On Barb’s Bookshelf: 5 Advent Devotionals

Before you say, “It’s too early to start thinking about Advent!” I’d invitee you to take a look around any craft store, gift shop, and warehouse club and notice all the Christmas merchandise that’s been on the shelves for at least a month. Advent begins December 2, and the best way to enjoy a peaceful liturgical season is to do a little prep work ahead of time.

The authors and editors from Ave Maria Press have been putting together Advent resources for months now. I had the chance to peek into five of these, each with a different focus.

sacred reading adventSacred Reading for Advent and Christmas by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. This book for Advent and Christmas is always a favorite. It’s a 96-page paperback that offers the daily Gospel reading and a walk through a lectio divina exercise for the day, from the First Sunday of Advent through Epiphany (celebrated this year on January 6). After you read the Gospel, you are prompted to notice what you think and feel as you read, pray as you are led for yourself and others, listen to Jesus, and ask God to show you how to live today. In the instructions for using the book, the authors note,

One of the ways we can better understand and respond to the Lord during this holy season of Advent is by rediscovering, along with Christians all over the world, a powerful, ancient form of prayer known as sacred reading (lectio divina). What better way to deepen one’s friendship with Jesus Christ, the Word of God, than by prayerfully encountering him in the daily gospel?

sacred reading 2019Sacred Reading: The 2019 Guide to Daily Prayer by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is set up in the same way: it’s the full-year version of Sacred Reading for Advent and Christmas. This easy-to-use prayer guide is appropriate for teens and adults and provides a wonderful way to enter into the spirit of each day’s gospel readings. The book also includes the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions, so you can unite your prayers with those of the universal Church for those special intentions each month. I have used the books in this series for several years and was honored to endorse this year’s edition; the full-year version isn’t too big to be portable (and as with the Advent book, an ebook version is also available).

gaze upon JesusGaze Upon Jesus: Experiencing Christ’s Childhood through the Eyes of Women, edited by Kelly Wahlquist, is a six-week scripture study that focuses on Jesus’ infancy and early years. This is a unique devotional that blends Bible-inspired fiction, sacred art, personal narratives, and scripture reflections. Gaze Upon Jesus can be used by individuals as well as prayer groups or book clubs. Contributors to this book include authors from WINE (Women in the New Evangelization): Alyssa Bormes, Sarah Christmyer, Mary Healy, Maria Morera Johnson, Stephanie Landsem, Elizabeth Lev, Joan Lewis, Deborah Savage, Kelly Wahlquist, Katie Warner, and Carol Younger.

At the beginning of the book you’ll find several pages of beautiful, full-color art reproductions (of varying styles) that accompany certain readings in the book. In the Introduction, editor Kelly Wahlquist observes,

Jesus always looks at you with love. He has fixed his gaze on you. The question is, have you fixed your gaze on him?

Gazing upon Jesus and receiving his gaze changes our lives. It allows us to feel his burning love for us. It heals our hearts and enkindles in us a burning desire for a relationship with God. (3)

living gospel daily reflections adventThe Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Advent 2018 by Greg Kandra is a series of reflections by a journalist and deacon who writes in a down-to-earth style. Each day’s entry is a page or two in length; scripture references for the day’s readings are included (bring your own Bible). The reflections provide plenty of food for thought (or journaling), and there are action items/resolutions and a prayer to close out each day’s entry.

We get some idea of the daring that life involves as we begin the season of Advent. Whether we realize it or not, we’re embarking on an adventure of our own.

word made fleshWord Made Flesh: A Companion to the Sunday Readings (Cycle C) by Christopher West looks at the Cycle C Sunday readings through the lens of Theology of the Body. (This is not specifically an Advent book, but as this Advent begins the Cycle C readings, that’s the right time to begin reading Word Made Flesh.) The meditation for each Sunday is only about two pages long, which is perfect when you’re pressed for time. West notes in the introduction that it can guide your prayer after Communion, or you can read the day’s readings and this commentary in advance of Sunday Mass to “help you enter into the treasures of that day’s liturgy.”

5 for Advent


This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given free review copies of these books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: Summer Reading from Ave Maria Press

New Summer Reading AVE

Leave some room in your summer relaxation plans for one of these new spiritual books from Ave Maria Press. They’re all helpful in your spiritual journey, and they’d all make excellent gifts for recent high-school or college graduates or teen Confirmandi. Lightweight enough to bring along on a vacation getaway, these four books are far from light on their spiritual message. These books will nourish your soul and bless your summer reading.

rethink happinessRethink Happiness by Paul George isn’t simply about self-help; its focus is solidly on spiritual growth. Don’t let the subtitle, “Dare to embrace God and experience true joy,” leave you thinking that this book doesn’t deal with the tough stuff or offer a true challenge. Paul George discusses depression, success, decision-making, beauty (and deceptive beauty), despair, simple living, fear, and other topics with an honest touch and just the right number of anecdotes to make his points relatable. Each chapter ends with reflection questions for prayer or journaling.

Destination happiness is a mentality that says, “When I reach a certain point in life, I will be happy.” … These achievements can be good things and can bring joy to our lives; but they don’t bring us lasting fulfillment in themselves.

When we seek happiness by reaching a destination, we set our sights on the mirage that is ahead of us and not on the reality that exists, which is God. The destination we were created for is God alone. And finding our meaning in who God made us to be is the only paradise that will satisfy our longing. (38-39)

followKatie Prejean McGrady’s Follow: Your Lifelong Adventure with Jesus invites young Catholics to get to know Jesus in practical ways. But it’s not for young Catholics only! There are only four chapters, but they’re comparatively long ones, divided into sections of a few pages each. These four chapters cover four important ways to build a relationship with Jesus: prayer, Scripture, sacraments, and service. There’s a lot of information in this book: the chapter on prayer, for example, includes the Litany of Humility, a list of all the mysteries of the Rosary, and extensive coverage of various ways to pray. McGrady also tells stories to illustrate her points, and the tales of dating her husband, evacuating before a hurricane, and meeting a homeless man while stuck in a freeway traffic jam are engaging and appropriate.

On the one hand, the steps on our journey to meeting Jesus in a personal, authentic way seem remarkably challenging. At the start of what looks like an endless, uphill climb, it may seem like we’re trying to scale Mount Everest with nothing more than a light jacket and a pair of sneakers. On the other hand, we’re reminded that there’s always a first step to climbing even the tallest mountain. On the journey of coming to know Jesus, step one is to simply communicate with him the same way you would chat with a classmate, email a teacher, text a friend, yell at your parents, cry to your sister, vent to your boyfriend or girlfriend, or laugh with your teammates. (1-2)

psalm basicsPsalm Basics for Catholics: Seeing Salvation History in a New Way by John Bergsma is a Bible study, but Bergsma’s lighter approach makes this book perfect for summer. This book is informative and engaging without being too formal or serious. Charts and diagrams illustrate the discussion of salvation history and the distinctions among the psalms themselves. There’s much more than basic information here! The book has eleven chapters, so reading one chapter per week will take you right through the summer. I found it hard to stop reading at the end of each chapter — I was quickly wrapped up in Bergsma’s explanations about the history behind the psalms.

How is the Psalter [the book of Psalms] a book about living according to God’s law?

The answer is this: the life according to God’s law is a life of prayer and worship! God’s laws really aim to guide us into a relationship with him. And the Psalter shows us how to live that relationship with him at every moment in whatever mood or situation we find ourselves, whether happy or sad, whether in success or defeat. There is always a psalm that fits your mood, whatever it may be, and that you can pray back to God in the situation you find yourself in.

The Psalter shows us how to walk according to God’s law in an indirect way. (51)

go bravelyEmily Wilson Hussem’s Go Bravely: Becoming the woman you were meant to be was definitely written for an audience more my daughter’s age (22) than mine (more than old enough to have a daughter who’s 22). That didn’t stop me from grabbing a pen and underlining large chunks of it. Wilson’s advice is for women of any age — the anecdotes will appeal most to older teens, college-age, and young-adult women, but the advice is definitely for us all. It would be great for a mother-daughter book club! This book is divided into twenty short chapters, each with a different piece of advice: for example, Find Your Gaggle, Honor Those Who Love You Most, Forgive and Forget, and Radiate with Light are just a few of the topics presented.

Bravery is the main component required for living as a young woman of faith in our world today. If you want to live virtue and proclaim a wholehearted faith in your words, and actions, you have to be bold. You have to be brave. … It is not easy to choose faith continually, and it is challenging to live the bravery that our faith requires of us. (xiii)


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz

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

On Barb’s Bookshelf: What’s New for Lent

Making Room in Lent

Two new books from Ave Maria Press invite readers to open their hearts to God and set themselves free from sin and its trappings.

Lenten Healing: 40 Days to Set You Free From Sin is a do-it-yourself retreat that focuses not only on sin, but on the virtues that will have room in our lives if we free ourselves from sin. Author Ken Kniepmann begins each day’s entry with the line, “Today, I choose to fast from the sin (or wound) of _____.” The exception is each Sunday, when the entry focuses on feasting on virtues. Filled with relatable, concrete examples of the faces of sin in our lives, Scripture passages and questions for meditation (keep a journal handy!),  and short prayers, this book is a gateway for readers to confront — and weed out — those sinful actions and tendencies that keep us far from God.

Each week, after Friday’s entry, there’s a prayer meditation on the sin and the wound that has been the focus of each week. This is my favorite part of the book; I recommend that you bring this book to Adoration, along with a journal, to work through that section of each week’s chapter. The Sunday emphasis on the virtue that is the opposite of the sin you’ve been considering all week is a refreshing and uplifting opportunity to focus on how we can change our lives for good during Lent.

lenten healing

 

Some decluttering books are written by people who act like they have it all together. Those books are not for me. In Making Room for God: Decluttering and the Spiritual Life, Mary Elizabeth Sperry readily admits that she has a lot of work to do, and that her home is not perfectly neat and tidy all the time. I like the connections made between homemaking and the spiritual life. This book addresses necessary topics like spiritual discipline, reconciliation, prayer, and materialism. The best chapter, in my opinion, is the one where the author draws parallels between clutter and sin. This book spoke to me so much, I’ve got whole paragraphs underlined, never mind the circles and arrows …

making room for God

Why is this a book for Lent? While it isn’t designated as one, I can’t help but think its early-February release is providentially timed. In Lent, we seek to reform our hearts. This book is not full of tips and tricks for cleaning out that kitchen-gadget drawer or keeping your linen closet tidy. Instead, it’s an invitation to look at your relationship with your stuff — not just the stuff you have now, but the stuff you may acquire later. Its focus on generosity, the common good, and prayer make it an excellent Lenten read: by Easter, you’ll be thinking about the way you live a whole lot differently.

Barb's Book shelf blog title


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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.

31 Days with a Heart Like Mary’s: Day 31

For the past few weeks, I’ve kept Father Edward Looney’s A Heart Like Mary’s tucked in my bag, and I’ve made a special effort to get to the 9 AM Mass a little early instead of sliding in at 8:59, so I can spend a few quiet moments pondering the day’s reflection.

With 31 chapters, this book is a month-long mini-retreat that you can start reading anytime. Each day’s entry contains a Scripture passage, reflection, prayer to Mary our intercessor, and an action item: a step toward living with a Marian heart.

Pray a bit of today’s prayer from A Heart Like Mary’s with me:

"31 Days with A Heart Like Mary's" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom.com)
Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz. Created in Canva with free image elements. All rights reserved.

Read the rest of this series.


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are my own.

31 Days with a Heart Like Mary’s: Day 30

For the past few weeks, I’ve kept Father Edward Looney’s A Heart Like Mary’s tucked in my bag, and I’ve made a special effort to get to the 9 AM Mass a little early instead of sliding in at 8:59, so I can spend a few quiet moments pondering the day’s reflection.

With 31 chapters, this book is a month-long mini-retreat that you can start reading anytime. Each day’s entry contains a Scripture passage, reflection, prayer to Mary our intercessor, and an action item: a step toward living with a Marian heart.

Pray a bit of today’s prayer from A Heart Like Mary’s with me:

"31 Days with A Heart Like Mary's" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom.com)
Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz. Created in Canva with free image elements. All rights reserved.

Read the rest of this series.


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are my own.

31 Days with a Heart Like Mary’s: Day 29

For the past few weeks, I’ve kept Father Edward Looney’s A Heart Like Mary’s tucked in my bag, and I’ve made a special effort to get to the 9 AM Mass a little early instead of sliding in at 8:59, so I can spend a few quiet moments pondering the day’s reflection.

With 31 chapters, this book is a month-long mini-retreat that you can start reading anytime. Each day’s entry contains a Scripture passage, reflection, prayer to Mary our intercessor, and an action item: a step toward living with a Marian heart.

Pray a bit of today’s prayer from A Heart Like Mary’s with me:

"31 Days with A Heart Like Mary's" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom.com)
Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz. Created in Canva with free image elements. All rights reserved.

Read the rest of this series.


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are my own.

31 Days with a Heart Like Mary’s: Day 28

For the past few weeks, I’ve kept Father Edward Looney’s A Heart Like Mary’s tucked in my bag, and I’ve made a special effort to get to the 9 AM Mass a little early instead of sliding in at 8:59, so I can spend a few quiet moments pondering the day’s reflection.

With 31 chapters, this book is a month-long mini-retreat that you can start reading anytime. Each day’s entry contains a Scripture passage, reflection, prayer to Mary our intercessor, and an action item: a step toward living with a Marian heart.

Pray a bit of today’s prayer from A Heart Like Mary’s with me:

"31 Days with A Heart Like Mary's" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom.com)
Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz. Created in Canva with free image elements. All rights reserved.

Read the rest of this series.


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are my own.

31 Days with a Heart Like Mary’s: Day 27

For the past few weeks, I’ve kept Father Edward Looney’s A Heart Like Mary’s tucked in my bag, and I’ve made a special effort to get to the 9 AM Mass a little early instead of sliding in at 8:59, so I can spend a few quiet moments pondering the day’s reflection.

With 31 chapters, this book is a month-long mini-retreat that you can start reading anytime. Each day’s entry contains a Scripture passage, reflection, prayer to Mary our intercessor, and an action item: a step toward living with a Marian heart.

Pray a bit of today’s prayer from A Heart Like Mary’s with me:

"31 Days with A Heart Like Mary's" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom.com)
Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz. Created in Canva with free image elements. All rights reserved.

Read the rest of this series.


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are my own.

31 Days with a Heart Like Mary’s: Day 26

For the past few weeks, I’ve kept Father Edward Looney’s A Heart Like Mary’s tucked in my bag, and I’ve made a special effort to get to the 9 AM Mass a little early instead of sliding in at 8:59, so I can spend a few quiet moments pondering the day’s reflection.

With 31 chapters, this book is a month-long mini-retreat that you can start reading anytime. Each day’s entry contains a Scripture passage, reflection, prayer to Mary our intercessor, and an action item: a step toward living with a Marian heart.

Pray a bit of today’s prayer from A Heart Like Mary’s with me:

"31 Days with A Heart Like Mary's" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom.com)
Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz. Created in Canva with free image elements. All rights reserved.

Read the rest of this series.


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are my own.

31 Days with a Heart Like Mary’s: Day 25

For the past few weeks, I’ve kept Father Edward Looney’s A Heart Like Mary’s tucked in my bag, and I’ve made a special effort to get to the 9 AM Mass a little early instead of sliding in at 8:59, so I can spend a few quiet moments pondering the day’s reflection.

With 31 chapters, this book is a month-long mini-retreat that you can start reading anytime. Each day’s entry contains a Scripture passage, reflection, prayer to Mary our intercessor, and an action item: a step toward living with a Marian heart.

Pray a bit of today’s prayer from A Heart Like Mary’s with me:

"31 Days with A Heart Like Mary's" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom.com)
Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz. Created in Canva with free image elements. All rights reserved.

Read the rest of this series.


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are my own.