Beatrice Ganley, S.S.J., Sisters of St. Joseph

January 2, 2022

Fiand believes that the dualism in which many of us were formed, by keeping God apart in the realm of the sacred, “has denied the very Incarnation it was itself proclaiming.” Drawing heavily upon such writers as Meister Eckhart, Dorothy Soelle, Karl Rahner, Sebastian Moore, Martin Heidegger, John Macquarrie, Bernard J. Boelen, as well as her own previously published material, she presents a text that is at times overly dependent upon these sources. At the same time, however, she manages to weave the many citations into a coherent presentation that asks the reader to consider “the human condition where, alone, our relationship with the divine can become real.”

Following Heidegger, she speaks of the innate and existential “attunement” of the human being to God. This uniquely tuned human being “cannot be imprisoned in objective certainty, in abstraction, in dogmatism.” The author maintains that too often we have been enslaved by our “own created absolutes” and that we do not often enough defer to “the particular human story.”

She speaks of “creedal baggage” that gets in the way of our realization that grace is simply “being gazed upon” with a steadfast benevolence that all at once cradles, confronts, heals, challenges, surprises, and secures. Along with this impediment of creed comes out “overeager intellectual distinctions” which have tended to constrict and contract the all-encompassing nature of grace.

What Barbara Fiand propose is radical and possibly life-transforming. She seems to be saying that redemption consists not in intellectual assent to dogma, nor in the performance of attendance at “compulsory” ritual, not even in the expending of self in good works for the sake of others. Rather, it lies in our acknowledgment of and our surrender to the love that surpasses all understanding. “Self-acceptance,” she writes, “is redemption. . . .”

Throughout my reading, I yearned for some amplification of what she was saying. I hoped for some down-shifting from the theoretical to the realm of example or story. But she, perhaps wisely, refrains from doing this. With Rahner she invites each one “to the ‘endurance of ourselves’ as a necessary prerequisite for the depth experience of God.” Fiand offers the reader the chance to accept responsibility for one’s own quest, exploring what it means to be the recipient of “total gift . . . , the end toward which we are striving . . . already at the center of our being where it defines us even as it draws us beyond ourselves towards the authenticity that we truly are.”

Lacking concrete example of how some of these concepts might play out in one’s life, the reader is impelled to go to someone, point to parts of the text, saying, “What do you think about this? Could she possibly mean. . . .?” It could be a community-building book where we could discuss together the final item in the questions which the author has provided to go with each chapter:

“What are the implications of such a view for your own spirituality and maturation?”

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