Podcast (February): E. M. Forster Stories

In 2020 The Catholic Reading Challenge is reading 24 different short stories by 12 different authors. Each month we will focus on one author, reading two stories by that author. During each of our bi-weekly podcast episodes (on the 15th & 30th of the month) we will discuss the stories in turn.

We are reading stories by E. M. Forster in February, and here are our selections:

The only Forster that I have read is “The Celestial Omnibus”, and I was so amazed by it that I thought we should include Forster in our selection of authors for the year. You have probably heard of his famous novels, a couple of which have been made into films, even if his name is new to you.

Both of these stories can be found in this Kindle collection that is only 99 cents! It contains other stories and four of his most famous novels, which is a fantastic deal. You could find these stories in other paperbacks if you prefer. If you want to print off free versions of these stories, I did find PDF versions of “The Celestial Omnibus” and “The Machine Stops”. You can also search YouTube for some free audio recordings of these.

I’m really looking forward to our podcast discussions of these! I think the conversation will take us important places.

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

The Joy of Sharing Books

My husband and I launched our podcast, The Catholic Reading Challenge, at the beginning of the year, and it has been such a joyful experience. Not only has it brought the two of us together, giving us more intentional time to spend discussing stories and ideas together, but it has connected us with other people who take joy in sharing books as well…but maybe didn’t have an avenue opened before to do so.

I’ve heard from many listeners so far that they are enjoying it as much as we are, and I think what they enjoy most is the communal part of our podcast. I started The Catholic Reading Challenge on my blog two years ago, and it was a fairly standard list of 12 categories of books to read through in the calendar year. I think there were good categories, but the down side was the independent nature of it–reading in complete isolation.

I would blog throughout the year about what I was reading for each category, and ask people to share in the comments what they read. But we weren’t reading on the same schedule, so rarely were people reading the same category at the same time. It was the longing for more sharing that birthed the idea of turning the reading challenge into a podcast, one that was more of a book club. We are only in our second month (and second category) of the podcast, but already I’m having more interactions with people excited to share what they are reading. And that is truly delightful.

I have realized an important universal truth through this experience. Not only do all people love good stories–for as J. K. Rowling has said, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book”–but they also want someone with whom to share them.

We make time for so many things in our daily life that don’t really fill us with joy. I think there is room for us to intentionally create more space in our daily rhythms for life-giving books and the communities in which to share what we encounter in them. Where can you make room for this in your life? I would add to Rowling’s sentiment: If you don’t like to read, perhaps you have never encountered the joy of a fellow reader.

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

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