To Whom Shall We Go?

Lessons from the Apostle Peter
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
Our Sunday Visitor
Number of pages: 
152 pages
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This is a really lovely, very accessible exposition of what St. Peter's life teaches us about how we are called to follow Christ. Written by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the new Archbishop of New York City, the book is centered around the words that Dolan has taken on as his episcopal motto (To Whom Shall We Go?), which is from the Gospel of John 6:67-68.

Archbishop Dolan, who we were privileged to have lead our diocese of Milwaukee for the past six years or so, is a plain-speaking, joyful, humble man who speaks to ordinary people in a very helpful way. This book is a lovely example of his clear and helpful thinking.

Each chapter begins with a story of St. Peter's life from which Dolan pulls out very helpful life lessons. These are generously sprinkled with good humor, touching stories from his own experiences and memorable tidbits that seem so very simple and do-able. And that's an important part of passing along to the Faith to others (especially to our children) to help them see that living a good life *is* possible!

Here's an example. The first chapter is entitled "Keeping Our Eyes Focused on Christ" and it's based on the story of St. Peter asking Christ to allow him to walk on the water. Of course we know that when he takes his eyes off of Christ and begins to be afraid, he begins to sink. The Archbishop draws out some lovely and very helpful thoughts, as you can see from this tidbit:

The message - this is sledgehammer-clear - the message that Our Lord is trying to teach us in this famous episode: notice, as long as St. Peter keeps his eyes on Christ, he's doing fine. He can walk on water. The winds, the terrible storm, the ferocious waves, and the darkness don't bother him. But the moment he gets distracted, the moment he turns his gaze from the Lord, the moment Peter loses sight of his goal, what happens? He sinks!

In this chapter he encourages us to have a firm purpose in our life. He encourages us to keep our gaze on Christ by being "conscious of the life of God within my soul" and through prayer.

Here's another great example of the helpful pastoral thought he provides in this book:

Despair will never be ours if we believe in the power of the sacrament of Penance and tap into it very often. This sacrament helps us avoid both extremes - the presumption of the Pharisees and the despair of Judas - and it keeps us, with St. Peter, int he healthy center. Contrite? Yes, but confident in the Lord's mercy. Aware of the sin? You bet, but equally aware of Christ's desire to forgive. Repentant? You bet, but renewed as well. And for us, the is moment of honesty and healing takes place, concretely and personally, in the sacrament of Penance.

Here are the other chapters presented in this book:

2. "Noticing the Wind" (This continues the story about walking on water and focuses on being aware of what dominates our lives - what things distract us from God, etc.)

3. "Silently Being with Our Lord" (Based on the story of St. Peter at the Transfiguration)

4. "Embracing Our Cross" (Based on the story of Jesus trying to convince Jesus not to go to Jerusalem where he will suffer and die.)

5. "How Do We Let God Love Us?" (From the story at the Last Supper of Peter not wanting Jesus to wash his feet.)

6. "Do You Love the Lord?" (From the story after the Resurrection of Jesus asking Peter to "Feed my lambs.")

7. "Put Out Into the Deep" (The story of the miraculous catch of fish where Jesus exhorts Peter: "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.")

8. "Asking Our Lord for Forgiveness" (Peter's betrayal of Jesus)

9. "To Whom Shall We Go?" (Title story - when a number of Jesus' disciples have left Him and He asks Peter if he will leave too - Peter responds "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life...")

10. Afterword: "Neither Silver Nor Gold" (Based on the story from the Acts of the Apostles in which Peter meets a beggar and tells him, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.")

The reality the good Archbishop presents here is very realistic, but also very hopeful. Consider his reflection on the financial troubles that have befallen the Church in the wake of the sex abuse scandals:

Maybe it's not such a bad thing that, because of all the upheaval, all the scandals, all the shortages of priests, all the lawsuits, and everything else that's gone on the last forty tumultuous years, we don't have silver and gold anymore. We can barely pay our bills. But what we've got, we're clinging to: the pearl of great price, the most priceless treasure of all, Jesus Christ. And if all this disgrace, and sadness, and shock of the last four decades - all the turmoil that we've gone through in the Church - if that has driven home the centrality, the utter centrality of Jesus, maybe it's not such a bad thing."

I think this book is very accessible for both teens and adults and would be particularly well-suited to a discussion group. I am very grateful to the Archbishop for this lovely little book.

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