Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Good Advice on Evangelization and Catholic Apologetics

The following words of wisdom come from Fr. Joe Black and are from an article in the March/April 2017 issue of  The Catholic Mirror:

Right now, if a person were to develop an interest in the Catholic faith and got onto Facebook or Twitter to see what Catholics are saying, they'd see a whole lot of complaining and anger, but not much love. In my opinion, we are our own worst enemy.

A good Catholic apologist knows that love must be the only reason we engage in a discussion/argument about our faith. Share with those who ask out of genuine curiosity. Share with those who ask because they want to know. Walk away from the need to win and make sure you engage only out of love and/or because of love. . . .

Always, always, always remember that truth is a person: Jesus Christ. We do not want to abuse truth or use it as a weapon to bludgeon people who irritate us. If someone asks questions and sincerely wants to know, meet them in that holy curiosity and bring truth with you. Share what you have learned with joy and good humor.

Let God do the rest - it will blow you away.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spend Lent with Pope Francis, St. Teresa of Calcutta, or St. Faustina

Lent starts next week! It is definitely time to choose a Lenten Resource to help guide you on your spiritual journey over the next six weeks. Here are three new ones that have recently crossed my desk:

The first is The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane Houdek. In the Introduction, Houdek writes, "Lent is a time to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be surprised by God's mercy when we least expect it. As the season begins, think about the hopes you have for Lent this year. Think about what changes you want to see in your life, in the world. Let the words of Pope Francis guide you on a journey of bringing those hopes to fulfillment,"

This book is able to be used any liturgical year. Each day features a listing of the Scripture readings for that day. This is followed by a quote from Pope Francis and a reflection from Houdek that considers both the Scripture reading and the Pope's teaching. Reflection questions and a prayer from Pope Francis end the day's entry.

Pope Francis' very practical life-based theology resonates on every page of this book. Combined with Houdek's reflections, it offers much food for thought.

The second is Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations by Heidi Hess Saxton. St. Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity offer such an example of selfless love, of seeing Jesus in everyone we meet. Saxton writes, "As we contemplate Scripture and the life and teachings of St. Teresa of Calcutta during this Lent, we have a daily inspiration and opportunity in spreading Christ's fragrance to others. And whatever the future holds - pain or healing, uncertainty or assurance, dismay or delight - we can anticipate with great joy the glory of the Risen Christ at our journey's end."

This book is able to be used any liturgical year and includes a listing of the Scripture readings for each day. A short Scripture quote is included which Saxton then offers a reflection on, including stories about St. Teresa and her sisters as well as from her own life and experience. This is followed by reflection questions and a prayer.

St. Teresa and Saxton invite us to minister directly to those around us, to serve others, and to love until it hurts. Putting the teachings of this book into practice will help you cultivate a generous heart.

Third is Moments of Mercy by the Marian Fathers. This is a booklet perfect for carrying in your purse. Each day features a Scripture quote, a reflection, a prayer, and suggestions for further reading from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Diary of St. Faustina. An appendix includes St. Faustina's Way of the Cross, an Examination of Conscience, The Novena to Divine Mercy, and The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This book is intended for use only during 2017. Available for purchase at the Marian website: http://www.shopmercy.org/Moments-of-Mercy/LD17/itd/07090013/110/157/NO

Monday, February 20, 2017

Love and Sacrifice

The following is part of the entry from February 20th in The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. This particular entry was written by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle.

Mother Teresa pointed out that true love always hurts in some way. We can't run away from the pain that we sometimes encounter when caring for our family, but we can make a decision to embrace it and recognize it that it is within the mystery of loving sacrifice that miracles happen. God will grant us the graces we need to love with his love. We should ask for those graces often.

Dear Lord Jesus, please grant me the graces I need this day to love with your love and to offer my hurt to you so that you will transform it all into beautiful blessings for my family.

Your Idea Starts Here

I'm not someone who usually suffers from a lack of ideas. Actually I suffer from the opposite problem - too many ideas and not enough time and money to follow through on them. That being said, Your Idea Starts Here: 77 Mind-Expanding Ways to Unleash Your Creativity is an inspiring book for anyone who is creative by nature, suffering from a temporary creative block, or seeking to be a more creative person.

Art director Carolyn Eckert combines strong visuals with text that is both practical and encouraging. She also shares interesting stories about how various inventions came about. Be prepared - you are guaranteed to come away from reading this book with at least one new idea (and probably a whole lot more!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Grab your Tissues and Read Couriers of Grace

As a book reviewer, I always have a book with me, taking advantage of every free moment in my life to get some reading done (those little spurts add up!). I took Couriers of Grace with me to my daughter's Irish dance class this past Saturday which is held at a local social club. Parents have to either leave or sit downstairs in the (not open) bar area. So, there I was, sitting on a stool in a poorly lit bar, reading this book, tears pouring down my face, trying to wipe them away before anyone noticed. Now that you have that image, I'll share my official review.

Nancy Jo Sullivan pens a loving tribute to her daughter Sarah while offering a message for all of us in Couriers of Grace: My Daughter, the Sacraments, and a Surprising Walk of Faith (Ave Maria Press, 2017). When Sullivan was twenty-six, she gave birth to her first child. As she and her husband marveled at the baby’s beauty and perfection, the doctors informed them of the unexpected diagnosis: Sarah had Down syndrome. 

It was the first time in her life that Sullivan ever asked, “Why God?” In the midst of that questioning, she had a mystical experience in which she heard the Lord say, “This child is a gift.” Sarah only lived to be twenty-three, but as Sullivan writes, her “life, in essence, was a sacrament, a visible sign of God’s grace. Through her, God transfigured me, my family, and all those who knew her.” In a world in which so many children with Down syndrome are aborted before they ever have a chance to live outside the womb, Sarah’s life bears witness to the worth and importance of every human being. 

Sullivan tells the story of her daughter’s life and her own experience of being her mother as those tales relate to the Catholic seven sacraments: Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. While Sarah would personally only receive two of those sacraments, her mother has found lessons in all of them. 

Whether you have a child with a disability or not, every parent will be able to relate to parts of Sullivan’s story. Raising Sarah and her two other daughters and facing the challenges of parenting helped Sullivan revisit her own childhood and to help heal her own wounds. Every child has lessons to teach their parents. Every parent has much to learn and much need to rely on God’s grace.  None of us is perfect, but “in God’s eyes, we are beautiful to behold. Broken, but blessed.” 

Reflection questions are included that are appropriate for both personal and group use. Couriers of Grace is a profoundly beautiful, hope-filled, and heart-wrenching book. Be sure to have a box of tissues nearby as you read. 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book Review: Ornamental Graces

While the cover and title of this book might lead you to believe that Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk is only a Christmas read,  you would be wrong. This Catholic romance is an enjoyable escape any time of year.

After being badly burned by a woman, Dan Malone is in no rush to get into a relationship with another one, but he can't seem to get his mind off of Emily, the younger sister of a new friend. He has a great deal of baggage to contend with and the two share an on-again, off-again up-and-down relationship, trying to work through all the assorted junk that life seems to throw at them.

Ultimately, this is a story of redemption and forgiveness and the fact that none of us are beyond God's mercy, no matter what may have happened in the past.

Making the Most of <i>Menopause Moments</i>

  When I unexpectedly got in a review copy of Menopause Moments: A Journal for Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Spirit in Midlife , I must adm...