On Barb’s Bookshelf: Getting Past Perfect

I found Kate Wicker’s book on perfectionism, Getting Past Perfect (Ave Maria Press, 2017) to be a book of surprises, beginning with the fact that a “seasoned” mom like me, with kids age 15 to 25, can learn important lessons from a mom whose oldest child is younger than my youngest.

 

getting past perfect

I may be a more-experienced mom, but that really only means that I have logged a lot more years of falling into the comparison trap. I’m old enough to know that it’s not good for me (or for my family) but I’m not always strong enough to keep myself from teetering over that precarious edge.

Clearly I spend too much time listening to what Kate calls the “evil earworm.” She begins each chapter with one of these, then counters is with the “unvarnished truth.”

quote from Getting Past Perfect @franciscanmom

We need to hear this kind of truth. We need to acknowledge that there’s a difference between perfectionism and striving for excellence. As Kate observes in chapter 3 (the same chapter from which the text in the above graphic is quoted):

What often prevents God’s grace from working in our lives is less our sins or failings than it is our failure to accept our own weaknesses–all those rejections, conscious or not, of what we really are or of our real situations. We have to set grace free in our lives by accepting the parts of ourselves that we want to perfect, hide or reject. (35-6)

While I definitely agree with Kate’s premise that perfectionism is damaging to us as women and as mothers, I do believe that there’s also a danger in perfect imperfection. We need to be careful about crossing that line between openly admitting our own flaws and foibles in the name of commonality and bringing comfort to others who are stuck in that “grass is always greener” mode, and showing off how bad we have it (even if that’s our schtick.) I confess to being guilty of the latter and even though I tend to fall into that trap, I find it very annoying when all I hear from someone is how “crazy” her life is. It’s almost like we’re competing for the booby prize: who has it worst? We all need to find a balance here–there’s a time and a place for the good, the bad, and the funny.

Whether you’re a brand-new mom or, like me, over 25 years into your mothering journey, Getting Past Perfect has truths you need to hear. My copy has stars and arrows and comments; I’ve circled and underlined and even written down some of the most important points. When you read it, keep your pen handy and open up your heart to realizing that you really are enough.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Getting Past Perfect Book Club at CatholicMom.com! The book club kicks off with an author interview tomorrow, and we’ll begin discussing the book on April 1.

 

Barb's Book shelf blog title
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I received a free review copy of this book courtesy of Ave Maria Press, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

#WorthRevisit: Do We Really Want to Change?

It’s not today’s Gospel, but it’s definitely one worth considering during Lent, when we are doing our best to change our hearts. Today’s “Worth Revisit” looks back at 2009.

Gospel: Jn 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’”
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.

Be Reconciled to God

Father’s homily today centered not on the fact that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath, but on the fact that He healed someone who didn’t necessarily consider himself ready to be healed.

Do we want to be changed? Certainly it is easier to keep things the same–even if things aren’t great, at least they are familiar. That man in the Gospel who was ill for 38 years and then healed would now have to find a way to earn a living and find himself food and shelter. In some ways, it might have been easier for him to stay the way he was.

Lent is a time of healing. In my college chapel each Lent, banners were hung with the words: “Be reconciled to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” (I’m not much of a “banner” person but that reminder has stuck with me even after 22 years.)

Our Lenten actions of sacrifice and prayer are meant to heal us, to bring us closer to God, to change us.

So is giving up Milky Ways and designer coffee really going to help me to change? Will it bring me closer to God? Only if I let it. Only if I let those very small sacrifices remind me that it’s not all about me. It’s about letting go of something in favor of a greater good. It’s about turning that sacrifice into an opportunity for almsgiving (that’s what those little cardboard “rice bowls” are all about). It’s about remembering that giving up a candy bar is really small in comparison to what Christ was willing to give up, and allowing that realization to lead me to a greater generosity of spirit.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Tickets, Please

A theatre box office is an interesting place. The hour before a performance is a frenzy of activity that includes handling the voice mail that has come in since the last time the office was open, selling walk-up tickets, printing will-call tickets, printing tickets for people whose printers ran out of ink or who forgot them at home or who didn’t realize that they had to print the tickets immediately even though there are instructions that say just that.

Those are the easy jobs. It’s pretty simple to make a theatregoer happy when you can reprint that ticket she left on the table near the front door.

But sometimes you have to do difficult jobs when you work in the box office. Sometimes you have to return phone calls and let someone down, because the show is sold out. Sometimes you have to turn people away who show up in person, hoping seats will open up. When the box office is part of a small theatre with no space for extra seating, you don’t get to be flexible there. But I can assure you that the box-office staff and the house manager do their best to find seats to accommodate people whenever possible.

I staffed the box office for 10 out of 12 weekend performances of a community-theatre production these past two weeks. And I did all those things I listed above, and then some. Most of the time it was enjoyable work. But it was Saturday’s final show that did me in.

The show was sold out, and we were able to scrape up a couple of tickets here and there (like when someone realized they really wanted two tickets to Sunday’s show instead of Saturday’s.) So on Friday night when I got a voicemail from someone’s dad with a sob story about how Grandma changed her hair appointment so she could see a show on Saturday that she didn’t even have a ticket for, I got to be the hero of the day. I didn’t have such great news for the mom who called wanting six tickets and telling me a long story about how her child was in the show and she hadn’t seen it yet and she’d promised her daughter that she could bring a bunch of friends but by the time they all got back to her, the show was sold out.

I had two tickets available at that point. The best I could do was to sell her those two tickets and put her on the waiting list for the other four.

At 8:30 Saturday morning that mom called to let me know she only needed three more tickets, and to ask if I had found any yet. I apologized, but promised that I’d put the word out among the moms helping in the green room and the moms selling candygrams and the mom scanning tickets at the door. If anyone heard that someone had a ticket they wouldn’t be using, they promised to send them to the box office.

Box office sq

I never did get those extra tickets. The dad, with Hair-Appointment Grandma in tow, picked up his ticket with a charming smile. Then No-Ticket Mom asked, and was disappointed, about those extra tickets. Suddenly that dad was back at the ticket window.

“Do you see that lady with the three little girls?” he demanded. “She’s going to have to leave here and take them home because there aren’t any tickets for them.”

I apologized (again) that no more tickets were available. I politely refused his request to have extra chairs brought in, and his subsequent demand that the three little girls stand in the aisle during the show. There’s no room for either of those things. But this guy was clearly used to having his own way and did not like hearing me tell him that what he wanted wasn’t going to happen.

It’s not fun to have to say no to someone who wants to watch their child/grandchild/friend perform. But in a small theatre, shows do sell out quickly, and everyone was reminded of this several times before the show opened. And we tried (as we do anytime a show sells out) to scare up extra tickets–we just couldn’t get enough.

Dad, Grandma, Mom and the little girls disappeared into the crowd. I was busy distributing tickets to other theatre patrons and feeling more than a little upset about the way I had been treated over the whole issue, when one of the staff members realized that the whole bunch of them had probably gone into the theatre, somehow making an end run around the person scanning tickets. The grin Dad flashed our way on his way out of the theatre confirmed our suspicions.

I was angry. I don’t like confrontation, and I’d had my fill of it already. I skipped out on the cast party, because I didn’t feel like I could stand there and schmooze with other kids’ parents with a smile on my face. What disturbs me even more is that those little girls were just taught that if someone says you can’t have what you want, you can just go ahead and take it.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: All In

Pat Gohn is “all in” with her faith, and it shows. She hosts Among Women, a podcast that celebrates faithful women through interviews and stories of saints. She’s the editor of Catechist magazine. And her first book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious (Ave Maria Press, 2013), challenged women to be bold about living their faith.

Pat’s second book, All In (Ave Maria Press, 2017), is addressed to an audience that might be dealing with discouragement, uncertainty, and a lack of deep commitment. Subtitled, “Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters,” this book encourages readers to begin by making a healthy self-assessment of their faith. In chapter 1, Pat observes,

“Even though I may not always feel like a confident person and I fail and flail on a regular basis, my own frailties do not undermine my confidence in my faith. They provide a catalyst to turn to my faith and to place my trust and hope in the eternal truth and goodness of a God who loves me. God came to save and redeem every frailty, every weakness, every sin, and every broken heart.” (15)

all in

Pat is realistic about facing the obstacles that come with an imperfect Church. Because the “flawed humanity of the institution of the Church” (32) is clearly visible and often well-publicized, it can lead people to question why and whether to stand with the Church. Pat responds to this stumbling block by reminding the reader that the Church is the Bride of Christ, delving deep into marriage imagery and concluding that the Church’s “source of power is the Beloved who came from Heaven in search of her, and who longs for her to make her home with him there.” (42)

Honest discussions of sin, mercy, grace, the Sacraments, and human dignity fill out this book. Each chapter concludes with a 3-part reflection: pray, learn and engage. This last section includes concrete action steps readers can take to heal or deepen their relationship with God and with the Church.

This book is just as much for the struggling and/or “recovering” Catholic as it is for the faithful churchgoer. Readers on any stop along their faith journey can benefit from the wisdom and action steps provided here, on their way to going “all in.”

Barb's Book shelf blog title

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

#WorthRevisit: Take the Kids to Say “Hi” to God

"WorthRevisit: Take the Kids to Say Hi to God" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

I’m thinking back to a time when I was in grade school, and my dad would take us into an empty church on a Saturday afternoon. In those days, churches were open during the day, and anyone could just go in and pray for a few minutes. If you have the opportunity to bring your children to a church or Adoration chapel–not just for Mass, but for a visit–definitely do so. It will leave an impression.

When I was around 10 or so, my dad would take us kids to a church in a neighboring town while Mom was at some meeting or other. Dad would have some time to kill, and we’d walk around the neighborhood, visit a park, and at some point wind up in the church.

One of us would ask him, “Are we here for church?”

“No, let’s just say hi to God.”

That was an amazing idea. You can go into a church, and just visit. You can just let God know you’re there, say a prayer, light a candle. Dad would let us walk around a little, look at the statues, kneel down for a moment by the tabernacle.

The church would be quiet. Most of the lights would be out, but it wasn’t a spooky darkness. It was kind of comfortable, actually, kind of the way you feel at night when it’s dark, and you’re nice and warm and sleepy, and you know you’re safe. After all, even if the church is nearly dark, and nearly empty, it is still full–because God is there, just waiting for you to come in and say hi.

(March 2006)

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

Tech Talk: Prayer and Social Media

I’ve been a regular at Eucharistic Adoration for just over two years, and it’s taken me this long to find a way to use the time as a prayer intercessor for others.

For too long, I’d gone to the Adoration Chapel with an agenda and a tote bag: a spiritual book (or three) to read, a rosary, a journal, and my iPad so I could pray Liturgy of the Hours. It was getting to the point where Adoration was another task to check off my list, a quiet hour to read a book I’d promised to review. Check, check, check.

Checking off tasks is not what Adoration is supposed to be about.

I’d been noticing for a while that my friend Allison Gingras would share on Facebook that she was heading to Adoration, and offer to pray for any special intentions people posted. I knew she wouldn’t mind if I adopted her idea, so I created a graphic with a photo from our Adoration Chapel and shared it on Facebook for the first time in late February.

adoration-today

The response was tremendous. Over 40 likes. Over 35 comments. And a whole host of messages with private intentions. And I wasn’t just hearing from Catholics. I filled 2 index cards, both sides, with intentions posted in under 3 hours.

People are hungry for that intercessory prayer. People carry secret burdens and don’t always know how to ask for help, or even prayer over their situation. It’s a comfort to know that someone else is holding them up in prayer.

I took those two index cards and my rosary to the chapel. I always pray the Franciscan Crown rosary, and it’s a good thing it has 7 decades, because at one bead per intention I needed all those prayers to cover my list, plus my family and one general prayer for any late-breaking intentions (I wasn’t checking Facebook in the chapel.)

Later that day I got an email from one of the deacons at our parish, who’s my friend on Facebook. He wanted to let me know that he and his wife were going to begin inviting their Facebook friends to share intentions, to be prayed for during their Adoration hour.

He also said that this is a great way to evangelize. I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s true. Originally I’d hesitated to mention on Facebook that I was going to Adoration–but this has shown me that it’s something needed and appreciated.

I created a rosary prayer intentions printable to use each week to list intentions: my own, as well as those of my friends on Facebook. It’s also a Franciscan Crown Rosary tutorial. Download this printable and set it up for your “intentional rosary.”

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Saint Junípero Serra’s Camino

My fascination with St. Junípero Serra began in grade school when I learned about the California missions. Already familiar with Franciscan friars, I made the connection to the real-life priests and brothers I knew.

On my only visit to California (in 1995), I insisted on having the chance to visit one of the missions. We attended Mass at Mission San Diego and I took the opportunity to explore the grounds. As it doesn’t look like more trips to California are in my future, I’ll need to explore the remaining missions in a virtual pilgrimage of sorts. That’s where Stephen J. Binz’s new book comes in.

Print

Saint Junípero Serra’s Camino: A Pilgrimage Guide to the California Missions (Franciscan Media, 2017) offers armchair pilgrims like myself the chance to go behind the scenes at each of the 21 missions in the state of California. An impressively comprehensive guidebook of the 21 California missions featuring a short biography of St. Junípero Serra, a look at the colonial and missionary climate of the 18th century, and separate chapters for each mission. Readers are invited to take walking, driving or virtual pilgrimages in which they learn the history of each mission site, examine its architecture, discover its patron saint and engage in prayer.

This book digs more deeply than you’d expect in a guidebook. Binz does not gloss over the problems that occurred during the colonization period in an attempt to re-canonize Serra, nor does he demonize the friars and others who journeyed to California to evangelize the people there. I found his approach to the whole Serra controversy balanced and well-documented.

Pilgrims can follow the route laid out by Binz, which is in geographical order from south to north. The author also includes a list of the missions in order of their founding, in case pilgrims wish to follow that path instead (admittedly, this would work best for virtual pilgrimages, as it involves a good deal of backtracking.)

That’s Mission Santa Bárbara on the cover. Founded in 1786, it’s the first mission founded after Serra’s death. If I could only visit one mission, that’s the one I’d pick, because it’s named for my patron saint. This book also helped me learn more about her–because she lived during the fourth century, details of her life are sketchy, so I knew very little.

My only complaint about this guidebook was its lack of photos. There were few photographs, and the ones that were included were small and in black and white.

If you’re planning a trip to California, definitely get your hands on this book and plan to stop to visit at least one of these missions! If you’re like me, this book will help you learn about a fascinating chapter in our nation’s history and that of our faith.

Barb's Book shelf blog title

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

#OpenBook: February 2017 Reads

"An Open Book" linkup hosted at CarolynAstfalk.com and CatholicMom.com

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

vanishedVanished (The Memoirs of Jane_E, Friendless Orphan, book 3) by Erin McCole Cupp. Easily my favorite of the three books in the series, Vanished brings the near-future dystopian retelling of Jane Eyre to a satisfying conclusion. Author Erin McCole Cupp’s fine attention to technical details creates a world that, chillingly, could be nearer than we’d think. More so than in the other books, Jane_E’s need to live with integrity is the driving force in the story.

intermissionIntermission by Serena Chase. Faith’s mother continually tries to squash her Broadway dreams for a more practical profession, accusing Faith of flightiness and bad behavior even as she ignores worse behavior from Faith’s older sister. Faith’s budding romance with a slightly-older actor with similar musical-theatre dreams leads her mother to forbid the two to have any contact. Faith impatiently waits until Noah completes a 2-year program of study overseas, but as she’s unable to get in touch with Noah, she has no idea if he will return to her. This YA romance novel has a strong, but not overbearing, Christian element. Some characters openly evaluate their own behavior according to godly standards, and the subject of chastity, purity and reputation are openly discussed and central to the story. The suspense in this novel is its greatest asset. Chase admirably moves the plot along, while bringing the reader to tears–and sometimes to anger–over the events taking place. Highly recommended for high-school students.

mothers-promiseThe Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth. This book will absolutely tear you apart emotionally. Alice fiercely protects her daughter, Zoe, who suffers from severe social anxiety. When Alice is diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer, the two are forced to leave their insular world and take radical steps out of their comfort zones, finding support from a nurse, a social worker and a high-school boy, all of whom face their own secret challenges. Bring tissues, but don’t skip it. (Netgalley)

hope-chestThe Hope Chest by Viola Shipman. Such a sweet story with absolutely lovable characters, in a town you’ll want to move into. Single-mom Rose finds work caring for Mattie, an ALS patient. Rose and young daughter Jeri find their way into Mattie’s heart, as well as her husband Don’s. Together they all learn to face death by focusing on hope: specifically, the various treasures found in Mattie’s long-neglected hope chest. (Netgalley)

 

wedding-in-truhartA Wedding in Truhart by Cynthia Tennent. Annie has to plan a wedding suitable for her TV-news-star sister and all the Atlanta society folk traveling to humble Truhart, Michigan for the festivities. This novel is all about appearances and what really matters. The love story between Annie and her old crush, Nick, is the main part of the novel. 2 unnecessarily-graphic sex scenes.

 

 

close-enough-to-touchClose Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley. Imagine being allergic to the human touch. Jubilee has lived most of her life unable to touch or be touched by others. Now that her mother has died, she must find a way to support herself. She nearly dies after giving in to instinct, jumping into a river to save a drowning child and resuscitating him. She falls for the child’s dad–and he for her–but cannot bring herself to tell him why she keeps him at arm’s length. (Netgalley)

heavenawaitsfrontcover-768x1152Heaven Awaits by Shannon Claire Morelli. Emily McDougal’s purchase of her first home sets off a chain of events leading to friendship with a neighbor old enough to be her mother, a new romance, and renewed commitment to her Catholic faith. But both she and Tim bear old wounds from past relationships, and Tim has other discerning to do as well. A sweet novel of new beginnings and healing past hurts.

Nonfiction

PrintSaint Junípero Serra’s Camino: A Pilgrimage Guide to the California Missions by Stephen J. Binz. (Franciscan Media) An impressively comprehensive guidebook of the 21 California missions featuring a short biography of St. Junípero Serra, a look at the colonial and missionary climate of the 18th century, and separate chapters for each mission. Readers are invited to take walking, driving or virtual pilgrimages in which they learn the history of each mission site, examine its architecture, discover its patron saint and engage in prayer. Lack of color photos is my only negative about this book. (ARC received from publisher)

country-betweenA Country Between: Making a Home where Two Sides of Jerusalem Collide by Stephanie Saldana. Several years in the life of a woman who lives in an intentionally non-intentional way. She appears driven by whim rather than purpose. The memoir begins at her arrival at a monastery in Syria, where she falls in love with a young French monk; he eventually leaves the monastery to marry her. They settle in a war-torn corner of Jerusalem, arriving at an apartment as the result of a seemingly-random sequence of events, and she decides it’s imperative to have a child after a traumatic incident on the street. I can’t understand her insistence on continuing to live and raise her children in a war zone when she clearly has opportunities to live elsewhere. The writing is poetic and evocative.(Netgalley)

meeting-god-in-the-upper-roomMeeting God in the Upper Room: Three Moments to Change Your Life by Msgr. Peter J. Vaghi (Franciscan Media). Msgr. Varghi’s discussion of the history of the Upper Room based on Gospel accounts complements the meditations that are the meat of this book. I found the history fascinating; in various chapters, you’ll read about personalities, prophecy, sacraments, and Catholic social teaching. Each chapter ends with a section titled “Preparing Your Upper Room” in which the reader is invited to consider the personal implications of Jesus’ message. Read my full review. (ARC received from publisher)

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

open book new logo

 

#WorthRevisit: Dread vs. Hope

For #WorthRevisit Wednesday, I’m backing up 10 years and thinking about the hope of the season.

Why is Lent something we seem to dread?

. . . I’ve lost count of the people who have expressed to me how much they “hate Lent.” This morning a fellow church musician mentioned that she finds Lenten music to be full of Gloom and Doom.

Granted, this is not a cheerful time, in the sense that Christmas and Easter are cheerful. But it is certainly a hopeful time. It is a time to look forward to the holiest Three Days that we celebrate as a Church. As we remind ourselves each week as we recite the Memorial Acclamation, “Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.”

During this season of Lent, may we remember that it’s not All About Us. It’s not about whether we can abide giving up chocolate, or soda, or colored sprinkles. These sacrifices are small potatoes indeed when we meditate on what Christ was willing to do for our sakes.

May we walk through this Lent with a joyful spirit.

bernardine-of-siena-quote-lent

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

worth revisit

Copyright 2017 Barb Szysziewicz, OFS

On Barb’s Bookshelf: 3 Lenten Reads

It’s not yet Lent, but I’ve had the chance to peek into a Lenten book from Ave Maria Press as well as two new daily devotionals from Franciscan Media, each offering a spiritual companion for your Lenten journey. All three books are sure to help readers have a spiritually fruitful Lenten season.

A book doesn’t have to be brand-new this year to benefit its readers. Paula Huston’s Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit (Ave Maria Press, 2011) is packed with timeless wisdom. The cover blurb touts it as a “practical book,” which means it’s right up my alley. I am, at heart, a practical person, and I can get bogged down and discouraged by books that don’t address my pragmatic side.

In the Introduction, Huston notes,

The beauty of the Lenten season is that it encouragees the development of a humble heart. (xiii)

The beauty of this book, for me, is its learn-by-doing approach. Each day begins with a meditation (usually a vignette from the author’s own experience) and ends with a task. The concreteness of this appeals to me. The author explains that this is not a “handbook for self-improvement” but instead “an invitation to self-knowledge and . . . a small step in liberation from destructive complicatedness–that is, from sin.” (xv, xvi)

My challenge, with this book, will be slowing it down. It’s seriously motivational, and I found myself wanting to do All The Things right now. Slowing down, for me, can be almost penitential in itself, and I need to remember to focus on one day’s task and not try to jump ahead. Lent is 40 days long for a reason. But anything that has me ready to scrub gunk out of hidden corners with an old toothbrush gets motivation points! It reminds me of St. Teresa of Avila’s observation that God is with us every moment, “even amidst the pots and pans.”

simplifying_the_soul

Take your Lenten inspiration from Pope Francis with Diane M. Houdek’s The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis (Servant, 2016.) Each daily entry is divided into 5 compact parts:

  • Bible readings (find those on your own or at USCCB.org)
  • A Word from Pope Francis
  • Taking the Word to Heart
  • Bringing the Word to Life
  • Pope Francis Prays

I was charmed by the “Word from Pope Francis” sections: each one an anecdote or homily excerpt that showcases both Pope Francis’ down-to-earth style and his desire that the faithful deepen and radically live their faith. You’ll want to keep a journal handy for your own reflections, inspired by “Bringing the World to Life.”

From the Introduction:

The greatest hope of Lent is the discovery that it’s not only about penance deprivation, spiritual struggles, and rooting out sin in our lives. Those are often the things we do during Lent. But the hope of Lent lies in what God does. From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has made mercy his hallmark. It’s no surprise that he declared a special year dedicated to the contemplation of mercy. Pope Francis wants us to realize that God’s mercy and grace surround us not just in special times and places but always and everywhere. Lent is a time to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be surprised by God’s mercy when we least expect it. (vii-viii)

Print

Heidi Hess Saxton shares the wisdom of a beloved modern-day saint in Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Servant, 2016.) Begin your daily prayer with a short scripture passage, followed by a meditation with a story or quote from St. Teresa, reflection/application questions, and a brief closing prayer. The book is described by the publisher as a “helpful resource for reflecting upon the mercy of God—and modeling the generous heart of this saint from Calcutta in our own lives.”

Saxton takes an unusual path in the Introduction to the book, dedicating most of it to the story of four Missionaries of Charity who were martyred by ISIS in Yemen in March 2016, while the local priest, Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, was captured (his fate is still unknown). The author notes that this story “calls us to consider just how far we are willing to go when the Lord asks us to take up our cross and follow him.” (ix, x) She continues,

As we contemplate Scripture and the life and teachings of St. Teresa of Calcutta during this Lent, we have a daily inspiration and opportunity to follow her example and that of her community in spreading Christ’s fragrance to others. And whatever the fuure 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. (xiv)

Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta offers daily reflections in a slightly longer format than Houdek’s book, and the subject matter is a bit more challenging. There are two reflection questions per day, which make excellent journal prompts.

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Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz