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Just Call Me López – a book review

(This review was published in this week’s Evangelist.)

Just Call Me López (Loyola Press, 2012, $14.95, 253 pp.)

The premise is simple, albeit somewhat unbelievable; a contemporary woman has an encounter with an unusual man, who turns out to be a 16th century Spaniard. As I read the first pages, my head was shaking from side to side, as I wondered what this was. Yet, the pages kept turning, and I found myself engrossed in a marvelous tale with essential messages in the latest work by author Margaret Silf. If the book Just Call Me López (Loyola Press, 2012, $14.95, 253 pp.) sounds unbelievable, it is because it is. In this case, that is not a bad thing!

The tale begins as we meet our narrator, Rachel. A hit-and-run driver knocks her off of her bicycle, and she is thrown to the ground. An unusual man comes to her aid, noting the obvious, that she has “run into trouble.” This statement bears the truth of what he sees, as well as a metaphorical reference to Rachel’s life. Confronting middle age, she is a bit adrift and facing challenges. As he helps her home, she is struck by the depth of his kindness and invites him in for coffee. Thus, an unlikely friendship is born.

Wasting no time, our stranger reveals that he is from another time; he introduces himself as Iñigo López. This López is no ordinary 16th century stranger; this is Ignatius of Loyola! He does not introduce himself to us as the founder of the Society of Jesus, or as a saint. The man that Rachel meets is someone who is there to share his friendship and his experiences. Our time traveling Spaniard is wounded from war, filled with the same kinds of challenges as everyone else, aware of his shortcomings and mistakes, but is following an interior calling to a new way of life. The thing is, he has already done this, about 500 years ago!

Rachel, who is wondering where she herself is headed, is slightly apprehensive, yet clearly intrigued by this López. The unmistakable oddity of having a time traveler become her friend is accepted in the face of relationship. Over time Rachel and López continue to meet. They are making a pilgrimage of sorts, with López sharing where he has been in life, and what he envisions. Along the way Rachel’s life begins to reshape itself as well.

Relationship and encounter are at the heart of the Christian life, and entering into the story is essential in Ignatian Spirituality. Anyone who has studied the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius knows that you must put yourself into the Scripture as part of your prayer. This “living yourself” into the story is what is elemental to this book. The writing style of magical realism is elemental here, but with an Ignatian twist.

While we can’t judge the book by its cover, the binding of this small volume is worth noting. Hardbound, with a paperback price, the book is replete with wonderfully creative inside cover graphics and Ignatian information. In a world of e-readers, the tangible beauty of the book itself is worth noting.

Margaret Silf, so well known for her essays and observations about Ignatian spirituality has used her talent well in the telling of this tale. Although it sounded almost ridiculously unreal when I first heard about it, Just Call Me López is a book that really moved me.

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