Three Catholic, non-fiction books to enhance your faith…

man-reading-in-library-featured-w740x493For The Men:

Journey To Heaven: A Road Map For Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing): Over the past two years I’ve known him, Randy Hain has been one the most encouraging supporters of my work. So when he asked me to review his new book, I was delighted to return at least one of the many favors I owe him.

Here’s the problem: I wanted to write a thorough review, which meant I took forever to actually read Journey To Heaven, a mistake of epic proportions.

This book is not only well-written and practical, but it’s sorely needed in today’s world.

In case you hadn’t noticed, many men today flounder in their faith, abdicate parental responsibilities, and don’t know what basic skills are necessary to even exist as a strong man, husband, and father. Randy’s book is an attempt to provide easily implemented tips and tools and reflections to men of all stripes to help get them started on the path heaven.

Randy’s work challenges men to raise the bar and to refuse to accept mediocrity in the various facets of life: in prayer, in work, and in vocation. Randy knows the challenges men face in our culture, especially the temptation towards lust and materialism, and his new book is a penned encouragement to his fellow brothers to do what’s right. While he doesn’t claim to be an expert on anything, Randy does try to practice what he preaches and that’s what makes his book believable.

Journey To Heaven is divided into three categories: Faith, Family, and Work & the Public Square. Each chapter has a theme that relates to the overarching section.

What I liked most about the book are the personal testimonies of other Catholic men who are well-versed on a particular topic. Through a set of carefully selected questions, Randy invites these men to offer tidbits of wisdom to the reader. These commentaries are not only insightful, but also accurate. I particularly loved what Chris Stefanick said about how men need to cultivate friendships with other Catholic men. He says,

“Men need other men. Women can affirm our masculinity, but as a very wise man once told me, only other men can confer it on us. We need brotherhood. Deep, authentic, and honest to the point of being raw. If we have that I think we can rediscover what it means to be a man, and I think we can learn, gradually, to come to God as we are.”

Each chapter concludes with reflection questions, which can be adapted for either personal use or use in a bible study. Although the book is written for men, I had several ah-ha moments as I read, particularly with regard to insights about the sin of pride and some of his practical advice on prayer. The book is a highly readable, practical tool for men in the world today and I recommend it for any men in your life (and maybe even some women).

I’m trying to figure out a way to casually slip my husband, who is already a wonderful Catholic businessman and father, a copy.

For The Mothers:

Random MOMents Of Grace: Experiencing God In The Adventures of Motherhood by Ginny Kubitz Moyer (Loyola Press): Once morning several years ago, after I returned home from a three-day Spiritual Exercises, I sat in my overstuffed floral chair and gripped my first mug of coffee for the day. I was groaning to God about how I could be a saint and pray so much better if I lived in a convent. Convinced the real obstacle to my sanctity was not my sinful ways, but my insane life and my large family, I intimated holiness was going to be impossible for the likes of me. It was dark outside and my house was silent—a rare blessing—and after I had finished outlining the very “real” problems I faced to sanctity(read: the people with whom I lived), I opened the spiritual book lying in my lap and this is what I read:

” You know very well that it is not necessary to be always on retreat in order to love God. When he gives you the time, take it and profit by it. But until then, wait in faith, well persuaded that what he orders is best…. God treats you according to your necessity, and you have more need of mortification than of illumination!”
–Talking With God by Francois Fenelon

Well, okay then.

Apparently, hours and hours of prayers in a silent chapel is not the path God is going to use to sanctify me. He wants me mortified.

Fabulous.

So imagine my delight when I picked up Ginny Kubitz Moyer’s new book Random MOMents of Grace and read the following:

“But here’s what I’ve learned: although silence, solitude, and homilies are all very good ways to deepen one’s faith, they aren’t the only means of spiritual growth. Blowing bubbles on the front lawn, fastening a child’s bike helmet, and even wiping up messes can be the raw material for a rich spiritual life.”

Clearly, Ginny is a spiritual sister and she knows my pain…I mean, joy. While I would love to pray the Office all day everyday and levitate in moments of prayerful ecstasy, God did not see that life fit for me. He knew I needed mortification and messiness and mounds of sacrifice to get to heaven, which is something Moyer also understands and illustrates so beautifully in her new book.

There is a temptation in writing about motherhood to depict only the saccharine moments, the unadulterated joy we feel when our kindergartner reads a sentence for the first time or finally figures out how to stay upright on a bike. While we moms need reminders to look for the beauty to be unearthed in the vocation of motherhood, writing only about the good stuff of the mommy life skews the story.

The fact is, motherhood is a slow and sometimes painful death to self.

What I liked most about Moyer’s book is her ability to write about both the beauty and the mess of motherhood. Her reflections were authentic and therefore, believable. Because she writes about the real struggle in her vocation as well as the joy she finds there, she successfully points the reader to God, which is the point, isn’t it?

While we are in two different stages of our vocation (Moyer has two little ones and I have a slew of different ages), this encouraging book about how to finding God in motherhood will most assuredly be a balm to a harried mother’s soul.

It was for me.

I highly recommend this read to the newbie parent or to the veteran. Both are sure to glean at least a few pearls of wisdom found within the pages of this thoughtful book and like I did, you will probably find yourself laughing and crying as you go.

For The Worrier:

From Fear To Faith: A Worrier’s Guide To Discovering Peace by Gary Zimak (Liguori Press): Are you a worrier? Do you waste time pondering tragic situations or mentally concocting worst-case scenarios?

You are not alone.

Author Gary Zimak is no stranger to anxiety, worry, and fear. Most of his life he struggled with a gripping fear which permeated his daily life and affected his ability to experience joy and peace. This chronic fear and anxiety and the steps he’s taken to grow in faith are the basis of this practical, easy to read handbook.

In the book, Gary provides a practical plan to combat fear, what he calls the Five P’s of Peace—Prepare, Present, Pray, Participate, and Prize. Each chapter ends with a few points to remember, a few questions on which to reflect, and a small prayer to use to help us respond to God. Throughout the book, Zimak uses copious scripture passages to support and encourage us to turn to Christ in our fear. The book works because Gary has implemented in his own life what he suggests to others and is living proof that it is possible to grow in faith, thereby lessening fear.

The thing I liked most about this book is Gary’s encouragement to develop a personal relationship with Christ as the antidote to reducing a person’s tendency to worry or obsess and about big and small situations..

“Faith is the answer to fear,” Gary writes.

It’s as simple (and as difficult) as that.

I recommend this book especially for someone who is looking to grow their relationship with Christ but isn’t sure where to begin and, of course, for the chronic worrier.


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About the Author

Colleen Duggan

Colleen Duggan is a popular writer for Catholic media and her work has appeared in both Catholic Digest and RTJ’s Creative Catechist magazine. For almost two years, she was a bi-monthly blogger for CatholicDigest.com and her articles have also appeared online at CatholicMom, Faith and Family Live, RTJ’s Creative Catechist, GeniusMom, and the K4J Family Blog.

Colleen holds a Master in Education from the University of Notre Dame and has spent the last 12 years teaching religious education classes, running Bible studies, and giving talks on Catholic spirituality at the parish level.

Despite any professional and educational accomplishments, Colleen believes her most important job is as a wife and mom to 6 kids. Check out her website (link below) where she pontificates about potty training and the art of messy housekeeping.

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