“Tapas” for the Soul

Here’s my September book column that appears in the current print edition of The Catholic Post. Look for a Q&A with Monsignor, coming soon.

I was struggling with a way to characterize Peoria diocesan native Monsignor Soseman’s delightful new book, Reflections from Rome: Practical Thoughts on Faith & Family.

And then it hit me: Tapas.

You know, those Spanish appetizer-y type of dishes served with drinks? And when I saw this in the Wikipedia entry for “tapas”

“The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them.”

It made me think: Exactly.

Reflections from Rome is a full of conversation starters, tasty morsels that inspire pondering, conversation, and inspiration.

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The book originated as “Faith,” a Facebook page Monsignor Soseman started some years back to share his thoughts with friends and family while he lives and works at the Vatican.

Monsignor is a native of Campbell’s Island, Illinois, is a priest of the Peoria diocese, and a longtime writer. These “Faith” meditations have been gathered, edited and expanded into this accessible and enjoyable book.

Each several-page reflection can be read in a few short minutes. They can be read independently of each other, or in sequence, making this a flexible and timeless book. Some reflections relate to specific seasons, but can be read at any time of year.

The reflections in the book are both realistic (as fits a rural Illinois native) and intelligent (as Monsignor’s many degrees attest, including canon law and Spanish, which is why I know Monsingor won’t mind me comparing his book to tapas).

The reflections are not written to talk “down” to people, but rather build them up. He offers such a wide variety of teaching, Catholic varia about the saints or some point of doctrine, and simple wisdom that he makes it look easy.

I have to provide full disclosure here: my husband Joseph and I have been friends with Monsignor Soseman nearly as long as we have lived in central Illinois, and we treasure his friendship.

But this is just to say that he is just as delightful in person as he is in the pages of his book. That may make some of the reflections more personal to me, as, for instance, I know his mother Agnes well, and she figures in various reflections. But anyone will find inspiration and a little something extra to help live out our Catholic faith.

Like tapas, each “reflection” offers a substantial, but not overwhelming, bite to ponder and discuss with others.

Case in point: When I was previewing the book, I happened upon “Making Up,” about bad language–when it is merely impolite and when it is sinful–and ending with the Divine Praises and a suggestion to pray it as a remedy for ourselves and others when we fail. Around the same time, my teen and I had been having some discussions about this very topic, and our different views (because of our age difference) on what constitutes “impolite” language.

I handed her the book; she read the section in a few minutes, and we had a mini-discussion to see our common ground.

Most of all, Monsignor Soseman is gentle and kind. In one reflection, “Ligonberries,” Monsignor comments on the many titles for the Lord, and how meditating on them can be helpful in deepening our relationship with the Lord. He recommends finding one of Biblical list of the Lord’s titles, or one of the litanies, such as the Sacred Heart or Holy Name litanies.

“(Spend) some time meditating on God’s greatness: a greatness so good and profound that two or three titles don’t suffice, but instead truly hundreds of titles and references exist, giving insight into who Our Lord is and helping us to know Him better.”

Simple? Yes. But profound and powerful nonetheless. Most of the reflections capture this spirit as well.

Reflections from Rome is spiritually uplifting, challenging in a good way, and well worth the read. Pour some refreshing drinks, make some tapas, and enjoy Reflections from Rome.