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Lenten Workout for Your Soul – Book Review and Giveaway

404616_LARGEAbout six years ago, I found myself reading The Ignatian Workout by Tim Muldoon. In all honesty, I did not take to the book. At the time, I was still “working out” my relationship with Ignatius! Then I picked the same book up about a year ago, and got a lot out of it. Funny what time does, along with an open mind, right?

This is precisely why I was very interested in reading his latest offering, The Ignatian Workout for Lent, 40 Days of Prayer, Reflection, and Action, from Loyola Press. It did not disappoint!

Muldoon skillfully employs the athletic references of St. Paul, which we know are many. That kind of theme turn hackneyed and a-bit-too-clever in the hands of a lesser author, but not so with this one.

For me, another potential challenge with using the “running the race” motif is that spiritual pursuit can be turned into something that we have the power to do for ourselves, and by ourselves. Oh yes, if only we train hard enough and stay focused! Where is the room for God’s action and mercy in that?

In setting the tone for Lent in particular, but truly for our lives, Muldoon expresses some real insight about that thought in the introduction, reminding us of the “ecclesial” dimensions of lives of faith. Everything we do is not by and for ourselves, but should be ordered to the “good of the whole people of God.” It is this sort of wisdom, given at the beginning, that orients this resource towards a wide audience.

Other connections and contrasts, to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are set forth. This guide is organized around four “weeks.” For those familiar with the Exercises, this is a time frame used by St. Ignatius. My own experience with the Exercises, limited as it is, reminds me that my own need to “accomplish” this “race” in what I perceive four weeks to be, is not spiritually healthy.

The primary intent is on themed weeks, but the book is set in an Ignatian style, with 40 days of “exercises” for the holy season of our 40 days of Lent. They are not dated and do not refer to the mass readings.

So sports fans and non-sports fans alike, those who are immersed in Ignatian spirituality and those who have curiosity about how it might work in their own lives, please consider buying this book. It may just be the helpful foundation needed to get you going. And for all of us looking to deepen our Lent, this book has the potential be rich resource to turn to this year. And the next year, and the next year… It could have a very long life in your Lenten collection!

The Ignatian Workout for Lent is a little bigger that some of the other resources reviewed this week, perhaps the “largest.” It is still very portable, so the idea of taking it with you is not a problem, nor is taking up room on your nightstand. This volume is available in both paperback and several eBook formats. Visit the Loyola Press website, for more details and purchase, as well as web resources for whatever particular ebook format might be.

Today is the last review and as always, leaving a comment, however brief, puts you in the running to win. Please feel free to share this post with others, all are welcome to read and enter!

Here is to a great Lent for us, one in which we find ways to quiet down, strip down, and grow closer to God. My prayers are for one and all, and I am most thankful for your reading and journeying with me out here!

What do I crave most? The Cravings blog tour stops here today

Today the Cravings blog tour stops here, and it is a privilege to host this visit. Cravings, A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God, is the latest offering from prolific local, Catholic author, Mary DeTurris Poust. She gives us a book that is personal, provocative and moving. We who are members of God’s body have very interesting and challenging relationships with our own bodies. And we as Catholics, who gather to eat at the Lord’s Table, often struggle mightily with food.

The blog tour offers you the chance to win a copy of the book, by leaving one comment on the blog per day between now and January 20th. Not only can you win a book, your name will also be added to a drawing to win a $100 Williams Sonoma gift card.

Interviewed for the book, I Continue reading

Loving Work – a book review and giveaway

(I wrote this for my Times Union blog, but I am posting it here as well!)

My own story goes like this… One day I was sitting in my big office in Manhattan. It was not a corner office, but that was fine by me. I had a lot of room, a big desk and credenza, a bookcase, and even a small table where I could hold meetings for a few of us. I was living the dream! Sort of, anyway!

Five years later I sit in a very different office. For starters, it is in the midst of a busy parish rectory, with the phone ringing off the hook, the priest calling out for this or that, people needing mass cards, comfort, solace – or perhaps just a gas card to get to their low wage part time job.

Let me be clear – I did not hate my old job, in fact, I loved many things about it, especially the people the people that I worked with. However, in my new job, despite the lack of prestige, pay and privacy, I could not be happier. I am loving work. And loving work is also what I do, because the work of the church is to love. This makes me one very lucky person!

Spiritual director, campus minister, and author Mike Hayes explores this kind of transformation – and how others might set about doing the same thing, in his latest book, Loving Work, A spiritual guide to finding the work we love and bringing love to the work we do. (Orbis, $16.00, 120 pp.) For Hayes, it is not just about loving what you do, but it is about being who you are – and that includes bringing loving into the work that you choose to do.

In full disclosure, Mike is a friend, and I was asked to provide a cover blurb, which I will restate here. After reading the book I said, “Some books are kept for a long time, because they nourish the soul or they are practical guides… Mike Hayes offers us both things with great wisdom in a book that you will want to keep.

Infused with sound Ignatian spirituality, warmth, wisdom, humor and a tremendous amount of insight, this book offers a way forward to better work – and a much better life. Whether pointing to practical details and planning, or focusing on our relationship with God, we are shown the value of the importance of seeking work that feeds the soul, as well as work that creates our living. What struck me most is the no-nonsense approach that Hayes’ employs, which is direct, yet incredibly human at the same time. His experiences in business, spiritual direction, and campus ministry are all pressed into excellent use in this book.

One of my favorite chapters is called, “If You Could Be Anything.” Sparing no details, Hayes discusses his own crisis of the heart with clarity. Despite his successful (and longed for) career in radio broadcasting, something is just missing. No stranger to the world of faith, his two worlds begin to align as he explores his own “anything.” The results have led him to where he is today.

These are tough times, and getting a new job is not all that easy. And perhaps that is what makes this book more important than ever. If we can’t really achieve what we thought was our dream, perhaps that should truly compel us to discern and claim what our true work might be. Risky? Sure. But if we don’t try, how do we ever know the greatness that we are called to?

This is not some reference book to pick off of a shelf and give to a job seeker. This is a book for seekers who seek not only work, but their hearts desire as well, which is an essential path to wholeness and integrity. It is about work that is more than what you”do” or what you “get” for it, and more about what you give and how you live in the world.

And that is what is at the heart of this fine book. As we come to know God, as we come to know ourselves, we are called to find and to live the very work that will make our hearts sing. It is better for us and infinitely better for the world when we enter the world of loving work. This fine book will make a great gift for yourself or for others as we enter gift buying season – or any time, and I highly recommend it.

Want to win a copy of this book? Please leave a comment on the blog before 11:30pm on Wednesday, November 28, 2012, eastern time. Your name will go into a drawing. Good luck!

Monday Musing – Gratitude Edition

Later this week we will celebrate two things. One should be obvious; on Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving. We’ll get to the second in a moment.

Most Mondays, this post self-publishes, because I have written it before and set a timer that puts it on the blog. (Sorry to ruin the thought of me sitting here in my pajamas with my hair sticking straight up in the air, sleep still in my eyes, as I toil away! Oh wait, that is what you are getting today!) In all seriousness, that is how it works.

Today I am sitting here, writing fresh – mostly because I was away in NYC all weekend and I had not planned my timing very well. But that’s OK, because I am reminded of the gratitude that I feel for an amazing weekend.

When I was in New York, I got to meet some of the other authors of the book, Hungry and You Fed Me, Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C. I can’t tell you how exciting that was, and how grateful I am to actually be IN a book, especially a book like that, and to meet so many esteemed people of faith and vision.  I also got to do a lot of other things and see people that I love while in the city, it was wonderful. Thank you God! (See photos)

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What are you grateful for as we begin the week in which Thanksgiving falls? And for whom do you pray?

I think about the people who lost so much – loved ones, their homes or cars, their livelihoods – all due to Hurricane Sandy. My prayers for them as they navigate this season, perhaps finding it hard to feel thankful for much.

I am grateful to have spent Thanksgiving in Israel in 2004, and I am heartbroken as the violence rages on there, both from Hamas rockets and the Israeli response. It is a very small country, so a rocket from across the border would be something akin to someone in Burnt Hills trying to hit our church in Glenville with a rocket. The other side of the equation is that that it also means that Israel is responding with tremendous firepower, a short distance away and with great force.

God have mercy.

Again, who do you pray for? What are you grateful for?

And what else do we celebrate this week?

The final Sunday of the liturgical year! Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. We are deep into readings that are apocalyptic in nature, sometimes hard to read, listen to, or understand. I am always surprised when I meet fellow Roman Catholics who understand what they hear in the Book of Revelations in a literal way. There is so much historical, Scriptural, and theological context to what we come to know in this book of the Bible. The end is coming, but God calls us to a deeper understanding of what that means.

We also know that Advent is coming – a time of great promise and hope. Advent truly is the time of the “darkest days before the dawn.”

I don’t know about you, but I love Advent, and I do not really think about Christmas too much until we get closer to it.

So this week I invite us all to remember that we are God’s beloved children, that we are always in the presence of our God, whether we realize it or not, and that God is with us in the darkest moments, and that God is the dawn as well. My prayers of gratitude are like a flashlight, illuminating the pathway to the greatest Light of all – Jesus Christ. That thought makes me most grateful of all.

Amen!

*Two Things*
1 – If you would like to buy a copy of Hungry and You Fed Me, please let me know. I have some in the parish office. If you are a reader from afar, let me know, I can get a copy to you. Or you can visit that website. All self-promotion aside, it is a prayerful and rich volume that will accompany you through Year C. It also makes a wonderful gift!

2- Brother Mickey McGrath is coming to Immaculate in less than two weeks! Please mark your calendars to come on either Thursday night at 7pm on November 29, or at 9am on Friday November 30. If you want to win a copy of one of his books, please see this blog post from the other day. I have extended the deadline to Tuesday morning, November 20, at 7am eastern. Leave a comment and you will be entered into a drawing to win a book!

Light & Beauty – book reviews, contest, Brother Mickey appearance!

Saved by Beauty and This Little Light – the November book review and book giveaway series continues!

I’ll begin this review of two books with the end in mind… If you are making a list so that someone may check it twice, I suggest that you ask for both books. Seriously – ask for both books! You will not regret this, even if it feels a bit over the top. Let me tell you why…

There will be pure joy upon giving and receiving such things, there will be no standing in long lines to return things that you don’t want, and no suffering the potential shame of re-gifting the wrong gift to the wrong person. Go ahead, attach this review to your wish list! And if you are looking for gifts for someone else, try using this as your shopping list. (Book giveway contest info at the end of the post, along with info about upcoming appearances by Brother Mickey!)

Today I Continue reading

From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart – Blog Tour intro, video, book giveaway

“It’s fascinating to walk into a church where it often feels like… a lot of people are walking out.”

-Chris Haw

Carpenter, Author, Speaker, Potter

Welcome to today’s special features that are part of the Chris Haw Blog Tour, for his new book from Ave Maria Press, From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart: Rekindling My Love for Catholicism. With a quote like the one above, you know you are about to meet someone with an interesting story to tell.

Chris Haw indeed has quite a story… Born Catholic and raised that way until he was a teenager, he and his family became part of the midwestern mega-church, Willow Creek. Today he lives in Camden, NJ where he lives near, and is part of the community at Sacred Heart.

Today you will get several chances to meet Chris and learn about his book; I hope that you explore them all. You will not be disappointed. In this post you meet Chris and can watch a video about him. Later you will find an excerpt from the book, and finally a review of the book.

Speaking of the book, you can buy it directly from Ave Maria Press, at an indie bookstore, or from B&N, or Amazon. No matter where you buy it, if you like it, leave a review at one of those sites. Spread the word -we need more good news. And Chris has no shortage of it.

And you can win a copy of the book, by simply leaving a comment here at the blog! A short comment or a long one, a good one – or whatever comment. Leave your comment and your name will be entered into a drawing to be announced tomorrow.

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