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Books Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Maurisa

What to Read for Lent 2021

The pandemic led to my being able to read even more than usual during 2020 and with Lent quickly approaching I have a lovely list of books to add to those I’ve recommended here in the past. Behold your Lent worthy reading list for 2021:

Non-Fiction

Impossible Marriages Redeemed: They Didn’t End Their Story in the Middle is Leila Miller’s follow up to her eye-opening expose of true accounts from children of divorce: Primal Loss: The Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak. In this new work, Leila compiled the stories of broken marriages which leaned into the redemptive power of the faith and were healed as well as several submissions from folks who continue to “stand” for their sacramental marriage in-spite of being abandoned by a spouse. 

The Saint Monica Club: How to Wait and Pray for Your Fallen-Away Loved Ones by Maggie Green was written based on her own experiences with children who have fallen away from the faith. Like Saint Monica, mothers are called to pray without ceasing and wait upon the Lord. This book was an immense help to me as I continue to pray, hope, and wait on my own wayward children.

Have you struggled with low spirits, anxiety, or depression? Has it taken a toll on your progress in your spiritual life? Dan Burke’s Spiritual Warfare and the Discernment of Spirits may be the help you need in discerning how the enemy may be attacking you and actively preventing you from growing spiritually.

In February of 2019 the Pew Research Center released the results of a study showing that belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist had dropped to an alarming 30% of self-identified Catholics. In response to this obvious decline in reverence for the Blessed Sacrament Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has written a beautiful and concise answer for how Catholics can reestablish a firm belief in and veneration for the Holy Eucharist in The Holy Bread of Eternal Life: Restoring Eucharistic Reverence in an Age of Impiety.

I recently finished Conversation with Christ: The Teaching of St.Teresa of Avila About Personal Prayer by Peter Thomas Rohrbach. It is by far the best book I’ve ever read on mental prayer and walks the reader through several variations for maintaining a relationship and real conversation with Christ. It is one I will keep constantly on hand for reference for years to come.

Fiction

After the difficulties and realities of the last year, a little escape from contemplating the current state of the world might be in order. I am a huge fan of interspersing fiction amongst the spiritual and informative works I normally read. I especially appreciate anything written with a Catholic worldview and there are many authors who have successfully written beautiful, enjoyable works of fiction with Catholic themes.

Sigrid Undset is by far my favorite Catholic author. She was a convert to Catholicism in the 20th Century who interwove Catholic themes throughout her works. 

My personal favorite novel, Kristen Lavransdatter, is a medieval Scandinavian saga which earned Undset the Nobel Prize for Literature. The trilogy follows Kristen from childhood through late adulthood—daughter, wife, and mother in Catholic Norway. 

The tetralogy, Master of Hestviken, Undset’s second medieval Scandinavian offering is not as well known but is also very enjoyable. This work explores many of the same themes but from the point of view of Olav Audunsson an orphan betrothed to the daughter of his adoptive father. 

The Wild Orchid/The Burning Bush set in the mid-20th century Norway is the story of Paul Selmer, who grows up in an enlightened household and shocks his entire family when he chooses to convert to Catholicism as an adult. As with many of Undset’s novels, marital fidelity and self-sacrifice are strong, underlying themes.

Several years ago I picked up Undset’s Ida Elisabeth and found, for one reason or another, I could not make it past the first chapter. Early in 2020 a friend finished reading this work and declared it to be one of her favorites. I am so glad she did as it led to my finally finishing this beautiful novel. Once again, the consequences of sin, marital fidelity, forgiveness, and grace flow throughout this work. 

While not personally a Catholic, some of Willa Cather’s works are very Catholic and well worth including on a list of Catholic fictional works.

Shadows on the Rock is a sweet work, set in colonial New France close on the heels of the martyrdom of North American saints such as Saints Jean LaLand Rene Groupil. The story is written from the point of view of pious 12 year old Cecile Auclair. In her mastery of vivid language, Cather paints a beautiful picture of 17th century life in remote and barely settled Quebec.

Death Comes for the Archbishop, also by Cather, tells the story of Father Jean Marie Latour. Having been appointed the Apostolic Vicar of New Mexico Father Latour travels his vast, desert mission territory shepherding his flock and spreading the gospel over the span of 40 years. This compelling character, fraught with the loneliness and gravity of his task, advances his mission by degrees in the manner of a gentle, faithful, and resourceful saint. 

Father Bryan Houghton was a well known convert to Catholicism in the mid-20th Century. Not long after converting the entire Church was rocked by the sweeping changes to the liturgy on the heels of Vatican II. Personally, I have often wondered how people actually felt as their churches were renovated and the Mass changed almost overnight. Father Houghton wrote a beautiful and touching fictional account which explores this subject in Judith’s Marriage.

On my list for Lent

Visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri is a short and lovely companion to bring for a weekly Holy Hour.

Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture by Sheila Liaugminas. I recently listened to a conversation between Sheila Liaugminas and Jason Jones on his popular podcast. Intrigued, I had to pick up her book on protecting the first principles of the absolute human rights to life, dignity, and equality.

The next two on my list were recommended by our parish priest as worthy spiritual reading: Sayings of the Desert Fathers and On How to Accept and Love the Will of God and His Divine Providence by Saint Alphonsus Maria Ligouri

The Sinners Guide by Venerable Lous of Granada was a favorite of Saint Teresa of Avila. I feel anything recommended by Saint Teresa needs to be on everyone’s “must read” list. Am I right?

Are you reading anything inspiring this Lent? Share your picks in the comments.

A Catholic Sistas’ Book List for Lent 2020

The 2019 Handy Dandy List of Lenten Resources

The Ultimate 2018 Lenten Booklist for Families

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Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Maurisa Reading

A Catholic Sistas’ Book List for Lent 2020

Two years ago Catholic Sistas provided The Ultimate 2018 Lenten Book List for Families. I’ve done a lot of reading since then and felt we could use an updated list of worthy spiritual reading for this Lent. This time our reading list is especially targeted to intrigue you, dear Sistas.

My number one pick for this Lent is the classic by Saint Francis de Sales: An Introduction to the Devout Life. I spent several months reading this gem during my weekly hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. 20 plus years a Catholic and I’d never read this book before. It completely changed my spiritual life. If you are searching for inspiration in becoming as holy as God Wills you to be according to your state in life this book is the perfect fit.

I recently finished reading Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age which is a published, extensive interview of my current hero, Bishop Athanasius Schneider by Diane Montagna. The book includes an impressive biography of the bishop who lived through the persecution of the Church behind the Iron Curtain and then proceeds in examining the many issues facing the Church today, including the numerous scandals and deep confusion we are currently experiencing. Not only does Bishop Schneider examine the crises, he offers concrete solutions. He’s an inspiring contemporary figure in the Church today and his interview left me feeling very hopeful about the future of the Church.

Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien is a fictional conversation imagined by Peter Kreeft. I really enjoyed the idea of this book written as if three of my childhood heroes were discussing the reality of the Eucharist. As an adolescent I attended one of Billy Graham’s revivals in my home town. I always admired him and if Peter Kreeft got it right, I was able to somewhat understand his misunderstanding of the Eucharist. Of course, I grew up reading Lewis and Tolkien and had no difficulty picturing their contributions to the fictional dialogue. As a Catholic, this experiment of Dr. Kreeft’s helped solidify my belief and understanding of the Real Presence.

We had an unusual influx of visitors to our home this past year. Our dear friends from Maryland, who are godparents to one of our younger boys, were able to come and stay for a long weekend. While visiting, my friend Debbie, was reading Overcoming Sinful Anger: How to Master Your Emotions and Bring Peace to Your Life by Rev. T.G. Morrow. She left her copy behind for me and I read through it quite quickly. This is definitely a book to keep in your home library, especially when you or a family member is struggling with anger, as many of us do from time to time.

I oversee a Catholic women’s book club and this year we read the popular Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Father Jacques Philippe. This is another little book to keep ever present in your home library. It is an extremely valuable spiritual work to have on hand in especial times of turmoil, distress, and anxiety.

Another work our book club read was You Are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You About Your Mission and Worth by Danielle Bean. I loved this book devoted to Old Testament women and their stories. Danielle’s writing style is very accessible and relevant to today’s woman. I loved her take on each of the stories and how she related their lessons to episodes in her own life.

After hearing an interview with Dr. Carrie Gress on Patrick Coffin’s podcast regarding her book The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Feminism, I went on a Carrie Gress kick and had to read most every book she’d written. Before diving into her book The Anti-Mary Exposed, I recommend you start with her The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis. I also highly recommend Ultimate Makeover: The Transforming Power of Motherhood, especially for moms of younger children. I really wish I’d read that one when I was a young mom, but I did give it to my adult daughter who is a brand new mom to my first grand baby and she found a great amount of wisdom in her reading of it. Bonus: My two youngest boys did their Marian Consecration last May using her Marian Consecration for Children which was simple enough for our first communicant and challenging enough for our confirmand.

Danielle Bean interviewed prolific Marian author Marge Steinhage Fenelon on a recent episode of her Girlfriends podcast. Inspired by her most recent book, My Queen, My Mother–A Living Novena, I researched and wrote a piece for Catholic Sistas filled with Marian pilgrimages one could make right here in the United States. I also read her powerful Forgiving Mother–A Marian Novena of Forgiveness and Peace. Part autobiography and part devotional to Our Blessed Mother, I found it to be an extremely valuable read even though I do not have a particularly strained relationship with my own mother.

Another of my very favorite books from this past year was The Priests We Need to Save the Church by my new friend Kevin Wells. He was gracious enough to grant me an interview which was published here in December 2019. While his target audience is priests and bishops, Kevin’s book has tremendous potential for inspiring the laity to embrace the “universal call to holiness.”

In the next few days I’ll be finishing up Jay W. Richards’ newest book–Eat, Fast, Feast: Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul–A Christian Guide to Fasting. Dr. Richards (PhD in philosophy and theology) explores the history of fasting and how it has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. He then goes on to encourage a return to a regiment of intermittent and long term fasting for physical as well as spiritual health. The book lays out a 46 day plan for preparing your body for longer fasts by putting it into a state of ketosis–a method which he promises will make fasting much easier without sacrificing the spiritual element. Being a true Catholic, Richards does not neglect addressing the spiritual value of feasting after the fast. With Lent upon our heels, I personally wanted to step-up my fasting and penance and this book may really help prepare the way.

What am I reading this Lent?

I have three spiritual works on my list this year.

Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.

The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

What are you reading this Lent?

I love seeing what other Sistas are reading. Share your Lenten reading choices with us in the combox.

–Note: I provided links for each of the listed books. As far as I was able I linked to author websites or to Catholic merchants.

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Books Domestic Church Reading Reviews

Best of My 2018 Reading: Nonfiction Edition with Sarah Reinhard

Best of My 2018 Reading: Nonfiction Edition with Sarah Reinhard

I used to think I was an all-fiction-all-the-time type of reader, but last year proved me wrong. Last year, I found out that I love nonfiction just as much.

I had a stretch of binge reading, and it included some great novels.

But I found something missing. I wanted something that {gasp} wasn’t fiction.

I read a lot of nonfiction anyway, both for paid review and for pleasure. There’s so much to learn. There’s so much that’s good. There’s…just…so…much.

So without any more rambling, here are my favorite nonfictions reads from my 2018 pile!

The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, by Cardinal Robert Sarah with Nicolas Diat. This was a book I couldn’t whip through, and yet one that I savored and couldn’t put down. Reading it felt anything but accidental, that’s for sure. (I wrote about that here.)

To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age, by Robert E. Barron. My first inclination with this was to offer it to a new deacon at our parish, who, as it happens, had already read it. Barron has a way of boiling things down and, yet, also planting seeds that stay with you.

Jesus Approaches: What Contemporary Women Can Learn about Healing, Freedom, and Joy from the Women of the New Testament, by Elizabeth M. Kelly. Water is a recurring theme that Elizabeth Kelly uses throughout this book, and it struck me throughout. It began like a long cold drink on a hot day: refreshing and soothing. It continued like a mug of steaming tea: comforting and snuggly. It traversed the paths of a wet washcloth on a hot forehead, a shared laugh over a glass of iced tea, a moment together over the baptismal font. Kelly’s depth of insight and the reach of her wisdom went right to my heart, in each and every chapter. The book examines eight women from the New Testament, and they may not all be the ones you expect. Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Martha and Mary of Bethany: no surprise there. But a shepherd girl who was there on Christmas night? That caught me…and captured my imagination. Kelly has a way of doing that throughout this book, and it’s a beautiful experience.

Clueless in Galilee: A Fresh Take on the Gospels, by Mac Barron. You’ll laugh, yes. (A lot, if you’re like me.) But you’ll also look differently at those Gospel stories that may be so old hat that you don’t even hear them anymore. I love Barron’s approach to “riffing” on the Gospels, and I also appreciate his innate ability to challenge readers to go beyond.

One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both, by Jennifer Fulwiler. I’ve been following Fulwiler for quite a while, and I’ve enjoyed watching her hard work pay off in success. I read this in a can’t-put-it-down kind of way and laughed so hard, at times, that I was crying. She has a self-deprecating way of writing and sharing her life that makes her approachable. This book also challenges readers to think beyond their constraints — it’s equal parts memoir, humor, guide, and good story.

The Fisherman’s Tomb: The True Story of the Vatican’s Secret Search, by John O’Neill.This reads like an adventure in many ways, and yet it’s true. O’Neill has a way of turning the dry facts into interesting tidbits, and the pictures don’t hurt either. This is a book you can whip through and then find yourself saying, “Wait, what just happened? Was that real?”

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, by Anne Bogel.I’ve become a late-to-the-game Anne Bogel fangirl. I listened to this, but I think I’ll be getting a hard copy because…truth. She speaks to me and inspires me with her reading.

How Catholic Art Saved the Church: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art, by Elizabeth Lev. This book was such a gift to read. I didn’t mean to start reading it, to be honest. I was just leafing through it, looking at it and admiring the pictures. I glanced over the table of contents and the introduction caught my eye. I’ll read just about anything, but this was GOOD. Elizabeth Lev is a master storyteller: She had me flipping to examine pictures, smiling at what I read, and thoroughly enjoying every aspect of this book. Of course, at least part of that was because of the beautiful job Sophia Institute Press did with the actual book: thick, glossy paper and four-color, magazine-quality images. Truly, this is a book that’s an aesthetic delight on many levels.

Lovely: How I Learned to Embrace the Body God Gave Me, by Amanda Martinez Beck. I read this book for the first time this year (it’s a new release, so I couldn’t have read it sooner), and then I reread it. I think, in fact, I’ll be reading it a third time in 2019 with a group of friends. Beck starts strong and finishes stronger. I think every woman probably needs to read and reread this book.

What nonfiction did you read last year? What did you love (or hate)?

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Books Domestic Church Ink Slingers Reading Reviews Sarah Reinhard

Best of My 2018 Reading: Fiction Edition with Sarah Reinhard

BestofMy2018ReadingFictionEditionwithSarahReinhard

While I drink enough coffee to drown a fat pony, I also read enough books to weigh that same pony down. Well, it was a lot for me, and a respectable 100+. When Martina heard that I had written about my favorite reads of 2018, she invited me to share it here. Never one to be outdone in ideas, I offered to do one for fiction and one for nonfiction.

So, let’s dive into my favorite fiction reads from 2018, shall we?


East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. This was a massive novel I intended to read years ago. I started by listening to it, and tried to supplement my listening with reading (because I have the book). I just couldn’t limit my enjoyment of it to the times when I could hear it. The story was huge and long and wonderful in all the ways I love.

Endless Water, Starless Sky, by Rosamund Hodge. This is the sequel to Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. I’m not classically trained, but Hodge is. I know, at some level, that I miss a huge amount of her brilliance because of my own ignorance. And yet, I am hopelessly a fan of hers. Of the books she’s written, I think these two may be my favorites. I’d call this the best writing I read all year, judged on actual writing and on storytelling and on enjoyment level.

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1), by Neal Shusterman. I heard this referenced as someone’s favorite book, and that’s sometimes all it takes for me to run after a book. I read and loved Shusterman’s so it stands to reason that I may like his other books. I just…hadn’t gotten around to them. Though this is first in a series, it stands alone. Once again, Shusterman has taken an old trope of a question and carved it into a mind exercise of a book. There’s a plot, but there’s also the exploration of ethics and the great what-if. AI meets immortality meets scandal meets human nature. This is a book not just to read, but to discuss and ponder.

The Eighth Arrow: Odysseus in the Underworld, a Novel, by Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.This book made me want to actually attempt Homer and some other classics. (I’ve read Dante, so I got those references.) And yet, the book made sense without any of that and only a rudimentary knowledge of what I knew were deeper references. The adventure was great, peppered with humor. I couldn’t put it down, and I found myself thinking of it in the times I wasn’t reading, which is, to me, always a sign of a great book.

Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather. I listened to this and found myself wanting to hold it and actually read the words. Cather paints an image of the Southwest that I could see as I listened.

A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. My teen daughter handed this to me, and I’ll be honest: I was going to quit if it didn’t pick up or something. Cameron has his own style, that’s for sure, and the premise behind the book didn’t make sense to me until I was about a third of the way through. And then…hooked. The storytelling is fabulous, and you’ll never look at a dog the same way again.

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. This is one of my all-time favorite books. It seems like I’ve read it about even 18 months or so since the first time I read it. Every time I pick it up, I find some passage that was right there for me. The premise: A devil writes letters to his nephew, filled with advice and tips for tempting more effectively. Turn your expectations upside down and prepare to be wowed by Lewis’s wonderful writing.

The Cricket on the Hearth, by Charles Dickens. Another all-time favorite book, and one that inspired my handle for many years. This year, it also inspired me to read some other Dickens. It’s a family story, in many ways, and a glimpse at life many years ago. I never saw the movie (which I heard was horrible), but Dot Peerybingle remains a favorite character of mine.

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. I listened to this via CraftLit and was then inspired to listen to the rest of the eight-book series. And then, because I couldn’t get enough, I listened to Before Green Gables and Marilla of Green Gables. My girls have both turned their noses up at Anne, but I think I’ll be revisiting her quite often.

What fiction did you read last year? What did you love (or hate)?

 

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Anni Books Ink Slingers Reviews Spiritual Growth Testimonials

The Importance of a Faith-Filled Life: A Book Review

 

When I was a teenager, the Roma Downey series, Touched by An Angel, was all the rage. Millions, my family included, would tune in every week to watch how God’s angels touched the lives of everyday people – people like you and me. We would watch and wait for the last scene, when the angel looked into the heart of the one God had helped to say assuringly, “God loves you.”

At that point in my life, I devoured one angelic testimony after another, savoring each tale of how an angel guided someone through difficult trials. These books were more than just testimony to the incredible nature of God’s creatures… they provided hope for the readers. They reminded us that God is around us, providing miracles as signs of his presence for those of us trudging through life.

Therefore, when I was provided a free copy of Once I Was Blind But Now I See, a testimonial by Charles Piccirilli with Kimberly Cook, in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance. To read about a man who, having dabbled in the occult, made his way back to God through to the Catholic Faith, and experienced God’s hand and voice in his life? Of course I had to review that book!

Mr. Piccirilli actually doesn’t go into depth about his life with the occult. He chooses instead to gloss over that dark life so that he may focus on what came after; adamant that once he banished the demons which used to invade his space and embraced a life with Jesus, his life turned around.

As I read how Jesus has physically, emotionally, and spiritually touched Mr. Piccirilli, I was moved, but in ways I did not expect.

Mr. Piccirilli’s experiences were just as hopeful and well-written as the best angelic testimonies, and made for a real page turner. I read the entire book in one day.

Simply put, Mr. Piccirilli’s story is amazing!

For one who reads this book, however, I must caution that Mr. Piccirilli’s experiences are outside the normative experience for most of the faithful. But, it does not mean it can’t be true. Throughout the bible, we are told of prophets who will be in our midst – and, simply because a man may be a prophet, does not mean his faith will not be tested like the rest of us. There is no discussion of Mr. Piccirilli’s test of faith, but it can be argued his time with the occult is test enough.

When reading this book, I wondered how Mr. Piccirilli’s claims can be true? How is it that God could bless this man’s life so much? What could Mr. Piccirilli have done to deserve these incredible and miraculous experiences?

Reading Once I Was Blind But Now I See challenged me, in a positive manner, as well. I asked myself where my faith had gone – the faith of my childhood, which led me stay up hours past my bedtime to finish a book of angelic miracles I had purchased that morning?

As I sat in prayer on this book, I was gently reminded of one of my favorite bible passages. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 highlights the gifts of the Holy Spirit. While one of my gifts may be writing, Mr. Piccirilli’s gifts seem to be healing, working of miracles, and prophecy. While that may be uncomfortable to some, it’s a good reminder that we are all called to recognize the gifts we have been given, embrace those gifts, hone them, and then use them for the glory of God.

Like any gift from God, there is nothing neither I nor Mr. Piccirilli could possibly to do to deserve what was received through His grace.

Once I Was Blind But Now I See serves as a reminder that God does answer prayers – perhaps not on our schedule or in the manner we would like, But He answers them in the ways that are in accord with His plan. This book also highlights how God allows for us to use our free will… to choose to follow His directions and His plans for us.

It is a testament to how loving and forgiving God remains, even when we try to strike our own course, instead of following His path.

In a manner which is engaging and easy to read, Mr. Piccirilli shares how he has been touched and immensely blessed by God. His book reminds readers of the importance of living a life filled with faith – not in expectation of the miraculous, but rather because God is here, providing miracles all around us each and every day.

And, no matter what way miracles may manifest in this world, this book is a testimony to the greatness of the glory of God.

Because, with God, all things are possible.

**This book was provided free of charge to the author of this piece, in exchange for an honest review. If you are interested in further information about this book, or would like to purchase this book, please visit The Lion of Design.**