Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Fr. Groeschel's Travelers Along the Way

First, a disclaimer:  I love Fr. Benedict Groeschel ... I love listening to him on EWTN, have read others of his books and just really admire this long-time evangelist/crusader for ecumenism/example of God's great love for us all.  I mean, look at the cover of his latest book, Travelers Along the Way, doesn't he just look NICE?

So, I was set to like this book ... and after spending the weekend reading it, I can assure you, that this book exceeded my expectations.  Fr. Benedict Groeschel, a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and EWTN host, takes us on a journey through his life; a journey where the reader gets glimpses of some of the many men and women who have shaped and affected Fr. Groeschel's life.

He has vignettes about Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Mother Angelica, Terence Cardinal Cooke and Blessed Solanus Casey ... and these are remarkable (and very personal) stories he tells; glimpses of the sanctity inherent in each of these well-known and well-loved characters.  But he also has a story about the Jewish cleaner who gave him such sage advice 50+ years ago when Fr. Benedict was heading to seminary:  "be a good boy".  This simple phrase ... and the deeper meaning behind the philospher-dry cleaner's words ... has stuck with Fr. Benedict ever since. 

Or the story he tells about Ruby, the woman who came every year to get the holiday food basket for her neighbors who couldn't come themselves and her simple faith and love and sheer happiness she exhibited every time Fr. Benedict saw her.  When Fr. Benedict asked Ruby what made her so happy all the time, she explained that her mother told her when she was little: at noon everyday thank God for your blessings.  Ruby, in taking time to thank God daily, brought a special love to everything she did.  Fr. Groeschel paints this lovely woman and her simple faith for the reader in words filled with love and tenderness.

He has stories about young folks he's met on the streets of New York ... and stories about the religious he's met on retreat ... stories about people who have worked for him for years .... and stories about people he knew just briefly.  Some of the stories have happy endings and some have sad endings; but EVERY story is about people who each have a message and meaning for Fr. Groeschel and he shares that message, that meaning, with his readers.

The subtitle of this book, "the men and women who shaped my life", doesn't go quite far enough.  Through these stories, the reader not only understands more about Groeschel's life, the reader also begins to see how our own lives are shaped by our encounters. The reader begins to see a path to sanctity in all walks of life ... to see that each person that comes our way is a gift from God, a chance to grow in holiness.  As I read these stories, I began to think about some of the travelers with whom I've journeyed: the teachers from grammar school ... the co-workers ... the other moms ... the people who have hated me (and thus made me re-think what I was doing, either confirming or negating my actions) ... the kids in college.

What a great and wonderful gift God gives us in and through others we meet.  Fr. Benedict Groeschel's book will get you thinking about these fellow travelers and ones you've met.  Trust me, you'll enjoy the journey through his life and begin to see the blessings in your own.

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 Travelers Along the Way . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

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