The Church of Mercy – A book by Pope Francis – UPDATED

We have a winner. Chris Grace will receive a copy of The Church of Mercy. Thank you all for reading and participating.

church-of-mercy-bookcover“Let us ask ourselves today: are we open to God’s surprises”? Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy

Pope Francis’ name seems to be on the lips of many people. There are so many Catholics who are invigorated by his words and way of life. One of the things that is most surprising is the number of non-Catholic friends who bring him up, and generally with great regard. As I have said in other posts, he has not changed on iota, not one element of doctrine, but he has changed the way that people see the Church, and how people see the papacy.

The Church of Mercy, A Vision for the Church, by Pope Francis (Loyola Press, $16.95, 150pp.) brings together homilies, papers, and audiences from our beloved “Bishop of Rome.” This treasure trove of communiques from the first year of his papacy offers readers a chance to truly spend time with Francis’ as he presses Continue reading

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Love and last words – a book review and giveway

PrintWhen I was newly returned to the Catholic church, I bought a book on the seven last words of Christ during Lent. I’m not sure what book it was, the title now long forgotten, but I read it and struggled with it, finally bringing to to my priest, who was also my spiritual director. The look on his face when it handed to him was quite clear, something was wrong. As it happened, it was a reprint of a much older book, and the essence of the volume in my hands was harsh. Let’s face it, the Crucifixion is harsh, but the book offered a theology that was focused on nothing but suffering. The priest then gave me a much better book on the topic and my reading continued.

Needless to say, I cautiously approached all other books with the words “last words of Jesus” on the cover, rarely finding one that fully fed me. When I saw that Dan Horan OFM, had written a book about Jesus’ last words, I was instantly curious. The Last Words of Jesus, A Meditation on Love and Suffering from Franciscan Media, is an updated look offering us a fresh way of seeing the Cross.

In conversation with someone recently, I said precisely that, that this book is “updated” and “offers us a chance to see the Cross in a fresh way.” Those comments were met with a rebuttal about how there is no Continue reading

Jesus, A Pilgrimage – We Have A Winner!

970992_10152306293894233_290989403_nCongratulations to Ellen Rowe, whose name was drawn from the many names of those who submitted a comment to my review of Jesus, A Pilgrimage, by James Martin, SJ. Thank you for reading the post and entering, one and all. Many of you came to the blog through the posts and tweets by James Martin and America magazine, please keep coming back! All are welcome here, and I do run frequent book reviews and giveaways. That is to the joy of some and the dismay of others! (I am not renumerated for these reviews, in the majority of cases, I initiate the process.)

PrintA book review of Dan Horan OFM’s latest book, The Last Words of Jesus, A Meditation on Love and Suffering (Franciscan Media) will run on Tuesday, April 8, and a copy of that book will also be given away. Please read and comment on that post to win a copy! I like to say that I knew Dan Horan before he was Dan Horan, because we met before his blog Dating God became a hit, and before he was a widely published author. He had not yet become ordained as a priest at that time either. He’s a great guy and a wise scholar and author at a young age. If you don’t know him, you will want to, so please stay tuned.

You can learn a little more about Dan and his book in this video:

Jesus, A Pilgrimage – Book Review and Giveaway

970992_10152306293894233_290989403_n In November 2004, I had a chance to visit Israel, a place that I had longed to see. At the time, the  Second Intifada was in full swing, the Carmel market in Tel Aviv had been hit with by a suicide bomb two weeks before I was to go, and Yasser Arafat died two days my prior to my arrival.  It was an uncertain time, but I was not afraid. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime, and one that truly impacted my faith. Before going, I read so many books about the Holy Land and about faith, although no book at that time could have prepared me for my journey.

In his new book, Jesus, A Pilgrimage, (Harper Collins, 510 pp, $27.95) Jesuit priest, author, and commentator, James Martin SJ writes about his own journey to Israel, his life of faith, and about Jesus. My initial reaction? Where was this book when I went on my pilgrimage?

Whether you are about to go to Israel or not, this book is a journey of mind, body, and spirit. With his deft writing skills well honed from years of working his craft, Fr. Martin leads us on a pilgrimage like no other. Weaving stories and anecdotes from his own recent visit to Israel, along with a remarkable breadth and depth of scriptural reflections and insights, he takes us on a journey to know Jesus.

It is the rare gift that someone can take scholarly material and make it accessible and easy to understand, without dumbing it down. Fr. Martin possesses this gift in abundance!  Whether examining scripture,  historical context, or a spiritual kernel of wisdom, the author takes us higher and deeper at the same time,  satisfying the intellect and the heart at once. He cleverly uses anecdotes from his own travel experiences and often in humorous ways, to illustrate a point, and Martin’s scholarly references provide a solid foundation for the conversation.

Whether or not you have ever been – or ever want to go to the Holy Land is not important. If you have an interest in Jesus, from any perspective, this book has something to offer you. For those of us who follow Jesus, we will find an invitation to deepen that knowledge through not only what we read, but because of the ways that this book invites one into prayer and reflection.

Smart, funny, inviting, engaging, wise, and deep, Jesus by James Martin is a pilgrimage like no other. You don’t have to leave your chair, but you must open your mind and heart, your transformation is optional, but it would be hard to imagine reading this book, and not being transformed in some way.

Jesus, A Pilgrimage. The journey awaits you- are you ready?

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Would you like to win a copy of this book? Here’s how… Please leave a comment on the blog; it needs to be a full sentence, not just a word. This post will appear on multiple blog platforms, but there is only one drawing. Multiple comments does not mean multiple entries. Deadline for leaving comments that will be entered into a random drawing is Friday, April 4, 2014, 11:59pm. Winner will be informed via email no later than Monday, April 7, 2014.

The Work of Your Hands – A Review and Interview, Part 1

8998c3abdc34dd462fc47e74a589d9d1My first conscious knowledge of the work of Diana Macalintal was a few years ago. Fr. Austin Fleming posted a prayer to his blog that Diana had written regarding a tragedy at that time. Earthquake? Hurricane? I don’t recall. I do recall loving the prayer, and wanting to share it widely. After that, I started to “see” Diana online in various places, and eventually came to know her on Facebook.

 

Diana Macalintal

Diana Macalintal

Diana is the Director of Worship for the Diocese of San Jose – and so much more. (See that link for details.) She is one of the most engaging and enthusiastic Roman Catholics, a person full of joy for the work of all of our hands as the people of God.

Her most recent book is, The Work of Your Hands, Prayers for Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments of Grace, from Liturgical Press.  Today I present a review of the book, along with offering the first part of an interview with the author. (Part two of that interview will be posted tomorrow.)

Every now and then a book comes along that you know will become a dog-eared and well-worn companion. Although my copy is brand new, still redolent with “new book smell” I can see it becoming beat up due to frequent use.

Many of us who work in any form of ministry often need to have a prayer or blessing at hand. If you are someone in this situation, I am guessing that you may use various resources, beyond the internet, such as a the Book of Blessings, or Prayers for the Domestic Church.

Whether or not you use these resources, please add this resource to your list – The Work of Your Hands is a slim volume that overflows with prayers for all kinds of situations. Some of you may recall that I recently posted Diana’s Valentine Prayer When Your Heart Is Broken.

There are many other unique and heartfelt offerings. One of my favorites is the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of Saint Expeditus. There are prayers for all kinds of things, from when our animal companions are dying, to blessing for brains, and for when the experience of being at mass and feeling empty.

Even for those who are not ministers, this book is full of comforting, wise, and useful words, that will console and enliven you, and to help you do the same for others. As Christians, we are called to be Christ, and this book will be a wonderful companion along the way.

Feb2014CoverSmall enough to fit in your pocket or purse, this book is diminutive in size, but large sized in blessings and grace. It has a great price point, of $7.95, or $5.99 for the ebook. You can also take advantage of the bundle to get both editions for only $9.49. That is a great deal! You can also get this book, as long as the offer lasts, when you subscribe to Give Us This Day.

If I have one complaint about this book it is this… Make it longer please! I want more prayers and blessings. Perhaps there will be a second volume?

And to find out if there will be more prayers – plus a lot more, let us turn to our interview. Here is part one, with part two posted on Tuesday.

Q. Diana, how did you end up as a liturgist and liturgical minister?

You can see a bit on how I got started in liturgical ministry here. This was an intro video that the Midatlantic Congress had asked me, as a keynote speaker, to prepare for last year’s conference. So that’s how I began in ministry.

But all through my childhood and high school days, I thought I wanted to be a rock star, and I participated in music ministry because it was a way to play music and sing in front of people. But when I got to college and participated in the Newman Center liturgies at UCLA with the Paulist Fathers, I discovered how liturgy, well-prepared, changed people and changed their lives. It gave them hope and courage and a bigger sense of mission in the world. That’s when I began to be interested in knowing how to be more than just a musician; I wanted to know how the liturgy worked and how to get people participating more in it. Because the more they felt engaged in the liturgy, the more they would engage in doing the work of Christ in the world. My boss at that time, Fr. Tom Jones, CSP, told me that if I wanted to know anything about the liturgy—and even more so, if I wanted to do any serious work in the church around the liturgy and have the respect of those I work with—I had to read and know the liturgical documents of the church. He gave me my first copy of the Vatican II documents, and he sent me to local liturgy workshops and national conferences and institutes to make sure I got the training I needed. Once I left the Newman Center seven years later, I knew being a liturgist was absolutely what I wanted to be.

Q. You have packed a remarkable breadth and depth of prayers and blessings into 72 pages, was this difficult to do?

Actually, it was easy for me because I had been writing those prayers over the span of several years. For many years, I was a freelance writer for a magazine called “Today’s Parish.” Originally, I wrote short articles on liturgy. But after a while, the editor asked me if I could write prayers that didn’t exist in any official ritual book but were needed in today’s world. So I began writing at least two original prayers for each issue. So when Liturgical Press asked if I would consider putting a collection of prayers together, I already had almost 100 prayers to share. I think the editors at LitPress had the harder task of deciding which prayers to include and which to leave out.

Q. Some of your prayers and blessings concern unique, yet widely lived circumstances, such as Prayer for When Mass Feels Empty, or the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of St. Expeditus, or the Blessing of Brains; what drew you to create these and other unusual prayers and blessings?

When the editor of “Today’s Parish” asked me to write original prayers for the magazine, he asked me to write prayers that didn’t already exist. At first, I thought of basic church events, like First Communion preparation. (I think my first original published prayer was a blessing of First Communion candidates.) So even though I was given a pretty broad mandate, I still stuck close to the usual themes for prayers. But after a while, it started getting harder to come up with ideas…until I started looking at my own life and the concerns I had from day to day and those of my friends. What needs did they (and I) have when it came to prayer? Once I made it more personal, I found so many ordinary, daily life things that called for prayer.

For example, I love collecting interesting images, icons, and retablos of saints. At the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress one year, I found a retablo of Saint Expeditus, the patron of procrastinators. I did a web search on him and actually found a novena in his honor! But I am such an excellent procrastinator, and the words of the novena didn’t quite speak to me. I knew my procrastination was a troublesome habit, but I also knew that it didn’t make me a “bad” person. I just worked differently than others, but there are certainly parts of my work style that could use a lot of improvement too. Yet, I trusted that God uses all of us, our strengths and weaknesses to accomplish his work on earth. So I thought of some of the stories in the Bible. Who were the great procrastinators there? I thought immediately of Jonah who did everything to put off doing the thing he didn’t want to, and the workers who arrived late in the day but got paid the same as the early comers. So that “Prayer for Procrastinators” is really a prayer I wrote for myself.

So my own experience gave me lots of themes to play with. So did the liturgical year. “Prayer with the Woman at the Well” is one such prayer that came out of my Lenten reflection one year and the question of what would have happened if Jesus hadn’t stopped to talk to that woman.

But most of all, I got my ideas from paying attention to what was happening in the news or in my friends’ lives. I had and still have friends dealing with cancer. What prayer could be theirs in that struggle? I know people who feel inadequate to be a godparent, but said yes anyway. What words could encourage them? Thankfully, I’ve never had to do it, but many of my friends have lost beloved pets. I saw how devastating it was for them, and thought surely the church has a prayer for that. But all I could find was a blessing of animals, and even that blessing didn’t capture the unique and intimate relationship humans can have with their pets. So I wrote a prayer to try to help soothe my friends’ heartache in that moment of saying goodbye to their animal companion. I still get notes and emails from complete strangers who tell me they prayed that prayer the same morning they put their pet to sleep and how it brought their family such comfort in a difficult time.

I think if we just look around us and pay close attention to what people really need in their lives to have hope and trust that God indeed cares for them, we can find many things for which to pray and lift up in prayer.

To be continued tomorrow…

Lenten Workout for Your Soul – Book Review and Giveaway

404616_LARGEAbout six years ago, I found myself reading The Ignatian Workout by Tim Muldoon. In all honesty, I did not take to the book. At the time, I was still “working out” my relationship with Ignatius! Then I picked the same book up about a year ago, and got a lot out of it. Funny what time does, along with an open mind, right?

This is precisely why I was very interested in reading his latest offering, The Ignatian Workout for Lent, 40 Days of Prayer, Reflection, and Action, from Loyola Press. It did not disappoint!

Muldoon skillfully employs the athletic references of St. Paul, which we know are many. That kind of theme turn hackneyed and a-bit-too-clever in the hands of a lesser author, but not so with this one.

For me, another potential challenge with using the “running the race” motif is that spiritual pursuit can be turned into something that we have the power to do for ourselves, and by ourselves. Oh yes, if only we train hard enough and stay focused! Where is the room for God’s action and mercy in that?

In setting the tone for Lent in particular, but truly for our lives, Muldoon expresses some real insight about that thought in the introduction, reminding us of the “ecclesial” dimensions of lives of faith. Everything we do is not by and for ourselves, but should be ordered to the “good of the whole people of God.” It is this sort of wisdom, given at the beginning, that orients this resource towards a wide audience.

Other connections and contrasts, to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are set forth. This guide is organized around four “weeks.” For those familiar with the Exercises, this is a time frame used by St. Ignatius. My own experience with the Exercises, limited as it is, reminds me that my own need to “accomplish” this “race” in what I perceive four weeks to be, is not spiritually healthy.

The primary intent is on themed weeks, but the book is set in an Ignatian style, with 40 days of “exercises” for the holy season of our 40 days of Lent. They are not dated and do not refer to the mass readings.

So sports fans and non-sports fans alike, those who are immersed in Ignatian spirituality and those who have curiosity about how it might work in their own lives, please consider buying this book. It may just be the helpful foundation needed to get you going. And for all of us looking to deepen our Lent, this book has the potential be rich resource to turn to this year. And the next year, and the next year… It could have a very long life in your Lenten collection!

The Ignatian Workout for Lent is a little bigger that some of the other resources reviewed this week, perhaps the “largest.”  It is still very portable, so the idea of taking it with you is not a problem, nor is taking up room on your nightstand. This volume is available in both paperback and several eBook formats. Visit the Loyola Press website, for more details and purchase, as well as web resources for whatever particular ebook format might be.

Today is the last review and as always, leaving a comment, however brief, puts you in the running to win. Please feel free to share this post with others, all are welcome to read and enter!

Here is to a great Lent for us, one in which we find ways to quiet down, strip down, and grow closer to God. My prayers are for one and all, and I am most thankful for your reading and journeying with me out here!

Not By Bread Alone – Plus A Retreat Offer – Lenten Resource Review and Giveaway

ResizeImageHandlerThis blog, as you know, is called “There Will Be Bread.” The title came to me through some prayer and meditation about Eucharistic living and the importance of God encountered in real form as we gather at the table. In this way, I am aware that “bread” is not “bread” alone. And we do not live by bread alone, but by the bread that is Christ.

That is why I love the title of this next little Lenten offering, Daily Reflections for Lent, Not By Bread Alone, by Robert F. Morneau, published by Liturgical Press. It is a true gem! If I am honest, I will tell you that I look forward to each year’s version of this small book. This year’s edition does not disappoint. None of this is a surprise considering the nature of content that comes from this august publisher.

The format is simple. Each day is marked by a line from Scripture and followed by a brief reflection. Bishop Morneau is an excellent writer, which one must be to convey so much in but a few words and images. His voice is gentle and wise. East reflection is followed by a couple of thoughts to prompt meditation, and then by a closing prayer.

It is with regret that I tell you that the paper copy of this book is already sold out! That said, a copy does await today’s winner. If you want to purchase an eBook version, please purchase at Liturgical Press. A large print edition is also available by clicking here.

Your comment on the blog counts as your entry. This will be a great book to win considering that you can’t buy it any longer!

13292458-empty-wooden-fruit-or-bread-basket-on-white-backgroundIn addition to reviewing this Lenten book resource, I also wanted to say a few words about an upcoming online retreat for the season. Desert Journey and Daily Bread: Food and Fasting in Lent is being offered by theologian, author, and spiritual director, Jane Redmont. This topic is very timely of course, and I was reminded of the connection of not living by bread alone.

This seven week online journey is a call to, in Jane’s words, “simplicity, mindfulness, and holiness.” Each week of this ecumenical journey will offer a different theme, via short readings, spiritual exercises, prayers, images, and explorations of the broader context of the Lenten journey. The retreat runs from March 5 to April 20, and gives one the opportunity to commit to a Lenten practice. The retreat is fully online, and need only be as interactive as the user wishes. There are more details at the link.

Jane+at+ferry+terminal+July+25+2011+croppedA skilled retreat leader and facilitator who brings a contemplative focus to all of her work, Jane has extensive experience offering online retreats. The retreat cost is $150 and there may be options for a sliding scale payment or scholarship. Contact Jane via her website for information. In full disclosure, I am very pleased that I myself have decided to join in on this Lenten retreat.

Jane is offering a special price reduction for Food and Fasting to readers of this blog. The cost is $150, but there is an early bird price in place this week for $120. If you register by Sunday, use code 1105 for a reduced price of $105. If you register from Monday on, the price goes back to $150, but the reduced offering will be $135. Please use code 2135 for that! Thank you Jane, for offering these price breaks. This makes a great value an even greater one!

Hope to have many of you join us on this unique Lenten journey. If you have questions about an online retreat, ask Jane by writing to readwithredmont at earthlink dot net.

Remember leave a comment to win a book, and go to Jane Redmont’s website to register for this retreat. (She is also offering a Merton retreat, read more about that at that link.)

Thanks for reading and commenting, all are welcome! Please fee free to share these opportunities and offers with others.