Lent is over . . . Easter is upon us . . . can Advent and Christmas be far away? These special liturgical seasons of the Church call us to increased holiness and awareness of God and ourselves. They are times for self-reflection, meditation and reconciliation followed by joyful celebration. But what about the other season of the church year – the “ordinary” time? Do we just revert back to ordinary? Perhaps so.
Randy Hain’s recent book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith, (Foreword by Tom Peterson, Founder of Catholics Come Home) is a call to be “extraordinary” in our faith life. This is a book worth carrying around for everyday reference. Building on his conversion and his love of the Church and her teachings, he has crafted a handbook to lead us to be “extraordinary” in our relationships with God, family and work – every day. His Catholic zeal and sincerity are infused throughout the book and make it easy to identify with his past and present struggles and his continuing daily conversion.
The four sections of the book guide us through Mr. Hain’s personal journey to the Church. Beginning with his hedonistic college days and into his marriage and family life, he has always searched for Truth. The beginning of the end of his search came with a medical diagnosis concerning his son. It was not a fatal diagnosis, but it helped him and his wife understand their need for a church home, for support and for that Truth. As a result, they were drawn to the Catholic faith. There was much to study, learn and digest. Priorities had to be addressed. “If everything is important, then nothing is important. When it comes to living fuller, richer lives filled with meaning, what are our true priorities?” In concise, easy to read prose, he lists and explains his priorities. Reading them is an opportunity to take a step back and unclutter one’s spiritual mind, meditate on them and consider a plan of action.
In the second section he outlines a thoughtful analysis of some of the privileges and responsibilities of our faith. Under the section title “It Was a Lot to Take In . . .” he covers (among others) Reconciliation, Evangelization and Stewardship. While these are important subjects to Catholics, how often do we consider them? Are they lodged in the back of our minds as too weighty or confusing? The Fathers of the Church or any number of knowledgeable theologians have written reams on these weighty topics. Here, Mr. Hain delivers thoughtful opinion and suggestions and presents them in terms that have resonance. He explains his views and elaborates with the sincerity of one who has struggled with every one of them. Once again the reader has the opportunity to step back and reflect.
Part three emphasizes his struggles, his lessons learned and backsliding. Of particular interest are the chapters on Noise and Time. How often do we turn off the ever present cell phone? How can we shut down the constant brain activity, and when do we give ourselves a break – a real break? It takes effort, concentration and prayer. It takes re-scheduling and re-organizing those priorities again. Hain points to selected spiritual readings that will give that necessary ‘time-out.’ Among his suggestions is a series of books by Francis Fernandez titled In Conversation with God. These are excellent readings; some only take a minute or two and perhaps one sentence will offer a path to meditation throughout the day. On page 74 is the author’s checklist of actions that help him return to “spiritual wellness” – an excellent guide.
In the final section, Hain addresses several difficult topics head on. Boredom jumps out at us asking tough questions about Mass attendance – followed by A Cure for Boredom – in six easy steps. Encouraging self-awareness of our faith and the willingness to proclaim it conclude the book. Everything in this section challenges us to live out our faith every single day. This is for ordinary people – not a special group. Re-arranging our time, turning off noise, making that effort – all for Christ – is the way – Along the Way.
* You can find all of Randy Hain’s books at www.liguori.org, Catholic bookstores or Amazon
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