Unlikely Spiritual Heroes

Brennan R. Hill — Book 143 pgs.
Publisher: St. Anthony Messenger Press (2010)
ISBN: 9780867169249


BRENNAN R. HILL, PH.D., is professor emeritus in the theology department at Xavier University in Cincinnati. His most recent books are 8 Freedom Heroes: Changing the World with Faith; 8 Spiritual Heroes: Their Search for God; Jesus the Christ: Contemporary Perspectives (New Edition) and The On-Going Renewal of Catholicism.


"The eight people featured in this book represent a cross section of the church and are sequenced in what the author refers to as a kind of "inverse hierarchy": one laywoman (Jean Donovan), two religious sisters (Helen Prejean and Dorothy Stang), three male religious (Pedro Arrupe, Thomas Merton, and Maximilian Kolbe), one cardinal (Joseph Bernardin) and one pope (John Paul II). This collection is the third of a trilogy by Dr. Brennan Hill, professor emeritus at Xavier University in Cincinnati. The first volume deals with the search for God, the second with humanity's quest for freedom, and the current work is about eight lives that enflesh the Church's 'rich social teachings on peace and justice.' Hill refers to his writing as 'biographical theology…[arising] out of human experience, a theology from below…not only of the mind but of the heart …[moving] individuals to action.'

"According to one dictionary definition, a hero is somebody who 'is admired for outstanding qualities or achievements.' Though few will read this book without feeling deep admiration in its depiction of almost superhuman qualities, undoubtedly many readers also will be inspired to action. Those who do not regard themselves as particularly heroic may take heart from the surprising twists and turns in the lives of these 'unlikely' heroes. Rather than widen a large comfort zone that often is erected between the hero and the rest of humanity, Hill's accounts emphasize that despite weaknesses in character and situation, heroism knows no limits. Some examples: Maximilian Kolbe was first regarded as a 'sickly, eccentric Franciscan,' in her earlier life, Jean Donovan was as 'a Harley-riding businesswoman,' and Thomas Merton was known to be a 'party-going ladies' man' in his youth. The message seems to be: claim your own brand of heroism in service of the Gospel's call to work for a more just world.

"This is a highly accessible and engaging book. Hill knows how to tell a good story, balancing life events with the depth and colour of well-selected details. While not shy about revealing his own theological orientation, Hill lets his heroes' lives do the talking."—Edwin Buettner, S.F.O.

Unlikely Spiritual Heroes

$ 14.95

In his third Heroes volume, Brennan Hill profiles eight improbable candidates for the great things they did: - Thomas Merton, at first glance, a party-going lady's man, becomes a Trappist monk and peace activist; - Helen Prejean, a quiet religious sister, befriends and advocates for the seemingly most monstrous among us—murderers on death row; - Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, a bookish, shy son of Italian immigrants, becomes one of the most outspoken prelates of our time; - Pedro Arrupe, a medical student then priest, survives nuclear holocaust and becomes a great Jesuit leader; - Jean Donovan, a Harley-riding businesswoman, turns missionary and is martyred; - Dorothy Stang, a religious sister and schoolteacher, champions the environment and loses her life doing so; - Maximilian Kolbe, a sickly, eccentric Franciscan, turns publisher and "warrior" for peace and dies in Auschwitz trading his life for a Jewish prisoner; - Karol Wojtyla, a young Polish actor whose election to pope makes him one of the most famous men on the world stage. These unlikely heroes saw great injustice, sorrow, and violence in the world and, in their own ways—some small, some universal—sought and created love, justice, peace, and hope for our time.

Stock #: B16924