Joshua and the Shepherd Copyright 1990 by Joseph Girzone Published by Simon & Schuster Inc. The book Joshua and The Shepherd is a novel, in which the author creates a model for the Catholic Church. The author, Joseph Girzone, presents the reader with many changes that could be made to the Catholic Church. He writes on the possible impact of these changes and the attempts that certain Church members take to block them. In reading this book you will quickly ascertain that the author is very vivid in painting a picture in you minds eye of the incidence he is describing.
In the first paragraph, of the book, he goes into a description of the beautiful day that the story starts on. Throughout the book this style is continued. You can almost feel a small presence of God in the weather and scenery that he brings to life in his writing. The book opens with the Consecration of the new bishop, David Campbell, for the diocese that most of the events in the book take place. This bishop is the main character in the book. The plot centers on the changes that he tries to make within the Catholic Church. After David is consecrated he has a revelation.
In this revelation the Holy Spirit moves David to do everything in his power to shift the focus of the church to one of unity and forgiveness, as opposed to a church that is bound by strict laws. The second character that is brought in after Davids revelation is named Joshua. The author never specifically says who Joshua is, but you get the impression that he is either a prophet or possibly Jesus himself. Through out the book David puts himself on the line for his beliefs. Transcending many of the self imposed barriers on religion, that humans have erected over the years, was a key point that David focused on.
With constant support and fellowship from his friend Joshua, and the Pope, he eventually succeeds with his efforts and establishes unity of almost all Christians within his diocese. In the later part of the story after Joshua has succeeded he is sent away to a quite, poor, and remote diocese to”punish” him for everything he did to change the Catholic Church. He never loses faith though and in the end he is voted to be the new Pope when his friend the old Pope dies. I feel that this book is excellent reading material for the class. It goes hand in hand with the textbook we are using. Allan Schreck and Joseph Girzone are obviously of common thought when it comes to promoting unity among Christians. When you read the novel you get a feel for a lot of terms used in the catholic church.
Under most circumstances these terms are foreign to typical Protestant Christians. They make sense and have more meaning to me now that I have read the novel. There are many things that I personally like about the book Joseph and the Shepherd. It portrays the catholic church in a light that I have never really seen before. You are given an example of an almost perfect utopia for the unification of all Christians. However, I do feel that the author used an un- realistic time frame for the changes manifested in the church.
In reality I think it would take much longer for David Campbell to see the fruit of all his labor. But, I really do like the ideas that are presented. The specific scenarios that David finds himself in are very moving. These scenarios are brought to life so well that you can almost experience some of the feelings that were inspiring David to do the work he felt called to do. The selfless way that he reaches out to Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Jews really makes a lot of sense to me.
I like the way the way that David looks beyond “religion” and concentrates on the true basics of Christianity. He denounces the legalistic hypocrisy of some church leaders and reaches out to all people with a love that reflects that of Christs. This is definitely a book that I would recommend to a wide variety of people. I would definitely recommend it to any Protestant who wants to see what kind of direction the Catholic Church could take to include them. The book is a vision of what could happen and it might give hope to any Protestant who believes that all Christians should unite.
I would also recommend this book to any Catholics who are open minded to “modernization” of their church. It would give them a view of what positive things could happen if they were to redefine some of their legalistic traditions from a point that Christ would take. Concentrating on delivering the gospel message to all man in a manner that displays the love and mercy of God, rather then a harsh and judgmental One. In reading this Catholics could see an example of how people may respond more positively to a more merciful message. I would also recommend this book to someone who had no is neither Catholic or Protestant but is interested in being saved. I believe that it would give them a perspective of salvation that is fresh and inviting.
It is been thought by many leaders in the past that the best way to have people do what you want of them is to have them fear you. I disagree with this. I think the greatest power is that of faith, loyalty, and friendship. If new converts are being brought in to the church out of fear, what kind of starting point is that for their Christian life? The corner stone for their salvation is one of guilt and fright. In my opinion the majority of the times that Jesus was delivering a message of condemnation or rebuke he seemed to be directing it towards the religious leaders of the day, and not the common crowds.
Not only would a message of love entice more converts but it would leave them in a fallow environment for furthering their Christian faith. I would compare it almost to someones first experience to military life. You start with basic training which teaches strict discipline and an adherence to the rules set in place. It is a time where you can no longer live your life as you used to but must make changes in actions and behavior. After basic you go through a few years of being on the bottom of the ladder.
Once you are higher up though you have the attitude that, “I went through all the hard times so you should too.” You dont want anyone beneath you to have it any easier then you did. I feel that sometimes Christians take this stance with other Christians and it discourages them from continuing to “run the race”, as Paul says. Joseph Girzone portrays a open and loving church in his book and most people would accept his message before that of a preacher shouting about fire and brimstone. This book has been very helpful to me because it clarified where the Catholic church currently stands on many issues, and the ideas, that at least one Priest has, on what direction it might go. It also helped me understand some peoples aversion to church and its leaders.
I have always believed that Jesus intended for the church to unite around common Christian principles. Although, diversion and concentration on specific religious practices does brings out many different manifestations of the Holy Spirit. I have for example, felt very close to God before while listening to the Eucharist and, I have felt just as moved while singing songs of worship in a church that is more open to self expression.