Book Review: The Way to Eternal Life

Editor’s Note: This month, several of our columnists have been reading The Way to Eternal Life. Today, Larry Peterson shares his review.  Thank you to Abbey Press for making this book available to our blogging team.

THE WAY TO ETERNAL LIFE: Contemporary Reflections on the Traditional Stations of the Cross

Written by:  Brother Francis de Sales Wagner, O.S.B.

Illustrations by:  Father David Walpole, O.S.B.   May 1, 1917—-January 27, 2012

Published by Abbey Press;  St. Meinrad, IN 47577       82 Pages

Let me say right off the bat—I loved this book by Brother Francis. I think it is the most beautiful journey along the path of the Stations that I have ever taken.  Having said that, now I shall tell you why.

You may think that using the word “beautiful” to describe The Way of The Cross is the wrong word to use but, for me, that word encapsulates this presentation of this devotion. We begin each station with a painting by Father Donald Walpole (Fr. Donald passed away in Jan, 2012, and his credits are listed in the book). First, we pause, looking at the picture which draws us into where we are going.  Then Brother Francis leads us along in meditation.  We walk along watching as Jesus is condemned to death all the way to when His defiled, dead body is laid in the tomb. As horrific as our Lord’s passion and death was, Brother Francis has managed to draw us into the full meaning of what happened and we are led to a deeper understanding of how we all are responsible for the journey Jesus had to make. The journey makes us stronger, wiser, and humbles us so we not only accept but also feel the love poured out by our Savior for us. BEAUTIFUL!

In the introduction, Brother Francis uses the analogy of a baseball player being asked to bunt (known as a sacrifice because the batter gives up his chance to hit).  The purpose of the bunt is to move the base-runner along and hopefully get him home. We are challenged to remember that all of us are base-runners and our job is to be smart on the bases and make it home. When we make it home and score it validates the value of the sacrifice. We, as Catholic Christians, are all part of Jesus’ team. The only way you can be cut from this team is if you decide to turn your back and cut yourself. But, here is another BEAUTIFUL part. You can always come back. How cool is that?

My personal experience with The Stations of the Cross is through attendance in church during Lent where the congregation uses either the traditional “Way of the Cross” from pre-Vatican II complete with the Stabat Mater, or a more modern version titled, “Everyone’s Way of the Cross”, which uses a more secular approach to the stations. Both of these familiar devotions take about 30 minutes to complete as the priest or deacon walks from station to station.

Bro. Wagner’s book takes us into an expanded more contemplative journey, and his book is wonderful for personal reflection.  It is meant to be read slowly and pondered upon, drawing the reader into a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Cross. If time permitted, it could be used in a church setting.

This year Lent begins on February 13 and I think Catholics should seriously consider adding this book to their Lenten devotions. You might find some quiet time alone and take just ten or fifteen minutes a day meditating on several of the stations in Brother Francis’ book. Then come back the next day and continue. I guarantee you one of the most profound Lenten experiences you will ever have.

 

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One Response to Book Review: The Way to Eternal Life

  1. Larry,
    Glad I read your review! This will be my read for Lent .
    Last year I did a group study at our parish over Lent based on Beth Leonard’s “7 Sorrows of Mary” and it was a real game changer for me. I look forward to reading The Way to Eternal Life to experience the artwork and the Stations with a thoughtful and descriptive narrative. This is the type of reading that moves me to understanding and appreciating sacrifice.