By Sr. Simone Campbell. Orbis Books, 2020. 160 pages. $16/paperback; $12.50/eBook.
Sister Simone Campbell’s Hunger for Hope: Prophetic Communities, Contemplation, and the Common Good is a small but mighty book. From 2004 to March 2021, Campbell led Network, the Catholic social justice lobby group that often finds itself allied with the Quaker lobby group Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). She invites her readers into an inclusive spirituality, which she defines as “the values we live by and the care that we take of each other,” noting that although her particular lens is Catholic, she believes “that there are many ways to be open to the divine presence in our midst.” She hopes to empower readers to faithfully engage in the “prophetic imagination” and “holy curiosity” through contemplation and community. Hunger for Hope contains her reflection for how we can each contribute to the world that FCNL and Network seek to build.
Many of the messages of the book resonate with Friends values. In the contemplation section, she often references the importance of trusting the “‘still, small voice’ that whispers insights or nudges for action.” Her reflection that “radical acceptance of the person requires encountering them in a way that they can see their best selves” reminds me of the Quaker belief that there is that of God in everyone. She shares about the power of maintaining “a long and available memory” that “connects us to a context that makes us part of a broader story. This not only can be comforting but can also give us the jolt that we need for action.” This idea is reflected in how Quaker history is often an inspiration to the work of Friends today. Additionally, at the end of many of the chapters, she poses questions for reflection that are similar to the queries Friends embrace. They include such questions as, “How do I experience listening with compassion?,” “How do I deal with communal conflict?,” and “How do I express empathy in action?” I saw my own spirituality reflected throughout the book.
There are many lessons Campbell shares in the book that will stick with me. I always appreciate reminders about the power of being guided by both a vision and a mission. She warns against allowing our contemplative experiences to be too personally focused, and instead urges readers to discover the joy of relationships. She highlights the significance of relationships through many stories grounded in her hearing from and partnering with those most directly affected by government policies, and she reminds us that “letting our hearts be broken by the stories of those around us creates true community and connection.” Campbell invites her readers to “open ourselves to the truth all around us,” including learning “from each other, even from the people who have hurt us,” because “[b]y relying on each other for insight and sharing our own perspectives, we can imagine and create a new reality.” She offers a blueprint for building the Beloved Community.
Hunger for Hope truly inspired me. From Campbell’s radical acceptance of that of God in former President Donald Trump and his administration to her belief that “[w]e are the leaders we have been waiting for,” she offers the messages that I need to hear in this tense political moment. She encourages her readers to stay grounded in our faith in Spirit and in each other. She says that if we each do our part, “our world, ever so slightly, but meaningfully, will be changed.” This book deepens my faith in that truth.
Lauren Brownlee is a member of Bethesda (Md.) Meeting, where she serves on the Peace and Social Justice Committee.