By Christine Watkins, 203 pages, Ave Maria Press.
At Medjugorje, God heals people of drug abuse, family violence, debilitating guilt, lack of faith, and other ailments of secularism. The Yugoslav town is an island of deep religious piety.
Watkins portrays the power of healing and grace through the stories of 6 heroes of the faith. Rather than being models for their martyrdom or extreme religious activity, they are heroes because they experienced the terribly sinful lifestyle of America , foremost promiscuity and substance abuse. They stole, lied, cheated, and were well on the road to destroying their families.
The Father's persistent intervention, through the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje, radically changed and healed them, though not without complications and setbacks. Mother Mary never gave up on them, and kept offering them grace.
Much of the book focuses on the psychological or cultural issues of modern society, such as the radical freedom and individuality that often pulls people into drug use and pre-marital sex.
Each individual portrayed was for a long time deeply aware of the psychological issues. Some of them went for untold hours of counseling. Yet they couldn't change. Counseling and the latest therapies or New Age solutions only made matters worse.
They needed a theological solution, particularly the need to understand the gravity of their sins. Once they changed focus, from the psychological to the theological outlook on human behavior, they were able to realize the extent of their bad behavior.
Some stories in Full of Grace highlight the satanic meaning of certain acts:
"'The Church doesn't just make this stuff up, you know,' he said. 'You lost God's protection when you lost your virginity, and you opened yourself up to the demonic realm. With every person you slept with, more demons entered your soul. And you also hurt the souls of those you were with.'"
While the stories have happy endings, led by God's undying love for His children, many of the smaller details can seem shocking to readers used to a psychological viewpoint. Watkins is quick to point out that these people are not evil, and in many cases, with their addictions, they are sick. Addictions and other destructive behavior are diseases or mental illness.
But Watkins also does readers a service by refusing to let these people off the hook. They committed evil acts. They have no shortcuts to forgiveness and God's grace. They have to go through the pain of acknowledging the evil nature of their acts and asking forgiveness from God and those they offended.
Psychological and theological awareness of one's behavior are, then, 2 different things, though both play a necessary role in the journey.
The key player in the journeys of all these people is God. Repeatedly, Mary leads each sinful individual to Christ and forgiveness. While it would have been much easier to have avoided the sins in the first place, no sinful act can erase God's abiding love.
The Father, often through the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje, keeps calling these people back home.