Catholic Company Book Review: Holiness for Everyone

It’s the eve of All Saints, so what better day to review a book about a saint?

Some of the most intriguing saints, I think, are the relatively-contemporary ones. While St. Josemaria Escriva has garnered more than his share of notoriety due to a famous work of fiction, there’s much less popular factual knowledge about this modern-day saint. Eric Sammons sets out to correct this imbalance with Holiness for Everyone: The Practical Spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva.

The book is less a biography of the saint (although an early chapter in the book does cover those details) than an introduction to the saint’s writings and philosophy. In fact, this book is not meant as a stand-alone text, but as a companion to the primary sources–the saint’s actual writings–all of which are freely available online. Suggested readings, including web addresses, are included at the end of each chapter, along with meditations, suggestions for prayer, and concepts to contemplate.

I found this book challenging to read but not ridiculously academic. It’s not meant to be “downed” in one sitting, but instead to be a tool for reflection and prayer. St. Josemaria Escriva’s writings were intended the same way; many of them are in “nugget” form, so that a reader could take a single sentence as a gateway to action and meditation.

Chapters are organized by theme and include topics such as freedom, work, contemplation, evangelization and holiness, among others. The idea of “holiness for everyone” is not unfamiliar to me as a Secular Franciscan; after all, the idea of this life is to dedicate my particular state in life, and all that I do, toward living according to the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis. St. Josemaria Escriva’s teachings reinforce the same ideas, though without the particularly Franciscan bent that I am used to seeing.

This book achieves its purpose: it’s an appetizer, not the main course. It introduces the teachings and writing of a contemporary saint and leaves the reader hungry to learn more. Holiness for Everyone is an excellent introduction to the spirituality of a saint who has been misrepresented by popular culture.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of Holiness for Everyone for theCatholic Company Blogger Review program, created by The Catholic Company. The Catholic Company is a great resource for tools to help you participate in the Year of Faith, including Year of Faith bible studies and exclusive Year of Faith personalized gifts. The Catholic Company also has all your Advent needs in stock, such as Advent calendars and Advent wreaths. A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

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The Media-Savvy Catholic Parent

As the mom of three children, ages 20, 16 and 10, I’m right in the thick of parenting digitally-active kids in an ever-more digitally-active age.  We consume media around here.  I’m probably the only one in the house who reads books anymore–and half the time, they’re e-books.  The rest of the family stays informed through television, radio, and various new media.

In my house, you’ll find computers, iPods, iPhones, iPads and a Kindle. You’ll find video games and a Netflix subscription.  We’ve got satellite radio and satellite TV.  While I’m the only one who blogs, three of us tweet and four of us Facebook.  The ten-year-old wishes he could, but we think he’s too young for that.

And in my house, we’re Catholics.  The kids go to Catholic schools (and, in one case, a Catholic university.)  We attend Mass weekly and our children serve as musicians and altar servers.  Our reality includes grace before meals–even when friends come over to visit, my own life as a Secular Franciscan, and “prayers upstairs” with the 10-year-old before he goes to bed each night.

Books like Infinite Bandwith:  Encountering Christ in the Media are encouraging to me as a parent.  Author Eugene Gan discusses the digital realities that our children (whether young children or young adults) encounter each day without being heavy-handed.  Media of all sorts are a part of just about everyone’s life, and Gan shows parents ways to use these media tools to help others learn about–and grow closer to–God.  Gan’s book explains seven “media keys” to help people approach the use of media in a sensible, faith-filled way, so that the media we consume can nourish our faith and that we can use media to inspire the faith of others.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information. I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

Book Review: Praying Constantly

Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, always a model of Franciscan simplicity, is true to his reputation with his new book, Praying Constantly: Bring Your Faith to Life.

There’s no fluff in here, and no New-Age instruction to try “visualization” or “guided imagery” or Reiki massage any of that sort.  Instead, Father Groeschel focuses on the basics:  the Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the Rosary, and Scripture reading.

Father reminds the reader again and again, and dedicates the complete final chapter of the book to this: you have to make the time to meet God in prayer. Referencing the “faith without works” concept in the letter of James, he states that

“the person who spends his life in prayer but cares nothing for his neighbors has made a horrible mistake. Our prayer lives should give us the desire and the strength to love others, to help others.”

Father Groeschel challenges the reader to keep the Sabbath, bluntly declaring that “the universe won’t implode if you take a few hours off.” Anyone who feels “too busy” all the time definitely needs to hear this. The reader is asked to consider the Sabbath a gift, rather than a burden.

Praying Constantly is an excellent guide to living a life of prayer even as we live our lives as parents, professionals, spouses and generally busy people. Everyone is called to “pray without ceasing.” In this little book, Father Groeschel shows us how it can be done.

You can purchase this book here

I wrote this review of Praying Constantly for theCatholic Company Blogger Review program, created by The Catholic Company. For more information and to purchase, please visit The Catholic Company.

A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

Catholic Company Revew: Grace Before Meals

This book is definitely a keeper!

I used to own an earlier edition of Grace Before Meals. Before I had the chance to try many of the recipes in it, I did something I almost never do: I gave it away. That’s because I thought that the advice on building family life was so important and so useful, I wanted to share it with someone I felt could benefit from it.

But after I enjoyed Father Leo Patalinghug’s appearance on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown,  I was wishing I had his book so I could try more of his recipes.  And when I found out that his winning fajita recipe would be featured in the new edition of Grace Before Meals, I figured I’d wait until this edition came out before I replaced that book I gave away.

This book is worth the purchase price for the fajita recipe alone.  They are seriously delicious and seriously easy to make.  Best of all, they don’t call for any exotic ingredients that can’t be found at your regular grocery store.  I’ve got a Post-It flag on the page for the fajita recipe, because I make it every few weeks.

But I don’t consider the recipes the star of the show in this cookbook.  Subtitled “Recipes & Inspiration for Family Meals & Family Life,” I think that Father Leo’s reflections on family life and how it can be strengthened around the dinner (and breakfast) table are really what makes this book a standout.

This would be a great gift for any family!

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Grace Before Meals.  Also be sure to check out their selection of baptism gifts.
I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

Book Review: Saint Clare – beyond the legend

One thing that was lacking in my formation as a Secular Franciscan was learning anything about Saint Clare.  As the first woman Franciscan, certainly there are many ways in which she can inspire those who wish to follow in the footsteps of the saint.  But I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to learn about her life.

Author Marco Bartoli dissects the writings of early Franciscan biographer Thomas of Celano, who wrote a life of Clare as well as much about Francis and the Franciscan.  In Saint Clare – beyond the legend, Bartoli describes the differences in how Clare is depicted in various works by the same author.

This book is not a “birth to death” biography of Saint Clare, but instead a topical treatment of her life.  Some topics include Penitence, Conversion, War and Peace, and the Papacy.  This is a scholarly book; it demands attention and concentration (and sometimes a dictionary!)  It draws on history, both secular and sacred, as well as etymology and spirituality.

I’d recommend this book to readers who are interested in learning more about a fascinating Franciscan woman and who want to avoid “fluff” in favor of meatier reading.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Saint Clare – beyond the legend. I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

The Archbishop’s Book

I am a big fan of Archbishop Timothy Dolan; when I can, I listen to his weekly program on the Catholic Channel on Sirius/XM radio. So I enjoyed his book, Doers of the Word: Putting Your Faith into Practice.

This is not a complicated, heavy book.  At only 125 pages, it’s great to slip into your handbag or briefcase to read when you have a few free moments.  While the book has seven chapters, each of these is divided into segments about a page in length.  These contain a short discussion on a topic as well as either a prayer or a section with more information (historical or cultural) on that topic.

Archbishop Dolan’s writing style is clear, direct and easy to understand.  The book is written almost in a conversational style; you can picture the Archbishop sitting with you at a table and saying those words.  The topics vary from the everyday (ordinary time, seasons in nature, April Fool’s Day) to the timely (respect for life, prison ministry) to reflections on the saints and the Blessed Mother.

This book is inspiring and accessible, and does challenge the reader to really live out what we believe.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Doers of the Word. I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

Book Review: Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond


Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond is a challenge to women to dress modestly and in a feminine manner.

Hammond’s basic premise is that modest yet attractive dress is not an impossibility. Furthermore, our culture encourages women to dress in immodest ways. And as any parent and teacher knows, we act according to our dress–and others respond to us according to our dress. My experience certainly bears that out. Just go to any school where uniforms are normally worn on two different days: a uniform day, and a day on which students are allowed to wear “regular” clothes. Note the difference in behavior. It will be dramatic.

Just as students behave according to their dress (and do better in school when they are dressed for the job) so do the rest of us. Hammond asserts that dressing in attractive and dignified ways will help women feel better about themselves and help them be treated better. In addition, it also shows a greater respect for God.

I agree with all of these points. I do not like to dress in skimpy clothes that don’t provide enough coverage, or clothes that are too tight. And my kids have learned that, just as they have “school clothes,” they also have “church clothes.” In our family, we don’t wear jeans to church. We don’t wear our Phillies T-shirts, and we don’t wear shorts. For church, we make the effort to dress at least as nicely as we would if we were going to work (for the grownups).

However, I can’t buy into Hammond’s idea that pants or trousers are inappropriate for women. I do not agree that all pants or trousers are automatically immodest. While Hammond’s book is well-written and thoroughly researched, she hasn’t convinced this reader to move beyond what I already feel is a very conservative manner of dress.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Dressing With Dignity. I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

Books for Teens at the Catholic Company

One of those responsibilities we parents of teens MUST accept is teaching them about the facts of life–and the morality beyond the facts of life. For some reason, I found this easier to do 20 years ago when I was teaching a Morality class to sophomores at a Catholic high school. But it’s got to be done.

Good resource material is essential when teens want to know the “why” behind the morals. One such resource, which parents can read ahead of time and then share with their teens, is Jason Evert’s Theology of Her Body/Theology of His Body. Yes, both genders in one book–and Evert does expect that teens will “peek” at the other side of the book. It’s a “flipped” book, so in order to read the other side, you have to flip the book over and open from the back. I found that a bit of a nuisance, but I’m not a teen; maybe they wouldn’t care about that so much.

Other than that, this book is full of straight talk and wisdom. I’d recommend it for teens beginning high school.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Theology of Her Body/Theology of His Body.

Book Review: Graced and Gifted

Every homemaker needs a dose of encouragement and practical advice now and then. Mix that with a generous measure of inspiration and Biblical wisdom, and you get Kimberly Hahn’s Graced and Gifted: Biblical Wisdom for the Homemaker’s Heart.

Framed after the wonderful and inspiring verses in Proverbs 31, this book touches on all areas of homemaking, including hard work, feeding the family, time management, money management and living through difficult times. The book is divided into different sections that relate to the sacraments of the Catholic Church. The Appendix covers the very practical matters with worksheets to help moms plan housework, meals, budgets and even home-buying and decorating.

You don’t necessarily have to read this book in order from start to finish. It’s the kind of book you can pick up at any point–and jump right in at the area you need to focus on most. But I’m sure that once you get started with this book, you’ll want to read the whole thing.

Graced and Gifted retails for $14.99 and was published by Servant Books in 2008. It’s an excellent resource for any homemaker.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Graced and Gifted.

A Book Well Worth Your Time

I’ve been spending some time poring over a wonderful book, A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World by Carl Anderson.

Anderson is Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus and he shares plenty of wisdom in this book. I was dog-earing pages all over the place; the chapter on “The Domestic Church” was fabulous. Anderson asserts, “the family is–and will be–the chief witness to the active power of the love of God in the world” (p. 82). Think about that and see how it changes the way you view family life, and your goals for your family.

Each chapter ends with “suggestions for contemplation and action.” Those are excellent–don’t skip them!

While the book is short, only 173 pages, it is meaty. It’s not a fast read. This is a book to be savored in small bits, reflecting over them and considering how to apply the ideas in your own life. I appreciate that Anderson does not talk down to his audience but instead has written a challenging book, realistic but not simplistic.

Consider this:

“ultimately the power of Catholics to transform America into a culture of life and a civilization of love will lie in the power of their example more than in the power of the ballot box, even though the ballot box is important. The early Christians did not take over the Roman Empire by electoral choice: there were no elections to speak of in those days. Rather they did so by their example, by holding out the possibility of a life that was higher, more beautiful, and above all more authentic than the vulgarity, violence and greed of late antiquity. Christians today have the same opportunity to offer another way to a world that is also surfeited with these same problems” (p. 171)

I recommend this book for your personal library as well as for parish libraries.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on A Civilization of Love.