Mary Johnson's approach, in "An Unquenchable Thirst," is boldly divulgent and compassionately invitational. Her style is creative but retains a simplicity supporting the straightforward disclosure of the emotional and relational dynamics that lived inside her, and could not be silenced by good intentions or dogged determination to be faithful to her vows.
The book reflects Mary's continuing journey of healing and discovering herself, as though the book needed to be written not just for the reader, but by the author for herself. I sensed an experiential invitation into the depths of myself, through looking into Mary's thoughts and feelings, to explore the tensions in myself between an early sense of vocation to professional ministry - at aged 15 - and the conflicting thoughts and feelings I lived with in that vocation, until I left at age 49. I, like Mary, could not escape the questions that the institution judged one faithless to ask – questions not only about theology, including the God-image, but archaic, prejudicial views on gender and sexuality maintained by a male hierarchy. The book was instrumental in my continuing to discover who I am apart from identity as a religious cleric, as well as what I believe in regard to the religion I was given early in life, but could not encompass my heart-felt passion to serve and love all peoples equally.
Mary's kindly forthright handling of her subject matter offers persons an invitation to forgive. The book is all but a diatribe against the Catholic church or the religious order she was part of. Rather, Mary invites us, men and women, and persons of varied faith paths, into the inner crucible many feel in struggling with early religious beliefs and commitments and ongoing personal formation that seems doggedly determined to lead in other directions. She shows us there is a way better than getting fixated in a reactive bitterness.
We are challenged to ask vital questions about the meaning of religion and vocation in our present post post-modern era. Mary wisely does not answer these questions. She leaves the reader with the questions, and an implicit appeal to dialogue.
Naturally, some persons may see the book as more appealing to women. Men, however, can find in it what I did, as a man - a window into existential questions and tensions not bounded by gender or religion. This book is not principally about religion or religious vocation, but about the human search for meaning, as unique and diversified as to include each one of us sharing this Earth.
“An Unquenchable Thirst” is a challenge for us to transform social structures, religious or otherwise, that deter us from living together in peace and equality. The book is a call for us each to an honest transformation of that within us that needs uniting in Love, so that we can help create a future that equally belongs to us all, as a global communion. Mary summons us, ironically, to what was implicit in her vows and that she did not lose in abdicating her vows – passionate love for and service to others.
. . . .from Arem Nahariim-Samadhi, MDiv, MFT, PhD, is an interfaith Chaplain in Southwest Florida. In 1995 he was vowed by Greenbough House of Prayer, in Georgia (USA), an ecumenical, contemplative community. He is author of An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, integrating Bridal mysticism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Sufi mysticism. His interspiritual website is Lotus of the Heart, www.onelifeministries.org . Arem's primary inspiration arises from integrating Advaita with a devotion to Jesus as mystic, wisdom teacher, and advocate of social justice and equality for all.