Catholics on Social Media & Visio Divina!

Our Sunday Visitor does a marvelous job of  periodically “rounding up” wonderful Catholic resources online. The June 26th print issue had a wonderful article entitled “Digital Discovery” written by Mark Shea about Catholics in podcasting. He introduced me to a couple of podcasts that I hadn’t discovered yet, so this is well worth checking this out! I was especially interested because I am researching the possibility of us beginning a Pauline podcast, and he has quick tips for an easy start up.

Another series of recent articles from OSV gives families practical tips of how to make your use of social media balanced, discerning, and healthy. Here’s a list of those articles online.

OurLadysGardencoverFor those who are visually artistic, I wanted to mention that Pauline Books & Media is publishing two religious coloring books that the sisters hope can become “gateways” to contemplation. Our Lady’s Garden is a simply exquisite coloring book of various images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the sisters have put up one page of the coloring book online that is free to download (and color)!

The Pinterest Board with the results are beautiful.

Ever since I was introduced to Sr. Wendy Beckett’s work years ago, I have occasionally enjoyed praying with sacred art, which I have heard described as visio divina—a way of prayer that uses visual art as an entryway to prayer. Like cinema divina—a way of prayer that uses film as a way to enter into prayer, visio divina engages our senses directly with an image.  Creating sacred images to inspire has a long and sacred history, as does praying with sacred images.

 

Windows into Christ (2)

Windows into Christ is the second coloring book that the sisters hope will be used for prayer and meditation.

I Finally Did It ! I Read Geekpriest–and This Is What I Enjoyed Most!

GeekpriestCoverI finally did it!

No, unfortunately I did not become a Jedi knight (unlike Father Roderick, who is holding a lightsaber!).

I finally obtained (note that I did not beg or steal, but borrowed…from halfway across the country!) a copy of Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer, by Father Roderick Vonhögen. I’ve been eagerly anticipating reading Father Roderick’s book for ages (yes, that’s since a whole two years ago when the book was first published by Servant Press/Franciscan Media). One drawback of eager anticipation is that it is easily disappointed. Not only was I not disappointed, but I was fully engaged and tremendously satisfied by this remarkable book.

Most Catholics who work in digital and social media are probably familiar with Father Roderick Vonhögen, the founder of the Star Quest Production Network (SQPN), which uses the media for religious information, evangelization, catechesis, formation, and education. Personally, I first “discovered” Father Roderick through a friend recommending his podcasts, and I continue to listen today. (One of my guilty pleasures is listening to his “Secrets of…” podcasts that explore some of my favorite stories–TV, films, and books.)

I wonder how many of us have actually read this book? A marvelous blend of personal anecdotes and insights on using new media, Geekpriest is delightfully informal and accessible. Anyone who works in Catholic media will enjoy, be inspired by, and learn from this treasure.

Read This Book! (or, My Favorite Parts)

The only way to do justice to this book is to read it in its entirety. However, I’d like to highlight a few of my favorite parts and insights that Father Roderick offers in the hopes of convincing you to read it. Also, all of the keys to communication that Father Roderick points out are actually carried out in his book. (Father truly “practices what he preaches.”) Chapter 1 is my favorite chapter because there he tells the story of his first experience as a new media pioneer (with Star Wars, no less!) and then outlines what he learned from his first foray into the internet as the “Star Wars priest.”

Here are a few of my favorite of Father Roderick’s communication principles, summarized in my own words:

  • engage with and make a personal connection with your audience; put yourself in their place and begin with the common ground you share, something that you are passionate about
  • use more than words: use stories, visuals, deeper content—whatever it takes to connect with whomever you wish to communicate
  • communicate within community: make your communication interactive, build a network, and communicate collaboratively; others’ expertise and insight will enrich both you and and what you communicate
  • use the “seeds of the Gospel” and longings of the human heart expressed in today’s culture to create a connection with the Gospel itself, and use that connection, that common ground, to evangelize

Throughout the rest of the book, it was both a delight and inspiring to see how Father Roderick carried out these and the other “key principles” that he highlights.

Read the Rest of This Book! (or, More Favorite Parts)

Chapter 2 is very much Fr. Roderick’s personal journey to faith and his vocation as a priest, paired with his discovery and comparison of sanctity and superheroes (a comparison I’ve made when talking to kids in a  classroom). The “Superhero Checklist” is not just a good checklist for vocational discernment (which I will highlight on my discernment blog), but also for how we live out our vocations.

Another of my favorite chapters is the Disneyland chapter, as Fr. Roderick dispels the Disney myth that we are the knights in shining armor (because, of course, it is Christ who is the Savior, not us!), and how he slowly and painfully learned balance in his priestly ministry. His “Disney examination of conscience” is a great way to introduce kids to the examination of conscience. His respect for the mythology of fairy tales and other forms of storytelling as ways which can help us to see with new eyes enlivens the entire chapter.

Chapter 4 tells the story of Father Roderick’s first podcast, and also the 5 “I’s” of Communication that he learned in a course on radio that he took at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and still uses today. They are invaluable for any form of communication—including conversations!

Discover the Rest of Geekpriest for Yourself…

The rest of the chapters follow the same pattern: a fascinating personal story from Father’s life, followed by life-lessons and in many cases, communication- or ministry-lessons. The entire book is so engaging and so personal in tone, that at the end of each chapter, I simply felt that I’d had a great conversation with Father Roderick and wanted to keep on reading. It’s one of the quickest nonfiction reads I’ve ever read, and I’ve already gone back and re-read it a second time…and I will re-read my favorite parts once more before I return my copy shortly.

A final note: if all communicators knew and practiced these principles of communication, boring religious media would cease to exist.

If you aren’t familiar with Father Roderick and his work at www.SQPN.com, do yourself a favor and check out his podcasts,  website, and above all his engaging book! 

Rediscover Jesus: Invitation to a Dynamic Relationship with Christ

Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation is truly an appealing invite to readers to encounter Jesus deeply. RJ-book-flatThis book answers an urgent need that I have found in Catholics all over North America: people of good will, rooted and raised in the Catholic Faith, who are Catholic mostly just for Sunday Mass and special occasions, who desperately need a personal relationship with Jesus. As a vocation director, I have often been concerned for young people who begin discerning their vocations without having a personal relationship with Jesus–indeed, without knowing that they needed one. They wanted to do God’s will, but how could they hear God’s call if they didn’t know how to have a conversation with Jesus? Helping young people develop a personal relationship with Christ became the starting-point of my work in nurturing vocations.

Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation wonderfully addresses this need, inviting readers in to their own personal relationship with Jesus through:

  • Conversational style and short, easily digestible portions. Broken down into 40 short chapters, this book covers the basics of what it means to live a Christian life–one nugget at a time. For the most part, this book was simply a joy to read.
  • Four concrete interactive invitations at the end of every chapter, each of which appeal to a different part of our personhood.  To Ponder engages the mind, Verse to Live (taken from the Gospels) can engage almost any part of us, depending on how we read it; Question to Consider engages our memories and life experience, and Prayer engages our hearts. Almost every reader will find at least one of those four points striking. These interactive invites allow us as readers to reflect on the message of the chapter in a way that is deeply personal.
  • Life-changing introduction to how to live a truly Christian life
  • Relational approach–not just because of the conversational style, but because of how Matthew Kelly is definitely trying to encourage us to develop our own personal relationship with Jesus–the one relationship that we all thirst for, whether we know it or not.

The topics of the chapters rotate, but I found three main themes running through the book. The first 9 or so chapters seem to focus on who God is and who Jesus is–especially as we can come to know him through the Gospels and through prayer. These first chapters are shorter, extremely inviting and appealing, and motivating. They’re great not just for people who need a personal relationship with Jesus, but also for those who seek to deepen their relationship with Christ. I’ve bookmarked several points to pray with later. My favorite chapters of the book were these first chapters and the last few chapters because they focus so well on the personal. What does Jesus truly want for us? How does Jesus think of us? How do we think of Jesus? How can we give Jesus our all?

Chapters 11 through 20 (or so) seem to focus on the heart of Jesus’ Gospel teaching, especially how we are called as followers of Christ to imitate him.

From the middle of the book to the end, the chapters primarily focus on transformation: how Christ wants to and will transform our lives if we allow him–so that we can be truly, deeply happy, so that we can be our best selves. In a particular way, the last ten or so chapters discuss holiness–in a way that makes it accessible to everyone.

My favorite chapters:

Chapter 10: Learning a true love of self

Chapter 22: Matthew’s act of surrender–in line with the great St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Suscipe and Blessed Charles de Foucald’s Act of Abandonment–is put in such contemporary terms, but so elegantly, that I will be adding it to my favorite prayers

Chapters 23, 25 & 28: How tos and examples of how to pray with the Word of God, especially the Gospels

Chapter 26: How a Christian can begin daily personal prayer

One of the main reasons I agreed to review this book (Note: I received a review copy in exchange for writing a review in a fairly timely fashion!) is because I expected it to be very good, and I was hoping that author Matthew Kelly, who has proven himself to be a wonderful communicator through his books and www.DynamicCatholic.com, would offer us a particularly valuable example of being a great communicator in his newest book. I was not disappointed! He shows what it means to be an effective communicator of Christ in this book by:

  • knowing one’s readers and their interests, issues, and concerns
  • addressing one’s audience effectively, invitationally
  • communicating interactively
  • creating the invitational space for the reader to encounter Christ

What I enjoyed most about Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation is its circular communication inviting the reader in: from Matthew Kelly to reader to Christ (whom we assume inspired Matthew Kelly to write this invitation in the first place). It’s not one-way communication from author to reader but circular, Trinitarian. Rediscover Jesus has the potential to be life-giving, life-changing.

Although I read the book in just three short sittings, I would recommend instead reading a chapter a day. This will give the reader the opportunity to take time with each chapter’s invitation, and facilitate a 40-day journey for the reader to either begin or actively grow in one’s relationship with Jesus.

My only gripe? The overuse of the word “radical.” I don’t know if it’s the editor in me, or a reminder of how much used to overuse it when describing Christian discipleship and religious life, but the way “radical” was frequently used to describe Jesus distracted me a couple of times.

Who would especially benefit from this book?

  • The average Catholic in the pew
  • Anyone interested in beginning or renewing their spiritual life
  • RCIA–people learning to live the Christian life as personal relationship with Christ
  • Teens or young adults starting to make their faith their own.  This doesn’t look like a book for those receiving Confirmation, but it would be awesome if every confirmandee read it!
  • Anyone with a personal relationship with Christ will enjoy deepening that relationship with some of the creative, refreshing and contemporary “takes” that can enrich our prayer.
  • Those who want to learn how to communicate Christ: fresh, original language; creative suggestions for praying with the Gospels; a contemporary invitation to tradition/faith that is accessible to a “newbie”

 

Prayer Book for Evangelizers of the New Evangelization

CovLiveChristGiveChristThis is a wonderful day because I can finally share with you something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time: a prayer resource specifically for those who evangelize and/or work in the media or the arts. Drawing abundantly from the prayerbook of the Pauline Family–which is a private edition, intended only for members of the Pauline Family–Live Christ! Give Christ! Prayers for the New Evangelization is an inspiring prayer book with wonderful prayers by Blessed James Alberione and others from our Pauline tradition, as well as from contemporary Paulines. The title captures our spirituality (inasmuch as any 4 words can capture a spirituality)–that our communicating Christ flows from our dynamic relationship with him. It’s a really moving collection of prayers that can inspire a deeper living in, through, for and with Christ, as well as a spirit of evangelization that encourages us to testify to Christ not just with our words and media work, but with our whole lives.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know some of the characteristics of our Pauline prayer and life:

  • Trinitarian (the Most Holy Trinity gives us the basis for our communication spirituality)
  • Eucharistic
  • Scriptural
  • evangelizing
  • ongoing conversion
  • Jesus Way, Truth, and Life
  • Marian (Mary, Queen of Apostles, consecration to Mary, etc.)
  • St. Paul as mystic and apostle
  • reading the signs of the times
  • holistic (bring the whole person to the whole Christ)
  • searching for the seeds of the Gospel in popular culture
  • continual search for how to express the compelling beauty of the Gospel for people today
  • praying for evangelizers, media professionals and artists
  • praying for all those who use the media
  • reparation for the abuse or misuse of the media

This prayer book includes prayers that focus on all of these aspects! I cannot wait to begin praying with it myself.

Although I was blessed to be a small part of this project–the editor included a number of prayers that I wrote and asked for my input on this manuscript when it was in development, I’m sharing my enthusiasm because of the wonderful prayers that are new to me, that all media professionals, artists, and Catholics involved in evangelization in any way will find helpful for their prayer and work. As soon as I received my copy, it traveled to our chapel with me, where I can personally pray with it. I was going to share a couple of favorite prayers with you, but as I flipped through the pages, I could not choose…they are each so beautiful.

For more information, the tip sheet is included below.

Tip Sheet- Live Christ! Give Christ!

Lovely Review of Soul of Christ!

SOUL_CHRIST_FINALCatholic Sistas posted a lovely review of my book, Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer. They also posted their own beautiful line-by-line reflections on this wonderful prayer that is perfect to pray during Holy Week. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this lovely prayer, I’m posting it here. If you are familiar with it, you might find this Holy Week a good opportunity to pray this classic prayer recommended by many saints through the centuries, from Saint Ignatius of Loyola down to Blessed James Alberione:

Soul of Christ

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Your wounds, hide me;
Permit me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me;
In the hour of my death call me
and bid me come to Thee,
that with Your saints I may praise Thee
forever and ever. Amen.

Soul of Christ Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Soul of Christ by Marie Paul Curley

Soul of Christ

by Marie Paul Curley

Giveaway ends February 14, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Soul of Christ Book Tour Events: San Francisco Area!

If you are in the San Francisco area, I invite you to join me for today’s or tomorrow evening’s Soul of Christ events! (If you are in the Los Angeles or San Diego area, scroll down for next week’s events!)

SMPSoulOfChristReduced

For Los Angeles:

SMP-Culver-City

Note that the retreat day on February 8th will include Eucharistic adoration but will be focused on the topic of my earlier book, See Yourself Through God’s Eyes: Allowing God’s Love to Shape Our Self-Esteem. 

And in the San Diego area:

SMP-San-Diego