For a deeper faith, open book

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldsasich

I’ve tried it again and again, but just don’t like solving crossword puzzles online.

For me, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. It’s easier and more satisfying to just grab a pencil and work them the old-fashioned way: on paper.

It’s the same for spiritual books. Give me a physical book where I can highlight passages, scribble notes in the margin by hand and pop Post-It flags on memorable pages. I can’t help it: I’m biased.

With that in mind, here are my Christmas gift book suggestions. Even though you can get electronic copies of many of them, stick to the hard copies. After all, they’re more fun to unwrap at Christmas.

Because of the general feeling of unease in the world today, a sure antidote is to change perspective and develop an attitude of awareness and gratefulness for all that’s right. Transform your new year with “The Way of Gratitude: Readings for a Joyful Life,” edited by Michael Leach, James T. Keane and Doris Goodnough (New York: Orbis Books, 224 pgs.; 2017; $18). There are some 46 reflections here from a variety of authors, both Catholic and not, in a variety of styles — all just a page or two long. Entries include: “Rejoice Always,” “What Does a Grateful Brain Look Like?” “Dishwashing With Reverence,” and “Shine On, Farmer Boy.”

It seems that people constantly want to know how to pray or pray better. Two books can satisfy that desire: “Busy Lives & Restless Souls,” by Becky Eldredge (Chicago: Loyola Press, 131 pgs.; 2017; $13.95) and “Prayer Seeds,” by Sister Joyce Rupp (Notre Dame, Ind.: Sorin Books, 205 pgs; 2017; $15.95). Sister Joyce’s book contains “a gathering of blessings, reflections, and poems for spiritual growth.” It’s chock-full of ready-made prayers for all of the seasons of the church, as well as those of our lives: times of celebration, times of grief and difficulties, and periods of transitions.

Eldredge’s book confronts life as it is lived in the 21st century and shows “how prayer can help you find the missing peace in your life.” She introduces readers to St. Ignatius of Loyola and Ignatian spirituality that says: God is in all things, and everything in life is holy. This very readable, practical book includes discussion questions to ponder after each chapter, as well as a new prayer style — lection divina, examen, consideration and contemplation — to explore.

If you’d like to learn more about your Catholic faith or help someone to examine what Catholics believe, there are two inviting books that do that: “The Heart of Catholicism,” by Bert Ghezzi (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 174 pgs.; 2014; $14.95) and “Why I Am Catholic (And You Should Be Too),” by Brandon Vogt (Ave Maria, 178 pgs.; 2017; $20). Both are easy reads and enlightening.

Ghezzi’s book tackles what it means to be a practicing Catholic today. Each chapter includes discussion questions, practical actions and references for further study, like specific entries in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There’s a nice glossary in the back, as well, to help in your understanding of Catholic terms.

Vogt’s book captures his journey to joining the Catholic Church and examines why he sees Catholicism as true, good and beautiful. This book will definitely make you think — whether you’re a cradle Catholic, a catechumen or a “none” (someone who sees little reason to join a church).

Finally, for a little fun, pick up this adult coloring book called “The Saints,” by Daniel Mitsui (Ave Maria, 2016; $9.95). It contains 30 full-page pictures in a variety of styles to color with a short bio on each saint, from the familiar to the obscure (St. Drogo of Sebourg, St. Gobnait and St. Margaret of Antioch).

I started this column with puzzles, so it’s fitting to end the same way: Check out Matt Swaim’s “Catholic Puzzles, Word Games and Brain Teasers” (Ave Maria, 2017; $9.95).

Be warned: While these puzzles are fun to solve, they can make your brain hurt. You’ll definitely learn about Catholic teaching and history. And you’ll thank God for that answer key in the back!

Make 2018 a year for growing in your faith by spiritual reading. May these words of author Annie Dillard ring true for us all: “She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.”

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