AS FAITH MATURES — Beyond the Sunday God by Mary Beth Werdel, PhD (Ligouri: Ligouri Missouri,
2012, supplied by Pleroma Christian Supplies); $25.50.
century poet and playwright T.S. Eliot was famous for reminding us that “we
had the experience, but missed the meaning”. Or, as one of my high school religion teachers once put it: We all get knocked off our horse at one time or another.
How is it that what some will ponder and allow to grow into a deeper relationship with God,
others simply dismiss?
Why do some allow the small epiphanies of life to foster their search for God while others remain with infantile notions of God throughout their lives?
An assistant professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Fordham, Mary Beth Werdel’s own
search for a deeper relationship with God began with a sudden death in the family. On a glacier expedition in Alaska, her 17-year-old brother fell thousands of feet into a
crevasse. They were not able to recover the body.
By far the best part of this book is the further stories from her counselling, friendships
and travel that anchor Werdel’s 14 reflections on times like that of the news of her brother’s
death: the abused teenager, the six-year-old Honduran campesina who asks for a doll, a
young woman who cares for her mother with multiple sclerosis, the victim of a random shooting,
the single parent who lost her only daughter to leukaemia.
At times more poignant, at times less, are the reflections that follow the stories, reflections on faith, illness, gratitude, justice, death, joy, giftedness, limitations,
the stillness and silence of God.
One can start with any chapter in As Faith Matures; it need not be read in sequence. An appendix suggests further reading.
This is recommended especially for retreat settings when such reading can lead to further refl ection, meditation and prayer on those experiences in life that define our relationship with
Dan Stollenwerk is head of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy at St Peter’s College, Auckland.