I took a little break from my blog for a while. While I love pouring my thoughts out in writing, it definitely takes a lot of mental work and effort! In keeping with my lenten observance (to focus first and foremost on resting in God), I found myself a bit freer to put my energy towards my family and some of the other things I love to do, like reading!
One of my New Years resolutions was to actually finish the books I start. I’ve always had a terribly bad habit of picking up a book, only to get pulled in by another, and another. Before I know it, I end up reading multiple books at once and as a result so many remain unfinished.
Since I made this resolution, my reading has improved dramatically. (Go figure!) I’ve read some really great books, and have decided to share what I’m reading with you on a quarterly basis!
“John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father” by Peggy Noonan
If you know me, you know I love just about anything Saint John Paul related. If a book acknowledges the greatness of the man in its very title…well, you know I am in.
My dad gave me this book, and I quickly threw myself into it. I couldn’t put it down! I obviously loved all of the stories about John Paul, but the thing I loved about this book was the author’s particular perspective. She was a woman touched personally by this Saint and his life deeply impacted her conversion of heart. I loved hearing how he touched her life personally (as he did so many people) and how her encounters with him helped shape and strengthen her faith.
I also loved that, as a convert and journalist, she kept things real. She talked about some of the deep and hard realities that faced John Paul in the his time as Pope, and she didn’t water anything down for the sake of her readers.
“No Greater Love” by Mother Teresa
I don’t know why, but I have never read anything by or about Mother Teresa before. It is shameful to admit, but I’ve always just chalked it up to the fact that I already kind of knew who she was. She’s Mother Teresa after all!
I was really wrong.
Hearing about Mother Teresa’s life (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta), is entirely different than hearing about it in own words.
Some of the stories I’ve heard about her work came to life in this book, and it was so special to read about all she did through her own words; reading this book was truly humbling, to say the least. Saint Teresa was not extraordinary in any superhuman sense; she was an ordinary person accomplishing simple acts of love for the sake of human dignity. Through her life and her actions, she reminds us that loving authentically and responding to God’s will oftentimes means taking care of the weak, suffering, and needy who are already within our very midst.
Her words on the Eucharist, prayer, love, holiness, death, and Jesus were all very moving.
“On the Other Side of Fear: How I Found Peace” by Hallie Lord
I flew through this book! After reading two books from a couple of spiritual giants, breaking open this one was a bit refreshing. That’s not to say that Hallie isn’t saintly, but rather that her book felt a bit more familiar. Reading it felt similar to sitting down with a friend for a cup of coffee, chatting about our thoughts on motherhood and marriage, while our kids play in the background. She shared a lot of wisdom about what it means to shed fear and learn to rest in God, amidst the chaos of marital and parental life. Her book was a sweet reminder that all of us are called to holiness.
This book was recommended to me by a couple of friends in my women’s group at church. They kept talking about it non-stop, so I thought, I’ve got to see what this is all about.
It didn’t take me long to become enthralled with this book, either. I took the test right away and discovered my temperament to be a very close combination of the sanguine and choleric temperaments (sanguine being the slightly more dominant). At first, I wasn’t convinced that I entirely fell into either categories, but after reading the synopsis of the combination of the two, I was amazed that it described me almost to a tee.
This book has been beneficial to me in so many ways. I have taken some of the other personality tests out there and found some to be pretty good (I am a ENFJ-A Protagonist), but what I really loved about this book was that it was written from the perspective of the faith. It shined a light on the fact that God made each and every one of us uniquely different, but at the same time, he stuck to a sort of template. There are four basic temperaments that everyone falls under, each referring to the natural tendencies and reactions we all have. I found that especially helpful in coming to understand myself a bit more, and how I relate to other people. The things that mark my temperament have always sort of been the things I want to push down and wash over. The book described my combined temperament to have the tendency to be overly talkative, brassy, opinionated, loud, rash, swift to jump to conclusions, and forgetful. Who wants to be any of those things? What I began realizing, though, is that with all the negative qualities of particular temperaments, there comes a lot of good and unique characteristics. This book helped me understand that God created me with the temperament I have, and I have the ability to use that temperament to glorify him with my life. Reading this book is helping me own who I am. A lot of the things that I’ve always been ashamed of about myself are actually ways in which God wants to use me for his glory!
This book is also beneficial in coming to understand how we relate to others in our differences. It was eye opening for me, because it really allowed me to see that the things I often dislike about others are due primarily to a difference in temperaments. Understanding that has helped me to be more patient with others, and to respect that when they do and see things differently, it’s because they are different–and that’s okay. It’s also helped me respect and come to understand my husband and my kids on a deeper level!
I definitely recommend this book!
“The Atheist Delusions” by David Bentley Hart
This was the only book that I got through in February. That kind of tells you what kind of a book it is.
It was super chewy and took me forever to get through!
David Bentley Hart’s thorough review of the Christian revolution and analysis of the many misrepresentations of the Christian past was incredibly revelatory and sophisticated. The ease with which he poured out his grueling assessment of the cultural challenges we face today, as well as his brilliant knowledge about Christianity’s influence on the Western Civilization, was impeccable. He dismantled so many of the modern-day arguments for atheism, simply by explaining and laying out historical facts that have been diluted and distorted to fit a certain “narrative” against Christianity.
If you have the gumption and the energy, this is a fantastic read.
The Life of Christ in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”
I am currently (slowly) working on obtaining my certificate in the Catechism of the Catholic Church from Catholic Distance University. In my last course I was assigned the Life of Christ portion in the Catechism. I know it’s kind of cheating to include this in my “What I Read” list, but it was a huge portion of the reading I did in March (about 200 pages).
You guys…the Catechism is so rich! (I know I am stating the obvious.) It is not a book meant to collect dust on your shelf. It should be read hand in hand with Scripture! It reads really well from cover to cover, and I highly encourage you to pick it up and start reading it today. Read a few portions a day, or follow a plan to read the whole thing in a year!
“The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters was another sort of assigned reading for me this month. It was picked by my women’s group at Church, and I was excited to participate in this one.
I’ve read most, but not all, of this book before, so I was so glad to finally finish it. It was so good, and so applicable for every day living. It was a great reminder that the devil and his demons are always at work, seeking to distort and twist God’s plan for love and for our lives, and to distract us from our ultimate goal: eternal life with the great Enemy of the devil, Our Lord, and Our God.
“Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton
It’s a bit hard to say which was my favorite read since the year began, but if I had to choose…it would be G.K’s Orthodoxy.
I was listening to one of Bishop Robert Barron’s podcasts on G.K., and he describes Orthodoxy so perfectly. He described it to be the kind of book that is so rich and so sparkly that, like champagne, you just want to sip on it slowly, savoring every delicious taste.
While reading this book, I found myself time and time again placing it on my chest, closing my eyes to really relish all that he had to say. It is a great read, and one which will both inspire and awaken your faith–in God and in the Church.
“Padre Pio: Man of Hope” by Renzo Allegri
This book was one I was really into about a year ago, and for some reason (again, probably my incredibly bad habit) it ended up on my shelf, half read. I still had it bookmarked where I left off, so I picked it back up and read the second half I still had left to read.
So much of the profound beauty of the life of Padre Pio came in his being rooted to deep suffering and pain. Padre Pio endured so much suffering in his life–physically (with the stigmata and his failing health at the end of his life), mentally (with the constant scrutiny and opposition he faced), and spritually (with his frequent battles with the devil)–but it is in and through that suffering that he exemplified his great love for God and hope in His plan for his life.
Reading all the stories written by his personal friends had me wishing I was one of them. He took such loving care of the people he was fond of, and any closeness to him meant being closer to God. What an incredible gift we are given in the lives of the Saints. It is such a blessing to be able to develop and grow in friendship with these people who are already in the company of our Lord. Though I wasn’t one of those blessed to call him a personal friend in this life, I know that I can still grow in friendship with him, and come to him for intercession and prayer. Since he endured such spiritual and physical sufferings, he is a powerful ally to have in this cosmic battle between good and evil that we all face.
“David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell
After reading so many books from the perspective of the faith, I wanted to change things up a bit. My husband Joe read this book a couple of years back and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d give it a go.
I really liked it! The book examined the lives of certain underdogs, misfits, and “nobodies” who ended up accomplishing amazing feats in life. His idea was that those who appeared to have disadvantages, really had many advantages because of the difficulties they had to endure in life. He showed how the difficulties, pain, and suffering lead people to accomplish great things that they otherwise would never have even thought of if they hadn’t been handed a tough load in life. He also described how sometimes, what we think to be advantages in life, often turn out to be the things leading us in the wrong direction. Sometimes it takes someone who offers a different perspective, or shoots from a different angle to make things happen.
Though I thought the book was really good, I couldn’t help but think that something was nonetheless lacking. In all the author’s talk about great “underdogs” and “disadvantaged” players in history, there was no mention of Jesus. No matter if you believe in him or not, it is undeniable that the historical Jesus had a profound effect on Western Civilization. He is one of the greatest examples of someone who defied people’s expectations and challenged the societal norms of his day. And all of that is just the beginning of the impact he had on man throughout history.
Also, while I thought the book was a good read, the idea that great things can be accomplished through weaknesses, suffering, and disadvantages is nothing new. In fact, that is God’s m.o.
It was a good book, but for me, it left something to be desired.
Have you read any of these books? What are you reading right now? What are some of your favorite books?