by Karen Mahoney

A talk that was to be given at Lumen Christi Parish on July 22 was canceled and instead prepared as a Zoom broadcast, now available on YouTube recordings. Lumen Christi parishioner Dr. Bruce Rowe and former member, Marcus Mescher, spoke on faith and the books each recently wrote.

Rowe, a family physician, wrote his memoir, “Everything Under the Sun: A Family Doctor’s Reflections on Life, Love, Loss and Renewed Hope in Medicine.” The book chronicles personal experiences in his life, as well as in his multi-faceted medical practice.

As a child, Rowe enjoyed reading and listening to adventure stories, which extended into his religious reading. One of his favorite books while growing up was “The Child’s Story Bible” by Catherine Vos.

“I loved the strong characters and fascinating events; it was such a compelling narrative,” he said. “There are countless stories about people and events out there just waiting to be told. Mr. Rogers said, ‘There isn’t anyone that you couldn’t learn to love once you know their story.’”

Rowe grew up in rural Iowa, and attended college and medical school at the University of Iowa. For more than 20 years, he has worked as an attending physician at Ascension-Columbia-St. Mary’s Clinic in Brown Deer. He is married and has two adult daughters.

As Rowe entered the midpoint of his medical career, he was feeling a sense of burnout and wondered if his work in medicine was having the positive effect he had hoped. At the same time, he wanted to record some personal anecdotes and patient experiences before the memories began to fade.

“Finally, I wanted to leave a legacy for my family and friends,” he explained. “My book is arranged around single-word chapters with specific themes, detailing my growth and training as a physician, and interesting patients that I have met along the way.”

During the talk, Rowe discussed the process of storytelling and the ways writing is therapeutic and transformative.

“Finally, I hope I imparted some inspiration about living a life with passion and upholding the values of Christian and Catholic teachings in one’s personal and professional life,” he said.

Mescher’s book, “The Ethics of Encounter,” aims to practice solidarity in a time of despair, distrust and division. The title comes from Pope Francis’ culture of encounter and is his basic thesis in responding to Francis’ call to build a more inclusive culture of belonging.

Mescher, who is an associate professor of Christian ethics at St. Xavier University in Cincinnati, credits his lifelong Catholic education in writing this book; he always had teachers who stressed the connection between faith and service.

“These service opportunities, whether in grade school at Lasata Senior Living Community, in high school with Sojourner Family Peace Center or in college at St. Ben’s Meal Program, for example, changed how I saw myself, others, our church and our world,” he said. “Even though I often served people who looked different from me, the more time we spent together, the more I was able to recognize what we share in common. Mother Teresa reflected, ‘If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.’ I think she’s right; the question is, how do we rediscover that sense there is no us and them, only us? My book aims to help us overcome widespread social distrust and division to discover that we belong to each other.”

Mescher said he framed the book with Pope Francis’ vision for building a culture of encounter, and wrote it primarily as a Catholic to other Catholics, focusing on the principle of solidarity in Catholic social teaching.

“It is an academic book, informed by Scripture, Church teaching and social science experts, but written in a way that is accessible and relevant to anyone seeking a source of hope and healing to respond to the crisis of community we’re experiencing,” he said. “This is an important moment for us as a Church and country. The meaning of the word crisis signifies decision, and we have to ask ourselves: Who do we want to be on the other side of this pandemic. What kind of community are we building? How do we get there?”

Using Jesus as an example, Mescher hopes we can be an example of reconciliation in a wounded world. He reminds that Jesus met people where they were, connected with them and built an inclusive community rooted in mutual respect and responsibility.

“He stood with outsiders and outcasts, undermining categories of us and them. Jews and Gentiles would never eat together because of their different beliefs and practices, but Jesus inspired them break bread together,” he said. “The Ethics of Encounter challenges us to follow this example by reaching out to and being received by people across differences. These encounters can help remind us that we belong to each other as equals in God’s eyes, all members of God’s family.”

While many Americans live in segregated communities and spend much of their time behind screens, Mescher said some studies demonstrate that Americans are less polarized than the mainstream media portrays. While most can find common ground among key issues, it disintegrates when we put on a partisan hat and think more about being right rather than doing what is right.

“To combat these trends, there are three steps we can take. First, when we think in terms of labels, whether by religion or race, class or political party, we feed into the tribalism that divides us into camps of us and them, worthy and unworthy. These labels can become macro-identities that help us feel a sense of belonging, status, and care more about being on the winning side than working toward the common good,” he said. “So, we have to fight the temptation to divide people into binary camps, especially since they don’t reflect our complex reality. Second, we need to follow the example of the Samaritan to go out of our way, and into the ditch, to encounter people across differences so we can recognize our shared humanity, reverence the Divine in every other person we encounter, break cycles of social separation. Third, we have to go beyond the example of the Samaritan by cultivating inclusive friendships.”

Mescher said it’s important to become friends with those who think differently than us, and share in rituals that shape us in courage, mercy, generosity and fidelity.

“When we collaborate on social issues in the spirit of solidarity, we will begin living like we belong to each other,” he said.

If you want to watch

View Fr. Dan Sanders and Dr. Rowe’s talk:

View Fr. Dan Sanders and Marcus Mescher’s talk:

Both books are available on Amazon.