Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
This is another meaningful and purposeful book by Father Martin, the Jesuit priest and New York Times bestselling author who issued an impassioned plea for Catholic leaders to relate to their LGBT flock in a new way, one characterized by compassion and openness. In this inspiring book, Father Martin turns to three virtues from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The virtues are respect, compassion and sensitivity as a model for how both the Catholic leadership and LGBT Catholics can move together on a “two way bridge” toward reconciliation and love. According to the book jacket, this groundbreaking new book also includes spiritual and biblical resources for LGBT people and their families, friends and allies. Father Martin offers biblical passages, accompanied by meditations and questions for reflection, to help LGBT people find their place in the Church and enter into a deeper relationship with God. This book is a compassionate book desperately needed in today’s climate of divisiveness.
According to Bishop McElroy of San Diego: “The Gospel demands that LGBT Catholics must be genuinely loved and treasured in the life of the Church. They are not. In Building a Bridge, James Martin provides us with the language, perspective, and sense of urgency to undertake the arduous but monumentally Christ like task of replacing a culture of alienation with a culture of encounter and merciful inclusion.
Cardinal Blase Cupich as leader of the Chicago Archdiocese, is also in support of Father Martin’s work as he invited him to give a two day presentation on the book at Holy Name Cathedral. This was before the pandemic so the pews were full. There was a sense of peace and goodness as he spoke and people were extremely interested in what he was saying. In the chapter entitled: “God is Your Strength” Martin gives us some reflection questions (as he does for all the chapters) the questions include: “What image appeals most to you in this psalm: God as salvation, rock, fortress or refuge? Why?” and “As you look back over your life, in what ways has God been your “Strength”?” and “What does it mean to “pour out” your heart to God? Can you do that now in prayer, confident that God hears you?” There is a question posed in each of the chapters for families, friends and allies: “the process of accepting the sexuality of a family member or friend can be challenging. In what ways has God been your rock? How can God be a rock for you in the future?” One feels a sense of symbiosis with this text and his new book, “Learning to Pray”.
Personally, I have read many of the books of Father Martin and one of the variables that continues to appear is his great love and respect for ‘the other’. He constantly and consistently reaches out to the people he is writing or speaking for in order to see if they are connecting with him and he is bringing them to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that the Scripture values are well expressed. He is a Jesuit that takes seriously his call by his community, his Church and St. Ignatius. It is a good book to have and to pass on to others who might still be struggling.