Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Lent 2021: Book Reviews

 If there was anything positive about this past year, I believe my reading habits have been forever changed.  During Lent, I limit my reading choices to books that are at least faith-adjacent choices. In previous years, I haven't been able to do more than a devotional and a book or two on top of that. I had five books on my list for this year, and I finished the last one mid-March. If you are looking for some reading material, here are a few suggestions:

Racial Justice and the Catholic Church by Bryan N. Massingale

Rating: 5/5 stars

Review: Massingale provides us with a heartbreaking look at the generational loss the US Catholic Church has suffered because of racism, slavery and the devastating consequences. I had noticed some of the reviews claimed there wasn't a strong conclusion or resolution but I did not share this opinion. While I am uncertain that there is an appropriate way to repair this sort of generational loss, I found a fairly detailed list of action items and a thorough analysis in Massingale's words that I will be referring back to for years to come. I appreciated his style and approach to the subject and I am only sorry I didn't read this book much sooner. 

Birth of a Movement: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church: by Olga M. Segura

Rating: 5/5 stars

Review: I had been anticipating Segura's book for a few months. There are some very commonly spread rumors and falsehoods about the Black Lives Matter movement in Catholic circles especially, and I wanted the opportunity to read something that discussed both the Church and BLM. This was fantastic. Perhaps my favorite things about Segura's work was that most of her resources were women of color. It helped me to sit completely in a perspective that was different from my own, helped me to understand  aspects of the movement that I had previously not understood, and gave me so much to sit with and work on for myself. Segura also gives us specific action items that Catholics must change and be a part of in order to repair centuries of damage. I hope that both lay and clergy of the Catholic Church take notice here and read her work. 

Black Catholics on the Road to Sainthood: by Michael R. Heinlein

Rating: 2/5 stars

Review: When I purchased this book, I was looking forward to Gloria Purvis' involvement. I was somewhat let down by the all too brief biographies. While some of the reflections were well done, it seemed obvious to me that the author/editor wasn't entirely comfortable talking about race and racism. It is possible that this book fell flat for me after reading books with a more detailed history of racism and the Church. The Black Catholic Messenger's review of this book shows why the approach Heinlein took isn't all that helpful. While this gave me some great someday saints to research, I was expecting more.

The Church's Best Kept Secret: A Primer on Catholic Social Teaching by Mark P. Shea

Rating: 4/5 stars

Review: Shea does a great job here of wading through the Compendium to give us insight on Catholic Social Teaching (CST). I appreciated the brevity and the questions at the end of a chapter, making it an easy book club or study group choice. It's been nearly a decade now since I first began seeking out books on just this topic, only to find very limited options. I'm glad to have a hard copy of this because I definitely needed my highlighter. 

The Reckless Way of Love: Notes on Following Jesus by Dorothy Day

Rating: 4/5 stars

Review: I have read The Long Loneliness and Saved By Beauty and a few others about my favorite American Catholic, Dorothy Day, and I will read them all I am sure. There is something about the private writings of Day that moves me. She is quick-tempered, a little bit mouthy, and has to really work to get through the work she believes she is called to do. I loved that this was a book easily broken up because so much of my reading time is in the car waiting to pick up the kids, but at the same time there were entries where I wanted to know more context. 

Bonus Read

The History of Black Catholics in the United States by Cyprian Davis

Rating: 5/5 stars

Review: I read Davis' book last year, but I had to add it to this list because it was the book that started my journey in learning about racial justice and the part the Catholic Church has to play in all of it. Davis has a thorough and fair voice and I learned more about Black Catholics and even the history of Catholicism in the United States from him than I have any other author or class. This book can be difficult to find, but it's easily one of the top three most important books to American Catholicism. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

A Return to the Mundane Complaint?

 Our 46th president Joe Biden makes me think of my one and only political conversation with my grandpa.  He died when I was a senior in college, or I'm sure we would have had plenty to say to each other these days. It went something like this:

            Me: What's with the 'Catholics for Kerry' button, old man?

            Him: What, you wouldn't have voted for Kennedy?

These two Catholic men that have served as president leave me conflicted. 

As a Catholic, there is a sense of swelling pride in a shared and sacred Baptism in Christ that I didn't think I was able to feel anymore. Pride in a baptism that leaves an indelible mark on our souls that cannot be taken from us. There is also the distress in the knowledge that both men are flawed Catholics. So am I. The Catholic Church is a place for sinners but it is also a place where our leaders share our sins. 

As a woman, I have the all too familiar feeling of wanting to trust a man, but knowing he may have made other women feel unsafe. Perhaps I have become hyper-aware and hyper-focused on these warning flags, but I cannot dismiss the warnings all the same. 

These conflicts all feel blessedly mundane in this, the year of our Lord, 2021. My insides may resemble a storm at sea, but I am grateful that these conflicts leave me cautious and alert. It reminds me of dark churches at night and my favorite Liturgy of the Hours Tuesday night prayer verse:

                                        Stay sober and alert. -1 Peter 5:8