By Cathleen Falsani
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
All of us who wait in line for groceries know that we can read all the latest news about celebrities’ right there in about five minutes. We are curious and puzzled by much of the news. The same would be true of Cathleen Falsani’s book that has ‘glimpses of grace’ in the biographies of many noted people. These stories give us an opportunity to think about celebrities in a different light with God as an important variable in understanding who they are. I am going to summarize 5 of the stories and hope you will find the book and read the rest of them. Starting with Bono, the rock star! He says that he has tried to avoid being “an idealized poster child for Jesus”. However the reason that people are drown to him and U2 is grace. Falsani explains grace in this way: “Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.” The author goes on to further explain that according to Bono, grace is something that your Mother has, Bono sees grace more in women than in men. He considers it the oxygen of religious life on earth, without grace religion would suffocate you as it creates an impossible standard. The constant factor of getting to know the grace of our lives is our biggest challenge.
There is a short essay in the book entitled “House on Mango Street” called Esperanza. It seems that Sandra Cisneros embodies all aspects of hope as the essay states. She is Roman Catholic but doesn’t attend Church. The Church of her childhood had many sacramentals that were available in her life. According to Falsani, Cisneros, thinks that we need to do a better job in explaining to children the signs and symbols, for example they see a white bird and we tell them that is the Holy Spirit without more conversation. If it were explained it as a flower that smiles at you, she would have understood. Throughout her life, she sees the sacredness and beauty of each day in all that surrounds her. Cisneros has little wonderment about the structure of the Church and why it appeals to so many. She prefers the mystical experiences that God provides in our everyday lives. One of the procedures she follows is to meditate before she writes.
John Mahoney was an actor and Catholic, he went to Mass in different places throughout Chicago. He was on Frazier for eleven years and played the beneficent Father who cared about everyone in the family and put up with their squabbles. He was also a screen actor and found his place in many plays from Steppenwolf. He was known in his Oak Park community of being kind and thoughtful to others. Fansani relates that Mahoney was in the grocery store and chose 2 beautiful tomatoes for supper, he asked the checkout person to be careful of them and put them on the top of the package. She basically mangled the tomatoes. His response was to thank her for checking him out and held the door for the next person. What a great model for kindness.
Another wonderful essay is the one about Seamus Heaney, a poet. We often neglect poets and yet we read the psalms and the Song of songs. The author relates that she and her husband fell in love by reading “Oysters”, “the Other”, “A Drink of Water” and other of Heaney’s poems. He received the Nobel Prize for literature. His poems truly uplift the soul of all who read. It feels as if one is reading a delicious piece of Godiva chocolate. As far as the interview went, he declined but gave Falsani a beautiful poem to remember the beauty of his poetry. It Is called “A Found Poem”. You need to get Falsani’s book and read it. (p.167)
Laura Esquivel is the last author I mention before you begin reading the book! She lives in Mexico City and has a deep and abiding love for Christ. Her attachment to organized religion is somewhat non-existence. Her spirituality is decidedly eclectic but considers herself Christian. Her book, “Like Water for Chocolate” uses every word to radiate love. This is a book I read and know it has the capacity to change one’s thinking as a transforming energy. There is so much love for God and His people in her work.
This book is fun to read and in keeping with the new reading habits of most as each chapter or interview is only 3 to 4 pages.