Tag Archives: Catholic new media

#PrayforthePope

My husband Joseph and I have just been in shock this morning about the news of Pope Benedict XVI resigning.

My first tweet this morning was retweeted a few times, so I’m sharing it here:

Looking for another intention to pray for this Lent? @pontifex resigning and the election of a new Pope is a good start.
— Nancy Piccione (@readingCatholic) February 11, 2013

How interesting, too, that this news breaks on the World Day of the Sick and Our Lady of Lourdes.

From the Holy Father’s letter announcing his resignation:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.”

My husband, with his interest and knowledge of all things Catholic, starting sharing about the last pope to resign.  New Advent has the Catholic Encyclopedia about the last pope to resign, Celestine V.  It’s not unprecedented, but it is really surprising.

We’ve had an interesting discussion here.  On the one hand, as Joseph mentioned, Pope Paul VI spoke about how it was important for people to see the Holy Father die in office.

Consider how Pope John Paul II’s decline and death showed a generation the beauty and nobility of that.  On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI resigning shows that stepping down is also a viable option, and strength and holiness can be shown through that.

This may not seem like the best way to say this, but there are many ways to grow old.   Blessed Pope John Paul II showed us one very public way, and perhaps Benedict XVI is showing us another, quieter way, more suited to his quiet personality.

Here’s a brief article from Vatican Radio (and update, here is Rocco Palma’s first, thorough analysis) detailing some of the specifics: Benedict XVI will not participate in the conclave to elect the new pope (and he is also too old to vote in any case).   He will move to Castel Gandolfo after his resignation becomes effective, and he will live in private apartments at the Vatican.   Joseph and I both thought he might have moved back to Germany to live out his final days there.  We just watched Cardinal Dolan interviewed on the Today Show, and he appears just as surprised as everyone.

Consider, too, that the Holy Father won’t be like a former president.  The media won’t get to interview him and ask how “the new guy” is doing. He will be living a completely private life.

Can we join in prayer as we approach Lent? I will be considering how prayer for Benedict XVI, as well as the new pope, will be part of my Lent.

Any special ideas you have to make this a fruitful Lent in prayer for the Holy Father and his successor?

"Authentic Friendship in an Age of Social Media" This Saturday, Feb. 3 UPDATED

Shamelessly taking from the blog post about this weekend’s gathering here:

Have you ever questioned the role of friendship in your life?

Why do women have a need for authentic friendship – to be accepted, supported, and loved?

How has social media changed our idea of friendship, perhaps making it more easy to find like-minded friends, or more difficult to deepen new friendships?

How does authentic friendship relate to our femininity?

Please join us for an exciting and pertinent talk on
Authentic Friendship in an Age of Social Media
given by Sister Helena Burns and Lisa Schmidt

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013
Doors open at 7:10pm
Event begins at 7:30
Saint Philomena Catholic Church
3300 N Twelve Oaks Dr
Peoria, IL
There is no cost to attend this event,
though a small donation for this special event is very appreciated
——————
I plan to attend this Saturday, and I’ll be doing a book giveaway. I’m especially excited to get to see Sister Helena Burns and Lisa Schmidt again, as well in see in person so many women that I don’t get to see very often.   I hope to see you there, too.
I thought it would be fun to have a Twitter hashtag for the event, and I thought #authenticfriendship  while a little long, could work.  I also thought #firstSaturday could be a good one, too, though also longish. Do you have any Twitter hashtag ideas for the gathering?

UPDATED: Dianna Kennedy, of The Kennedy Adventures, suggested on Facebook the hashtag #1stSat.   Works for me!  Any others?

A WinterJam Primer, or How to Keep Your Hearing, Your Faith, and Your Sanity, and Have a Good Time

Note: In lieu of Worth a Listen (normally appearing here on Wednesday), I’m writing this after the WinterJam just occurred in our area with a concert in Peoria Sunday night.  When I posted occasional updates on Facebook & Twitter from the concert, there were a lot of questions (on FB) about how the concert, how it was, should people bring their small children, etc. This is to answer those questions as well as talk about this great  I’ll re-run this next year as WinterJam makes it way to our area again, so consider this a “primer” on how to encounter WinterJam successfully.

I’m a veteran, having just attended my third WinterJam.  I think I’ve got this “down” now and have a good strategy for attending and making the most of this great concert.

WinterJam, the largest Christian concert series in the world (and largest altogether if Wikipedia is to be believed) is a traveling concert series founded by NewSong and featuring more than a half-dozen Christian contemporary music (CCM) acts.

1.   Here’s your first word:  earplugs.

I mean this as no criticism at all, since I love virtually all the music played at the concert.  If you are not a teen (and maybe if you are), you will be grateful for a good pair of earplugs.  I bought a multi-pack of earplugs to share with fellow parents along with me for the concert.  Happily, WCIC-FM at their merch/swag table gave away free pairs as well.  That was a really sweet touch.

Note to self for next year:  I’m bringing some heavier duty earplugs, as these were not quite enough, especially during certain bands (more on that later).  But do plan on having some kind of ear protection.  Every single musician during the evening I could see was wearing ear protection.  If it’s good enough for TobyMac, it’s good enough for me.

2.  Here are two more  words:  go early.

WinterJam is an unbeatable value at $10 per person, but seating is first come, first serve.  The concert starts at 6 p.m., but doors open at 5 p.m. and you then choose your seats in the Civic Center arena.  There is a “Jam Nation” feature that allows concert-goers to get in early, but you must have a group of at least 10, and then it is $30 per ticket.  This is still an excellent value.  I would have loved to do this in 2013, but I started organizing the WinterJam-interested families I know too late.  After many back and forth e-mails, we couldn’t get to the 10 threshold before my deadline.

As it was, some of our group arrived about an hour and a half before the 5 p.m. doors opening.  We actually would have arrived much earlier, but it was freezing rain most of the day, and I thought we’d have to wait outside.  Turns out the Civic Center opened a large room for people to wait, and there were official looking WinterJam people lining us up and warning us not to jump lines, or we’d have to go to the back.

Around 4:45, they started to let us into the Civic Center arena, and because we had arrived pretty early, we obtained some pretty good seats.  We had not wanted to be on the floor, so our lower bowl seats near the stage were great for us.

Last year when we attended, the weather was much better (Peoria was the last stop on the tour), and we arrived early with a student council group.  What I loved about this was a pre-show concert by two acts not well-known at the time for those waiting in line.  We heard both Group 1 Crew and For King & Country, both vastly more well-known this year.  Here’s a photo from last year:

All around the arena, there are tons of “merch” tables for the various artists, as well as Christian ministries that are part of WinterJam. It’s worthwhile if you are there early to walk around and get to see everything.

3.  Don’t bring the whole family.  Or do.  This is really particular to your family.

The first year we attended WinterJam, our whole family attended, but we only stayed for about the first hour.  It was too much noise for the younger kids in our family (7 and 10 that year), and my husband said, like NewSong sings each year at WinterJam, “This world has nothing for me…” (He does like CCM music, to a point).  So we agreed that I would be the WinterJam designated person, and he would  teach our children to drive.  Fair trade.

A few people have asked about what age ranges would be good for WinterJam.  I’ve seen toddlers happily dancing at WinterJam (not a whole lot of them), but it seems to be best for tweens and teens, and their music-loving grown-ups.  You know your kids. And your grown-ups.

4.  Understand the rhythm of WinterJam.

After going to WinterJam for three years, I can share what is the formula for a WinterJam.  I think it is a good mix.

Pre-show: this would include the time outside, and any pre-show bands.  There was not a pre-show band concert, perhaps because of the weather.

First “half.”  This is like a warm-up for the bigger acts to come.  Each act plays for perhaps four to perhaps six songs.  It’s annoying both when an act you like plays too few songs, and also when a not-so-great band plays more than you’d like.  Either way, these pass quickly.

Sometime in this first half, NewSong plays.  NewSong is a more “mature” group than most of the other WinterJam acts, as I pointed out to a fellow parent along with our group, but those men can sing.  They play a few songs, talk about their vision of starting WinterJam, and promote World Vision, the charity sponsor of the evening.  Throughout the evening, concert-goers are encouraged to adopt a child in a third World country through World Vision.

A young pastor named Nick Hall gives a kind of sermon during this first half.  It’s basically a non-denominational talk about following Jesus.  More on that later…

Then there is an intermission, which is a good time to walk around and check out the merchandise tables, or get a snack.  Some practical matters:  food and drink is something to consider.  I had a big late lunch, and brought along an apple and a bottle of water to have during the intermission. That worked for me, since a concert for me, unlike, say a baseball game, is not a time I want to have arena-type food like nachos or hot dogs.

Second “half”:  After the intermission are the “big” acts–this year it was Matthew West and TobyMac.  They were both well worth the wait.

Sometime during the second half, there is a “love offering” collection taken up to support the ministry of putting on WinterJam. Worthwhile knowing that this takes place and considering what you might do when they pass the bucket.

Finally, be prepared for the night to end super late.

After the concert, there is a big crush as people try to leave.  We ended up staying around a little later because we kept running into people we knew, and chatting about the concert.  After that, we realized most of the “first half” acts were available for autographs, so we got a few autographs and photos.

Our 15-year-old was most excited to meet and say hello to Jamie Grace.  She truly loves (understatement) all of Jamie’s music and especially her sense of style:

We also met OBB, three attractive brothers with a “boy band.” OBB had announced during their concert, “like us on Facebook, because we were homeschooled, and we need all the friends we can get!”  The arena erupted in screams, as you can imagine.  When we met them, I introduced all the teen girls in our group as homeschoolers or former homeschoolers, and it was a fun discussion and an even funnier photo, with one of the girls nearly in tears.

By the time we got back to our minivan and then took several teens along with us back to their vehicles, and then drove home, it was just about midnight.  That is late for a Sunday night (and school the next day), but well worthwhile.  But if you go to a WinterJam, know that it will be a late night, and you won’t be super-productive the next day.

5.  Take the good, leave behind the bad.

Let me start by saying that I am hugely grateful there is a concert series like WinterJam.  The group behind it, NewSong, and the promoters, are sincere Christians truly desiring to put on a good show as well as encourage others to follow Christ.  Putting together this kind of entertaining, hours-long concert, and providing a good value, is no small feat, and I commend them and thank them for this ministry.

At the same time, and being real here, as a Catholic, you’re not going to get the fullness of the Faith at a WinterJam.  Plan to be okay with that.

You might even encounter weak or even truly goofy ideas, and I don’t have time to go into any of them here.  You can use your imagination.  But I consider those a learning opportunity for myself and those who attend with me, as we experience Christianity lived by others.

There is also an “altar call” type of experience where they ask people to turn over their lives to Jesus. 

As I told my teen, thought, I don’t want us to get all triumphalist about it and exhibit spiritual pride, but it’s okay to recognize where the WinterJam theology falls short.  We don’t have to accept it all uncritically, or think we need to become a non-denominational Christian just because they play the coolest music.  How can you leave behind Jesus in the Eucharist?  As St. Peter told Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

As I write this, the thought of a Catholic WinterJam is really intriguing.  Imagine if, instead of the pastor’s sermon in the middle of the concert, we had a short meditation and then a time of Eucharistic Adoration?  Wow.

6.  Don’t expect entirely live music, but do enjoy the live experience.

Now, a lot of this is above my pay grade and understanding of music, concerts and how these things work.  I didn’t follow along to the “controversy” about Beyoncé not singing the national anthem at the Inauguration earlier this month, and I have attended very few concerts in my grown-up days.

But as far as my untrained eyes and ear can tell, “live music” does not necessarily mean live everything.  I’m okay with that…to a point.

One of the reasons I was annoyed with last year’s WinterJam was that we did stay for the last act, which turned out to be a band called Skillet.

Now, Skillet’s music is decidedly not my kind of music, but that’s not what made me annoyed.  What did annoy me was this: I was pretty sure  they were lip-syncing, except for one slower song in which the lead singer talked and sang.  I am virtually certain the musicians were playing air guitar and violin and who knows what other instruments, I don’t even remember, I just recall thinking, “I could air violin better than that.”  (Apologies to all my loyal readers who are also loyal Skillet fans.  Just my take on it).

There were a lot of pyrotechnics along with this act, and I thought, they are probably not doing it live so they can dodge the fire and fireworks and so forth.  We could have easily left before Skillet and gotten home earlier, but we didn’t, and there goes 30 minutes I can’t ever get back.

So there was a little bit of trepidation about this year’s WinterJam.  Would there be truly live music?  I was just interested to watch closely, but also enjoy myself and the music.

Since I’m not an expert or in the music industry (nor do I have time to look this up),  I don’t know what the current standard is these sorts of things.  Is it okay to sing live before piped-in or canned music?  Is it okay to pretend you’re playing an instrument when you’re not?

I thought several of the acts struck a good balance. For instance, Jamie Grace, a great singer and great performer, sang all her songs live.  While she was backed up with music (with no visible musicians, so it was obvious it was piped in), she played a guitar along with her songs.  You could tell she was actually playing along because she made a few little mistakes, and at one point, the guitar was not properly hooked up, so she was fiddling with it.  I even tweeted to her later in the evening thanking her for singing live.

But there was one “hard rock” group, like Skillet last year, called “Red,” that “played” with a lot of pyrotechnics and so forth.  And they also appeared, to my untrained eye, to lip sync every song but one, and not to be actually playing their instruments, just like Skillet last year.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Perhaps the tour organizers required that they lip sync, in order to be sure they could dodge the fireworks?  Part of the contract?

It didn’t bother me that much.  Recall, I had earplugs, and I know nothing of “Red.”  Though, I must say, I began to be intrigued when I learned their last album was called “Until We Have Faces,” thinking they might have named it after C.S. Lewis’ greatest novel, Till We Have Faces, but it turns out the band goes to pains to say they didn’t name the album after that.  Okay, never mind, don’t need to find out any more about this group.

But what if I had been a Red superfan?  Would I have noticed the lip syncing?  Would I have cared? I do think this distracts from the overall experience to experience this kind of “live music.”  Just my middle-aged take on it, but you don’t have to listen to me.

(UPDATED: A dad who was along with our group turned out to really enjoy Red, and their family is listening to a lot of Red music this week.  So perhaps you shouldn’t take my musical opinion here–though I did respond to a Facebook post on this, “I am all astonishment.”)

What was amazing was Matthew West.  He sang every song absolutely live, and I didn’t even pay attention or care whether his back-up band and whether they were playing live or not.  He was riveting as a performer, talked beautifully between his music, showed several videos of the stories behind several of his newer songs.

That is one of the features of WinterJam I really enjoy, and why I tell you to “enjoy the live experience.”  There are various screens and screen-type stage “decorations” (I don’t know what else to call them) of various sizes,  for projecting the lead singer, as well as sometimes song lyrics, as well as other images. For instance, during Matthew West’s song, “Hello My Name Is…,” there was a curved bank of mini-screens above the stage that flashed the words.

I also cannot say enough about TobyMac.  That man can sing and perform like nobody’s business, and he pulls together a terrific assortment of singers and performers alongside him.  I did not hear the name of the female singer who sang next to him, but she was gorgeous as well as an amazing singer, as was Jamie Grace (again), who joined him for several songs.  The songs he sang alone would have been worth the wait, the price and everything else.

There were musicians along with TobyMac, and it was clear sometimes that instruments were being played live.  For instance, several of his songs featured performers walking with marching-band style drums, and you could hear the beat coming from them.  But at one point, one of his crew came up to a guitar player and “air-guitared” next to him, almost a wink-nod that he might not be really playing.  I’m not sure, but I don’t really care, because again, as I’ve said, the singers were all singing live, and performing beautifully.

Here’s one person I’d love to have a live/not live conversation with about WinterJam, and music in general: DJ Maj.  According to his Twitter account @MajPro (he actually followed me! Along with 6,000 other people, but still….): he’s a God Son / Hubby / DJ For Toby Mac / Rhymer / @wepoplive / @VidiMixShow.

At one point in the show, TobyMac announced DJ Maj, and he and the other band members left the stage.  DJ Maj was on a platform high above the stage, and did a “mix” of video and audio.  I have no knowledge of what was “live mixed” or not, but it was engaging and interesting, and worth watching.  No pyrotechnics, either.  Thank you, DJ Maj.

I shot some very grainy and unprofessional cell phone videos of some of my favorite songs.  If I get a chance to upload them, I will share them in future “Worth A Listen” posts.

Have you ever been to a WinterJam or similar concert?  What is your take on attending these kinds of concerts as a Catholic?

New Year, New You: Be Mindful, Be Inspired

Here is my January column that appears in this weekend’s edition of The Catholic Post.  I invite your feedback here or elsewhere online.

A new calendar year offers many a chance to start fresh with eating right or maybe a new exercise plan.  Bookstores shelves are full of how-to books this time of year to help kick-start that process.

That’s all well and good, but many times a shift in thinking is what’s really needed.  Two great new books offer just that.

Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image and God  is Mary DeTurris Poust’s personal and spiritual journey about the intersection of food and faith.

“For Catholics, any conversation about the food-faith connection will always come back around to this one central theme. Ours is a faith centered on a meal,” Poust writes, and she shows in Cravings how it is vital to understand and internalize the link between our spiritual and physical well-being when it comes to food.

A big strength is that Poust’s book is both Catholic and catholic, tapping into a wide range of spiritual practices and traditions related to food and meals.  So much of our Catholic liturgical year relates to fasting and feasting, and seeing how other cultures and religious traditions share this is constructive and broadening.  Poust also shares stories of various people who have struggled with weight, food issues or spirituality related to food, and how they handle their struggles.

Cravings is more spiritual “how-to” than healthy-eating “how-to.”  Considering the many competing theories that seem to change by the week (is it paleo or vegan that’s best these days?), that seems healthy in more ways than one.

At the same time, Poust takes the time to make the case about how our modern American food promotes unhealthy lifestyles rather than healthy ones.  And her helpful appendix, “Practices for the Journey Forward,” summarizing healthy eating and lifestyle principles, is sensible and balanced without being too much.

Poust saved the best for last, in the final two chapters: “Soul Food: Turning Meals into Meditations,” and “Just Desserts: You Can Have Your Cake and Spiritual Life, Too.”  I’m not just saying that because I love dessert best of all.  Her own experiences of mindful eating, both alone and with her family, as well as her ideas for creating food rituals, are encouraging rather than daunting.

After reading Cravings, I feel motivated in many ways, and so grateful for our Catholic faith’s rhythms and rituals.  My take-away is to practice small times of mindful eating, and make more intentional and positive food rituals at our house.

Running With God Across America is decidedly not a “how-to” book about getting in shape, but many readers will find it inspiring and compelling.

Running is University of Notre Dame grad Jeff Grabosky’s account of his decision to embark, after a rough post-college time, on a cross-country run, praying for others’ intentions the entire way.

Each short chapter is titled by “day” (day 1, etc.) and covers one day of his  3,700-mile, months-long journey.  Most days he ran more than 30 miles, and he relates with openness his spiritual, physical and emotional state through many ups and downs.

“I set out on my journey to help bring our world closer to God,” writes Grabosky at the end of Running with God Across America, but it’s his own spiritual journey that takes center stage, with a endearing narrative and flow.

This book is hard to put down–I would resolve to set it aside for dishes or some other responsibility, but kept reading and telling myself, “just one more day.”

As a busy middle-aged mom (and runner), I found myself envious of two aspects of Grabosky’s trek, one serious and one kind of funny.

First, Grabosky had tons of time and personal space for prayer, while running, of course. That’s why the book reads like a retreat journal or spiritual memoir in many ways.  His spiritual highs and lows are recounted in vivid and emotional detail.

Second, food lovers will marvel as Grabosky relates the sheer amount of food he needed to eat to keep up his weight on this long run. I know how good food tastes after a long run or lots of exertion, and so his descriptions of memorable and delicious meals stuck with me.  Talk about mindful eating.

Most people aren’t going to embark upon a solo cross-country run, though some might want to join in Grabosky’s latest effort, as he organizes the LIFE Runner’s cross-country Relay for Life that begins next month.

Still, most readers will glean from Running With God Across America spiritual fruit from his journey, and be inspired to consider their own spiritual and physical life more like the real journey that it is.  Just one more day ….

—-

Note:  I will be doing Q&As this month with both Mary DeTurris Poust and Jeff Grabosky.  My Q&A with Jeff will appear next week, and I’ll be part of the blog tour for Mary’s book; Reading Catholic’s “stop” is scheduled for January 20.

2012 Book Survey and 2013 Reading Resolutions

Year’s end is a great time to take stock of the past calendar year and make some new-year resolutions.

Faith at “Strewing”answered a series of book-related questions about the books she read this year, and that inspired me to come up with a quick list of questions related to books and invite you to share your favorites, too.

I want to clarify that I do always recommend all of the books that I review, and you can find them all in the book review tab up at the top of the blog.  (Note:  I need to add the last few months, but I promise to do so as a year’s end housekeeping).

So here is my 2012 Book Survey and Reading Resolutions for 2013.  Please share your answers on your own blog, or here in the comments if you are so inclined. Happy reading!

What was the most important/best book that you read this year?

I’ve got two here, and I reviewed them both in my July columnAdam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt and My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Dawn Eden.  Must reads.

What book was most spiritually fruitful for you this year?

God Will Provide by Patricia Treece is a tremendous book.

What was the most enjoyable read this year?

Two memoirs come to mind.  Amy Welborn’s Wish You Were Here and Colleen Carroll Campbell’s My Sisters the Saints were both great reads.

Actually, I really enjoyed and found lots to ponder from all the memoirs I read this year, from Alberto Salazar’s 14 Minutes to Chris Haw’s From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart.  

What was the favorite book you read (or re-read) this year?

Re-reading (and reading out loud to my children) Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy has been a highlight.

What are your reading resolutions for the new year?

I have three:

Get more organized.  First, just in the last few weeks, I’ve started a list for review books that I add to each time books come in with the title, author and publisher.  If I get a chance to glance through it or even read it, I give it a grade and a couple of notes about the book.

I also hope to get up to speed on GoodReads or one of the other websites to help organize reading with everything I am reading, including with the kids, and books I want to share with my husband.  For many months, I kept a book log on my phone of all the books I read–usually a dozen or more a month, yay me!– but I’ve gotten out of that habit and I need to do so again.  I find it so satisfying to look back at the list of all that I have read.

Get more opinions.  I really enjoy getting to host other bloggers or other people reviewing books, and I want to make that a bigger part of Reading Catholic next year.  I really hope to tap into the local Catholic community for this, and have more voices chime in on all the great books out there.

Share more in real life.  I am determined to start an in-real-life book group again, and this one will not be about Catholic books–there, I said it!  I am definitely up for the fun I had several years back with a now-defunct Jane Austen book group.  I need that kind of talk and enjoyment with fellow readers.

What about you?  What are your favorite reads from 2012, and are you making any reading resolutions for 2013?

"Minor Revisions" for the Advent-Stressed

For the love of Christmas, I just cannot seem to keep up with Advent and Christmas.  Am I the only one?  I feel completely behind on everything this year.

Blog-wise, I will spare you just how many half-started posts I have in progress right now.  Here are just a few:  1. gift books for Christmas for adults, 2. gift books for children, 3. Christmas-themed books we love at our house, and many, many more.  It’s December 20 and there are just a few days left for those posts to have any meaning, so I fervently hope to get at least a few of them finished.

What have I been doing with my online time since I was able to sit down here about half an hour ago?  Watching Episode 1 of “Minor Revisions,”  the online reality show about atheist to Catholic convert Jen Fulwiler.  Local readers will remember that Jen spoke at Behold 2011, the Catholic women’s conference, and she also was a featured blogger at Behold 2012.  This was thanks to Bonnie Engstrom of A Knotted Life (who is doing such an excellent Advent series on her blog) reminding me about the second episode online tonight.

I was traveling last Thursday night, so unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch the first episode, only available online live.  Fortunately, there was such a demand for watching it online that the producers posted it on YouTube for a short time.  So I’m taking the opportunity to watch it now.  It is super well-done and enjoyable.  Here it is, in case you haven’t seen it.

I can’t tell you how eager I am to read Jen’s memoir when it is released, and I trust it will be just as great as reading her blog and seeing her on “Minor Revisions.”

Catholic App Spotlight: My Year of Faith

I have been a bad Twitter user in recent weeks (For those of you on Twitter, I’m @ReadingCatholic and I’d love to connect with you there).

I’ve been on Twitter very rarely lately, even with the excellent TweetDeck desktop. Officially, Twitter can be a time-waster, but when I am there I invariably learn some great things from the links people share.  Lately, I’ve been feeling too “busy” and harried with my to-do list, both online and off, to be able to spend any time on Twitter, or figuring out Pinterest, or any of the other social media goals I have.

But last Friday, I was procrastinating/trying to get my writing juices flowing, in the hopes of finishing a post on Advent books, when I decided to spend a few minutes on Twitter, just checking in and tweeting a few things.  I retweeted some great articles shared, and also an article from the last issue of The Catholic Post about my friend Amy Dyke, the new NFP coordinator.

One of the articles I saw tweeted was “Who Is Your St. Andrew?”  It’s well worth a quick read if you have a minute.

The article was posted on a site called “My Year of Faith,” and in exploring that I discovered that it is actually an App called “My Year of Faith” produced by Little iApps.  I’ve written about Confession, one of the first Apps produced by Little iApps, as well as one of their Novena apps here.   I really do use these Apps to aid in my own prayer life, as well as that of my kids.  I’d have to say that  the Universalis App on my iPhone is my most-used App, but I do use fairly often the various Little iApps that I have.

I’ve just downloaded My Year of Faith (a bargain at 99 cents) so I can’t give a review yet, but I like what I see in the iTunes description and since I have found apps by Little iApps to be useful, well-designed and edifying.

Do you know of any other Apps for The Year of Faith? How are you using your phone or tablet to help you live out the Year of Faith?

Book Traditions for Advent and Christmas

I’m excited to share that I’ve been invited to be part of the Advent series hosted by Bonnie at A Knotted Life.   Kicking off the series this Sunday will be Lisa Hendey.  I truly look forward to following along with it, and of course I’m delighted to be included among the bloggers writing guest posts.  I will be writing for the feast of St. Nicholas.

As a little sneak preview, I am writing about–surprise, surprise–books for Advent and Christmastime.

But I wanted to share here in a more general way how I have used books during Advent, as well as offer some resources and suggestions.  After I wrote in part of my November column for The Catholic Post about some newer books to help keep Advent well, I realize that literature (and for kids in particular, picture books)  can be just as good as devotional works, to get in the spirit of the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Here are some of the nuts & bolts of how we use literature during Advent at our house.

I keep a basket of Advent- and Christmas-themed books tucked away in a closet.   I’ve kept this basket for years, and added to it over time via book sales, library cast-offs and Barnes & Noble “after Christmas” (though during Christmas season) sales. There are perhaps a dozen books that we truly treasure, but the rest are seasonal enough to hold interest and keep us reading.  There are about 50 books in our Advent/Christmas book basket, and I usually also order a lot of other books from the library, either new ones, or old classics we don’t own.   So there is plenty to read this time of year.

I began the Advent/Christmas basket of books when my oldest (now 15!) was a toddler.  I learned about the tradition from Catholic moms on various e-groups (in the Wild West, before we got all our great ideas from blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest).

At that time, some moms shared on the e-groups about how they wrapped (sometimes in liturgically correct purple or pink) each one of the books well ahead of Advent, and then unwrapped one each day of Advent and Christmastime.  

That idea makes me tired just thinking about it, so needless to say that has never happened here.   I used to have some guilt, like I wasn’t quite “mom” enough to pick out and wrap dozens of books.  Now that I’m a little wiser, I leave that behind.

In reality, I feel accomplished simply that I am able to keep those books tucked away all year and bring out the basket at the beginning of Advent.

I won’t list all the books in our family’s basket (though I will share one special book on Bonnie’s blog next week, and a few others later in Advent here).  For one, I think there are fewer than a dozen that we cherish.  Mostly, though, it’s because so many moms over the years have made some great lists that I don’t need to re-invent the wheel.

Here are just a few sources if you are interested in starting this tradition at your house:

*Elizabeth Foss, whose endless energy and generosity has enriched her own family and shared freely with other families great book suggestions and themes, takes special care with Advent.

*Mary Ellen Barrett has a blog devoted to keeping Advent at O Night Divine.  Here are some of her many, many book suggestions.

*Jessica at Shower of Roses has a nicely curated list of Advent books (and trust me, I hold nothing but admiration for her for actually wrapping the books, God bless her).

*for those who would like a book rather than a web resource, Cay Gibson’s amazing Christmas Mosaic  has a list of dozens of books, crafts, recipes and other ideas for making Advent and Christmastime special for families.

Picture books and Christmas-themed literature are unique and wonderful to move and inspire us during this season of preparation, and then as we celebrate Christmas.

Do you have an Advent and Christmastime book tradition?

Envoy for Christ: Patrick Madrid in Peoria

Patrick Madrid is coming to Peoria later this week, speaking on Evangelization and Apologetics (visit this Facebook page for more information and how to register)

I’m super disappointed that I won’t be one of the many people to attend Patrick’s talk this weekend and get the chance to meet him.   Our family has multiple conflicts Friday and Saturday.  But many of my friends will be there to hear him speak, and I look forward to hearing all about it from them.

But I am happy to be able to write about Patrick Madrid’s newest book, Envoy for Christ: 25 Years as a Catholic Apologist.  I’ve had a copy for awhile, but didn’t get the chance to read through it until about a month ago.

I’ve read Patrick Madrid’s work since I subscribed to Envoy magazine back in the 1990s.  I have always enjoyed his work, and loved the magazine and found it a great way to grow my faith as a young mom.  I recall the Top 10 lists, quizzes, or other humor that were great for a laugh.  The graphic design and “feel” to the magazine was first-rate.

Madrid has a popular blog that I admit I don’t visit often enough, as it’s a great resource and source of reflection and encouragement.  (Note to Patrick Madrid: add an e-mail subscribe button to your blog!).  It’s just top-notch.

I must confess that one of the reasons that I didn’t turn to the book is concern it wouldn’t be as great as I remembered Envoy magazine to be.   Maybe it wouldn’t measure up to my memories, like going back to the house you grew up in and finding it much different.

But Envoy for Christ is great.  I recommend it highly.  It’s especially good for busy moms and dads who might not have time to read a full-length book, but would benefit from the short chapters on different subjects Madrid tackles.

Envoy for Christ would also be appealing to people like me, who might have fond memories of reading Envoy back in the day, or who have following Patrick Madrid through his radio show or elsewhere.  Madrid tells the story of how he got into the “apologetics” business (can I call it a business?), and I love hearing those kinds of stories.

In addition, Envoy for Christ would be great just to have around the house for younger people to pick up.  At our house, I will often tell others, “this is a really good book,” and then leave it out for them to pick up when they get the chance.  Often this leads to great discussions.

My one quibble with Envoy for Christ is that I wish it were a little more well-sourced.  After many of the chapters, where the essay originally appears is listed–perhaps Envoy or another catechetical magazine.  But some are not sourced, and so it leaves me hanging a little–is that from his blog, or some online writing, or is this original to that book?

Otherwise, this is a terrific read.

One humorous aside: while writing this post, several times I  mistakenly wrote “Envy” instead of “Envoy,” and since it’s a word, it wasn’t auto-corrected.  I had to chuckle a little at a book titled, “Envy for Christ.”   I think I caught all of my too-fast typing mistakes, but in case I didn’t, there you go.

Are you going to see Patrick Madrid this weekend?

Q&A With Sister Helena Burns, Author of "He Speaks to You"

As I wrote in my October column, Sister Helena Burns is an expert on media literacy and Theology of the Body, a Catholic new media maven, and a great friend to the Peoria diocese, speaking here often and living in nearby Chicago.  Turns out she’s also a gifted author, writing the excellent and deceptively simple daily book for young women, He Speaks to You

Sister Helena, who is often busy at her own blog, Hell Burns, or on Twitter, graciously agreed to do a Q&A with me here.  Thanks, Sister, and thank you for your great book.


Q.  Sister Helena, tell Catholic Post readers more about you, your religious community, and your work.

The Daughters of St. Paul are an international congregation of women religious dedicated to evangelizing with the media. We try to use as many forms of media as possible, and now with the new media, we’re like kids in a candy store. When I was discerning my vocation, I was very drawn to sharing the Faith and helping people in spiritual pain (like I had been), and I thought: “What better way to bring God directly into someone’s heart and mind than through a book, a song, a magazine, a film?” I also loved that the Daughters had a kind of “mixed life”: contemplatives in action. Even though we’re an active order, we have approximately 3 hours of prayer each day, including an Hour of Eucharistic Adoration, which was very important to me. Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, www.MediaApostle.com wanted us to “share the fruits of our contemplation in action.”

Q.  You write in the introduction: “The sisters and I have long talked about wanting to find a way to share …basic principles of the interior life and how to live them in daily life.”   Why do you think this is so important, for young women in particular?

My Sisters and I often meet young women who want to pray more, go deeper with Jesus, but don’t always know how. Often they say: “I pray, but He doesn’t talk back.” We knew that if we could share some of the basics of prayer, of how the spiritual life “works,” we could really help young women not become discouraged, or give up on their interior life. Although each of our relationships with Jesus is unique, still, there are patterns that saints and mystics, spiritual masters and spiritual directors have identified that are universal.

I believe young women in particular need to look to and develop their interior lives because there really is a “war on women” today (but it’s the exact opposite of what the media says it is)! 

Ever since the Sexual Revolution and Women’s Liberation Movement, women have been encouraged to think and act like men interiorly and exteriorly. Women are told to squelch their essential feminine nature (body and soul) because it is “weak, irrational and limiting.” Women’s gifts (the feminine genius) are devalued, most of all by women themselves! But women are naturally “receptive,” (body and soul). We are receptive to men and to new life, but first of all to the Infinite, and we teach men and children how to be receptive to God. 

Women are supposedly “more religious” than men (the world over), but can we say that of our young women today? I’m afraid many (young and older) women’s “radar” is broken today. We don’t know what it means to be a woman. We don’t know our own identity in Christ, in Mary (the New Creation: the New Adam and the New Eve). But our radar can be fixed! It’s IN us. “He Speaks to You” is my little attempt to help “fix women’s radar.”

Q.  How long did it take you to write the book?

Approximately two years, very part time. Which was great because new ideas sprung up all along the way.

Q.  How did you come up with the themes for every month?

We tried to cover the essentials of a ground floor for the building of an “interior castle”!

Q. Was it difficult to write any one part of the book?  I enjoyed in particular the “speaking” quotes beginning each day from Jesus, and I wondered if it would be difficult to write so many.

I’m probably going to have an “extended stay” in Purgatory for putting words in Jesus’ mouth! A priest got it right, though, when he guessed: “Sister, is this how YOU hear Jesus?” Jesus is always comforting and challenging at the same time when He speaks to me, and I think that might be a universal for how He speaks to everyone. 

He also has a sense of humor. I think probably one of our biggest sins is to take the unimportant things too seriously, and the important things not seriously enough. Actually, Jesus’ parts in the book were the easiest to write. I’m REALLY hoping the Holy Spirit had a big hand in that, because I was asking Him to!



Q. Do you have a favorite section of the book?

I think it’s the month of October–dedicated to Our Lady–because the BVM is my BFF. I loved learning about her different titles and apparitions and sharing them in the book.

Q. What do you recommend as one or two good ways for a young woman to make the interior life and prayer a reality in our culture’s busy lifestyles?

Fidelity to daily prayer is essential. Sporadic prayer is like a sporadic relationship. You never really get to know the other person. There is NO other way.

Q.  You are busy with so many projects.  Anything in particular you’d like to share as particularly noteworthy?

We’re doing a 90-minute documentary on the life of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. We’ve finished shooting, laying audio and are now completing the visuals. A rough cut is due January 25, 2013. We’re still fundraising for it and have a pledge of a $10,000 matching grant if we can raise that by December 31! The trailer can be watched (in 10 languages so far) at www.MediaApostle.com  and donations can be made securely on the website. 

GIFTS for donations to the Fr. Alberione Film (from November 1–December 31) are:

$20 donation–Fr. A medal

$50 donation–Fr. A medal and DVD when completed

$500 donation–Fr. A medal, book (biography), and DVD when completed

$1,000 donation–Fr. A medal, book, DVD, and 12″ resin statue.

Q.  Is there anything you would like to add or wish I would have asked?

Yes, the question would be:  “If you were to write the same book today, would you do anything differently?” (I wrote it about four years ago.) 

The answer?  Yes. I would make it even more mushy, lovey-dovey with Jesus and stuff it with even MORE Theology of the Body. Women need to go to Jesus FIRST for their love, self-esteem, self-dignity and to feel beautiful. THEN go to your earthling guy. God’s love never changes.