Thu, Jan 10, 2019 - Page 14 News List

Book review: A priest bares his soul

Finally available in English decades after the Chinese version was published, ‘Journey to Mexico’ is a breezy but thoughtful and personal read about Barry Martinson’s spiritual journey that will challenge your inner cynic

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

In fact, almost all the people he meets in the book are also full of kindness, which will undoubtedly make the story rather surreal for the more cynical readers, such as this reviewer.

Martinson briefly mentions a young man who experienced a more drastic turnaround than the author, giving up a promising law career and girlfriend to become a priest. But his girlfriend is not bitter, and supports his decision because she only wants him to be happy. It’s hard to imagine this happening in today’s ego-driven world, and maybe a little bit more could have been expounded on this couple to contrast with Martinson’s experience. But, it’s his story after all.

And given Martinson’s character, it really isn’t a surprise that he attracts and surrounds himself with like-minded people. Or perhaps it’s just that he tends to see the good and beauty in people, as he frequently reveals in the book. He’s never reluctant to describe a person’s physical appearance as “attractive” and “beautiful,” and when his art teacher criticizes him for making his life drawings look like “movie stars,” he simply replies: “That’s what I see.” Perhaps that’s the only way he’s been able to carry on for so long while still retaining such an unadulterated character.

“Why paint ugliness when the world is so full of beauty?” he asks later. “If I see something beautiful in people, shouldn’t I paint what I see?”

Martinson has continued his art career in Taiwan, and visitors to Chingchuan will be able to his work, especially his murals outside his church, and he’s been selling his glass paintings to raise money for various improvement projects.

Fortunately, the book is not overly preachy, with the religious parts integrated into the stories and musings. It shows that Martinson knows how to appeal to a wider audience because, after all, his life’s mission is to convert people, and you don’t achieve that by shoving the Bible in people’s faces.

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