On Barb’s Bookshelf: Super Girls and Halos

Barb's Book shelf blog titleI always felt like female superheroes were for sporty girls who were physically strong, and beautiful too — and who could rock a form-fitting, skimpy costume.

Yvonne_Craig_Batgirl
By ABC Television – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Link

I did like that Batgirl’s real name was Barbara, like mine, but that was about it for my appreciation of superheroes.

I love that Maria Morera Johnson began her new book, Super Girls and Halos (Ave Maria Press, 2017), with a quote from the only superhero movie I ever liked: The Incredibles. Mrs. Incredible is probably the first “supergirl” I could relate to. She’s a mom. She worries about her family. She’s the most real superhero I’ve encountered.

incredibles

Comic books and action movies aren’t my go-to genre, maybe because I didn’t find superheroes relatable. My taste in comics, as a kid, ran more to Archie than to Wonder Woman, and you won’t find either Betty or Veronica in this book. But superhero comics, movies, TV series and video games are super-popular, and I think Maria has hit on the reason for that:

We can envision ourselves in the roles we see on the screen and respond to these courageous characters with admiration and appreciation for the fortitude or integrity they exhibit. Characters such as Katniss Everdeen and Wonder Woman often resonate with us because we admire their virtues. We might live vicariously through their fictional adventures, but can emulate their traits, such as courage or justice, in our daily lives. (viii)

super girls and halos

Let’s chat with Maria Morera Johnson, author of Super Girls and Virtues: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice, and Heroic Virtue:

Was it difficult to pair up the fictional heroines with real saints?

The fictional heroines were easy — they are my favorites! The saints, however, had a way of finding me. A saint of the day would pop up when I was organizing the heroine’s attributes. Or I’d see a holy card and investigate. I mean, I’ve had these Catholic things around me, now they were suddenly coming to life! The most dramatic happened on vacation in Scotland when I encountered a small shrine to an Australian saint, St. Mary MacKillop. I’d say, the saints wanted to play with me, and I was happy to invite them along for the adventure.

Unlike the heroines who depend only upon themselves and the development of their human virtues, the saints, cooperating with God’s plan, receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help them grow in holiness. They accept God’s will in their lives, regardless of the sacrifice or tedium. This can be called heroic virtue. (xv)

Which saint/heroine pair was the most surprising to you?

I think Rey from Star Wars and St. Clare of Assisi caught me off guard. It was a tough section to write about, Justice, but it came together rather easily when I was able to find the right saint and the kind of heroic virtue that understands God is due our worship as well as our love. I think people understand Wonder Woman in a chapter about Justice, but Clare, who is peaceful rather than warrior, has raised some eye brows and a little head-scratching. I think I do the pairing justice, if you’ll pardon the pun.

As a lover of literature, I find that the most compelling, realistic characters are those that remain true to their natures. (xii)

Which saint or heroine do you think is most like you?

I definitely found Dana Scully from The X-Files to have a similar, or at least familiar quest for the Truth. It’s the most personal chapter in the book, where I talk about my own falling away from the faith and my struggle to come back. It pairs beautifully, I think, with St. Benedicta of the Cross, who converted to Catholicism after leaving her Jewish faith for atheism. Most of us are familiar with Edith Stein, and so she immediately popped into my mind for pairing with Scully. Dare I say these were matches made in heaven? I crack myself up … but I think there’s some truth to it!

As we move from the heroines’  stories to the lives of saints, we see how the cardinal virtues, strengthened by God’s grace, led these women to holiness. We learn through these saints that we grow in virtue by practicing the tenets of our faith, too. (xiv)

And now for some book-launch fun, courtesy of Maria Johnson! Enter her social-media contest for a chance to win a Wonder Woman plush OR a T-shirt featuring a truly Catholic heroine.


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: Girlfriends and Other Saints

Teresa Tomeo’s spiritual writing has a style all its own; she’s funny without being shallow and she doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it is. Best of all, you don’t need a degree in Sacred Theology to benefit from her books.

I enjoy Teresa Tomeo’s books for women because she blends the lives of the saints with our everyday lives. Last summer I interviewed her about her devotional, Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag. This week, Word Among Us Press will release her new book, Girlfriends and Other Saints–just in time for Mother’s Day.

girlfriends and other saints
I’m a fan of the cover art for this book–vintage-y fonts and really cute shoes! It’s a great complement to what you’ll find inside; a great mix of saintly wisdom for our everyday lives.

But what sealed the deal for me with this book was Tomeo’s examination of the story of Martha and Mary in the chapter titled, “Can We Talk?”

We often leave Martha right there in the kitchen with her sister and the Lord, seeing it as an “aha” or “gotcha moment” for all the anal-retentive and obsessive-compulsive types in our lives. We tend to maximize and celebrate Mary’s actions and minimize or criticize Martha’s words. But have we ever stopped to ponder the fact that Martha was being very honest with the Lord? Don’t we all want to admit that at times we have felt the same way as Martha did with the “Marys” in our own lives?…Martha needs to be taken out of the box and reexamined, especially when we see her interacting with Jesus in other, much more dire situations.

Could it be that Martha’s deep faith and trust in God…was what had allowed her to be so brutally honest with Jesus as she was busy preparing dinner? Can we talk? Well, Martha certainly could, because when it came to talking to the Lord, she didn’t hold back. Jesus used her honesty and comfort level in these situations to share some deep insights into the love of God. (33-35)

I am one of those people who particularly identifies with Martha in that famous story. There are stories of saints all through this book; you’ll definitely find one or more saints whose stories resonate with yours.

So if you take away just one message from this book, I hope it’s this: that the saints are there for you. There are one or more of them with whom you can identify, a saint that understands your personality as well as your plight. Let’s do our best to embrace the saints, both in heaven and on earth, all the holy men and women that God puts in our path to help us enjoy this life as we travel to our final destination (from Conclusion page 131)

Girlfriends and Other Saints would make a terrific Mother’s Day gift for the mom in your life, or for your best girlfriend.

The Fine Print: I was provided a copy of this book from Teresa Tomeo Communications for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated in any form for the review. Opinions expressed here are mine alone. Amazon links are affiliate links; thank you for supporting my website by purchasing through my Amazon links.

#WorthRevisit: When Kids Listen to the Homily

I’m looking back at a post from April 2006, when I discovered that sometimes my kids actually DO listen to the homily!

My children have never, EVER commented on a homily before, unless it is to remark (complain?) at the length of it.

Yesterday on the way home from church, Big Brother observed, “Father really dissed the Apostles in his homily today!” He was clearly impressed that this could be done. And I think it was good for him to notice and hear this message: those Apostles, even though they had been blessed with Jesus’ constant presence for three years, still managed to mess up! They fell asleep, denied Him, abandoned Him during the crucifixion, and locked themselves in someone’s second floor room, only to disbelieve the first few people (Mary Magdalene and the other women) who saw Jesus resurrected. And Jesus let them have it. But then he still let them lead His Church.

I remember that day, and I remember which priest gave that homily. He always made no bones about Peter’s tendency to speak loudly and think later, and about James and John, the “Sons of Thunder” and their overbearing mother with her entitlement complex.

More and more, I find it comforting that the Apostles weren’t perfect.  We tend to think that they (and the saints) were. But if we let go of that idea, and consider that they all found ways to mess things up, it can be a great comfort to us when we don’t get it right.

By Albertino Piazza  - www.bildindex.de, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8665288
By Albertino Piazza http://www.bildindex.de, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8665288

We’re not perfect. Neither were the saints. Neither were the Apostles. But Jesus picked them anyway. It’s good for us to realize it–and it’s good for kids to hear Father “dissing” the Apostles. Because in the end, God made it all work out.

worth revisit

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

#WorthRevisit: St. Therese

At daily Mass on Monday, Father gave me two hosts.

Actually, he gave most people two hosts, unless they receive on the tongue.

The gentleman in line ahead of me stopped, looked at his hand, and said to Father, “You gave me two.”

“Yes. Yes, I did,” replied Father, and continued distributing Communion to the other people in line.

After Communion Father mentioned that he should have said something before we all lined up. He was giving everyone two hosts because they want to deplete the reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle before Holy Thursday.

With two churches in our parish and a succession of substitute priests this spring, we have a lot of consecrated hosts in those tabernacles. So on Tuesday, when Mass is celebrated in the other church, we all received two hosts again (this time, with fair warning from Father before Communion.)

I expect that the same will be true today.

story of a soul tan classicsWhenever I receive a portion of a host, it makes me think of the moment in St. Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography, A Story of a Soul, in which she worries about only receiving part of a host:

I do not normally feel any anxiety about going to Holy Communion, but there was one occasion when I did. There had been a shortage of Hosts for several days, so that I had received only a small piece, and on this particular morning I most foolishly said to myself: “If I only receive part of a Host today, I will know that Jesus does not really want to come into my heart.” I went up, and to my joy, after a moment’s hesitation, the priest gave me two complete Hosts: what a lovely answer! (p. 105)

I actually like when I receive only a piece of the host, because it makes me recall an extra time, “This is my Body…broken for you.”

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For #WorthRevisit Wednesday I’m linking to my review of Shirt of Flame, which chronicles author Heather King’s year spent delving into the life and work of St. Therese.

…this is a saint to whom I don’t take easily.  A priest once described her in a homily as “immature, fussy, and a bit of a drama queen” and I’m inclined to agree.  I read her autobiography as a teenager, and I think it appealed to me more then than it does now that I’m fortymumble years old (I’m actually 50 now) and most of my idealism has melted away amid the cares and worries and chores of taking care of my husband and family.

That book got me reconsidering my opinion of St. Therese.

Have you ever found a book that completely altered your thoughts on a particular saint?

worth revisit

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

Little Drops of Water: Perfect for Easter Baskets!

Have you figured out what’s going in your children’s Easter baskets this year? Why not tuck in a little something that’s a real reminder of their faith, along with the jelly beans and chocolate bunny?

When I saw the prototypes for the Little Drops of Water figurines this past summer at the Catholic Marketing Network trade show, I was captivated. They are adorable!

little drops of water (1) sm

The founder of Little Drops of Water, Miguel Amaral, told me the fascinating story behind this product: it was dreamed up by his daughter, Anna, who’s a young teenager now, and who wanted to help introduce the stories of the saints to her younger brother and his classmates. The figurines began as drawings and are available as now toys, charms, refrigerator magnets and snow globes. There’s even a Nativity set coming soon!

These cute little resin statues stand about 3 inches high and are just right for little hands to hold onto. Plus, they’re not breakable like the religious statues my children were given as gifts. Those fragile statues were “look, but don’t touch” items that had to be kept on high shelves, away from little hands–and little eyes couldn’t see them (and still, somehow, the hands broke off the Blessed Mother.) Little Drops of Water are made to be handled by young children, and their cute little faces will make them irresistible.

At Eastertime, you might like the Divine Mercy fridge magnet! You’ll also find such favorites as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Francis, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Anthony, St. Patrick and St. Therese of Lisieux among the many collectible choices. In addition to the 24 statues in the original product line, 26 more are planned for this year and some of those are already available.

Check out their Facebook page for more photos, including pictures of statues in production–that was cool to see!

Little Drops of Water statues sell for about $15 and last a whole lot longer than a chocolate bunny! They’d be a great gift for First Communicants as well.

As for me, I’ve got the Holy Family statue sitting on my kitchen windowsill. What a great reminder to pray for my own family–and I don’t have to worry that it will break if it falls down into the sink.

You can purchase Little Drops of Water at their online shop, through The Catholic Company or at your favorite religious-goods store.

little drops of water (3) sm

The fine print: I received product samples for the purpose of my review, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#WorthRevisit: My Franciscan Saint for the Year

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

Yesterday my Secular Franciscan Fraternity enjoyed its annual celebration of choosing a patron saint for the year. I’m revisiting a post I shared at CatholicMom.com that explains the process–and at the end, I’ll tell you what saint was chosen for me this year!

OFS-extraction-of-saints

My Franciscan Saint for the Year

It is a Franciscan tradition that at the feast of the Epiphany, each person is given the name of a patron saint for the year. Many Secular Franciscan (Third Order) groups observe this custom, and it really is a lovely way to begin the year. We are encouraged to learn more about our chosen saint, reading about their lives or reading works the saints themselves have written.

In my Secular Franciscan Fraternity, we receive a patron saint for the year as well as a virtue to cultivate and a maxim upon which to meditate. This maxim may be a quote from Scripture or from Saint Francis. We also receive the name of another member of the Fraternity and are asked to keep that person in special prayer throughout the year. Other Fraternities might have a different prayer or procedure; this is how our local group celebrates this ritual each year.

The leader begins by reminding everyone:

We believe that God speaks to us in many ways, not the least of which is through the example of His saints, and through the inspired words of Scripture and other pious writings.  Your patron for the year—as well as the maxim and the virtue—can be a special source of inspiration in the challenges which might be facing you during the year.  Read the life of the saint; what does the message of his/her life have to say to you?  Reflect on the maxim and the virtue.

We pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, we celebrate that day when your Word became flesh for all the world to see.  In becoming one with our human family he sanctified human activity and made us holy through his life-giving word.  Through the ages, his message has continued to touch the hearts of men and women of every place, taking flesh in their lives through Christian service.  May these holy men and women stand as shining examples of Christian virtue and the Gospel life, for each one of them reflects a unique aspect of your divine love.  Be with us today, Lord our God, as we choose one of these saints as our patron for the new year.  With the help of your Spirit, may the saint given to us today serve as a special reminder of our call to holiness.  May his or her teaching and example serve to inspire us to exercise Christian virtue and to follow your Son more closely in our Franciscan family.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Our Super-Low-Tech Franciscan Saint’s Name Generator consists of four stacks of index cards, a basket, and slips of paper with each member’s name written on them. The cards contain the names of many Franciscan saints, the virtues, the maxims, and the members of the Fraternity. The slips of paper go into the basket, which is passed around the room. As each name is drawn, cards for saints, virtues, maxims and “prayer partners” are chosen for that person.

We then pray Psalm 150 together and conclude with this prayer:

O God, you have raised up men and women outstanding in holiness as examples to your people in following in your footsteps.  Grant that we may ever look to the example and teaching of your saints, imitating their virtue, and thus merit to arrive at your heavenly banquet.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

It is a prayerful experience, but it’s often punctuated by joking and laughter, especially when someone is handed the virtue of Poverty or (yikes) Patience. There are also many expressions of gratitude for prayers to come when people learn the name of their prayer partners, and offers to share biographies of saints.

And now for…The Big Reveal!

My patron saint for 2016: St. Clare of Assisi (feast: August 11)

My motto: “Good works must follow knowledge.”

My virtue: Love

 

 

worth revisit

 

Book Blast: Seven Saints for Seven Virtues

Once a month, the Catholic Writers Guild hosts a Book Blast where members  provide social-media publicity for a randomly-chosen book written by a CWG member.

7 saints 7 virtues bookThis month’s selection is a favorite of mine, by one of my favorite bloggers: Jean Heimann’s Seven Saints for Seven Virtues!

I’ve followed Jean’s blog, Catholic Fire, for years; the same careful scholarship and fervent faith she shows in the blog is revealed in this book. This book examines seven saints of the Church in association with a virtue for which each one is known.

Read my full review here.

Your purchase of Seven Saints for Seven Virtues through my Amazon affiliate link helps to offset the costs of my website! Thanks!

Recommended Reading: The Diaries of Joseph and Mary

March is the Month of St. Joseph. What better time to enjoy a little historical fiction starring the Holy Family?

diaries of joseph and maryDennis P. McGeehan’s book, The Diaries of Joseph and Mary, invites the reader to journey with Mary and Joseph from their early childhoods until Jesus sets out for his baptism at the hands of his cousin. These fictional diaries allow the reader to peek into the minds and hearts of Jesus’ mother and foster father.

McGeehan’s imagination is complemented by extensive research into centuries of Church scholarship regarding the Holy Family. He is careful to distinguish what we do know (from reading the Gospels) from what we can surmise (from reading history and Church scholarship). This book does not pretend to be anyone’s biography; it is clearly historical fiction with a basis in actual history and tradition.

While Mary has more pages in the book (since she lived longer than her husband), Joseph definitely has a featured role in this story. Mary’s diary entries are often devoted to praise of her spouse.

I found that this book offered much food for meditation. It allowed me to think about Gospel events and other events in the life of Christ in a different light, as I considered what Jesus’ parents would have been experiencing.

Don’t miss the appendix at the end of the book: 101 Questions and Answers about St. Joseph. Here McGeehan showcases the results of his research, sharing what centuries of Church Fathers and other scholars have taught about St. Joseph.

This book is appropriate for readers in middle school and up, so I’d recommend that you leave your copy around for your teenager to explore!

Scholastica, Benedict, Mary, Martha and Me

On this feast of St. Scholastica, Father M. read the Gospel story of Martha and Mary, then began his homily with the familiar story about St. Scholastica’s prayer to prolong her brother’s visit–which was answered with a storm so severe that St. Benedict was unable to depart. benedict and scholasticaFather mentioned that Benedict was concerned about following the rules–under the Rule he himself had written–and wanted to end the visit in time to return to the monastery by nightfall. Scholastica, on the other hand, wanted to savor the time of prayer and conversation with her brother, and wanted him to stay. When he refused, she took the matter straight to the top. Benedict realized that the storm was no coincidence, and when he called her on it, she replied, “I asked a favor of you, and you refused. I asked a favor of God, and he granted it.”

BOOM.

Father went on to preach about the Gospel. It’s one of my favorite passages–even more so after what was said today. First, he said that it’s not a bad thing, in and of itself, to be concerned about serving a meal. That’s a great comfort to me, as I’m all about serving meals. But here’s the best part:  Jesus wasn’t chiding Martha because she was working on serving a meal to her guests. He was chiding her because she didn’t take into account Whom she was serving.

Guilty as charged. Every single time.

I guess that’s why I have a soft spot for Martha.

St. Benedict, in his efforts to stay true to his Rule, forgot whom he was serving during his visit with his sister. It took her prayer and God’s answer in the form of a thunderstorm to show him that his sister, like Mary of Bethany, had “chosen the better part.”

Sts. Benedict & Scholastica image source: Wikimedia.

Book Review and Giveaway: Seven Saints for Seven Virtues

Hot off the presses from Franciscan Media’s Servant Books, here’s Catholic blogger Jean Heimann’s Seven Saints for Seven Virtues! And you can WIN a copy right here!

7 saints 7 virtues bookI’ve followed Jean’s blog, Catholic Fire, for years; the same careful scholarship and fervent faith she shows in the blog is revealed in this book.

What it’s all about:  This book examines seven saints of the Church in association with a virtue for which each one is known.

  • Charity:  Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • Chastity:  Saint Agnes
  • Diligence:  Saint Pope John Paul II
  • Humility:  Saint Joseph
  • Kindness:  Saint Catherine of Siena
  • Patience:  Saint Monica
  • Temperence:  Saint Augustine

What’s inside:  A thoughtful foreword by Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.com, Jean’s own introduction to the book, and a short bio of each saint, supplemented by a discussion of that saint’s particular virtue, quotes by or about the saint, information from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Jean’s reflection on the model of each virtue in her own life, suggestions for practicing each virtue, and a prayer at the end of every chapter. There’s also a generous Recommended Reading list in case you want to learn more.

Author Jean Heimann
Author Jean Heimann

Why I love it:  Saints are often depicted as if they’re so holy, they’re almost not human. That’s not the case with this book. Jean brings out each saint’s special virtue and starts the reader on the path toward living that particular virtue.

How to read it:  I’ll admit that after reading the foreword and the introduction, I skipped straight to Saint Monica’s chapter, because patience is one of those virtues that I really have trouble displaying. This book gave me a new perspective on what patience actually involves (hint:  it’s more than just being peaceful about waiting in line). You don’t have to read this book in a straight line from start to finish. Choose the saint whose virtues you need the most right now. Start there, and you won’t want to stop reading about the other saints whose virtues Jean highlights!

Try this:  Take this book to Eucharistic Adoration. In the space of one Holy Hour, you can read, pray and reflect on a saint and a virtue. Bring along your journal and resolve to work toward developing that virtue in your own life.

How to win a book:  Just leave a comment with a valid email address answering this question:  who’s your go-to saint?

The winner will be chosen at random from all entries at the conclusion of Jean’s book tour on Thursday, October 23. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond and claim the prize or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Follow along with the tour.  Here are the other stops on the Seven Saints for Seven Virtues Book Tour. Many of these are offering giveaways of the book as well!

Monday, Oct. 13Plot Line and Sinker Ellen Gable

Tuesday, Oct. 14 Contemplative Homeschool Connie Rossini

Thursday, Oct. 16Can we Cana? Karee Santos

Friday, Oct. 17Bergers Book Reviews Alice Berger

Saturday, Oct. 18Seven Angels Four Kids One Family Jane Lebak

Sunday, Oct. 19Spiritual Woman Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Monday, Oct. 20Cause of our Joy Leticia Velasquez

Tuesday, Oct. 21 View from the Domestic Church Donna-Marie Cooper-O’Boyle

Wednesday, Oct. 22Entering into the Mystery Janet Moore

Seven Saints for Seven Virtues is available on Amazon as a paperback or ebook (my advice:  get the paperback! You’ll want to write in the margins and highlight the parts that speak most to you.) Your purchase of this book through my Amazon affiliate link helps defray the cost of this website!