Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What Does The Word Believe Mean?



Lately, the daily Gospel readings have been from the Gospel of John and have talked about the Eucharist and believing in Jesus. But what IS believing? What exactly does that mean? I recently discovered this excellent explanation from the Introduction to John's Gospel from the Navarre Bible Commentary:
“Believing means knowing revealed truth or, better, recognizing the authority of God revealing truth in fact, in this Gospel we often find the verbs "to believe" and "to know" side-by-side in the one phrase; sometimes they seem to be interchangeable. The verb "to know" has the meaning not just of knowing intellectually, of grasping the truth; it takes on an Old Testament meaning, indicating unreserved adhesion to the truth that is Jesus Christ. Therefore, faith includes the act of trusting commitment as well as the act of knowing. Recognizing supernatural truth through the testimony given us, we adhere to the truth and, by accepting it with our whole heart we obtain deep knowledge of God's truth.”

Some other helpful quotes in this section:

“Growth in faith goes hand in hand with growth in knowledge of Jesus Christ.” 
“Faith is at one and the same time a free gift of God and a free action on man's part: man reaches genuine freedom to believe when God gives him the grace which enables him to adhere to revealed truths.”

“No one can believe in him unless it is granted him by the father.”

Painting: "Maria, sister of Lazarus, meets Jesus who is going to their house" - Nikolai Ge, 1864. Courtesy: WikiArt

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Read This! 12 Catholic Books on the Spiritual Life You Should Read in 2016

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1622822285/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1622822285&linkCode=as2&tag=liveca-20&linkId=OHRV37HXG7AUBLES

Here are the books I think you should read in 2016. They are indispensable classics for me and they all sit next to me in my prayer corner or next to my bed. These are ones that have really helped me in my spiritual life. Each is amazing in its own way. Some are easy to read, some are ones you want to take the whole year to read carefully.


1) These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body by Emily Stimpson. When I first saw this book I thought, “Oh no, the difficult Theology of the Body.” Boy, was I wrong. This is super easy to read and brings this great topic to every part of your life. Just reading what the culture thought of man, before the Enlightenment, was breathtaking. It turns out that sex is only a really small part of John Paul II's teaching on the body. It is a wonderful way to guide your whole life into beauty and holiness. You can tell the author is an expert on the topic and has synthesized years of study on this topic into a really easy to understand and implement teaching. I'm planning on reading it again this year.  I also really enjoy Emily's website The Catholic Table and recommend you pay a visit. I'm a BIG fan of her Polenta recipe.


2) Worshipping a Hidden God by Archbishop Luis Martinez. I had this book on the shelf for years before I actually read it. I can't believe I waited so long. Abp. Martinez was a Mexican bishop, poet and mystic and this book completely changed my view of God. It is geared to helping you through problems with prayer and your spiritual life and understanding the nature of God. I cried through several chapters. It was a breakthrough for me and I hope it will help you too.


3) Fatima for Today: An Urgent Marian Message of Hope by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R. This book has everything you ever wanted to know about the Marian apparitions at Fatima and what happened afterward. During this time of chaos, confusion, and darkness, the Blessed Mother's message is more imperative than ever in saving the world from evil. If you have ever wanted to know how or why to do the Five First Saturday devotions, or why the Rosary is so important, this is for you.


4) Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Tim Gray. This is an excellent explanation of how to pray using the Scriptures. Easy to read and understand.


5) The Navarre Bible: Gospels & Acts by the University of Navarre. This has been my mainstay Bible commentary for years. I use it constantly. I have several volumes of the Navarre Bible but, of course, this is the one I use the most. Other volumes I love are The Pentateuch (The first 5 books of the Old Testament) & the Letters of St. Paul. I highly recommend all the volumes. They have extensive commentary on all the text using lots of writings of Pope St. John Paul II, St. Josemaria Escriva and lots of other saints and Church writings.


6) Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within by Fr. Thomas Dubay. Gives advice on finding a spiritual director. What I find the most profitable in this book is the advice in the back third of the book on problems and questions in the spiritual life. I'm definitely going to read this again this year. A related type book is Dan Burke's Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey To God. I read this when it first came out a few years ago, but I, unfortunately, don't own a copy. It is excellent though, and helps guide you in spiritual direction and how to determine your main faults so you can overcome them.

Dan Burke also has several other resources that I can recommend. He has edited two other books that I do own and think you will profit from them: Finding God Through Meditation by St. Peter of Alcantara – St. Teresa of Avila's spiritual director, which I am reading now; and selected letters of St. Teresa of Avila on prayer, 30 Days With St. Teresa of Avila, which I really enjoyed. He has the best website on prayer and the spiritual life online (and I don't say that lightly,) Catholic Spiritual Direction is just excellent. I remember a time when everything online about Catholic prayer was wrong, or vacuous, or tainted with techniques from other religions that were the opposite of what Catholic spirituality taught. You still can find that stuff online, but this website was a revolution, and happily it is filled with excellent advice and direction, and others have followed the lead with the true teachings of Christian prayer. What we now have is a blossoming of the spiritual life. 

Also, check out the related Relevant Radio's Divine Intimacy Radio show and podcast, among other helps. Another radio show, from Radio Maria is Carmelite Conversations. It is absolutely my favorite podcast and I cannot tout it highly enough for discussions on Catholic spirituality, books, and Carmelite saints. I have learned so much!


7) 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC. A very approachable and understandable preparation for consecration to Jesus through the Blessed Mother. It uses teaching from Mother Teresa, Pope St. John Paul II, St. Louis de Montfort, and St. Maximilian Kolbe. Everyone I know who has read it has been very impressed. 

8) Trusting God With St. Therese by Connie Rossini. A lovely book on how St. Thérèse of Lisieux allowed God to guide her through difficult times in her life and how you can trust God in hard times too. 


Other books I can recommend but am not finished with yet:

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI. I have the first of the three volumes.
 
The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time by Lawrence G. Lovasik 
 
An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, excellent for beginners. 
 
Spiritual Combat: How to Win Your Spiritual Battles and Attain Peace by Lorenzo Scupoli. St. Francis de Sales carried this in his pocket for years.

Friday, May 1, 2015

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.com I 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 Assad can'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

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Does Pope Francis Supposedly Saying Animals Go To Heaven Want You To Come Back To The Church?

Our sick old kitty not long before he died.
I was reading a comment on a Facebook post that was in response to the false story that Pope Francis said Animals Go to Heaven. A woman commented:
I am sad that this is not true. As a fallen Catholic...it made me consider going back to the church as this Pope seemed more human and compassionate. That is something that has been lacking. Pope Francis is progressive enough to make me feel that the church can change to a place I want to be. Why not let this story stand as it was? Do you not get that Francis is calling to us to be better people? And by that, perhaps, call us back to church?

Here is my slightly edited response that I thought might be helpful to you if you are considering coming back to the Church because you think Pope Francis is "human" and "compassionate." It is true he is "human" and "compassionate" but more is going on than you think.

The Church's teaching has not and will not change. It is only the secular press that changes the spin on it. Such as calling the most gentle and humble man that Benedict XVI is "God's Rottweiler." Or deliberately taking very compassionate teachings of God and turning them into something completely different because they don't serve the secular agenda. They take snippets of quotes but not all the quote because it will not fit their story. They twist good things to evil and make evil things good. Why pray tell is suddenly this non-story breaking world news? Because it fits a secular agenda and brings ratings. Pushing that animals are equal with people. They are wonderful creatures of God, but they are not people. A wonderful priest once told me that if your dog makes you happy than you will probably find your dog waiting for you in heaven, but it won't be because the dog has a person type soul.
Pope Francis is truly kind and compassionate and "human" - but so was John Paul II and Benedict XVI and many of the popes before them. Pope Francis is not teaching anything different, and is not being "progressive." He is just being shown what he is. He has a different "style" of doing things but isn't teaching anything different. 
As soon as the press thinks that portraying him that way no longer serves their purpose than they will start portraying him as "rigid" "strict" "conservative" "caving into conservatives" or whatever headline they can think of to minimize him.

All the popes have been calling people to be better people. Try reading the John Paul's Letter to Women  or to his Letter to Families. Go to Catholic Answers or Catholics Come Home or any number of good places to get true answers about what the faith teaches. Listen to Ave Maria Radio, or EWTN TV or Radio, Relevant Radio or any of the other Catholic radio networks that you can listen to online or an app or IHeartRadio. There are so many places that you can be fortified in your faith. We welcome you back. Find a priest you like, go to confession and take it one day at a time. Learn to pray. If there is a teaching you don't understand take the time to get educated as to why the church teaches what it does - not what some someone else says it teaches. God loves you, the Church (whose job it is to help you get to heaven) loves you and I love you. Please consider coming back. The love is waiting for you, you only have to reach for it.
And some Bonus Answers - Do Animals Go to Heaven? Fr. Z tells us all about it,  
Catholic Answers Forum Discussing Pets in Heaven.

Monday, June 2, 2014

25 Great Catholic Father's Day Gift Ideas


Father's Day is coming soon and you want gift ideas for the Catholic father(s) in your life. I thought I would help. Let's cut to the chase and jump right in. Here are some gift ideas that might please you both.

First up is books. I moonlight as Catholic Book Lady, so I'm immersed in books. I decided to poll some trusted, faithful Catholic men as to what books they think are good for men. I've got some new books, some popular, and some classic for your perusal.

New Books:
No matter what you get for your man, you should also first include Journey to Heaven by Randy Hain, co-founder of Integrated Catholic Life, one of my favorite Catholic websites. I know Randy, and he is the epitome of the great, faithful, Catholic dad. I've been reading it myself, and I really like it. He takes the wisdom of many wise, real contemporary Catholic men (not some lofty theologian, or a 500 year old dead monk) and distills it into an easy-to-understand, quick-to-read format. My favorite parts are “Integrating Faith and Work,” “What is Really Important,” and how to be a Catholic Rebel. We women love a rebel, right?

How can you go wrong with any book by Scott Hahn? Angels & Saints is his new one. Can you guess what's it about? I'll wait....Yep, angels and saints. Don't like that topic, Dr. Hahn has tons of other books, including the now classic Rome Sweet Home, he and his wife's conversion story.



Now some Ever-Popular Books that came highly recommended from my men's poll:

  • The Catholic Briefcase:  Tools for Integrating Faith and Work by Randy Hain. This one won 2012's About.com Reader's Choice Award. 
  • Navigating the Interior Life by Dan Burke, Executive Director of the National Catholic Register and founder of SpiritualDirection.com. I saved this one for last in this list because I think every Catholic, especially every Catholic man, should own a copy. It is an excellent book on how to figure out your main faults so you can begin to work on rooting them out, and how to find spiritual direction so you can progress in your path to God. I know Dan Burke personally and he is the real deal. Get his book for your guy because you won't be disappointed.


Now for some Classic Books:
  • Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo, the very first conversion story, Augustine was a brilliant man with a concubine and illegitimate child who suffered from pride, ambition, pain and regret to become a convert, a bishop, a doctor of the Church, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived.
  • The Sinner's Guide by Venerable Louis de Grenada, the 16th century classic on resisting temptation and overcoming sin.
  • Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. Amazing logical arguments for the Christian faith.
  • In Conversation with God by Fr. Francis Fernandez, absolutely excellent set of books with meditations for every day according to the Mass readings. You can buy each book individually to try it out.
  • Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, for beginners in the spiritual life.
If you want more ideas for books, here is Scott Hahn's list of recommended books for men. And some great new novels from Ignatius Press.



Now, maybe your guy isn't into books (gasp!) so here are a few alternatives so we cover all our bases.

If the father in your life is not just Catholic, but extra-Catholic (you know, he bought you a new veil to wear to the Latin Mass, maybe prays the Divine Office every day, perhaps keeps a pebble in his shoe on Friday or Wednesday, etc.) He might like Fr. John Zulsdorf's (Fr. Z!) über-Catholic gifts from his store: such as the "To Be Deep in History is to Cease to be Protestant" mug or stein - sure to be a hit at the office! It is apparently a favorite of Fr. George Rutler.

Or maybe Dad loves coffee or tea. Don't hesitate to buy Mystic Monk Coffee and help the Carmelite Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel build their monastery in Wyoming to last the ages. This is quality stuff Dad will love. Lots of flavors. Check out the Monk Shots.

Perhaps the kids want to make Dad a gift. Here is something I love to do. Make him a knotted rosary. Easy to do, easy to keep in the pocket, and silent in use. Something I certainly value. Check out Greg & Jennifer Willet's apostolate the Rosary Army for details.

Finally, I asked my 11 year old son what he thought a dad would want on Father's Day. Here is his list: grill cleaner, power tools, iPad, a camera, utility belt, pet snake. “Pet snake?” “Yes, all fathers like snakes.” 

So there you have it, 25 great ideas for the father in your life. Don't forget the snake!

P.S.  There are more than 25 ideas now because I keep remembering more great stuff. If you have an idea please comment and let me know. I may add it to the list.

Update: My former neighbor, a protestant missionary, and wonderful friend Glenda, who is one of the best Christian women I know, had a suggestion for the list. She says "I have an alternative idea to C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. We just listened to C. S. Lewis at War done by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. It is the story behind Mere Christianity plus the audio book. Jeff really enjoyed this. It definitely appealed to his logical engineering mind! We listen on long car trips... the audio book is a great alternative for those who rarely sit down to read a book, and the dramatization of this one holds your attention.