YOUNG MEN RISE UP
Fr Ken Barker, MGL; Connor Court Publishing, Victoria, 2008; $22.95
Reviewed by Barbara J. Flynn
SIGNIFICANTLY, Young Men Rise Up is the third recently published work of Missionaries of God’s Love Father Ken Barker, a priest whose writings challenge and inspires people seeking to deepen their Christian understandings.
On the other hand, his writings speak prophetically and unashamedly to confront issues and behaviours of Christian malaise and apathy among many of the baptised.
Appropriately, this book has as its focus the empowerment of young men. Years of pastoral work have provided Fr Barker with first hand experience through compassionate listening to the brokenness, moral pluralism and confusion in the lives of many young men whom he encounters.
Fr Barker does not dwell on the moral and spiritual deficit within the circumstances and environments of many young men’s lives today.
Instead, he sees the current sociological and spiritual circumstances of their lived experiences in the contemporary world as a tapestry of opportunity for introducing transformational behaviours to young men.
He proposes that young men be introduced to the God of love where the spirit of Christ shapes and moulds their masculinity modelled on that of Jesus Christ evidenced most profoundly in Christ’s teachings and His lived experiences.
In this concise and spiritually challenging book, Fr Barker develops principles and concepts, which lead and guide the transformation of men’s lives towards empowerment “as God created them to be”.
He fleshes out the principles and concepts employing three strategies.
These are catechesis of Christian doctrine, true-life stories “from men on the way” and stories of men recognised as role models in the history of the Catholic Church for the ways they lived commitment to Christ.
Societal issues, personal and group behaviours, and moral dilemmas which can entrap and entangle young men morally and spiritually both personally and in group situations are exposed by Fr Barker with frankness and sensitivity.
Although the material under discussion is being applied in the context of young men’s lives, the teaching has universal application to any person who seeks to realise their full human potential through living commitment to Christ’s values in the spirit of Christ.
Sequentially developed in four parts, the book immerses the reader in consideration of moral values, which apply to all people seeking to live morally integrated lives in virtue and truth, that is, “to function according to God’s design for human life”.
Quotations from the Catechism of The Catholic Church and from Scripture introduce each of the four sections of the book.
As a backdrop to the author’s subsequent exploration of specific concepts under discussion in sections of the book, these quotations provide universally recognised principles and values of Catholic teaching.
This strategy has merit in drawing the reader to the rich heritage of Catholic traditional teaching that can be accessed to provide guidelines for personal moral and spiritual transformation.
Adding to the reader appeal of Young Men Rise Up is the inclusion of real-life stories of young men whom the author has met “along the way”.
These stories depict with honesty and sensitivity the personal struggles, sorrows, joys, breakthroughs and victories of young men in the contemporary milieu of moral confusion.
Such real-life accounts are potent in their capacity for “heart speaks to heart evangelising”.
Young Men Rise Up is a highly commendable book recommended by bishops in the Australian Church “as a most valuable resource for young men and others seeking an understanding of what it means to be a truly Christian person today”.
It is a book of “hope and promise based on faith in Jesus Christ and commitment to live reliance on the grace of the Holy Spirit”.
Fr Barker has a pastoral and evangelising heart and writes with “a belly on fire with compassionate concern for youth” and their mission in the Church.