Friday, September 11, 2009

Review: Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord

Occasionally, when I’m looking for a book to review I try to choose one that is outside my comfort-zone, that discusses a topic for which I’m, at best, vaguely familiar. Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord: Encountering the Sacred in the Great Outdoors is just such a book – I don’t fish (either regular or fly-fishing) and I’ve never been hunting (either with a bow or a rifle). With a bit of skepticsm, I wanted to see how a parish priest could help me “encounter the sacred in the great outdoors”.

Superficially, Father Classen’s book, Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord: Encountering the Sacred in the Great Outdoors, is a real “guy book”. As a matter of fact, I chose to review it because I thought one of my brothers, in-laws or friends might enjoy the book. I thought of my husband and how he loves the outdoors: especially camping and hiking. This book is full of hunting and fishing stories, including the trite “one that got away” stories, with lots of helpful suggestions of how to catch those trophies.

But that’s just superficially.

This is a great book about fully experiencing God’s creation by doing not just watching. This book, in fact, is almost a companion to the one I wrote on creativity: my In His Image: Nurturing Creativity in the Heart of Your Home stresses the need to imitate the creator by nurturing creativity in the heart of the home so that we can fully experience His love and care for us; Fr. Classen’s book stresses the need to exist actively in God’s creation to fully experience His love for us. Both books stress the need to DO as a way to BE, a way to exist, rather than just passively accepting God’s gift of creation.

Fr. Classen, Associate Pastor of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque parish in the St. Louis (Missouri) Diocese, has written not just a classic book on fishing and hunting. His book also helps to place the enthusiast in the spiritual realm by explaining the difference between the childish obsessive pursuit of the “trophy trout” and the child-like pursuit of nature and God’s creation. He shows throughout the book the importance of the child-like wonder and peace garnered by being in nature. He also pokes fun at his own obsessive pursuit that ruined his experiences; it wasn’t until he became child-like in his hunting pursuits that he was truly successful, both spiritually and literally.

There are many times throughout the book that Fr. Classen hits it dead-on. He shows that the need for our society to try to re-invent peace and calm through our own acts never works. The fishing father rather shows the better way: peace and calm for mind, body and soul by reveling in God’s creation, even on a pre-dawn hike to a deer stand in Missouri autumn or hip-deep in the rushing waters with the fly to beat all flies.

Although this book is, as I mentioned earlier, a “real guy’s book”, much can be gotten from this book if the reader is married to (or mother of) an outdoor enthusiast. Father does a great job of putting the hunting, the pursuit of the prey, the search for the ultimate lure or fly in their proper perspective – all is worthless without trust in God, without love of His creation, without discernment of God’s will. The writing is not just informative; it’s also written with a gift for the English language, a turn of phrase that says much more than the words.

I would definitely recommend this book for those guys out there who are either outdoor enthusiasts and/or those guys who are searching for the spiritual in their lives. It is a great read – and has many great hunting tips as well as tips on improving the reader’s prayer life and getting us all on the road to sanctity. I would also recommend it for the moms, spouses or sisters of nature enthusiasts, especially those who don’t really understand the desire of our men to go out and spend hours in a stand, waiting for the elusive buck.

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord: Encountering the Sacred in the Great Outdoors and to purchase your own copy of this soon-to-be outdoor enthusiasts' classic.

Classen, Rev. Joseph F. – Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord: Encountering the Sacred in the Great Outdoors – Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, IN) 2006. Paperback (220 pages). ISBN: 978-1-59276-217-0.

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