Katie Warner interviews Catholic readers and writers about their reading habits and asks for their book recommendations in various categories.
First, who are you?
Beth Sri, blogger at BornToDoThis.org, wife to Dr. Edward Sri and mom to eight kids ages 18 to 3.
When and how do you read?
I love a real, printed book. I need to feel it in my hands, to see the length of the work and know where I stand in relation to its “finish line.” I also underline and write notes in the margins so I can refer back to certain concepts and connections I’ve made while reading. I tend to read before bed and when I happen to arrive early to the after-school pick up carline.
I do like having an audiobook for times in the car, or if I – gasp! – have a moment where no one needs me and I can fold laundry or make dinner in relative peace.
Share a reading tip or hack that you’ve found helpful in your own reading life.
For Lent, I worked on detachment from my smartphone. Always keeping a small book with me was a lifesaver for those unexpected times of waiting at the pharmacy, doctor, etc. Even something as simple as Magnificat or a Jacques Phillipe book can yield spiritual fruits from a small chunk of time that a screen can rarely deliver. This is something I’ve continued in the Easter season.
Recommend one of your favorite books in the following categories and include a brief description of why you chose it:
A spiritual classic: Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Baptiste Sainte-Jure, SJ and St. Claude de la Colombiere, SJ.
Small but mighty, it drives home this penetrating message: “Nothing happens to us in life unless God wills it so.” The good, the bad and the ugly can and will come our way throughout life. Will we turn to God, thinking of whatever befalls us as a gift to catapult us to holiness? Or will we run from it and turn away from the very thing that could lead us ever closer to Him? The choice is ours, time and time again. Trustful Surrender offers a framework to face the events of life knowing they all come from the hand of a merciful, loving Father God.
Modern Catholic book: Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo.
This has to be the most enjoyable and inspirational audiobook I’ve heard to date. The way he dramatized Mother’s voice made me feel like she was really and truly saying those words, complete with her trademark joy and sass. Mother’s life was a pattern of intense suffering leading to a new call from Jesus: over and over a major difficulty would come up, she’d pray and give it to Jesus not knowing how it would work out. Then suddenly, there’d be a way through – a healing, a donation, an answer – and she’d have the direction and strength to move forward, giving her all to whatever Jesus was asking of her. Even though she was a nun in a convent, we can all glean inspiration and wisdom from the death-resurrection-new life rhythm. Mother’s life proved that in times of darkness and all sorts of dying, there will always be a sort of resurrection to follow. And Raymond made that lesson – and a whole host of others – accessible and delightful to the ear.
Non-Catholic book: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.
Summer reading, in my opinion, would not be complete without some Jane Austen. The more I read her novels, the more striking is Austen’s genius and understanding of virtue, friendship and human nature. I just finished Mansfield Park again, and have a deeper appreciation for the heroine Fanny Price. Lacking the charm of Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett, she might seem quiet and dull. Yet, as one of Austen’s mature heroines, she wields virtue like a boss. A woman of strength, she always doing what’s right, even in the midst of great suffering. And it leads to her ultimate triumph in the end. (A word of advice: I sometimes have a hard time “getting into” reading Mansfield Park…that is, until Henry and Mary Crawford enter the picture. Stay with it!)
An article or short-form piece: “The Despair of Comparison and Letting God In” by Jenny Uebbing of the blog Mama Needs Coffee.
Jenny always tells it like it is and speaks to my heart. Her article “The Despair of Comparison and Letting God In” hits on it all…the struggle with jealousy, seeking divine intimacy, healing our wounds and even the hemorrhaging woman from Mark 5.
Church document: Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI
My Endow small group recently studied Humanae Vitae. It was edifying not only to revisit the timeless truth in this encyclical after almost 20 years of marriage, but to do it with other married women who are also trying to live it out in our secular culture. While Pope Paul VI’s prophecies of a contraceptive culture are now the air we breathe, I’m even more thankful for his clarion call to courage and greatness within the sacrament of matrimony.
My love for this encyclical grew not only for what it says, but also for what it doesn’t say. When it comes to the sensitive topic of natural family planning, St. Paul VI doesn’t give a laundry list of what constitutes serious reasons for using NFP. He trusts us enough to offer very general guidelines to prayerfully consider. Rather than giving clear black and white instructions, his general principles invite us to generosity while at the same time recognizing there may be situations when it may not be prudent to try to conceive a child. He challenges us to use our minds, to enter into dialogue with God, assuming that a Christian couple who sincerely seeks God’s will will be led by the Lord to know what is best for their family. It’s all about discernment.
Something for the kids: TinTin by Herge.
One of my family’s favorites throughout the last 13 years is a series of graphic novels called TinTin by Belgian cartoonist Herge. Created in 1929, TinTin is a young, quick-witted, virtuous reporter and adventurer who travels the world with his faithful dog Snowy. Our kids get hooked on TinTin around age 8 and will even revisit the stories through their teens years. They’ve been so well-loved in fact, we recently had to purchase a new set for our “youngers” to enjoy.
Something you’ve written or are currently writing: I recently shared a personal story entitled “God Heals a Child of Divorce” on my website, BornToDoThis.org. Recent studies are showing more clearly the deep, long-lasting impact divorce has on children and how those challenges come to the surface more in their adult years, especially when they enter into serious relationships themselves. It was a tremendous achievement for me to even be able to coherently articulate and name what I’ve been through. Society tells us, “If the parents are happier, the kids will be happier.” But the children of divorce deep down know that’s not true. It’s important for adult children of divorce to know they are not alone in their experience and suffering. While no two stories are exactly the same, they sure do rhyme. It’s through hearing others’ stories, the up’s and down’s of what they’ve been through and the ways they’ve sought healing and wholeness, that we can see that deep healing is indeed possible. And God desires it more than we do.
Summer listening (a podcast episode, talk, etc.): I’m an occasional guest on my husband’s podcast All Things Catholic-with Edward Sri. A favorite is Episode 19, “What We Wish We Knew Before Marriage.”