Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 28, 2012

Book Review: “Surrender”

What is this?  A book about courtship and married life, a book about choosing how to give one’s life in love that bears the title “Surrender”?   Who surrenders? And, who conquers?

In an age when one sees fully half of the marriages consummated today end in divorce; when in some areas and among some parts of society more children are born to unmarried women than to married couples; when in some areas more pregnancies end in abortion than live births, mere mention of the word, the simple suggestion that marriage involves surrender of something borders on insanity one would think.  What must be the reason to talk of surrender when common sense and simple numbers seem to suggest that unless one enters into the holy vocation of marriage well-armed and ready to defend against all sorts of undefined risks, foes and dangers?  What is this talk of surrender when we are told from our earliest days that we are free to choose the life we will lead, that no one can control what we do with our lives, our bodies, but us?

In my old neighborhood there were many families with four children and many more with three.  There were quite a few families of five children.  Six wasn’t unusual either.  And we would joke about the parents who could field a baseball team from within their own family.  My first wife, Sheila, may she rest in peace, came from an unusual family.  There were only two children.  But, she had more than a hundred first cousins here in the States, and at least another hundred more over in Ireland.

The O’Brien’s eldest child Deirdre left her home at 19 years of age to enter a Carmelite monastery. She was one of six children. Ken Greene went away to be a priest.  Ken had four brothers and sisters.  At least two or three kids from every class that graduated from our parish school enter the priesthood or a religious order.  Only one of my childhood friends came from a “broken” family as they were called then.  Now, there are no such things as “broken families” — though what are often called families today would not have been so called when I was young.

“Surrender” almost seems to be a book out of another time and  another culture!   Almost, but not quite.  And, that is what makes it both worthwhile and interesting.  In the lives of its characters, the unfolding of their intermingled stories, we are shown what is surrendered, and what is gained in the surrendering.  The reader comes slowly and surely to understand that this is not a surrender from defeat, it is not a surrender to a conquering enemy.  The surrender which is at the center of the book is, rather, a surrender “for” a greater good.  It is a love story taking place on the many levels and in the many venues of that word’s application to our lives, but finally on the level of each of our own selves’ relationship to Incarnate Love, where “surrender” of self for union with Love in love takes place.

In an article in the journal Public Affairs the Catholic scholar George Weigel quotes a British Rabbi’s comment on the recent ugly display of selfishness and barbarianism in Great Britain:

This was the bursting of a dam of potential trouble that had been building for years.  The collapse of families and communities leaves in its wake unsocialized young people…[who are the products of] a tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West, saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality, and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.

“Surrender”, by Carmen Marcoux, is a book which can lead one to the age-old antidote for this kind of savagery and the existential despair such savagery produces:   Surrender to Love — and the restoration to goodness and wholeness that Love alone brings.  At The Christian Book Corner we understand the need for such books, good books with good intentions, and happily provide them to our guests at our usual generous discounts — books from our heart to yours, “Chosen with care, Chosen with prayer.”


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