Book Review: Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis

For many Catholics Mary is a source of comfort, intercession and motherly affection. This is certainly true for Pope Francis. Throughout his papacy Pope Francis has made specific mention of Mary as “the first pilgrim” and “the perfect disciple” as well as many other titles and devotions. Mary’s unconditional “yes” is for all followers of Jesus the perfect example of what it means to truly participate in the will of the Father in our everyday lives. Alicia von Stamwitz has beautifully compiled the writings, homilies and even tweets by the Holy Father about the Mother of God in this precious book, Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis.

mother maryThis is the perfect nightstand book. While arranged thematically, each excerpt is only a page or two at the most. Pope Francis’ insights into the role our spiritual mother plays are poignant, full of depth and love. While it is a book that highlights Mary, it is always important to recognize exactly what Mary’s role is – to bring us to Christ.

Mary’s gaze is not directed towards us along…”Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Mary points to Jesus, she asks us to bear witness to Jesus, she constantly guides us to her Son, Jesus, because in him alone do we find salvation. he alone can change the water of our loneliness, difficulties and sin into the wine of encounter, joy and forgiveness. Video message for prayer vigil at the Shrine of Divine Love, from the Vatican. Saturday, October 12, 2013.

Pope Francis’ call for the Year of Mercy can be seen in many of his reflections on Mary, the Mother of Mercy:

In the end we will all be judged by the same measure with which we have judged: the mercy we have shown to others will also be shown to us. Let us ask Our Lady, our Mother, to help us to grow in patience, in hope and in mercy with all brothers and sisters. Angelus, St. Peter’s Square. Sunday, July 20, 2014.

This book also allows us glimpses into Pope Francis, the man and priest. He recalls images and titles of Mary that are meaningful to him, such as Our Lady Undoer of Knots and how under the mantel of Mary we learn “true discipleship” (145).

Mother Mary is inviting, warm and inspiring. And in true Pope Francis fashion, it a book that gently guides you into deeper relationship with Jesus through His merciful Mother, Mary.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Book Review: Born to Soar: Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life

As many of you know I have been trying to stay more organized with a pen and paper planner. So far, so good! Not only am I more organized and peaceful about my schedule, I am finding it is easier to remember things I want to write about (because now I have a single place to write them down!) Discovering the benefits of journaling seemed to be the next logical step in the “pen and paper journey.” As luck would have it, the opportunity to review a book that is part scripture reflection, part monarch butterfly life cycle, and part journal landed in my inbox that same week!

Melissa Overmyer’s Born to Soar is a unique book that integrates so many ideas but in a new and creative way. She bases the structure of the 6 week study (this can be read individually or in a group setting) around the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Jumping from each stage – egg, caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly – Overmyer takes the reader, or perhaps I should say the participant or reflector, on a spiritual journey that starts with how God made us and travels through the Eucharistic as spiritual food, cocooning with God, and the practicing and strengthening our virtues. The reflections take on their fullest potential in the final chapter/week where Overmyer explores the ways we, as joyful, fed and transformed people are called to spread God’s love with intensity each and every day. 

This book truly embodies the oft-mentioned phrase “You get out what you put in.” If you want to hunker down and really commit to 6 weeks of daily prayer and reflection Born to Soar would be a great choice for you. Each week has not only an opening reflection that is linked to one of the stages of monarch development, it also has excerpts from John of the Cross’ poetry for added spiritual wisdom. There are journaling questions that can be done individually and then, when desired, discussed in a group study. Finally, each day of the week has a daily Scripture verse and journaling prompt. There is ample space to journal which I appreciated. 

Born to Soar brings a fresh take to long standing desire for many people. How do I make time for God? How can I incorporate more Scripture, journaling or reflecting into my day? This book not only provides the text, it is itself a journal which you can come back to time and again to see how you are maturing toward your imago state, the place of fullness of being, in the presence of God. 

Book Review: The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis

PrintThere are so many options for Lenten reflections out there. Many bishops and priests will write a reflection series, most parishes will offer some kind of booklet like the Little Black books or a Magnificat Lenten Companion prayer book. If you are starting to think, oh this is just another one of those books/series, keep reading! The Hope of Lent by Diane M. Houdek is a brand new series of reflections….hold it right there. It may say that these are “reflections” in the title, but I would respectfully beg to differ.

What is so delightfully refreshing about Pope Francis is that in one breath he can cause a person to stop, reflect and be moved to act. Houdek has very thoughtfully chosen key moments in Pope Francis’ daily homilies and addresses which invite the reader to not simply consider the daily readings, but to be inspired into practical action.

Lent isn’t only a time for sitting back and internal soul searching, though this can be extremely fruitful. Pope Francis is fearless in his interpretation and explanation of Gospel truths.

How often we find people – ourselves included – so often in the Church who proclaim: “I am a real Catholic!” They should be asked, “What do you do?”

The Lord’s mercy is in doing. Being Christian means acting: doing the will of God. And on the last day – because we will all have one – what will the Lord ask us? Will he ask us: “What have you said about me?” No! He will ask about the things we have done.

– Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Houdek rightfully explores the exhortations of Pope Francis by offering a brief follow-up meditation which typically includes an idea for how to put our pope’s words into action. The daily entry finishes with a few lines of prayer from Pope Francis.

Something I really appreciated about The Hope of Lent is how Houdek frames the purpose for it. She says:

The greatest hope of Lent is the discovery that it’s not only about penance, deprivation, spiritual struggles, and rooting out sin in our lives. Those are often the things we do during Lent. But the hope of Lent lies in what God does (vii).

So here we have a simple book that has found a way to hold two key truths in balance with one another. In one hand, it isn’t enough to talk the talk, we must walk the walk. However, while we are doing all that walking, we must not get caught up in our own action. Rather, the more we are called to action necessarily means we are called to greater contemplation.

We live in a rush, we are on the run, without noticing what the path is like; and we let ourselves be carried along by the needs, by the necessities of the days, but without thinking…Today, at the moment in which we stop to think about these things and to make decisions, to choose something, we know the Lord is with us, is beside us, to help us. He never lets us go alone.

– Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Even though Lent has just begun, The Hope of Lent is more than worth going back and reading from the beginning. And then reading again in June or July. And possibly in October or November as well. Pope Francis’ meditations are full of spiritual insight and practical wisdom that can inspire us to become hope-filled, joy-filled Christians.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com