Review: “The Grace of Yes” by Lisa Hendey is about Answering God’s Action in Our Lives

Review: “The Grace of Yes” by Lisa Hendey is about Answering God’s Action in Our Lives

9781594714726v2.jpg.232xLisa Hendey has a lot to say about the Good Stuff — the sunny side of life — about God, graces, and generous living. Yet it does not come from Thinking Positive or a Pollyanna’s World View. No, this goodness flows from a life of gratitude lived in touch with her core Catholic belief in blessings — the graces that God gives her. And that’s the implicit challenge of the The Grace of Yes… Are you ready to honestly examine God’s divine action in your life — his graces — and respond in a way that he can use you for his glory — his will?

Longtime readers might know Lisa Hendey as the friendly Californian CatholicMom.com founder, an A-list conference speaker, a best-selling author, and a gracious media maven. She always writes with warmth and kindness, and a girl-next-door thoughtfulness. The truth is, when you read The Grace of Yes, you still come away away with that impression. She really is nice and friendly and thoughtful and generous, and yet, in this new book, she is vulnerable enough to let us see what really makes her tick. Long before Hendey became a recognizable face and name in Catholic new evangelization circles, she was a woman who simply chose to take small steps, sometimes haltingly and sometimes boldly, toward God and his goodness.

Lisa Hendey has encountered God’s blessings and gifts, and opened them for herself. They have, in turn, opened her to become a more generous and self-emptying person. She allows her life story to be Exhibit A in showing us what it looks like to be slowly re-created by God’s grace… to give God permission to write the script for our lives.

Everybody has a story about God’s movement in their lives. Yet few of us have the sensitivity to see it and the courage to test and examine it and, then, choose to live it. We’re really good at offering God partial yeses, or maybes, or could-I-get-back-to-you-on-that-God? We may have head knowledge about God, but we fear moving beyond to heart knowledge. One part memoir, and one part a come-and-try-this-for-yourself book of virtues, Hendey shows us where she has found the heart knowledge. She describes the ups and downs and zigzags of her own growth in virtue as an adult, from yuppiedom to motherhood, from web mistress to media missionary, from comfortable suburban dwelling to walking the blood-soaked hills of post-genocide Rwanda.

Hendey’s book offers this keen metaphor from St Augustine: the higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. This rootedness in God — this needed depth — is an on-going thread in Hendey’s writing. Each chapter unpacks how she choose to go deeper with God during the rough and the smooth. The Grace of Yes chronicles where Hendey’s yeses to God have brought her thus far, and it reveals her findings: it is a net gain when we err on the side of generosity. That means giving God priority. This is especially true when it comes to the challenge of doing new things, rather than shrinking back in fear.

The Grace of Yes examines “Eight Virtues for Generous Living”: Belief, Generativity, Creativity, Integrity, Humility, Vulnerabililty, “No”, and Rebirth. Each chapter offers personal reflections in Hendey’s on-going conversion, as well as real life examples from people she knows and people in the news. Thoughtful study questions and prayers at the close of each chapter deepen the book’s message.

Hendey’s thesis for a generous life asks us to be generous with God first, by responding to God’s actions with “Your will, my yes.”

Ultimately, this is the reply that every believer is invited to make — to choose to live a life in God and with God and through God… whether you are a celebrity author on the speaking circuit, or the gal or guy next door. Fortunately, there’s grace in abundance for any heart willing to make that leap of faith.

 

 

 

A Veteran Saint in the Making? Fr Emil Kapaun’s cause for Canonization

I first learned of Fr Emil Kapaun when I gave a retreat to the women who were stationed or whose husbands were stationed at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA.  I got a first class tour of the College’s Memorial chapel by Fr. Gregory D’Emma, a longtime Army Chaplain. He was the first person to share with me the life story and military service of Fr Emil Kapaun, whose cause for canonization is being considered.

Chris Stefanik posted this moving tribute video.

Ignatius Press has a book on Fr Kapuan’s life.

This makes me think… what is my spoken and silent witness saying?

A few generations back, you can understand why many Catholics didn’t see the need to evangelize. They could live their faith in their homes and parishes, and when they walked outside — going to work, or school or the playground — the cultural temperature didn’t feel that much different than it felt inside. For all appearances the gap between the Catholic way of life and the American way of life didn’t look that great.

Today, however, when Catholics walk outside our homes and parishes into the culture at large, we feel the difference. It hits us in the face like a slap of ice-cold wind. The culture has turned toxic, and the gap between how the Church calls us to live and how the culture tells us to live has grown so wide, we can no longer bridge it. 

But while we can’t bridge the gap, we can attempt to close it. That’s what the New Evangelization calls us to do. It calls us to transform not just individuals, but the entire culture, recognizing that just as the de-Christianization of culture led countless men and women away from the Church, so can the re-Christianization of culture lead en and women back to the Church. 

That’s what we’re doing when we share our faith, through both our silent and spoken witness, with the people in our neighborhoods, and communities, schools, and workplaces. We’re transforming culture by introducing the individuals within it to a Person who will transform the very fabric of their lives. We’re welcoming them into a family of believers who will walk with them as they strive to live the life to which God calls them.

That’s something your parish priest can’t do. He can’t bear witness to the guy in your office who has never stepped foot in a Catholic Church. He can’t strike up a conversation at the gym or the coffee shop with the person who stopped going to Mass a decade ago. Your priest’s reach is limited… they can’t go where you can go.

-Scott Hahn-
Evangelizing Catholics, 2014

Among Women 179: Momnipotent! With Danielle Bean

Among Women 179: Momnipotent! With Danielle Bean

danielle_bean

This episode is dedicated to mothers — the physical and spiritual mothers in all of us. We celebrate the coming of Mother’s Day by first exploring the idea of Mary as a mother to us all. Then, in our conversation segment, I welcome author and editor of Catholic Digest, Danielle Bean — one of my favorite people — who discusses her new book and study: Momnipotent! The not-so perfect guide to Catholic Motherhood.  This great new book is for Moms who are busy raising families.

 

Good Friday Meditation: A prayer before the Crucifix, by St Francis de Sales

Good Friday Meditation: A prayer before the Crucifix, by St Francis de Sales

A while back I came across this stunning prayer by St Francis de Sales. It’s a prayer about one’s death, and the grace to die a holy death that leads to union with Christ. It is a perfect prayer,  I thought, for our own meditation before the Cross of Christ on Good Friday.

“O Jesus, agonizing on the Cross, be my model at the hour of death. Although You are the Creator and Restorer of life, You willed to undergo death and accepted it willingly in order to expiate my sins. Death had no claim on You; You are the fountain of life and immortality, in whom and by whom all creatures have life; yet You willed to subject Yourself to death in order to resemble me and to sanctify my death.

“O death, who will henceforth fear you, since the Author of life bears you in His bosom, and without doubt, everything in Him is life-giving. I embrace you, I clasp you in my divine Savior’s heart; there, like a chick under the wing of the mother hen, I shall peacefully await your coming, secure in the knowledge that my most merciful Jesus will sweeten your bitterness and defend me against your rigors.

“O Jesus, from this moment I wish to employ all my powers in accepting all the circumstances and pains of my death; from this moment I desire to accept death in the place, hour, and manner in which it may please You to send it. I know very well that I must suffer and be ground by the teeth of tribulations, sorrows, privations, desolations, and sufferings in order to become bread worthy to serve at Your celestial banquet, O Christ, on the day of the general resurrection. I well know that if the grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it brings forth no fruit; therefore, with all my heart, I accept the annihilation of death in order to become a new man, no longer mortal and corruptible, but immortal and glorious.” (St. Francis de Sales).

This quote is from Divine Intimacy by Fr Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdelen, OCD.

Note: I did try to find this quote within the writings of St Francis de Sales but I could not come up with its original source. I’d be obliged that if you know where the original text is from that you let me know in the comments box or send me an email.

 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for “Small Steps for Catholic Moms” by Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss

Welcome to the Blog Tour for “Small Steps for Catholic Moms” by Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss

Think:
“The proud person is like a grain of wheat thrown into water: it swells, it gets big. Expose that grain to the fire: it dries up, it burns. The humble soul is like a grain of wheat thrown into the earth: it descends, it hides itself, it disappears, it dies; but to revive in heaven.”
 – Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified
Pray:
Pray the Litany of Humility today: Jesus, give me a humble heart like your own. Turn my selfish desires into selfless ones and help me to see your face in everyone I meet.
Act:
What’s the most distasteful job in your house? Cleaning up the dog droppings in the backyard? Scrubbing the gunk from behind the toilet? Sweeping the garage? Whatever it is, do it. While you work, give thanks for the blessings in your life.
 
This is an excerpt from July, which has a theme of “Humility.”

I love these writers! Full of wit and wisdom, this book from Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss displays great wealth of soul that will bless a mother’s 0004675_small_steps_for_catholic_moms_your_daily_call_to_think_pray_and_actheart and give her encouragement for her sacred duties.

WIN A FREE BOOK HERE! I’m thrilled to be giving a book away to a lucky reader! Enter to win by leaving your name and a comment in the combox below. A random drawing will take place at the end of the blog tour at noon EST on October 14th. The winner will contacted by email and announced in the comments box.

Want to know more about the book from Danielle and Elizabeth? I have an archived Among Women interview with the authors here from when the book first came out. (This book was originally released by a press that went out of business. I’m so happy that my publishers – Ave Maria Press – found it worthy to re-issue! This is certainly a keeper! One to pass on to loved ones, for sure!)

Find the complete listing of the blog tour hosts here.

Go over to Catholic Mom and enter the contest to win this book, plus 5 more!

 

UPDATE NOTE: This contest is now closed.

This makes me think… how ‘a new feminism’ called for by Bl. John Paul II is a forerunner to Francis’ call for ‘deeper theology of women’

Almost by definition, the overarching goal of any feminism is to realize — in action, in the world — the dignity of the human person who is female. In Evangelium Vitae, the Pope [John Paul  II] refers to this when he says that feminism acknowledges and affirms “the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society.” The marks of a new feminism, a Christian feminism in service to life, are distinctive, however. Women’s well-being is not pursued in isolation; rather, our well-being, dignity, and freedom are always related to the well-being, dignity, and freedom of others.

As the members of the human race who bear the next generation, who have a special relationship with new life, we must never forget that all freedom is relational. As the Pope states: “You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person.”

Thus, we must bring to every struggle undertaken in the name of a new feminism an acute sense not only of women’s rightful place but of the well-being of others. While wholeheartedly supporting true equality for women in all arenas, we must also attend to the needs of those who are affected by our actions — most especially the needs of children. As relatively powerless people, children merit our special care and concern to ensure that their needs are not trampled upon. New feminism, for example, must honestly confront the moral dilemmas faced by the working mother, something old feminism never adequately addressed. Caught up in a fight to allow children to be “disappeared” by abortion, old feminism could never quite bring itself to grapple with what mothers owe their children.

New feminism must also remember that men are profoundly affected by the path of women’s lives. It never adopts an “in-your-face” attitude but remembers that true freedom for women respects the dignity of males as well. Think of the progress that could be made in respect for women if men were seen always as partners, not adversaries! And every woman with a supportive husband or a father who is sure his daughter can do anything understands what I’m talking about.

A new feminism also remembers that it is a waste of time to rail against objective truths. Trying to be free of our bodies’ reproductive abilities or of the emotional consequences of promiscuity is as futile as trying to be free of gravity.

We need to jump off a building only once to know that we cannot escape the reality of gravity. True freedom with respect to our sexual selves respects our God-given nature to give ourselves sexually only within the lifetime commitment of marriage. Giving ourselves in any other context gives too much away that is never retrieved.

Finally, and most importantly, a new feminism, a Christian feminism, remembers God. How can we fail to understand the dignity with which we’ve been endowed if we remember the One who created us and why. The beauty of the story of women’s creation and the dignity and holiness of Mary and of the other women in Scripture — in the Old and New Testaments — speak volumes about who women were created to be. Throughout the New Testament in particular, Jesus’ respectful encounters with women were as noteworthy in that day as they ought to be in our own. A new feminism must remember that God will never underestimate women’s potential or the gifts we can bring to private and public life. At the same time, it remembers that, like Jesus — the model for humanity — and like all human beings, we are created to serve others. Such a feminism will leave no victims in its wake. When we embrace a feminism that remembers God, we will reject abortion, we will not taunt men, we will not abandon our families.

-Helen Alvare-

A 1997 piece. “A New Feminism” from Liquori, found online elsewhere.

4 Magazines for Women: Verily, Regina, Catholic Digest, and Radiant

4 Magazines for Women: Verily, Regina, Catholic Digest, and Radiant

Sara Kerens, Verily Magazine, First Date shoot, March 2013Tonight at 8pm Eastern, Verily Magazine is having a Twitter Party, according to their Facebook post celebrating their debut print edition. (Find it on Twitter: @verilymag, #VerilyParty)

I’ve been watching the growth of Verily, from an online dream to an in-print magazine over the past year, and I’m very happy to see it’s growth, and its beautiful sense of style and beauty that respects both the dignity and the intelligence of women. Their first print issue debuts now, and its cover is on the left. (Yeah, you bet, I’m subscribing, and getting one for my twenty-something daughter.)

Here’s the purpose and principles guiding Verily:

It is no secret that women today are more educated, influential, and affluent than ever before. Yet we report record levels of anxiety and decreased happiness. Is this what we were striving for?

In a world that seems to offer us limitless choices, somehow the modern narrative about women – what we should look like, how we should date, how to be successful, what should make us happy – can ring hollow. So Verily is starting a new conversation – one for those who want a fresh take on life; an honest message that relates to their experiences which is uplifting, affirming, and true.

STYLE

All women desire to be beautiful and alluring. Fashion can serve as an expression of that desire or it has the ability to betray a woman’s true worth. Verily will showcase current fashion trends – from street style to runway – for truly inspirational, wearable looks that complement women and enhance their dignity rather than compromise it.

RELATIONSHIPS

Women have made great strides in achieving educational and career advancement. Yet in their personal lives, many young women still face confusion as they navigate their relationships with friends, colleagues, family members, or romantic interests. Verily will combine empirical research, real stories, and a best-friend mentality for a holistic and positive vision of relationships to which women can aspire.

LIFESTYLE

From being effective at the office to making a house a home, running a marathon, or giving back to the community, what a woman does in her day-to-day life contributes deeply to her sense of who she is. Verily will offer fun, thoughtful articles to inform and inspire the woman who desires to set her own agenda for personal success without shunning her uniquely feminine gifts in order to get there.

CULTURE

No one is an island unto themselves – we are all engaged in the world and participate in shaping the culture. Verily will provide distinctive essays, reports, and profile pieces that highlight empowering stories of real women in the world. With attention to good writing and bold investigating, this section will feature articles on today’s most important issues.

-From Verily’s “about us” page-

 Subscribe to Verily.

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Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 11.55.18 AMHere’s another new magazine that has a growing readership, Regina. This magazine seems to have a more global approach, with stories that come from around the world, it is offered for free, so its production budget is different, but there’s good content on its pages.

Here’s some Q and A with the magazine’s editor, Beverly De Soto:

Q. What made you start REGINA?

A. Basically, I see so many GREAT Catholic real-life stories that are ignored by the media (both secular and religious, sad to say) that I just HAD to. It is unutterably sad. Many Catholics don’t know their religion OR their culture anymore.

Q. What is ‘Catholic’ culture?

A. That is a fascinating question. Fundamentally, since the Church is the foundation of Western culture, everything we think of as being ‘civilized’ ultimately derives from the Church.  What is called “Western” culture is actually based in the Church, which fused the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures and the accomplishments of Greece and Rome, then re-interpreted all of this through the lens of the Faith. Everything – the rule of law, science, technology, the very CONCEPT of a university – derives from the Church.

Q. How is Catholic culture passed on?

A. Through families, primarily women.  Through what is taught – or NOT taught – in a Christian home. Traditions, mores, values – a Catholic family passes these things down as easily as breathing.  However, today the twin threats of materialism and relativism have severely eroded both women’s security and our culture.

The result is what we see today – a landscape littered with broken families and Catholics who are really lost. It feels like a kind of widespread spiritual starvation.

Q. What is the significance of the name, “REGINA”?

A. LOL, well “REGINA” means “QUEEN” in Italian and I thought that ANY Catholic would recognize who THAT Is – Mary, the Queen of Heaven, of course. And one thing is for SURE — we need HER help with this project! This is why we have dedicated Regina to her.

Q. Who are REGINA’s readers?

A. Regina is mainly aimed at women, though about 20% of our subscribers are men. These are people who consider themselves to be serious Catholics, about half of whom attend the TLM (the Extraordinary Rite). There are many who have NEVER attended a TLM, however – whether because it is not available near them or simply because they have never been exposed to the beauty of this Mass.

Q. What is REGINA all about?

A. As you will note from the Winter and Spring issues, we are aiming for the center of Catholicism and seeking to evangelize with beauty, taking as our starting point the topics women care about — ie how to live a beautiful life. We cover Catholic culture in each article, in a humorous, interesting and non-confrontational way. So many in the West have never really been educated or exposed to the true beauty of a ‘Catholic’ lifestyle that we need to go slow, and show them the beauty.

Q. Why is REGINA covering fashion?

A. Fashion is a sore point in the culture, as it has become increasing coarse. TV shows and so-called ‘women’s magazines’  feature actresses and models wearing low-cut or very tight clothing, as well as hair styles and tattoos designed to garner as much (positive or negative) attention as possible.

This hunger for attention is more evidence of what I call ‘spiritual starvation,’ and women imitate these negative role models in daily life – in offices, for example. This results in all kinds of bad situations, including ill feeling among spouses, friends, co-workers and customers.

Years ago the Catholic culture was strong enough to blunt the impact, but now women take their cues from the media.  For them it’s a business — it is all about selling cheap sex, let’s face it. It’s a downward spiral, too, as girls spend money they don’t have on more and more provocative clothing, which brings diminishing returns in terms of male attention and respect.

Regina covers fashion from a classic point of view. The Faith has always known that women’s beauty is a great good, to be prized, not abused. St Thomas Aquinas even wrote about this, from a moral point of view. Fashion is also a great art, and a global industry and it is important, therefore, to cover.

Q. Why is REGINA covering food?

A. Food — what you eat, where you eat, if you cook – has also become politicized. Regina covers food because the Christian table is the core of Catholic families and friends – our table culture, if you will. This has long been known in Europe, but America’s ‘fast food lifestyle’ has all but killed this – taking our health with it

Q. How is REGINA doing?

A. Well, I must say that Our Lady is an EXCELLENT patroness! Regina is growing exponentially, thanks to the help of some committed Catholics like my husband Harry Stevens and our webmaster Jim Bryant. Our readership list has grown 500% since our first issue, which was first emailed as an attachment Feb 14. The Facebook page now reaches 30,000 people per week and we are publishing in German and Spanish too.

Q. Any plans to charge for REGINA?

A. No. Regina is free and always will be.

Q. Plans for the next few issues?

A. I’m SO glad you asked! The Summer issue of REGINA will focus on Catholic England and the Autumn issue is all about Catholic America!

-From Regina’s “our story” page-

Subscribe to Regina.

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photoLongtime readers of mine will know that I’m a contributor to Catholic Digest magazine, and I’ve profiled it in a recent blog post. Catholic Digest, though not specifically aimed at women alone, editor-in-chief Danielle Bean has brought the magazine to a new era where it’s content is concerned. She has also worked to make the magazine  beautifully displayed. The most recent cover is at left.

Subscribe to Catholic Digest.

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Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 12.30.42 PMFor  younger women and teens, you can’t go wrong with Radiant magazine. Targeted for 15-25, this is a great magazine with short to-the-heart articles and resources for young Catholics. A few years back, as Radiant was launching, I interviewed editor and founder, Rose Rea on Among Women. I’ve been pleased to see this magazine distributed at Catholic events too!

Subscribe to Radiant. 

On writing, keeping God first, and Elizabeth Scalia’s new book: Strange Gods

On writing, keeping God first, and Elizabeth Scalia’s new book: Strange Gods

There’s a simple line from the Book of Wisdom, that comes from Solomon’s prayer for wisdom…

“For both we and our words are in his Hand.” (Wisdom 7:16 rsv)

One of the things I love about God is that He is a Creator, and very much, a writer. The Bible is his book. He wrote laws, prose, prophecy, and poetry. And He gets writers. And he is pleased when writers words inspire and point to him. He not only chose to use human writers to pass on his divine revelation when He breathed his life into the Scriptures, but he shares his divine life still today — in the Spirit — for “in him, we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). This doesn’t mean that what we modern Catholic writers are writing is scripture, but if we are writing anything worthwhile, it had better be based on the truths of scripture.

As a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, and as a writer at many Catholic websites and periodicals, I’ve been blessed to meet several writers who strive to be agents of the new evangelization, to write, as it were, in a certain sense, for God, and for making his words and his ways better known throughout the earth in whatever genre or media we may be using. As a spiritual and writing practice  each day, as we take up our pens and keyboards, I suggest it would be good for us to recognize this simple truth from Solomon, one of the great biblical writers, that both we, and our words are in God’s hands. That God is, really, our all in all. And we should let nothing, nothing, get between God and us.

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Elizabeth Scalia is a writer I’ve long admired. Her posts at The Anchoress, Our Sunday Visitor, and her weekly column on Tuesdays at First Things, have been staples in my weekly reading for several years.

In recent years, when I’ve been asked to give talks to new media newbies for the Catholic Writers Guild, and elsewhere, The Anchoress’s blog would be one of the few that I would cite for new would-be bloggers as one of the premier blogs that we might all hope to emulate. Good writing. Crisp analysis. Witty. Engaging. And more good writing.Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 11.02.57 PM

One summer day in 2010, when I was giving that same new media talk to a gathering of Catholic writers in New York, much to my surprise, Elizabeth Scalia was in the audience. We had never met before, and we later struck up a little conversation after her very constructive comments were given from the floor to the group in an open Q&A. I believe the subject matter at that moment was that I was exhorting future and present writers to be of service to one another — to help form a community for the cause of Christ, and to view one another with charity, not as competition within the same media, but as potential allies and friends, where friendly “iron sharpening iron” could take place without tearing down the other, knowing that we are called to call each other forward in this great endeavor. In this way, we’d foster the new evangelization by first being evangelized ourselves by the law of love… remembering that we and our words are in His hand.

photo_3

Elizabeth Scalia and me, Catholic New Media Conference, 2012.

In the three years since that day, I can say that I truly have been a personal recipient of that kind of generosity of spirit in the blog space that is offered by The Anchoress. Plus, I’m privileged to serve as one of the column writers at Patheos and grateful for my piece of real estate over there that came after Elizabeth asked me to write a short piece for Patheos after our first meeting back in 2010. From there came Elizabeth’s first guest appearance on Among Women, and a whole lot more that I never really expected. Yet like her surprise appearance in my audience that summer afternoon, she has remained someone that has contributed a great deal to the conversation that is my life, both as a writer, and in person, including her kind endorsement and support of my book, and now it is my happy thrill to share a publisher with her in Ave Maria Press.

Elizabeth wrote one heck of book in Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life. There are amazing people who have endorsed it. Frankly, it would be easy for me to say, just go read it and be done. I’ve reviewed it over at the Patheos Book Club, let me tell you why you need to read this: This woman’s words are in God’s hands. This book is one very thought-provoking meditation on just one line from Sacred Scripture… the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God… You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20: 2-3 rsv) Yep, that’s it. That’s the text and thesis of the whole book. And its one we need to recall and bring to mind, and contemplate in a daily way, because for many of us the words in that commandment have grown dull. Or maybe, we’ve never really given them much thought at all.

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Here’s part of my review of Strange Gods at Patheos…

The Ten Commandments first declare, “I am the LORD your God… You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20: 2-3 rsv). And yet, we do. This thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life, exposes to our chagrin, yet ultimately to our benefit, that this premiere command of the Decalogue cannot be overlooked if we are to ever dare to live the other nine. Armed with faith in the graces that that sustain us in our failures, plus witty sensibilities regarding the nature of fortitude and wisdom, author and blogger extraordinaireElizabeth Scalia, offers us mortals in search of grace, a thorough reality check:

“We dismiss the golden calf story and its lessons at our peril. It’s true we are no longer literally flinging our precious metals into a crucible and buffing up stolid beasts of burden to worship. In some ways matters are worse, for we do not know the idols we bow down to. Our present-day idols are much less obvious, but they are also less distant and more ingrained within us. Idols begin with ideas. From there we shape them in the psyche, grow them in the ego, and then engage with them intimately, throughout our lives, in our families, our culture, our entertainments, and our political discourse. We create idols out of our norms of behavior, our material possessions, and social status. We even create them out of our faith.”

Who among us has not bowed down to something we have really wanted?  Or maybe we’ve used different language for it — we might be flinging ourselves toward someone or something, or actively achieving something that consumes us — even the seemingly good things in life? Or what about all the trophies we line up for ourselves — the way we make plans, use time, or even play or work with technology? Whatever captivates or demands our attention has the distinct potential to become an idol standing between the verity that is our true life with God — an encounter we may miss, delay, or betray in favor of our strange gods. Ouch! Do you really what to read this book? Yes and yes.

1-59471-342-1Yes, open this book, and prepare to feel, perhaps momentarily, panicked that all of your life is an unexposed idol minefield, fraught with spiritual missteps that you can never avoid. But, YES, take courage! Like an experienced special ops mission commander unlocking the mysteries of night vision goggles and other tactics to detect the presence of The Enemy at close range, Scalia teaches plebes and veterans alike how to see more clearly so they can wisely navigate the previously unseen dangers of modern idolatry.

A particular strength of this book, and why it will be successful in furthering the new evangelization, is that Scalia offers a self-effacing demeanor and candor in describing her own idol worship. But more than that, Scalia affirms, ultimately, that Christianity as a yes — at its heart is a benevolent and loving God Who really is worthy of all attempts at idol smashing.

The rest is here.

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Among Women listeners can look forward to a guest appearance from Elizabeth Scalia, coming in June.

 

A review of: Real Men Pray the Rosary — A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer

A review of: Real Men Pray the Rosary — A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer

1-59471-376-6Just as it is helpful for women to talk to women now and again regarding the spiritual life, the same holds true for men! David N. Calvillo’s book, Real Men Pray the Rosary: A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer, is a forthright conversation with men (and us women who sneak a peek) about his own surprise and subsequent delight in discovering the Rosary, otherwise known as a prayer he had almost mistakenly written off as “for old ladies and funerals.”

What comes across in Calvillo’s writing is a likeable, honest, work-in-progress kind of guy who admits his former bias, and now moves ahead with Spirit-filled enthusiasm for the power –capable of doing some heavy lifting when it comes to life’s problems — that comes from prayer, especially the Rosary. Admittedly transformed by his faith, this husband, father, and lawyer by trade, offers deep reverence and appreciation for what he was missing… a real life-changing encounter with Christ. He found it, of all places, sitting in the early morning mist, surrounded by 80 men praying a Rosary outside a Benedictine retreat house…

I wept at the reality of eighty rough-looking men from all walks of life, humbly and sincerely raising their hearts and minds to God… I felt a prayerful happiness, a warm comforting presence.

As weird as it sounds… I felt as though I was praying with everyone who had ever prayed the Rosary. I felt my grandmother Vera praying with me. I felt my mom. I felt the hearts of those eighty men. I felt like I was praying with and to Jesus himself…”

After a healing encounter with Christ on retreat, Calvillo confesses, “The Rosary was the path vividly open for me… and my mom’s previous lessons that I had previously ignored were now front and center.”

The rest of the book is an accessible how-to for Rosary beginners and novices alike, with an unpacking of Rosary’s wisdom gleaned from the Scriptures, the many popes and saints who’ve written extensively about the Rosary through history, and real-life stories of contemporary men who’ve inspired Calvillo’s on-going conversion and his subsequent apostolate from which the book draws its name, Real Men Pray the Rosary (RMPTR).

I enjoyed Calvillo’s personal narration of what’s inspired him as he encountered these truths about the Rosary, especially the idea that prayer is a dialogue with God, not a monologue, or a “saying” of prayers, but a true entering into them. He captures, also, what has been my longtime experience of the Rosary, that within that prayer is a Mother who wishes to draw us closer to Jesus, like a personal spiritual director or mentor.

The Rosary has a body and a soul. The body of the Rosary is composed of the prayers. Some of those prayers are prayed in groups of ten, called a “decade”. The Rosary invites us to contemplate twenty important points in the life and teachings of Jesus and his mother, Mary. These points make up the Rosary’s soul and are referred to as the Rosary Mysteries. As we pray the Mysteries, we contemplate how the biblical messages apply to our daily lives — therein lies the Rosary’s transformative power…

Pope Leo XIII had described the familiarity of those prayers… over a hundred years ago: “The Rosary… floods the should of those who recite it devoutly with an ever new sweetness of piety, giving them the impression and emotion as if they were hearing the very voice of their most merciful Mother explaining these mysteries to them, and conversing with them at length for their salvation…”

The familiarity evolves into an intimate dialogue with our Blessed Mother. Thus, when one is in the midst of deep prayer in the Rosary, Mary becomes spiritually present to meet us and lead us by the hand through each of those important points of meditation know as the Mysteries. When we pray the Rosary, we are permitted to live those mysteries through her eyes, through her perspective. That is the beauty of the Rosary: to understand and live those twenty salient points in the life and teachings of Jesus and Mary, with Mary’s familiar voice narrating the way.

Besides chapters covering the basics for learning the Rosary, and how a man might meditate on its Mysteries, at the end of each chapter the book offers a  “Tool Box” with practical suggestions for making it all real.

Calvillo offers this advice: “Real men pray for women” and he even hands a chapter over to his wife, Valerie, for insights from a feminine perspective on the being married to a man who prays the Rosary, and ways to encourage other husbands to take up this practice. Valerie Calvillo’s advice is for women to embrace the Rosary, too, and develop Mary’s virtues in their lives.

I have seen firsthand that when women live Mary’s virtues, real men respond. Women can live Mary’s virtues by meeting chauvinism with ardent charity and by meeting intransigence with heroic patience. We can do it by meeting materialism with unceasing prayer and by meeting selfishness with constant self-denial. In short, when we meet our own shortcomings and those of the men in our lives by being a living Mary to them, they will respond, “Ave Maria.”

Like an encouraging personal trainer who wants to pump up one’s spiritual muscles, David Calvillo issues men a challenge to take the Rosary on for 33 days. If after 33 days a man still remains unconvinced of the Rosary’s efficacy and power, David extends a personal offer for a man to get in touch with him through his ministry, Real Men Pray the Rosary.

This is a book I can highly recommend. Give it as a gift for the men in your life, or buy some copies for your parish priests to share with the men in the parish.