God Is Not Fair, and Other Reasons for Gratitude

Two thoughts from reading the title of this book drew me to it immediately. One, I thought,” thank God he isn’t fair” and two, “I need to practice more gratitude.” If you are interested in thinking deeply about living as a Christian who is in the world but not of the world this book is for you.God Is Not Fair, and Other Reasons for Gratitude
The reflections are divided into three sections; first, it looks at the challenge of Christianity in our modern world, next at the relationship between scripture and today’s culture and last, we are asked to understand what it means to live out our vocation as a baptized follower of Jesus Christ.
Fr. Daniel P. Horan, a Franciscan priest, challenges us to look at the world in which we live and see the injustices, our part in them and how we can make a difference by following Jesus more closely. In his reflection, “Good Friday’s Call to Abolish Capital Punishment” he reminds us that Jesus’ crucifixion was a “state execution” and then asks, “Does the perpetual injustice of the death penalty in our country cause us to tremble, tremble, tremble?”
His reflection on various scripture passages are illuminating and offers a perspective different and more helpful than what I usually hear. In “The Prophetic Burden” based on Matthew 16:21-27, where Jesus tell us that to follow him we must deny ourselves and take up our crosses. It is a thought-provoking reflection with this as the last few sentences, “May we find ourselves, even in the midst of frustration, embarrassment, discomfort, and doubt, with the Word of God burning like a fire in our hearts. May we grow weary of trying to keep that held in and, instead, dare to pick up our crosses, deny ourselves, and be the prophets the world so desperately needs. May we all share in the prophetic burden.” This is not sentimentality or wishful thinking, but rather a prayer to say as we walk out in a world that does not want to hear us.
The last set of reflections presented invite us to “reimagine our lives of Christian discipleship and the meaning of vocation.” In this section topics such as joy, humility, awe and wonder, and mercy. Each reflection can help us discern what our response is to God’s call on our life.
You can find more information about Fr. Daniel P. Horan, OFM as well as purchase a copy of this great book at Franciscan Media.

My daily reading

It’s February! I’ve settled into a few daily “must reads” and two of them are based on Ignatian Spirituality. It helps me to focus each day when I start off reading to the day’s Gospel reading. With that in mind, I use the book Sacred Space: The Prayer Book from the Irish Jesuits. Each week there is a focus used for the week. I like this because sometimes it takes time for things to sink in and so the repetition is helpful. It also draws you more deeply into prayer.

The prayer begins time begins with entering God’s presence, leads you to think about your day, and then you read the Gospel. There is a prompt after that to help you begin talking to God about what you have encountered in the reading and then a closing prayer. The length of the prayer time is up to you. You can simply read what has been written and be brief in your personal prayer, allowing the reading to sit in the back of your mind where you can turn to it during the day. Or you may spend extended time praying. I like the flexibility of the prayer and find it useful to help keep me less distracted during prayer.

The other book is an Ignatian book of days by Jim Manney. It has 365 daily reflections based on the wisdom of St. Ignatius. In it you will find an excerpt from an Ignatian source, be it a Jesuit saint, priest, or Ignatius himself. There is a reflection question and my favorite thing of all, space to write in the book!

Both books are from Loyola Press and I highly recommend them to use in your daily prayer!

A Walk in Her Sandals Review

This is a book that combines biblical truth and teachings, devotions, life application, and fiction into one. Each chapter is divided into different sections, each meant to give you a different and unique perspective on the last week of Jesus’ life. What intrigued me the most was the fictionalized, behind the scenes, woman’s take on what was happening during Holy Week. Not to give anything away, but a possible and plausible answer to “who cooked the Passover dinner?” is in there!
A Walk in Her Sandals edited by Kelly M. Wahlquist is part of the Women in the New Evangelization effort and will be the book club read during Lent this year. It will be very interesting to read it during Lent when we are walking with Jesus to his passion, death, and resurrection. What is different about this book is two-fold; first, it is written from a woman’s perspective, for women, which is unique. It takes disparate types of writing, puts them together and makes you think about scripture. Knowing scripture is an invaluable way to know about Jesus. Second, practical ways to evangelize, to reach out to others are offered in each chapter.
One of the sections that people may find particularly helpful is the Lectio Divina section. We may have heard about this way of reading scripture, but here we are guided through the passage after we have learned about it.
This book captured my imagination in a way other books have not. I usually don’t like fictionalized stories about Jesus, but these are beautifully written and engaged me. All the parts of the book are woven together, taking us from Palm Sunday to Pentecost, teaching about Jesus, drawing us into a deeper relationship with him, and guiding us in prayer. All of this with the objective to love him more and to serve him more fully in whatever our role is in our life.
I look forward to reading A Walk in Her Sandals during Lent and I hope you will too!

More information about the book is available here.

This post is just one from the Siena Sisters Blog Hop.  For more posts about A Walk in Her Sandals, hop on over to our page!

 

Sacred Reading for Advent and Christmas

Sacred Reading is a daily gospel reflection book put out by the Apostleship of Prayer and published by Ave Maria Press. This particular book is focused on Advent and Christmas for this year. There are many things I like about this book.

It encourages us to read the day’s gospel, which is so important if we want to know Jesus. It also introduces us to Lectio Divina, a prayerful way to read scripture. Each day contains prayer prompts, the gospel, and questions to ponder.

There are six steps each day: know that God is present with you and ready to converse, read the gospel, notice what you think and feel as you read the gospel, pray as you are led for yourself and others, listen to Jesus, and ask God to show you how to live today. Each section, except the gospel, has a prompt to get you started thinking about the gospel or what is happening in your life or around you that needs attention.

What I like about this book is that the questions posed are not lofty theological ones but rather, practical ones. What am I to do today? How am I to live doing God’s will? Each day you ask that question you are reminding yourself that God is in charge and that his will for your life is the best course of action.

Especially during the Advent and Christmas season when our culture is hyper-focused on doing and buying and rushing it is necessary for us to pause, ponder and recall what this season is about. This book will guide you in your daily life through the prayer and meditation to focus on the Incarnation.

I highly recommend it as a way to prepare for our Savior’s birth for everyone who wants to pray with the scriptures.

 

This post is part of the Siena Sisters Blog-hop.  For more posts about Advent hop on over to our page. Each month, on the 3rd Tuesday of each month,  we’ll have a new topic from Catholic Women Bloggers.

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Book Review – Proclaiming the Message of Life by Fr. Frank Pavone

How often have you been to Mass, listened to the readings and homily and heard a clear message about the sanctity of life and why abortion is wrong? Or how the Church can help those who have suffered with the pain of abortion? Has the vast network of organizations that can support women in a crisis pregnancy been mentioned?

I can tell you that in all of my years attending Mass, I have only heard a handful of pro-life homilies at a Sunday Mass. Even on the Sunday in October dedicated as Respect Life Sunday, it is not discussed. It always seems to me that teaching about the inherent dignity of life and how abortion is in direct opposition to that is important and necessary.

I can understand that there may be concerns, hesitation and maybe just a bit of fear that people will respond in a negative way. However, if we, the people of God are not challenged how will we grow? As Fr. Pavone says, “Preaching should foster the ongoing conversion and growth in holiness of the people entrusted to our pastoral care. A pastor is a shepherd. To shepherd people, preachers must be clear and courageous in confronting evil and likewise calm and compassionate. Our desire is to instruct people, inspire them, and equip them to take action.” What a beautiful vision for preaching and one I hope all who preach aspire to.

The book for Fr. Pavone wrote is a wonderful aid in preaching the message of life. The book has two main divisions, part one of the book gives a general overview of why and how to preach this message while part two gives specific reflection for every Sunday of the Year for all three cycles of readings! It is very extensive.

The first part of the book talks about why and how to preach about abortion, including scripture and doctrinal points that can be used as a springboard for talks or homilies. My favorite chapter though is seven, “Common Obstacles to Preaching on Abortion.” The thirty-two questions raised and answered ran the gamut from “Am I afraid I won’t be loved?” to “Will I endanger our tax exemption by speaking on abortion?”.

Of course, it is easy for me to read these reflections, which I have, and say “yes, preach it!” So I checked in with my deacon husband. He preaches about one Sunday a month. He has read the reflections and found ways to include some of the thoughts presented in his homilies. And that is the point of this book, to include some thoughts about how and why we are a pro-life people.

I think this book would be a welcome addition to the libraries of those who preach and also those who are active in pro-life ministry. It is practical, useful and accessible tool. The book is full of reassurances to preach the truth, based on Fr. Pavone experiences of preaching all around the country as the national director for Priests for Life. Published by Servant, it is available in both hardcover and digital editions.

The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion

I have been a contributor to the Catholic Mom website for a few years.  One of the features on the site that I contribute to is a daily Gospel reflection.  Some time ago I was asked to be a part of a team of contributors for a book, The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, published by Ave Maria Press.  And now, the book is here!  In my house and more importantly, on sale now.  It was nice to see my name in print, along with quite a few authors who are well-known in the Catholic blogging and publishing world.

The book features a quote, a reflection, a prayer and a question to ponder for every day and vary in topic from Prayer, Mary, and Family Traditions to Discerning God’s plan for your life.  My parents and aunt and uncle were visiting this past weekend so of course I showed them the book, directing them to the reflection I wrote about my great-grandparents.  My mom didn’t have her glasses so my aunt read it aloud; they cried.  I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t cry, since you didn’t know my great-grandparents but it is nice to know it touched my family.

Take a look at this great new book and pick up a copy for yourself and the other moms in your life.  It’s available on Amazon (hard copy and Kindle) and at Ave Maria Press.  If you live in my neighborhood, the book will be available at the St. Peter gift shop, at the Magnificat breakfast in November or you can contact me for a copy.

Book Review – Keep Your Kids Catholic by Marc Cardaronella

I was eager to read Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing your Faith and Making it Stick  by Marc Cardaronella for many reasons.  Many people on social media and sites I frequent had positive comments about it; I need resources to share with my families in our faith formation program; and I’m working on revamping that program to include some parent component.  And of course, I wanted to know if I’d done of Marc’s ideas when I was raising my own kids. 

What I look for in resources for parents are books which teach without being preachy, doable activities that take a minimum of preparation and implementation time, and are possible for parents who are and those who aren’t, well versed in the faith.  I’m happy to say Cardaronella does all of that and more.

The book is divided into four parts, “How does Faith Work”; “Is Your Own Faith Secure?”, “What Kind of Education Fosters Faith?” and “How do You Create an Environment of Faith?”.  Each part has four chapters and at the end of each chapter there is a section called, “Reflect, Pray, Live” which gives action points for parents on how to implement the ideas in the chapter. 

Marc weaves his own faith journey story into the book, reminding readers that no one is perfect and coming to faith is a process which happens over time.  It’s not a once and done proposition.  Many points he made about our religious education programs resonated with me and reminded me yet again how much work we need to do in that area.

I’m not going to give you every quote I highlighted from the book, but here are two that can you a sense of his tone and style. 

“Faith doesn’t automatically develop from reception of the sacraments and religious education…although those two things are important in nurturing faith.”   This is a constant struggle.  It is almost as if parents and even sometimes catechists and program directors believe that learning enough facts, prayers, and information to receive certain sacraments means we’ve helped someone grow in faith.  Knowledge does not determine faith.

This quote is possibly my absolute favorite, “The goal of faith formation is not a theoretical knowledge of Catholic doctrine, but a lived experience of faith in Jesus Christ.”  Can someone work on that thought becoming a part of every mission statement of faith formation programs?

I know I’ve focused quite a bit on my personal perspective of why this book is a necessary read.  Let me say that I found it to be a book for all of us who interact with children in regard to their faith journey.  I will encourage the parents of the families I work with to pick up this book and put its ideas into practice. 

Parents have a tremendous influence over their children and are often at a loss as to how to have a positive and effective input where faith is concerned.  Keep your Kids Catholic does a wonderful job of providing practical information on how to help children grow in their faith. 

For more information about the book or to purchase, you can go to Ave Maria Press. 

Thank you to Marc Cardaronella and Ave Maria Press for providing me with a review copy.

Book Review: To Heal, Proclaim, and Teach by Jared Dees

Those of us in the business of doing Catechesis are well aware that things are not quite coming together as we’d hoped.  And there is frustration all around along with finger pointing and blaming.  In addition, we have this call to the New Evangelization and honestly, for many catechists that’s too much on top of trying to teach about the faith.  Or is it?

Jared Dees new book, To Heal, Proclaim, and Teach:  The Essential Guide to Ministry in Today’s Catholic Church shows us how to put evangelization and catechesis together in ways that I believe can work. 

There is comprehensive information about where we stand in religious education, how we got here, and what needs to change.  But Dees does not leave it there.  Which is good, because at 300 pages I really wanted some practical advice on how to improve the faith formation program I run.  

And practical is what is in there.  For different levels, ages and stages of the people we minister to in our parishes.  Let’s face it, there is no one size fits all when it comes to “how to do it”, whatever “it” you are trying to do.  But there are best practices and proven ideas they can help you figure out the next step. 

A few key points from the book that struck me:

The distinction between kerygma and didache; “Kerygma is the first proclamation….It expresses the essential of our faith to those who have yet to fully accept it in their lives.”  “Didache, on the other hand, is the deposit of faith passed down through the Church from Jesus himself.” 

Dees quotes St. John Paul II, “The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ.”  Yet when we plan our programs, is our main focus communion with Christ or what needs to be known in order to be confirmed?   It’s not that knowledge is bad, but it is not the end goal.

One of my favorite sections in the book was Entertainment Vs. Engagement.  Dees points out that “Engagement is unlike entertainment in that we are required to participate…we do the creating…Engagement is not easy; it is challenging. “Jesus challenged the people of his time and so must we. 

Dees does an excellent job of explain what he means by heal, proclaim and teach.  If he had stopped there it would be an interesting book.  But he goes one step further in Part IV of the book by giving concrete examples of Evangelizing Ministry with Every Generation.  Besides all of this practical information each chapter has additional resources on the website healprocalimteach.com.

If you are involved in parish ministry, as a paid professional or volunteer, this book is an excellent resource.  It gave me direction, practical ideas and even more importantly, hope.  I could not recommend it more strongly. 

 

Refuge of the Heart – Book Review

HerneBack in October I read a review of this wonderful book over at Franciscan Mom. And then, lucky me, I won my own copy of Refuge of the Heart by Ruth Logan Herne.  I decided to save it for my “recovery reading” since I knew I would need many good books!

I was not disappointed.  Except when I finished the book.  It is a beautiful story of sacrificial love and its’ power to change lives. I wanted to talk to someone about the book, so I’m encouraging my daughter to read it.

What I liked so much about Refuge of the Heart is that Lena’s faith is shown as the overriding way she overcame her trials and it is why she has  strength and joy.  Often novels which portray women of faith are a bit sappy or Pollyannaish; not so here.  Her attitude is one that would serve a person well in life.

If you still need some Christmas gifts for a reader, this would be a great one to give!

12 Nuggets from Rediscover Jesus

Rediscover Jesus by Matthew KellyI spent most of my day reading Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly.  It’s 187 pages long, so it wasn’t really all day, but I did stop and think between chapters every so often.

I gleaned a few things I’d like to tell you about and I will in a minute.  First though, the book is a nice, easy read but it asks tough questions and offers ways to learn more about Jesus and grow into a, dare I say, better Christian.  Each chapter ends with action items:  Point to Ponder, Verse to Live, Question to Consider, and Prayer.  If you thought, learned and prayed those four items each day for forty days (which is the number of chapters in the book) I think you would be a different person, hopefully better, at the end of that time.  I suppose I could have done that, but I am a book glutton so I can’t just read one chapter a day.  Ideally, I’ll go back to those chapters which challenged me the most and read those again.

Onto my list of nuggets from the book!

  1.  “Jesus is the ultimate new beginning.”
  2. “He (Jesus) wants to perform miracles in you and through you.”
  3. “Who do you say that Jesus is?”
  4. “When is the last time you were awestruck by Jesus?”
  5. “Who does Jesus say that you are?”
    • “Jesus says you are a child of God.”
    • “Jesus says you are infinitely valuable.”
    • “Jesus says you are free.”
  6. “If we could just learn to recognize people’s needs and pain, there are so many prayers that God want to use us to answer.  Too many go unanswered because ordinary people like you and me don’t allow the Holy Spirit to guide us.”
  7. “God is not in the business of tweaking.  He is in the business of transformation.”
  8. “We don’t see ourselves as we really are, and God’s ways are not man’s.”
  9. “Few things will have more impact on your life than what you allow to occupy your mind…ponder the ways of God and you will find yourself living them.”
  10. “If you want to be a better Christian, start by denying yourself.”
  11. “What do I want?  What does God want?”
  12. God is more interested in your future than he is in your past – but he is most interested in your now!”

Chapters 24, The Gap and 28, Spontaneous Prayer , were probably my favorite.  The Gap was full of practical tips which Kelly explains fully in successive chapters.  Spontaneous Prayer made me think about and ponder Gospel verses in a new way.

If you’d like a copy of the book, go to Dynamic Catholic.  They’d make great stocking stuffers