Column: Turn your gift giving into an art

by Father Mark Goldasich

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”.

Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist monk, author and mystic, once uttered these wise words. This year, following Merton’s idea, I’m recommending some books, all having to do with art in some way, to consider giving (or getting!) for Christmas.

First up is a gorgeous book that teaches the art of praying with art. Your prayer guide is Father Mark Haydu, LC, who is the international coordinator of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums. The volume, “Meditations on Vatican Art” (Liguori, 2013; 202 pp.; $29.99), contains over 28 masterpieces. Father Mark includes information about each piece, a Scripture passage to ponder, a detailed meditation, a prayer and reflection section, and a practical spiritual exercise. It’s worth every cent of the purchase price.

Next up is the art of learning to pray with Scripture. Many Catholics are still a
bit afraid when it comes to the Bible. Sister Maria Tasto, OSB, will calm that fear and lead you in “The Transforming Power of Lectio Divina” (Twenty-Third Publications, 2013; 116 pp.; $12.95). She explains the four stages of lectio in this simple guide to help readers ultimately “become the Word of God you are meant to be.”

Learning the art of making prayer a habit could not be easier than with Kevin Cotter’s “Through the Year with Pope Francis” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2013; 384 pp.; $16.95). Although I’ve not physically seen this book, as it was just published on Dec. 9, I’ve examined samples of it on Amazon. It presents 365 papal quotes, usually just a paragraph or two long, and a short reflection question and action from the author. I really liked what I saw and have a copy winging its way to me.

An interesting side note is that Kotter is a former Nativity parishioner and worked at Prairie Star Ranch.

And, speaking of Pope Francis, the next book teaches the art of Christian leadership. It’s not only a glimpse into what makes our Jesuit pope tick, but it gives anyone who leads — in a company, family, classroom, or team — some lessons in pursuing spiritual leader- ship. “Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads” (Loyola Press, 2013; 171 pp.; $16.95), by Chris Lowney, will help readers to lead “with courage, compassion and conviction.” Far from being dry and jargon-filled, this very readable book — with chapters like “Of Spiritual Exercises and Cell Phones,” “Washing Feet,” and “Dirty Shoes” — challenges leaders in any capacity to thoughtful reflection.

The last two entries, though not recently published, were new to me and so I’m recommending them. One could be called the
art of praying like an artist. Sybil MacBeth has written a captivating little book called “Praying in Color” (Para- clete Press, 2007; 104 pp.; $16.95). A truly unique and fascinating way to pray, this book suggests that we try “drawing a new path to God.” She invites us to reenter “the childlike world of coloring and improvising.” Don’t let the “drawing” aspect deter you. With plenty of colorful illustrations and suggestions, MacBeth will have you sneaking your kids’ colored markers and approaching God in a whole new way.

The sixth book for possible Christmas giving is one that teaches the art of not taking life — or even your faith — so seriously. To tickle your funny bone, check out Deacon Tom Sheridan’s “Second Book of Catholic Jokes” (Acta Publications, 2010; 96 pp.; $10.95). Although readers may have heard some of these jokes before, it’s nice to have them collected in book form and easily accessible. Here’s just one, appropriate for this season of the year: Did you hear about the dyslexic devil worshipers? They sold their souls to Santa! (Cue the drummer for a rim- shot: badum-CHING.)

On that note, it’s time to close the book on this column so you can hustle out and practice the art of last-minute shopping.

 

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