Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fun at the discount book store

New Year greetings to all! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas - I know my husband and I enjoyed our first Christmas together. We attended our very first Midnight Mass at the Basilica, braving ice and snow. I have been holding on to Christmas for as long as possible - I don't want to put away my Christmas decorations and music. But now it is almost Epiphany and the start of a new year. My prayers for wisdom in the last post were apparently answered - I ended up with 2 A's and a B in my classes, which puts me on track to take qualifying exams in the spring. Deo gratias! Of course, I have to keep up this semester, but I think it will not be quite as difficult.

There is a giant discount bookstore here in South Bend (well, technically, it's in Mishawaka, where all the shopping is. I joke that Mishawaka is an ancient Potawatomi word meaning "land of strip malls.") I drive by it frequently and keep meaning to drop in. Today I finally went in there! It was a little discouraging at first to walk in and see a long table full of romance novels, but there were a few gems. I found that they actually had a few good Catholic books. I had gone in there looking for "light reading" but I ended up with mostly spiritual reading.

Here is my haul:

God's Choice by George Weigel. A book about the end of John Paul II's papacy and the election of Benedict XVI. I like Weigel's writing as I think he really has a handle on the state of the Catholic Church today. (His biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope, is a must-read.) I have been reading this all evening as my husband was watching bowl games on TV. It brought back a lot of memories of that spring and summer of 2005. Looking back, that was the year when I really began to get serious about my faith. That summer I was an REU student at Purdue and had a memorable encounter with a Catholic professor there. I think I will write about that more sometime since it was so pivotal for me. But for now I will move on to...

Fire Within by Fr. Thomas Dubay. This book is a summary of the spirituality of Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. I have been drawn to St. Teresa for a long time and really want to get to know her and her way of prayer better. Fr. Dubay is an excellent writer but sometimes hard to digest. I am a voracious reader but I find his books difficult to finish (kind of like Pope Benedict's). I think this will end up being my spiritual reading for Lent.

Salt of the Earth by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI!). This one has been on my to-buy list for a while. It is based on an interview that journalist Peter Seewald did with Cardinal Ratzinger. The Cardinal talks about his life and about the challenges the Church is facing at the turn of the new century. This should be a good one.

(I also saw Karl Keating's Fundamentalism and Catholicism while at the bookstore. I didn't think I needed it at the time, since I don't run into as many Fundamentalists here as I did back home, but I might go back and get that one. I like Keating's writing style and it should help me bone up on Catholic apologetics.)

And just for some fun, Cheaper by the Dozen. The mother in the story, Lillian Moller Gilbreth, is one of my secular "heroes", being a prominent woman engineer of the 20th century and a mother of 12 children, to boot. I had already read a great biography of her (Making Time) and decided to supplement it with the more famous memoir written by two of her children. This book should not be confused with the silly Steve Martin movie of a few years back! I doubt we could find such a positive portrayal of a large family these days. Large families seem to be stereotyped as chaotic, poverty-stricken, and suffering from parental neglect. Sad that children are no longer seen as blessings. But I'm wandering.

Not from the discount book store, but another recent read was My Life with the Saints by Fr. James Martin, SJ. I had seen good reviews of this on some Catholic blogs so I decided to pick it up. This is a warm, personal story about how Fr. Martin "met" his special saints and how they influenced his life. The saints range from Aloysius Gonzaga to Joan of Arc to Dorothy Day and everyone in between. The first story about the Saint Jude statuette had me in stitches! I could relate to the book since I've encountered my favorite saints in very similar, seemingly random ways. I highly recommend this book.

I look forward to reading all these books and sharing my thoughts with you!

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