Your Catholic Summer Reading List

book-863418_960_720With summer just around the corner, here are a few of my book picks—some oldies and some newer goodies—to grab and devour this summer in an effort to relax, to think, to grow, or to be a better you.

For Dads: The BeDADitudes: 8 Ways to Be an Awesome Dad by Gregory Popcak

Though I haven’t read this book in particular (since I’m not really in the book’s target market), my husband and I have been fans of Dr. Popcak’s books for years, having read many of his marriage titles and others. This book is definitely on the hubby’s reading list.

For Moms: Divine Mercy for Moms: Sharing the Lessons of St. Faustina by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet

I immediately thought this book was onto a brilliant concept when it showed up in my mailbox by surprise last year. I love St. Faustina, and her message of mercy is so obviously applicable and necessary to moms; this resource is invaluable to spiritual growth. It’s easy to read and filled with opportunities for practical application (one of my favorite qualities in a book)! It’s also perfect for group study, ladies.

*Bonus pick for Moms of Boys: Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom by Leila Miller

Brimming with common sense and featuring a relaxed tone on an often worried-about topic, Miller has written a book she describes as “the equivalent of one Catholic mom sitting down over a cup of tea with another mom in [her] kitchen, to talk informally but quite seriously about navigating this culture with your boys’ morality and chastity in tact—and to give you the confidence you need to do just that.” Seriously, I loved this book. I consider it mandatory reading for Catholic moms, teaching you how to become truly approachable and tackle such an important aspect of your sons’ upbringing (especially considering today’s culture climate where sexual sin reigns supreme) without fear.

For Modern Fiction Lovers: Elijah in Jerusalem by Michael O’Brien

This is actually a two-in-one recommendation, as you really don’t want to dive into this sequel without reading its bestselling precursor, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse. I’m not generally an avid fiction reader these days, but I loved both of these books and coincidentally ended up reading them both in the summertime. My husband loved them, too, and we enjoyed discussing the intriguing, rich storylines rife with Catholic thought.

For Classic Fiction Lovers: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Many consider this Waugh’s masterpiece, and I can understand why. After so many recommendations from friends to read this book (why again did it take me so long?), I was taken in by the beautiful language from the start, but really, it was the conclusion of the novel (the last several chapters, really) that compels me to recommend this as a must-read this summer. If somehow you haven’t joined the Brideshead bandwagon yet, as I hadn’t, let me know if you’re not moved to tears at the end and grateful for its counter-cultural ending.

For Self-Improvers: Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly

Admittedly, I haven’t read a Matthew Kelly book in a long time, but when I saw this pop up as a recommended title on my Audible account, I figured I’d give it a listen. I’m glad I did. It was a good kick-in-the-pants, motivational read (I fought resistance and woke up to my 5 a.m. alarm with much more gusto as I journeyed through the book), and it had thought-provoking, memorable stories to boot.

For The Dedicated Sanctity-Pursuer: Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

There is a decent chance you have read this beautiful, autobiographical masterpiece before if you are passionate about advancing in the spiritual life, but if you haven’t, read it now! And if you have, read it again! I’m perpetually challenged and uplifted by a deeper understanding of Thérèse ‘s Little Way.

Happy summer reading, friends!

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A Parent Who Prays – Now Available!

Perhaps there is no greater gift we can give our children than the gift of our prayers. Prayer can literally change their lives. It’s that powerful.

a-parent-who-prays-3dWe marvel at how the prayers of Saint Monica, mother of her wayward son, Augustine, worked in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to bring him back to the ways of the Lord and put him on the road to sainthood. We treasure the witness of Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of Saint Therese of Lisieux, who lived their lives as a prayer to God and passionately prayed for their daughters, who all entered the religious life and lived extraordinarily faithful lives.

I don’t want any less for my own children. Honestly, though, life happens, and I’m not always as intentional about praying for my children consistently in the way I really want to be praying for them. But in the times we are living in, our kids need the fervent prayers of their parents!

Enter this new resource that I am so passionate about, because I need this just as much as the next Catholic parent, and I haven’t really found anything like it. 

A Parent Who Prays: A Journal to Guide You in Praying for Your Children (affiliate link) is a simple but transformative little journal to guide you in praying for your children. It will give you the motivation and tools you need – including 52 unique special intentions (one for each week of the year) – to make praying for your children a priority over the next year—and always.

I could tell you more about it, but I’ll let you take a look for yourself. Check out A Parent Who Prays and grab more than one copy; chances are you know someone who is just as interested in learning how to pray more intentionally for their children as you are.

Better still, if you desire to gift this beautiful little journal to your child after completing it, you may want to grab a copy for each child you plan to be praying for. If you’d rather keep it private, one journal can suffice for all of your kids.

And I have some great news for you grandparents, too. A Grandparent Who Prays is also now available! (affiliate link) Make sure you grab a copy and pass this onto fellow grandparents you know. The prayers of grandparents can’t be underestimated. Pope Francis has said, “How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society!”

Charity Christmas Gift Cards for Friends and Family

This Christmas, I wanted to give some of my family and friends a gift that not only meant something to them, but also helped those in greater need this Christmas season, attempting to answer the Matthew 25:40 call to serve the Lord through serving the “least of [His] brethren.” I asked a number of my loved ones what their favorite charitable organizations and causes were, and I made a donation to one of their favorites in their name/honor. Then I printed out this handy little snowflake card letting them know! I put their Charity Christmas Gift Cards in the mail, along with my traditional Christmas cards, but maybe next year I’ll use them as present-toppers on wrapped gifts.

Every family member or friend who received one loved it. I’ll definitely be doing this again!

Feel free to pop in your name and email address below to gain access the card file, which is part of a library of free resources!

How to Make a Home Altar

Home altar - catholickatieThough many aren’t familiar with it in modern America, a home altar has for a very long time been considered a staple feature in a Catholic home. The home altar is meant to serve as a central place for prayer and religious practice in a Catholic household. Most of us have designated places to eat, sleep, work, exercise, and play at home – why not have a designated, special spot to pray, both individually and together as a family?

Here’s an easy how-to for helping you set up your own home altar or prayer space:

1. altar and bookshelfChoose a place and surface. Find a spot in the home for your prayer space or altar, easily accessible to everyone. Ours is in the family room, in between a bookshelf containing a number of adult and children’s spiritual books, holy water and rosaries (right in picture), and a “prayer chair” below our icon collection (left). (You can also consider having smaller altars and spaces in each of the bedrooms, especially for the kids, which they can design uniquely for themselves.) As far as surfaces go, you can use a shelf, desk, end table, mantle, nook…pretty much anything. We used a medium-sized square end table.

2. (Optional step): Get some linens. I like the idea of having linens on the altar to dress up the table and to coordinate with the liturgical year. (I took pictures of our altar during Lent, so we have a plain white table cloth underneath a purple strip of cloth that I had cut for less than a dollar at a fabric store. I also have a green and a red cloth strip.) This is an optional step because if you are using a shelf or mantle, you may find it preferable to decorate without the linens.

3. Adorn the altar. Collect religious items from around your home to put on the altar. You may also want to consider investing in some of these items if you don’t have them; they make great family gifts on special feast days! You can make the altar as simple or as elaborate as you prefer (we opted for simple with young kiddos). Here are some things you can put in your prayer space or on your altar:

  • altar close upCrucifix
  • Bible (with or without a stand)
  • Prayer books, prayer cards, a missal, or a Catholic book of blessings and prayers
  • Catholic icons and/or art (of Jesus, Mary and the saints; on or above the altar)
  • Statues
  • Rosary(ies)
  • Candles
  • Holy Water
  • Blessed salt
  • Incense burner
  • Seasonal items like pictures of the Stations of the Cross during Lent, Advent wreath or Advent candles, a manger scene during Christmas, a Paschal candle or lamb during Easter, Baptismal candles, palm branches from Palm Sunday, pictures of saints on their feast days, etc.

4. Have your home and altar or prayer space blessed. If you haven’t had your house blessed, have a deacon or priest come bless the whole home, including the altar or prayer space. At least take your crucifix from your altar to Mass with you one Sunday and have that blessed.

altar5. Pray around your home altar! Take time during the day (we like to gather as a family after dinner) to pray around the home altar. This is a great time to light candles, read from the Bible, offer prayers of thanksgiving and intercession, pray a decade of the Rosary or a chaplet, learn about a saint or a feast day you are celebrating, or sign a hymn. Try and take little moments throughout the day to look at the altar or prayer space and offer a quick prayer and turn your mind and heart to Jesus. Just don’t let that special spot go unnoticed and unused!

For some home altar inspiration and ideas beside my own pictures here, check out Pinterest and these prayer space pictures from CatholicMom. Having a home altar or prayer space is a great way to make your home more of a domestic church!

One last thing…Recently, during Ordinary Time, I added a small altar/prayer table to my home-altar-catholickatie-comtoddler son’s room so he has a special place in his own room where he (and we together) could pray when he gets up in the morning, before nap/rest time, and before bed time. (Obviously a good habit for your children to form even if you don’t put a prayer table in their room!) Anyway, he loves it! I kept it pretty simple, and his favorite element is the statue of the Good Shepherd. I added a prayer card with a simple Scripture verse next to it, which he memorizes, that I will rotate every month. I’m enjoying the mini altar in his room as much as he is!

My Catholic Toddler’s Religious Library

I’m often asked for book recommendations for Catholic little ones. Here’s a peek at some of the books in my toddler’s religious library. The books are all age-appropriate, though a few are a bit text-heavy; those he’ll probably come to enjoy more within the next few months and years. I recommend these books for your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, godchildren, and the other little ones in your life as presents for special occasions or “just because”; building a religious library for young children is a valuable gift!

These are not listed in any particular order, though the books generally get more text-heavy and more are paperback than board book nearing the end of the list, except for the Bibles at the top, which, of course, have the most text. Also, some of the books are not Catholic in particular (meaning they aren’t written by Catholic authors), but these books still support a Catholic worldview. Finally, I linked all the books to Amazon, but please consider purchasing from the publisher or your local Catholic bookstore!

The Catholic Bible for Children (my preference, because it’s by a Catholic publisher)

The Beginner’s Bible (my son’s preference, because he loves the pictures)

My First Catechism

My First Bedtime Prayers

A is for Altar, B is for Bible

God Made Animals & God Made Family

Hide & Slide Bible Stories

Thank you God for Loving Me

God is Good…All the Time

I Want You to Know the Wonder of God (One of my favorites)

God Made You Special

Manners in God’s House

The Beatitudes for Children

The Mass Book for Children

Living the 10 Commandments for Children

Saints for Boys

Angel in the Waters (great pro-life pick!)

The Oak Inside the Acorn

You Are Special

If Only I Had a Green Nose

…also pictured are a few books by a dear friend of mine who is an absolutely FABULOUS illustrator. Pray they get published soon so they can be widely available! I will definitely be promoting them when–not ifthey are mass-produced, so stay tuned!

 

Hacks for Praying and Studying the Faith While Juggling Work & Family Life

I remember one particularly spiritually dry day early on in my second pregnancy. It was late at night and my energy was spent that day keeping a nap-protesting toddler content, doing chores and cooking, and grabbing spare moments to keep up with ministry work before collapsing onto my bed that night. My connection with God that day felt weak and secondary, and I shuddered thinking about more days like this when I had even more demands placed on my time and energy in the months and years to come.

I prayed to God asking for guidance to help me discern how to structure my prayer life during this wonderful but rather hectic phase of life—a phase I think many people would describe themselves as being in, regardless of their children’s ages, work demands, social obligations, and other responsibilities. I identified patterns of spiritual activity in many of my days, and I pieced them together to form the basic outline of how I might pray and study to a reasonable degree on an average day.  Here are some of the praying and faith-studying “hacks” I uncovered:

  1. Pray first thing when you wake up.

Most mornings I wake up via my what I call my toddler alarm clock—my son’s voice saying “Mama, Mama, Maaaamaaaaa!!” Though I always think it would be particularly delightful to preempt my toddler alarm clock with another phone tone, so I have time to pray more slowly before I start the day, right now this just isn’t practical most days given pretty intense middle-of-the-night pregnancy insomnia and nausea in the morning. So, at the very least, I make sure to chat with God, whatever few words I can, before I grab my toddler and rush to make him “eh-s” (eggs) before he supposedly will starve to death. When I greet him with a hug and kiss, we say Good Morning to Jesus, followed by the words, “Thank you, Jesus, for this day. Help us to live it well.” My husband and I (though I am occasionally half-asleep at the time), with or without our son depending on when he wakes up, also pray the Memorare and the Morning Offering before he takes his pre-sunrise leave for work.

  1. Listen to Catholic radio and podcasts while cooking and cleaning.

As a stay-at-home mom, a decent portion of the day is spent cooking and doing chores—an activity shared by most parents, who work either in or outside of the home. My in-laws gifted us with a fantastic pair of speakers (one for upstairs and one for down), and I turn on Catholic radio as I occupy myself with my daily housework. This serves as a great opportunity to keep my brain active and learn more about my faith. I’m usually tuned into whatever is playing on EWTN radio, and am almost always home before 8 a.m. and around 4 p.m. when cooking dinner, so, being on Eastern time, I can plan on catching The Son Rise Morning Show for news and various interviews of Catholic interest, and Kresta in the Afternoon for in-depth commentary on important Catholic issues. Catholic podcasts are also a great source for audio learning. In addition to a variety of EWTN, Ave Maria, and Immaculate Heart radio show podcasts, I like Catholic Answers Focus (which I recently got to do a show for—look for Head & Heart!), for more thorough analysis on certain faith topics, and the Word on Fire Sermon podcast in preparation for Sunday Mass.

  1. Go to daily Mass whenever possible.

Most days of the week, my son and I go to daily Mass. Though praying at Mass with a toddler in tow can be a wee bit distracting, I wouldn’t trade the opportunity for anything, as the graces I get from receiving the Eucharist and the blessing it is to have him make Mass a part of his regular routine from a young age are invaluable.

  1. Read the Bible on my phone.

Reading the Bible electronically is not my ideal way to engage Scripture, but when I can’t easily hold a Bible in hand, having a Bible app on my phone is extremely helpful. (I like this one.) It allows me to read a chapter at a time in unexpected free moments of the day, and I try to select one verse in my reading to continue thinking about after I put my phone away. The Laudate app is also great for praying the Liturgy of the Hours, in whole or in part, throughout the day.

  1. Pray in short spurts throughout the day, with and without your family.

For me, this usually means talking to God more casually in the car, while on an errand, in between books I’m reading to or games I’m playing with my son, while doing a quick task or chore, or while exercising. My prayers are sometimes form prayers, like all or part of a Rosary, a novena prayer for that day, or the Angelus, or they can be more conversation prayers, like thanking God for my blessings, petitioning for my own family’s needs, praying for others intentions, or asking for quick guidance or discernment. Offering up the actual tasks, highs, and lows of the day—whether that be laundry, moments of frustration, a joyful experience—is another way I try to incorporate prayer smoothly into my routine.

  1. Read a faith-related article or from a spiritual or theological book sometime during the day or evening.

I work to include some sort of spiritual reading into my day in addition to Scripture, whether that is an article online from sources like the Integrated Catholic Life or the National Catholic Register or a spiritual book from a classic or modern Catholic writer. One of my all-time favorites is Fr. Jacques Philippe’s Searching for and Maintaining Peace. My husband and I also plan to start watching more episodes from faith-based DVD programs at night after we put our son to bed, like the Augustine Institute’s Symbolon or Beloved.

  1. Pray with your family before bedtime.

Our evening prayer as a family after dinner usually looks like a decade of the Rosary, a reflection from a spiritual book (like this one, for example), or the PRAISE formula prayer we learned from one of Dr. Greg Popcak’s books (Praise and thank, repent, ask, intercede, seek God’s will, expect that He will answer your prayers in whatever way is best for you.)

  1. Spend a few minutes of silent time with Jesus before I go to bed.

This is the critically important silent time with the Lord that is usually the hardest but most important prayer time of the day. My silent time with Jesus also generally includes an examination of conscience. (Among others, I like the one for families I include at the back of my book.) Ideally, time in the adoration chapel once a week allows for a more prolonged experience of silent prayer which the soul really craves to thrive.

  1. Listen to a spiritual audio book when you can’t sleep.

I spend an unwelcomed amount of time awake in the 2-4 a.m. hours these days, thanks to the well-known experience many women called pregnancy. During these sleepless nights, I’m thankful for Catholic audio books, which allow me to squeeze in some reflection and learning time when my eyes are too tired to read. Thanks to the audio version of the text, I finally finished Ralph Martin’s massive and beautiful book, The Fulfillment of All Desire, which I had wanted to read in its entirety for years.

  1. Try to be patient with yourself and rely heavily on God’s grace.

St. Francis de Sales said, “God takes pleasure to see you take your little steps.” Sometimes, my daily efforts to pray and study seem so wimpy to me, but I am consoled by the fact that God looks kindly on my effort, which gives me the motivation I need to keep praying and moving forward in my spiritual life.

What do you do to maintain a life of prayer and learning amidst your hectic work or family schedules? This is what my average daily prayer and study routine looks like while parenting, maintaining a home, and working part-time in ministry (mostly at nights and during naptime), but of course it fluctuates. Consistency, though, is one of the most important keys to making this all happen—that, and, of course, a heavy dose of patience and lots of God’s grace.

Scripture Memorization Cards – Printable

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

God’s Word is meant to guide us, to encourage us, to transform us. Unfortunately, many of us do not spend near as much time in the Word of God as we should, let alone memorize Scripture passages that can provide us much-needed strength and truth in times of need or – well – all the time.

So here is a simple resource for you to help with that. Feel free to use these printable Scripture cards (this version has all New Testament passages), cutting them out into individual cards and placing them one on your mirror, in your wallet or pocket, on your computer screen or fridge…wherever you are likely to look multiple times a day. Start with just one. Spend a week memorizing that verse. Then, move on to the next one the following week.

Focus on one verse per week, trying to practice verses from the previous weeks as you go along to lock them better in your memory. These particular verses are meant to bring comfort, to bear witness, to shed light into your days and provide you with words the Holy Spirit may desire you to share with others. Don’t miss those opportunities!

I also recommend using these verses with your kids, working on one a month for very little children, rather than one a week. You’ll be surprised with their memory skills, and you also will be giving them the most vital tool with which to face the ups and downs of their daily lives – God’s Word to us.

Hope this simple printable helps you right now!

Memorize Scripture-NT_CatholicKatie.com

 

 

6 Simple Resources to Amplify Your Prayer Life

“What the world most needs today is prayer.  It is prayer that will give birth to all the
renewals, healings, deep and fruitful transformations we all want for society today.  This world of ours is very sick, and only contact with heaven will be able to cure it.” –Fr. Jacques Philipe 

Furthermore, any great transformation that we wish to see in ourselves thrives on the commitment and strength of our prayers.

Sometimes, though, praying can be a bit of a struggle. What to pray, how to pray, when to pray, being faithful to prayer when distractions and busy schedules get in the way, persevering in prayer when your spiritual life seems dry – all of these “obstacles” to prayer sometimes leave me in a bit of a prayer rut. That’s when I turn to some outside help to give my prayer life the kickstart it needs to keep going.

Of course, the best outside help is God Himself, who longs to draw closer to us and deepen His relationship with us through prayer. Asking God to give you the grace to move forward in your prayer life is a prayer that He no doubt loves to hear and answer.

Here are a few other resources I use to motivate me in prayer:

The Liturgy of the Hours: I feel like the Liturgy of the Hours is one of the most underutilized prayer gems by lay people in the Church today. The Laudate app is usually my preferred tool of choice for praying the Liturgy of the Hours in spare moments I can grab throughout the day, and it is such a helpful guide to calm me and connect me to God, the Source of all peace and transformation, through beautiful prayers that countless others around the world are also praying that day, too.

Thirsting for Prayer by Fr. Jacques Philippe: Having loved so many of Fr. Philippe’s other writings on the spiritual life (my favorite is Searching For and Maintaining Peace), I was eager to dive into this treatise knowing that it was no doubt going to be one of my favorite resources on prayer. Sure enough, I couldn’t stop highlighting everything as I was reading, and it has already deepened my prayer life. You can read the intro to the book here.
What Every Couple Should Know About Marriage and Prayer by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen: This great CD/MP3 download continuously reminds me of the treasure that prayer is to my marriage. It’s also by one of my favorite saints, and I pretty much hang on every word he says. This particular talk does not disappoint.

Pray More Novenas: This great email service delivers novena prayers straight to your email inbox. It’s easy, it’s free…and most importantly, novenas are such a fantastic practice in enhancing your prayer life by capitalizing on the beautiful devotions and saintly intercessors that can help us grow in our spiritual lives.

Scripture: The Psalms, the Gospels, Paul’s letters…you name it. It’s hard to get past a few verses without finding something so rich to stop and meditate on. Yet we often completely forget to make the Bible a part of our regular prayer routine. I like to have the EWTN app on my phone to use the Bible feature when I’m on the go or not near my printed Bible.

Chapter 4 in Head & Heart on “Prioritizing Prayer”: The couples I interviewed whose stories, tips, and brutal honesty about their prayer lives made it into chapter four of this book continue to inspire me when I need it most, and I often refer to the other reflections and resources in that chapter to get me back on track when I start to lose focus in prayer.

Free Printables: Mother’s Day Spiritual Bouquets

In preparation for Mother’s Day, don’t forget to PRAY for the moms in your life – and let them know that you’re praying for them, too!

Here are a few colorful spiritual bouquet printables for mom, daughter, or grandmother. Just save & print the card image, add the prayers you’re offering on the lines provided (ex. one Mass, one Rosary, three Hail Marys, etc.) and sign your name.

Enjoy & Happy Mother’s Day!

Spiritual Bouquet for Mother

Spiritual Bouquet for Daughter

Spiritual Bouquet for Grandmother