Book Reviews2 Traveling Graces: A little book of plane prayers

Cunningham, Sister Agnes SCCM. Ligouri Publications; Ligouri, Missouri. 2010. ISBN978-0-7648-1959-9.

The year my sister graduated from high school, I willingly consented to shepherd her and a few friends around Italy on a graduation trip before I began my study abroad experience on an island in the Caribbean. Having spent 10 days traipsing around Italy on stuffy trains, careening taxis, and aching feet (one of our friends didn’t tell me she had corns) I left the group in the Rome airport and departed for the Dominican Republic, via Madrid and Miami. And on that prolonged journey, which was far more stressful than any experience I’ve ever had in transit, I learned to trust God and entrust my travels to him. I’ve given thanks many times since for the graces stemming from that lesson.

When I saw Sister Agnes Cunningham’s book “Traveling Graces: a little book of plane prayers” I immediately thought, “That’s the book for me!” For as much as traveling has taught me to trust, I still need to pray more when I travel. This delightful little book with its 30 short prayers will bring a smile to the face, and peace to the heart, of any traveler.

Written when she was recovering from a car accident, Sister Agnes calls upon years of experience flying around the world to inform and enlighten her prayers. She balances the things most people enjoy about air travel with the things that no one can really claim to love. Within the pages of this short book are prayers giving thanks for the glory of the landscapes and cloudscapes seen out the little round window and asking for the grace to be thankful for airline food. Prayers cover such varied topics as overbooked or cancelled flights, the jet stream, turbulence, carry on luggage, waiting rooms and hotel shuttles. Particularly poignant is the dedication, a prayer in memory of Fr. John A. Jamnicky, the Chicago O’Hare Airport Chaplain from 1981 to 2000.

Sister Agnes’s prayers often wax poetic. As a writer and a religious, she has a gift for seeing the extraordinary in an ordinary situation, for seeing God in earthly conditions, and in creating masterful sentences that capture complex thoughts. As the book progresses, the prayers also become more profound, starting with more tangible topics such as flight attendants and the person in the next seat over and moving towards complex notions such as unity in Christ and the human need for vacations before concluding, stranded in the Montreal airport.

For the reader who enjoys poetry, these prayers will be a gem. But for the prayerful traveler, the prayers are also valuable. Each prayer is accompanied by a quote from scripture that pertains to the topic and promotes further meditation and reflection.

Handy enough to fit into a briefcase, purse, or carry-on bag, this little book is also weighty enough to make time on each trip for the transcendent and to remind man that God is still the Lord of earth and skies. It is highly recommended to business travelers and white-knuckle flyers alike.

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