Sister Joan Chittister’s latest book is a prophetic wake-up call for our time

Reviewed by Sister Mary Core, OSB

Sister Joan Chittister has done it again. She has written more than 60 books, is a public speaker of renown, and has once again authored a book which merits reading and serious reflection.

Sister Joan says it like it is. She speaks in a prophet’s voice, for the marginalized, for women, for the wounded and forgotten, for the environment. She sees with the eyes and heart of Christ and calls us to do the same.

Her words are compelling because they come from the heart of her own spirituality, which is rooted in the Prophets of the Old and New Testaments and in The Rule of St. Benedict, the founder of her religious community.

“The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage” is a relatively short book that packs a real punch for those of us who call ourselves Christian. It is a call to go beyond claiming the title “Christian,” or “Catholic,” and to have the courage to live the challenge of being Christ-like and prophetic in our every action. It is a call to live courageously in a time of greed, disrespect, and disregard for our responsibility to care for all peoples and all creation.

FROM “UNINVOLVED” TO “PROPHET”

The chapters of this book look at the many aspects of modern-day prophecy, using examples drawn from Old and New Testament prophets, contemporary heroes and saints, and stories of suffering. The message —in big, bold, flashing, neon lights — is to encourage us to step up and be prophets ourselves, for a world desperately in need.

As I read the book, I became more challenged by and concerned with Sister Joan’s invitation to be a voice for justice, peace, compassion and care in our world.

Sister Joan doesn’t just feed us pablum. She feeds us real, tough, and sinewy meat that insists we become –– and call others to become –– Christians in our homes, in our communities, at work, at play, everywhere, every day.

As I moved through the book, my uneasiness grew. I felt increasingly aware of my very comfortable monastic life and minimal personal involvement standing with the needy, neglected, and mistreated. I experienced feelings of challenge, invitation, and some good old “Catholic Guilt.”

I also became increasingly aware of the many ordinary people throughout history who moved from “uninvolved” to “prophet” because they allowed passion and compassion to reside in their hearts. These people — Dorothy Day, Helen Prejean, Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai, etc. — impacted and changed the world because a small seed of unrest grew in them and they acknowledged it and spoke up.

AT THE FEET OF A MASTER

One of the beauties of the book is that in each challenging chapter, there is a reassurance that we can do this. Each chapter concludes with a guidebook of sorts that weaves the tools we will need together: the grace of balance, humility, respect, courage, and sensitivity. We learn, “Here are the tools, here is the roadmap for being a prophet. Now go out and become one.”

By book’s end I felt I had been at the feet of a great master and had listened to a truly great pep-talk, political rally, battle cry, motivational speech all rolled into one. I found myself thinking, “I need to do something.” I decided to volunteer at this year’s Thanksgiving Day Dinner held at the SouthPark Mall in Moline. Not a big deal, but a small start at greater involvement for me.

One last comment on the book, not on its content, but on its editing. Maybe because she is so prolific a writer, the editor, thinking, “Oh, not much editing needed here,” waved it on to the printer. However, it seemed to me that some sentences did not hold the clarity and crispness that Sister Joan usually commands. When that happened, it broke the flow and power of her usual writing style. A re-read often happened at that point, to be sure I caught her message and wisdom.

A WAKE-UP CALL

All in all — this book is indeed a prophetic call for our time and should be read and reflected upon by all who call themselves Christian.

In true Chittister fashion, Sister Joan’s closing words look us square in the face and call us to be the Christians, the prophets our world desperately needs.“Dear Prophet,” she says, “for the sake of the children, for the sake of the world, for the sake of the gospel, Cry out.”

From my challenged, frightened, and very comfortable office chair, I invite others to read this wake-up call for modern day Christian living, and begin to “cry out.”

This book was published by Convergent Books, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC, in March of 2019.

Sister Mary Core, OSB

SISTER MARY CORE, OSB, is liturgy director of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. She also leads a women’s book club for St. Maria Goretti Parish, Coal Valley, and Mary, Our Lady of Peace Parish in Orion.

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