by Father Mark Goldasich
An unexpected benefit from this catastrophic Chiefs season is that people are finding an “extra” three hours of time on Sunday. That makes this the perfect year to rediscover a good habit: spiritual reading. And Christmas is an ideal time to give a gift book to remind the recipient of what this season is all about.
Below are some recent titles to consider as gifts — for others or yourself. I chose these based on ease of reading and understanding, price, engaging topics, length, and their linking of the subject matter to the Scriptures and/or prayer.
I’ll start with a book to celebrate this year dedicated to St. Paul. If you regularly find yourself zoning out during that second reading at Mass, it’s probably because St. Paul is too confusing. Learn to appreciate him more by reading “A Still More Excellent Way: How St. Paul Points Us to Jesus” by Joseph Durepos (Loyola Press, 2008; 118 pgs; $10.95). This book contains 52 short chapters: one page has a brief passage from one of Paul’s letters; the other, a short, practical meditation from the author — a husband, father of three, worker, and a “pretty ordinary guy.”
Remember the question-and-answer format of the Baltimore Catechism? It’s a great way to break down scads of material into manageable parts. Father Juan Alfaro employs that method nicely in “Getting to Know Jesus: What Do Matthew, Mark, Luke and John Tell Us?” (Liguori Publications, 2008; 144 pgs; $14.95). In 118 questions, Father Alfaro leads readers into a much better understanding of each of the Gospels through easy-to-understand answers.
What do fish, philosophers, milk, plows, peacocks, lighthouses and anchors have in common? All were used at one time by ancient Christians as a witness to their faith. In “Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols” (Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2008; 188 pgs.; $15.95), Mike Aquilina unlocks the meaning and origin of these symbols, still seen in churches today. The many illustrations of Lea Marie Ravotti complement the text nicely.
If you’re in the mood to deepen your prayer life, our own archdiocesan priest, Father Ed Hays, comes to the rescue with the reissue of two of his classic works: “Prayers for the Domestic Church: A Handbook for Worship in the Home” (286 pgs; $17.95) and “Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim: A Personal Manual for Prayer and Ritual” (371 pgs; $19.95). Both are Forest of Peace Books from Ave Maria Press. These reissues provide a fresh and inviting presentation to these prayers that cover a vast variety of situations, moods and times.
You’ve read a lot about the rosary in The Leaven over the past year. A very simple, compact, attractive presentation of the why and how of this prayer, featuring beautiful artwork for each of the mysteries, is found in Gary Jansen’s “The Rosary: A Journey to the Beloved” (FaithWorks, 2006; 104 pgs; $11.99).
If someone on your Christmas list has been very, very good, get them a copy of “Gospels and Acts,” part of The Saint John’s Bible series. This oversized, illuminated, 136-page volume is not only a work of art; its calligraphy invites readers to slow down and savor the words of Scripture. Don’t be put off by its $64.95 price tag. The book’s 25 large illuminations make it something that will be paged through, prayed with, treasured and handed down from one generation to another.
If, however, someone’s been only “moderately” good, at least buy them a copy of “The Art of The Saint John’s Bible” (Collegeville, Minn., 2007; 126 pgs.; $14.95). Author Susan Sink, with the help of plenty of color reproductions, explains not only the history of illuminated Bibles, but lets readers peek into the minds of the artists who created the images. This book should inspire the recipient to better behavior in order to deserve a copy of The Saint John’s Bible next year!