'The Gift of Self': a revolutionary book for summer reading

religion | Aug 08, 2010 | By Bai Macfarlane

Tim Nolan & Bai Macfarlane exhibiting at National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers, Cincinnati OH

In Cincinnati OH, at the 2010 conference of Catholic family life ministers, a new book was introduced by the Diocese of Fort Wayne—South Bend. Byzantine-rite Catholic priest, Rev. Christopher Zugger, says it is revolutionary.

"The Gift of Self" by Maria Pia Campenella, is a pastoral aid for married people who are separated and divorced and choose to remain faithful to their marriage. Originally published in Italian, the foreign language edition was previewed last year by Lisa Everett, who co-directs the diocesean Family and Pro-Life Office in Fort Wayne—South Bend. Lisa knew Italian from her time at the John Paul II institute in Rome. The diocese debuted the book at their exhibitor's table on June 24th.

Everett says "This book contains a beautiful and profound spirituality for spouses who find themselves drawn into the mystery of Christ's passion and death because of separation or divorce. The author offers helpful direction to parishes and pastoral ministers in providing concrete material, emotional and spiritual support to those who have been abandoned by a spouse."

Tim Nolan, Bai Macfarlane and Greg LeMieux (not pictured) provided copes of "The Gift of Self" to directors of diocesan family life offices from all over the country. These three are part of a growing network that support each other in remaining faithful to their divorced spouses. Those in the network offer their suffering for the conversion of their wayward spouse. 

"The Gift of Self" was provided to Catholic bookstore managers and other attendees at the Catholic Marketing Network trade-show in Philadelphia on August 4.. Macfarlane says, "Many bookstore owners told us this book is really needed. Several said they had friends who were divorced, remain faithful to marriage, and would really appreciate having this book that offers support from a Catholic perspective."

Saint Mary of Cana is the apostolate in Sicily that uses the Italian edition, and the support network is bringing it to the United States. They have had monthly telephone conference calls for the last year and working to be recognized by their local bishops.

Mark Feliz from Colorado Springs participates in the conference calls. He says, "I have confidence in 'The Gift of Self' because it already has approval of Italian Bishops and the program has been tested with those in my situation in Europe. Now that we have the formal written guidebook, we can invite people to begin meeting in my diocese."

Rev. Zugger, from New Mexico, reviewed "The Gift of Self" for Spero News. He writes, "It really is a spiritual manual, and should be in the libraries of tribunal offices in particular. It is a totally different approach to the spouses who are holding to their marital vows by living celibate lives, as opposed to the well meaning who say 'get on with your life.'
"... Drawing first on the imagery from the prophet Hosea, the author calls for the abandoned spouse to continue to love, to pray for the spouse who left, and to let God's love act in the situation. It can easily be used for retreats for these people, and is intended as a guide for that, or for individual growth. Learning to live out the marital vocation while being alone is simply an attitude that is not found in America, and I would think not in most western societies. In that, this little book is revolutionary!"

Bai Macfarlane is the founder of Mary’s Advocates, a non-profit organization that works to strengthen and uphold marriage.

See Rev. Christopher Zugger's book review at Speroforum.



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