Friday, February 28, 2014

My Top Ten Favorite Catholic Books

St. Josemarie Escriva, in his book The Way, once exhorted, "Do not neglect spiritual reading.  Reading has made many saints.". Here is a list of my top ten favorite Catholic books (in no particular order) accompanied by a quote related to the theme of this blog, which is the universal call to holiness.

1.Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II
Photo credit: Ryk Neethling
"It is very important to cross the threshold of hope, not to stop before it, but to let oneself be led. I believe that the great Polish poet Cyprian Norwid had this in mind when he expressed the ultimate meaning of the Christian life in these words: 'Not with the cross of the Savior behind you, but with your own cross behind the Savior." (224)

2. Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism by Scott and Kimberly Hahn
"The most important message of Vatican II - by far - is the 'universal call to holiness'. Basically it means that all Catholics - not just priests and religious - are called to be saints." (178)

3. Hungry for God: Practical Help in Personal Prayer by Ralph Martin
"It began to click for me what the cult of the saints and Mary could mean. I saw their transparency and how when we truly come into contact with them, we notice not so much them but Jesus within them and find our hearts and attention turning not so much to them as to the One who dwells withing them, the One whom they serve." (120-121)

4. The Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin
"It's important to realize that there is only one choice; either to undergo complete transformation and enter heaven, or be eternally seperated from God in hell. There are only two ultimate destinations, and if we want to enter heaven we must be made ready for the sight of God. Holiness isn't an "option" for those who are interested in that sort of thing, but is essential for those who want to spend eternity with God." (8)

5. The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time by Father Lawrence Lovasik
"The saints were saints because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient, silent when they wanted to speak and agreeable when they felt an urge to scream. The pushed forward when they wanted to stand still. Sainthood is simply another word for self-forgetfulness and generosity." (30-31)

6.The Confessions of Saint Augustine (Signet Classics) by St. Augustine
"Late it was that I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new, late I loved you! And, look, you were within me and I was outside, and there I sought for you and in my ugliness I plunged into the beauties that you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. Those outer beauties kept me far from you, yet if they had not been in you, they would not have existed at all. You called, you cried out, you shattered by deafness: you flashed, you shone, you shattered my blindness: you breathed perfume, and I drew in my breath and I pant for you; I tasted, and I am hungry and thirsty: you touched me, and I burned for your peace. (229)

7. Sober Intoxication of the Spirit: Filled With the Fullness of God by Father Raniero Cantalamessa
"What will we ask of the Holy Spirit concerning each of these three components? For our minds we ask for light - certitude, truth - from the One who is the "Spirit of truth." For our hearts we ask for love. Finally, for brother body we ask for healing, for a strengthening of what is sick or weak." (98)

8.Divine Mercy In My Soul-Diary of Sister M. Faustina Kowalska "How very much I desire the salvation of souls! My dearest secretary, write that I want to pour out My divine life into human souls and sanctify them, if only they were willing to accept My grace. The greatest sinners would achieve great sanctity, if only they would trust in My mercy. The very inner depths of My being are filled to overflowing with mercy, and it is being poured out upon all I have created." (631)

9. Deep Conversion/ Deep Prayer by Father Thomas Dubay
"Because the gospel is without doubt the most beautiful worldview on our planet, when we live it fully sincere people are mightily attracted to its beauty and to the Church. Jesus himself plainly said that it is by our love that the world will come to know that we are his disciples (Jn 13:35). A saint is a homilist without saying a word, a powerful proclamation of revealed truth and splendor. Throughout the centuries of our Catholic history it is the saints who attract the largest members to join us." (63)

10. Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration by Pope Benedict XVI
"The saints are the true interpreters of Holy Scripture. The meaning of a given passage of the Bible becomes most intelligible in those human beings who have been totally transfixed by it and have lived it out." (78)

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reading Has Made Many Saints

As an avid reader, this quote from St. Josemarie Escriva has long been one of my favorites.

It is found in his book: The Way: The Essential Classic of Opus Dei's Founder which I have often meditated on while praying in our parish's Perpetual Adoration chapel.  In it St. Escriva provides wise exhortations in small one-three sentence doses.  Of the years, I have taken many of his "soundbites" to heart and they have been a great help on my spiritual journey.

Reading has been a passion of mine sine I was a young child, when I spent many a peaceful  afternoon browsing the stacks of the local public library or curled up in my bedroom with a good book.  My love of reading has persisted into adulthood and during the years in which I commuted to work, my long two hour commutes became an opportunity to read. As a theology student, I find myself reading not only what is required for a class, but other books on the same subject. A bookworm indeed.

Prior to my conversion, however, I wasn't particularly discerning about what I read.  Over time and through the grace of God I have come to understand that all books are not created equal.  What we feed into our mind, especially through reading which actively engages our imagination, has the ability to impact our souls. I specifically recall reading a novel which had a particularly graphic scene involving a sadistic, abusive sexual act. For days after reading this I had nightmares. The images that my mind had created while reading this scene continued to haunt me for years after I had put the book down. I had been feeding my mind junk food. St. Escriva himself warns sternly:

"Books: don't buy them without advice from a Christian who is learned and prudent. It's so easy to buy something useless or harmful."

After experiencing a powerful conversion, my reading habits changed overnight. I replaced the junk food in my reading diet with a wholesome, healthy diet of spiritual reading. The Lord had ignited in me a great desire to learn more about Him and I read every spiritual book I could get my hands on, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to conversion stories like Dr. Scott and Kimberly Hahn's Rome Sweet Home, to Papal encyclicals, to the lives of the saints and more. Every page of every spiritual book that I have read has fed my soul, much like every bite of every meal that I have eaten has fed my body.  I look back over all the reading that I have done and realize that while I don't remember the details of everything I have read, like all the meals that I have eaten, these books have consistently provided soul-sustaining spiritual nourishment.

I continue to strive for the heights of holiness that is presented in the words of the scriptures and in the words of the many challenging and inspiring spiritual books that I have read..  You can find me, in the trenches of my everyday life, most often with a stack of books close at hand.

Read Related Posts Here:
My Top Ten Favorite Catholic Books

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Father's Command; A Father's Love

Father stood at the ambo and began to speak in a slow, steady, almost monotone voice.

"Number One," he began. "I am the Lord your God, you shall not have other gods before me."
"Number Two: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain."
"Number Three: Remember to keep holy the sabbath." 

At this point, I began to think to myself, what exactly is the point of this homily? Father went on:

"Number Four: Honor your Father and your Mother."
"Number Five: You shall not kill."
"Number Six: You shall not commit adultery."

Was it me or was Father's voice getting louder and stronger? This no longer sounded like a homily, it sounded, commands.....

"Number Seven: You shall not steal"
"Number Eight: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
"Number Nine: You shall not covet your neighbor's wife."
"Number Ten: You shall not covet your neighbor's goods."

I sat in my pew in a stunned sort of silence.  The whole church seemed to be sitting on the edge of their seats. Growing up Catholic I learned the Ten Commandments in school and could rattle them off, sometimes mixing up the order of "you shall not kill" with "you shall not steal" but generally getting the whole thing right. I refer to the Ten Commandments in doing an Examination of Conscience, but in an offhand way - yeah, yeah, yeah, no killing or adultery or coveting going on here - I'm good.

But this, this was something I had never experienced before.  I felt, as Father "recited" the Commandments, the weight of their words.  I felt their imperative quality. It became very clear to me, perhaps for the first time, that these are truly God's commands.  Nothing about them sounded optional. Even more than that, I somehow sensed the depths of each individual command. I knew in my heart as I sat there and listened, that my casual glossing over of the Ten Commandments would no longer suffice.

I sensed something else too, as Father proclaimed the Commandments.  I could feel their protective quality. As I listened I did not feel restricted or oppressed by these commands, even though I could clearly feel their weight.  Instead, what I experienced was the love behind the commands.  The love of God the Father providing his children with a way to thrive. As Father's voice plainly stated the Commandments, I heard God the Father whisper in my heart: "My child, I want you to be safe.  Stay within these bounds. Listen to me."

Our journey to the heights of holiness is often one of deepening insights into the Lord and his wisdom. I had heard the Ten Commandments countless of times in my life.  However, at Mass on Sunday, I heard them in a different way. It was an unexpected gift from the Lord and one that I am grateful for.

Thank you Abba, Father for the gift of your Commandments.  
Thank you for sending your son Jesus to die for all my failures in living out these Commandments.  Thank you Holy Spirit for dwelling within me and giving me the strength I need to live out these Commandments in an ever deepening way.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Saints 365

So what's with the title of this blog?

I love the saints!  Stories of the saints fascinate me. I am inspired by their great love and devotion to the Lord. I am in awe of their heroic virtue. The miracles in their lives, their intense prayer lives, even the gory tales of those who were martyred are just an amazing part of our Catholic heritage. However, that is not the reason I titled this blog Saints 365.  At least not entirely.  Let me let you in on a little secret:

I want to be a saint!

Yep. Me. A homeschooling Mom who loses all of her patience even before breakfast is done. The woman can barely make it through a decade of the rosary without getting distracted.  That's right.  Me.  The one who breaks her Lenten fast of giving up Diet Coke every single year before 11:00PM on Ash Wednesday. The girl you heard snoring during Adoration. You got it. Me. 

I want to be a saint!

And there's more. The Lord tells me that I am called to be a saint. The church tells me holiness is for me. And for you too! We are all called to be saints. So I invite you to join me on this journey of striving for the heights of holiness in the trenches of everyday life. 

"So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48

"Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive." Lumen Gentium, art. 42

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Who Am I?

Here's a little bit about me.  My name is Debbie Gaudino. I am a Catholic wife,  homeschooling Mom of two children, daughter, sister, friend, Theology graduate student at Franciscan University, Account Manager at Lighthouse Catholic Media, avid reader, and brand new blogger.

Whew.  I'm tired just reading all that.

The thing is, that is not who I truly am.  That is a laundry list of adjectives and labels - things I do, and roles I play.  Sometimes those roles and labels are extremely gratifying.  Sometimes they are downright exhausting.  But who I am - that is totally different.  Who I am is what drives that list.  Who I am never exhausts me. Who I am is the wind beneath my wings, the source and destination of my life.

So who am I?

I am a child of God. 

How do I know that?  Because he told me.

"See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called 
the children of God. Yet so we are." 1 John 3:1