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The Messy Quest for Meaning book review

Today we are hosting a blog tour for the new book The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation, by Stephen Martin. Here is my review of this book.

The vocations mess… We hear so much about vocations… There is a lack of vocations, so we pray for vocations, then maybe there will be more vocations, and so on. Those phrases are centered on the vocation to the ordained, or vowed life, which are essential to the life of the Church. However, there are many other vocations. Are we praying for these also? You know, our own vocations?

It is this notion that Stephen Martin tackles in his book, The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation, (Sorin Books, 179p. $14.95). We are all called to a particular path in life, and for many of us that path is meant to help us to discover and reveal gifts, sharing them with the world. It is in this way that we live to the fullest and generously so.

Using a framework that is built around Christian monastic practices, Martin invites us along a different path, a frequently messy one at that. Wanting to help us find our way, the author guides us by revealing so much of his own challenging and – well… messy quest. In fact, instead of cleaning up our acts, we are asked to integrate the messy bits that are part of who we are. In this way we do find order amidst the seeming chaos.

Beginning with a startlingly frank and humble description of his own challenges, Martin reminds us of a jarring truth, yet one that we must face. This truth is something that St. Paul himself wrote of, and that is that our weakness leads us to our strength. It is the one truth that must be gazed at directly and embraced if we are to find out how to be who we truly are.

The discernment process that Martin describes is based on some things that he learned in the company of Trappist monks. It is from here that readers will encounter the five practices that are meant to bring us towards our transformation into the lives that we are called to lead.

Now if this sounds like another feel-good-self-help book, it is anything but. Not only is the author a skilled writer, he culls from a wide variety of sources to encourage us on the journey. Make no mistake, this book is written by a man who is Catholic and we hear a lot about his faith, as well as about other Catholics. With a terrifically catholic approach, , we are given insight from people as diverse as Dorothy Day and James Martin, SJ, to Parker Palmer, Peter Drucker, Ernest Hemingway, and David Brooks, along with other names, both familiar and not-so-familiar.

Aside from being well sourced and grounded, you will also find a book that is at once accessible, funny, charming and humble. That alone is reason enough to buy this book, even if you don’t think you want to look at this kind of volume… Do yourself a favor and read this book. You may just find a pleasant and inviting surprise – one that may actually offer some good insights about how we find the work that we are called to do.

(Remember – leave a comment, no matter how brief, and you may win a copy of this book!)

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3 Responses

  1. I must be meant to read this book, Fran, because it is coming to me from different angles. Thank you for presenting it here. It does sound truly interesting and challenging. We do in fact need to find our vocation. We are all here to help in the Christ Project…

  2. Fran – very convincing book review…will have to check it out at some point..thanks

  3. This sounds interesting. I look forward to reading it.

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