By: Fr John Buckley
'Journeying with Jonah - the struggle to find yourself' by Denis McBride. Publisher: Redemptorist Publications.
'A greater than Jonah is here.' Matt. Ch.12 v 28..29.
'God has created all things for good; He looks on me individually, God knows me and calls me by my name.' Cardinal Newman (Meditations on Christian Doctrine)
Much of my time in the priestly ministry has involved giving spiritual direction and counselling to a wide variety of people of various beliefs or of no belief in particular. Principally though I ministered to Catholics. One of the most prominent aspects of all that ministry was the question of ' low or no self-esteem ' present in so many. A vast amount of my time, which I do not in any way regret, was and is spent in endeavouring to get people to be convinced that they are good and beautiful and lovable.
As every counsellor knows or should know; that you make no real progress until this question of esteem is brought to the surface. It sad for me to have to admit the fact that so many Catholics had this problem of low self esteem and even to the extent sometimes thinking that it was sinful to think good of themselves.
What makes Denis McBride's work so valuable is that it tackles just what I am talking about. The Catholic Church was slow to take on board the great work done by the likes of Freud and Jung. There was a fear that Psychology would substitute for belief. Sadly that is what happened in many cases. But now the Catholic Church uses their insights in formation programmes for religious and laity.
The author refers to Thomas Merton and quite rightly so. Merton wrote a beautiful spiritual classic in 'The Sign of Jonas' and it is significant because Merton himself had gone down into the depths and was rescued by the one who referred to himself as 'a greater than Jonah'. If you put that other spiritual masterpiece of Merton 'No Man Is An Island' alongside 'The Sign of Jonas' you can see his conclusion and that is startling. Merton reminds us that no human being can be fully human apart from Christ.
The book of Jonah is about many things but for me the principal theme is 'Anger'. Jonah is angry with God; angry with creation; angry with his enemies and of course angry with himself. This anger pervades his whole existence and all but destroys him. When people are angry with God ,when they reject and hate God they angry with themselves. It all comes back to the self and God living within that self. St. Paul discovered it; St. Augustine came to see it and Francis Thompson told us about it.
The person who hung upon the cross, bashed and in terrible agony , was quiet. They jeered at Him, spat at Him, mocked at Him and importantly, challenged Him to come down and clobber His enemies and they might accept Him. He would not have been God had he done so; it would have been a fit of anger and it would not have been His Father's Will.
We must in the light of that examine our own anger...."Well they are living in sin..they should not receive Holy Communion" More Anger!!!!!!!.
I wish that Denis McBride's book would be in every home, in every parish, in every presbytery, in every religious house. It is a book to be prayed, to be read, to be meditated and discussed. But as they say in my native Co Cork....' Dream on Buckley...Dream on.' And as I say..well..." A greater than Jonah " is always with us.