Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch
New books detail Catholic life, from prayer to priesthood and family dynamics

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 19, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Reviews

Eileen Garvin, of the Pat and Larry Garvin family of Sacred Heart Parish, Spokane, has written a bittersweet memoir of growing up, titled How to Be a Sister: A Love Story with a Twist of Autism. The book is published by The Experiment Publishing of New York for a list price of $15.

Eileen, now in her 30s, tells of her life in the past in relationship to Margaret, her autistic sister. Eileen goes back and forth between past stories to recent attempts to meet and engage Margaret since she has moved back to the Northwest and lives in Hood River, Ore.

In beautiful written prose that sometimes has overtones of a stand-up comedian, Eileen tells numerous stories of her life with four other siblings. The special emphasis is on her older sister by three years who the family eventually finds out is autistic. Through these heartwarming and sometimes heart breaking stories we learn ofwhat it is like to grow up in such circumstances.

Eileen is brutally frank about herself and her family. We almost experience what it would be like to a member of the family. Margaret can sometimes be loving and other times totally exasperating. There are sometimes long periods of screaming for which family members often do not know the solution. There are scenes that others may not understand at church, restaurant or park.

The description of Eileen’s wedding to Brendan with the wandering dog bearing the rings and the unity candle that won’t light, and when it gets lit gets blown out, is priceless.

The story of Margaret and her mother visiting Eileen in Seattle years before on her birthday is filled with emotion and hurt.

And then we have the hiking trip near Lake Coeur d’Alene in recent years that is Eileen’s serious attempt to have a break-through with her sister.

How to Be a Sister is the heartrending story of growth between two sisters. Near the end of the book Eileen writes: “Last fall during your visit, we climbed a steep flight of stairs from downtown to my neighborhood (Hood River) and were both winded when we reached the top. As the ground flattened out you reached over, twined your slender fingers in mine, and asked me if we were going to have dinner, I assured you that we were. You looked worried, your eyes searching mine. I know you just wanted to know what came next. So do I.”

How to Be a Sister is a memorable and moving memoir.


A book on four mystics who were very active in their lives, written by R. A. Herrera (1930-2009), former professor emeritus of philosophy at Seton Hall University, has been recently been published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing of Grand Rapids, Mich. The book is titled: Mystics In Spite Of Themselves: Four Saints and the World They Didn’t Leave. The list price is $12.99.

One fact that surprised me in the Introduction is that the number of Christians in the early second century was probably less than 50,000 in a society of approximately 60 million. Reading the New Testament I always assumed the figure would be much larger.

The author points out the influence of Platonism in the early Church, particularly on St. Augustine. Augustine was consecrated bishop in 395. In his active life he deals with the Donatists, the Manicheans, and Pelagianism.

Pope Gregory the Great (560-604) lives in a turbulent era that is at the turning point where the ancient world became the medieval.

Anselm of Canterbury, a monk and an archbishop, lived from 1033-1109 and was caught in constant conflict with kings and princes. He often was in exile.

The final mystic is Ramon Llull, a layman who lived from 1235-1316, kind of a poetic philosopher who was very big on pilgrimages, especially to Santiago de Compostela.

So in a concise book of a 124 pages we have four very active religious figures who also had a mystical side. The accomplishments and time in active work of these four men were truly extraordinary. And they were active in different time periods with different crises. If they could come to God in some kind of mystical way, what is holding us back?

Recently Received

Eric Stoltz and Vince Tomkovicz are two deacons from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. They have written a fascinating new resource book for small groups or RCIA gatherings of young adults. The book, published by Paulist Press of Mahwah, N.J. for a list price of $24.95, is titled Ascend: The Catholic Faith for a New Generation.

The book is written in a breezy, contemporary style with excellent pictures. The footnotes are fun. They sometimes include a joke, a gripe, or very interesting information.

Ascend has the typical religious education issues, from Trinity to Christ to Church. It has an ecumenical focus that helps understand other faiths. There are great full-page sections on canonized saints and more recent people held up for their sanctity. There are questions in the back of the book for each chapter that would facilitate discussion among those participating.

In the back of the book there is a short synopsis of the whole book according to chapters which divides with a color coding system the parts of the Chapter that are “easy,” “accessible,” and “advanced.”

The Glossary is called “A Vocabulary of Faith.” It is helpful and easy to follow. The layout and photographs of the book are impressive.

Deacons Stoltz and Tomkovicz are to be congratulated for developing a book that could be such a help at Newman Centers, parishes, and colleges. This may be the book for young adults that many have been looking for. Check it out.


The Word Among Us Press of Ijamsville, Md., has recently published the book titled A Priest’s Life: The Calling, The Cost, The Joy. It is available from the publisher online for a list price of $9.85.

The book is a compendium of short articles by priests from across the country as well as a few bishop. Among the contributors are Jesuit Fathers John Dear and James Martin, Father Daniel Harrington, and the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

Included is a piece by Msgr. John Steiner, the recently retired past of St. Mary Parish, Spokane Valley, titled “The Joy of Presiding at the Eucharist.” He speaks of the blessing and the curse of multiple Masses. His main emphasis is on the use of introductions or explanations during the Mass as based on the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). There may be a brief introduction to the Mass of the day, to the Liturgy of the Word (before the reading) and to the Eucharistic Prayer (before the Preface). There also may be concluding comments to the entire sacred action before the dismissal.

For those of us who know John there is a beautiful short section on his family and in particular on his Dad. Msgr. Steiner ends with: “We are called to ‘parent’ the Church born from the side of Christ. It is messy business. It is certainly an awesome calling. And although it comes at a precious price, it is filled with much joy.”

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)

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