Episodes, told both annoyingly and effectively, along one man’s road to Damascus.
Beck, a forty-something Catholic priest and member of the Passionist Order (which emphasizes the Passion of Christ in its daily observances), takes a God-as-homey approach to matters theological in his memoir of spiritual growth. There’s no trace of the Old Testament’s angry deity in his conception of the boss upstairs. Quite the opposite: “When God speaks my name,” he writes, “it is always as lover—never as angry parent or disgruntled spouse.” That highly personal approach leads Beck into reveries that would not be out of place in the more esoteric literature of the New Age movement, one of which reveries encourages the reader to imagine that prayer is a kind of chat with God “as if He was my best friend, sitting on the floor of my bedroom after winning a baseball game.” All is not warm and cuddly in Beck’s theology, however, and he takes issue with the official doctrine at many points, defiantly insisting that “our absolute moral obligation is always to follow our own conscience, and never to act against it. This presumes we take time to inform our conscience, which includes knowing the Church teaching, approaching it with respect, and being open to it. But it doesn’t mean we will always literally follow that teaching.” Readers with a pre–Vatican II sensibility will likely take constant issue with Beck’s view of matters such as priestly celibacy, homosexuality, poverty, marriage, and the role of women in the church—and with his penchant for citing the likes of Meryl Streep and Carly Simon while examining some moral point or another.
Catholics and spiritual seekers of a liberal bent, however, will find Beck’s opinions refreshing and well stated.