Attraction to Infinity: A Review of God at the Ritz
by Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete
Review by Christopher West
Lorenzo Albacete – affectionately dubbed the “mystical Monsignor” by those who know and love him – is a multifaceted man. His quest for knowledge as a physicist, his love for humanity as a priest, his awe for “mystery” as a theologian, and his wit as a comedian leap off the page in God at the Ritz.
Having served as a consultant for a PBS documentary on John Paul II,
These are not sugar-sweet, pious musings. In fact, God at the Ritz serves as an antidote to saccharin piety. As such, those who treat religion as an escape from reality will not find comfort in this book.
With utmost respect for the sceptic, the non-Christian, and the atheist,
The other ants who might have followed the “desires of their hearts” will now think twice because of the example made of their friend. “That is how power remains in power,”
The human need to know “why” should not embarrass us,
But, as we learned from Garcia Lorca’s ant, if we refuse to stifle the desires of our hearts for infinity, we must be prepared for a hostile response from others. We must be prepared to suffer. For “suffering is the cry of freedom in the human heart refusing to be defined by any power” (p. 88).
Albacete’s reflections on suffering – obviously flowing from the depths of a man who is no stranger to the topic – are simply stunning. These alone make the book a must-read. He offers no “answer” to the question of suffering. Indeed, he believes the “cruelest response to suffering is the attempt to explain it away” with a “prepackaged religious reply” (pp. 99, 102).
The only human response to suffering, according to
Suffering is a deeply personal reality. It is “a wound in our personal identity” (p. 100). When we suffer, “deep within our hearts we hear a distant echo of what could have been, of how human life was really meant to be” (p. 112). In this way, suffering points us not only to “some standard,” but to the Standard, the Infinite, or – to use Albacete’s favorite word – the “Mystery.”
Without saying so directly,
The redemption of suffering does not eliminate it, at least not in the earthly realm. Instead, the redemption of suffering creates “a community of those who love and offer[s] a home to those who suffer.” The presence of this community “represents an invitation to free human beings to embrace a new vocation, a new mission: to join the community of ‘redemptive suffering,’ to help complete what might be lacking in its inner resources to offer a home to those who suffer, sparing them from the loneliness that is hell” (pp. 115-116).
In the end, for
As a Catholic Christian, it is clear that
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