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One-Verse Reminders

Every morning I begin the day with Liturgy of the Hours and the daily Mass readings, along with the Daily Gospel Reflection from CatholicMom.com.

That means I’m reading parts of three psalms every single morning.
The Psalms have the power to derail my morning prayer—or, more accurately, switch it to a different track—like no other element of the readings and prayers for the day.
Usually that’s because, as a musician and sometimes cantor at my parish, I can’t help but hear the melody for those psalms from when I’ve sung them at Mass. (This is only a bad thing when the verses I’ve sung before are different from the verses I’m reading now.)
But Psalm 42:3 (from yesterday’s responsorial psalm) hits different.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
I don’t hear a melody behind that one: I hear a voice.
There’s a woman in my parish who served faithfully for many years as a sacristan for daily Mass and a frequent lector. When I read that psalm, which comes up fairly frequently in the weekday readings, I hear Cathi proclaiming it. Her accent (there’s more than a hint of New York City) sounds like home to me, so that might be the reason her delivery of the first part of that verse made such an impression.
Athirst is my soul for God—the LIVING God.
That’s not a word I would have emphasized, but every time she did so, I’d lose track of the rest of the psalm while I mulled over how it’s important to remember that God IS a living God. Living, present, active, and loving. And our souls long to see Him. We were created for exactly that.
I suppose it’s OK to be derailed a bit if you’re actually thinking about the message of the readings, as opposed to your grocery list or how behind you are on the laundry or how you’ll solve this or that problem at work.
If you’re a lector, your natural inflection and emphasis can lead the reader to contemplate in a way you probably never expected. You are bringing the LIVING Word of God to your parish. And our souls long to hear it.
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Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images created in Stencil

On my bookshelf with shelf of Catholic fiction

An Open Book: October 2022

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done these! I always enjoy recapping the books I’ve read … but sometimes things get away from me. So here’s a taste of what I read this summer. Mostly, this is a Kindle recap, because if I got a library book that I’ve since read and returned, all bets are off.

Recently I reread In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book. The Kindle version I purchased had a fascinating introduction that I’d never read before and isn’t included in my print edition. Rumer Godden is an amazing storyteller and this is one of her best; it’s so easy to lose yourself in the story of a woman with a late vocation, entering a Benedictine monastery in rural England in the early 1950s. (And while Philippa is clearly the main character, another principal in the story emerges as the heroine for me: Abbess Catherine, who famously prayed, “I can’t, so You must.” Best prayer in a novel, hands down.) I’d give it 10 stars out of 5.

 

nullI grabbed a Netgalley offer for a cookbook and I’m glad I did. Tastes Better from Scratch: Easy Recipes for Everyday Life by Lauren Allen introduced me to a new recipe source. I liked that the book was packed with pictures, because I like to see what I’m going to be cooking. The author also included hints for modifying the recipes to allow for different cooking methods (make-ahead, make from frozen) and also modifying for different tastes. These recipes were easy to follow and left the door wide open to personalization. This is a good family-style cookbook. 4 stars.

 

Victoria Everleigh’s The Hope We Vow completes her Vows for Life series. Sadie Rosati, sister to the main character in The Love We Vow, has returned to the faith and is trying to figure out what God wants for her life after her boyfriend doesn’t react well to learning the secret that’s burdened her since her teenage years. Sadie’s explorations lead her not only to new relationships but to the possibility of consecrated life; exploring that possibility opens a door for her to use her musical gifts in a new and unexpected way. A satisfying end to the series. 4 stars.

 

The debut novel Grieving Daughter’s Club by Andrea Bear brings together a cast of characters who might not ordinarily meet (much less become friends) but do so because of a book discussion group at their church. Many of them share the bond of having lost a parent. This is a wonderful story of developing friendships, and of women who literally come to the point of being willing to lay down their lives for each other. By the end of the book, you’ll feel as if these characters are your friends too. Worth a reread! 5 stars.

 

I don’t remember how I heard about Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, but this middle-grade historical novel set in Depression-era Kansas was a delightful read, despite the hardships 12-year-old Abilene has endured in her lifetime. Sent to Manifest on her own by her father, Abilene sets out to find out what really happened during her father’s childhood and unlock the long-buried secrets of the town. The side characters are just as winning as Abilene. 5 stars.

 

The dads take over the PTA in Schooled by Ted Fox, a hilarious novel about rival stay-at-home dads running a cutthroat campaign for the presidency of the PTA in the socially competitive school their young children attend. If you thought PTA moms were bad, they’ve got nothing on Jack and his childhood nemesis Chad, who seems willing to stop at nothing to make sure he wins this election. Plenty of politically-correct everything, but the story is worth getting past all that. 4 stars.

 

And in a completely different vein, The Girl They Left Behind by Roxane Veletzos is a deeply tragic World War II story, which begins in Bucharest when a three-year-old is found on a doorstep, abandoned by her Jewish parents who hope someone will care for the child while they hide in a neighbor’s attic. They think it will be just for a little while, but things don’t work out the way they had hoped. The story follows Natalia into adulthood and is an eye-opening look at life behind the Iron Curtain. Compelling, but be sure to have a light read afterward as a palate cleanser. 4 stars.

 

One of the best books I read this summer was Amy Matayo’s They Called Her Dirty Sally. Journalist Finn Hardwick arrives in a small Arkansas town reluctantly, assigned to cover the 30th anniversary of a tragic hospital fire that killed several newborns and young mothers. He encounters unexpected resistance from the locals who are unwillling to give up the town’s long-held secrets, and discovered that the hospital fire seems to have a tie to his own life as well as to the reclusive, mysterious woman known as “Dirty Sally,” who has not spoken a word to anyone since the day of the fire. 5 stars.

 

In Perfectly Human, Joseph Dutkowsky, M.D. describes his journey from engineering student to pre-med and on to a series of academic and professional opportunities that led him to dedicate his medical career to caring and advocating for persons (mostly children) with disabilities. It’s evident from the very first page that Dr. Dutkowsky loves his work, and that his patients have been as much a gift to him as he has been to them. Dr. Dutkowsky looks into the eyes of his patients and sees the eyes of Jesus looking back at him. One of the best parts of this book is the love story of the doctor and his wife. If you’re a teacher or the parent of a child with special needs, don’t miss this one. (Review copy received from the author)

 

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!

 


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

Where indicated, books are review copies provided by the author, publisher, or Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

On my bookshelf with shelf of Catholic fiction

Book Review: The Little Way of Living with Less.

Letting go is hard. And maybe that’s the reason for the subtitle of Laraine Bennett’s new book, The Little Way of Living with Less: Learning to Let Go with the Little Flower. In this new release from Sophia Institute Press, Bennett shares her musings on a “less is more” manner of living, inspired by the writing of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

 

 

Arguably, the saint’s life as a cloistered Carmelite nun automatically lent itself to the kind of simplicity that mothers in the 21st century will never hope to see. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from this saint’s words and example, and apply those to our situation, examining what to keep, what to share, and what we might not even need in the first place.

I admit it: I’m very attached to my stuff. I keep a lot of things I “might need someday” but probably never will … and it definitely goes against the grain for me to donate those useful objects—but, looking back, I’ve always been more than willing to give something I was saving for that elusive “someday” to a friend or neighbor who needed that particular thing right now. My challenge, I guess, is giving up the things without seeing the faces of the ones who will be using it.

Reading this book has pushed me to re-examine my relationship with the things I keep. Do I need all of them? Do I even want all of them? Would I benefit more if I moved some things along, by having more open space in my closet and on my shelves: do I have to have everything filled to the brim all the time?

Reading this book at this time of year has been a good push to examine the clothing I keep. As the weather gets chilly, I’m putting away the summer blouses and bringing out the winter fleece. How much of each of these do I really need? When’s the last time I even wore that? Why am I hanging on to it if I’m not using it? As I sort, I’m filling a box—and when it’s full, I’ll arrange for it to be picked up for the next clothing drive, along with the big box of handmedown kitchen stuff left behind by my kids after they finished college.

My favorite chapter in The Little Way of Living with Less is chapter 7: “The Tranquility of Order.” I want that tranquility, the peace that comes from having what I need—because peace doesn’t come from hanging on to stuff I don’t.


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my review.
Amazon links are included in this article; your purchase supports FranciscanMom.com at no cost to you.

Start Your Advent Preparations Now!

It’s September 30. Do you know where your Advent candles are?

I do, because I bought about 6 packs in bulk a couple of years ago, and we’re still working through that supply. I don’t have an attic; we keep them in a mini-closet in the basement where the Christmas decorations live (which automatically means we can’t go too crazy buying Christmas decorations, because I insist that we keep the Christmas decorations there, and only there.

So I’ve got my candles (and enough for a few more years) and now I have the brand-new Advent devotional by Lisa M. Hendey: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath.

 

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This booklet is filled with Scripture-based, simple prayers for the Advent season, plus questions to ponder for each day as you prepare to welcome the newborn Christ.

These Advent prayers are appropriate for individuals as well as families, classrooms, and small faith sharing groups.

If you’ve spent any time around this blog, you know I’m hardly an expert about Advent. Around here, it’s the season where table manners and fire collide. But now that all my kids have come out the other side of the teenage years, I’m figuring that maybe—just maybe—we can add in some devotion to our family Advent-wreath ritual.

It’s only 5 minutes a day. We can do it! Join me!

And it’s not too early to think about Advent, my friends. It’ll be here before you know it: Advent begins November 27 this year. And all the craft stores are already putting Halloween stuff on clearance, so if you don’t have candles yet, don’t wait. And while you’re buying your candles, go ahead and order this book, too.

5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath is available on Amazon, through Ave Maria Press, and at your local Catholic bookstore.

Ave Maria Press offers even more Advent devotional materials based on this booklet: check those resources out for free!


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.
Article contains Amazon links; your purchase through these links support FranciscanMom.com at no cost to you.
I received a free review copy of this booklet from the publisher and was not compensated for this review in any way.

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Walk With Me

“Walk with me,” she beckons, one hand outstretched as if to take mine, and one hand over her heart. That heart, ringed with a garland of beautiful flowers, has been deeply and thoroughly pierced with a sword.

Her smile trembles as her eyes brim with tears about to spill over—but her eyes do not leave mine. She does not shy away from meeting my gaze, even in her own pain.

Young—so young—and newly postpartum, she reaches out to me, inviting me to hold her hand as I shoulder the cross of my troubles, that ever-heavier burden of cares and worries that knocks me down at times under its weight.

“I’ll help you up,” she assures me, reaching out her hand again to lift me off my knees, to catch me as I stumble forward, my vision blurred by my own tears.

“I’ll walk with you,” she promises. Sorrow and joy are no strangers to her. As I cast down my cares with each bead that slides between my fingers, she listens.

She knows all my pain—the pain I’ll talk about, and the pain I feel I have to keep inside. She knows. And she cares. And in my pain, I know I’m not walking alone. I know she is beside me, holding out her hand to guide me, to lift me up, to hold me up.

“I’m here,” she assures me, as every mother assures her little child in fear or pain. “I’m here.”

And as I stumble along, bolstered by contemplating the joy, the light, the sorrow, and the glory she has witnessed, I look into her eyes, answering her trembling smile with my own.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

 

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Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos: unattributed painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, found in Resurrection Parish Adoration Chapel, Delran, NJ; photographed by Barb Szyszkiewicz

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The Only Bag I Need Today

I dug my trusty tote bag out of the closet yesterday.

I have other totes. Several of them, in all shapes and sizes. Most of them are fancy and professional-looking, and some even have a special place for my water bottle. Most of them aren’t stained in places, and their handles aren’t frayed.

But this is the tote I dug out of the closet yesterday, because today I’m going to need it.

 

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I’m going to need my Caregiver Bag.

This bag has gone with me to medical visits for at least a decade. It has room for my water bottle. And tissues. And waiting-room snacks. And the book I’ll bring, but definitely won’t read, in the waiting room. And whatever papers we’re handed, with instructions and arrangements and marching orders.

(And a rosary, though there are already 3 of those in my handbag.)

It’s been a decade, and this bag and I are in it for the long haul. Maybe that’s why, every time I get a shiny new bag, I hang onto this one despite the stains and the frayed handle.

I’ve hung onto that handle on some very dark days. And I’ve held it on the days when we heard good news, when we walked out of hospitals breathing a sigh of relief, because this time we were sure we were done with this.

So today, I’ll pack up that bag again with the snacks and the water bottle and the tissues and the extra rosary and the book I won’t read. I’ll grab onto those fraying straps and walk confidently through that familiar parking garage and into those halls I’ve walked so many times before, and I’ll remember that this is not a burden I have to carry alone.


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

On My Bookshelf: Perfectly Human by Joseph Dutkowsky, MD

Is there anything better than a warm chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven? I believe we’re handed them by God all the time and too often don’t notice or can’t figure out what to do with them. I’m a firm believer that when God hands you a chocolate chip cookie take a big bite out of it! (173)

Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, or “Dr. D” as he signed off when he emailed to tell me he’d sent me a copy of his memoir, Perfectly Human, spent his life taking big bites of the chocolate-chip cookies God handed him, and the world is better for it.

 

In this fascinating book, Dr. D describes his journey from engineering student to pre-med and on to a series of academic and professional opportunities that led him to dedicate his medical career to caring and advocating for persons (mostly children) with disabilities. It’s evident from the very first page that Dr. D loves his work, and that his patients have been as much a gift to him as he has been to them. Dr. D looks into the eyes of his patients and sees the eyes of Jesus looking back at him.

Dr. D has not only worked hard as an orthopedic surgeon to help his patients enjoy their lives by assisting them in overcoming mobility challenges, he has led by example in looking and listening and helping to meet the needs of his patients and their families.

Through the patients, families, and community providers whom I serve, I learned the fundamental truth that you cannot take care of a child with a disability without taking care of their family and community. (82)

Throughout the book, Dr. D shares stories of encounters with patients and acknowledges that he was changed as much as the children and adults he has treated over the years. The thread that holds all these stories together is Dr. D’s deep reverence for the gift of life, no matter how imperfect that life might be in the eyes of an unfriendly world.

Particularly timely in these days of post-Roe vitriol against those who protect the vulnerable unborn is Chapter 16, “The New Eugenics.” Many of Dr. D’s patients have been individuals with Down syndrome. He observes,

Worst of all, this new eugenics is even threatening their lives. Through medical science, new tests exist and are being developed to genetically and morphologically examine a fetus in the womb. In the greatest tradition of medicine this information would be used to make early diagnoses that could lead to prenatal treatments to enhance the life of the child in the womb and after birth. In the worst tradition of medicine this technology is being used to terminate the pregnancy of an “undesirable” child. (168)

In this powerful chapter, Dr. D decries a culture that penalizes women “economically, socially, and professionally” for having children; a culture in which easy access to abortion enables men to use women; a culture which views easy access to abortion as a “solution to poverty” (169).

Dr. D told me, when he sent me this book, that it’s not a book: it’s a movement. He’s right. This book, which I called a memoir but might better describe as a call to action disguised as a memoir, is a spiritual push to see the intrinsic value of each person: born and unborn, healthy or ill, strong or weak, ambulatory or wheelchair-bound.

It’s also a love story, dedicated to his late wife, Karen, who supported him in the adventures that took him from New England to Tennessee, from New York to Peru and back again.

And it’s a testament to the faith of a man who has come to see all of life as a gift from God, packaged as a series of chocolate-chip cookies and ready to be enjoyed in a way that, in turn, glorifies the God who created it in the first place.

Perfectly Human is a book that will make you smile and cry—sometimes within the same page. I’d particularly recommend this book to young people entering the medical field, whether as doctors, nurses, or allied professionals, and to educators as well.


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Image: Stencil

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On my bookshelf with shelf of Catholic fiction

An Open Book: July 2022

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

Shadowed Loyalty by Roseanna M. White. Sabina, daughter of a Chicago mob boss in the days just before Al Capone’s rise to power, discovers she’d been played: the handsome young man who’d been secretly courting her is actually a government agent seeking to take down her father. But Sabina’s secret love life is unwelcome news to the young man who’d loved her since childhood—her fiancé, who puts aside his own code of ethics to get Sabina’s father out of legal trouble. A fascinating story. 5 stars.

 

For a Noble Purpose by Kelsey Gietl. Built on a premise from an episode in the Book of Tobit, the novel follows a young woman whose seven husband all died mysteriously shortly following the wedding, before the marriage could be consummated. Immediately after the death of the seventh, Sarah and the slave woman she grew up with run away to join a wagon train led by Tobias Lark and his brothers, a family of men with extraordinary gifts who seek to start a new community in the Washington Territory. An interesting look at wagon-train life from a privileged woman’s perspective. 4 stars.

 

So THAT Happened: An Accidental Romantic Comedy by Katie Bailey. Instagram posts from this author finally got me to buy this book, and it was a fun story. After a flight cancellation, Annie winds up having to share a hotel room—and a bed—with her handsome but grumpy seatmate from the plane, and she even pretends he’s her new boyfriend when she encounters her old boyfriend and his pregnant girlfriend in the airport. But she figures they’ll never see each other again … until she arrives at her new job Monday morning and discovers he’s the CEO. This clean romance would make a hilarious movie. 4 stars.

 

Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson. Assistant-editor Savannah works at a publisher whose CEO considers romance novels too pedestrian for their lineup, but she’s secretly working on one to pitch to a competitor. After hiding her manuscript in a secret room, she returns later to discover someone’s been editing it—and making it infinitely better. This begins a back-and-forth, complete with scheduled secret-room runs so author and editor will be guaranteed never to meet. All the while, Savannah wonders who else knows about the room, and who’s working on her book. Thorougly enjoyable. 5 stars.

 

Beach Wedding on the Rocks by Maddie Evans. Noah and Elsie, known for their pranks during their high-school days and former high-school sweethearts, team up against the guy who was the cause of their breakup 8 years ago. During the week before the wedding, they stage elaborate schemes to dish out some cold revenge, and find themselves battling old feelings while they’re thrown together in hilarious situations. As always, this author’s greatest strength is her characters’ banter. 4 stars.

 

Not Until Someday by Valerie M. Bodden. Grace has a plan to renovate the house she just inherited from her grandfather into a bed-and-breakfast. She also has a life plan, right down to all the qualifications and characteristics of her future husband. When former NFL great Levi shows up as the contractor for her project, she resists her attraction to him because he doesn’t check the boxes on her list. This Christian romance was heavy on the Christian, sometimes to the point of getting in the way of the story. 3 stars.

 

Last Summer Boys by Bill Rivers. I’m not even sure how I found out about this one, but what a gem! In this novel set in 1968 rural/Appalachian Pennsylvania, a young teen seeks an opportunity to save his oldest brother from being drafted. He and a cousin, sent to spend the summer outside riot-plagued Chicago, plan an expedition to find a fighter jet that crashed in the area several years ago. Plenty of local color and flavor of the time, when developers sought to take over formerly rural areas and kids could roam for hours in the woods and hills. 5 stars.

 

Blackberry Beach and Sea Glass Cottage by Irene Hannon. While I love the mainstay characters of the Hope Harbor series, I’m starting to feel as if it’s jumped the shark. Nevertheless, these are easy, sweet reads—just right for relaxing during the summer, and solid 4-star tales. I heard there’s another one releasing this fall, and yes—I’ll be looking for it. Because sometimes, this kind of book is exactly what you need.

YA/Children’s

Love and Other Great Expectations by Becky Dean. A medical condition after an injury ends Britt’s soccer career and dreams of going to college. Offered an opportunity to spend a week in England for a contest that could net her the money she needs to replace her lost athletic scholarship, she travels around the country on a competitive scavenger hunt culminating in a Canterbury-Tale themed final project—and meets a young British man on a life quest of his own. This clean YA romance was a terrific read. 5 stars. (Netgalley)

 

Nonfiction

Encountering Signs of Faith: My Unexpected Journey with Sacramentals, the Saints, and the Abundant Grace of God by Allison Gingras. Interspersed with stories of Allison’s own spiritual journey as she and her husband adopted a profoundly deaf young child from China is “sneaky evangelism” about grace and the ways it’s shown to us—and the ways we hold our faith in our hearts. Allison had to make the faith visible and tangible to her daughter, but the Church made that easy for her through its traditions of sacred art and sacramentals. This book contains not only a fascinating testimony but also an invitation to make your faith personal, by incorporating meaningful devotions, developing relationships with saints, and learning to see God’s grace and providence in every aspect of your life. I want to read it again—this time with my journal near at hand. 5 stars. (Netgalley; available September 30 but you can preorder it now.)

 

Beginning Well: 7 Spiritual Practices for the First Year of Almost Anything by Joel Stepanek. I can never resist a “do something for a year” book and this one is a refreshing take on that theme—and a way better idea than making recipes from the same cookbook every day for a year (yeah, I read that one, AND saw the movie; bet you did too). In this new book from Ave Maria Press, Joel Stepanek offers seven spiritual practices to get you through times of transition. It’s a small book, and the author writes in a very down-to-earth, uncomplicated, conversational style. I recommend this easy, encouraging read, no matter what kind of transition you find yourself in. 5 stars. (Netgalley)

 


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

Where noted, books are review copies. If that is not indicated, I either purchased the book myself or borrowed it from the library.

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 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Recommended Reading for the Eucharistic Revival

To renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. (EucharisticRevival.org)

 

The United States Congress of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will initiate a three-year Eucharistic Revival beginning Sunday, June 19, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. During this revival, Catholics will be called upon to deepen and strengthen our belief in and devotion to the Eucharist: the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Here are some of the books I’ll be reading during this time, and others I’ve recently read. Join me!

Merridith Frediani’s Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration is much more than a guidebook about a particular type of devotion, this book, published by Our Sunday Visitor, begins with an explanation about Adoration that is definitely not for beginners only. Not every parish or Adoration Chapel offers advice or instruction on customary prayer practices associated with this devotion, so you’ll find that this book fills in those gaps in a helpful way.

nullIvonne J. Hernandez is the author of The Rosary: Eucharistic Meditations with St. Peter Julian Eymard, Apostle of the Eucharist. This is a beautiful book of meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosary. I prayed my way through this book over the course of four holy hours in the Adoration Chapel, but there’s enough material in the entry for every mystery that you could focus on a single mystery each day for three weeks, if you prefer.

Just published by Aleteia+OSV, My Daily Visitor: Eucharist by Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P. is a devotional booklet with 40 days of meditations inspired by Gospel stories and the writings of the saints. Entries are short (one page per day) and the book’s small format makes it easy to take with you or keep inside your Bible or breviary for daily reading and prayer. This devotional also contains a collection of prayers before the Eucharist, written by saints including St. Catherine of Siena, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

7 Secrets of the Eucharist  by Vinny Flynn, published by MercySong/Ignatius, is a favorite of three authors whose opinions I deeply respect: Maria V. Gallagher, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, and Allison Gingras, who commented, “This book literally changed my life.” Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur noted in her Amazon review, “[this book] helps readers to once again be amazed by the mystery of the Eucharist. While no one can fully understand the Eucharist, Flynn uses Scripture, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, certain Church documents, and the Diary of St. Faustina to help explain it as much as possible. … This book provides complex information about this sacrament in a highly readable format.”

Ave Maria Press has recently published two books by Timothy P. O’Malley, in its Engaging Catholicism series, which I’m reading now. Real Presence: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter?, the first book, explains the biblical origins and long tradition of the Church’s doctrines of real presence and transubstantiation, and encourages spiritual practices that will help us recognizing Christ in the Eucharist and in others.

The second book, Becoming Eucharistic People: The Hope and Promise of Parish Life, discusses ways to cultivate a culture in our parishes that treats Real Presence not only as an important Catholic doctrine, but also as the most important part of parish identity. This book is not just for priests and parish ministers—there’s valuable information and food for thought for every reader.

 

What will you be reading during the Eucharistic Revival? Share your recommendations in the comments!

 


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photo copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of some of these books, but no other compensation. Others were purchased on my own. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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Prolife? Give, don’t gloat.

This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which effectively overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

There’s a lot of vitriol on social media right now—on both sides. I’m trying to stay out of the way of that, but I think it’s important to consider constructive responses to the situation, rather than destructive reactions.

If you’re prolife, don’t take the opportunity to gloat today.

Instead, take the opportunity to give.

Crisis pregnancy centers and organizations such as Good Counsel Homes that offer housing, educational, and work opportunities to women can use your funds, your time, your donations of goods, and your prayers.

What kinds of things can you give?

  • diapers (especially the larger sizes)
  • wipes
  • baby formula
  • bedding
  • clothing
  • supermarket gift cards

To find a crisis pregnancy center near you, google “abortion alternatives” followed by your zip code or “pregnancy center near me.” It’s that easy! Then reach out and find out how to make your donation.

For people who say that helping babies is all well and good, but what happens when the kids outgrow the cribs but still need food, clothing, shelter, and daycare? The St. Vincent de Paul Society has them covered. This organization helps individuals and families by providing funds for food, rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and more. You can donate funds or gift cards forlocal supermarkets.

You can also budget for extra groceries each week and make donations to your local food pantry. Summer, in particular, is a time of greater demand at food pantries, because children are out of school and missing the breakfast and lunch they often received there. Be sure to include some kid-friendly, easy-to-prepare options.

If you think about it, the most prolife thing anyone can do is to carry out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Maybe you can’t do all of them. But you can do some of them. You can do at least one: pray for the living and the dead. But I’m sure you can find a way to do others, no matter your current situation.

Be creative! A group of musicians from my parish tonight will be taking advantage of today’s beautiful weather and visiting a homebound parishioner—and we’ll bring the music with us. Usually we call her during our weekly rehearsal and sing to her, but we wanted to do something more. She’ll get a mini-concert, featuring the music we’ll sing at Sunday Mass. That work of mercy costs us nothing but our time. And she was thrilled, when I called her at lunchtime, to tell her I’d be stopping by later with a surprise.

Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America,” the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stated.

Be a giver, not a gloater—today and every day. That’s how we build a post-Roe America.

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Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: Stencil