by Father Mark Goldasich
OK, call me old-fashioned, but can anything top getting an 8.3- pound book for Christmas? To me, it just screams significance — something that a 10.1-ounce Kindle can’t imitate. Yes, once again it’s time for some last-minute book suggestions to consider for giving or receiving.
Why don’t we start with a book on prayer? The Irish Jesuits have produced a new, excellent “Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2015” (Ave Maria Press, 2015; 371 pgs.; $15.95). Billed as prayer that can be done in 10 minutes, each week has a onepage article followed by a clear and simple set of stages that you’re guided through. One stage is a daily Gospel reading with some questions to ponder. This book combines lectio divina (“sacred reading”) with Ignatian spirituality (imagining yourself in a Bible scene). Don’t fret that this book already started with the new church year on Nov. 30. It’s “good” through next Nov. 28!
For a child’s eye view of the season, check out these two illustrated children’s books. On the Third Sunday of Advent, Italian kids gather with the pope in Rome to have him bless their “bambinelli” (statues of Baby Jesus). “Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing” (Franciscan Media, 2013; 32 pgs.; $15.99) tells the heartwarming story of Alessandro and “what he learns about family, faith and love one special day.”
The second book is by Aaron Shepard and traces the origin of the expression “a baker’s dozen” to a legend from Dutch colonial New York in “The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale” (Skyhook Press, 2010; 40 pgs.; $11.25). Beautifully illustrated by Wendy Edelson, it even includes a recipe for making your own St. Nick cookies.
Who can resist a book that begins: “I like to tell folks that I have a little black nun inside of me”? This book by Brother Michael O’Neill McGrath contains his original paintings and musings on a spiritual dynamo in the church who passed away at the age of 52 in 1990. “This Little Light” (Orbis Books, 2008; 95 pgs.; $20) presents “lessons in living from Sister Thea Bowman. She was an extremely popular speaker in Catholic circles because of her enthusiastic presentations, which included song and dance. The author captures her well when he writes: “If you are in grief, let her show you how to live beyond the emptiness. If you are sick, let her show you how to live with the pain. If you are afraid and anxious, let her walk with you awhile and hold your hand. If you have lost sight of your beauty, let her hold up a mirror so you can see how beautiful you are.”
Speaking of beauty, my last two suggestions are art books about the Vatican Museum. If you’ve been to Rome, you probably visited the museum. However, I’ll bet you were whisked through it in order to get to the Sistine Chapel, where you were allowed to gawk for a few precious minutes before being shooed off to another site.
The first book, “The Sistine Chapel: A Biblical Tour” (Paulist Press, 2013; 96 pgs.; $19.95) by Christine M. Panyard, lets you experience the Sistine as it was meant to be: up close and personal. What is unique about this book is that the author “brings together the paintings from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with their foundation in Holy Scripture.” This is a stunning book that allows you to appreciate this masterpiece in a whole new way — and without the shoving crowds, yelling guards and aching neck (from gazing up at the ceiling).
And now back to that eight-pound book. Everything about it is substantial: its weight, size and price ($75, although deals abound online). It’s called “The Vatican: All the Paintings” (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishing, 2013; 525 pgs.) by Anja Grebe. Inside are 976 works of art: paintings, sculptures, maps, tapestries and other artifacts. The book comes complete with a companion DVD. The color reproductions are magnificent, and you’ll find yourself lingering and ogling for hours and hours. Considering that a ticket to the Vatican Museum costs about $20 a pop — not to mention that pesky airfare — this book will more than pay for itself in a few viewings.
By the way, does anyone need a broken Kindle? I seem to have dropped the “little” Vatican book on top of mine!