Book Review — Companions in Hope: The Art of Christian Caring

September-October 1999


Companions in Hope: The Art of Christian Caring
Robert J. Wicks and Thomas E. Rodgerson
Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ
1998, 228 pp., $16.95 (paperback)

This hope-filled book calls on the entire Christian community to provide intentional caring. In the introduction, the authors write that "such caring has the potential to set people free and to enable them to live more complete lives as children of God."

The book evolved out of the Christian community's role as "gatekeepers" — we are often the first to see evidence of distress in others and and decide if the distress warrants professional help. Its premise is that the role of the caring Christian should be acknowledged as critical in providing preventive and strategic care.

The book, addressed to a nonprofessional audience, is divided into 12 chapters, which combine a strong scriptural basis with sound pastoral theology and well-grounded psychological tenets. The chapters evolve from "Caring to Listen: Overcoming Resistance"; "Caring to Listen: Standing on Holy Ground"; "Intentional Caring: Conversation with a Goal"; and "Intentional Caring: The Art of Questioning and Responding" to chapters dealing with specific situations and common problems.

The book presents the rationale for Christian caregiving that God calls us to. As the authors explain: "More recent trends of budget cutting of social programs and the limiting of benefits for mental health by insurance companies increase the importance of the role of family and friends in preventive and strategic care. Others have long called for the community of faith to play a leading role in the mental health of our communities."

As pastoral counselors, the authors have written a book that gives solid information about our need to be intentional caregivers. As with pastoral counseling, Christian caring is based on the belief that everyone in the community of faith can participate in a form of caring that is transformational. The authors state, "This book [is not] designed to turn the reader into a professional counselor. Instead, it is designed to enhance personal talents in the areas of listening, being supportive, problem solving, dealing with crises and knowing when and how to refer, in order to equip communities of caregivers who might work to facilitate spiritual growth on a broad level."

As a professional chaplain who has worked for years with volunteer lay ministry development, I highly recommend this book as a text for continuing education for Christian caregivers. I would like to again quote the authors: "We cannot care without listening. If we do not listen, we do not care. The first service we owe to others in fellowship is to listen to them. If we fail to listen, there are spiritual consequences because as [Dietrich] Bonhoeffer says, 'He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either.'"Companion in Hope is, indeed, a message of hope to us all.

Rita S. McShea
Director, Pastoral Care Department
St. Anthony's Medical Center
St. Louis


Copyright © 1999 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Book Review - Companions in Hope The Art of Christian Caring

Copyright © 1999 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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