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A Contemporary North American Prayer Book

A Contemporary North American Prayer Book
by William John Fitzgerald
Skokie, IL: ACTA Publications, 2008
157 pages
Reviewed by Bobbie Bonk

William John Fitzgerald poetically begins A Contemporary North American Prayer Book with "The Great Story" and prays: "Bless this day, and all the days of our lives as they unfurl from your gracious hands, O Creator God!" (11). This is an appropriate beginning to an abbreviated and adapted Liturgy of the Hours, dedicated to prayerfully moving a person through the day, using the traditional times of Morning Prayer (Lauds), Midday Prayer (Nones and Angelus), and Night Prayer (Compline). Each of the three prayer times offers an opportunity to slow down and reflect, to engage with God about things that fill our days, including "Cell phones, iPods, blogs, Web sites, podcasts, networks..." (42).

The "Midday Prayers" take the reader to a "North American Island Retreat" for a pause in the midst of activity before beginning the work of the afternoon. A lunch blessing goes beyond the physical food that we eat to a mindfulness of the "more than" which can hold us in unity with God and others. Compline prayers include calling to mind gratitude, forgiveness, letting-go, or even something to take to our dreams.

A Contemporary North American Prayer Book is refreshing with its use of contemporary and inclusive language. Along with poetry and an innovative approach to scripture, quotations from a variety of inspired people such as Black Elk, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Thomas Keating, and Joan Chittister are included. The flow is gentle, and in wonderful to linger and immerse oneself in God while praying the text.

Two unique litanies are also included: the "Litany of Work" which encompasses a wide variety of professions and vocations, and a "North American Litany of Saints," comprised of men and women, some of who are canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, and others who are not yet canonized.

In a section entitled "Thirty North American Pilgrimages," Fitzgerald encourages the reader or person of prayer to travel throughout areas in North America without leaving one’s own room by using imagination and guided imagery. In so doing, places like Niagara Falls, Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or even the beach at Santa Barbara, California, USA, take on a new sense of the Sacred. These places become holy ground where anyone can ponder the mystery of God in a delightfully new way.

The pages of this prayer book contain an invitation to deep contemplation as well as an awareness of the poor and the hungry, those who stand in the margins. One cannot help but be touched by the transformative power of the Spirit, and in doing so, reach out to others.

If spiritual directors and spiritual directees are looking for a way to praise God individually or together, these prayers are a powerful source for welcoming God’s presence in a creative and uplifting manner. This is one way of uniting North America and calling it to embrace the entire planet.

Bobbie Bonk works at a Roman Catholic church in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. She facilitates retreats, offers spiritual direction, and volunteers with inmates at the Larimer County Detention Center. By participating in workshops for adult survivors of childhood abuse led by Mary’s Hope, she enhanced her spiritual direction training from The Center for Spirituality at Work in Denver, Colorado.

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