M. Bridget BRENNAN and Jerome L. SHEN, Claiming our Deepest Desires: The Power of an Intimate Marriage. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2004. pp. 146. $12.95 (paperback). ISBN 0-8146-3012-X.
Reviewed by Randall Jay WOODARD, Silver Spring, MD 20902

An old story tells of two bricklayers who were questioned as to the meaning of their work. The first replied, "I am laying bricks," while the second responded, "I am building a cathedral." Using the approach of the second worker to understand the meaning of their lives as a married couple, Brennan and Shen provide a text that seeks to explore marital spirituality within the scope of busy, everyday life. Acknowledging the need for intimacy as essential to human fulfillment, the authors humbly describe their attempt to "build a cathedral" through their married love. Brennan, director of marriage ministry St. Francis Xavier University Parish and president/ founder of The Cana Institute, and Shen, a chemist and professor, detail the challenges faced as couples seek intimate marriages.

This is a thoroughly practical book. Brennan and Shen begin the text with a very valuable description of what they mean by marriage, what they believe about marriage, what it means to be called to marriage and the role of love and intimacy in marriage. These introductory chapters communicate profound theological insight; thus laying a solid foundation for the remainder of the book, while at the same time remaining accessible to the average reader. Particularly noteworthy are the brief sections on intimacy and the social dimension of marriage, which highlight the missionary/vocational role of spouses.

Much of the remaining chapters address the day-to-day issues such as, money, time, communication, sexuality, and conflict that spouses face as they grow together in intimacy. These sections provide many humorous and edifying tales of success and failure as Brennan and Shen attempt to live out what they believe about marriage. Their stories of family life describe how the bricks we use to build the cathedral can often become stumbling blocks when we attempt to construct an intimate marriage with fear and selfishness rather than vulnerability and self-sacrifice.

Brennan and Shen have successfully accomplished their goal of providing readers with a book that will "affirm and inspire couples to live their marriage covenant" (1). Their realism and sincerity will allow readers to look deeply into their own relationship as they seek intimacy and fulfillment through marriage. The book would likely not serve well as a classroom text as it was written as an applied spirituality for couples. It will appeal specifically to couples that desire a new perspective on their own relationship and who would be best served working through the book together. It provides thought provoking exercises and reflections after each chapter that are sure to lead individuals into a deeper understanding of themselves and their spouse. It will function as a meaningful book for couples groups, as well as a couple who may wish to grow deeper in love with God and their spouse.


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