by Father Mark Goldasich
I don’t want to brag, but I may be single-handedly keeping the coffers of the 3M Company overflowing. You see, I’m one of its best customers when it comes to Post-It notes.
And, deep down, I’m wondering if Father James Martin, SJ, isn’t secretly on the 3M payroll. I say that because one place where I use Post-It notes is to mark memorable passages in the books I read. The latest one by Father Jim, entitled “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything” (HarperOne, 2010; 420 pgs.; $25.99), is so good it’s put a huge dent in my Post-It inventory.
Every holiday season, I recommend a few books that have grabbed my at- tention. If you’re still searching for that special something to give someone on your list — something that will make an impact long after the eggnog is gone and the Christmas tree is discarded — check out these titles.
Father Jim’s leads the pack. Subtitled “A Spirituality for Real Life,” his book provides “a friendly introduction for the general reader” to the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola and shows “how to find God in everything and everything in God.” Father Jim writes with clarity, honesty and humor. Everyone, from a beginning prayer to a seasoned pro, will find much food for thought here.
Since many people feel they’re too busy to read, especially “dry and boring” spiritual books, these next two will prove them wrong. “Reflections for Busy People: Making Time for Ourselves, Jesus, and God,” (Paulist Press, 2009; 126 pgs.; $14.95) is written by a former teacher of mine, Jesuit Father Gerald O’Collins. Through short, two-to-three page essays, he helps readers examine what it is to be human, how Jesus impacts and influences us in this life, and ways to prepare for our final move to be with God in eternity. Each entry can easily be read while waiting for the coffee to brew or before drifting off to sleep at night.
The second work — “Moment by Moment” (Ave Mara Press, 2000; 96 pgs.; $13.95) by Carol Ann Smith, SHCJ, and Eugene F. Merz, SJ — is “a retreat in everyday life.” This wonderfully simple work provides readers with 32 “moments” for prayer. Each contains Scripture passages to meditate on, questions to pray about, a practical action, and an examen prayer to say at the end of the day. The book helps readers “attend more deliberately to the gift of life and to choose to reorient our lives to God in ways that make them more meaningful” and to “pause in the midst of any busy time in order to be aware of yourself, your desires, your longings.”
A new year is a time for resolutions. Author James L. Papandrea asks: Do you feel your life is fragmented, disorganized, chaotic, too fast-paced? If so, his practical workbook will remedy the situation and bring life back into harmony. “Spiritual Blueprint: How We Live, Work, Love, Play and Pray” (Liguori, 2010; 144 pgs.; $16.99) leads readers to examine and write about (right there in the book) the five “homes” of their life — body, hands, heart, mind and spirit. Its very accessible style encourages readers to see which of their “homes” need to be rebuilt, remodeled, redecorated or simply appreciated and savored.
Our primary spiritual book should, of course, be the Bible. However, it can be intimidating. These last two works can help make the Scriptures a better source for guidance and prayer.
For many people, the Old Testament is a great mystery and how it fits into our Christian life can sometimes be under- appreciated. Mary Katharine Deeley admirably deals with this in “Mothers, Lovers, Priests, Prophets, and Kings” (Liguori, 2010; 120 pges.; $10.99). Subtitled “What the Old Testament Tells Us About God and Ourselves,” this book looks at a number of Old Testament figures — like Jeremiah, “the prophet who got a message from God in an art studio” — and helps readers understand them better. For each character, Deeley presents a short passage of Scripture, gives its backstory, explains its meaning in everyday life, suggests reflection questions and closes with a prayer based on the person being explored. It’s highly readable and makes the Old Testament come alive.
Finally, Paulist Press recently published “The Catholic Prayer Bible” ($29.95). Billed the “Lectio Divina Edition,” almost every page helps readers to pray better by means of a little box off to the side of the Bible verses. The box contains a short explanation of the verses, gives readers an idea to reflect on, presents a short prayer, and concludes with some action step. It links reading the Scriptures with living out our faith.
God wants to be a vital force in our lives. These books can open up our hearts, in the midst of busy lives, to give God that opportunity.
Incidentally, if you do give any of these books as a gift, don’t forget to also include plenty of Post-It notes.