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12/24/2012 9:01:00 AM
Meeting Jesus face to face - how would we change?
Jesus Face-to-Face (Published by Greg Hadley, Lake Oswego, 207 pages, www.gbhadley.com)
Jesus Face-to-Face (Published by Greg Hadley, Lake Oswego, 207 pages, www.gbhadley.com)
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Toupee Mice (Rafka Press, Phoenix, Ariz., 72 pages)
Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

LAKE OSWEGO — If we could pick one person to meet in the flesh, most of us would probably choose Jesus.

Author Greg Hadley has written about 32 people from the gospels who had fleeting personal encounters with Christ. The work begs the intriguing questions: What would we do, given that chance? How does meeting Jesus change someone?

In Jesus Face-to-Face (Published by Greg Hadley, Lake Oswego, 207 pages, www.gbhadley.com) we meet the rich young man, a Roman tribune, the paralytic lowered through the roof, the money changer in the temple and even the wind steward at Cana, among others. Hadley is faithful to scripture, but lets his imagination proceed to good effect.

"I spent the rest of my life trying to be a true follower of Jesus," says the woman healed of hemorrhages in Mark 5:25-34. "I did not do that because he cured me; I did that because I came to believe he was the Son of God, the Messiah and the Savior of the world. I love him, and I know he loves me, too."

At the end of each vignette, Hadley offers an insightful reflection that makes the encounter salient to modern life.

Hadley, who lives at Mary's Woods retirement community on the campus of the Sisters of the Holy Names, is a former management consultant and college baseball umpire. He and wife Evelyn moved to Oregon in 1990. This is his seventh book.

Not far in the background of his book is the truth that, while we can't meet Jesus face-to-face as those in 1st century Palestine did, we can meet him through the People of God, through scripture, through Eucharist. That, Hadley concludes, should make our lives different.

"It is only when we turn to Jesus, the Light of the World, for his guidance and grace that we can be at peace with our choices," he writes. "Our Lord shines his light for us on the shadowy roads we travel each day."

Here are some other recent books with Oregon Catholic connections:

• Tony Russo, an Italian-born immigrant to Portland, became a top local wrestler and went on to compete for Arizona State University and wrestle as a finalist in the 1964 Olympic trials. A member of the Oregon chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, he became a successful coach in Oregon.

His autobiography, Wrestling with the Devil (Gemelli Press, Seattle, 300 pages) was written with daughter Tonya Russo Hamilton. It's a skillfully-told narrative of moving boldly through a life where you win some and lose some. Russo, sent to America at age 10, decided to excel where he could.

"Although I was proving a complete failure in school academically and behaviorally, I did find one place where I could actually shine, and that was in physical education," he writes, describing life at Portland's Powellhurst Elementary, where his lack of English proved an obstacle. He also got into fisticuffs now and then.

The book is lively and gives detail in just the right measure. Russo's birth, for example, is described as a noisy affair, with celebrating relatives downing thick-crusted bread and red wine. The book gives a look at the life of Catholic Italian immigrants who operated truck farms around Portland, feeding the city, exclaiming often and loving family fiercely.

As a student at David Douglas High in the 1950s, Russo began to hit a wrestling groove. That despite a mother who protested loudly in Italian at the first match she saw that the sport was far too brutal. The tenderly-told story is well illustrated with family photos.   

• In Broken Blessings (Spirit Water Publications, Salem, 283 pages), Willamette University music professor Christine Elder offers wisdom gained through unmitigated horror. One dark fall night, Elder found her son hanging lifeless by a rope. Broken Blessings is the story of what, or who, guided the author through the aftermath, which included her son's massive brain injury and his abiding struggle with addiction.  

A big part of the story is Jeff Tiner, an Oregon death row inmate who began praying for Elder's son and became what the author calls "a spiritual brother." Tiner, who became Catholic in jail, spends most of his waking hours supported Catholic causes and supporting people in need.

Elder's son, when he learned the inmate was praying for him, wrote a letter of thanks to Tiner.

As she narrates her effort to help her son heal, Elder writes nicely about grace and cites St. Teresa of Avila and other spiritual luminaries.

The story of responding slowly to life's unspeakable tragedies is timely in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre. Elder is convinced that something guides us, and that we are never alone.

• Madelain Westermann, a fourth grade teacher at St. Cecilia School in Beaverton, has just become a published children's author. Her Island of the Invisible Being (Nelson Publishing & Marketing, Northville, Mich., 32 pages) explores what we do when we're filled with fear and despair. Do we shrink and disappear, or do we survive? Westermann's main character, Emon, rises up, but may be getting some help as she tries to survive among people of the Marshall Islands. Illustrator is Erin Johnson.

Westermann, a native Oregonian, attended Madeleine School and St. Mary's Academy. She was even a Rose Festival princess. She fell in love with the island cultures after working in the Marshall Islands as a teacher. The story was inspired by one of her courageous students from the islands.

"Madelain is not only one of the most creative, energetic and passionate teachers with whom I have ever had the pleasure to work, she is also one of the most faith-filled and spiritual," says Sue Harris, St. Cecilia's principal. "She is a model and inspiration for our students, staff and parents."

• Matthew Gonder has just published his true memoir about life in Portland in 1968 when his family attended Blessed Sacrament Parish and its school. "Christmas On The Move Out West" (Matthew Gronder, Paris, 122 pages, www.matthewgonder.com) honors the education he received under the care of Franciscan Sister Mary Raphael Bolduc, who started teaching at Blessed Sacrament in 1942.

It's a wacky memoir with potential to become a baby boomer Christmas classic.

Gonder is an actor, singer, dancer, author, composer, playwright who lives in Paris with wife Pamela.

The coming of age account centers on a widower with five children and his spinster sister who roll with the punches. The unexpected ending actually happened.

• The Salem Catholic writer-illustrator duo Karl Bjorn Erickson and Kimberly Loraine Erickson have a new children's book about a mouse who aspires to sing in the church choir. Toupee Mice (Rafka Press, Phoenix, Ariz., 72 pages) concerns the hopes and antics of Ian, who seeks to break the musical species barrier.  

The human choir members are none too happy to hear him — or see him. Ian and Pierre, along with their “big-boned” hamster friend, Fred, disguise themselves to hide from the musically named Ludwig, a house cat afraid of dust bunnies. Along the way, the determined friends learn about St. Cecilia and the importance of singing praise to God.

This is the couple’s second book for children. Their first, “Tristan’s Travels,” received the Catholic Writers’ Guild seal of approval and was a runner-up for the Catholic Arts and Letters award.

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