Take a Devotional Journey For Lent

Devotional Journey Books

What do you know about the Mass? Whether you are a new Catholic or have been Catholic for decades, it is a good bet that you could stand to learn more about the Mass. I was baptized as a baby, went to Catholic school for awhile, did CCD, left for awhile, and have been a very serious and involved “revert” for over 20 years, and still felt that I just didn’t get it. I was there every Sunday and many, many weekdays, but I didn’t really know more than that I was supposed to show up and say some prayers, receive the Eucharist and go home.

Other people seemed to get a lot out of it. People told me how they couldn’t wait to go to Mass. Others want to start every big Church event with a Mass – and I just didn’t get why. To me it was a yawn. I had heard that it didn’t matter if you got anything out of it, showing up thanking God for one hour a week for everything in your life was the point.

I knew it had to be more than that. But I didn’t know a great deal about it until I started listening to the Liturgy Guys Podcast. And while some things are over my head, I’m fascinated by all the info about the Liturgy, the guidelines, and the incredible symbolism. One of the hosts, Christopher Carstens, is a liturgy expert with tons of credentials. A few years ago, he wrote an amazing little book called A Devotional Journey into the Mass: How Mass Can Become a Time of Grace, Nourishment, and Devotion.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this little book completely changed my understanding of the Mass and propelled my spiritual life way forward. Written for your average “pew-sitter,” it is completely understandable, and explains in an amazing way, from the time you get to the front door until you leave, what is happening in the Mass and your role in participating in it. I truly think this wonderful book should be required reading for every Catholic. In fact, I wish it was its own parish video study.

Fast forward now to today. Well, actually last year. About a year ago, Carstens wrote another lovely book A Devotional Journey Into the Easter Mystery. I purchased it in early March with the happy intention of starting to read through Lent and into Easter. And then, well you know…2020 happened…and family tragedy, and I decided to put it aside until this year.

This book is specifically to help you understand the Mass during Lent and the Easter Season. It starts with understanding Ash Wednesday and Lent and why we needed Jesus and His redemption. The greatest part of the book is devoted to Palm Sunday into Holy Week: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil and the sacraments, and onto Easter Sunday. It finishes up with the Easter Season and how to answer God’s call to sanctity through Easter, Pentecost, and for the rest of your life. This will be my main reading for Lent, though I have already started reading the first chapters about Ash Wednesday, so as to understand the whole experience this coming week. I’m also going to be revisiting the first book as a refresher. I always pick up things I didn’t see before when I re-read a book.

So, do I understand everything about the Mass? No. I don’t think anyone could understand everything, because it is so deep on so many levels. But now I understand a great a deal more and I understand my role at Mass is to also offer sacrifice, which is so incredibly deep.

Which book would it be best to start off with? I think either one stands on its own. If you are a fast reader, or have the time, I would try to read both for Lent because they will definitely help you whatever stage you are in as a Catholic.

Have a Blessed Lent!

*Some of the above links lead to Amazon, which helps to mitigate the costs of this blog. Thanks!

Pray With St. Faustina and Jesus During Lent & Difficult Times

Praying with Jesus & Faustina cover

One of the benefits of being Catholic Book Lady on social media is that occasionally I unexpectedly get review copies of books. A nice perk I must say. A couple of weeks ago, I received a lovely little book by the wonderful author, Susan Tassone. Well known as the “Purgatory Lady,” because of all the books she has written about the topic, Susan has written several of her latest books about St. Faustina Kowalska and the Divine Mercy devotion. St. Faustina wrote the famous Diary which is the basis for one of the most popular devotions in the Catholic Church. It would not surprise me in the least if St. Faustina became a Doctor of the Church.

This latest book, Praying With Jesus and Faustina During Lent and in Times of Suffering, truly has to be my favorite of the ones she has written, and I will absolutely be praying with it every day this Lent. What I like about the book is that it is set up like a conversation between Faustina and Jesus using quotes from the book. Each day is short and simple with a prayer, followed by a section you can use during times of suffering. So many of us could have used this book in 2020.

Because it uses mostly the text from St. Faustina’s Diary, it is an incredibly profound book. Next to the Bible, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul is my favorite spiritual book, and sits right next to my bed. The Diary and the Divine Mercy devotion has been an incredible comfort during the extremely painful times our family has suffered this past year.

If you are looking for “a little something” to both challenge and comfort you in your busy life during Lent, this could be the book. You could also use this in addition to any Bible or other Lenten studies you may be participating in, which is what I’m doing. Order soon because Lent is coming fast. This is my second early book recommendation for Lent, so you can order your books to arrive before Ash Wednesday.

If you don’t have St. Faustina’s Diary, I highly recommend the leather-bound edition. Yes, it’s more money, but if you read it a lot, and yours is getting a bit long in the tooth (falling apart!) like mine was, or you want something that is more pocket-sized, it is worth the money.

Update: If you purchase the leather version of St. Faustina’s Diary from the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, you will be supporting their wonderful apostolate. You also have the option of blue leather for the Diary, as well as the usual burgundy, and both have gold edging. I love this little book!

*Some of the above links lead to Amazon, and if you purchase with my links I would be very grateful, as it allows me to pay the fees to host this blog.

Review: “Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family”

When I was a child my favorite movie was the The Sound of Music. I think being an only child, living with just my mother, made me appreciate a large, loving, two-parent family enormously. My favorite book, Cheaper By The Dozen, about a fun-loving family of twelve children, settles it.

Maria Von Trapp, the mother of the large family in The Sound of Music, wrote her book of memoirs that the movie was based on, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers in 1946. Author of several books, she has an exuberant writing style that is natural, pulls you in, and makes you want to be right there in the action.

Originally from Austria, the family who were a very talented folk singing group, fled during World War II to escape the Nazis and came to America in 1938. The family built, mostly on their own, a large home in rural Vermont, and a lodge for visitors to stay and hear their concerts. They toured the world singing, and some, including Maria, became Catholic missionaries to Papua New Guinea. They were always on the go and had seemingly endless energy. Once they decided on a project, whether it was a family singing tour, building a barn, clearing land, or creating a restaurant, they all pitched in and got it done in short order.

In 1955, Maria published “Around the World With the Trapp Family.” She wrote about how their family lived their Catholic faith in Austria throughout the year. I’ve read a few of her books, but this has been long out of print. Sophia Institute Press, has now republished it, so this wonderful Catholic life can be enjoyed by everyone.

My first impression upon receiving it was that this is one substantial book. Hardcover and beautifully printed, this book is meant to be kept for years, and meant to be used all through the year.

The contents follow the liturgical year, explaining the seasons and why we celebrate them. Each feast day is lovingly explored with songs and music, recipes, and simple crafts, along with wonderful memories of Catholic family life in Austria before WWII.

A separate section elaborates on how to celebrate each Sacrament within the family, anniversaries, birthdays and other special family moments, including how to handle sickness and death within the family. There is a definite focus on the spiritual life and the life beyond. I found the section on how they actually lived Sundays to be particularly significant in our culture that treats Sunday with no sense of the sacred. 

What is so lovely about this book is that Maria explains the faith and how to incorporate it into your family’s life so beautifully. It makes one long for a time past when faith was seamlessly woven into the tapestry of the community. We can, at least, weave it into our own family’s life now. It would be great to start the New Year with this book.

I really enjoyed it and recommend it to you. Sophia Institute Press is having a 25% off sale for Christmas, but you have to act on it now. Use the
Use Discount Code radio25 when ordering the book using this link:  http://sophiainstitute.com/aroundtheyear.




Catholic Book Lady’s Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day is coming soon. I’m sure you’ve heard. I decided to try to think ahead this year. In lieu of being lazy and just ordering flowers, I’ve done some research on some great gifts that our Catholic moms will like. My alter ego on Facebook is Catholic Book Lady so we will start with books, because they are my favorite. Some are new and some not, but these are the ones I like right now, by some of my favorite authors.

http://bit.ly/WalkSoftlyTTomeo

Teresa Tomeo: I’m a big fan of Catholic podcasts and Catholic radio. Teresa is the host of Ave Maria Radio‘s Catholic Connection, among other gigs. I’ve read most of Teresa’s other very popular books, but I like this one the best: Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag: On-the-Go Devotions. It has short devotions and fits in my purse or glove compartment. The devotions use a lot of humor, but are thought provoking and prayerful. It is good choice for any Christian woman, even one who is just getting started in the faith, and it is tailor-made for Mother’s Day.

http://www.emmausroad.org/30-Days-with-Teresa-of-Avila-P12215.aspx#sthash.XFcWDzvw.JXjP07bi.dpbs

Dan Burke: Before Dan Burke started his website Catholic Spiritual Direction there was little online about Catholic prayer that was truly authentic and not tinged by influences from other spiritualities. Now, several years later, his website is a mature, extensive resource for learning about genuine Catholic prayer and the spiritual life. A few years ago, he published a classic called Navigating the Interior Life. This has now grown into a series of books to help deepen your prayer life.

I own two new books in this series: Finding God Through Meditation by St. Peter of Alcantara who was a spiritual director St. Teresa of Avila; and a book of letters by St. Teresa herself, called 30 Days With Teresa of Avila that include reflections written by Dan and Dr. Anthony Lilles. I have been reading a little every day of Teresa’s letters and what impresses me is just how easy they are to read and how her personality shows through. The reflections are easy to understand and very helpful. I think any mom who is interested in prayer and the spiritual life would find this a nice gift. St. Peter’s book, however, is for someone who is very advanced in prayer and is ready to move onto greater holiness.

http://www.emilystimpson.com/these-beautiful-bones-an-everyday-theology-of-the-body.html

Emily Stimpson: I can’t tell you how huge a fan I am of Emily Stimpson because of this book These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body. Now, you might be thinking “No, my mom/wife/grandma doesn’t need a book about the Theology of the Body because it is all about sex and just too big and complex.” Well, my friend, you are wrong. Saint Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body does have a large component about marriage and sex, and it can be complicated; but the body, marriage and family is more than about sex. It is about beauty and grace and holiness, even amidst the complexities and messiness of life. The Theology of the Body touches every part of life, and Emily Stimpson has unraveled it, digested it, made it understandable, and then written an absolutely beautiful book with the aim of bringing real love, simplicity, and grace to all parts of your life and your family. This book has literally changed my view of life and the world. It makes me yearn for beauty, and reach for grace. You need to buy two, because you need to read it yourself. She has a lovely website, The Catholic Table, that I highly recommend.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/159471472X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=159471472X&linkCode=as2&tag=catholicmomcom&linkId=G3CVQHK2TCRL5PUO

Lisa Hendey: The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living. Now, I have to admit I have not read this book, but I hear it is wonderful, and it goes along with Emily Stimpson’s book about grace and generosity. As the creator of CatholicMom.comI think it is a safe bet that your mom will love this.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1586178822/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1586178822&linkCode=as2&tag=buttafly-20

Jennifer Fulwiler: Jennifer writes one of the most popular blogs in the Catholic online universe, Conversion Diary. As a big fan, I waited a long time for Jennifer’s book, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidently Found It, to be released. She went from a born-and-raised atheist living the high life but not completely happy, to a Catholic homeschooling mom of six kids with a wildly popular blog about her and her husband’s faith journey. I devoured it. Fast paced and vastly interesting, their journey is nonetheless profound and incredibly inspiring. Don’t hesitate to get this book. Psst: don’t tell her that I just discovered I have been spelling her name wrong for years. Sigh.

http://www.amazon.com/Big-Hearted-Inspiring-Everyday-Families/dp/1594171904/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Patti Maguire Armstrong: I got to be roomies with Patti at a Catholic convention and she is incredibly fun, a fantastic writer, and one of the best people I know. Patti is constantly writing articles on the Catholic faith and culture, and she has several books, including as co-author of the popular Amazing Grace series. This book however is the one that I like the best, and would be great for Mother’s Day: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families. This book explains what happens to families when they allow their hearts to be generous – their struggles, but also their triumphs and joys.

http://www.donnacooperoboyle.com/blog/books-cds-dvds/

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle: I doubt there could be a list of Catholic books for Mother’s Day that doesn’t include at least one book by this lovely lady. Donna-Marie is an incredibly prolific writer. A friend of Mother Teresa’s, she imbues everything she writes with a beautiful, gentle spirit. Surprisingly, I’m not going to recommend any specific book. The last one I read was The Miraculous Medal, but she has many books on bringing in a prayerful aspect to the family and motherhood, books on prayer, ones for expectant mothers, a Bible study, books on Mother Teresa, and other saints and even angels. There just isn’t just one I could recommend, but the best thing is that she is sure to have written a book that would interest your mom.

OK, woman cannot live by book alone, so let’s get onto other gifts moms like:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/beadedtreasuresetc?ref=l2-shopheader-name


Jewelry, Rosaries and other cool stuff:
You can get cool jewelry everywhere, but meaningful jewelry is another story. I’m always surprised at how many Catholic ladies online I know that have small businesses and so many of them are on Etsy, Facebook, etc. Their wares are beautiful, and if you buy from them you are supporting a craftswoman directly. Check out these:

SpirituallyHip.com(Full of Grace Divine Designs) – Amazing jewelry. Gorgeous and very stylish. I just love everything there and would own it all if I could! The lovely necklace at the top of this post is this from here.
Charming Country Creations Some very cool country signs
Tag You’re “It” Beautiful and affordable, personalized hand stamped jewelry. I really like these.
Graceful Rosaries Just so amazing.
Perseverance Road Catholic Jewelry
Beaded Treasures Jewelry & Rosaries (the rosary above is from here)
and there are lots more, check out the Catholic Etsy Artist Guild Members too.

http://www.paintedfaith.net/

Art:
Nellie Edwards, painter of some of the most iconic modern Catholic art. I have a few of her prints. They are beautiful, meaningful, and affordable. And she is just the most fabulous person – well deserving of your business.

http://www.leafletonline.com/VIRGIN-OF-KAZAN-ICON/productinfo/26048/

And speaking of icons, which are considered by the Orthodox Christians to be windows to Heaven… there are many places to purchase icons, which is fortunate since they are so beautiful and stunningly crafted.

Leaflet Missal has many in all price ranges and is an excellent company.

Monastery Icons has beautiful icon jewelry, and a lot of more contemporary icons as well.

https://music.benedictinesofmary.org/

Music:
The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. They are what the angels must sound like. Listening to these amazing nuns makes me immediately relax and settle in for prayer, or imbues my working day with sense of the sacred around me. Their voices are stunning.

Not to be outdone by those Benedictines, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have their own album, Mater Eucharistiae. You might remember these traditional nuns from the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and the “American Bible Challenge.”

Mom might also like the sublime singing of the British vocal ensemble Voces8. They are wonderful.

Want something a little more contemporary? The beautiful music of Audrey Assadcan’t be beat.

Well, there you have it. If you have any other great ideas for gifts, please let us know in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say!

P.S. Don’t forget to visit me on Facebook at Catholic Book Lady and, of course, at LiveCatholic.