I am doing something I’ve never done before: I’m sharing three spiritual-book mini-reviews at once, and two are for books I haven’t finished (and may never finish). The books are:
- The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Bapiste Chautard
- The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales: On Prayer by St. Francis de Sales
- The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Home Brewed Evangelism by Sarah Vabulas
All three are recommended reading, so why not finish them? Read on!
The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Bapiste Chautard
This book—the reflections of a French Cistercian abbot on the importance of cultivating a deep interior life of prayer before and while embarking on active ministry—has been the bedside reading of popes and saints. That is likely all I need to say by way of recommendation, since our goal in this life ought to be sainthood. But I will offer a little more.
I’ve written about this book and its impact twice while reading it: Memento Mori, Revisited and He’s Saving Me. Scarcely a day goes by that I don’t think about at least one of two points that struck most deeply into my own heart:
- The Enemy will tolerate innumerable sapphires to avoid a single diamond. Satan doesn’t care if we are generally successful, happy, and good people, provided we are not saints. He revels in the tiny deviation that, on the line toward eternity, leads us far astray. He wants us pleased and proud, comfortable and complacent.
- We are not called to be streams of God’s grace, love, and mercy, but reservoirs. Streams are simply channels, conduits—in times of drought, what can they offer? Reservoirs are deep, full, and overflow into the world, even when the rains won’t fall. Our prayer life, our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, matters because we can’t give what we don’t have. Our own soul is precious to God, too…and it’s the one over which we have the most influence.
All that said, I did not finish the book, for two reasons. The last third to quarter focuses harder on the particular challenges of being a priest of God, which I am not—recommending spiritual practices that would be impractical to a man called to marriage and family life. And my spiritual director has advised me not to be afraid to step away from things that lead to spiritual growth for a time but cease to bear fruit, rather than persisting to the bitter end.
That said, The Soul of the Apostolate was excellent spiritual reading. Seek it out!
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The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales: On Prayer by St. Francis de Sales
In a similar (or complementary) vein, The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales: On Prayer presents English translations of four Lenten homilies of the gentleman saint, bishop, and Doctor of the Church (not to mention my own patron) from the year 1615. The homilies build, one upon the other, to present a systematic look at what prayer is and why and how to do it.
The book is very short: Minus the preface, introduction, and index, the homilies occupy just 28 pages. They delve, directly and relatively simply, to the roots of prayer as a practice, offering theological insight as well as practical advice, not only from St. Francis de Sales himself, but from the saints who inspired him as well as Holy Scripture. His wisdom and good humor shines through, and occasional footnotes explain wordplay that was lost in the translation from French.
The book is too short to say much more, except that it not only shares the good bishop’s wisdom, but gives us a glimpse of a master spiritual director practicing his craft from the pulpit. Let me know if you would like to borrow it!
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The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Home Brewed Evangelism by Sarah Vabulas
Now for something completely different: Under the amusing handle The Catholic Drinkie (a play on The Catholic Foodie), Catholic blogger and evangelist Sarah Vabulus draws people to the faith through her love for and knowledge of beer, wine, and spirits. Her book is half a biographical sketch of her unlikely path to fame and fortune (or maybe familiarity and a book deal), half a collection stories and tips on how to evangelize simply by being you and loving the gifts God has given you, and half a guide for getting started with homebrewing, including her own all-grain brewing recipes.
If that appears to you to be three halves, that seems about right. I only skimmed the third half because I already brew and have my ways. Vabulas specializes in all-grain brewing (something I’m not doing yet) of one-gallon batches in her small apartment (I’m set up for five gallons in the garage), and she enjoys adding unusual flavors to her beers (something I generally avoid). But even in skimming this section, it is apparent that the author knows her stuff.
The book is not theologically profound or difficult to follow; it is a practical, quick read, written with warmth, humor, and an obvious love for the subject matter. And it’s nudging me to relaunch our dormant homebrewing club, Bottomless Pint.
If any of the above appeals to you, give it a read. Even the title is a conversation started with those curious about the faith!