Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits is available on Amazon.com and from Loyolapress.com This book came into my life about 9 years ago from two different groups of people.  The first copy I got at a conference of the University Consortium for Catholic Education.  I was there representing the PACE program at University of …

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.  This means that if you decide to click through and purchase that item using my link, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.  My Life with the Saints (10th Anniversary Edition) * by James Martin, SJ available from Amazon.com I read this …

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Summer Spirituality Series: Jesus

July 16, 2018

Summer Spirituality Series

Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ available on Amazon.com

In Lent 2017 I read My Life with the Saints by Father James Martin, and it was one of those books that completely changed my life.  Maybe I will review it next.  So this year for Lent I ambitiously undertook Jesus: A Pilgrimage, which is about twice as long.  Add to that the fact that I was working full time instead of home on maternity leave and I barely finished it in time for Easter.  But that ended up being one of the best things about this book for me.

Jesus: A Pilgrimage follows Father James and his fellow Jesuit friend on their travels through the Holy Land.  The book is beautifully broken into 25 chapters at 25 different locations that hold important significance for lovers of the gospel.  The book is part travel memoir, part spiritual reading and part scripture study.  I loved it for many reasons, but the coolest part for me was what the Holy Spirit was doing in my own life while I was reading this book.

I’ve always been a great reader and a quick reader, but for some reason this book was just moving slower for me.  I was enjoying what I was reading, but since I was using it for morning prayer before school, inevitably the baby would wake up, the husband’s alarm would start ringing, etc. and I would have to put the book down to be mom and wife.  But as a result, the timing of each chapter fit perfectly what I needed.  For example, I got to the pools of Bethesda the very day that the gospel reading included Jesus’s question “Do you wish to be well?”.  And on Palm Sunday, frustrated with my slow pace, I started the chapter on Jerusalem.  Because I wasn’t able to finish before Easter, I read the Easter chapters during the octave of Easter.

The way the book was organized followed the gospel narratives instead of the actual travel, but I loved the way that fit in with the work I was doing with my students at the time.  (At our school, 7th graders learn New Testament, and the day we were talking about the parable of the sower and the seeds, Father James was telling me about the bay of parables, where many scripture scholars believe this parable was originally told.)  The book is a daunting 465 pages, but totally worth the read, especially for anyone involved in teaching the gospels.

Popcorn: 1- this book is full of big ideas, scripture and is very long.

Stars: 5- when I have time I want to read this book with my bible study group so we can discuss.  It is THAT good.

Summer Spirituality Series: Forty Weeks

July 14, 2018

Summer Spirituality Series

Forty Weeks by William Watson, SJ, available from the Sacred Story Institute and on Amazon.com

This book is an intro into Ignatian Spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola.  It was originally used with teachers in the Archdiocese of Seattle and there is also a program for students.  My eighth grade class a few years ago was part of the pilot program for schools and there are some really wonderful things as part of that program.  The idea is that you can go through this book and learn how to meditate and use the Examen prayer of Saint Ignatius.  It is obviously a huge commitment to 40 weeks of reading.

I wanted to love this book.  I love the Spiritual Exercises, and have done the yearlong retreat twice with a spiritual director.  I had a fabulously supportive group attempt the book with me, but we got about halfway through and couldn’t finish.  I think the pacing was a little slower than we wanted and for me personally, the emphasis on sin overshadowed the emphasis on God’s redemptive love.  I understand that focusing on sin is an important part of Ignatius’ plan in the exercises, but in this book we just kept circling back to sin.

I also missed the presence of scripture in this book.  It sort of followed the movements of the Spiritual Exercises but it lacked the substance that scripture readings would have provided.

Watson’s ideas on the Examen were interesting and refreshing to me- he breaks down the five movements of the prayer into meditations on Creation, Presence, Memory, Mercy, Eternity.  I will say that looking up his guided meditations online would help introduce those concepts aside from reading the book.  Even though I didn’t finish the 40 weeks, I did find the 5 movements to be a powerful way of praying the Examen.

I think this would be a great program for many people- it just wasn’t for me.

Popcorn: 2- this book is a huge commitment and a lot of work.

Stars: 2- If the book had moved a little faster, focused less on sin and had more substance I would have rated it higher.

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