Saturday, October 12, 2019

Katie Reads {19} LOTS of Catholic Children's Books!


I've been collecting the most wonderful stack of Catholic kids' books that need to finally get shelved in my classroom- but first I wanted to share them with you! Some of these books are new and came from the authors, some of them are ones I've purchased recently, and some of them are from a Catechetical conference I attended at the beginning of the school year- it's always so fun to get to browse through the books in person! I wish I could do a little page by page tour, but at least in these posts you might come across a book you hadn't seen before.

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
***Pauline Books & Media provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
^^^Tan Books provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
### Author provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I only recommend things I use and love and want to share with you. All opinions are my own. :)

### On a Mission to Love by Debbie Staresinic
Both a tool for the why and the how behind praying the Rosary, this lovely publication, while titled "for children and families," really would be a useful prayer tool for anyone. On a Mission to Love includes all the prayers needed for the Rosary, but also an aspiration for each Hail Mary relating back to the Mystery. There is a full page, full color piece of beautiful artwork for every Mystery. Between the provided visual and the aspirations that pull you back into the story, this book is the best I've seen as a resource on the Rosary for a wide range of kids, promoting both understanding and meditation.

Who is the Holy Spirit? from Education in Virtue, Lumen Ecclesiae Press
My school is in it's second year of implementing the Education in Virtue program, and I love it. Providing all the support info, including examples of what the virtue sounds like and looks like, Saints who lived it out, and places to read about the virtue in the Bible. I'm supportive of any new products coming from Lumen Ecclesiae Press, so I was excited to see this new book intended for Confirmation prep. It's not a typical textbook by any means, but it still contains info about the effects and signs of Confirmation, symbols, Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit. It also has opportunity and space for Lectio Divina and journaling about the Holy Spirit. It would be a fabulous gift for a Confirmand before or after their Confirmation, or even to supplement school and parish prep at home. I might be looking into a class set of these for Confirmation next year, but in the mean time am definitely inspired by the prayer and content shared!

An Alphabet of Saints by Robert Hugh Benson
I couldn't not pick up this reproduction publication of these fabulous vintage illustrations and well written rhymes. Featuring a Saint for every letter of the alphabet and originally published in 1912, this treasure really is good for the whole family. Little ones can work on letters and recognizing the Saints, older kids can learn from the Saints lives and even memorize the rhyming poems. (I also think the pages would look fabulous framed in a kid's room or classroom!)

The Christian Alphabet by Traci Sands
I purchased this sweet and creative book from a local author when I was at a conference in Georgia. Traci has created a detailed and symbol rich image in the shape of each of the 26 letters of the alphabet and put them together into a book with a companion song. Each page of the book has the letter as well as layers and layers of explanation, connecting Bible verses, and prayers. The info in the book makes it valuable for preschools all the way through adults. Little ones could work on identifying their letters and recognize some of the pictures that make them up, older kids could investigate the meaning of the symbols, and even adults could use them images for study and prayer. It's a unique resource, and she also has matching bookmarks, posters, and options to create names and words with the letter designs.

The Sacraments in Action from Sophia Press
I really like the comic book style publications Sophia Press has been creating (I recommended the Saint Chronicles in one of my last Katie Reads posts). In this new publication, three stories within the graphic novel teach about the Sacraments of Initiation. Characters Hannah and Andy carry the connecting story line through all three sections, learning about Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. The narrative teaches about each Sacrament naturally as part of the events of the story, and you can see Hannah and Andy grow and mature in their faith in each encounter with the Sacraments. Perfect for a kid preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, or a sibling of a First Communicant or baby to be Baptized, I like that the graphic novel format brings such important info into the hands of reluctant readers or kids who learn best with visual support.

###Beatitales: 80 Fables about the Beatitudes for Children by Jared Dees
The Beatitudes are unarguably one of the important of Jesus' teachings, but are also certainly one of the hardest to explain and make practical for kids. Coming up with a creative solution to make the Beatitudes more practical to teach, author Jared Dees (of thereligionteacher.com) has written a set of short stories that fit within the themes of the eight Beatitudes. Each fable is only a page or two long and gives a tangible example of the Beatitude in real life. Reminiscent of Jesus' Parables, the ten stories for each Beatitude range from very traditional topics to more modern situations. The entire book would make for a great family or classroom read aloud for a wide range of ages, helping guide discussions and give kids the needed background knowledge to see the teachings of Jesus come to life in their daily interactions. Beatitales is a wonderful example of the powerful role storytelling can have in both catechesis and evanglization.


Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman, illustrated by Ben Hatke
This imaginative and beautifully illustrated book features a conversation between a baby in his mama's womb and his guardian angel. It's a great resource for a child about to become a big brother or sister, as the story shares about the baby being born, meeting his family, and continuing to grow. Full of wonder and beauty about the coming birth of a new baby, this book is perfect to encourage a culture of life with kids of all ages.
(As I'm just adding this book to my collection, please keep illustrator Ben Hatke and his family in your prayers. He and his wife tragically lost their four year old daughter a few weeks ago.)


^^^Let Us Pray by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen
Another welcome addition to the growing First Faith Treasury Collection, this lovely little board book features eleven classic Catholic prayers every child should know. The sweet and bright pictures are a welcoming compliment to the prayers that could be read and prayed together as a family. I love the work that Katie and Meg are doing to make the faith accessible and friendly to the littlest of Catholics. I absolutely love the matching design, color schemes, and illustrations of this series and think that every Catholic toddler should have a set!

Patrick and the Fire by Cornelia Bilinski
The Queen and the Cross by Cornelia Bilinski
Brigid and the Butter by Pamela Love
Adding to a collection of legends about Saints (I already have The Sword and the Cape and A Staircase for the Sisters), these cute little picture books are warm and welcoming and tell the traditional tales of some favorite Saints. Patrick and the Fire shares how and why Patrick returned to Ireland to share Christianity with the pagan people. The Queen and the Cross is about St. Helen's journey to the Holy Land to find the True Cross. Brigid and the Butter teaches about the miracle of St. Brigid's generosity. Each of them are charmingly illustrated and sweet way to introduce kids in the primary grades to some Saints of the first few centuries of Christianity.

Angel Stories from the Bible from Magnificat/Ignatius, multiple authors
Mary Stories from the Bible from Magnificat/Ignatius, multiple authors
These collections from Magnificat really offer the value of five books in one. Five stories retold from the Bible, each with a different author and illustrator all bound in a lovely large hardback book. In Mary Stories, you can read about the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, and Angel Stories includes tales from both the Old and New Testaments like Tobias and Raphael and Sleeping St. Joseph. I love the variety of illustrations, with two of my favorite styles depicted in the covers above.

24 Christmas Stories for Little Ones from Magnificat/Ignatius, multiple authors
I know many families that have a tradition of wrapping a Christmas themed book to open and read each day of Advent. If your collection doesn't quite provide for a new book each day (or if you don't want to do all of that extra wrapping!) this sweet collection from Magnificat is perfect.  With 24 stories on the theme of Christmas, the variety of authors and illustration styles make it like 24 different books in one. Some entries tell about the birth of Jesus, some share other traditional Christmas tales, and there are also some original stories with modern characters. It's the perfect collection for a family to share each day of December!

 ***My Bible: God's Word for Me by Mary Martha Moss, FSP
This colorful Bible story book would be perfect for 2nd-4th graders. With a little over 200 pages and stories that are 3-4 pages long, it would make a great daily Bible read aloud or personal Bible for a young kiddo's independent prayer. The watercolor style illustrations are often full paged, wrapping around the text and bringing details of the story to life. I like that the book is only about 8" square, making it easy to hold and carry around, not a giant book that might get stuck on a shelf. With lots of Bible story books on the market, I think this is a great option if you are looking for a well made Catholic edition for young readers.

***Joseph: Guardian of the Holy Family by Marlyn Evangelina Monge, FSP
This cute board book rounds out the series from Pauline kids about the Holy Family. Three books, each on Jesus, Mary, and Joseph feature cute illustrations and simple lines that teach about life of St. Joseph. Just right for a Mass bag or book basket, I think this sweet book is perfect for introducing kids to the events in Bible surrounding the birth and childhood of Jesus and the role this holy man and guardian of the Church.

***Guess Who's in the Manger: A Christmas Story by Vickie Howie
This would be a perfect addition to a preschooler through early elementary kiddo's Advent Countdown books or Christmas basket! Told from the perspective of a curious owl in the rafters of a Bethlehem stable, the cute rhyming lyrics retell the story of the first Christmas. On a search to find light to fill the gloom of the stable, the owl seeks out the sun and the moon and eventually is led back to their very own manger where he meets the Light of the World. The bright illustrations compliment the text that will make a great read a loud for the Christmas season.

The Tale of Three Trees, retold by Angela Ewell Hunt
This was another book that I can't believe I hadn't added to my library yet! A retelling of a folktale, this story shares the aspirations of three trees. One wants to hold valuable treasure, one wants to be a mighty sailing ship, one wants to be the tallest tree and point others to God. After they are grown they are chopped down and turned into objects that fail to fulfill their dreams. But one day the first tree, after being made into a lowly manger, holds a precious baby instead of hay. The second tree, which was a small fishing boat, held a group of travelers and saw a powerful Man calm a storm. And the third tree, turned into beams left in a pile, was carried on the back of Man whose hands were nailed into her wood. But after three days, that tree's wish to point others to God would never be forgotten. With so many applications and connections to make, this retelling would be a perfect tool to use with any age from preschools through adults. Obviously relevant anytime, it especially would be meaningful to read during Advent and Lent as we prepare ourselves to welcome and celebrate the Savior.

The Wolf and the Shield by Sherry Weaver Smith
Adding more books to my Catholic/Christian novel collection in my classroom is a current goal of mine.  I want my students to know that there are quality stories out there that won't make them question what they believe, and might even help them understand and deepen their faith. This fictional tale of young Kieran tells of the struggles he faces and his friendship with St. Patrick. Set in 5th Century Ireland, I think it will capture my students' imaginations and help them learn about virtue and choices, challenges and faith.

Clown of God by Tomie dePaola
This was a lucky find at one of my favorite thrift stores this week. I love Tomie de Paola's books, starting with my obsession with the Legend of the Bluebonnet and Indian Painbrush as a kid, and then finding his Saint and Bible story books as a teacher. I had seen this one but never read it, and honestly was a little skeptical (clowns?), but now know it to be a gem. Based on a French legend, this tale of the seeds that are planted when we share our faith and how they can change someone's life is a really unique lesson that you can't always pull out of a simple children's story. I like how we get to watch the character age, as well as the embedded details found in the architecture and Catholic art throughout the book. And the Franciscan monks! They are adorable and makes me think that this story would even be a great addition to a read aloud on St. Francis' Feast Day. This one was certainly worth my 99 cents! ;)


There you go! And if you haven't already seen it, Kendra has a fabulous list up of Saint books sorted by month!

And I keep adding to my growing mega post of Catholic Kids' Books- you can find it here or in the side bar!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Supporting Family Prayer: 50 Ways to Pray in 5 Minutes or Less


Because I know that parents are the primary and most important educators of the faith for their children, it is important to me as a DRE and teacher to help them feel equipped and able to actively live their faith as a family.

I think that prayer can be one of the most intimidating things to build into a family culture, mostly because it is so intimate and personal, and therefore harder to lead and share, especially if you might be struggling with prayer yourself. To show that family prayer doesn't have to be complicated, I created a couple of resources we used at a school parent night and I am sending home to my CCD families.

The first has a simple structure for prayer called ACTS: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication and prayer starters to go with each step.  I have other ACTS resources here and here. The pattern is useful for any age from toddler through adult and can both widen and direct the focus of prayer.  Plus, it is something that you can do for two minutes, ten minutes, or an hour. It's such a flexible structure and I love using it with kids.  I also included some basic prayers on that sheet, making it handy to post on the fridge or keep at a kid's bedside table.

The second handout has fifty ideas for praying as a family in five minutes or less. There are so many possibilities and methods of prayer, and I think that is is good to remind ourselves that we can use any of them- what is most important is conversing with our Creator. If bedtime is chaos for your family, then pray together in the van after school. If after school activities keep you from being around the dinner table most nights, try using ACTS over breakfast. If your child struggles memorizing prayers right now, read them Bible stories, or let them journal, or sing a prayer. By opening your home to becoming a place of shared family prayer in all things, kiddos grow closer not only to God, but also to their siblings and parents. A family that prays together stays together.

Click on either image below to download the printables. Feel free to send in your parish/school/class newsletters!


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Virtues and Parables


You've got to love when there's a beautiful intersection of real life and what's happening in the liturgy. More times than I can even remember, the Readings from Mass have directly related to what is going on in my life- sometimes so obviously that it is like Jesus is up on the altar saying, "Hey, told you I was here!" ;)

Point and case are the Sunday Gospels from this month. I am in my second year of teaching the Education in Virtue curriculum to my 6th-8th graders, and since the resources are not grade specific and I repeat students, I can't teach with the same method as last year with my 7th-8th graders. I'm still working on exactly what that will look like all year, but this month solved itself.

Our virtues during this month include:
Obedience
Responsibility and
Respect

And the Gospels from the Sunday at the beginning of that week are:
The Prodigal Son
The Dishonest Steward and
The Rich Man and Lazarus

Each of those parables is a perfect example (or non example) of living out that virtue. Not to mention that I am in the middle of a unit on the Parables and I couldn't have asked for better source material. (Thanks, Jesus!)

So even though it is pretty unlikely that all of those contributing factors are true for you, I thought I'd still share the study we are using to compare the virtue and the parable, which would be perfect to use for Mass prep or followup, or as a study any time.

Click on each of the images below for the two page booklets:




Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Seven Sorrows of Mary Reflection


The month of September is dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of Mary, praying with the moments in Mary's life where she stood strong in the face of suffering, relying on her faith in her Son. I've posted a few coloring notes pages before (here) but wanted to do something to help my students pray with the Mater Dolorosa. So I created a little booklet with the Sorrows, their Scripture reference, and a short reflection to help connect it back to the reader's life. I'm also sharing a script that we used at a middle school prayer service where one student read the Scripture passage, we had a little quiet time, and then another student read the reflection.


These tools would work for personal prayer, a guide for Lectio Divina, a classroom study on the Seven Sorrows, or a time of group prayer.

Click here for the readers' script:
Click here for the reflection mini book:
(This is intended to be folded like the mini book in this video)

 And you can find some other Seven Sorrows printables here:

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Katie Reads {18}


Here are the books that I read over the summer and the new books I added to my classroom as we've gone back to school this fall!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
***Pauline Books & Media provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
^^^Tan Books provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
### Author provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I only recommend things I use and love and want to share with you. All opinions are my own. :)



***A Little Camel for Baby Jesus, written and illustrated by Maria Gianola
It's never too early to be looking for the perfect read aloud for Advent and Christmas, and A Little Camel for Baby Jesus would be a sweet addition to any home or classroom. The creative illustrations are full of texture and depth, layering drawings with backgrounds made from fabric, fiber, and paper. It tells a sweet story about generosity and reminds us that nothing we give to God is ever to small, which is an important message to our littlest kiddos (and big kiddos too!).


Heroes of Virtue by Robert Sheridan
In an effort to add more Catholic graphic novels into my classroom since they are a perpetual favorite for my students, I stumbled across this self published book on Etsy and decided to order a copy.  It showcases the stories of 55 Saints and includes a ton of information. Each Saint features a two page spread with an illustration, biography, a couple prayers, quotes or Bible verses relating to the Saint, and a list of patronages, titles, feast day, and attributes. Since this was intended for my classroom, I previewed it closely.  There were a few places I didn't like about the wording, such as in the explanation about why we have a devotion to Saints (using the phrase "We pray to the saints because..." which isn't Church teaching). I'm not above writing in my books, and just added a few notes in the margins before putting this in my classroom library. There were also a few typos throughout and some inconsistencies in font size and formatting. The illustrations are on the intense end of the comic book/graphic novel spectrum (St. Joseph as the Terror of Demons, for example). They weren't my favorite but I do think they will appeal to older students, especially boys who really like traditional comic books.

^^^The Island of the Two Trees, by Brian Kennelly
If you look this one up on Amazon, several of the reviews mention the Chronicles of Narnia as a genre comparison, and I agree in the best way. When a set of siblings find themselves transported to an island that was created in their father's imagination, they must go on a suspenseful journey to save both themselves and their dad.  Full of moral lessons and CS Lewis style symbolism, I think this book would make a great family read aloud!

***Liturgical Year Board Game, by Paola Della Peruta and Anna Maria Pizzutelli
While it looks like a little booklet, this new publication from Pauline is actually a creative and fun board game perfect for use in a classroom. It would definitely need to be laminated before much use, but it is nice that it is inexpensive and easily stored in a folder or ziploc bag. They would also make great class gifts or take home activities for family formation. The booklet is printed two sided, so the instructions and steps are on the back of the page with the game pieces. The instructions state that you first are suppose to make a color copy of the game pieces and then cut out, but I think it would be valuable to the publisher to add an extra page so that the game pieces could have a blank back and could be cut out and played immediately. There are sixty four spaces and sixty four questions or challenges for the teams to encounter. The questions are varied and contain rich content about the Catholic Faith. There are also four different questions for each space, so the leader/teacher/catechist has options to read if teams land on the same spot. While a lot of the questions are connected to the Liturgical Year, really they are about the life of Christ, the Bible, the Saints, etc. so this game could be used anytime as a review or challenge. Based on the content, I think the game would be good for 4th-6th graders.

^^^God's Wildest Wonderment of All, by Paul Thigpen, illustrated by John Folley
Bright and imaginative illustrations portray this young boy's visit to the zoo and all the wonders he beholds there. The rhyming lines and warm pictures bring the reader in after one amazing animal after another is encountered, leading to them to question why God created such a variety in the world- and the wonder that his greatest creation is us! I love that this book can be used to talk about human dignity and being made in the image and likeness of God with even small children in a way that is so approachable and attainable.

^^^The Monks' Stormy Night, by Sylvia Dorham, illustrated by Christopher Tupa
This sweet, sweet rhyming story with cute illustrations is all about the lessons that can be learned when things seem to be going all wrong. A companion to The Monks' Daily Bread, it tells the story of a group of monks facing a stormy night with lots of trouble, and how their abbot encourages them to not give in to despair.  The patterned rhyme is a fun way to engage pre and early readers to finish the lines together or eventually recite the story on their own. Kiddos will like reading this story and finding parallels to their own troubles and how God is actually in the midst of them.

^^^I Went to Mass, What Did I See? by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen
If you know Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, you'll recognize the style of this lovely little picture book. Journey with a young boy and see the Mass through his eyes as he interacts with each part of the liturgy. The illustrations are soft black and white with pops of color to draw little eyes to what we should "see" on each page. This book is a wonderful way to engage a small child in the richness of the liturgy and to prepare for what to expect during each celebration of the Mass. I also love Fr. Ben Gets Ready for Mass from the same author and illustrator.


^^^The Word of the Lord; A Child's First Scripture Verses, by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen
This solid little board book from First Faith Treasury with bright colors and simple but engaging design contains eleven powerful Scripture verses for even the youngest kiddos.  The Bible verses come straight from the RSVCE, and are not watered down, which I love! The reader is given the verses to pray and recognize from all throughout the Bible, starting with the Pentateuch through the Gospels and New Testament Letters. I think this book is an awesome opportunity to help kids memorize some key Scripture verses from a young age, helping them be familiar with the Word of God and attentive when they hear it in Mass and other occasions. The First Faith Treasury books are a gift to both parent and child in any Catholic home!


^^^Kiddie Cat; A Child's First Catechism Lessons, by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen
Another sweet board book from First Faith Treasury that came out this summer covers a child's first Catechism lesson; they're never too young to hear the foundational truths of out faith! It covers key ideas from all Four Pillars of the Catechism (and even has a little symbol on each page showing what pillar you are learning about!) With matching illustrations that are bright and engaging and coordinate so nicely with the other books in the series, I'm excited to see what else Katie and Meg create next!

***Saint John the Baptist; A Voice Crying Out in the Desert, by Ezekiel Saucedo
Pauline Kids' Graphic Novels are some of the favorite books in my classroom, and I love this new addition that came out this summer. The story of John the Baptist as found in Scripture (and a few tales from tradition about his life) are brightly illustrated in a graphic novel style that I think will still appeal to older readers and welcome younger readers. The pages use light and color in a compelling way that adds depth to the story and draws the reader in to the wisdom and emotion of what St. John was learning as he grew. I think that graphic novels like this are one of the best ways to give kids of this generation a chance to encounter the lives of the Saints, and this is my favorite publication from the Pauline collection so far!

###A Teacher Who Prays, by Katie Warner
As we started school this week, my personal goals include developing more habits of prayer so that conversing with the Lord is more a part of the rhythm of my day. This journal from Katie Warner (also the author of the board books above!) is a perfect tool to include praying for my students and school in that daily prayer. Each page features a particular virtue/characteristic to pray for in your students, along with a Bible verse, Saint quote, room to write intentions, a reflection, and challenge to write a spiritual bouquet. With fifty-two themes, it will be a perfect way to ensure I am praying specifically for my students each week. I've got this tucked into my supply bin on the corner of my desk and plan to start pulling it out during my prep each Monday to start the week off right! Katie also has authored A Parent Who Prays, A Grandparent Who Prays, and A Godparent Who Prays, all of similar style, so there is a journal to fit the needs of anyone who wants to develop a habit of prayer for the young people in their life.

That Nothing May Be Lost, by Fr. Paul D. Scalia
I can count on one hand the number of books that have impacted my faith from cover to cover, pushing me to prayer, or tears, or frantic note taking alternately, and this book from Fr. Scalia is one of them.  Titled "That Nothing May Be Lost" from the end of the story of the feeding of the 5000 when Jesus asks the Apostles to gather up the fragments at the end of the meal, the author explains that the writings in the book are just that- fragments left over- articles, bulletin commentary, and blog posts.  But organized together into themes, the book shares about 80 such essays that pack in truth in a profound way.  His style of writing, rooted in Scripture and full of allegory, reminds me of how Fulton Sheen often wrote.  Each essay made me think but also gave me attainable takeaways.  The book is organized into nine sections and contains introductions that are essays themselves from other Catholics such as Scott Hahn, Lizz Lovett, Raymond Arroyo, and Archbishop Charles Chaput. Another beautiful aspect of the book is that the essays are short and really could be read in any order, making this the perfect book to keep at your beside or on your desk just to read a little bit at a time.  I really couldn't recommend it more highly!


Sermons in Times of Crisis, edited by Fr. Paul D. Scalia
After finishing That Nothing May Be Lost, I went on the hunt for any other books Fr. Scalia had written and found that he had recently compiled this edition called Sermons in Times of Crisis.  While not his writing, he does provide an introduction for each of the twelve homilies contained in the book.  Looking back at dark eras for the Church, each of the sermons addresses the current problem and how to solve it by turning to Christ.  A dozen different situations stretching from the 4th Century to the 21st Century, you'll read the writing of great men like St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Charles Borromeo, St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.  The crises they were facing varied- teaching of heresies, conflict between church and state, trouble in leadership, etc., but there is something to be learned from each situation and each response.  While the current sex abuse scandal is not directly addressed, it is clear that this collection is meant to embolden our priests and bishops to preach the truth at all times and to challenge those in the wrong even at risk to one's own life. This collection is beautifully bound in a soft touch hunter green hardback with copper foil stamping and metallic copper endpapers.  It may seem silly to comment on the "looks" of the book, but I really think that the high quality makes it a perfect gift book to give to another, hopefully getting them to read the truth inside.  It would be ideal to get in the hands of those responsible for teaching the faithful, first and foremost our priests and bishops, but also might be the right thing to pass on to someone really struggling with this dark night that we Catholics are fighting through.

Letter to a Suffering Church, by Bishop Robert Barron
I'm so glad that Bishop Barron, undoubtedly the American bishop with the greatest media presence, is using his platform to speak out at respond to the sexual abuse crisis.  This little book is meant to be readable in a short amount of time and is being offered free to individuals and inexpensively in bulk, and other resources like studies guides and FAQs are available for parish leaders to guide discussions. In his letter, the Bishop calls out and names the horrific evil that we have seen revealed in the American hierarchy and the damage that Church leaders have done to their victims.  He shares about dark periods in the Church's past and how they were overcome, and gives the laity the challenge to stay and fight for Christ and His Church. The book is not perfect, but I don't think any letter, book, or exhortation could be- there is too much damage, too much pain, and too much anger for any one person to say all the right things or to issue the perfect ten step plan.  I do admire that Bishop Barron rolled out this resource, made it readily available, and is providing the framework for continuing the conversation, hopefully moving toward change.  No other bishop has done that. It is my hope that Bishop Barron's challenge to "stay and fight" is echoed in other writings as soon as possible, and that more church leadership, the good and holy men we are praying for, rise up to lead us into a new era.

^^^The Virtue of Hope; How Confidence in God Can Lead You to Heaven, by Fr. Philip Bochanski
The virtue of hope has become an important one to me and my family after the death of my mom this spring.  I knew when I saw this title it would be a good read for me, hopefully a piece that would help me grow in my understanding of heaven in the midst of our grief. The author first shares an analysis of the Theological Virtue of hope, and then writes about hope within the themes of change, service, struggling, suffering, and prayer with several Saints or people of faith highlighting each topic. Never reading like a string of biographies, Father Bochanski uses the experiences of actively living the virtue of hope as an example for the reader, weaving in commentary and quotes from other writers and church documents, as well as the Saints themselves. I think that this book would be a good read for any Christian, but certainly would recommend it to those going through struggles, grief, or big changes in life. (I unintentionally ended up at a workshop last weekend Fr. Bochanski gave on his work with Courage International and he was incredibly well spoken and articulate, a characteristic that carries through in his writing.)

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom
I've always heard a lot about Corrie Ten Boom, but had never read any of her writing. Fortunately I found a copy of her autobiography this summer while thrifting and it was a page turner! Corrie was part of the resistance movement during the occupation in Holland in WWII. As a middle aged Christian woman who still lived with her father and sister and worked in the family business, she wasn't who you would expect to be hiding Jews behind wall, carrying secret messages, and lying to authority, but Corrie turned their home into a hub of underground activity with the help of her family, saving hundreds of lives.  She was eventually arrested, but against all odds survived jail time and being sent to a Concentration Camp. All along the way, her message then and as she later looked back on her life was one of hope and trust in the Lord.  It is always good for me to read about the struggles others have faced, especially as perspective for my own battles. I found The Hiding Place inspiring and I definitely will be keeping an eye out for her other books.

###Be Brave in the Scared, by Mary E. Lenaburg
If you follow Mary on social media, you know that she is a bright, strong, vibrant voice for the Church, but Mary's story runs much deeper than that.  I remember reading about the impending final days of her daughter Courtney's life and listened to her speak on podcasts about her death and what she had learned from raising her severely ill daughter.  Filled with compassion and hope, Mary writes openly about their family, including the great gift Courtney was to them, as well as struggles that she and her husband faced in their marriage and in raising their older son.  Mary's honesty does not paint a picture perfect life, but instead invites the reader into the brokenness to see what God has claimed and redeemed.  It indeed is a book that is filled with hope and the challenge to be brave when the world around you is telling you to give up. Mary closes each chapter with a challenge, a Scripture verse, and room to journal, inviting the reader to be inspired by the Lenaburgs' journey and find the strength to trust God even in the darkest days.

How Catholic Art Saved the Faith, by Elizabeth Lev
In this beautiful published text filled with glossy pages and dozens of examples of art from the era, the author writes about how the Catholic Church intentionally used the best artists to create works that counteracted the mistruths and false teachings of the Reformation.  As a lover of Church art and the use of beauty to evangelize, I read with an open mind and learned so much about the artists, their lives (that often were in direct contradiction to the truth they were painting), and how the subtle use of color, symbolism, and details in paintings and sculpture were intended to form both the hearts and minds of the viewers. I think that this book would be a great read for Catholic catechists of all kinds- school teachers, youth group leaders, and Bible study leaders- because it helps you to see the traditional art in a new way, and might help you to find further depth in the art and architecture of the churches local to you. I think in this tumultuous era for the Western Catholic Church, a movement to promote truth, goodness, and beauty through the creations of the modern Church would be a great gift to future generations.


Beauty; What It Is & Why It Matters, by John-Mark L. Miravalle
Similar in intent but with a different focus than the book above, this book really is a treatise on how something is qualified as beautiful and why it matters so much to the Christian faith.  He analyzes how truth, goodness, and beauty are not just matters of opinion, and how beauty can be analyzed.  He looks at both beauty in nature and beauty that is man made, including all forms of art. Filled with quotes from Saints, Church documents, and other scholars, the book is filled with things to think and talk about, and I imagine that the more people read it, the more they will start to look at what they create and what others create a little differently.

Which of these books are you the most excited to read?