To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age by Bishop Robert Barron with John Allen Jr. is a book that shares many of Bishop Barron's personal stories of engaging people in discussions of faith. He emphasizes the need to lead with beauty, then goodness, and finally truth of the Catholic faith. Allen is a journalist who brings a framework to the many interviews and discussions Bishop Barron has given in his quest to re-evangelize the West. Still, I found the constant, "Barron says this... Barron says that... " a bit tedious. I loved Catholicism; it is the better book. And the video series is very beautiful, something to watch over and over. Bishop Barron has another series: The Pivotal Players that looks wonderful. Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a review copy of To Light a Fire on the Earth.
I'm a sucker for immigration stories and Brooklyn by Colm Toibin was such a delight. Set in the 1950s, it portrays the journey of a young Irish woman, Eilis, who emigrates to Brooklyn to make a better life. Because Toibin spends a goodly chunk of the novel in Ireland itself, with colorful characters, you feel homesick with Eilis, her awareness of the sacrifices her family has made, and her blossoming. She meets an Italian fellow at a parish dance and their romance is so beautiful. A death in the family brings her home and now she faces the hardest choice--between the old and the new. How I wish I could write as simply and eloquently as Colm Toibin. This is the first book of his I've read, and only because I saw a trailer for the movie, and the screen adaptation looks beautiful.
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie is a beautiful and raw memoir (and he sees that it's a partial anagram for mom noir) about the complicated relationship he had with his mother. A mix of prose and poetry, some so heartbreaking (Ancestry), you can't help but cry. I read this book at the same time my daughter was reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and I enjoyed our discussions on poverty and racism so very much. I found myself praying for his parents and for him too. May he find the peace and truth he's searching for.
As I weep
That nearly every Indian kid
Had it worse.
Even as I deny the idea of God,
The idea of God interrogates me.
Even as I pretend that my love
For my mother is conflicted,
It's my mother who, in my dreams,
Emerges from a door marked "adore"
An image so overtly self-subversive
That it drops me--laughing
And praying--to the floor.
Many people have problems with many aspects of Catholicism, from why women cannot be priests to why homosexuality is considered immoral. Christopher Sparks turned to Facebook to get the questions people have and then answered them in: How Can You Still Be Catholic? It's a wonderful little book and reminds me always by this quote by Ap. Fulton Sheen: “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” I recommend this both for Catholics and non-Catholics because so many Catholics do not know why the Church teaches what she does.
Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer by Fr. Thomas Dubay is a most essential book for anybody interested in becoming a saint. He observes that more people turn away from evil to become good, but far fewer people go from good to better. He remarks on the extraordinary resistance we face in our journey towards holiness and he gives practical suggestions to combat moral mediocrity.
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden and Barbara Cooney is such a satisfying Christmas story. Three characters' lives that begin separately become entwined at the end. I love how the author captures the longings of each heart.
Another one of my favorite picture books is Great Joy by Kate diCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. This story captures the love and compassion of a little girl for a monkey and the organ-grinder at Christmas. The sparse text and luminous illustrations convey it perfectly. I find myself holding my breath at the lines: "The world was quiet. Everyone waited." And tears fall when I turn the page. This is Christmas!
May these last couple of days before Christmas be filled with joy and peace as we await the coming of our blessed Lord Jesus in our hearts.