service
Few questions are as central to our lives as “Who am I?” Most of us encounter and answer this concern as young adults and then find ourselves returning to it at various times in our lives.
These pandemic days may offer us more time to consider this again, especially when much of what we would usually do is restricted or not available. Each of these authors offers helpful and complementary perspectives on this question.
As a contemporary apologist, Joe Heschmeyer approaches the question of who we are by suggesting that we can’t know how to behave unless we know who we are, whether we’re created or an accident, and that if we want to understand our mission and why we were created, we need to know our Creator.
He leads the reader, using classic spiritual writers and arguments, to explore who Jesus is in the first half of the book — his being the perfect image of God and the Son of God, the importance of his name and of his being Lord and God.
And then in the second half Heschmeyer explores how we are made in the image of God, are children of God, given a unique name and invited to be partakers of the divine nature.
He observes: “We worry that God isn’t going to be enough to fill our hearts, and so we supplement” by adding glory, money, fame, sex and alcohol.
“But the truth is, our hearts aren’t too big for God to fill. Our hearts are too small. … The more time you spend in loving contemplation of Jesus Christ, and the more you’re open to his vision of your identity, the more …. you will find the pocket of your heart expanding from the size of a thimble to the size of a tumbler. … (and) God will pour his love in, in ‘good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over’ (Lk 6:38), giving you as much glory as you can take.”
In “The Tao of Ordinariness” therapist and author Robert Wicks uses stories from his experiences with clients as well as from his own life to explore topics of humility, simplicity, letting go, self-awareness, alone time, resilience and mentoring.
He explains, “The psychological paradox … is that once you accept your limits, the opportunity for growth and depth will seem almost limitless. Prior to that, much energy is wasted on seeking to be someone or something we are not as persons in order to attract and please the (often imaginary) crowd around us.”
His gentle approach can be seen in comments like: “In my own life, I have found that when I am simply myself, subtle acceptance of self gets translated into respect for others.”
But he doesn’t necessarily see this as an easy goal.
He observes: “From a personal standpoint, I have often found that three of the blind alleys of mindfulness are arrogance, where we seek to project the blame outward; ignorance, where we condemn ourselves, thinking this is the way to true knowledge; and discouragement, because we don’t feel the progress, control or success we have been taught to seek or it is not forthcoming as quickly or surely as we’d like.” Instead, Wicks suggests that we approach ourselves with a spirit of curiosity and intrigue as we explore our lives.
He also suggests the importance of our mistakes. “Failure provides helpful information with respect to uncovering egoism, the need for new approaches to ourselves and life, the need for further mentoring in certain areas, important understanding of our expectations and insight into what we are especially sensitive about and why this is so.”
Finally, he observes: “To truly fathom our ordinariness is not easy. It takes the courage to understand our total self as a way of embracing the generative legacy of our family and culture on the one hand, and knowing what needs to be left behind, on the other.”
In “Faith for the Heart” Thomas Groome invites readers to reexamine who they are in the Catholic heritage in light of a contemporary focus on spirituality. He defines Christian spirituality as “all the stories and symbols, perspectives and practices, prayers and patterns that, graced by the Holy Spirit, nurture them to live as disciples of Jesus.”
He has fashioned here a helpful pastoral catechism of sorts, with at least as much for the head as for the heart. (He explains that he put “Catholic” in quotes in the title to emphasize the universality of the Catholic vision and also to ground it in the Gospel message and values again.)
His Irish background and storytelling come through in his approach, and Groome offers readers opportunities to reflect along the way, as well as suggestions for spiritual practice at the end of each chapter.
And he ends with an emphasis on personal evangelization by who we are: “Cumulatively over time, from integrating the Christian story/vision with reflection on our own life experiences, we craft our own ‘faith story.’ It reflects God’s word to us as particular persons. Though our faith stories are intensely our own, they have a unique potential to lend spiritual wisdom to others as well. Of course, we must careful not to impose our faith experiences as if normative for everyone else. Yet sharing our own story in faith can echo all the more effectively as a ‘word of God’ in other hearts as well.”
These three authors offer plenty of help for answering anew the question of who I am.
Kathleen Finley is the author of several books on practical spirituality, including “Holy Together: Reflections on Married Spirituality” and “Savoring God: Praying With All Our Senses,” and she formerly taught in the religious studies department at Gonzaga University.