Book Review — Caring from the Heart: The Convergence of Caring and Spirituality

September-October 1998


Caring from the Heart: The Convergence of Caring and Spirituality
Sr. M. Simone Roach, CSM, ed.
Paulist Press, New York City, Mahwah, NJ, 1997, 211 pp., $14.95 (paperback)

Healthcare providers and pastoral care workers alike will find a gem in this book. With deft clarity and directness, the editor sets the theme for the entire work with an opening chapter. "Caring is the human mode of being," she states (p. 7). Sr. Roach identifies spirituality as a universal code word for the search for meaning, an integral, holistic, dynamic force in life for individuals and communities that has everything to do with relationships (p. 11).

Facing the reality that many different people have presuppositions about what care means, Rev. Ron Mercier, SJ, in the foreword announces the purpose of the book: to give care providers an ontology of care. An ontology is "a way of understanding ourselves not simply as doers or thinkers but as persons of care" (p. 3).

The entire book amplifies the dual care-and-spirituality theme set by the editor in the opening chapter. Its point of the incarnate wholeness of care as distinctively human and a manifestation of spirituality cannot be missed. Woven together in the concreteness of story, the elements of practical care and deep spirituality emerge throughout the book as one fabric. Technical knowledge and psychological insight are wedded to the explicit respect for religious search and tradition. The holistic style of the chapters is a breath of fresh air in a field often stifled by pious religiosity or scientific disdain.

The contributors are an impressive mix. Many of them nurses, the writers draw from educational, administrative, therapeutic, and artistic experiences. The chapters range from the educational formation of caregivers to the development of their aesthetic sensitivities through art, poetry, and music.

Educators A. Boykin and M. Parker stress that spirituality becomes actual in nursing through the caring called forth in the profession. Spirituality for them is a way of being and living, a way of knowing (p. 22). Education in caring, then, has ingredients: an aesthetic kind of knowing that leads to the full realization of connectedness, the patience for alternating rhythms, humility in the face of what one has been given, courage, hope, and honesty. For these two authors, "caring becomes the moral basis for relating" (pp. 25-26).

Physician N. Cannon insists that true health involves reconciliation and personal harmony in addition to alleviation of suffering (p. 38). Therapist M. Dombeck points to pathways to healing: an awakening, hospitality to new learnings, and commitment, specifically to practical activities of healing (pp. 61-62). Professor K. Ericksson insists that a professional nurse should be able to recognize and meet the patient's spiritual needs, whatever the nurse's own personal attitude to spirituality and religion might be (p. 71). This particular chapter was most powerful in its implications for a sound credible lay spirituality. As a woman active in the European healthcare arena, Ericksson speaks without flinching of "variations of human communion" and the bond of "caring communion" (pp. 79-80). Nurse-educators K. Gramling and C. Picard make a strong case in their chapters for careful attention to the aesthetic and emotional in fostering a spirituality of care. The most sensitive "nerve" of the care question is touched by M. Leininger in her chapter, "Transcultural Spirituality: A Comparative Care and Health Focus." Although it was once shunted aside, the diversity of cultural background and religious commitment is now a key focus for the effective care of the future. The greatest challenge for healthcare looms in this area. Educators M. P. McCarthy, M. Ray, S. Sethi, and G. Sherwood issue the call for the deepening of the spirituality of caregivers themselves, and, finally, C. McCulloch gives us remarkable insight into how spirituality when addressed directly is key to the well-being of older persons.

Theologically sound and pastorally sensitive, this book is a veritable feast and a fine addition to the caregiver's personal library. It will also serve as an excellent discussion text for a variety of persons in healthcare or pastoral care. Practical, innovative, hopeful, and energizing, this work sets the pace for fine writing about caregiving.

Reviewed by Sr. Carla Mae Streeter, OP, Teacher, Systematic Theology and Spirituality, Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis


Copyright © 1998 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Book Review - Caring from the Heart - The Convergence of Caring and Spirituality

Copyright © 1998 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.