Friday 18 January 2019

Be Who You Are: Developing Your Christian Personality - Wenceslau Vial Editor

Be Who You Are:
Developing Your Christian Personality
Wenceslau Vial
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9781594173226


This book was not what I expected. When I first came across it I did not realize that it was an anthology and that Wenceslau Vial was both an editor and a contributor. In fact, Wenceslau contributed three of the 11 pieces in the collection. The description of this volume is:

“As St. Catherine of Siena so aptly stated, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!" Despite our fallen natures, we have the ability, through the solid Christian understanding of the human person—body and soul—how we can rise above it all. The authors guide us towards spiritual maturity, by teaching us how to improve one's personality, self-esteem, and virtue, without imitating models that distract us from our own identity. We learn how to live a happier and more coherent life, and how to acquire greater empathy with others—especially with our own family members and those in our immediate environment.”

And this book draws from several disciplines, and ten contributors to probe the depths of understanding self in growth in becoming better at being. For almost 30 years now my email signature has begun with ‘Yours, learning to be’, and it has been a life long endeavour to learn how to be, and to be good at being. This is a book that will assist with that process no matter where you are at in your life’s journey. This book would be a great read from late teens through to centenarians. There are many books I read and plan to read again, this might become one of those books that I read annually.

The sections in this volume are:

1. A Personality Identified with Christ
     Javier Sesé
 2. Authors of Our Own Lives
     Juan Ramón García-Morato
 3. A Healthy Self-Esteem
     Javier Cabanyes
 4. Character Built on Virtue
     José María Barrio and Rodolfo Valdés
 5. Building Interior Order
     José Benito Cabaniña and Carlos Ayxelá
 6. A Life in Dialogue with Others
     Alfonso Aguiló
 7. Sharing Others’ Feelings
     Javier Laínez
 8. Growth: A Family Project
     Wenceslao Vial
 9. Details of the Home
     Wenceslao Vial
10. The Others and I: Verses of the Same Poem
     Carlos Ayxelá
11. The Ripe Fruit of Personal Identity
     Wenceslao Vial
Works Cited
Recommended Reading

The contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds. A life long educator specializing in education and anthropology. A priest with degrees in the humanities, journalism, and a doctorate in philosophy. Degrees in philosophy, journalism, theology, mathematics, psychology and even a doctorate in medicine with a focus on neurology. The forward begins with these words:

“History recounts that in the times of ancient Rome pirates gradually took control of the Mediterranean Sea. Pompey the Great, consul of Rome, acted vigorusly to end this scourge, but he also tried to treat the pirates in a humane way. The outlaws, surprised by the leniency shown them, praised the Consul: “The more you act like a man, the more you resemble the gods.”

These words from the distant past can help us reflect on our own life. The first requirement for an upright character is acting as a human being. It is only on this foundation that a mature personality can be forged—a strong and friendly way of being that becomes the support for a rich spiritual life redounding to the benefit of many other people.

This book arose from an interdisciplinary group that gathered together ideas on how to develop a healthy, well-rounded personality.1 The fact that the contributors come from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests, has greatly helped to enrich the book’s content. As theologians, philosophers, priests, doctors, educators, and psychologists, they have all made contributions based on their own experience and expertise.

The book focuses on the features proper to a mature personality, with special attention to a Christian’s spiritual life. The Catholic Church has a long tradition of teachers of the spiritual life who provide a coherent synthesis of the various factors that converge to form a healthy personality. Among these, St. Josemaría Escrivá has been a key source of inspiration. The teachings of this saint contain valuable advice on the importance of strengthening human virtues as the foundation for the supernatural virtues, on the need to form Christians with their own criteria and standards, and on the essential requirement for “unity of life” in each person.
Although the book discusses a wide variety of circumstances, its focus above all is on those going through crucial phases in personality development, especially between the ages of fifteen and thirty (adolescents and young adults), and on those who in one way or another are involved in their formation.”

But as one who has been in a decades long quest of personal growth, I can state this book will benefit readers of all ages. It will be excellent for those in those developmental year, and those who work with them. But all of us can learn from this volume, and through that learning become better people. I loved how the Christian Virtues were woven throughout the book. And the Epilogue states:

“We have considered in the pages above some of the signs of maturity, by which we build up our life brick by brick. Psychological concepts have gone hand in hand with the virtues, which ennoble our being because they draw out what is best in our humanity. Like a pyramid, the apex of Christian maturity rises high above the broad and strong foundation of faith. Our faith tells us that we are creatures, and that an all-knowing and loving God has given us a mission in life. He offers us the best human identity possible, and fills us with a joy that has no merely human explanation.”

This collection is masterfully executed and was well planned. It is a book that will serve generations to come. I truly believe growth is a lifelong journey. And this is a book that we can use to help us, and to help us help others. An excellent read. And of all the books both Christian and secular I have read on personal development one of the best!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

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