Review by Sally Cunneen...
The American Catholic, March 2000

Prayers To Sophia. A Companion to "The Star in My Heart" by Joyce Rupp lnnisfree Press, $12.95, 126 pp

The Star in My Heart: Experiencing Sophia, Inner Wisdom by Joyce Rupp lnnisfree Press, $12.95, 122 pp


     
      Each of us needs to carry on our own conversations with God but often feel unable to do so. These books should be particularly helpful to women who find that the more formal, familiar Christian prayers do not always help them carry over a sense of the sacred into their everyday work and relationships. Some stumble over the patriarchal "Father;" others over the royal notion of "kingdom." There is a disconnect between our ordinary speech, our democratic sensibility, the feminine gender, and the words of many traditional prayers. We need other language and images in order to talk simply and honestly to God.

Star In My Heart book cover


 ...Gratitude and celebration are at the core of a healthy spiritual life.


  Joyce Rupp, a Servite sister with extensive experience both in religious education and psychological counseling, has created such language out of her own need to link her daily experience with her spiritual life in the Jewish-Christian tradition. Readers who are not familiar with Sophia might start with Rupp's Star in My Heart - first published in 1990. and just reissued - which describes her discovery of Sophia and the change it has made in her life.

A Nurturing God

Reviewed by Sally Cunneen

    
      It came about, she tells us, through reading the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures (in particular Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, and Wisdom). There she discovered that Wisdom (Sophia in Greek), was portrayed as a female figure, "a breath of the Divine...given to humankind to connect them with the divine." She recognized that she had long been familiar with her presence and "Wisdom took on the shape of a trusted companion, yearning for my good, believing in me, blessing me with surprising elements of growth."

     Receiving this ancient figure into her heart, Rupp gains inner wisdom as she learns to quiet down and reflect on her experience. Illuminated by this feminine personification of the immanent divine, she discovers meaning in her simplest observations and daily encounters. First she has to realize more clearly one of Sophia's constant concerns, our kinship with nature. Tracks she made in the snow on a winter walk that were completely obliterated on her return lead to the following insight:

     I saw how fleeting life is and how much I do treasure the gift of it, the words of Psalm 90 came to me: "Teach us to count how few days we have and so gain wisdom of heart."

     The fruits of such reflections are helpful for her human growth, now increasingly integrated with her spiritual development. After all, the Sophia of the Wisdom Books represents the presence and action of God in the World-close to the earth and nature, marked by relationship rather than rule. Rupp joyfully accepts this female image of God and narrates her own story for the benefit of others, particularly Catholic women she meets in her wide-ranging educational and retreat encounters whose needs she knows so well.

      Rupp chooses her images carefully, selecting simple visual metaphors to indicate the hidden processes of spiritual growth. She wisely includes some of its necessary negative aspects: A tree whose leaves fall one after another suggests the illusions we must all shed if we are to grow up. She touches lightly but clearly on her own hurts and disenchantments. Sophia assures her that the pain of wrestling with deep-seated anger, jealousy, and an unrealistic self-image is worth the cost, and she slowly learns to be grateful to her critics for leading "me to see parts of myself that I can so easily tend to hide."

 

     Perhaps most difficult for her was an increasing awareness of the anti-woman stance of her own church. She admits this freely, but her emphasis is less on criticism than on the value of seeing her experience truthfully and then healing the hurts. One accepts these realities and does what one can, but always celebrates life and God's presence in it.

      To further the healing process, Rupp suggests the need to gather up and be energized by our good, "life-giving" memories, which she compares to a photo album. We should turn its pages frequently, for gratitude and celebration are at the core of a healthy spiritual life. After all, she says, the Scriptures themselves are "one big photo album" of God, beginning in stories told over generations to keep the memories alive.

The Star in My Heart appeals to readers to try walking with Sophia, showing them the need to know themselves and to be open to new directions and ideas, which are often invitations to wholeness. They will feel reassured by Rupp's confession that she herself is frequently fearful of such challenges, hiding from the call to be her truest self even as she longs to answer it.


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