Stories of the Saints: A Giveaway of a Bold and Inspiring Book

Do you want to help your children understand that saints are not simply people who sit around and pray all the time? A new book of saint stories underscores the fascinating stories of some of the best-known saints. Stories of the Saints by Carey Wallace, illustrated by Nick Thornborrow, is subtitled “Bold and Inspiring Tales of Adventure, Grace, and Courage” – and it delivers.

From the Introduction:

Saints aren’t born better or braver than the rest of us . … Saints aren’t people who are always good and never afraid. They’re people who believe there must be more to life than just what we can see. This world may be hard and unfair, but saints believe in a God who is bigger than the world, whose law is love, and whose justice is mercy. And this faith gives them courage: to stand up to evil kings, to care for people everyone else forgets or hates, to slay dragons. … Led by their faith, they actually bring the better world to be, and invite us all in.

(ix)

The stories of 70 saints (71, actually, since Perpetua and Felicity’s stories are told together) are told in this oversized book that’s a perfect read-aloud for children 6 and up, and just right for independent readers in 4th grade and up. At the beginning of each saint’s story, you’ll find a box listing their vital stats: year of birth and death, location(s) where the saint lived and worked, emblem (something the saint is often depicted with in art), patronage, and feast day. The saints in this book are listed in chronological order by year of birth.

Which saints are featured in Stories of the Saints? Bishops with healing powers (Blaise), princesses who helped the poor (Margaret of Scotland), visionaries who pioneered a beloved form of prayer (Dominic), a pope who quit his job and was imprisoned by his replacement (Celestine V), a priest who was tortured rather than break the secrecy of the confessional (John Nepomucene), an artist who cried every time he painted a picture of the cross of Christ (Fra Angelico), a young woman who found a buried sword and saved her country (Joan of Arc), a priest who cared for slaves as they arrived in Colombia (Peter Claver), and many more.

The illustrations in this oversized hardcover book are done in a bold, modern style that evokes the active love the saints showed for God through their deeds.

Would you like to win a copy of Stories of the Saints for your young reader? To enter, leave a comment with the name of your favorite bold and inspiring saint.

One winner will be drawn from entries in the comments of this blog and comments on social media. One entry per person per platform: you can enter here, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram on my posts about the book on those platforms.

This giveaway is open to winners with an address in the USA. Contest closes at noon Eastern on Friday, December 18. Winner will be notified by email or direct message (if winning entry was made on social media) and will have 48 hours to claim the prize. If prize is unclaimed, an alternate winner will be chosen. Prize will not likely be delivered in time for Christmas but I’ll do my best to get it mailed as soon as possible.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images courtesy of Workman Publishing. All rights reserved.
This article contains Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase through these links benefits my work.
I received a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions are my own.

Devotionals: A Gift that Lasts All Year

Devotionals are wonderful spiritual gifts for friends and family members. These beautiful books offer food for the soul; the three daily devotionals are all saint-focused, and the weekly devotional is designed with busy women in mind. You’re sure to find one to add to your gift list (or your own wish list).

In Caelo et in Terra: 365 Days with the Saints

by the Daughters of St. Paul (Pauline Books & Media)

This big, beautiful book of the saints is a collaborative effort of the Daughters of St. Paul, often nicknamed the “media nuns.” Their mission is to spread God’s word and make disciples through a variety of media, including writing and publishing.

In Caelo et in Terra features a saint for each day (and contrary to the subtitle, they’ve covered February 29 as well). As the book is larger than an average hardcover (about 7X10 inches), there’s plenty of space to include two substantial paragraphs about the life of each day’s saint on the page, along with a short reflection (with a great journaling prompt) and a prayer. Information on the saint’s patronage and feast day are included. You’ll also find a robust index, which lists the saints by name, liturgical feast day, and patronage – so this is a reference book as well as a devotional.

Each page is beautifully embellished not only with designs of leaves and clouds, which symbolize earth and heaven, but also with drawings of the saint of the day or sacred symbols related to that saint. The interior art, by Sr. Danielle VIctoria Lussier, FSP (who also designed the cover), is done in a consistent style that is simple and beautiful without being distracting.

A great gift for: RCIA and Confirmation candidates, teenage godchildren, and any teen or adult.


Brotherhood of Saints: Daily Guidance and Inspiration

by Melanie Rigney (Franciscan Media)

Melanie Rigney has a special love for sharing stories of the saints. In Brotherhood of Saints, a page-a day devotional for men, she has gathered the stories of 366 saints — ranging from the well-known and beloved Peter, Paul, Anthony of Padua, and John Paul II to more obscure but no less inspiring holy men. This book includes many men canonized within the past 50 years, such as Francisco Marto, Oscar Romero, and Louis Martin.

Following a paragraph about each saint’s life and a short analysis of how this saint is an example for us today, each daily entry contains an inspiring quote either written by the saint himself or from Scripture, and a challenge — a call to action. While all the saints in Brotherhood of Saints are men, women will find their stories equally inspiring.

A great gift for: the men in your life. Dads, grandfathers, brothers, teenage and young-adult sons, and RCIA and Confirmation candidates.


Sisterhood of Saints: Daily Guidance and Inspiration

by Melanie Rigney (Franciscan Media)

The sister volume to Brotherhood of Saints, this book was published in 2013.

Sisterhood of Saints spotlights 366 female saints, many of whom are little-known but far from little in their holiness. Of course, the book begins on January 1 with the Blessed Virgin Mary and includes Sts. Thérèse of Lisieux, Clare of Assisi, and Catherine of Siena, among other well-known saintly women. But author Melanie Rigney gives equal time to the lesser-known saints whose stories of virtue, sanctity, and challenges overcome will inspire any reader.

Following a paragraph about each saint’s life and a short analysis of how this saint is an example for us today, each daily entry in Sisterhood of Saints contains an inspiring quote either written by the saint herself or from Scripture, and a challenge — a call to action.

A great gift for: any woman, including teenagers, RCIA and Confirmation candidates.

Are you giving Christmas gifts to a couple (perhaps newlyweds)? This pair of books would make a lovely gift for the two of them!


Awaken My Heart: 52 Weeks of Giving Thanks and Loving Abundantly

by Emily Wilson Hussem (Ave Maria Press)

If you prefer a weekly devotional with a slightly longer (but still totally do-able, even for the busiest woman) format, Emily Wilson Hussem recently published a yearly devotional for women. Awaken My Heart: 52 Weeks of Giving Thanks and Loving Abundantly offers reflections designed to inspire moments of prayer during the week ahead.

Each of the 52 entries in this book runs about 4 pages and begins with a personal reflection by the author, who shares her own vulnerabilities before gently leading readers to prayerfully consider how God calls them to love themselves and others more deeply. Following the reflection, a Soul Exercise invites you to take time in the coming week to ponder, pray, and journal about that week’s topic. A short prayer concludes each week’s entry, and a simple border evoking bouquets of flowers runs along the bottom of every page.

Some of the topics covered in Awaken My Heart include jealousy, body image, fear, loving the elderly, choosing to change, saying no, giving thanks, becoming childlike, and letting go.

Carve out 30 minutes each week to sip your favorite hot beverage and ponder “how to live life present to the bountiful gifts God provides. … He leaves bouquets of blessings on every surface of our lives, and it’s up to us to notice.”

A great gift for: women of every age (college and up) who would like to live more intentionally instead of being carried along by the everyday distractions of our busy lives.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchases through these links benefit the author. 
I purchased In Caelo et in Terra; all other books were review copies provided by the author or publisher. Opinions expressed here are my own; no compensation was provided for these reviews.

Gather Together: Recipes for Fellowship

The ultimate challenge in 2020 might be releasing a book about the blessings of gathering as friends … in the same week that several states restricted such gatherings to 10 or fewer — and some cities even prohibited getting together with anyone outside the household.

But we Catholics are people of hope. We know that these measures will not last forever, and we eagerly anticipate the day when we can gather outside our household or social bubble to enjoy food, fun, and fellowship.

In the meantime, there’s no point in wasting any of the wonderful recipes you’ll find in Catherine Fowler Sample’s new cookbook, Gather Together. I always recommend that you try a recipe on your family before serving it to guests — so now’s the time to taste-test these dishes, make note of any “to taste” seasoning adjustments you made, and bookmark the ones you’ll want to use when (finally!) you can invite friends over for a meal or afternoon tea.

In the Introduction, the author offers a few creative ideas for making connections with family and friends we can’t see in person:

You could make the recipes with loved ones over video chat, or plan an evening of reflection by phone based on the questions and prayer prompts. While distance makes forming community more challenging, the consistency of intentional connection can be a unique balm during uncertain times.

I firmly believe that the best kind of cookbook is one I can read like a novel or memoir. Gather Together is that kind of cookbook. Each chapter begins with a story from the author’s life, along with a spiritual reflection, a prayer for gathering, a few conversation prompts, and a soup-to-nuts themed menu for brunch, dinner, or afternoon tea. Each menu offers at least four dishes including dessert. 

Gather Together, which releases Friday, November 20, was written with both the cook’s and the guests’ needs in mind. Author Catherine Fowler Sample anticipated the possibility of substitution of certain ingredients containing dairy, as well as where in your grocery store you should look to find specialty ingredients. There are also prep-ahead tips, and along with ingredient lists for each recipe, there’s a list of kitchen equipment needed. That’s a feature I almost never find in cookbooks (and I have a big collection of cookbooks) — but whether you’re a beginner cook or very confident in the kitchen, having this list handy saves you time. When I taught my children to cook, I told them to always get everything in place (ingredients and equipment) before you start. Gather Together makes all of that easy.

If you think the cover is beautiful, wait until you see what’s on the inside of this book! Gather Together would make a wonderful engagement or wedding gift; it’s also perfect for a young person moving to his or her first apartment. But since it’s about building community as much as cooking, this cookbook is an excellent housewarming gift as well.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchases through these links benefit the author.
I received a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for this review. All opinions are my own.

Eliminate the Negative: Two New Books that Encourage Holy Habits

As we approach the month when we celebrate All Saints, it’s good to look to their example — and their advice on living holy lives. New books by Gary Zimak and Sr. Mary Lea Hill, FSP, aim to help readers conquer our tendency toward negativity, as shown in anger, stress, and complaining.

Let Go of Anger & Stress! by Gary Zimak employs St. Paul’s wisdom about the Holy Spirit as an encouragement to transform our mindset. Subtitled “Be Transformed by the Fruits of the Spirit,” this book explores each of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit (found in Galatians 5:22-23) and demonstrates how living out the Fruits of the Spirit in mind can change our lives.

Anger and stress are the opposite of the Fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), and Gary discusses how yielding control of our lives to the Holy Spirit will give us the grace to resist the temptation to give in to stress and anger.

It’s significant that the call to action in the book’s title is “let go” and not “conquer” or “get rid of” — that shows that we are holding anger and stress much too close, and are all too ready to grab them out of our emotional toolkit. Gary’s book explains the ways St. Paul challenges us, instead, to reach for positive virtues: the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Each chapter of Let Go of Anger & Stress! is divided into short sections, so if you don’t have a lot of time to read all at once, that won’t be an obstacle. The chapters end with a list of the most important points, several reflection questions (keep your journal handy!), and a closing prayer.

If you’ve listened to Gary speak at a parish mission, podcast, or radio appearance, Gary’s writing style will be immediately familiar to you. He writes like he talks: simply and honestly, with relatable examples from his own life. His books aren’t filled with buzzwords, jargon, or complicated theology; instead, you will find sincere words from someone who clearly loves God and wants to follow His will.  

Sr. Mary Lea Hill, FSP, goes by @CrabbyMystic on social media, so it’s not a reach that she’d write Complaints of the Saints: Stumbling Upon Holiness with a Crabby Mystic. Anyone who knows me knows of my tendency to complain (even if I turn it into a joke, I’m still often complaining), so it’s a comfort to me that saints (AKA people much holier than I am) complained too.

But just because St. Paul, St. Teresa of Ávila, St. Thérèse of LIsieux, St. Damien of Molokai, and St. Faustina, among many others, had their moments of complaining, Sr. Mary Lea reminds readers that this is not an excuse for us to indulge that tendency. 

We aren’t getting off scot-free. If we learn from those who were holy before us, then we need to offer this same example to those whose paths we cross, as well as to those who will follow us. (127)

With each of the 66 chapters running just over two pages, Complaints of the Saints is an excellent spiritual read for people who don’t think they have time for spiritual reading. The last section of the book emphasizes our call to do better: to follow the holy example of the saints who, we have seen throughout the book, have lived with difficulties and challenges and learned to handle those with grace. Sr. Mary Lea offers concrete ideas at the end of each chapter that will help us channel our negativity in a better direction. Some of these include:

  • Pray the news in order to bring all the events of our history to God’s throne (138)
  • Read the life of a saint (80)
  • Pray for couples we know who are experiencing difficulties in their relationships (101)
  • Recall a disappointment that brought you closer to Christ (82)
  • Reflect on a time you blamed another for something that turned out badly (120)
  • Note Gospel incidents that might have sparked both human and holy reactions from those involved (37)

The last part of the book goes through the famous passage from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, the Characteristics of Charity, expanding upon St. Paul’s list with examples from the life and writing of saints and saints-to-be. It’s different from the rest of the book, but is an excellent summary of the ideas Sr. Mary Lea discusses in a lighter form in the earlier chapters.


These two books were released several months into a pandemic, and the challenges we have faced this year often seem like they’d lead even the most saintly person to complain and to give in to stress and anger. Gary Zimak and Sr. Mary Lea Hill’s understanding approaches and sound advice lead us to follow God more closely, even in difficult circumstances.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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.

In the Christmas Basket: A New Picture Book by Raymond Arroyo

I am of the mind that you can never have too many Christmas storybooks for your children to enjoy. When my children were younger, we had a large basket of Advent- and Christmas-themed picture books, which we would bring out on the First Sunday of Advent, along with our Advent wreath and the empty stable from our Nativity scene. The kids looked forward to rereading their favorite stories, and sometimes I’d surprise them and slip a new one into the basket.

Raymond Arroyo’s new picture book from Sophia Institute Press is a wonderful addition to your collection of Christmas storybooks. The Spider Who Saved Christmas: A Legend, beautifully and vividly illustrated by Randy Gallegos, begins with the Holy Family on the run from King Herod, during the Slaughter of the Innocents.

Entering a cave to hide from Herod’s soldiers, Mary and Joseph notice a large spider protecting a sac of eggs. Joseph, fully on alert and wanting to protect Mary and Baby Jesus from all threats, slashes at the spider’s web with his staff, but Mary stops him, noting, “All are here for a reason. Let it be.”

As the family rests in the darkness of the cave, the distant wails of the slaughtered innocents and their bereaved mothers are heard. The spider, who wants to repair the web Joseph damaged with his staff, realizes that she needs to protect a Child not her own — so she calls forth her dozens of older children to help spin a thick web at the entrance to the cave, so that Herod’s soldiers will be tricked into thinking that no one is hiding inside.

Readers familiar with Charlotte’s Web will enjoy another story in which a friendly spider selflessly takes risks to save someone else. Unlike most stories that feature “saves Christmas” in their title, The Spider Who Saved Christmas isn’t about removing obstacles that threaten to prevent Santa’s delivery of gifts to children. Instead, it’s about a lowly creature willingly accepting a dangerous mission to save the Son of God.

The Spider Who Saved Christmas is based on an ancient Eastern European legend which tells the origin of the tinsel we often use to decorate Christmas trees.

Not only does this book tell a wonderful story, it’s an excellent catechetical tool for the Feast of the Holy Innocents.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchases through these links benefit the author.
A review copy of this book was received from the publisher. Opinions are my own.

On Location: 2 Catholic Novels with Unusual Settings

Location, location, location: the Realtor’s motto might belong to authors as well. Two new novels published this season feature unusual settings. In both books, the main character lives in an out-of-the-ordinary place that figures prominently in the story.

Michael D. O’Brien’s The Lighthouse (Ignatius Press) is a beautifully written literary novel about a man without any family who becomes a lighthouse keeper in a remote area of Nova Scotia: on a tiny island off eastern Cape Breton Island (that’s three layers of islands if you’re keeping track). He can go weeks, or even months in winter, without seeing or speaking to a single soul. It’s mentioned that he suffered a painful childhood and was on his own by his mid-teens, so solitude is not a burden for him. 

But little by little, he opens up to some of the people who find their way to the island and some who live in the nearby town where he purchases groceries and other supplies. And as the years pass, he finds unexpected connections with some of them, and develops unexpected artistic talents that fulfill his unspoken need for the family he lacks.

I was privileged to read The Lighthouse while on vacation at the beach, and the background music of the waves and shore birds made me feel as if I were right there on Ethan McQuarry’s tiny island.

Because it’s always a good time to read a Christmas novel, Paraclete Press is releasing John Gray’s Manchester Christmas on November 10. Chase, a young writer looking for her next big story and a fresh start in New England, winds up in Vermont just after Thanksgiving and moves into a former church that has been converted into a private home. 

The stained-glass windows, all that remain of St. Pius Church’s original furnishings and features (because they could not be safely removed), appear to change every now and again, alerting Chase to dangerous situations to come. Immediately adopted by the community and catching the eye of a local farmer, Chase gets involved in Christmas festivities and hopes to bring an end to a painful chapter in Manchester’s past.

Manchester Christmas is a fun story, perfect for those times when you like a happy ending that brings a tear to your eye and a smile to your face.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz.
This article contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

An Open Book: October 2020

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. It’s been a long time since I participated in this fun event, so I’m going to cherry-pick the best of what I’ve read this summer.

Fiction

I couldn’t put Love and a Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray down. It’s a really fun read about a woman who tries to “pass” as a Christian to keep a temp job at a church after a bad breakup – and then realizes that the role she’s playing might cost her a relationship with one of the musicians at the same church. And all the while, there’s the landscape architect who seems to always be around and who’s picked up on her secret. Every little detail adds up to a wonderful story – I’ll look for more from this author.

Debut novelist Brendan Hodge, in If You Can Get It (Ignatius Press), tells the story of a high-powered fashion executive whose confused younger sister’s arrival in her luxury apartment is the catalyst for a reexamination of her career goals and, ultimately, what she wants out of life. Neither sister knows what to make of their parents’ newfound religious fervor, and Jen chases after power and money in a new job that requires her to look the other way at bad business dealings and worse after-hours behavior. A new start in a less-glamorous position close to her parents’ Midwestern home provides Jen the opportunity to ponder what she really wants out of life, even as her sister Katie happily determines her own life path. If You Can Get It is an engaging read that explores the consequences of the single-minded pursuit of success at the expense of faith, family, friendship, and love. There’s a bit of a surprise at the end — and it’s very satisfying. (Review copy received from publisher.)

I almost let the first page deter me from reading Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer. Glad I stuck with this story of a newly single mom struggling to make it outside the lifestyle to which she and her highly leveraged ex had been accustomed. Mrs. Saint, the meddlesome woman next door who inexplicably has seemingly incompetent people working for her, is charmingly mysterious and excels at pushing people to reach their potential. You’ll need to suspend disbelief in a big way while you read this, but the characters are wonderful and the novel is truly entertaining.

Bette Lee Crosby’s latest, A Million Little Lies, is set 60 years in the past (or so) but the theme is timeless: what happens when you tell one lie to try to bring about some good, then have to protect yourself by telling more and more lies, until even you begin to forget what the truth is. Susanna, escaping an abusive relationship with her young daughter, sneaks into a crowded funeral hoping for a free meal – and winds up being mistaken for the long-lost granddaughter of the deceased. Going along with that seems to be the best idea at the time for herself and her little girl, but the truth will have to catch up with her at some point.

 

YA/Children’s

Theoni Bell’s The Woman in the Trees, the story of Slainie, a young immigrant girl from Belgium who meets visionary Adele Brise in Wisconsin and learns about Our Lady of Good Hope (the only approved Marian apparition in the USA) will appeal to middle school students as well as adult readers. Set roughly at the same time as Little House in the Big Woods (and not too far away), this novel details the struggles of the immigrants in that time and place, including the Peshtigo fire, a forest fire that devastated their community, all as seen through the eyes of a young girl, beginning when she was only four years old and continuing through her teenage years.

 

 

Nonfiction

I picked up The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore when I discovered it was set in my home state of New Jersey. This was a long book (500+ pages) and very detailed about America’s fascination with the glowing element. Teenage girls and young women were hired to paint watch faces with radium so they would glow; they spread the spare paint on their fingernails, and because they put the paintbrushes in their mouths to shape a point on the bristles, wound up ingesting the carcinogen that caused horrifying physical effects within only a few years. There’s quite a bit of graphic medical information included here, so if that’s not your thing, you might want to skip this one.

I’m in the middle of a new cookbook right now: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. This cookbook is less about the recipes and more about the science behind cooking, and I am spellbound by what I’m learning. There are pull-out charts, such as a continuum of acidity for common ingredients (lime juice is the winner on the high-acid end!) and a wheel of oils and fats organized by region (don’t cook Asian food in olive oil). There is so much to be learned about science and technique, and it’s presented in a very engaging way. I’m keeping this one on the coffee table so I can page through it and soak up the information.

 

 


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 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Plan Your Days with the Christian Planner: Catholic Edition

On a bookshelf in my office, you’ll find planners dating all the way back to 2013. I recently found a few more in a box in my basement and will be adding them to the shelf as well. For me, a planner is not something I use all year and then throw away. It’s an essential part of my record-keeping for home and work. 

While 2020 has meant that out-of-the-house activities and work travel came to a screeching halt in mid-March and still haven’t really resumed, that doesn’t mean I don’t still need a planner. In some ways, I need it more than ever. I’ve been exploring new-to-me ways to use planners and new planner formats, and I’m very impressed with the new Catholic edition of the Christian Planner. You can use this high-quality planner at work, home, or school — and it doubles as a spiritual journal. 

I’m a beginner at using planners for spiritual journaling, but it’s a practice I’d like to try more often, ever since I listened to a recent episode of the Catholic Momcast in which Lisa Hendey shares how she uses her planner as a spiritual journal.

The Christian Planner: Catholic Edition offers a weekly two-page devotional spread. At the bottom of one of the pages you’ll find references for the Sunday readings and a quote from Sunday’s Gospel. The rest of the space is for you to use however you’d like; one page is blank and the other ruled, so you can doodle, letter a quote, write … or even use some space for pre-planning the week ahead.

The spiritual content in this planner begins as soon as you open the book, with an overview of the liturgical year and four pages of “Seeking Sainthood” worksheets with prayer/journaling prompts, bucket list, and yearly spiritual goals.

I prefer that my planners contain liturgical-year information; the monthly views in the Christian Planner: Catholic Edition boast feast-day information and the liturgical designation for each Sunday of the year.

Another aspect of the monthly view I’m finding useful is its 6-week format. You won’t see those split boxes with two days jammed into the space for one because the planner only offers a 4- or 5-week grid. With a 6-week grid, there’s plenty of room, and it’s good to see the extra days preceding and following the current month. The dates for the current month are in bold type, so they stand out.

The monthly pages also contain a to-do list, Scripture quote, and reflection/action questions to help you celebrate your blessings and contemplate ways you’ll serve God and others in the month ahead.

The weekly pages in this planner are divided into day and evening sections, but do not have specific times written in. That allows for flexibility to use those sections for appointments, scheduled tasks, or simply to-dos, whichever you prefer. There’s also a list section in the side margin, a habit tracker, Scripture quote, and some extra “free space” for whatever you need.

In the photo above you can also see that instead of tabs for each month, this planner has a little shaded index section. No more bent tabs, but it’s easy to flip right to the month you want to view.

The Catholic Edition of the Christian Planner is available in hardcover with a lay-flat binding and elastic to help keep your page open, as well as two bookmark ribbons so you can easily flip from monthly view to weekly view. There are three color options, including plum, celery, and this lovely sapphire blue.

The paper in this planner is high-quality, bright white 70-lb. paper, and the planner measures approximately 7 inches wide by 9 inches high. There’s also a slip pocket on the back cover for those extra papers or receipts.

Do you like to try before you buy? You can download free PDFs of the Christian Planner to see if the format works for you. These PDFs don’t include the Catholic content, but the basic format is the same. You’ll be asked to provide an email address, and then you’ll immediately receive access to the downloads.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
I received a free copy of this planner for review purposes. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s (Prayer) Book Shelf: 3 Books of Prayers for All Seasons

I love to read books about prayer, but sometimes what you really need is a book of prayer: a collection of prayers for various situations. So far this year, Ave Maria Press has published three prayer collections designed to help you, your family, and your parish find just the right prayer for just about any occasion. All of these books are excellent prayer resources for liturgical living.

Bless Us, O Lord: A Family Treasure of Mealtime Prayers by Robert M. Hamma is a wonderful collection of prayers before meals. For many families, grace before meals and bedtime are the prime times for family prayer — but I’d venture to guess that most of us don’t venture too far beyond the familiar “Bless us, O Lord …” that became the title of this book. If you and your family would like to incorporate the liturgical year into your mealtime prayers, this is a wonderful resource.

Inside this book, you’ll find a robust selection of prayers based on the liturgical year: days of the week, liturgical seasons, and feasts throughout the year. The author has included not only meal blessings particular to those days and seasons, but introductory material to help your family understand why these saints and seasons we celebrate are important.

There are many ways to use this book: I suggest keeping it handy at mealtimes and letting school-age children take turns checking whether there’s a saint to celebrate today, or selecting one of the many traditional options and prayers for special occasions. Bless Us, O Lord has special mealtime prayers for birthdays, Baptisms, school milestones, visitors, and even “when we’ve had a bad day.”

Justin McClain’s Alleluia to Amen: The Prayer Book for Catholic Parishes is probably not the kind of book you’d expect a family to want to use. While it was designed for parishes, many of the prayers in this book are appropriate for family use as well as use by small church groups such as prayer circles or book clubs.

Alleluia to Amen includes morning, noontime, and evening prayers for each day of the week (perfect for students and working adults). You’ll also find a section dedicated to the liturgical year, connecting prayers for the parish and those who serve in it to various feast days and seasons. If you feel insecure with the idea of spontaneous prayer to begin a meeting, this book contains many options. A handy index will help you find the right prayer for just about any special intention you can think of, including these:

  • for an end to gossip within the community
  • for the return of loved ones to the Church
  • for a couple before a wedding
  • for healing and recovery after a natural disaster
  • for parents transitioning their child to college
  • for students before exams
  • for parishioners battling addiction
  • for people within a wide range of occupations and ministries in the parish

Alleluia to Amen is a comprehensive and easy-to-use tool to find the perfect prayers for various occasions within parish life, ministry work, and even family life.

Prayers are beautiful in any language, but if you have an interest in exploring the beauty and poetry of the Latin prayers that have been part of the fabric of the prayer life of the Church for many centuries, Oremus: A Treasury of Latin Prayers brings it all together in a small-format book that’s easy to carry to Mass or Adoration or keep on a side table.

All the prayers and litanies in this book are presented with the English translation side by side with the Latin, on facing pages. This will help you follow along with the prayers as you learn them. The index includes both English and Latin titles for the prayers so you can find exactly the ones you want. Sections of this book include:

  • Morning Prayers
  • Prayers at Meals
  • Evening Prayers
  • Prayers for Adoration and Holy Communion
  • The Rosary
  • Consecration to Mary
  • Stations of the Cross
  • Divine Mercy Chaplet
  • Marian Prayers
  • other prayers, Gospel sequences, and a selection of psalms

In the Introduction, the book’s editors explain that “when you pray in Latin, you are making the unity of the Church more visible” and “praying in Latin also gives us a way of separating our everyday speech from the words we use to speak to God.” A pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book provides clues about how to say (or sing) the words of the prayers in Latin. Oremus is a lovely book; the word “treasury” in its title is absolutely accurate: these prayers of the Church are indeed historical and spiritual treasures.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
I received review copies of Oremus and Bless Us, O Lord from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Think Like a Writer

When I was a college student, a series called The Paper Chase was in reruns on some cable channel or other, and my mom and I enjoyed watching it together. It chronicled the lives of several Harvard Law students (and was much less glamorous than Legally Blonde makes law school out to be). The famously strict, buttoned-up Professor Kingsfield was known to tell his students on the first day of class, “You come in here with a skull full of mush … you leave thinking like a lawyer.”

I don’t know if Katharine Grubb had that line of dialogue in mind when she titled her newest work, and she’s certainly not the strict-professor type, but she and Professor Kingsfield have one thing in common: they know how to give people the thinking skills they need to do the work they want to do.

Katharine knows how to teach, and she knows how to teach writers. Here’s her cred: she’s a homeschooling mom of 5 (1 college grad, 2 college students, 2 current high-schoolers), a novelist, and author of three books for writers:

I’ve read, and would recommend, all of these — and I’m not even a novelist! (There was plenty of helpful information in Write a Novel for any writer, regardless of genre).

Today Katherine’s newest book for writers releases, and it’s packed with that same wise, funny, (sometimes) strict, “I get it” kind of advice that characterizes her other books. It was a privilege to get to read an advance copy of Think Like a Writer

TWEET: Set yourself up for success as an author by learning how to think like one – in 10 minutes a day: new book from @10MinNovelist

From the introduction to Think Like a Writer:

All successful authors, back in the beginning of their careers, to a mental leap and first saw themselves as writers. They set up their lives, physically and emotionally to achieve their writing goals. They all, for lack of a better term, had a writer mode in their settings, either analytical or emotional (or a combination of both) and tuned into it as they worked on their projects. 

How do you get into this “writer mode” Katherine speaks about? There’s definitely a lot of self-discipline involved — even if you only get 10 minutes at a time to work. She notes,

We can be better equipped to manage our lives around our art. I believe that time, tools, and habits can be organized in such a way that interruptions are minimized. Note that I did not say eliminated. I said minimized.

Massive success does not require massive action. What will make a difference, in the long run, is little work on a regular basis.

If you want to learn the power of small, manageable habits in your success as a writer (or your professional success in any sphere), Think Like a Writer is for you.

 


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images courtesy of Katharine Grubb. All rights reserved.
I was provided a free advance review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for this review. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.
Purchase links in this article are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase through these links benefits my work.