Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Traditions for Advent and Christmas

I'm excited to share that I've been invited to be part of the Advent series hosted by Bonnie at A Knotted Life.   Kicking off the series this Sunday will be Lisa Hendey.  I truly look forward to following along with it, and of course I'm delighted to be included among the bloggers writing guest posts.  I will be writing for the feast of St. Nicholas.

As a little sneak preview, I am writing about--surprise, surprise--books for Advent and Christmastime.

But I wanted to share here in a more general way how I have used books during Advent, as well as offer some resources and suggestions.  After I wrote in part of my November column for The Catholic Post about some newer books to help keep Advent well, I realize that literature (and for kids in particular, picture books)  can be just as good as devotional works, to get in the spirit of the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Here are some of the nuts & bolts of how we use literature during Advent at our house.

I keep a basket of Advent- and Christmas-themed books tucked away in a closet.   I’ve kept this basket for years, and added to it over time via book sales, library cast-offs and Barnes & Noble “after Christmas” (though during Christmas season) sales. There are perhaps a dozen books that we truly treasure, but the rest are seasonal enough to hold interest and keep us reading.  There are about 50 books in our Advent/Christmas book basket, and I usually also order a lot of other books from the library, either new ones, or old classics we don't own.   So there is plenty to read this time of year.

I began the Advent/Christmas basket of books when my oldest (now 15!) was a toddler.  I learned about the tradition from Catholic moms on various e-groups (in the Wild West, before we got all our great ideas from blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest).

At that time, some moms shared on the e-groups about how they wrapped (sometimes in liturgically correct purple or pink) each one of the books well ahead of Advent, and then unwrapped one each day of Advent and Christmastime.  

That idea makes me tired just thinking about it, so needless to say that has never happened here.   I used to have some guilt, like I wasn’t quite “mom” enough to pick out and wrap dozens of books.  Now that I’m a little wiser, I leave that behind.

In reality, I feel accomplished simply that I am able to keep those books tucked away all year and bring out the basket at the beginning of Advent.

I won't list all the books in our family's basket (though I will share one special book on Bonnie's blog next week, and a few others later in Advent here).  For one, I think there are fewer than a dozen that we cherish.  Mostly, though, it's because so many moms over the years have made some great lists that I don't need to re-invent the wheel.

Here are just a few sources if you are interested in starting this tradition at your house:

*Elizabeth Foss, whose endless energy and generosity has enriched her own family and shared freely with other families great book suggestions and themes, takes special care with Advent.

*Mary Ellen Barrett has a blog devoted to keeping Advent at O Night Divine.  Here are some of her many, many book suggestions.

*Jessica at Shower of Roses has a nicely curated list of Advent books (and trust me, I hold nothing but admiration for her for actually wrapping the books, God bless her).

*for those who would like a book rather than a web resource, Cay Gibson’s amazing Christmas Mosaic  has a list of dozens of books, crafts, recipes and other ideas for making Advent and Christmastime special for families.

Picture books and Christmas-themed literature are unique and wonderful to move and inspire us during this season of preparation, and then as we celebrate Christmas.

Do you have an Advent and Christmastime book tradition?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Envoy for Christ: Patrick Madrid in Peoria

Patrick Madrid is coming to Peoria later this week, speaking on Evangelization and Apologetics (visit this Facebook page for more information and how to register)

I'm super disappointed that I won't be one of the many people to attend Patrick's talk this weekend and get the chance to meet him.   Our family has multiple conflicts Friday and Saturday.  But many of my friends will be there to hear him speak, and I look forward to hearing all about it from them.

But I am happy to be able to write about Patrick Madrid's newest book, Envoy for Christ: 25 Years as a Catholic Apologist.  I've had a copy for awhile, but didn't get the chance to read through it until about a month ago.

I've read Patrick Madrid's work since I subscribed to Envoy magazine back in the 1990s.  I have always enjoyed his work, and loved the magazine and found it a great way to grow my faith as a young mom.  I recall the Top 10 lists, quizzes, or other humor that were great for a laugh.  The graphic design and "feel" to the magazine was first-rate.

Madrid has a popular blog that I admit I don't visit often enough, as it's a great resource and source of reflection and encouragement.  (Note to Patrick Madrid: add an e-mail subscribe button to your blog!).  It's just top-notch.

I must confess that one of the reasons that I didn't turn to the book is concern it wouldn't be as great as I remembered Envoy magazine to be.   Maybe it wouldn't measure up to my memories, like going back to the house you grew up in and finding it much different.

But Envoy for Christ is great.  I recommend it highly.  It's especially good for busy moms and dads who might not have time to read a full-length book, but would benefit from the short chapters on different subjects Madrid tackles.

Envoy for Christ would also be appealing to people like me, who might have fond memories of reading Envoy back in the day, or who have following Patrick Madrid through his radio show or elsewhere.  Madrid tells the story of how he got into the "apologetics" business (can I call it a business?), and I love hearing those kinds of stories.

In addition, Envoy for Christ would be great just to have around the house for younger people to pick up.  At our house, I will often tell others, "this is a really good book," and then leave it out for them to pick up when they get the chance.  Often this leads to great discussions.

My one quibble with Envoy for Christ is that I wish it were a little more well-sourced.  After many of the chapters, where the essay originally appears is listed--perhaps Envoy or another catechetical magazine.  But some are not sourced, and so it leaves me hanging a little--is that from his blog, or some online writing, or is this original to that book?

Otherwise, this is a terrific read.

One humorous aside: while writing this post, several times I  mistakenly wrote "Envy" instead of "Envoy," and since it's a word, it wasn't auto-corrected.  I had to chuckle a little at a book titled, "Envy for Christ."   I think I caught all of my too-fast typing mistakes, but in case I didn't, there you go.

Are you going to see Patrick Madrid this weekend?

Worth A Listen: Forgiveness by Matthew West

(Sharing great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise "worth a listen").  Explanation (of a kind) here.

For some reason, every time I hear this song I think about Confession.

It's time to make an effort to go, as we head into Advent and Christmastime.   Advent or just before Advent is a great time to schedule a time to get to this great Sacrament.  Consider yourself reminded, and I will do the same.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Worth a Listen: Revelation Song by Phillips, Craig & Dean

(Sharing great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise "worth a listen").  Explanation (of a kind) here.

I had another song cued up for this morning (I'll save that for another Wednesday), when at Mass this morning, I head the first reading proclaimed.

I immediately thought, I know the song I should feature!  I can actually be liturgically appropriate for today.  So I rushed (unsuccessfully) to get home before 7 a.m. (when the other song was scheduled to post), to post this one instead.

The first reading, like all this week in the days leading up to the feast of Christ the King this Sunday, is from the Revelation to John.  Here is part of it:

The four living creatures, each of them with six wings,
were covered with eyes inside and out.
Day and night they do not stop exclaiming:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty,
who was, and who is, and who is to come."
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks
to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
the twenty-four elders fall down
before the one who sits on the throne
and worship him, who lives forever and ever.
They throw down their crowns before the throne, exclaiming:

"Worthy are you, Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things;
because of your will they came to be and were created."

And I thought of a song we are hearing on the radio a lot these days, "Revelation Song."   The video above, which features a bit of the song, shows the band describing how the song is powerful in moving people.  I agree.

Our family tries to read the Mass readings in the morning, taking turns reading.  Our kids sometimes bicker about who gets to do what, lest you imagine a holy scene at the breakfast table.

Every few weeks, a reading or responsorial Psalm will remind us of a song we hear on our local Christian radio station.  I do like this, as it helps reinforce how steeped we are in Scripture as Catholics, and how worship music and some Christian music can aid our prayer life and knowledge of Scripture.

(A humorous aside:  just yesterday, the kids read the Mass readings as I was driving my teenager to a friend's  house, and when she finished the Gospel about Jesus encountering Zaccheus, I immediately launched into, "Zaccheus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.")

This week, as we lead up to the Feast of Christ the King, the Church's readings point towards the last things, the end of the world, to prepare us for the beginning of the liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent.  My theologian husband told me once that there's an old church tradition/hope that the Lord will return in glory on the feast of Christ the King.

One of the band members says in the video about the song, "We felt passionate about the song. When I hear that song, whatever circumstance I am in, it takes me to that place.  And where is that place?  It's in the presence of Jesus Christ."

As Catholics, we have the knowledge that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.  So when we visit Jesus, whether in a time of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or just a quick prayer time at a Church, we are in a very special way in that Presence.  Meditating on this song, too, can help dispose us to worship:

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Q&A With Sister Helena Burns, Author of "He Speaks to You"

As I wrote in my October column, Sister Helena Burns is an expert on media literacy and Theology of the Body, a Catholic new media maven, and a great friend to the Peoria diocese, speaking here often and living in nearby Chicago.  Turns out she’s also a gifted author, writing the excellent and deceptively simple daily book for young women, He Speaks to You

Sister Helena, who is often busy at her own blog, Hell Burns, or on Twitter, graciously agreed to do a Q&A with me here.  Thanks, Sister, and thank you for your great book.

Q.  Sister Helena, tell Catholic Post readers more about you, your religious community, and your work.

The Daughters of St. Paul are an international congregation of women religious dedicated to evangelizing with the media. We try to use as many forms of media as possible, and now with the new media, we’re like kids in a candy store. When I was discerning my vocation, I was very drawn to sharing the Faith and helping people in spiritual pain (like I had been), and I thought: “What better way to bring God directly into someone’s heart and mind than through a book, a song, a magazine, a film?” I also loved that the Daughters had a kind of “mixed life”: contemplatives in action. Even though we’re an active order, we have approximately 3 hours of prayer each day, including an Hour of Eucharistic Adoration, which was very important to me. Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, wanted us to “share the fruits of our contemplation in action.”

Q.  You write in the introduction: “The sisters and I have long talked about wanting to find a way to share ...basic principles of the interior life and how to live them in daily life.”   Why do you think this is so important, for young women in particular?

My Sisters and I often meet young women who want to pray more, go deeper with Jesus, but don’t always know how. Often they say: “I pray, but He doesn’t talk back.” We knew that if we could share some of the basics of prayer, of how the spiritual life “works,” we could really help young women not become discouraged, or give up on their interior life. Although each of our relationships with Jesus is unique, still, there are patterns that saints and mystics, spiritual masters and spiritual directors have identified that are universal.

I believe young women in particular need to look to and develop their interior lives because there really is a “war on women” today (but it’s the exact opposite of what the media says it is)! 

Ever since the Sexual Revolution and Women’s Liberation Movement, women have been encouraged to think and act like men interiorly and exteriorly. Women are told to squelch their essential feminine nature (body and soul) because it is “weak, irrational and limiting.” Women’s gifts (the feminine genius) are devalued, most of all by women themselves! But women are naturally “receptive,” (body and soul). We are receptive to men and to new life, but first of all to the Infinite, and we teach men and children how to be receptive to God. 

Women are supposedly “more religious” than men (the world over), but can we say that of our young women today? I’m afraid many (young and older) women’s “radar” is broken today. We don’t know what it means to be a woman. We don’t know our own identity in Christ, in Mary (the New Creation: the New Adam and the New Eve). But our radar can be fixed! It’s IN us. “He Speaks to You” is my little attempt to help “fix women’s radar.”

Q.  How long did it take you to write the book?

Approximately two years, very part time. Which was great because new ideas sprung up all along the way.

Q.  How did you come up with the themes for every month?

We tried to cover the essentials of a ground floor for the building of an “interior castle”!

Q. Was it difficult to write any one part of the book?  I enjoyed in particular the “speaking” quotes beginning each day from Jesus, and I wondered if it would be difficult to write so many.

I’m probably going to have an “extended stay” in Purgatory for putting words in Jesus’ mouth! A priest got it right, though, when he guessed: “Sister, is this how YOU hear Jesus?” Jesus is always comforting and challenging at the same time when He speaks to me, and I think that might be a universal for how He speaks to everyone. 

He also has a sense of humor. I think probably one of our biggest sins is to take the unimportant things too seriously, and the important things not seriously enough. Actually, Jesus’ parts in the book were the easiest to write. I’m REALLY hoping the Holy Spirit had a big hand in that, because I was asking Him to!

Q. Do you have a favorite section of the book?

I think it’s the month of October--dedicated to Our Lady--because the BVM is my BFF. I loved learning about her different titles and apparitions and sharing them in the book.

Q. What do you recommend as one or two good ways for a young woman to make the interior life and prayer a reality in our culture’s busy lifestyles?

Fidelity to daily prayer is essential. Sporadic prayer is like a sporadic relationship. You never really get to know the other person. There is NO other way.

Q.  You are busy with so many projects.  Anything in particular you’d like to share as particularly noteworthy?

We’re doing a 90-minute documentary on the life of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. We’ve finished shooting, laying audio and are now completing the visuals. A rough cut is due January 25, 2013. We’re still fundraising for it and have a pledge of a $10,000 matching grant if we can raise that by December 31! The trailer can be watched (in 10 languages so far) at  and donations can be made securely on the website. 

GIFTS for donations to the Fr. Alberione Film (from November 1--December 31) are:

$20 donation--Fr. A medal

$50 donation--Fr. A medal and DVD when completed

$500 donation--Fr. A medal, book (biography), and DVD when completed

$1,000 donation--Fr. A medal, book, DVD, and 12" resin statue.

Q.  Is there anything you would like to add or wish I would have asked?

Yes, the question would be:  “If you were to write the same book today, would you do anything differently?” (I wrote it about four years ago.) 

The answer?  Yes. I would make it even more mushy, lovey-dovey with Jesus and stuff it with even MORE Theology of the Body. Women need to go to Jesus FIRST for their love, self-esteem, self-dignity and to feel beautiful. THEN go to your earthling guy. God’s love never changes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Worth a Listen: Blessed John Paul Autotuned

(Sharing great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise "worth a listen").  Explanation (of a kind) here.

HT Hell Burns, the blog of Sister Helena Burns.  The maker of this video is asking for suggestions about other videos to autotune, and some of the commenters suggested Cardinal Dolan's prayer at the end of the Democratic National Convention.

This reminds me a little of a video (I didn't actually realize it was a video until I Googled it.  I have the audio version in iTunes from way back when BXVI was elected, and a French girl living with us at that time shared it with me).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Are You Ready for Advent?

Truth be told, I’m not. I usually dig out the Advent wreath well after Thanksgiving and the start of Advent, and we don’t light it every day.  I confess we’ve been uneven in our use of a Jesse tree.

Does it count that for the last few years, I have gotten the kids a Trader Joe’s chocolate calendar and they open a door every day of December?

I thought not.  

I know Advent is a great time of preparation, so I’m hoping for better success this year.

Here are some new books in case you, too, might need some fresh ideas to make Advent a time of joyful preparation:

*Father Gary Caster, a priest of the diocese of Peoria, has a new St. Therese-inspired book out:   The Little Way of Advent: Meditations in the Spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux.

Father Caster’s latest book, like his previous title The Little Way of Lent, provides for each day (in this case, of Advent) a Scripture passage, a reflection and a little quote from St. Therese.  For those who love Father Caster’s preaching style and his prolific writing, The Little Way of Advent does not disappoint.

(Go here to read my Q&A with Father around the time that I reviewed The Little Way of Lent).

*A Catholic Family Advent: Prayers and Activities by Susan Hines-Brigger offers family-centric activities, reflections and Scripture for each day of Advent.  I especially liked the “talk together” portion to spark conversation, perhaps around the dinner table, before lighting the aforementioned Advent wreath.

*Lisa Hendey has a slim new volume O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath, with short, very do-able reflections for most, and also some for younger children, for each day of the Advent season.

*Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Vincent de Paul by John E. Rybolt, provides short reflections and quotes from the writings of St. Vincent de Paul, particularly focusing on the saint's reputation as "the Apostle of Charity."

The above appeared in this weekend's edition of The Catholic Post on the book page.  Even as I wrote it, I began to realize that our family does "do" Advent a wee bit better than just the Trader Joe's chocolate calendar.  And does it not surprise you that the way we excel at keeping Advent and Christmastime is through books?

So in addition to trying to make some of these new books part of my Advent tradition, I also plan to take a look (as we get closer to Advent) at some of our favorite classic Advent/Christmas books--including many picture books--that might help you keep Advent well, too.  Watch for a special series of posts as Advent draws closer.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Meet a Reader (and Writer): John Kelly

Here is the monthly feature from this weekend's print edition of The Catholic Post called "Meet a Reader."  As I do from time to time, I feature a local author in these pages as well.  Thanks so much to John Kelly for agreeing to be featured in The Post and for sharing about his new book, The Other Law of Moses.

How you know me:  I was born in Peoria.  I attended St. Thomas grade school & Bergan High.  I’ve been in the financial services industry for thirty-six years.  I am widowed from Nancy and married to Amy.  We have four grown children and one grandchild.  I’m still active in my parish (St. Thomas), and Amy and I have headed up our parish’s Great Adventure Bible Studies for the last six years.  I’ve also been active in the Cursillo, and in the Diocesan Vocation Support Group.  Amy teaches at Holy Family School in Peoria.  I enjoy reading as well as writing.  Last January, I published my first book, The Other Law of Moses. I have also published several articles about the intersection between our faith and practical, widespread prosperity.

Why I love reading:  I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction, but I like non-fiction best.  It might be history, politics, biography or Catholicism, but I’m usually into a book that will broaden me, and hopefully challenge me.  There is so much to learn, and I believe the answers to most of our problems are already out there.  On the other hand, I also enjoy a good mystery or thriller, or even poetry. Perhaps another reason I love reading is that I love to see what truly talented wordsmiths can do with our wonderful language.

What I’m reading now:   True to form, it’s non-fiction.  I’m in the middle of Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.  I just finished The True Gold Standard by Lewis Lehrman, the author of Lincoln at Peoria.  Before that, it was Father Robert Sirico’s excellent book, Defending the Free Market – The Moral Case for a Free Economy.

My book:  I wrote The Other Law of Moses about the economic Law inside the Law of Moses, and how well that great, but mostly unknown gift, worked.  The Law brought about great general prosperity, and made ancient Israel the world’s first middle-class nation.  The book follows God’s people through their cycles of compliance and non-compliance with the “Land Law,” as I call it.  I even suggest that Jesus spoke of this Law often; that his followers understood what he was saying about it, but that we do not.  The ending highlights the uncommon prosperity many places in the world enjoy where parts of this Law are practiced.  Surprisingly, these places are unaware of the ancient pedigree their successful economic rules have.

My favorite books:  Progress and Poverty by Henry George, written in 1879, is at the top of my list.  Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is also up there.  More recent favorites are Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. The surprises and answers in the Bible continue to astound me.  And the list would not be complete without Michael Novak’s excellent The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Cultivating Prayer, The Dominican Way

Here is my November column from this weekend's print edition of The Catholic Post.  I invite your feedback.

“Without prayer, there is no chance for success in this world.”

Kind of grabs you, doesn’t it?  That was my reaction when I began to read the beautifully produced and spiritually rich new book from Paraclete Press, How to Pray the Dominican Way:  Ten Postures, Prayers and Practices that Lead Us to God by Angelo Stagnaro.

Stagnaro refreshes, without changing the essence of, St. Dominic’s “Nine Ways of Prayer,” a classic spiritual work, adding  on a 10th way of contemplative prayer.  (He describes the 10th way as an outflow of the other nine). Stagnaro wishes to convey in the book that our bodies can dispose our souls to great strides in prayer and closeness to the Lord, if we take the time to learn and practice these ancient postures and gestures.

I was actually unaware of “The Nine Ways of Prayer,” a short volume written by St. Dominic as a description of his ways to pray before the Lord, but what a treasure!  The nine ways are deceptively simple (for example, praying by prostrating, or  praying with hands raised), but rich in wisdom for growth in the spiritual life.

Stagnaro’s book updates St. Dominic’s ideas with a fresh eye and a mature spirituality born of his longtime work as a catechist.  In this volume, Stagnaro wants to fulfill the Dominican motto, “to hand the fruits of contemplation on to others.”  It offers a step-by-step guide as well as takes readers on a spiritual journey.

What I think makes How to Pray the Dominican Way especially worthwhile is that the high quality of printing paper; the just-right size of the lovely font (along with plenty of white space on each page), as well as the size of the book itself, makes it a joy to read.  It feels great in your hand, it’s  handsome to read, and therefore creates an atmosphere conducive to spiritual reading and growth.

Sometimes books have great content but can lack a certain polish. E-books can be convenient, and in general I’m no snob for “only” real books.  But while I recommend all sorts of books, it’s a real pleasure to recommend one so beautifully produced (and real) as How to Pray the Dominican Way.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Worth a Listen: "Busted Heart" by For King & Country

(Sharing great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise "worth a listen").  Explanation (of a kind) here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Electoral College and Voting

After Mass this morning, I took our younger kids to go and vote.  I'm always so grateful for the opportunity to vote.  I was personally surprised at how easy the ballot was this year in our district.  Both our (excellent) state Senator and state Representative ran unopposed--I liked getting to show the kids how I could only vote for one person in quite a few races.

The kids got stickers, too!  As a side note, our youngest really, really wants the chance for kids to vote.  We are all wearing our stickers proudly.

We've had some discussions in recent days about the electoral college, and what that means. I subscribe to the lovely blog Like Mother, Like Daughter and a recent post  gave some ideas and links to help kids (and grown-ups!) learn about the electoral college, and work to call the election one way or another.  So we are taking a little break today from regular schoolwork, and our very halting start at kids NaNoWriMo, to do math, geography and other subjects via politics.

We printed off multiple copies of this map, and right now the kids are working to color in the likely states for each candidate.  They are using the Real Clear Politics website's predictions as a start, because there are so many "toss-ups" listed, and it gives us the opportunity to check the latest polls and make our own predictions. 

Our 12-year-old just pointed out, "Romney has more states, but Obama has states with more elecctoral votes."    They are just getting to their predictions, but the Real Clear Politics site provides many, many polls for each state, so the kids will have a chance to see who's likely to win each of those states.  After discussions about the margin of error in polling, the nine-year-old has decided to flip a coin for each toss-up state; not a bad plan. 

After they finish this map, they will start on a new set of maps based on the FiveThirtyEight blog, run by Nate Silver for the New York Times (note to self: make a request at the library his new book, The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail, But Some Don't--I've heard an interview or two with him and keep meaning to check out the book).  

The Five Thirty Eight map is more "filled in" (for some time, it has been calling the race for Obama) and I will be interested to see whether the kids' predictions match Silver's own predictions. 

I took the time to do some reading up on both websites, and from what I can tell they are both reputable as far as details.  The former leans conservative; the latter leans liberal.  Regardless of their political bent, the sites seem well-respected by most, and by each other.

Kind of late to the party, I have (just today, if I'm being honest!), put on hold a number of youth books at the library about the electoral college and presidential politics.  Doing so reminds me about one of our favorite authors, Jean Fritz, who has written many, many excellent books about American history and presidents.  I love everything I've read of hers, but probably my favorite is Homesick: My Own Story, her memoir of living in China as a child.  She is still writing books; here's a look at her book newly published last year about Alexander Hamilton.   If I'm still alive at 95 years old, I hope I am still writing.

Have you voted yet?  Are you doing anything special to mark today? 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

First, What Are You Reading? Volume 27, The All Saints/Marathon Edition

Happy Feast of All Saints!   Be sure to celebrate in style this great feast of the Church.

I'm interrupting my marathon story (here are Part 1 and Part 2) to post my monthly "what are you reading?" questions, with a focus on a book about someone who probably is a saint, as well as one book about running by a prayerful young man.

The questions, as always, are:

first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list to read?

As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

I actually read Jeff Grabosky's book Running With God Across America back in the summer, but I want to feature it now, because Jeff is a fellow LIFE Runner.  I also plan to do a Q&A with him in the future since he's agreed to do one.

I'm also in the midst of Leonie Martin:  A Difficult Life by  Marie Baudouin-Croix.

What do you like best about them?

I most enjoy Jeff Grabosky's voice and honesty in talking about his spiritual journey in Running With God Across America. 

Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life is quite moving.  I had read before in an article about Leonie that some believe that she, almost more than Therese, deserves formal recognition as a saint.  I'm not sure about that, but reading about her mental health issues and how she worked to overcome them and persist in seeking to fulfill her vocation has brought me to tears on several occasions.

What do you like least?

I am surprised at how much I enjoyed all of Running With God Across America.  I receive a lot of review copies of self-published books, and the vast majority have major issues, whether style, content or grammar/typo issues.  Jeff's book, while self-published, genuinely reads like a memoir from any major publisher.  I'm not sure if he had a great helpful editors or friends read through it, or just has a gift, or both.  He's a great writer and the story flows.

Leonie Martin was written in the French, and sometimes the translation  feels a little awkward.  It's easy to overcome, and certainly worthwhile to know more about this member of the Martin family.

What's next on your list to read?

I have a huge stack of books that are possibilities for my December column featuring good gift books.  So many great choices, but I'm on the lookout for more.  If you know of any great newer books that would also make great Christmas presents, please comment here or send me a tweet.