Saturday, January 31, 2009

Daily Reads

Nearer to the Heart of God: Daily Readings from the Christian Mystics

This is one of those "daily" books thay I usually pick up every January for my thought-a-day. I've had it for five years or more, but, I'm surprised every time I read it at how inspired this collection is. Quotes from mystics, saints and holy people who made it their lifes aim to be "nearer to the heart of God". Since I consider that the essential goal of my life, I keep going back to it. These thoughts are sometimes only a few lines or a short paragraph, but sometimes a short thought is all it takes to keep you refreshed and focused for the day. Personally I tend to remember one-liners much better than pages of text--for example, here's one from St. Francis de Sales: "Don't sow weeds in the soil of your heart. Your garden space is limited." Good point, you know? 
One good way to tend the garden of your heart is to water it with good reading. Start with this one!

Back to St. Paul

I talked about these already in the video of books for the Pauline Year, but just in case you skipped the video, these two books by Michael Gorman are high on my list:

Gorman's other book, Apostle of the Crucified Lord, is more of a text book. This one is for meditation! The spirituality of St. Paul predates that of the Carmelites, Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines...and they all use him for a foundation. You know..."take me as your model, as I take Christ"?? Highly highly HIGHLY recommended.
Apostle of the Crucified Lord
Very informative but not so cerebral that you can't enjoy it. Covers everything about St. Paul (and the maps and pictures don't hurt either!). It's a good review of his life and something worth reading during this year dedictated to him.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Simple Ways

This was a Christmas gift from a dear friend so I put it in my "chapel" pile of books and picked it up this week. What a pleasant surprise to find something so perfect for the New Year.
A book that makes you slow down and appreciate all the treasures we have right at hand...and that are so often ignored or taken for granted. This is a small book with small chapters, but everything else about it is BIG. The author ( Gunilla Norris) has an approach that reminds me very much of Brother Lawrence and his classic book, "Practice of the Presence of God." His book, too, is deceptively short and simple, but just try putting it into practice! It's one of those "lifetime" things!

I only made it through three extremely short chapters of "Simple Ways" and felt compelled to start again and go slower. In my humble opinion, any book that can do that is worth reading. And thanks, Peggy, for the Christmas gift that I'll be using all year!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It's not a book, but...

You'll forgive me for adding this to the "Best Catholic Books" blog, given that I developed this music project--and sang on it last summer.

The idea for this album started back in 1972. Not kidding.
I was a brand new Catholic and was visiting the motherhouse of the Daughters of St. Paul for the first time. I firmly and wholeheartedly believed that the Catholic Church was the one true Church...and I just as strongly believed that I had sacrificed good music in the process of becoming a Catholic. (The early '70s was not the best of times for Church music.) But then here I was sitting in the sisters' chapel during a Sunday Mass listening to Gregorian Chant for the first time in my life. They were singing the Mass of the Angels... My first thought was, so this is where the good Church music is hiding!
Then about ten years ago when I was studying music I had a strong desire to share this musical heritage with the many Catholics who still had never heard of it. We sisters "grew up" in the convent, so to speak, singing this music on feast days, for benediction, novenas, etc.. I've rarely, if ever, heard this music outside of our motherhouse and most people I know have had the same reaction as I first did: Where have they been hiding this?
During the recording last summer, we did have to pull out the Latin dictionary...and we also had a vocal coach come in to help us, but on the whole, this type of music fits us like a glove.

In Paradisum
is an introduction for those too young to remember, and a fresh take on old, familiar melodies for those who do: W
e took Gregorian chant up a notch by adding instruments and playing around with the arrangements. It's to give people a taste for chant, but also to give them an experience of "heavenly music"...the kind you listen to while you're driving or trying to pray. It puts you in another zone. It's familiar, but it's new. I think it's perfect prayer music--it can help in providing a reverent "atmosphere" that is conducive to prayer and reflection.

What's inside: Vexilla Regis ProdeuntAve Regina Caelorum/Ave Maris StellaSalve Regina ∙ Adoro Te, Devote ∙ Tantum Ergo, SacramentumAve Verum Corpus NatumUbi CaritasTe Joseph In Paradisum

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Spirituality of Archbishop Fenelon

This is a hidden treasure. It sat on our bookshelf for a year before I picked it up out of curiousity and read the contents. It's a skinny little book, but the vaule of it is as dense as the Summa Theologica! I couldn't resist reading it at a gallop, but it's one of those special books that is worth keeping (and sharing...definitely sharing!) Great introduction to the teachings of Francois Fenelon, a spirtual teacher along the lines of Brother Lawernce and St. Therese. It's too bad that a few centuries stand between us....I would have loved to have this 17th century Jesuit bishop as my spiritual director! Don't pass this one by!

I haven't read this one yet, but it's on my list (and my shelf!): Complete Fenelon...

Perpetua: A Novel

Sorry about the long silence...I've been reviewing books on Facebook! But I'll share them with you here, too!

I have always been fascinated by the story of Perpetua and Felicity that was recounted in the Office of Readings (from Perpetua's own diary!), so naturally I had to pick up this book. Title, cover, story, everything was asking me to take it off the library shelf. Brought it home and promptly ordered a copy of my own. Once upon a time there was a book that grabbed me like this and made me change my direction in life. I was 13 and read the Song of Bernadette. Went from that to every life of a saint I could find....mostly young girls my age: Joan of Arc. St. Agnes, Maria Goretti etc. Now to come across a story like this one that "fills in the blanks" around the account of her martyrdom and recreates a flesh and blood woman of such conviction and passion and know, the kind of life your longing to live.
There's another book on Perpetua entitled "What Would You Die For?" This book shows not only what (Who) she most willingly died for, but who she most passionately lived for as well.