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Column: Wondering what to read next? Try this.

by Father Mark Goldasich

“Nothing is new under the sun.”

These famous words of Qoheleth are found in the Book of Ecclesiastes (1:9b) in the Old Testament. I doubt, though, if Qoheleth would say those same words had he lived in 2009 and had access to the new book written by our own archdiocesan priest, Father Ed Hays.

Yes, Father Hays is at it again. Even after 30-plus books, he’s hardly exhausted his treasury of knowledge and inspiration. His newest work is called “A Book of Wonders” (Notre Dame, Ind.: Forest of Peace; 2009; $16.95). In this volume, Father Hays writes in one of my favorite styles — short, daily reflections. In this overly busy world that so many of us inhabit, even when we have free time, our minds are often too tired to tackle a long, complex book — no matter how important it is or how attractively its subject matter is presented. However, to sit down and read through a snappy, one-page “spiritual snack” (much like those increasingly popular 100-calorie treats), well, that’s a different story.

This book offers readers a chance “to inspire and nourish your spirit.” Father Hays chose the title because “as humans, we hunger for wonder, to be surprised by the wonderful in our daily lives.” His purpose in writing this latest work is “to tantalize your imagination to discover the wonderful in the commonplace.” As far as I’m concerned, he succeeds on all counts.

Just for fun, I jumped around in this 408-page book to look at the entries on the third of each month, starting with July. Here’s some of what I found:

• July 3: Did you know that the Statue of Liberty started out as a design for a sculpture that was to stand at the entrance of the Suez Canal? And did you ever imagine that Lady Liberty was originally conceived of as “an Egyptian peasant woman of the Nile wearing a Muslim face veil”? (When I began to wonder how she got to New York, I realized how appropriate this book’s title was!)

• Sept. 3: This entry, called “A Speed Limit for Life,” highlights the practical, “doable” nature of Father Hays’ writing when he advises: “The slower you move, the more you see, on foot or in an automobile. So move slower [today] if you wish to see the wonders of life and creation around you.”

• The Dec. 3 reflection invites readers to set aside the frenzy of December and look around at all of the flickering Christmas lights. Realize how special this time of year can be: “What a stun- ningly wondrous image for heaven is Christmas: the blizzard of lights, the love-gifting, and the festive gatherings of family and friends.”

• Feb. 3: Sometimes the bleakness of this month can penetrate our souls and minds. This day’s entry contains valuable advice and encouragement: “Once you’ve begun, doubt not! Don’t look backward.” Father Hays writes: “Instead of fretting over whether you made the right decision, passionately invest yourself in living out the choice you have made!”

• March 3: How can you not love an entry that incorporates wind, words from the Tao Te Ching (the ancient holy book of China) and Groucho Marx? This day, readers are asked to ponder “how flexible your standards are when facing life’s turbulence.”

• April 3 provides a little vocabulary lesson, inviting us to become a “mirabilary,” or wonder-worker, by living each day in a way that is heroic, selfless and generous . . . and by doing so, surprising — in a pleasant way — the people we encounter.

Each entry ends with a short, four-line prayer, based on the day’s reflection. This would be an ideal book to keep on or near the kitchen table or by your bedside — a perfect companion to begin or end your day, focused on God’s wonderful working in your life.

By the way, don’t wait until Jan. 1 to buy or start this book. Get it now, open it to the appropriate date, and let your heart sing with Father Hays and Louis Armstrong, “What a wonderful world.”

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Fr. Mark Goldasich

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