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Book Giveway Winner!

Thanks to all who read and posted comments on our Messy Quest book series. We have chosen a winner and that winner is…

Claire Bangasser of San Juan, PR and Grilly, France!

(Claire is a faithful long-distance friend of the blog!)

Names waiting to be chosen!

Congratulations to Claire. I will be in touch about how to get the book into your hands. Thank you all! And thank you Stephen Martin and Sorin Books for stopping by on the big blog tour! Please bookmark Stephen’s Messy Quest blog and stay on the messy adventure with him and continue to keep an eye on Ave Maria Press/Sorin Books for many great resources and reads!


The Messy Quest for Meaning book review

Today we are hosting a blog tour for the new book The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation, by Stephen Martin. Here is my review of this book.

The vocations mess… We hear so much about vocations… There is a lack of vocations, so we pray for vocations, then maybe there will be more vocations, and so on. Those phrases are centered on the vocation to the ordained, or vowed life, which are essential to the life of the Church. However, there are many other vocations. Are we praying for these also? You know, our own vocations?

It is this notion that Stephen Martin tackles in his book, The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation, (Sorin Books, 179p. $14.95). We are all called to a particular path in life, and for many of us that path is meant to help us to discover and reveal gifts, sharing them with the world. It is in this way that we live to the fullest and generously so.

Using a framework that is built around Christian monastic practices, Martin invites us along a different path, a frequently messy one at that. Wanting to help us find our way, the author guides us by revealing so much of his own challenging and – well… messy quest. In fact, instead of cleaning up our acts, we are asked to integrate the messy bits that are part of who we are. In this way we do find order amidst the seeming chaos.

Beginning with a startlingly frank and humble description of his own challenges, Martin reminds us of a jarring truth, yet one that we must face. This truth is something that St. Paul himself wrote of, and that is that our weakness leads us to our strength. It is the one truth that must be gazed at directly and embraced if we are to find out how to be who we truly are.

The discernment process that Martin describes is based on some things that he learned in the company of Trappist monks. It is from here that readers will encounter the five practices that are meant to bring us towards our transformation into the lives that we are called to lead.

Now if this sounds like another feel-good-self-help book, it is anything but. Not only is the author a skilled writer, he culls from a wide variety of sources to encourage us on the journey. Make no mistake, this book is written by a man who is Catholic and we hear a lot about his faith, as well as about other Catholics. With a terrifically catholic approach, , we are given insight from people as diverse as Dorothy Day and James Martin, SJ, to Parker Palmer, Peter Drucker, Ernest Hemingway, and David Brooks, along with other names, both familiar and not-so-familiar.

Aside from being well sourced and grounded, you will also find a book that is at once accessible, funny, charming and humble. That alone is reason enough to buy this book, even if you don’t think you want to look at this kind of volume… Do yourself a favor and read this book. You may just find a pleasant and inviting surprise – one that may actually offer some good insights about how we find the work that we are called to do.

(Remember – leave a comment, no matter how brief, and you may win a copy of this book!)

Messy Quest Monday Guest Post – Author Stephen Martin on interruptions

Today we are hosting a blog tour for the new book The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation, by Stephen Martin. Stephen offers us a guest post about a topic that is near and dear to my own heart. Read on, he speaks with wisdom!

Why Interruptions Are Good for Your Soul

By Stephen Martin

The average person needs 17 minutes to get back on task after being interrupted by an e-mail, according to a magazine tidbit my wife found. What was I doing when she said this? I don’t remember. Indeed, the idea for this post first came to me a month ago – and it’s taken that long to write the first sentence.

With a busy job, two young kids and too much stuff going on in general, I’m obsessed with managing time and eliminating distractions. But I never succeed. Continue reading

Meet the author of The Messy Quest!

  1. 1.     In what way was your own quest “messy”?

    In my 20s, my quest was messy largely because of an anxiety disorder that created a lot of challenges and sapped most of the joy out of life. Once I began to learn from the disorder itself, instead of trying to fight it, my sense of meaning grew immeasurably. Throughout my 30s (which are rapidly coming to a close!), what’s been messy is the unending juggle of work, family and writing pursuits. All of that poses continual challenges to prayerfulness and mindfulness. But that’s been a much easier mess to embrace than the anxiety of a decade ago!

2. Is there any way to avoid the “messy” or is it a requirement?

Everybody’s life is messy in one way or another and usually in many ways. There’s no getting around that, and it wouldn’t be good to avoid it even if we could. The only way to find real meaning and purpose is to try on different hats until we find something that works. That involves a process of trial and much error that can take a long time. We’re going to make mistakes and go sideways and backward. But if we reflect seriously on what we’ve learned from those experiences, we’ll make progress.
3. Do you ever wish you could re-do any moments in your life, “messy” and otherwise?

There are some things I’d take back if I could, particularly the way a really important relationship with one of my college professors ended. I write about those regrets in the book. Of course, those things can’t be redone, so there’s not much point in dwelling on them. What we can do is try to learn from our mistakes and do better. It’s probably also true that if you haven’t had some significant regrets and disappointments you’re not living fully enough or giving yourself enough chances to learn.

4. Of your five transforming practices for finding vocation, which one do you consider more difficult? And is there one that you consider most important?

Overall, none of the five practices is more important or more difficult than the others. They’re all essential for finding or moving deeper into a calling. That being said, individuals will struggle with different ones depending on their personalities, experiences and mindset. For me, focus comes pretty easily. But because I’m fairly introverted and independent, I’ve probably had to work harder than most people at truly listening to and learning from the community around me.

5.  What do you have to say to people who have not read the book yet, and believe that their vocation and any practical reality of getting there, are irreconcilable?

One of the most frustrating and simultaneously beautiful things about life is that most of us underestimate what we’re capable of doing. It really is very possible to close the gap between a calling and the practical reality of getting there. But if all we do is sit still and think about the enormous improbability of fulfilling a distant dream, we’ll never take even the first step toward it. Nor will we find out what that calling looks like in reality. It’s a little like standing at the edge of the woods and trying to imagine, through a bunch of mental exercises, what’s in the middle of them. It can’t be done. What’s more helpful is actually walking into the woods. So that’s the key thing to remember: most of us move toward calling incrementally, one step at a time, sometimes over many years. We need to take one step and then the next one and be open to what we encounter along the way.

Welcome to the Messy Monday blog tour

(In place of our usual Monday Musing, today we are hosting a stop on a blog tour for a great new book from a Catholic author… read on and join us all day for a series of posts, plus a chance to win a free book!)

Welcome to the Messy Quest Monday blog tour! Today we are hosting the “blog tour” for Stephen Martin’s new book, The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation, from Sorin Books, an imprint of Ave Maria Press. Stephen is a writer; he does PR for a global non-profit, and he writes a weekly column for his local paper, the Raleigh News and Observer. He has been published in America and Commonweal, among other places; this is his first book. Stephen is also a husband and a father.

Recently I had the privilege of asking him a few questions, here is what the author had to say… Continue reading

Tune in tomorrow for Messy Quest Monday…

Messy  Quest Monday? What about Monday musing? Well, we will be musing  – complete with multiple posts, which will include an interview, a guest post and a book review. But wait – that’s not all! If you leave a comment on any of the posts, your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a free book. And yes, you can enter more than once.

What is this Messy Quest business all about? On Monday we will be a stop on the blog tour for the new book, “The Messy Quest for Meaing: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation,” by Stephen Martin. (From Sorin Books, an imprint of Ave Maria Press.)

Here is the schedule for the day…

  • 7am – Introduction and a short interview with Stephen Martin
  • 12n – A guest post from the Messy Quest author on the messy business of interruptions
  • 4pm – My review of the book

Don’t forget, you can win a copy of the book by leaving a comment. Three winners will be drawn, one from each of my blogs.

See you tomorrow as we explore Messy Quest Monday with Stephen Martin!

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