Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lent & Easter: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton --- A Review

Clearly I should stop requesting seasonal books to review, as it takes me so long to get to them. In the middle of Lent last year, I saw this title as a review option and jumped at the chance for a copy. For I love to read Chesterton. His wisdom is timeless. Recently, I found a draft of a review handwritten and decided this is an ideal time to finally post it and fulfill my obligation to

Lent and Easter: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton by the Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends is truly a gem! The book, like several in this series, is divided into two parts: Readings for Lent and Readings for Easter. Readings for Lent includes forty-six daily meditations beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Holy Saturday. Readings for Easter contains eight daily meditations covering the Octave of Easter from Easter Sunday through the Second Sunday of Easter.

Each meditation includes a carefully chosen excerpt from one of Chesterton's writings, a Scripture verse or two that ties into the spiritual theme presented, a brief prayer, and a Lenten Action. The excerpts include portions of Chesterton's nonfiction works, as well as quotes from characters in his works of fiction and lines of his poetry. Their topics range from asceticism to hospitality to miracles. The Scriptures are an excellent elaboration on Chesterton's own words, and the prayers help the reader focus on his/her own life. Each prayer leads one to examine his/her soul in light of some personal conversion called for in the Scripture quoted and turned into practical application with the "Lenten Action" paragraph. These action items are diverse and simple to do, yet always challenging the reader to a deeper practice of his/her faith.

I especially enjoyed how the Chesterton quotes, incredibly deep by themselves, lead to even deeper meditations by the addition of Scripture and prayer. For example, we read how God created "a play he had planned as perfect but which...left to human actors...made a great mess of it," from Chesterton's Orthodoxy, identifying the reality of free will. Yet 1 Corinthians 15:22 reminds us "all will be made alive in Christ." Then, in prayer, we are reminded that God "sent [His] son what no human could," to cover our many sins and wash us clean. Finally, the suggested Lenten Action asks us to choose a Biblical movie to watch and reflect back on Chesterton's analogy.

To be entirely honest, I cannot wait to read these meditations this coming Lent and Easter. In fact, the slim volume is one I will slip in my nightstand where I keep books of quotations and short meditations to read when I can get a few minutes of quiet to myself from the chaos of my busy family! I love that the entire reading for each day takes less than five minutes, but the potential for spiritual growth through these thought-provoking meditations is endless.

This review is a part of the Catholic Book Review Program.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I've got it all figured out!

Happy New Year! The priest at Mass this morning on this sacred solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, focused much of his homily on how blessed we are to be here for 2013. He reminded us that God's divine plan specifically includes each one of us to be alive and participate in His will at this moment in time. We can choose to say "yes" just like Mary did by embracing the joys and struggles we face this year with faith in Our Heavenly Father's providential care.

And I do feel exceptionally blessed starting this new year! I have a thriving, growing family, a joy-filled marriage that continues to astound me with sacramental grace, loving, creative, and healthy children, a beautiful home, the privilege to homeschool, so many caring and inspiring friends, a successful new business, and much more! But today, I am holding my breath. I am enjoying one more lazy day at home with my family before I dive back into the myriad of tasks my vocation requires. (And I am watching a lot of college football - great games!)

I am also avoiding making resolutions. I've been thinking about them. I just haven't written any down. And this lover of lists has been feeling a bit guilty for putting off the formal acceptance of any resolutions by the simple act of jotting them down.

Then a very sweet email this morning helped me see clearly why resolutions are evading me (or I am evading them) this new year. Another mom told me how grateful she is for our acquaintance, especially because (she says) I seem to have it all figured out while she is still learning (she doesn't know me very well yet). That's it! I realized that I have it all figured out! I don't need to change! No need for resolutions here! (Can you see the sarcasm dripping from these words?!)

In reality, I actually might have a lot of things figured out. So do you. We all know the things we ought to do. We have heard the advice about sticking to daily prayer, consistently yet lovingly disciplining our children, keeping order in our homes, giving others the benefit of the doubt, preparing thoughtful, meaningful lessons for our children, and more. Yet, just like St Paul, we do not do what we ought.

How could we possibly choose just a few resolutions out of all the things we know we should do but don't? The only real resolution that would be meaningful to me is to resolve to do what I ought every moment of every day. Unfortunately, that is a resolution destined for failure. For I am a broken, inadequate sinner. My will is weak.

Fortunately, one of the remarkable realities of our God is that He is a God of infinite mercy, and while we do not deserve the repeated chances he gives us to reform ourselves, He is generous beyond compare. After all, here we are at the start of another year, given yet another day to better prepare ourselves for eternal life, to grow closer to Him as we grow in holiness. And we, as Catholics, have access to tremendous graces available through the sacraments and the Truths of our faith.

Many people today will make small, achievable goals, because they can help us in some way. I think what God really wants for me to do is make a daily resolution to do what I ought to do that day, better than I did the day before. That is my resolution for 2013. Each day I will recommit myself to disciplining my own will and doing my best to serve my family through my faith in Jesus Christ. My decision to make this simple, daily pledge already brings me so much peace. I do not have to agonize over lists of detailed goals that, for me, are far too easy to give up on achieving at my first failure. And so, today I pray for the fortitude to persevere and accept the mercy of God over and over and over...for myself and for each one of you, dear friends!

How about you? What is your top resolution for 2013?