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Book review: 'Holy Desperation: Praying As If Your Life Depended on It'

“Holy Desperation: Praying As If Your Life Depended on It.” By Heather King.  Chicago: Loyola Press, 2017. 224 pages. Paperback: $10.84; Kindle: $9.99; Nook:  $10.49.
Like Heather King’s previous books, the most accurate word to describe this one is “honest” – sometimes brutally so. However, it is that very quality that makes “Holy Desperation: Praying As If Your Life Depended on It” so powerful. It is the honesty of a soul who has gone about as far down into the abyss as one can go, only to be overwhelmed and lifted out of those depths by the unconditional love of a forgiving God. Such an experience leaves a person changed forever.
As I read through the 13 chapters of this book, I thought how much the tone of King’s words echoed those of St. Paul, for it is obvious that she too is on fire with the love of God. By telling her story – without pulling any punches -- “Holy Desperation” ultimately becomes a book of hope for those who thought they had none left.
Although it is a reverent book, it is not a pious one, at least not in the ordinary sense of that word. The author makes no attempt to cover up the grittiness and messiness of life that brings people to God, nor does she say that, in order to approach the Almighty, one has to have on, as it were, one’s “Sunday best.” God, who knows us as we truly are, simply asks us to show up. “Come, all you who have missed the mark, who are dying for lack of meaning, all you who are sick and anxious and lonely and afraid unto death,” she says.  “Come…you who are caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s while your siblings play golf. … Come, you who live in chronic physical pain, you who are perpetually broke…you who live a life of hidden, silent martyrdom that not one other person sees or cares about.”
“Come close. Come as close as you can.”
It was just for these that Christ came into the world, she continues, for the sick, the wounded and the rejected. “Christ, with his special heart for the mentally and emotionally ill, constantly cast out demons from the people who came to him,” she writes. All that God requires of us is to acknowledge our own neediness and admit to our own demons.
That, however, is the hard part, and one that most of us do not come to easily. For King, who was battling her own demon of alcoholism, it came at the end of a very dark road. Then, what seemed like despair became instead the most sincere prayer of all. “The essence of prayer consists in doing what most of us have never done before and that no human being does unless we are utterly, completely out of ideas,” she admits, “and that is to acknowledge defeat and ask for help. Kneeling, our heads are close to our hearts. Kneeling, we feel our exhaustion. Kneeling, we’re the height of children.”
The balance of the book consists of lessons learned, experiences shared and encouragement to continue no matter where in our journey of life we happen to be. There is a chapter devoted to the traditional prayers of the Church, which the author loves and prays on a daily basis, but we are also invited to join King’s own prayers, which are as honest and sincere as everything else in the book. “Heavenly Father, help me believe that I am loved in spite of my ongoing incompetence, littleness and brokenness,” she prays near the beginning. “Help me remember that our brokenness is why you came. Help me not be afraid to come close to you, in any way, at any minute of the day or night.”
This book is highly recommended.
Author biography
Heather King is an essayist, memoirist, blogger and former lawyer. She struggled with alcoholism for many years, got sober in 1987 and converted to Catholicism in 1996.
She has written several books including “Stripped,” “Parched,” “Redeemed,” “Shirt of Flame,” “Poor Baby” and “Stumble.” A contributor to the Catholic magazine Magnificat, her column "The Crux" appears in Angelus, the publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
She currently lives in Los Angeles.
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Book review: "Humility Rules: Saint Benedict's Twelve-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem'

“Humility Rules: Saint Benedict's Twelve-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem.” By Wetta, J. Augustine, OSB. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017. 188 pages. Paperback: $17.95; Kindle: $9.15; Nook: $10.99.

If your spiritual goal for Lent is, in part, to break bad habits and attitudes and replace them with better ones, then Father Wetta’s book may be just the guide you are looking for. Unlike giving up chocolate or a favorite television program (although either of these things is good if it leads you closer to God) Wetta, a monk at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Louis, proposes something dramatically counter-cultural instead – giving up the pursuit of our own self-esteem in order to embrace a life of self-abandonment. In other words, as the title of his new book says, it may be time to let humility rule.

The virtue of humility has gotten a bad rap in the last few decades because it is largely misunderstood. It is often confused with the destructive notion of “putting oneself down” when, in reality, it is a genuine raising up of the true self. “[St. Benedict]”, Father Wetta notes, “is not focused on self-love, self-praise, self-aggrandizement, or self-promotion—not focused on the self at all, but on how to relate to one another and to God in light of our strengths and weaknesses. But such clarity of vision begins to develop only when you take the focus off yourself and devote yourself body and soul to a higher purpose.”

St. Benedict’s “Rule” calls this ascent to a higher purpose “The Ladder of Humility," and Father Wetta’s book is structured around each rung. Reading through his description of each – “Don’t be true to yourself, don’t follow your dreams, put your worst foot forward” for instance -- may inspire some to run rapidly in the opposite direction. Don’t be deceived, however; this is no dour monk writing to ruin your life or drag you down into a “slough of despond." Rather, it is a call to reality, to genuineness and to what really matters in life – both here and hereafter. As a bonus, it is written in such a way that a 21st century reader can understand and appreciate the truth of what the author is saying, even when those truths are as old as Creation itself.  As Wetta puts it, “…my goal here is to make St. Benedict’s handbook a bit more accessible—and perhaps a little less medieval.”

Another bonus is Father Wetta himself; although he takes what he is saying seriously, he does not take himself so. (A mark of humility?  Perhaps….) For example, the illustrations that he includes throughout the book, though drawn from medieval sources, have been given a decidedly modern – and humorous – spin. He also draws upon his own often quirky life experiences to illustrate his points (he is, for instance, also known as “the surfing monk” who was once almost eaten by a shark off a beach in New Jersey. He invites the reader to look it up – I did, and it’s true.)  In keeping with his other vocation as an educator – he teaches English, classics and theology at the Priory School, in St. Louis, Missouri, where he also coaches rugby and serves as director of chaplaincy – each chapter ends with a homework assignment. Don’t worry though; these exercises are designed to deepen and extend for yourself what Wetta has explained on the page.  I got to the point that I actually looked forward to doing them.

So why bother with humility? Because it brings us closer to God.  “…humility should never be confused with mediocrity,” Father Wetta concludes.  “Perfect holiness is the purpose for which we were created, so we can’t allow ourselves to be comfortable with the status quo. The minimum is not enough. ... Does this scare you? It should. But it should also thrill you, because it means you are infinitely important and always loved. ... So get to it. You know the steps, now climb the ladder.”

Author bio:

Augustine Wetta is a Benedictine monk at the Abbey of St. Louis in St. Louis, Missouri.  In addition to earning two degrees in theology from Oxford University, Father Wetta also has a bachelor's degree in Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations from Rice University and a master's in English from Middlebury College in Vermont.

Before entering religious life, Wetta learned to surf and was a lifeguard on the Galveston, Texas, Sheriff Department Beach Patrol. He has also worked as a professional juggler (“The Flying Fettuccinne Brothers”) and as an archeologist.
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Books for Christmas

It’s been a good year for publishing – at least in the sense of a lot of good books getting published – so here are some for the readers on your Christmas gift list (in addition, of course, to "Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II" [Basic Books], by your scribe):
"The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism," by Thomas Joseph White, OP (Catholic University of America Press): Father White is one of America’s most impressive younger Catholic thinkers (and its most impressive banjo-playing Catholic thinker). His work exemplifies the Catholic renaissance inspired by St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and his book makes the searching skeptic think, and then think again, about what the fullness of Catholic faith means.
"Charles Borromeo: Selected Orations, Homilies, and Writings," edited by John R. Cihak (Bloomsbury): The saintly 16th-century archbishop of Milan, Charles Borromeo – who was shot at the altar for his reformist efforts, recovered, and then pleaded for his assailant’s life – is obviously a man worth getting to know. Msgr. John Cihak’s fine introduction to Borromeo’s life and work helps us distinguish true from false reform in the Church at a moment when that’s a crucial issue for the 21st-century Catholicism.   
"An Introduction to Vatican II as an Ongoing Theological Event," by Matthew Levering (Catholic University of America Press): I’ve been amazed to discover in recent years just how little young and engaged Catholic millennials know about the Second Vatican Council and what preceded it – a gap in their historical knowledge that often leads to a distorted view of today’s intra-Catholic contentions. Give Dr. Levering’s fine book to anyone you know who falls into that category, or indeed to anyone who wants to know the Council and today’s arguments over its proper implementation better. It’s reader-friendly and written for non-specialists (although I can think of some theologians on the port side of the Barque of Peter who could benefit from studying it, too).
"Accompanying, Discerning, Integrating: A Handbook for the Pastoral Care of the Family According to 'Amoris Laetitia,'” by José Granados, Stephan Kampowski, and Juan José Pérez-Soba (Emmaus Road Publishing): The buzzword title ought not put anyone off from giving this engaging and trustworthy guide through the thicket of family life issues to every priest, deacon, marriage-preparation minister, and marriage counselor on their gift list.
"Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived," edited by Christopher J. Scalia and Edward Whelan (Crown Forum): How could anyone not love a man whose favorite lunch was pepperoni pizza and red wine? Well, a lot of people didn’t love Justice Scalia during his lifetime, but this posthumous collection of his speeches may change even the most hardened of hearts and minds. For it not only introduces the man in full but helps explain why he was one of the most influential jurists in American history, in a class with John Marshall and Joseph Storey. Antonin Scalia was a serious man who took his craft seriously, loved his family and country, and wrote with courage, passion, and wit, especially in dissent. Little wonder that he was given, by his priest-son, Paul, the finest funeral homily since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s homily at the funeral Mass of John Paul II. 
"Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times," by Leon R. Kass (Encounter Books): Generations of students at the University of Chicago found in Leon Kass and his late wife Amy the kind of teachers for which every student and every student’s parents should long. In this collection of essays, some jointly written by one of the all-time great husband-and-wife teams, readers meet wisdom and decency honed by a deep reading of everyone from Homer, Aristotle, and Moses to Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and C.S. Lewis – and by a lifelong love for the Chicago Cubs (which, after the 2016 World Series, can no longer be dismissed as a sign of grave psychic distress). 
"Kenneth Clark: Life, Art, and 'Civilisation,'” by James Stourton (Knopf): A charming biography of the great art historian, who once said that entering the Catholic Church (which he seems to have done on his deathbed) was like a painting entering the Louvre: “It would find itself in some pretty queer company, but at least it would be sure that it had a soul.” 

Book review: 'God’s Guide for Grandparents'

“God’s Guide for Grandparents.”  By Susan M. Erschen.  Indiana:  Our Sunday Visitor, October 2017.  144 pages.  Paperback:  $14.95; Kindle:  $9.99; Nook:  $10.49.
Becoming a grandparent is a blessing from God; as author Susan Erschen reminds us in her new book, “God’s Guide for Grandparents,” it is “the fulfillment of Scripture’s beautiful prayer, “May you …live to see your children’s children” (Ps 128:5–6). For grandparents, the arrival of these little ones is not only a wonder and a joy, it is a sacred opportunity — a call to deepen one’s own faith in order to be able to share that faith more fully with the next generation.
Indeed, that is perhaps the most important thing this book does; it helps grandparents look closely at both what they believe and how they act on those beliefs. Talking about faith is one thing, Erschen notes, but a lived example of that faith shouts more loudly than any words we might say. “If we set our faith up on a shelf, point to it, and tell our grandchildren, ‘This is what you must believe,’ it will inspire them little more than a toy with a dead battery,” she says. “But if they see us living those beliefs, then we are giving them something of value.”
Over the course of 16 chapters, Erschen touches on the various ways our faith informs and inspires our spirituality, which is, she says, another word for “what we do with what we believe.” If the chapter titles look very much like the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, that’s because basically, that’s what they are. As grandparents, we received these gifts at our Confirmation; now we are given a graced opportunity to see whether we have fully opened them and used them as well as we can.
The author also makes the point that, not only do grandparents share their faith with their grandchildren, they can and should be on the alert for all the ways those same grandchildren teach them. “One virtue I admire in my young grandchildren is acceptance,” Erschen notes in chapter two. “It seems to me they are very accepting of people and situations that we adults may have learned to judge in negative ways.” 
She uses as an example her three-year-old granddaughter who had to move to a new preschool right after the Christmas holidays. Worried about how the little girl would handle the transition, she was delighted when the child came home, “bubbling” enthusiastically about the new friend she had made, the one who was so kind and helpful to her. She was so taken with his goodness that she apparently never noticed that this little boy was both mildly handicapped and of a different race. “None of this registered with her,” Erschen continued.  “She accepted him and liked him completely for the person he was inside. I thought how wonderful our world would be if we all were as accepting as this three-year-old.”
Ultimately, this is a book about becoming the people we want to inspire our grandchildren to be and, according to the Pew Research Center, there is ample opportunity for that to happen. In 2015 “94 percent of grandparents helped provide some care for their grandchildren — 22 percent provided regular care; 72 percent provided occasional care.” If we succeed in spending that time well, Erschen notes, the pay-off for everyone is rich in many ways.
“Wouldn’t it be the greatest blessing if each of us could have grandchildren … who love us, care for us and feel we have helped make them better people?” Erschen concludes. “By living and sharing the virtues discussed in this book, we just might be able to make that happen. May God bless each and all of us on that journey.”
Author bio:
Susan Erschen, a freelance writer from St. Louis, Mo., frequently addresses such topics as the spirituality of giving, gratitude, living simply and spending time with God. Her articles have appeared in America, (“Next to Godliness: Prayers over The Washing Machine”), The Priest magazine, Our Sunday Visitor, St. Anthony Messenger, and Today’s Catholic Teacher. She is the former director of stewardship education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Erschen enjoys spending time with family and volunteering in her parish community.
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Book review: 'Little Lessons from the Saints'

Little Lessons from the Saints: 52 Simple and Surprising Ways to See the Saint in You.” By Bob Burnham. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2017. 216 pages. Paperback: $9.95; Kindle: $7.96; Nook: $8.49.
Over the years I have seen, read and studied many books on the saints. What piqued my interest about this one, however, was the subtitle: “52 Simple and Surprising Ways to See the Saint in You.” It’s a subtle thing, really, having to do with verb tense.  I wasn’t being invited to “become” a saint at some future time (if I just worked hard enough). Rather, I was being asked to recognize my own saintliness, here and now, in the present moment.
“We are called to imitate the saints because we are called to be saints,” author Bob Burnham explains. “But here’s the secret: we are already saints, albeit imperfect ones, for Christ lives in us, and we live in Christ. The saints teach us how to see that truth more clearly.”  What this book does, therefore, is invite us to become more fully who we already are.
The number “52” in the title is not arbitrary either; it is designed to match the number of weeks in a calendar year. Although Burnham assures us that the book can be used “any way you want,” he also provides a blueprint for how to get the most out of the stories and meditations it contains. In essence, each week the reader spends time with one saint, meditating on his or her life and how their charism is present in our own lives. For those new to meditation, the author gives some useful advice on how to proceed, step by step, and what to expect along the way. 
“Experience has shown me that meditation is never free from distractions,” he says.  “It is rarely a peaceful repose or an escape from reality. Rather, meditation is an exacting discipline.”
Perhaps because Burnham is himself a catechist, he then includes a brief section entitled “Little Lessons for Teachers,” outlining how the book can be used with students in the classroom, whether that is in a Catholic school or a CCD setting.  He notes that the saints are presented in a specific order by theme – surrender, freedom, pilgrimage, hospitality and loving knowledge -- echoing the specific lesson we can draw from each of them as our own spiritual journey unfolds.
The lessons, as promised, are “little” in as much as they are short, occupying only two or three pages at the most, thus making them perfect for those who may not have unlimited time to sit with a book of meditations. That does not mean, however, that they lack substance. He often relates to even the most familiar saints in a way that startles the reader into thinking something new about them. When talking about the martyr St. Charles Lwanga, for instance, he notes that for most of us, it’s the everyday martyrdoms that we need to embrace. “It’s not…persevering in faith in the face of persecution, even if it means death... as if the only way you can show your love for and dedication to Christ is if you are being persecuted…The lesson I have learned from the lives of martyrs is simpler: I should not complain.”
Saints, Burnham concludes, “are not superheroes with magic powers. They are not idealized versions of what people should be. They were real people who chose to take the gospel seriously.”  Whenever we do the same, we are following in their footsteps.  “Any time I show love and compassion, I am a saint,” he says. “Whenever I show patience and understanding, I am a saint. … My goal is not to be canonized someday— my goal is to live the Gospel today. If I do that, I can look in the mirror and see a saint every day!”
Author bio:
By his own admission, Bob Burnham is “not a scholar or a theologian, nor am I ordained. I am just a guy named ‘Bob’ who takes seriously the counsel of the Blessed Virgin Mary when she said to the servers at the wedding in Cana, ‘Do whatever He tells you’ (Jn 2:5).” A Secular Franciscan and a spiritual director, he works as a freelance editor and writes about the spirituality of commuting on his blog, mtransit.org. He lives with his wife, Cathy, in Bartlett, Ill.
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Book review: 'James Martin: Essential Writings'

By Mitch Finley 

"James Martin: Essential Writings," selected and with an introduction by James T. Keane. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, New York, 2017). 245 pp., $22.
No matter how many of the bestselling books authored by Jesuit Father James Martin you have read, a great deal of what's in this book -- a volume in the publisher's "Modern Spiritual Masters Series" -- is likely to be unfamiliar. While it includes some brief excerpts from his most popular books ("The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything," "Jesus: A Pilgrimage," "A Jesuit Off-Broadway" and "Between Heaven and Mirth"), most of what you'll find here comes from articles by Father Martin that appeared in various periodicals including America (more than 200 to date), the Tablet, Huffington Post and Portland, the University of Portland's alumni magazine.
James T. Keane does the author's many fans a service, then, by presenting them with material they might otherwise never know about.
Keane gathers this book's 40-some articles into four categories titled: Motions of the Soul: Spirituality and Prayer; God in All Things: The Divine in Daily Life; The Care of Souls: Solidarity with the Suffering and the Wounded; and More by Deeds than by Words: Models of Holiness. Article titles many readers will find particularly appealing are "Reflections on Chronic Illness and Pain, Among Other Things," "Holy Dirt" (about sacramentals), "Six Stupid Things I Never Want to Do Again," "Don't Be a Jerk," "Lourdes Diary," "Why Stay in a Church So Clearly Flawed" and "The Saint of the Sock Drawer" (about St. Jude).
In his introduction, a short biographical essay about Father Martin, editor Keane make a solid case for his comparison of Father Martin to the great 20th-century Trappist monk, author, social critic and poet Thomas Merton. Father Martin most likely dismisses any such comparison. Still, Keane writes: "James Martin, SJ, the Jesuit priest who is perhaps American Catholicism's most prominent public figure, was a lukewarm, non-practicing Catholic on the fast track to executive riches at General Electric."
While this is certainly true, one may be justified in observing that there are, undoubtedly, many regular Catholics with similar backgrounds who returned to being Catholic or joined the Church and did not go on to become priests or nuns, but went on to live their faith in admirable, even heroic ways without becoming well known in the pattern of Fathers Merton and Martin. One may hope for a book, one day, that presents the inspiring stories of just such ordinary Catholics.
All the same, "James Martin: Essential Writings" is a solid, inspiring and informative book. Read up!
- - -
Finley is the author of more than 30 books on Catholic themes, including "What Faith is Not" (Sheed & Ward) and a new revised and updated edition of "The Rosary Handbook: A Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers, and Those In Between" (Word Among Us Press).
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Book review: 'The Discerning Parent: An Ignatian Guide to Raising Your Teen'

“The Discerning Parent: An Ignatian Guide to Raising Your Teen.”  By Tim and Sue Muldoon. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2017. 193 pages. Paperback: $13.55; Kindle: $12.87; Nook: $10.99.
From both my experience and the experience of other parents like me, it seems there are two times when we actively seek out books on how best to do our job of raising children. The first might be called the pre-emptive consult, when we know a life change is coming and we want to be prepared to meet it. The second is when we are in the midst of a crisis and desperately need some help and support in order to weather it constructively and well.
Tim and Sue Muldoon’s latest book, “The Discerning Parent: An Ignatian Guide to Raising Your Teen,” falls into both categories. Not only does it help prepare parents for the exhilarating but sometimes frightening ride called nurturing teenaged children, but also it serves as a reassuring touchstone when things might not be going as well as everyone had hoped.
Although the book is filled with sage advice gleaned from both the authors’ personal and professional experience, it is not a “how-to” book in the sense that there are check-off lists of techniques and activities that will “do the trick” in the face of difficulties. Rather, it leads parents on a faith journey that is as much about their own spiritual growth as it is their children’s.
For those not as familiar with the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Muldoon’s begin with a definition of discernment.  “Discernment,” they explain, “is a refinement of the practice of listening to God’s music in a world full of noise. We love that image: it suggests that what each of us is doing in discernment is using a tuning fork to ensure that the tune we play is in harmony with the music of God.” That’s because the goal, ultimately, is to not only for parents to find their own rhythm with God, but to help their children do so as well.
Because of the nature of the discernment process, it is suggested that the book be reflected on in small “doses,” no more than one or two concepts at a time. This reflection will then naturally lead to thoughtful action or, as the authors put it, “show(ing) your teen what your faith is; don’t just talk about it.” Action will then come back to still more reflection and discussion, which results in further action -- and so the process will continue and grow.
The book addresses six areas in the lives of both teens and their parents: the discernment process itself, developing a deep prayer life, establishing a strong and healthy sense of self, growing in responsible freedom, understanding the gifts of the body as means of divine grace and meeting life’s challenges in the company of God.  Each chapter includes quotes from Ignatian Spirituality as well as prayer and questions for reflection.
Perhaps one of the most comforting thing parents will take away from this book is the reassurance that “God calls us as we are. We need not be perfect people to be great parents.”  Even if, after all our efforts, our children wander from the faith or seem to move in a very different direction from what we had hoped, we need to remember that it is God who works alongside them in ways we may not yet know.  “God is free to act in our teens’ lives, and our teens are ultimately free to say yes or no to the various ways God is working to invite them,” the Muldoon’s remind us.  “Our role is to be faithful to our vocation as parents: to pray for our children, to educate them, to lead them toward good choices. Perhaps the way they are responding to God is still hidden to us and will reach fruition after we have died. Part of our faith, our discernment, means allowing that relationship to unfold.”
Author bio:
Tim Muldoon is a theologian and the author and editor of several books on Ignatian spirituality, marriage, and family. A professor for many years, Muldoon has taught at Mount Aloysius College and Boston College and speaks frequently at colleges, universities, schools, parishes, dioceses and retreat centers.
Sue Muldoon is a therapist and religious educator who has worked in clinical, collegiate and parish settings. Her work has focused on young adults and children.  They are the parents of three children.
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Book review: 'Things My Father Taught Me about Love'

By Lois Rogers
In her small book, “Things My Father Taught Me about Love,” author, editor and educator Mary Regina Morrell offers a bouquet of insights on faith, spirituality and family life gleaned from her own garden.
Brushed with humor, tenderness and a sense of reverence for the way small and meaningful moments can illuminate life, Morrell’s 54-page book opens the door to her world and bids readers come inside and experience the spiritual gifts of her loving father.
Over the years, she has shared these lessons with readers of her award-winning, syndicated column, “Things My Father Taught Me,” which weaves together insights drawn from life as daughter, wife, mother of six and friend to many.
In what she calls “just a snippet of our lives, a whirlwind of blessing and loss, joy and heartbreak, grief, frustration and accomplishment,” Morrell gifts us with endearing glimpses into her own life and a reflection of our own.
She begins with a simple litany of these gifts which run the gamut from doing good and loving well to laughing often as we embrace the mystery of God.
Traveling with her in the all-too-brief pages, we see the possibilities that emerge as “life unfolds while we are not looking.”
The landscape Morrell creates winds through the garden nurtured by her father which, in turn, inspired her boundless ability to marvel at God’s creation.
It surfaces in a pond full of koi where, leaning over to view the aquatic parade, her own reflection in the water brings to mind the myth of Narcissus – the Greek youth in love with his own image. She notes presciently how this ancient and sometimes fatal character flaw seems sadly to be “flourishing in this day and age.”
It’s a vision that ranges from pathos – Morrell writes movingly of the deaths of her parents – to the joy experienced when the ordinary suddenly becomes  extraordinary; the immeasurable gratitude of a friend, for instance, when one of her six sons bestows upon him a huge container of cannoli cream rescued from the shore bakery where he worked as it closed for the winter.
Morrell’s fluid and approachable style is, in itself, a gift to readers. She’s able to weave a considerable body of knowledge into a book filled with basics that everyone can savor.
In demand as a speaker and catechetical consultant, she begins each entry with a quote, drawing mostly from Scripture, the saints or Catholic apologists including G.K. Chesterton and Thomas Hardy.
Opportunities to pause and enter into prayer and reflection with excerpts from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, provide welcome respite in these troubled times.
Rabbi Irwin Kula, author of “Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred the Messiness of Life,” captured the essence of this book in his endorsement: “If you want to find God, know love and truly understand these are the same, read this beautiful book. But be prepared to have your heart opened up, to laugh and to cry, to take many deep breaths of awe and wonder and to shout out to the Heavens and to the people in your life, ‘Thank You! Hallelujah!’ What a perfect dose of grace this book is for people of all backgrounds.”
“Things My Father Taught Me,” with cover designed by Clara Baumann, is available on Amazon as an e-book.
Lois M. Rogers is a long-time journalist and creator of “Keeping the Feast,” an award winning blog on food, faith and family.
Mary Morrell is a life-long writer who has served as associate director of religious education in the Diocese of Metuchen; assistant editor and catechetical consultant for RENEW International; managing editor of The Monitor, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton, and is author of Angels in High Top Sneakers, Loyola Press. She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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