Book Review

Shame is a topic close to all of us, but not well discussed and too easily misconstrued. Happily the entire discussion is well framed by its two bookends. The opening chapter offers a set of insights into the nature of shame, our need for it and its potential for re-making us. The closing pages contain a beautiful poem on mercy from the late Australian poet Noel Rowe.

Tom Ryan, then, has given us a book about shame which centres on hope for a Church not used to living within the shame from deserved scrutiny. He frames the book within the life of Mary, allowing us to reset our understanding through a biblical exploration around the woman with a highly disruptive adult son. Indeed a son whose very birth was the first of many disruptive moments!

Over nine chapters the book takes us through the concept of shame, its application to the life of Jesus, and then more so to the way shame was a part of the life of Mary. The outlook is always towards our life today and the disgraced moments in the life of our church. The final three chapters offer ways forward, opening possibilities of listening to victims, standing with victims, pondering the church, and lamenting from a perspective informed by the life of Mary and the memory of her held by the early church.

We have a highly readable, well structured text, infused with the scriptures and enabling the reader to be accompanied by Mary the woman of faith in dealing with the shame within the church. Ever the pastor, the author does not give us a way out but a way through.

Gerard Moore

Shame, Hope and the Church: a journey with Mary is published St Pauls, Strathfield NSW and available at: