As the breeze blew the scent enveloped me like a cloud, surrounding me with its sweetness – lilacs! It was a cool but clear early evening in May and I was out walking. The scent was intoxicating and for a moment I stopped and breathed it in deeply. I was deep in that moment and I was also full of the memory of the lilacs of my childhood. Ahhhhh… So beautiful. A short while later, traversing a path in the woods as I made my way home, the sun appeared – a golden orb like a ball stuck upon the upper branches of the trees. In reality, it was on its way down, soon to be followed by the shimmering white disc of the moon rising on the other side of the sky. As evening walks went, this one was pretty spectacular, and was truly a feast for the senses.
In her latest book, Taste and See, Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses (Loyola Press), author Ginny Kubitz Moyer dives deeply into the sensual realm of Catholicisma as lived through our senses. Yes, some may think we are a pretty uptight crowd – and with good reason! But in our hearts, if we pay attention, the Catholic faith invites us to luxuriate in the world around us with each one of our senses.
As a writer with a deep Ignatian sensibility, Moyer deftly sets up these sensual elements based on the Daily Examen of St. Ignatius. As someone long attracted to the Examen, but put off by its demands, my own discovery of these shorter versions was transformative. The elements of this daily reflective prayer are foundational to taking in each section of the book.
By setting up each section with a sense, five chapters further explore that sense through the lens of faith. These are not simply lofty spiritual flights or dense philosophical premises, but rather moments pulled from the most ordinary – yet extraordinary – things that we each encounter every day, interspersed with scriptural reflections. Experiences from Moyer’s own life as a child, a college student, and an adult draw out these connections based on our senses. The incarnational elements of Catholic belief are so important, and yet we often cut ourselves off from our bodies. This book does well to bring us back into our physical selves, finding the transcendent in all kinds of places.
By closing each chapter with an Examen oriented series of questions, the book becomes something we might not simply read, but also a rich springboard to prayer and reflection. This is where the volume really hit home for me because it was no longer something for me to simply “think” about, but rather a way of becoming more engaged with my faith and the world around me.
Which brings me back to the lilacs, the sun, and the moon. While I might have noticed each of those things, probably all of those things, I felt like I experienced them in a new way because “Taste and See” was much on my mind and heart. How grateful I was for that connection.
In a world where we are all racing from one thing to the next, busy, stressed, and distracted, it can be hard to stop and take in a moment of beauty, whether in nature, or simply as we pause to sip our morning coffee. This book offers the reader a chance to explore various ways to do that… whether it is inside a church, kissing (yes – kissing), praying the rosary, reading scripture, or eating.
Taste and See is a wonderful, easily read book that will keep on giving long after you have finished. Which is a great deal like what happens to us in our faith journeys. I can see carrying this book on a trip, reading it during summer days at home, or as some nightstand nourishment and wisdom. Give this one a try, I doubt you will regret it. The goodness of God is everywhere, found with each of our senses. Take it all in!