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By Pat Fosarelli


106 pp., West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton, 2008, $12.95, paperback.


Review: Fosarelli, a physician and theologian (DMin), has prepared a succinct collection of information about religious beliefs and their practices at a time of illness and dying for five world religions. The easy-to-use, compact book (4 "x7") is created for healthcare professionals offering end-of-life care in a pluralistic society where patients come from various faith traditions. In separate chapters on Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, Fosarelli provides a brief overview of the basic beliefs and main tenets of the religion, then explores the varied approaches each takes to illness and end-of-life issues. Suitable prayers or readings at a time of illness or death are given, along with modifications that might be necessary for Western hospitals or with children. Specific suggestions are listed regarding what to do/say or not do/say in each faith tradition. I appreciated Fosarelli's suggestions for using the Psalms with Christians or Jews, use of the Lord's Prayer, and formal prayers from Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, and Orthodox traditions.

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Fosarelli's book is not deeply theological; it is a simple overview of five religions to help healthcare professionals gain a minimal understanding of what the needs and religious practices might be of a patient and family from a specific faith tradition. Fosarelli treats each religion equally, not to promote that each is "correct," but to give basic facts in order to help healthcare workers offer care that appreciates and respects a person's beliefs.


As a Christian who believes Jesus is the only Way to eternal life (John 14:6), I struggled with this book. I would not chant with a Hindu to a presiding deity ("Hari Krishna") or read from the Baghavad Gita, nor would I pray to Allah on behalf of a Muslim. However, if asked or if I sensed someone wanted prayer, I would tell them I am a Christian and offer to pray to God on their behalf if they would like me to. If I want to fully love and care for a patient and family-which is what Christ would have me do-I will respect and honor their beliefs and wishes. This book helps me understand what various branches of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, or Judaism might think is best at a time of illness and dying.


Prayers & Rituals is not about promoting religion, but respecting people and what they believe. By lovingly and respectfully caring for patients of any religion, never forget we express Christ's love and character. -KSS