A Radical Love, A Path of Light

Joe Mannath sdb, A Radical Love, A Path of Light: The Beauty and Burden of Religious Life, New Delhi: CRI house, 2013, ISBN not mentioned, Rs. 180, $ 15, pp. 224

Joe Mannath is a widely acclaimed author. His previous books have been very well received and he is acknowledged as a good public speaker, writer, educator and animator besides being a formator of religious and priests. He is a Salesian of Don Bosco and has served for many years on the staff of various formation houses and seminaries. Currently he is the National Secretary of the Conference of Religious India (CRI).

The inside of the front and the back covers give us ideas of his previous books and the praise they received. Also a brief life note is printed for the reader’s knowledge. I have met him in person and wasn’t quite taken up with the speech he delivered to us while on a visit to our seminary. I have glanced through some of his previous works and all I wish to say is that his style doesn’t appeal to me in the least. He has a very creative way of putting things across but somehow I don’t find his writings as touching as most people do or at least claim to do.

The book under review however, is a very simple and exceptionally well-written book. It is basically a collection of reflections on religious life. It is divided into three parts. The first part is entitled “The Path” and has 20 chapters. Each of these explore a facet of religious life. The chapters are written in the writers’ typical style of writing articles. There is the matter followed by a few personal questions. These help reflect on the matter and examine oneself vis-à-vis the author’s insights. The reflections are based on life experiences and therefore are relatable as well as thought provoking.

The second part deals with the challenges of religious life under the heading “Roadblocks”. These 10 reflections are sharp and right on target. Questions for reflection do not follow each reflection but the substance of each chapter holds enough material for one to reflect on and self-examine. The third part highlights some of the “Helps” that are available to aid a happy and faithful living of religious life. This section is similar to the previous in as much as it doesn’t have questions to reflect on. The insights put forth by the author in these two sections are excellent. There is no beating around the bush. Facts are presented openly with apt examples to back them up. The author ought to be commended for this wonderful book on religious life and for his honest reflections. One can notice his passion and love for the religious vocation and the desire to purify the concept and practice of religious life. His reflections are grounded in day-to-day realities and aren’t simply idealistic utterances.

I sincerely hope that every religious pick up this book and read it for her/his own benefit. A critical and reflective reading will yield the best results. In seminaries and houses of formation, the staff and students would stand to benefit if they read and discussed the various issues with regard to religious life. The author is critical of the present and optimistic about the future and that, in my opinion is a healthy approach. The religious of tomorrow need to be better equipped to face the challenges that will come their way and such preparation is difficult to undertake if one is going to shelter oneself from the real world and its problems. As I mentioned earlier, the book is a collection of the authors reflections and so there is an occasional over-lapping of ideas. Some ideas are repeated in different chapters although the same words are used and this gives away the idea that the chapters are basically articles that the author may have written at different times or for different purposes. The layout of the book is simple and attractive. The author has provided a feedback form at the end of the book to foster a kind dialogue between him and his readers. I highly recommend this book to all those living the religious life and those looking to be a part of this great adventure of following Jesus Christ in a radical manner.

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