Book Review: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

It is rare that I will start recommending a book to people when I’m only a third of the way through the book. It’s unheard of that I’d start the book review post when I was barely halfway through the book. But I can act out of character at times; it simply takes an unusual book to make me do that.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy was that unusual book. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. The book, written by Eric Metaxas, looks at the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer while also looking at the history of Germany during Bonhoeffer’s lifetime. While Metaxas’s prose becomes a little much at times and while his evangelical and politically conservative views do occasionally sway his presentation of Bonhoeffer, overall, the book is excellent.

I was previously familiar with Bonhoeffer as the author of the book, The Cost of Discipleship, which I have not yet read but intend to read soon. I didn’t know much about his life, and I must begrudgingly confess that I occasionally confused him with his contemporary, Martin Niemoller. That’s not a mistake that I’ll be making again. Reading this book was like going on a retreat with Pastor Bonhoeffer and getting to know him and being inspired by him. It was an opportunity to read his thoughts on so many topics-relationship with Christ, marriage, and relationship with others to name but a few. 

To further explain my thoughts and reactions to the book, I need to tell a quick personal story. In January of 2016, I chaperoned a field trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Southfield, Michigan. At the beginning of our trip through the museum, our guide had us face a wall that on one side listed each of the death camps and the number of Jews who had perished in each camp and on the other listed each of the countries where the Jewish victims of the Holocaust had come from and the number of Jews who had perished from each country. She said to us, “Now you are witnesses to their deaths.”

That’s how this book made me feel. It made me feel that by hearing the story of Bonhoeffer’s life I had become a witness to his life. I knew from the outset how it ended. I knew that he met the end of his earthly life in Flossenburg in April 1945. (“This is the end—for me the beginning of life.”) Reading the book and learning his life story while reading his letters and excerpts from his speeches and writings made me a witness to his life.

As I said previously, reading the book was like taking a retreat with Pastor Bonhoeffer. Reading his thoughts inspired and encouraged me. I found myself praying as I read the book because I was inspired by his faith. His faith while suffering showed an immense love for God, and his determination to preserve the True Faith in Germany encouraged me. He helped me to believe that God will continue to raise up saints within His Church as long as there is struggle in the world. As someone who wants to support the building of community with both my church and the Church, I was encouraged by Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on Christian community and the importance of Christian relationships.

So what didn’t I like?

I was not a big fan of Metaxas’s prose. Yes, Hitler and his henchmen (Goebbels, Goring, and Himmler) were evil. Yes, they did terrible things. But Metaxas’s continued descriptions of them as devils or ghouls or demonic was frustrating for me. If someone is evil, show me that they are evil. Tell me of their demonic or ghoulish deeds. (And there are many examples out there for the choosing.) Don’t simple use adjectives to describe people. Prove it to me.

I enjoyed the book as an opportunity to get to know Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I enjoyed learning about who he was and the life that he led. I enjoyed how Metaxas explored the historical context of Bonhoeffer’s life and how that impacted both the pastor’s life and the country he loved. In giving that context, the author also gave important details about how the Nazis managed to convince ordinary Germans to accept their anti-semitic agenda, which was useful for me. Above all, the book is valuable in making its reader into witnesses to the life of Bonhoeffer and his compatriots.

Having been made a witness of his life, I would like to get to know Bonhoeffer further by reading him in his own voice. Reading his writing unfiltered by another person would be even better than the book itself. In retrospect, I have come to realize that what inspired me so much in this book was not the book itself but the life of the man whose story it told. I didn’t really want everyone I knew to go out and read this book so much as I wanted them to get to know Dietrich Bonhoeffer and to appreciate him in the way that I know do.

FO: Recoleta

As I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy knitting projects that challenge me and force me to grow as a knitter. My most recent finished object is one such project. For a while, I’d been lusting over Joji Locatelli’s Recoleta pattern.

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Then I came across the Cold as Ice colorway from the Plucky Knitter, and I knew that I needed to own a sweater in that color. As a few of my friends commented, it is a very Cecilia color. So last winter, I bought a sweater quantity of Cold as Ice and began pondering what to use it for.

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The more that I thought about it and talked with various friends about it, the more that I knew that this yarn was destined to be Recoleta. I cast on in October and finished it a few days before Christmas. The sweater is beautiful. The yarn is smooshy and glorious. The color and the lace blend majestically. I adore this sweater. img_0252

So why was this pattern a challenge? The lace. The back is one chart, the front is another. And you work the front chart from right to left on one side and from left to right on the other. That was a challenge for me. I never managed to memorize the whole thing, which meant that I could never work on the project without the charts-and those were on my computer. Regardless, I love it, and I’m looking forward to wearing it often this winter. img_0253

Raveled here.

If you’re wondering, this is the necklace I’m wearing in the pictures. I love it, I just gifted one to a friend, and I’d recommend the shop to anyone.

God descends in mortal flesh!

On Wednesday evening, I was thinking about the idea of being halfway out of the dark and how the days begin to lengthen as the night lessens, how we must decrease like the darkness and Christ must increase like the light. (John 3:30) As I thought, I found myself singing a song to myself. “What no man could hope for now conceived/ earth is raised to heaven on this eve.” This song by the brilliant Ed Conlin (who I am blessed to know at least a bit) was inspired by St. John Chrysostom’s most famous Christmas homily.

Now as an Eastern Christian, I am contractually obligated to love the Golden-Tongued Saint. I aspire to name a son after him and St. Cyril-the one of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. (The other are lovely, but the Non-Mercenary brothers evangelized my people, the Slavs.) But this particular homily is really special to me. It speaks to my heart a unique way. This homily defines Christmas joy and hope for my heart and mind. St. John Chrysostom speaks to me in a way that allows me to taste the beauty of the Incarnation.

All exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

The Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven…that is a divine and marvelous mystery indeed. A God who departs the heavens who live with his little “mud people” and raises them up to his heavens-that is a mystery. As the Eastern fathers say, God became man so that man might become God. (Apparently, I picked up a little bit from all of those Fr. Hopko talks my dad made me listen to as a kid.) This is something that I love to think about and struggle with. God became man. He descended so that we might ascend. Why? Because he loves us, he loves us at a total risk to himself. He loves people who desert him and ignore him and reject him and deny him and betray him…and he loves us. Regardless of anything we do, he loves us.

This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His.

He is born. He comes into the world. He is born in poverty. He is born in a manger. He who set the stars in motion condescends to be born so that he might raise us up with him and make us to sit in heavenly places. My mind boggles with this. I can accept the basic facts of the Incarnation. God becomes a human infant in the womb of the Theotokos. He is born in Bethlehem. He grows up to adulthood and so forth. I can accept the facts. But to actually think it all through-God becomes a human being while remaining God from before all ages. His incarnation does not change him; it changes us.

And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields.

Let me say that again. The incarnation does not change God; it changes us. God cannot change or be changed; we humans can and must change.  I don’t have to understand how this happens. God willed it. Nature yielded to God as all things must. That is enough for me. It is enough for all of us. God became man, and in doing so, he changed our humanity. He raised us up when we were powerless, when we were sinners. He entered into our humanity. He felt our pain, our struggle, our hunger, our need-and he loved us in that. He redeemed us in that.

He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.

He came to bring us back to himself. He would not be satisfied until he had won for us an eternal inheritance, that of salvation. He wanted us to see him, to know him. And so he put on mortal flesh. He became a human being out of love for us. He wanted to raise us up and make us to sit in heavenly places with us. (Ephesians 2:6) The Nativity is a central piece of that act, of that plan. God became man.

Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive.

God is now on earth. Let us rejoice! Let us celebrate the feast of the Incarnation. He who is God from before all ages has taken on human flesh, has become a sharer in our humanity so that he may redeem us. The Lord of Hosts has descended to earth. Let us observe the feast with great joy! All glory be to God.

Christ is born! Glorify him!

Christos Razdajetsja! – Slavite Jeho!

CHRISTOS GENNATAI! DOXASETE!

Your Birth, oh Christ our God, has shed upon the world the light of knowledge. For through it those who worshipped the stars have learned from a star to worship You, the Sun of Justice, and to know You, the Dawn from on high. Glory be to You, o Lord!

-Troparion for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus

The All-Avengers Nativity Play

Preface: Even nerdy good Catholic girls need to have fun sometimes. Also, I love The Best Christmas Pageant Ever a bit too much.

Mary: Sharon Carter; she’s Steve’s love interest and therefore an automatic shoe-in for the spouse of St. Joseph-and the Mother of our Lord.  Also, she gives off that good, wholesome girl vibe that is crucial to all Christmas play Marys-except for the Best One Ever.

Joseph: Steve “Captain America” Rogers; he’s the All-American boy. What other role could the all-American boy play? Quarterback, St. Joseph in the church pageant, Rescuer of Kittens in Trees…the All-American Boy does it all.

The Archangel Gabriel: Vision because that makes sense. He is named Vision; he has an Infinity Stone in his forehead. He is perfect. He probably won’t agree to wear feathery wings, but we’ll live as long as he wears the white robe.

Shepherd #1: Cliff “Hawkeye” Barton; he’ll be wearing his own bathrobe and grumbling like the grumpy old soul that he is.

Shepherd #2: Maria Hill; she demands a proper costume. She will NOT wear Clint’s old bathrobe. (Trust me; he offered.) Mercifully, Sharon Carter will find something for her in Peggy Carter’s old things.

Shepherd #4: Thor Odinson; he will love every moment of it-while wearing Clint’s old bathrobe. It will be too short for him, and Steve will tactfully loan him a pair of plaid pajama pants.

The Innkeeper: Natasha “Black Widow” Romanov; she’ll end up with some red in her ledger from this role but that will hopefully lead to a later reformation.

Caspar: Bruce “Hulk” Banner; he’s there for the comfy costume and to support the “Keep Tony Calm” movement. He doesn’t really care about the gold that he’s offering. He does, however, enjoy the chance to borrow Thor’s cape for the role.

Balthasar: James “Rhodey” Rhodes; he comes to both bring myrrh and try to control Tony Stark.

Melchior: Tony “Iron Man” Stark; sure, he’ll complain endlessly about giving “This Kid” incense when that stuff reeks and we should be giving him robots or something, but he’ll also bring a certain level of gravitas to the role.

The Angel Who Warned Joseph in a Dream: Nick Fury-because that’s obvious.

Herod: Loki; he will enjoy all of the villainy. He also enjoys getting to wear a crown. In fact, he puts himself in charge of obtaining crowns to ensure that his crown is bigger and better than anything worn by the Magi. They are puny kings; he is the best king.

Special Notes: The baby Jesus doll is a mint-condition doll from Peggy Carter’s personal collection that Sharon Carter graciously loaned to the production. The doll was from Peggy’s childhood in England, but it was never used as Peggy never had much use for dolls.

We would also like to take a moment to thank Mrs. Laura Barton (wife of Clint) for all of her assistance in providing costuming and to thank Steve Rogers for all of his work in designing and constructing the scenery. Mr. Rogers would like to thank Bucky Barnes for all of his assistance in constructing the set.

We hope you enjoy tonight’s performance, and we look forward to having you join us for cookies and punch in the church hall after tonight’s performance.

Thank you for all of your love and support! Merry Christmas!

Pepper Potts and Wanda Maximova, Co-Directors

(All promotional considerations provided by Stark Industries.)

Five Ways to Keep Millennials in the Church

I keep seeing posts about keeping millennials in the Church and how to draw them to the Lord. Some of the posts are good; others are bleh. But I decided to (as a millennial) write my own post. Here’s how the Church can keep the millennials she already has and draw more into Her life. 

  1. “Be who you are and be that well.”-St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva
  2. “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!” -St. Catherine of Siena 
  3. Do NOT be satisfied with mediocrity! The world will offer you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!”  -St. John Paul II
  4. “Take away your eyes from yourself and rejoice that you have nothing–that you are nothing–that you can do nothing. Give Jesus a big smile each time your nothingness frightens you. Just keep the joy of Jesus as your strength–be happy and at peace, accept whatever He takes with a big smile.”-St. Teresa of Calcutta
  5. “I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” -St. John Paul II

Simply put, be Jesus. Live Jesus. Trust him. He’ll do the rest.