Father Jim Sichko is the kind of Catholic priest that even an Evangelical like me could love. First of all, he was raised in Texas; bonus points for that. But more importantly, he communicates in a good-natured, likable style that is welcoming, affirming, and God-honoring, remaining faithful to the Catholic church while not excluding others. In Among Friends: Stories from the Journey, Father Sichko uses his gift for story telling and self-deprecating humor to entertain and inspire.
He calls Among Friends his "Midrash," comparing it to the stories and reflections written by Jewish Rabbis to enlighten their flocks. Father Sichko is one of those guys to whom funny things seem to happen. Or at least he is one who finds humor in more things than most do. He tells stories of his lead foot, now well known among Kentucky state troopers. He tells of sleeping through his alarm and missing mass with the Pope. We read of his encounter with "The Weed Man."
But more than telling an amusing anecdote, Father Sichko draws lessons from the lighter side of life. He reminds us to take opportunities to do good, not to ask "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me," but to ask, "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" We should be open to miracles happening in our lives, and should certainly talk about them, but we must remember "that if we experience miracles in our lives, it's never for our own amusement. While he loves us, He wants us to see that miracles are meant to drive us to love others."
Sichko might not be evangelical enough for my Protestant and Evangelical brethren. He has a tendency to lean toward a style of positive thinking theology-lite. (I say this anticipating such criticism, not making it.) Among Friends is not a theology text, nor is it an exposition of scripture. Midrash might be the best description of it. Through all the stories and reflections, Sichko's life and teaching bear witness to this: God wants us to draw closer to him, every day, and let him change us as we get to know him. Sichko writes: "Some people ask what we will be doing during eternity in heaven. My answer? The same thing we do here. We'll be getting to know Him."
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!