Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 13, 2000
Spirituality of place touches the soul
Landscapes of the Soul: A Spirituality of Place, by Robert M. Hamma. Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1999, 154 pages.
Review by DEAN SARNECKI
Special to the WCR
Where do you go to find yourself? Is there a place that comforts you? Are there places in your world that you feel like you can touch the hand of God?
Robert Hamma believes that not only is the "inner life" important in our spirituality but so is our "spirituality of place." He constantly reminds the reader that "each place matters, "each place is alive" with the spirit of God or the "Cosmic Christ."
Tracing the notion of place through our lives, Hamma introduces the reader to stories, both personal and of others as they discover an understanding of the "holy ground" of earth. We are not talking special places in the sense of Mount Everest or the Holy Land per se but the possibility of encountering the living God in all of creation.
Hamma provides a biblical experience of place - the notion that God is everywhere came to the people of the Old Testament early. The God of the Exodus could not be confined to one place and the Psalms glorify this God who is all around us.
Jesus, growing up in Nazareth, would have been influenced by his particular knowledge of place. Jesus' notion of the kingdom of God, to the early Christians, would have been understood in light of his Judaism and encounters with the people in a place and time.
Likewise, our upbringing and experiences have given us a perspective on God and life. Our childhoods are filled with place; where we were born, the family we were born into, the landscapes we investigated, all have meaning to us and shape who we have become, says Hamma.
In an age where technology and time seem to be our guiding lights, a spirituality of place offers an opportunity to examine our relationship to the land and how this relationship allows us to come to meet God. I found the book encouraged me to reflect on my past regularly.
As Hamma recounts stories of his youth or the stories of others, I reflected on where I went in my youth and now go to encounter God. Excellent questions and prayer opportunities follow each chapter. A comforting book that will lead the readers to a place of encounter.
(Dean Sarnecki teaches religious studies at Archbishop Jordan High School in Sherwood Park.)