My Reading Challenge Pick for…”A classic novel”

Don’t worry if you got a little behind in your picks for the 2018 Catholic Reading Challenge? I did for a little bit, and I’m getting caught up on sharing my picks with you. This one was a favorite!

Category: “A classic novel”

My Pick: The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’m sad to say that I didn’t start reading the great Russian authors until a couple of years ago…but that’s okay; I can spend the rest of my adult years marinating in them. I’m not able to say anything profound about Dostoevsky; but there are plenty of literary critics and brilliant minds who have us covered there. (In fact, I was down that rabbit hole of commentary research right after finishing this book. Now my TBR is filled up with Romano Guardini & Henri de Lubac — both of whom I came upon references to recently in Flannery O’Conner’s letters, as providence would have it.) However, I will share some novice delights and observations.

Russian names! Am I right?

One disadvantage to listening to the audiobook is that I think it makes it a little bit harder to follow who is who. For those who haven’t read Dostoevsky, we aren’t dealing with names like “Michael” and “Samantha.” They’re a bit longer. But that isn’t the confusing part. They have nick-names. But they aren’t “Mike” and “Sam.” They are NOTHING like the full name. So you are going to want to have a cheat sheet handy, which many volumes provide in the front of the edition. Again, I didn’t have that to flip to with the audio. So…I did a quick web search a few chapters in to get back on track and make sure I was following the character development correctly. Be careful if you do that! Though the character synopsis straightened up the names and nick-names for me, it also included BIG spoilers. 🙁 Continue reading “My Reading Challenge Pick for…”A classic novel””

My Reading Challenge Pick for…”A work of poetry by a Catholic author”

Are you participating in the 2018 Catholic Reading Challenge? If not, it’s never too late to start — join us! I share my picks for each category about once a month. So far, the categories have been diversifying my reading life, particularly this next pick…

Category: “A work of poetry by a Catholic author”

My Pick: The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins

I stumbled across a very helpful post at The Catholic Gentleman while determining what poet I should read for this category. It was a hard choice, but I ended up going with Gerard Manley Hopkins. No regrets here. (And now I have a solid list of remaining poets to work my way through next. First runner-up: Edith Sitwell.) Disclaimer: I’m not sure if the edition I linked to on Amazon is the exact one that I read, since my copy was a wonderful old and falling apart hardback from the library. However, I’m sure that most collections would have all of the same poems.

What I loved…

Hopkins’ faith and Catholic identity come through strongly in his poetry. There is a good bit that is symbolic, and then there are a good many poems that are commemorative. (Admittedly, I lacked the context for fully understanding some of them.) For example, he wrote a beautiful poem in commemoration of a group of nuns who drowned in a shipwreck. When reading selections such as these, I thought of him as a eulogist. There was also some moving symbolism used with the Blessed Mother, a fairly common subject in his poetry as well. Continue reading “My Reading Challenge Pick for…”A work of poetry by a Catholic author””

My Reading Challenge Pick for…”A Book on Catholic Prayer”

Are you participating in the 2018 Catholic Reading Challenge? If not, it’s not too late to start — join us! I share my picks for each category about once a month. So far, my choices are spot on for me, and my second read gets a universal recommendation if you want to improve your prayer life…

Category: “A Book on Catholic Prayer”

My Pick: Time for God by Jacques Philippe

My husband had read this book a couple of months ago and highly recommended it to me, and what do you know…it checks off a box on the reading challenge. Boy, was he right; it is good. But apparently everything by Jacques Philippe is great, according to a friend of mine. This was my first time reading one of his books.

Two motivations to read this book:

#1 — It’s really short — about 100 pages.

#2 — It may be the most helpful book on mental prayer that you ever read.

I say the most helpful, not necessarily the best. Philippe references all of the great works by saints who were quite advanced in mental prayer (Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, St. John of the Cross, St. Catherine of Siena, etc.). But sometimes, as Philippe notes, in our modern times we have trouble getting to the root of what these great contemplatives teach us about communing with God.

Philippe’s definition of mental prayer:

“…facing God in solitude and silence for a time in order to enter into intimate, loving communion with him.”

His bottom line:

“Mental prayer is basically no more than an exercise in loving God.”

Philippe was exactly who I needed to read on mental prayer, because he concisely and beautifully gets to the heart of why and how this type of prayer should be a daily habit. He essentially reminds us that silent, mental prayer is all about loving God. There is not a magic “technique” that you can manipulate, he says, because communion with God is a grace, a gift, from God. It is not something that we conjure up. Philippe says that we have to simply come to mental prayer with the intention of loving God, with humility, out of our poverty, and be faithful to continue coming daily.

I think this excerpt from the book puts it well:

“What ensures progress in the life of prayer, what make it fruitful, is not so much how we pray as our inner dispositions in beginning and continuing it. Our principle task is to try to acquire, keep, and deepen those dispositions of the heart. God will do the rest.”

Before this book, I had recently read Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, and I was inspired by his detailed account of the steps of mental prayer, and I wanted to begin this habit in earnest. (Previous descriptions of mental prayer hadn’t be so clear for me.) However, Philippe’s book is just what I needed to read on the heels of that. It helped me develop the correct attitude toward silent prayer, to remember the ultimate purpose of loving God and entering into a deeper communion with him — as he leads.


What did you read for “a book on Catholic prayer”?

 

Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey