I Unite with All my Sisters and all Who Share the Charism of Providence...

I can hardly believe that it is March. Today we saw the sun for the first time in weeks. I find myself getting everything ready for my Spring Break trip home, my first Spring Break not spent on Mission since that fateful Spring Break where I got the call from Echo, offering me a full ride to Notre Dame...

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Twelve Apostolic Women by Joanne Turpin

Twelve Apostolic Women by Joanne Turpin

This review was originally published in Spiritual Uprising Magazine's May 2014 issue and is reprinted with permission. I encourage you to check out Spiritual Uprising at www.up-ministries.org/spiritual-uprising-magazine.html

I started reading Twelve Apostolic Women by Joanne Turpin as part of my Providence Circle. The goal was that we would read the book chapter by chapter and then get together to discuss. While we haven’t been able to meet as often as we would like, I have read the book on my own.

I think that this book has great insight. For those Christians who are bothered by the seemingly male-dominated quality of Christian history, reading a book about twelve women in the New Testament and learning about their role in the Apostolic era is eye-opening.

Turpin’s writing is good. You can tell in reading her work how much she has studied the Apostolic era—the research she has done into ancient Christian tradition (most of which have been forgotten by all but the academics in the Church) is phenomenal. Most Christians know little about Salome, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, or Tabitha. Most of us have never even heard of Prisca or Lydia. Turpin tells the stories of these women with devotion and full belief.

My primary critique of this book comes from her lack of citations. She will say something and cite it in tradition, but usually never mentions which text to find the story in. She puts complete faith in obscure texts that the Church has never claimed to be true or infallible. Like many Catholics, she tries to get rid of the discomfort of mystery by giving credence to unsubstantiated traditions. Yet, her work allows the reader to connect with scripture in a whole new way. In addition, while some of the traditions she cites might be suspect or have been completely cast off by most Christians (the stories of Mary’s childhood, for example), she also uses finds from modern archaeology to help her tell the story—and that works beautifully.

Turpin’s book is not only educational, but spiritual. She includes great discussion questions that are useful both for a group reading and a personal reading. Each chapter ends with a prayer, making it a great choice for spiritual reading.

In the end, while I would caution readers new to the study of Biblical History to not take everything Turpin says as fact, I would definitely recommend this book as a great read for a group or personal spiritual reading.

Pray for Me: The Life and Spiritual Vision of Pope Francis, First Pope of the Americas by Robert Moynihan

Pray for Me: The Life and Spiritual Vision of Pope Francis, First Pope of the Americas by Robert Moynihan

This book was provided to me free of charge as part of the Blogging for Books program.

When I started this book back in November, I was eager to learn more about our new pope. Unfortunately, the book (through no fault of its own!) somehow ended up at the bottom of my reading pile. Now, a year after Pope Francis’ historic election, I have picked it up again.

Pray for Me has three distinct parts. The first part delves deeply into the first few days of Francis’ papacy, from his election to his Palm Sunday Mass. The second reveals some of the elements that have had a deep impact on him and have formed him into the man he is. The third is a collection of his own writings, revealing even more about the man who has succeeded Peter.

The first part goes deeply into those first few days, all the more important to me because during the first five days of Francis’ papacy, I was on mission without access to technology or information about what was going on in Rome. Even now, one year later, these events feel new and eye-opening to a traditional Roman Catholic. In reading this book, have been reminded again and again of the novelty of Francis and of the gift that the Holy Spirit has given our Church.

In the first part, Moynihan’s writing is clear and authentic. He gives us his own take on those first few days and lets us experience with him all that we, on the other side of the world, missed out on. Hearing his experiences talking with other reporters and journalists is also intriguing, it gives us an honest and unique vision of what was going on in Rome at that time.

Part two goes into his family background and his spiritual background, explaining events of his childhood, his calling, and listing five of his “spiritual guides,” (Jonah, Mary, Ignatius of Loyola, Don Luigi Guissani, and, of course, Francis of Assisi). I think that the range of these guides can tell us a lot about the dynamic spiritual life that Francis lives and encourages us to be less narrow-minded in our vision of Heaven. The Catholic Church is supposed to be “universal,” after all.

Part three is illuminating in the writings of Pope Francis, helping us to know him better and understand more fully the remarks he has made since those early days of his papacy.

While I am sure that there are many books out now about Pope Francis, I think that Pray for Me can give a unique perspective on the beginning of this papacy, important now and possibly, more important in the future. I give this book a solid 4/5.

Saints Preserved tells about exactly what the title indicates

When I chose to read Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics by Thomas J. Craughwell, I did so mostly because I tend to think that relics are a little on the weird side. And, since I am a Roman Catholic and I work in ministry, I thought that reading up on this unique tradition in the Catholic Church, perhaps I would be able to relate to it better.

This book, while it doesn’t talk that much about relics in general, did help me to understand this unappreciated tradition a little better. The author reminds us to think about how we relate to our own familial “relics.” For example, is it really so strange to treasure things belonging to a saint when we treasure in our own families the things that belonged to our ancestors: grandma’s china, grandpa’s pipe? And then there are the first class relics—but is it strange to treasure the bodies of saints (or body parts) when there are plenty of families that have their ancestors’ cremated remains in their homes? Or, when we visit graves of deceased friends? Craughwell makes it seem that relics are really a natural part of the human experience. Catholics just seem to talk about them a little more than most.

In addition to giving me a greater appreciation for relics, I think that the real strength of this book is that it gives you an opportunity to learn more about saints. Craughwell writes a little blurb on each saint discussed, tells you why they were thought important enough to honor their remains. Then, he tells the (sometimes humorous) tale of how their remains ended up where they are, or how claims about the remains were made. When talking about one of the many saints that apparently have multiple sets of remains, he gives both accounts, never taking a side.

This book is interesting and is a great opportunity to learn more about both Saints and relics. It is exactly what the title makes it sound like: an encyclopedia of relics. If you’re looking for a more clear theology or better information on why we honor relics, this is not the book for you. However, if you want a little information on relics, a little information about saints, and a few laughs, I highly recommend Thomas J. Craughwell’s Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics.

(This book was provided free of charge by Waterbrook Multnomah for reviewing purposes.)

One week at Notre Dame... and counting

It has been one week since I packed up my car and drove almost 7 hours to my cousins' house in Cedar Lake, IN. Tomorrow, it will be one week since I came to Notre Dame.

Orientation is over and with it, the last of my summer. Classes start Monday and the eagerness and anticipation as well as the nervousness and, for some, sheer dread, can be felt through the halls. I have finished my reading assignments for the first day and so, I thought I'd share some news with you all.

I know where I'm going for the next two years!

I will be working as a part of the Butler Catholic Community, the campus ministry for Butler University in Indianapolis. I am so excited! My mentor will be Fr. Jeff Godecker, the priest who has been running the program on his own for four years. He sent me a brochure from last year and I fell in love. Here's what it says:

"We openly welcome all persons, both liberal and conservative, content and dissatisfied, those who are turned off and those turned on, those who are certain and those who have doubts and questions. We are a Church where love dwells and we are built on God's grace along with the hopes, dreams, and the faith of our members."

The mission of the BCC (Butler Catholic Community) is "to create a welcoming, accessible community to find, build, and share faith." I'm so excited to be a part of that mission and I look forward to the next two years!

So, as I am adapting here, please pray that the Butler community will be open to me and that I can be open to them. In the mean time, please pray for my Indy community and for the Echo community as a whole! These wonderful people will always be in need of prayers.