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The Geography of God's Mercy

The Geography of God's Mercy: Stories of Compassion and Forgiveness
by Patrick Hannon, CSC
Skokie, IL: ACTA Publications, 2007
160 pages
Reviewed by Karen Frank

Award winning author Patrick Hannon has penned a second book, equally provocative and touching as his first. A series of short stories, The Geography of God’s Mercy explores the myriad of ways that God’s mercy expresses itself in human life.

Hannon organizes the book into seven sections, each representing an element of the earth’s geography. From the forest to the desert to the deep sea, a passage from Christian or Hebrew scripture offers a prelude to stories that will follow. Drawn from his own experience, or the lives of people he has known, every story contributes to Hannon’s conception of God’s grace and mercy expressed in our human interactions.

In "That’s the Deal" Hannon shares the story of Nick Madrid, a young man who dies of leukaemia. When he remembers the night Nick died, Hannon writes:

I’ll call to mind the night he went to God, when in his last hour, he reached out with ineffable mercy to the mother who had years ago cradled him in her arms as a newborn but who now rested in his. And I remember once again that love—fierce and mighty and unrelenting—has no rival. It gives us permission to face unimaginable suffering unafraid. (P. 47)

Another story teaches us to listen. Writing about Catherine, an eight-two year old woman living in an assisted living facility who has very few possessions beyond framed smiling photographs on a wall, Hannon shares,

She told me once that a well-meaning friend stopped by one day and gently upbraided her for her wall of smiling faces. "Why do you want to be reminded of all these people? It will only make you sad," the friend had said. "Of course they make me sad," Catherine explained to me, "but she (the friend) didn’t seem to understand that they also make me smile." And why wouldn’t they? They are photographs … and she has a story to go with each one. (P. 15)

As a spiritual director, I would recommend this book to directees, both lay and in religious life. This is not a book to be read straight through—each individual story provides warmth and healing. Hannon is an elegant lyricist. He encourages us to look everywhere for God, believing we are all connected, "All our stories are like single notes in one never-ending song. We are like the stars of the Milky Way, twirling in time, moving gracefully together across the dance floor we call the universe, pulled and driven by a mysterious force that links us to the same amazing journey" (p. 128).

Karen Frank is a writer, spiritual director, and photographer living in Port Townsend, Washington, USA. She graduated from Seattle University’s program in Transforming Spirituality.

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