Book notes: Book tasting

Book notes: Book tasting

By Carol Schuck Scheiber, c

ONE THING THAT ALWAYS warms my heart is seeing someone with his or her nose firmly stuck in a book. The more oblivious to the outside world, the better. HORIZON readers, here are some books worth sticking your noses in. So many worthwhile books cross my desk that selecting just four titles a year to review robs you from tasting many delicious reads. Although my comments here only give a smidgen of a taste, I hope they alert you to resources from recent years that will broaden and deepen your understanding of topics important to vocation ministry.

Guidance in discernment

Discerning Your Vocation: A Catholic Guide for Young Adults, by Father Nathanael Pujos, Father Anthony Ariniella, and Sister Emmmanuelle Borchardt (2014, Society of St. Paul). Written in simple, direct language that is accessible to all, the message here for young people is traditional and solid. Some of the many anecdotes and examples show a disconnect from contemporary youth, which is admittedly a moving target. (For instance they rail against Internet evils, rather than pointing toward the spiritual treasures to be found there, such as NRVC’s vocationnetwork.org.) Still, there is wisdom in this small book, including a clear look at pitfalls and confusions when one is on an interior vocational journey.

Discernment Matters: Listening with the Ear of the Heart, by Sister Mary Margaret Funk, O.S.B.  (2012, Liturgical Press). This is a guide for grown-ups, a sophisticated, intricate look at discernment, in the broad sense as: “the Holy Spirit at work in us.” The author is a five-decade-plus Benedictine who draws on the wisdom of John Cassian, St. Teresa of Avila, and other spiritual greats. She also addresses concerns in the spiritual life that overlap with the emotional life: such as sexuality and acedia. Given her monastic focus and approach, this book is probably best suited for others in religious life.

For young women

Finding My Voice: a Young Woman’s Perspective, by Beth M. Knobbe (2009, St. Anthony Messenger Press). This is a fresh, authentic voice in touch with the real concerns of young women making their way in the world. With just the right touch, she brings Catholic wisdom to bear on concerns ranging from sex to prayer to friendship to vocation. The book is grounded theologically and pastorally, drawing on her campus ministry experience, with liberal sprinklings of modern heroes such as Dorothy Day and Thea Bowman.

Loved as I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing, and Freedom through Jesus, by Sister Miriam James Heidland, S.O.L.T. (2014, Ave Maria Press). This book offers a hopeful, personal story of redemption that will speak in particular to other young women seeking wholeness. The author compassionately recounts her own story of outward success and inner turmoil. She relates her own difficulties with identity, drinking, and loss. They ultimately lead her to an encounter with God and a commitment to religious life. With honesty and perceptiveness, she applies her hard won life lessons to universal questions: Who am I? Who is God for me? How do we heal?

About people in religious life

Dedicated to God: an Oral History of Cloistered Nuns, by Abbie Reese (2014, Oxford University Press). Here is a book for those who really want to wrap their minds around strict cloistered life, or more specifically, around a single community: the Poor Clares of the Corpus Christi Monastery of Rockford, Illinois. This work is the result of many deep conversations and keen observations over six years. The author mixes her own storytelling and beautiful (if poorly reproduced) photographs with the words of the nuns themselves. The result is a nuanced answer to the question: What compels a woman in this era to choose such a life?

Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life’s Greatest Questions, by John Schlimm (2015, Image). If you immerse yourself in nun-priest lit long enough, you know that this story has been told before. Jaded, successful businessman or woman is a little short on meaning; meets nun or priest who is the real deal; is impressed; gets religion; writes memoir. That said, this book by John Schlimm is a fine addition to a little known genre. You would have to be a hardened hater to not be fond of the sweet and wise Sister Augusta by the end of this volume.

If Nuns Ruled the World: Ten Sisters on a Mission, by Jo Piazza (2014, Open Road Integrated Media). This series of 10 loving portraits focuses on what the non-religious author calls “wise and wonderful” sisters “who change the world every single day.” The author tells about social justice sisters working in everything from prisons to Congress—including women who have challenged the institutional church. Much of this book, along with Five Years in Heaven, reminds us of why so many people turned out with picket signs to publicize their support of nuns a few years ago. Catholic sisters are close to the people, especially the outcast and poor, and they pour God-inspired love into the world day after day.

Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church, and the Fight for Social Justice, by Robert McClory (2010, Lawrence Hill Books). Written engagingly by a now-deceased longtime Catholic journalist—who once was a priest alongside Father Pfleger—this book revisits the glory days of a generation of priests that included many social activists, taking the reader right up to 2010. It also is a close look at Chicago racial politics in and out of the church. This book will particularly appeal to those interested in African American Catholics, as Pfleger has dedicated his life to pastoring St. Sabina’s church, a nationally known Chicago parish that is predominantly African American.

Consecrated life

God Has Begun a Great Work in Us: Embodied Love in Consecrated Life and Ecclesial Movements, edited by Jason King and Sister Shannon Schrein, O.S.F. (2015, Orbis Books). In spite of the gobbledygook title, this collection of essays contains some gems. Compiled from talks at a College Society of Theology meeting, the lay and religious essayists pose some excellent questions, including these, which are paraphrased. How can older prophets in religious life respond when younger prophets in the life are asking for changes in community and prayer? (Sister Anne E. Patrick, S.N.J.M.) And: If Catholics go far enough down the path of cultural combat, are they no longer interested in transforming the world, but rather in finding an alternative to it? (Dennis Doyle).

This overview leads to a single question: will you be burying your nose in one of these tasty books?



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