- Paperback: 175 pages
- Publisher: Orbis Books; 60159th edition (April 9, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 157075408X
- ISBN-13: 978-1570754081
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 49 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path Paperback – April 9, 2002
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His approach to evangelization is fairly unique, a fresh look at the centrality of Christ as person and exploration of history and tradition rather than an exposition of the structure and rules which have helped preserve it. He speaks of how we, as emotional and physical as well as spiritual beings are drawn first by Beauty. Once so engaged,we explore and find how Good the life offered is. And only lastly come to Truth, to the realization of what is right and what is wrong and willingly seek structure and guidance and understanding of the rules. He says "Christianity is a way, and we learn it by walking; it is a river, and we know it by swimming; it is a game, and we come to love it by playing." (p.28-9)
Father Barron's work is a call to Christian maturity. Recognizing the failure of the Church in the last few decades to educate and challenge its members to drink deeply of its wisdom and grow in knowledge and love, embracing a relationship with Christ that is not merely personal and intimate but grounded in community, he attempts to raise the bar by giving the radical Gospel message a uniquely passionate expression,
The presentation is rich in historical, philosophical and literary examples. "The Strangest Path" is delineated as having three distinct parts: finding our center (God seeks us) as illustrated by Waugh; recognizing our sinfulness as portrayed by Dante; and realizing our true mission as illustrated by the beatitudes and in the writings of Flannery O'Connor. This is a wonderful,
thought provoking, and faith inducing work.
Father Barron began this book with commentary about a meeting between Buddhist monks and Carmellite monks. As Father Barron carefully noted, one of the Buddhist monks was perplexed by the number of crucifixes (a suffering Christ on the Cross)for which they insisted an explatnation. Western Catholics may be surprised at such perplexity, but Father Barron was clear that this a good question. The perplexity was due to the fact that a suffering Christ is taken so much for granted in the West that Westerners have lost sight of what the Crucifixion and Ressurection means. Crucifixes are placed on walls, Rosaries, icons, art, etc. Father Barron thought the best depiction of the Passion of Christ was a painting done by Matthias Grueweld (1470-1528)which showed a misshapen Christ on the Cross in agony.
Father Barron wrote that the Crucifix had origins that religious people needed to relearn to find their place in God's "grand scheme of things." In other words religious convictions and the Faith should not be bland childish affairs. A phrase that Father Barron used many times is that men and women should be drawn to the center of the Faith and not distracted by obsticles such as media nonsense, superficial concerns (notice the stupid advertising), etc. The Faith requires "motion" which is important, and this can mean physical travel and spiritual journeys. Examples mentioned in the book included Dante (1265-1321)who found spiritual consolation while travelling in exile. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)lived in Naples, Italy, Germany, Paris, France, etc. His spiritual and theological achievements were accomplised in different areas of Europe. Bascially, Father Barron argued that materialistic superficiality in the US has robbed Catholicicism of its greatness. The the greatness of Catholcism can easily appreciated if Catholics take their Faith seriously and investigate the History of the Catholic Church even "with its warts and all."
As Father Barron wrote, part of the problem re Catholcism is that tradition has not been replaced but abandoned. Too many Catholics want to be inoffensive, bland, and apathetic. They have abondoned serious reading and reflection which was a problem Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890)warned his readers. Some Americans want to follow religious frauds who think they are God and not realize that God via Christ relentlessly follows those who are actually serious about want to become better people.
Father Barron wrote that the Catholic Faith is not only "strange" but subversive. He made an intereting comment about the Nicene Creed (325 AD)that the Creed asserted that God and not any ideology, tyrant, ruler, etc. holds our ultimate loyalty. Men need to intellectually and spiritually alert to comprehend that which is ultimately crucial. As Christ argued, tyrants can kill the body but not the soul. Father Barron argued they can only kill the body, but Ultimate Life and the soul cannot be harmed unless apathetic men permit it.
As noted above, this is a strange book. Father Barron's review of Evelyn Waugh's novel titled BRIDESHEAD portrayed marital infidelity, alcoholism, loss of marital affection, etc., but sordid characters were changed for the better when they were almost forced into caring for other sordid characters. Father Barron's diagnosis of this novel is one that shows deep meaning and religious insight.
Father used good examples of awarness of what is beyond petty materialism egomania. He cited Pope St. Clement (c.100-109) who made jokes while tortured to death. St. Thomas More (1477-1535)joked on the scaffold before his execution. Many martyrs died joyfully because they knew that physical life can be compromised or lived fully. In spite of danger and death, martyrs and saints decided to fully live rather than compromise what they held dear.
Father Barron wrote a good explanation of the Rosary and why it is important for religious focus. Catholic religious rites, the Sacraments, etc. should be taken seriously, and not taken for granted. Those imbued by a secular world try to reduce religion to a show and what Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)described as "cheap grace."
Father Barron used Bonhoeffer's concept to focus on the nature of sin (evil). He used Father De Mello's sarcastic parody of the book titled I'M OK-YOU'RE OK. Father De Mello, S.J. stated that we are all sinners,but we should strive to be better people and recognize what is required rather than fall into the trap of self satisfaction-satisfaction for what?
The Catholic view of the Fall of Man DOES NOT mean men are depraved. It means we can be much better people. As Father Barron noted, the false optimism of the 19th. century was betrayed by the bloodly 20th. century. In other words, "The enemy I see wears the cloak of decency." Father Barron used Dante's DIVINE COMEDY as a guide of evil, sin, and redemption which is possible but difficult. As G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)wrote, "All saints know they are sinners."
The comments about tolerance were incisive to say the least. Father Barron undermined the false concept of tolerance by showing that tolerance leads to blandness, indifference, and apathy. A good question is what is to be tolerated. Truth is much more crucial than phony politeness. As Einstein (1879-1955)once wrote, "It is better to live uncomfortably with the truth than contentedly with lies."
Kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion can be dangerous and cause trouble. Those who know the strangest way know this and are so imbued with Ultimate Reality that danger means little to them. In spite of threats, those who know "the way," will not be deterred from helping the less fortunate and those who are marginalized. Father Barron's book does not require that one accept the Faith, but readers should know that Faith is much more than what is now assumed.
Father Barron mentioned good concepts, saints, scholars, etc. He drew attention to ideals and great men and not to himself in spite of the fact that Father Barron is a very learned man. This is a good book.
James E. Egolf
January 12, 2012
The first exceptional meditation in the book is on the Eucharist and how we are prepared by participation in the liturgical celebration to walk the path that could change the world around, some of in small ways and some of us in great ways. His final meditation is a summary of the paths. It helps to reinforce the three paths.
Fr. Barron draws on Sacred Scripture, the Church Fathers and theologians down to our present day. In addition he introduces us to literature that must of influenced him on his paths to his present state of holiness. He brings together arguably the best writers in history who describes these paths eloquently without being overly technical. I would recommend this book to those who question their Christianity especially fallen Catholics. He presents the true path of what being a Christian is all about and I'll give you a hint it's not about you!