Book Review


Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick {Book Review} 2

While I’m still working on my movie update post (We watched too many last year), here’s a book review to keep my blog from completely falling into the dark internet abyss.

I asked my friend, Joel – father of 4 and an amazing Catholic elementary school teacher, if he’d like to read and review this book and so here it is! Thanks, Joel, for sharing!

Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick 

by  Marc Cardaronella

Parenting is hard. One of my good friends has an expression whenever we are commiserating about each other’s children and their idiosyncrasies: “They don’t come with owners manuals.” Navigating the minefields of raising a kid in the digital age is a daunting task. There is no roadmap because we’re all forging new paths in the here and now. Most of us are winging it. We’ve slinged together a game plan based off what our parents did that worked and what our parents did that didn’t work. Maybe we’re lucky enough to have some older siblings that we can learn from their parenting mistakes and triumphs. Hopefully, we’re plugged into a network of friends that can lend encouragement and advice.

But the reality is, many parents feel very alone and unsure of what exactly they are doing.  A lot of good parenting tools have gotten lost in the mix and not passed down between generations. This is especially true when we talk about passing on the faith. After all, for their parents, faith was such a private thing. It just wasn’t discussed. And that has left our generation of parents unsure of how exactly to pray with our kids, let alone how to help them develop a personal relationship with Christ.

Enter this book, Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick by  Marc Cardaronella, which the amazing Erika from over at Simplemama put into my hands and asked me to do a review for.  It is a quick, easy read that confirms many of the hunches you’ve already been feeling, puts forward reflections that open your eyes in new ways, and offers specific steps you can take to strengthen your family. I often find parenting advice books obvious or sanctimonious, but Cardaronella’s writing is relatable and beneficial.

One of my favorite points of the book was discussing how important it is for parents to articulate the faith. This is also really helpful advice for teachers. Cardaronella starts by describing Bl. John Henry Newman’s approach.
“Newman didn’t just give knowledge; he gave himself…When he discussed a topic, he not only gave the doctrinal understanding of the subject, he also gave the background of how he came to believe it. Most students will accept a doctrine as true because the Church teaches it. However, they’ll allow it to become part of their lives only if an instructor pulls back the curtain to expose personal convictions and motivations.

When Newman discussed a topic, he not only gave the doctrinal understanding of the subject, he also gave the background of how he came to understand it and why he believed it…Cardinal Newman’s cure was to transform the notional into the real-to engage the spectator, bring him or her off the sidelines of intellectual passivity, and impart an awareness of the intersection between life and religious truth. For him, the crucial question is not how is it true, but how is it true for you? How does it affect your life and what does it mean for your particular situation?”

The author’s tips to parents on how you can begin to articulate the faith to your kids:

Tell them why you believe something, why you didn’t use to believe but now you do, how your thinking evolved, what the turning point was, or why you think it’s important.

Cardaronella also offers a really good reflection on the Parable of the Sower. This was probably my favorite part of the book. He says it’s not really a parable about the seed, it’s all about the soil, and then leads us through a reflection of the soil in our home. To paraphrase these chapters: Break open the hard ground. Deepen your roots. Clear away the thorns. Till your fertile ground. You can improve the soil! Some of the seeds bear fruit, thirty, and sixty, and a hundredfold. If it’s all good soil, why doesn’t it have the same yield? Clearly some patches of soil are more fertile than others. How can you tend to your fertile soil to improve it even more?
Another great quote: “Of all the thorns, probably the most dangerous are the never-ending lists of activities and interests that capture our hearts. Religion is just one player in the tightly contested battle for time, attention, and energy. Usually religion loses. By far the biggest offender is sports. Let’s be honest, though; the responsibility for these thorns doesn’t rest with kids. Parents are the ones prioritizing sports and other activities over Mass, religious education, and devotional practices. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t be active, but time is a precious commodity. You have to weed your children’s schedule to allow space for God.”

These were just some of the quotes that I didn’t want to forget. I really liked this book and I think it could open up some great discussion among parents united in the trenches.

 

Thanks again, Joel, for reading and sharing your review of Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick by  Marc Cardaronella.

I enjoyed chatting with Marc Cardaronella on a CatholicMom.com CM Hangout and I encourage everyone to check out his book!

(Amazon Affiliate links included in this post, Amazon sends me a wee little thank you for purchases made via these links. )


Catching Up – Books I’ve Read, Reading, Hope to Read… 1

Well, hello.

It’s been a while, I know.

I’d like to blog again but it’s hard to know where to start after such a long hiatus. So I’ll start with books, since it’s easier, right now for me, to write about what others have written than to formulate words of my own.

I wish I could put together a Top 10 Books I read in 2016 like I’ve done in years past. Honestly, 2016 hardly exists in my mind, it’s too difficult to remember much from it.  I normally love reading but my mind’s been so foggy, I find it difficult to get through one page of a book before zoning out.

So I’ll just do my best to remember what I did read, what I’ve been trying to read, and what I’m hoping to start reading soon.

What I Did Read

Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin

This was the only fictional work I read last year, sometime in February, after a friend’s enthusiastic recommendation. It feels like a dream now, my mind was still shocked and numb from my father’s unexpected passing just a couple months before that. I will say that I did really, really like this book. It was exactly what I needed at the time. Yet, I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone. It takes place in old Russia and, though written and published in our own modern time (2012), it maintains an ancient air, as if it was written centuries ago, hidden in a deep Russian forest, and only recently rediscovered.  Similar to Kirstin LavransdattarLaurus is an epic portrayal of human frailty, constant seeking and the great pilgrimage that is life.

101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do by Betsey Kerekes and Jennifer Roback Morse.

After reading and reviewing 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage: Simple Ways for Couples to Grow Closer to God and to Each Other , Betsey emailed me last Fall and asked if I’d like to read their newest book, 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person. I really enjoyed the layout from their first book with a very short one-page reflection for each tip, it was very easy to read and the tips were simple and easily applicable. After reading through this new one, providing 101 tips for those who aren’t married yet, I enjoyed it just as well for the same reasons as their first.

Obviously I’m married already and don’t have to worry about dating anymore (thank goodness!), I still found the tips very interesting and helpful. I lent it to a single friend who said that while she’s not really ready for a book like this quite yet as she’s not seriously dating anyone right now, she still enjoyed the ease of reading the tips and could tell it could be useful to someone in a more serious relationship.

I’d recommend this book as a gift for a single friend or family member – as long as they are open to it!

Still Reading…

Marry Him and Be Submissive by Costanza Miriano T

My friends at Tan Publishing reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in checking this one out. I have to admit, the title itself is quite provocative and I can see why there’d be a wee bit of controversy over it. Apparently it has caused quite a stir in Italy where Costanza lives so my curiosity won out and I said I’d give it a go.  I’ll report back soon.

Fearless: Conquer Your Demons and Love with Abandon by Sonja Corbitt

One day I went to the mailbox and there was a package with this beautiful book smiling up at me. Ave Maria Press knows what I like and I’m happy to get a chance to share another of Sonja’s books. If you have heard of or read Sonja’s book, Unleashed: How to Receive Everything the Holy Spirit Wants to Give You, you know Fearless is another outpouring of Sonya’s Spirit-filled love for Christ and His Beloved – YOU. In Fearless, Sonja invites readers to lay out their fears and doubts that pose an obstacles to their spiritual relationship with God and the people around them. With this book, Sonja provides a guide to Catholic Woman to help us overcome our spiritual fears and live a life full of love and joy and trust

33 Days to Merciful Love: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy

Speaking of Trust, I just got this book and my husband and I are going to try and work our way through it togethers. We read/prayed Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory together and we have done several Marian “To Jesus Through Mary” consecrations over the years so I’ve been looking for something that focuses specifically on a consecration to Jesus directly. I thought about trying his Consoling the Heart of Jesus but this Merciful Love seems simpler and hopefully a little easier for us both to get through together.

And I’ll add another plug for The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections our CatholicMom.com book.  

Now just because I’m one of the published authors doesn’t mean I have a bias, I really am enjoying this book! I try to sit and read the day’s reflection in the morning or whenever I can sneak in a quiet moment. The reflections are always so applicable to my own life and struggles and they provide much encouragement and guidance for personal reflection. 

Going to Read:

Station to Station: An Ignatian Journey through the Stations of the Cross by Gary Jansen

The great people at Loyola Press reached out last fall and asked if I’d like to read and review this. Christmas is still lingering but Lent will begin soon and I’m looking forward to reading this as a Lenten reflection.

Counting by 7’s

And, because one can only read so many spiritual and religious books, I needed to throw in a good fiction read for good measure. My daughter, 7th grade, read this and really, really likes it. I think I started it a while back and now I hope to finish it.

It’s fun that we both get to read the same books now that she’s getting older. At the same time, the world of Young Adult literature can be a scary place but it gives me a good excuse to read books along with her and then we can talk about it together.

Well, that’s my life-in-books update for now. I’m working on a Movie update next! I know at least one person who’ll be excited about that. 🙂

 


Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion #Book Review

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

I visited and ate at the delicious Homegirl Cafe when on my “pilgrimage” with my brother in LA back in February and was immediately intrigued and impressed. I finally had the chance to read Fr. Boyle’s book, Tattoos on the Heart, a couple months ago.

I had no idea how much I would get out of this book and was blown away by his profound reflections on God, Love, and the Greatest Commandment:

“Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus (John 13:34)

Fr. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, a rehabilitation program for gang members.  You can read more of Fr. Boyle’s history here.  Long-story short, this guy knows everything there is to know about gangs – or at least he knows the important inside-out side of things better than anyone, aside from maybe the gang members themselves.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the book. I would say it was nothing like I expected yet so much of what I yearn for.  Like Fr. Boyle explains in the book, it’s not exactly a memoir, nor a history of Homeboy Industries per say, it’s a…song…a dance!…a beautiful piece of art hanging on the wall expressing all the ugliness and all the good  that makes our world so immensely and paradoxically beautiful. 

For many people, hearing about or seeing the terrible tragedy of gang violence is enough to send anyone running, hiding, or shaking their heads and think, “What a shame,” and then move on to whatever they were doing in the comfort and safety of their own lives.

I, admittedly, know very little of the history of the gang violence in LA and throughout our country but, from what I got from the book, it’s been bad. Real bad.  And Fr. Boyle was “stationed” right in the very heart of it all.

He thought he was sent there to bring Christ’s love to the people there but ended up learning about the true deep-down essence of Love not in spite of the gang members but because of them.

You know, most people, when they think of gang members or criminals, they easily cast them off as only that – criminals and “no good” people of society. The world doesn’t even see them as humans anymore – only monsters who have lost their souls without any chance for redemption. Once a gang member, always a gang member.

And I’m no better. I’ll admit if I found myself in the heart of LA’s “gang district”, I’d feel terrified.  I’ve been taught to “love everyone”, but it would be hard to look into a gang member’s eyes and look past the tattoos and threatening demeanor and not immediately assume the worst of that person or what he or she might do to me.

It’s so hard to see past the thick wall of our natural inclinations of self-preservation and prejudices.

I truly want to…I just don’t want to put my life,  or my family’s, in danger because of it.

But that’s exactly what Fr. Boyle did.

With Tattoos on the Heart, Fr. Boyle invites us to turn and look. Look beyond the scary. Look beyond the actions or “records”. Look beyond the outsides of people and see. See the person for WHO that person is. Not what they’ve done, not how they act, talk, or what they wear, who they associate with, their gender, age, demographics or ethnic appearance and really and truly look at who that person is, to his or her very core. 

And then, love that person.

You stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.

That said, this book isn’t only about how to take Jesus’ Great Commandment to “love one another” to the ghetto or prisons. It’s a profound theology of love: God explains Love and Love explains God. 

[Leon Dufour said], “I have written so many books on God, but after all that, what do I really know? I think, in the end, God is the person you’re talking to, the one right in front of you.”

Reading this book came to me in a time of my spiritual life where I often feel like I have never desired God with such an intensity as I do now while, at the same time, with such a frustrating inability to reach Him and feel Him.

Tattoos on the Heart showed me the intimate  and subtle ways God works on the hearts of the wounded and showed me I need to allow myself to “marinate” in the Love of God, in His Mercy, in His quiet and healing presence. 

Tattoos on the heart page excerpt

Other quotes I jotted down from the book worthy of “marinating” in for a while:

Thomas Merton – “We discover our true selves in love.”

Thomas Merton –  “No despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there…We are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.”

Thich Nhatt Hahn, “our true home is the present moment…”

“[Bill Cain said] – ‘Living within the withinness of God.’ This is the intimate union and full promise of kinship that is being offered to us every second.

Breathe it in, breathe it out. The Lord is everything I want. A yes that means yes… Isaiah has God say: ‘Be glad forever and rejoice in what I create… for I create my people to be a delight.’… delighting is what occupies God, and God’s hope is that we join in. That God’s joy may be in us and this joy may be complete. We just happen to be God’s joy. That takes some getting used to.

Chew on that for a while:

YOU are God’s Joy!


The Memory Keeper’s Daughter #BookReview

Simplemama Book Review Video

Time to catch up on some book reviews. First up,

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter: A Novel

I read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter this summer while on our summer vacation. 

I liked it well enough, it was a good fiction fix and light vacation reading companion. I think it could have been MUCH better, it started out with great potential but it didn’t quite live up to my hopes I had when I picked it up and started reading. Then again, I may be a little spoiled after reading novels like Hannah Coulter and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

That said, despite how much it lacked (and it was a lot!) there are three main themes in the novel that deserve closer reflection and helped me appreciate the book more:

Grief (especially unresolved).

The destructive effect of unreconciled guilt.

The subject of our society’s history with people with Disabilities and Differences.

First, the various experiences with the trauma of grief woven through each character was something I could definitely relate to. I’m not sure if I would have liked this book, or at least understood it, as well if I hadn’t recently experienced a close personal grief of my own.

I think the author really did a good job demonstrating how powerful grief is and how, when it goes unresolved, it can cause so much more pain. Characteristic to that time period, each character held their grief in instead of talking about it together or seeking outside help and, instead, they looked for “escape” from their grief instead of mutual consolation with those closest to them. This of course led each character on a path of destruction and pain and not healing and joy.

Then there’s the Guilt. This is a somewhat taboo word in this current time as the popular trend is to “do what makes you happy” and not feel bad about it. But, with Dr. Henry’s one pivotal choice, we see how much one choice, kept a secret, can affect one’s life and the relationships so irreversibly. Guilt, gone unreconciled, can grow like a thorny bush, blocking out all the joy and good of life from yourself and those around you.

Lastly, I was intrigued with how the author demonstrated how people’s perspective of those with unique needs and disabilities has evolved over the years starting with the idea in the 1900’s into the later 60’s and even 70’s that “people like that” had to be “institutionalized” or even gotten rid of altogether – an idea that still lingers even into our own modern culture.

So, while the book didn’t live up to my hopes and maybe could have been developed differently I still enjoyed it for the important thought-provoking themes that will probably mill about in my mind for a while.

Have you read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter?

What did you think and why?


A Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion Book #Giveaway! 3

Do you ever wish you had a little friend who’d sit on your shoulder and whisper words of affirmation, encouragement and hope into your ears throughout your days as a mother? Or maybe you’d like to spend more time in prayer but don’t know how or where to start? Maybe it’s hard to carve out too much time in the day for anything too long?

I’ve got just the book for you!

CM Prayer companion book cover

The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, A Book of Daily Reflections is the perfect bite-size daily portion of reflection, prayer, and something to ponder on and nourish you throughout the day. Not too long, not too short, just enough to plant seeds of thought and prompt the soul to go deeper.

Whether it be a few minutes before everyone wakes up in the morning or before going to bed, during a short afternoon break, or while I sit in the van at school pick-up time, I’ve enjoyed all the reflections and I look forward to reading the next day’s.

I’ve been part of the CatholicMom.com community of writers since 2010 (I think?) and it’s been so fun to see how we’ve grown over these years. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve always dreamed of becoming a real true published author so even though I only contributed 4 daily reflections for the year (hence the 1.10% published author stat) I feel humbled and grateful to be a part of this book with so many other great authors and Catholic moms (and dads!).

I’ve read every day’s reflection so far since I received my book and am amazed at how the Holy Spirit works – every day, the reflection is about something I’m either currently struggling with or have been silently mulling over for some time.

Jeff Young (aka, ) reminded me that suffering with Christ is a whole lot better than trying to suffer alone without Christ.

Chaunie Marie Brusie (blogger and author of Tiny Blue Lines) challenged me to humble myself and accept my husband’s help instead of trying to do all and be all to everyone all.the.time.

Susan Bailey and Deanna Bartalini called me out and got me to stop focusing so much on my weaknesses and failures as a mom and wife and instead love myself and allow God and my husband and children to love me for my strengths.

I need this. I need these daily reminders that cheer me on and tell me –

“You’re doing a good job! Stay positive!”

I know motherhood is hard and your kids are driving you crazy and you feel like an awful ugly mother today but, truly, you love your family, they love you, and because of this you are a beautiful and GOOD mom. You CAN do this! 

I hope this book can become your “little friend” on your shoulder (as creepy as that actually sounds) cheering you on throughout your days and challenging you to go deeper, better, stronger as a mother and in your prayer life.

I’m excited to work with Ave Maria Press to offer a GIVEAWAY of one The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, A Book of Daily Reflections to one blessed mom!!

You can order a book for you and then, if you win, give it to a friend! As an author, you can purchase the book with me for a 10% discount, just fill out this form or email me through my “Let’s Connect” page.

Blah, blah, blah, now for the Giveaway part!

To enter for a chance to win one The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, A Book of Daily Reflections, simply enter this Rafflecopter Giveaway form below! (Update:  I added “Follow me on Instragram” as an entry, too.”

CM Prayer companion image

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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