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Posts Tagged ‘Catholicism’

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photo from Simon Community NI

My feelings about the church season of Advent continue to startle me in their intensity. I am powerfully drawn to the light and fervent hope of Advent, which this year begins on Sunday, December 3. During the time when I was leaving the church as a teen, I remember fighting the power of religious songs until I decided, ‘I can love these songs, even if I am not yet sure what I think about the church.’ Even when I settled in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), where meetinghouses typically do not have the adornments or follow the outward church calendar with which I was raised, my heart was drawn toward Advent. Eventually, thankfully, a bright trail of universalism helped me accept that I can love this season of hope and observe to whatever degree I am led.

The setting aside time, the turning toward the light, the sense of expectancy and renewal all nourish me. Perhaps living in the northeastern United States, with ancestors from Ireland, Scotland, and England, I have the longing to turn from darkness toward light in the marrow of my bones. Yet I also know the darkness and the quiet have their own lessons to teach.

Since keeping this blog I have had the privilege of reviewing many books about the Advent season. To help you prepare for this season, I will share links to some volumes I have reviewed in the past. Inspiring writings are abundant and diverse in approach:

contemplative creativity: pray through the arts with an Advent coloring calendar and collection of carols

be with the youth in your life: reading together throughout Advent can bring a special closeness and a chance to witness bright hope

reconnect with nature: remember we are a small part of a larger creation

bring light into your home: experience the tradition of an Advent wreath

explore silence: amidst the outward busyness in our culture, turn to the quiet

What books have brightened the light of Advent for you? What will you do this year to carve out quiet amidst the busyness, to find the light and hope behind the rushing? Whatever your own reason might be for turning toward this season, whether tradition or quiet longing, I hope you will find what your heart needs in the upcoming weeks.

 

Disclaimer: No fee was received for any review included in this post.

 

 

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The church especially remembers the life and message of Francis of Assisi with his feast day on October 4. For a previous year’s feast I reviewed Francis of Assisi in His Own Words, an excellent collection from Paraclete Press. May this review inspire a trip to your local bookstore, and quiet time with the words of Francis.

In honor of Francis teaching love toward all creatures, churches in many communities celebrate a blessing of the animals on this day. It is an opportunity to recognize the special place companion animals have in our lives. I experienced with this special observance at a community fair, a tender and beautiful experience, when a minister gave a vocal blessing and laying of hands to my German Shepherd. May we remember always to extend kindness and mercy to all living creatures, and may this feast day be an occasion to affirm commitment to caring for God’s creation.

When thinking of Francis of Assisi, the song “Make me an instrument of your peace” begins playing in my mind. From childhood, this was my favorite song at church. While this prayer for peace captures the spirit of Francis’ teachings, it was not his composition. According to the Franciscan Archive, this prayer first appeared on a prayer card during the first world war. This prayer continues to offer comfort and inspiration to many. It is my heartfelt prayer for all of us today.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Déan gléas chun síochána díom, a Thiarna.
Señor, hazme un instrumento de tu paz.

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In the U.S. where I live, the second Sunday of May is celebrated as mother’s day. As a girl it became linked in my mind with church celebrations of Mary of Nazareth, mother of Jesus. I was raised Catholic, and while that no longer is my religion, the songs we sang to celebrate Mary powerfully shaped me and my early ideas about faith. I had a deep admiration for Mary’s courage and her sense of purpose. With Mary on my mind, I have been re-reading a couple of books.

978-1-62698-004-4To understand Mary in her cultural context and to explore the impact of her faith on her way of life, I recommend In Quest of the Jewish Mary by Mary Christine Athans. This book does a beautiful job of presenting historical details and guiding readers to imagine a figure of tremendous faith. The story opens with the personal journey of the author, who writes from a Catholic perspective that is full of respect for other faith traditions. This volume will be of interest to readers of any background who enjoy interfaith journeys. I wrote a complete review of Athans’ interesting book when it was published by Orbis Books in 2013.

marytheblessedvirginofislam

 

For a discussion of scholarly studies on the role of Mary in Islam, I recommend Mary the Blessed Virgin of Islam by Aliah Schleifer, former professor at the American University in Cairo. I have met many non-Muslims who are unaware of the importance of Mary in Islam. In Islam Jesus is considered a prophet, and his mother is honored for her deep faith and model of pious living. Her story is told in Chapter 19 of the Qur’an, entitled Maryam.

Do you have a favorite title about Mary? I invite you to share in the comments below.

 

Disclaimer: The books mentioned here are from my personal library. No fee was received for this review.

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71vtwf4jx0l-e1452271560982I am delighted to have a copy of Laura Alary’s book Make Room: A child’s guide to Lent and Easter for a giveaway, courtesy of Paraclete Press. [Update: This giveaway now is closed.] Last February I borrowed Make Room from a friend, and I posted a review on this blog. For convenience, I have copied that review (with minor changes) in this post.

If your family observes Lent, you will be very glad to see this book, which has beautiful, clear writing and gorgeous illustrations from Ann Boyajian. An excellent addition to a home library or church classroom, Make Room will have children feeling enthusiasm for this very special church season.

With language that is both practical and poetic, Alary’s book satisfies the need families have for literature that inspires excitement about faith. The language is simple, leaving space for parents to expand as a child questions and grows. Yet the writing communicates its messages clearly, providing words for experiences that often are hard to articulate.

Why do we observe Lent? What is the purpose of this season? In Alary’s words,

“During Lent we make time to be with God.
Every day we talk with God in different ways.
Sometimes we pray with words.
Sometimes we sing or listen to music.
Sometimes we get out paints and crayons and create many-colored prayers.
Colors are like a different language we can all speak
Even when we have no words.
God understands.”

I highly recommend Make Room for the young people in your life. Whatever books you choose for your family, may this season bring blessings of peace and prayers into your home.

[Update: the giveaway described below closed on 2/24/17.]

How can you win a copy? Click on the rafflecopter giveaway below. You will be asked to comment on this post sharing something that you plan to do during Lent this year. Entries will be accepted until February 24.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

One winner will be selected via Rafflecopter and notified by email. The book will be sent from the publisher, so in order to receive your prize you will need to provide an address. Addresses will be used one time only, for mailing of prize, and never shared or used for solicitations.

Disclaimer: The book is provided by Paraclete Press in exchange for my offering this review and giveaway. I have received no fee.

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978-1-62698-139-3This year Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the season of Lent, falls on February 10. In this period leading up to Easter many Christians observe a season of reflection, repentance, and renewal. While specific customs vary widely among denominations, all people can benefit from taking time for prayer.

For daily spiritual reading during Lent I intend to draw nourishment from All Shall Be Well: Readings for Lent and Easter. A powerful collection of writings from poets, activists, and religious sisters and brothers, this volume from Orbis Books includes voices who speak for peace, caring for the needy, and uplifting the weak.

I do not want to give a litany of the authors, but the table of contents, with writers both classic (Howard Thurman) and contemporary (Mary Lou Kownacki), had me quite excited. In particular I enjoyed the words of Julia Alvarez, Dorothy Day, Virgil Elizondo, and Daniel Berrigan. The selections are numbered but not dated, since the dates for Lent vary; this thoughtful format will make the book easier to use year after year.

All Shall Be Well will make an inspiring and uplifting companion. I encourage you to find a copy, and may you have a blessed, prayer-filled Lent.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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Pope's HomiliesImagine being invited to join Pope Francis at his home in St. Martha’s guest house at the Vatican. In the morning you would have the opportunity to be inspired by his homily, grounding your day in a foundation of faith. With Morning Homilies, Orbis Books gives readers a glimpse of the vision of Pope Francis, shared over the course of the first five months of his papacy. The homilies originally appeared in L’Osservatore Romano and are translated from Italian into English by Dinah Livingstone. These brief readings open a window to receive the teachings of Pope Francis, and provide an excellent resource for meditation and reflection.

Pope Francis has inspired many, both inside and outside the Catholic tradition, with his visible commitment to living the message of the Gospel. He does not merely preach, but sets a public example in alignment with his words. Within these pages readers will encounter themes that Pope Francis has raised on many occasions: the call for the church to serve the marginalized; the need for being a people of hospitality and forgiveness; the importance of humility and courage. The words of Pope Francis often deliver a necessary challenge, as he calls the church away from hypocrisy and idolatry and toward the teachings of Jesus.

A second volume, Morning Homilies II, includes the homilies presented from September 2013 to January 2014. With this additional publication readers can continue to benefit from the Pope’s intimate morning lessons, following along from home throughout the liturgical year.

Readers will be glad to have these volumes on hand, to turn to the Pope’s inspiring words whenever uplift or encouragement is needed.

Disclaimer: A review copy of Morning Homilies was provided by the publisher. No fee was received.

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Part of the Modern Spiritual Masters series, Joan Chittister: Essential Writings is a collection of work from the prolific Benedictine author, scholar, and activist. Whether you are familiar with Sister Joan’s writings or are meeting her for the first time, this is a book that will inspire you.

Sister Joan has a voice that is both practical and philosophical, uplifting and challenging. I have re-read “Why I Stay” no fewer than a dozen times, engaging in dialogue with Sister Joan’s words as I reflect on my own experience of frustration with the church. Like much of Sister Joan’s prophetic writing, this piece is a rousing call to work for justice and equality for women. Other favorite pieces examine elements of Benedictine life, such as hospitality, mercy, and forgiveness.

The collection is edited by Mary Lou Kownacki, who serves with Sister Joan and the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, and Mary Hembrow Snyder, director of the Center for Mercy and Catholic Studies at Mercyhurst University. With more than sixty short selections, as well as a biographical introduction, Joan Chittister: Essential Writings provides much food for reflection.

On Sunday, March 1, 2015, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Sister Joan on Super Soul Sunday. You can watch the complete interview through Oprah’s website here.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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