Catholic Treasure Chest

What I’m Reading

I am a certified bibliophile, especially when it comes to spiritual books. I spent much of Lent reading! (Note to self: the pile of unread books does not diminish if you keep adding new books to the pile…)
Here’s a list of books I am reading at the moment or finished during Lent. Let me know if you’ve read any, are currently reading these, or have comments on any of them!

  • Into His Likeness by Edward Sri. Sri is one of my go-to authors so I couldn’t wait to dive in to this one, which covers one of my favorite topics–the call to discipleship. He did not disappoint! I learned much about the process of transformation that is required to really follow Jesus.
  • Finding True Happiness by Ven. Fulton Sheen. A short collection of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s teachings on the culture’s fruitless search for happiness apart from God. So many quotable quotes! Some of my favorites: “If you do not worship God, you worship something, and nine times out of ten it will be yourself.” “It is one of the paradoxes of creation that you gain control by submission.” “It is God you are looking for. Your unhappiness is not due to your want of a fortune, or high position, or fame or sufficient vitamins; it is due not to a want of something outside you, but to a want of something inside you.”
  • Kingdom of Happiness by Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, STD. To continue the “seeking happiness” theme, Kingdom uses the compass of the Beatitudes to point us toward Jesus and true happiness in our lives. I reviewed this book for Catholic Sistas–look for the official full review on their website soon!
  • Thirsting for Prayer by Fr. Jacques Philippe. This book was handed to me by my spiritual director and I know why. Fr. Jacques’ insights are profound and practical, a difficult mix to accomplish, and led me to think of my prayer life in more simple terms. One highlighted sentence I took to heart: “It is not a question of thinking a lot, but of loving a lot…Praying is not first and foremost doing something for God, but primarily accepting his love, letting ourselves be loved by Him.” Whoa. That flips my task-driven, to-do-list mentality on its head!
  • Reform Yourself! By Shaun McAfee. I’m working my way through this collection of stories of the saints who stood strong during the age of reformation. Saints Francis de Sales (my favorite!), Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri and others can teach us how to grow in virtue and grace for our own personal reform. Inspirational and useful.
  • A Pope and a President by Paul Kengor. I heard about this book through an interview on Catholic radio and I was hooked. I was an intern in Washington, D.C. when Ronald Reagan was President and John Paul II was Pope. I greatly admired both men. This book takes an in-depth look at the paths they took to their leadership roles in the world and how their goal of taking down the communist threat became inextricably intertwined. I’m only one-third through this one and it’s so fascinating that I frequently look up from the pages and offer a “Hey, did you know..?” to anyone in the same room.

There are a few others on my Kindle, including a G.K. Chesterton gem, that I pull out on occasion and sample from too.

On deck are these enticing titles:

  • Thrift Store Saints by Jane Knuth
  • Leaping by Brian Doyle
  • Strangers in a Strange Land by Archbishop Charles Chaput
  • Fulfilled by Sonja Corbitt
  • Saint Mary Magdalene by Fr. Sean Davidson

I will keep you “posted” on my progress!

Do you have any book recommendations for me?


Catholic Treasure Chest

She Who Believed

Photo credit: Blessed Is She

Advent 2017 is just a blur. Amid the typical Christmas run-up of shopping, gift-wrapping and decorating, it was fraught with mysterious stomach viruses, medical tests and insurance battles, and the unexpected deaths of two family friends. Yet, there were memorable moments that made me smile. I heard my due-in-March grandbaby’s heartbeat, enjoyed a glorious season of choir singing at St. Michael’s that culminated in a Midnight Mass that took my breath away, and we booked flights to Rome to go see our son.  My husband and I took our moms on a Christmas-light tour one Friday evening, complete with hot chocolate and candy canes from Santa.  And I stayed anchored to the season with the Blessed Is She Advent journal.

You can read about my experience with the Advent journal here. But suffice it to say I am a fan of Laura Kelly Fanucci’s writing and her incomparable gift of capturing a story and bringing Scripture to life.  When Blessed Is She announced the availability of their new Lent Journal, “She Who Believed,” also written by Laura, I had to have it. Laura’s lyrical, poetic writing is anything but aloof—it brings us right down to earth, eye-level with the women in the Bible that are featured in the journal.  And the journal’s format is down-to-earth too. The pace of the readings and reflections gives us busy women time to pause, take a breath and soak in the meaning of the Lenten season.  The inspiring stories, coupled with practical lessons on prayer, are gently offered to us like a bouquet of flowers from a friend.  Lent begins on Valentine’s Day; why not show yourself a little love and order a copy of this journal? Just go here, but hurry—they will likely sell out soon!

As someone who understands the power of prayer journaling, I anticipate this resource to be an anchor to my Lenten season, even if it passes by in a blur.

Catholic Treasure Chest

A “Blessed Is She” Workshop!

I am honored to be a presenter tomorrow night for the January Blessed Is She workshop: Praying with a Pen: Prayer Journaling as a Spiritual Practice. If you’re interested, go here to sign up! I so appreciate the ministry of Blessed is She. I’ve been following them for a number of years, receiving their daily emails and inspiration and enjoying their workshops and journals. And now here I am doing a workshop for them! The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways!

Catholic Treasure Chest

My Saint of the Year

I’ve picked a saint of the year for the last three years. I am always surprised and delighted with how that particular saint influences my life as I learn more about him or her and asked for intercession. I’ve randomly chosen St. Teresa of Avila, St. Margaret of Antioch and St. Bonaventure. The lessons I’ve learned about humility, being still and the preciousness of life from these three saints are forever etched in my mind. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know saints through this process, so I was looking forward to my selection this year.

My saint for 2018 is…(Drumroll…)

St. Gabriel the Archangel!

St. Gabriel is the patron saint of messengers, telecommunication workers, broadcasters and postal workers. His feast day is celebrated on September 29, along with St. Michael and St. Raphael. He appeared to Daniel and Zecharias and was THE angel that appeared to Mary at the Annunciation.

I wonder what my year with St. Gabriel will bring? I will keep you posted!

If you want to pick a saint of the year, go here for Jennifer Fulwiler’s simple Saint Generator.

(Photo is The Annunciation, depicted in one of our church’s magnificent stained glass windows. Beautiful huh?)

Catholic Treasure Chest

The Need to Kneel

When I returned to the Catholic Church in 2013, it truly felt like a homecoming. I was back in the once-familiar sacred environment I hadn’t even realized I had missed. Back among the statues, the artwork, the stained glass windows, the choir music and all of the sacramentals that add layers of beauty and meaning and value to our faith. And it was as if I saw everything with a fresh set of eyes. I was drawn to the mystery of the tabernacle. I studied the face of Mary in the Pieta. I learned (for the first time?) that the mammoth stained glass windows in our church actually depict the mysteries of the rosary. And I filled a bottle with holy water to take home for my newly-purchased font, like I had when I was a kid (and which, btw, would often have a thin layer of ice on the top of it on the extra-cold winter mornings in my unheated upstairs bedroom!). None of these holy elements were present in the Protestant churches I had attended for 25 years. And my soul had missed them dearly. It puts a grateful lump in my throat just to write about it five years later.

But do you want to know the most surprising item in Church that I never knew I missed and craved and needed in my spiritual life all those years away?

The kneelers.

That’s right. When I came back to the Church, I also returned to the custom of kneeling on a regular basis: Kneeling during Mass. Kneeling during Adoration. And kneeling to pray every morning before the crucifix that hangs near my prayer chair.

I missed kneeling to worship my God. When I was a lukewarm cradle Catholic, using the kneelers was an automatic response to certain words and moments in the liturgy. I put no thought into it (other than when the kneelers would slip and make an embarrassingly loud crash on the marble floor!). I took it for granted. And the Protestant church we attended had no kneelers whatsoever, so the practice simply faded away.

But, oh, my dear friends, how we need to kneel.

That thought came rushing back to me this morning as I read Laura Kelly Fanucci’s reflection in the Blessed is She Advent Journal, “In the Beginning.” She was pondering the visit of the three wise men, and their instinct to fall down and worship the infant Christ Child when at last they found him. She surmised it was an overwhelming mixture of awe and wonder and joy that compelled them to fall to their knees.

I can name several times in my life when I fell to my knees, but it was not in awe and wonder and joy. It was in desperation: When my father-in-law coded after his heart surgery. When my dad died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. When my first baby was lost to miscarriage. Those are times when we involuntarily kneel because we can no longer support ourselves and we need the arms of Jesus to hold us, lift us, carry us.

But now, in this holy season of Advent, as I consider anew the coming of the Savior of the World, I want to fall to my knees more often. In awe and wonder and joy. But also in utter thankfulness. And in surrender. When I am on my knees with my head bowed, it is a posture of humility and surrender and reminds me that this is what my Lord wants from me.

“All He wants is us—not our wealth, or achievements or status or power. Just the open gift of ourselves. We can give Him this. There is nothing to achieve this Advent. There is only ourselves to surrender. He only wants you,” says Laura in the journal. “Sink to your knees. Turn to wonder and worship. Bow your head and let your heart rest in His in joy.”

She knows it. The three wise men knew it. And after decades away, I figured it out too.

We need to kneel.

Sink to your knees–at your bedside, at Mass, during a walk in the woods–wherever!–and give yourself to your Savior this Advent. It’s the best gift you could give him.

Catholic Treasure Chest

An Advent Journal

Here’s a peek at what I plan to use as a prayer journal prompt for the upcoming Advent Season. “In the Beginning” is published by Blessed Is She, one of my favorite groups of Catholic sisters, and is written by the talented Laura Kelly Fanucci of I can hardly wait to dive in! It covers the beginnings of all four Gospels, and walks us through an Examen-like approach to read, reflect, respond, act and pray. I anticipate learning a great deal and, as the journal says, preparing my heart “for the One who is waiting to transform our lives.” There’s still time–order one for yourself today!