Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season

Reviewed by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Values and Visions Review Service
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     Over the years, I have often wished there were more relevant, life-sustaining, inspirational, and meaningful rituals for Christians to use in a variety of situations. This book by writer and retreat leader Joyce Rupp arrives like a Godsend. With her keen sense of the Indwelling presence of God, the author is truly a gifted spiritual midwife. These soulful poems, prayers, and reflections for group or individual use are designed to "revitalize the spiritual blood pulsating through the veins of faith."

     I love the Advent ritual for sending hope to the four corners of the earth. There are several treasures in a section devoted to All Saint's Day. Check out Rupp's guided visualization for "The Blessing of the Saints." The author obviously savors the spiritual value of birthdays, offering this blessing:

  "May you hear the marvelous music
singing in you soul every moment,
lauding the exquisite gift of being alive.

     Rupp presents two especially touching prayers and rituals for caregivers: "Blessing Before Surgery" and "Blessing of One Who Draws Near to Death." She is equally cogent in two justice rituals and a very poignant Lenten piece titled "Carrying the Cross." My wife and I have tried "Blessing of the Body" and can recommend it highly to you.

     Out of the ordinary is an incomparable resource for spiritual directors and lay leaders of all stripes. Best of all, Joyce Rupp has given readers permission to reprint any of these 125 resources for personal and liturgical use without requesting permission form Ave Maria Press as long as proper credit is included in all the copies.

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The Star in My Heart:
Experiencing Sophia, Inner Wisdom

Reviewed by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Values and Visions Review Service

     In this edifying and inspiring collection of verse and meditation, Joyce Rupp explores the riches of her relationship with Sophia, the feminine wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures. The author, a member of a Servite (Sisters of Mary) community, has found that she thrives in quiet places when the heart can be renewed. Each chapter contains spiritual exercises and journaling suggestions.

     Sophia has taught Rupp that the darkness doesn't always have to be a scary place - as in the womb, it can be a nurturing space of growth. In "Sophia moments" of clarity, the author has learned to let go of ranking systems and feeling superior to others. Instead, she has been encouraged to see all of the people in her life as interesting dance partners in what Thomas Merton has called "the mysterious cosmic dance."

     Sophia also tutors us in the art of listening and in being patient with the healing of old wounds. Through her playfulness Sophia enables us to see gratitude as the best way to express our spirituality. Rupp savors good memories of those who have touched her with their goodness and beauty. This gracefully written guidebook to inner work with Sophia is a gem.







Prayers to Sophia:
A Companion to
"A Star in My Heart"

Reviewed by Sharon Flesher

     This volume of fifty short prayers is not likely to cause more than a ripple in the ongoing dispute between conservative Christians and advocates of Sophia, who, as described by Rupp, is the feminine aspect of the divine found in the wisdom literature of the Bible. Rupp refrains from any polemical discussions and simply presents meditations on her personal relationship with Sophia. She shares in the introduction that she is "not out to convince anyone about Sophia."

     Still, Rupp can't get to her prayers without first dealing with the controversy, in which conservatives have accused feminist theologians and others of attempting to replace or append the divine Trinity with Sophia. Rupp laments the "anger and fear within the Christian community regarding Sophia," and wonders if detractors have "reflected on the wisdom texts in the Bible." Yet she says she understands their hesitation to accept Sophia as she initially had her own hesitations and concerns.

     Rupp fortifies her prayers with excerpts from the wisdom literature of the Bible (Proverbs) and the Apocrypha. The prayers are written in verse and are the material of daily life: i.e., anxiety, compassion, grief and loss, nature and change of seasons. The prayers may be based on one woman's journey on the path of personal growth, but most readers will likely find they have much in common with Rupp. Following each prayer and scriptural verse, Rupp includes suggestions for journaling.

     This book coincides with the tenth anniversary printing of Rupp's "The Star in My Heart." Knowledge of the earlier work is not a prerequisite for enjoying these prayers. Acceptance or even awareness of Sophia is not required to enjoy and utilize the prayers as part of a program of spiritual growth as long as the reader does not consider the mention of Sophia as Heresy. (February 29, 2000)

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