SPIRITUALITY 101: THE INDISPENSABLE GUIDE TO KEEPING — OR FINDING — YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE ON CAMPUS, by Harriet L. Schwartz, Skylight Paths (Woodstock, Vt., 2004). 254 pp., $16.99
THE GOODNESS WITHIN: REACHING OUT TO TROUBLED TEENS WITH LOVE AND COMPASSION, by Mark Redmond, Paulist Press (New York, 2004). 191 pp., $17.95.
Author Harriet Schwartz rightly calls her new book, “Spirituality 101: The Indispensable Guide to Keeping — or Finding — Your Spiritual Life on Campus,” a conversation. Faith explorers tell their stories in their own words. We hear from young college students who are seeking “the other,” the God who is beyond them, and beyond their religion or faith experience.
The book also offers guidelines on college spiritual questions: what students should know about cultic behavior, dating someone of another faith, dealing with bigotry toward your faith, who to ask for guidance, how to find a faith community, how to have a social life without compromising your beliefs, dining halls and dietary laws, how to have a productive mentoring relationship, how to start a campus group, and much more.
Schwartz’s stories of campus life carry this message: Challenge your faith; seek what others believe; form your own critical faith tradition. Among the stories are: a young Jewish woman who finds new expressions in her college Shabbat community, a Hindu student who learns about her own tradition as a student at a Catholic college, a Lutheran at a Catholic university who finds that until we struggle in faith, faith cannot be owned.
Too often we worry about college students falling away from their faith. We see the folly of this insecurity when we read Schwartz’s stories of these spiritual searchers.
“The Goodness Within” by Mark Redmond is a primer on reaching out to troubled teens, lessons learned from a long career working with this difficult group. Redmond’s horror stories of out-of-control teens in group homes and shelters smack the reader upside the head with the challenges those who work with them must face. His message is simple: love, understanding and respect for troubled teens will go further than disdain.
Redmond’s book is frightening, funny and moving. There are stories of drug addiction and death, including the murder of a colleague. When he writes of the staff taking the teens on a bike race and ski trip it is not just a story of “rah-rah, we done good” but an account of adults providing joy for those in pain and sorrow most of the time.
“The Goodness Within” simply tells the truth: This is tough work and it doesn’t always have a happy ending. With a no-nonsense style that describes rather than preaches, Redmond writes gripping tales that focus on what’s important. Money and rank mean little; but helping a boy who lost his mother and is struggling to learn to read — that’s the Gospel talking.
Hayes is the operations and marketing director of BustedHalo.com, the Paulist Fathers’ young adult Internet outreach.