Book Whisperer: Favorite Books on Prayer

Book WhispererThis week in Confirmation class we talked about the Rosary, and about how prayer is an important part of Christian life.

Here are some of my favorite books on prayer and the saints….

33 Days to Morning Glory by Michael Gaitley. This “do-it-yourself” retreat is a wonderful introduction to Marian devotion (including the Rosary) and Christian contemplative prayer. We used this little book last year at Ascension, and it was a wonderful experience.

groeschelI Am With You Always: A Study of the History and Meaning of Personal Devotion to Jesus Christ by Father Benedict Groeschel. This massive work is surprisingly accessible, and represents a decade in the life of one of the most beloved and respected Catholic teachers alive today. I am grateful to Ignatius Press for publishing it, and keep it on my “fire shelf” of important books for easy reference.

The New Rosary in Scripture: Biblical Insights for Praying the 20 Mysteries by Edward Sri. Dr. Ted Sri is a popular speaker and theology professor at the Augustine Institute. This book, published by Servant Press, is an especially thoughtful gift for Christians who are curious about this classic Catholic prayer tradition.

What are YOUR favorites?

Confirmation Countdown: It’s All About Love!

scholastica2Today is the feast day of my very favorite saint, Benedict’s twin sister, Scholastica. Although she didn’t leave behind any great writings, and (like most women of her day) had very little on record about her life, Pope St. Gregory the Great records one memorable scene from her life that reveals the spirit of this strong yet gentle and prayerful woman. I love her because she reminds me of the power of desperate prayer: When trying to move someone’s heart, prayer can be more persuasive than argument!

In the windows of heaven, the saints shine like stained glass, radiating the light of God to the world below. No two bits of glass — and no two saints — are alike. Together, the “communion of saints” (those following Jesus on earth, those journeying through Purgatory, and those who are already seeing God in heaven) are a mighty force of intercessory light in our cold, dark world. So this week is dedicated to learning about prayer, and especially the most important prayer, the Rosary. We will also be looking at the Sacrament of Baptism, and exploring how we join the family of God through this ancient rite.

On “Book Whisperer” on Wednesday, I’ll share with you some of my favorite books on the saints and prayer! See you then!


Faith-Building Books for Teens (The Book Whisperer)

Book WhispererThis week I started teaching a class to prepare a small group of teens to be confirmed at the Easter Vigil this year at St. Basil the Great Parish in Kimberton, PA. So for the next few months — through Lent — I’ve decided that “A Mother on the Road Less Traveled” will be taking a spiritual journey along with them. And what’s a journey without a few good books?

This post will include a few titles that I’m recommending for my students.

The YouCat is a resource for teenagers that will provide reliable answers to any questions about the Catholic faith that you might have. I gave my students a copy at our first meeting. If you want to learn more, you can always read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on which the YouCat is based.

The New American Bible, which is the version read at Mass. On this website you will find daily Scripture readings, which you can follow to learn  more about what God has revealed to us, the “salvation story” that covers more than four thousand years of human history, and culminates in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the reason for our hope; he created the Church while he was here on earth, and instituted the sacraments that strengthen us for the journey to heaven. The story of Jesus is found in the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). If you’ve never read the Bible on your own before, you may want to start there. It is also a good idea to follow the daily readings, which will help you to understand how to read the Old Testament in relationship to the New Testament — that’s important when you are studying the Catholic faith.

my-big-bookIf you would like to read more about the heroes of the faith in Scripture, pick up a copy of My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories. I compiled this book several years ago for Thomas Nelson Publishers. In addition to the beautiful pictures and stories, it also has Catechism references and other helpful information, and little prayers to help you apply the text to your life.

If you want to learn more about the saints, there are lots of books to help you! One I especially like is Mystics and Miracles: True Stories of Lives Touched by God, by Bert Ghezzi. You’ll find some of the better-known saints like Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, and Teresa of Avila as well as some lesser-known like Francis of Paola (who “defied gravity to move huge boulders … passed through fire and handled glowing coals unharmed”) and Gertrude the Great (to whom Jesus appeared as a sixteen-year-old boy and captured her heart).

Next week, I’ll share some of the books that helped me when I was journeying toward the Church in the winter of 1993.

Confirmation Countdown: Week 1 — Have You Decided?

Holy FamilyNow, a lot of DREs will tell you this isn’t the ideal, but I sneaked into Masses at Holy Family, an old mission-style parish in South Pasadena, for six months before I thought about joining the Church. I made an appointment with the DRE, who was surprised that I had been receiving the Eucharist all this time, and gently told me that I should wait until I was Catholic to do this. Reluctantly, I agreed.

She gave me a sponsor, who quit three weeks later (I guess I asked too many questions). So she decided this little lamb needed a shepherd with a firmer hand, and took me on herself. She invited me for breakfast after Mass, invited me to spend time with her family (something I sorely needed at that time in my life, as I was feeling rather disenfranchised), and answered all my many, many questions. Sometimes we didn’t agree, based on what I had been reading about Church teaching. But she gave me a place to learn and grow, and be part of a community. Dawn Ponnet at Holy Family Parish was in a very real sense my spiritual mother.

At the Easter Vigil, I stood outside the church with my beautiful white dress and red-and-gold sash and lit candle that she had made for me, and I thought about the journey I had undertaken. No one in my family was present — they lived far away, and none of them agreed with what I was doing. My college friends were also uncomfortable with this choice, and stayed away. Two co-workers had shown up to celebrate with me. I found myself singing a song I had learned in Sunday school:

I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus,  no turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back, no turning back.

I haven’t stopped following. Haven’t stopped learning. And if you’re reading this, I hope you will follow him, too. Let’s take up this journey together!

Confirmation Countdown: A 10-Week Reflection

catholic-crossIn many parishes, Confirmation preparation is a one or even two-year process: weekly classes, service hours and projects, retreats and other special events. So when the DRE at my parish asked me if I’d take the RCIA teen class, and prepare five students (four high-school girls and my son) in nine weeks, I thought it was the perfect Lenten challenge.

Oh, and did I mention that we’re moving during Holy Week? So classes have to be completed the week before Easter? (The DRE will take them on the retreat during the week.) Ash Wednesday doesn’t start until March 4 this year, but our Lenten journey can’t wait … Time to get started!

In this class, I will have a set of twins, their cousin, and a best friend of one of the girls. None of them had received any formal religious preparation up to now … but each of them expressed a beautiful wish to want to be a part of the faith, as their grandparents had been. So they all want to BE there, which is going to make all the difference.

Yesterday was our first class. They received a Bible, a YouCat, a composition book, and a copy of the learning plan. The plan explained what we would be covering in class each week, and gave them a series of daily Bible readings. Each day they will read the story in the outline and write a paragraph or so in their journals about it. I’ll be doing the same here, breaking briefly for “Book Whisperer,” favorite spiritual classics, and “Fun Fridays,” which will feature some of my favorite shrines and churches here in the U.S.

Please pray for my students: Christopher and Emily and Mason and Sarah and … (rats. I’ll have to get back to you on the last one. God bless them all). And please pray for me, too!