Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 15, 1999
Two looks at everyday spirituality
Everyday Epiphanies: Seeing the Sacred in Every Thing., by Melanie Svoboda, 172 pages, Twenty Third Publications, 1997.
Traits of a Healthy Spirituality., by Melanie Svoboda, 129 pages, Twenty Third Publications, 1996.
Review by DEAN SARNECKI
Special to the WCR
Have you ever looked through a stack of books and been struck by a cover or a title? Well, that is what happened in this case. I came upon these two books quite by accident.
I had found what I thought was an interesting book, when, I was struck by the title and graphics of Svoboda's book Everyday Epiphanies.
When I settled down to read this book, I quickly realized what a treasure I had found.
Svoboda, a teacher and nun from Cleveland, Ohio, believes most of us encounter God through the ordinary events of our lives and do it regularly. An epiphany, she says, is "an appearance or manifestation of God."
For Svoboda, epiphanies can occur at any time. She provides 175 short examples of "everyday epiphanies"; moments that are open to God, open to the experience of the transcendent.
They ranges from the fairly ordinary ("Quotes on happiness") to the more theological ("Emmanuel") and thought provoking ("The Chaplain at the children's hospital").
One of the briefest is "Things in heaven." It states: "A list of things we probably will not find in heaven: locks . . . scales . . . aspirins . . . erasers . . . parking meters . . . 'for sale' signs . . . insurance policies . . . hearses . . . handkerchiefs . . .".
After reading Everyday Epiphanies, I was on the lookout for others by Svoboda. I discovered Traits of a Healthy Spirituality a few weeks later. It was written a year before Everyday Epiphanies and is an attempt to help us negotiate our way along our personal spiritual journeys.
What does it mean to be spiritual? Svoboda highlights 20 characteristics that encourage a healthy spirituality.
How do we know that we are growing, advancing on our faith journey in a healthy authentic manner? It is essential that on occasion we evaluate or reflect on our journey of faith.
Svoboda gives two reasons for doing this. The first is that historically, in the name of spirituality and religion, people have done some pretty bizarre things. They have whipped themselves, burned people at the stake and refused to bathe for years in order to show their love of God.
Second, Svoboda states, Jesus wants and needs us to be spiritually healthy so that we may evangelize truthfully and effectively his Good News; so that we may live as authentic Christians.
Svoboda defines spirituality as more than the traditional religious aspects of the Christian life such as prayer, penance and fasting. She views spirituality as Christian living in general.
She quotes Michael Downey, "Spirituality is not merely an aspect of Christian life, it is the Christian life lived in response to the Spirit."
Svoboda provides 20 checks or short reflections for evaluating our spirituality
By examining ourselves in the light of Jesus and the Scriptures, Svoboda ruminates on issues such as love, wonder, friendships, leisure, joy and others. Reflection, study questions and prayers are provided.
I found this to be an effective tool for self-evaluation and reflection. Svoboda draws in materials from a number of sources; the most effective are the Bible and Church documents.
Some chapters were more effective than others. I was impressed with her insights on joy, wonder, prayer and leisure, while sections on love, perseverance and interdependence were not as meaningful to me.
Melanie Svoboda has written two very interesting books about our relationship with God. I highly recommend them both.
(Dean Sarnecki teaches religious studies at Archbishop Jordan High School in Sherwood Park.)