10 Catholic Book Recommendations for October

Reading in AutumnIn a few days October will be upon us in all its splendor. October in the Pacific Northwest is a mystical month of auburn leaves, fog, and crisp morning air–the perfect atmosphere for reading. Imagine settling in to your favorite reading nook, sipping on a cup of pumpkin spice coffee, and getting lost in a book while the leaves fall around you.

But what to read, you ask? Not to worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a roundup of what some Catholic book groups are reading next month, along with a few books by or about the saints of October.

Catholic Book Clubs

America Magazine’s Catholic Book Club is reading Shusaku Endo’s Silence, a powerful book soon to be released as a movie from director Martin Scorcese. From the publisher:

Seventeenth-century Japan: Two Portuguese Jesuit priests travel to a country hostile to their religion, where feudal lords force the faithful to publicly renounce their beliefs. Eventually captured and forced to watch their Japanese Christian brothers lay down their lives for their faith, the priests bear witness to unimaginable cruelties that test their own beliefs. Shusaku Endo is one of the most celebrated and well-known Japanese fiction writers of the twentieth century, and Silence is widely considered to be his great masterpiece.

The movie is scheduled for a December release, so you’ve still got plenty of time to read the book before seeing the movie.

Here at St. Peter Parish in Spokane, Washington, our book club is about to start reading The Light Between Two Oceans by M.L. Steadman. Called “a mesmerizing, beautifully written novel,” it, too, is soon to be released as movie.

Also in October, The Faith and Fiction Book Group at St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda, Maryland, is reading Alice McDermott’s Charming Billy:

Alice McDermott tells the story of Billy Lynch within the complex matrix of a tightly knit Irish American community, in a voice that is resonant and full of deep feeling. Charming Billy is a masterpiece about the unbreakable bonds of memory and desire.

Charming Billy is the winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Fiction.

Saints of October

October is a veritable cornucopia of the canonized. Here are a few of the more prominent feasts in October, along with some suggested books to better appreciate them:

  • St. Therese of Lisieux – October 1 – Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of of St. Therese of Lisieux – The Little Flower tells her own life story in this classic work.
  • St. Francis of Assisi – October 4 – Francis of Assisi–in His Own Words: The Essential Writings –  “Biographies of St. Francis will only take you so far. It’s impossible to truly understand him without reading his writings. [Jon] Sweeney has compiled all of the ones that we are most certain come from Francis himself, including his first Rule of life, the Rule he wrote for the Third Order, letters to friends, letters to people in power, messages to all Franciscans, songs, praises, canticles, and his final spiritual Testament.”
  • Our Lady of the Rosary – October 7 –The Rosary: A Path into Prayer by Elizabeth Kelly – The entire month of October is dedicated to the Rosary. Kelly’s book is a a down-to-earth introduction or re-introduction to this beautiful prayer that includes personal stories of the rosary’s influence on everyday people along with meditations for each mystery.
  • St. John XXIII – October 11 – Journal of a Soul: The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII – One of the most humbling and powerful spiritual books I have ever read.
  • St. Teresa of Avila – October 15 –The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila – What could be more appropriate for the mystical month of October than a book on mysticism from a Doctor of the Church?
  • St. Ignatius of Antioch – October 17 – The Epistles of Ignatius, in Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers – Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch in the first century and was eventually sentenced to death for refusing to renounce the Christian faith. He wrote these seven letters on his way to Rome around the year 107, and they connect us with the early church in a very real way.
  • St. John Paul II – October 22 – Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel – This authorized biography of Pope John Paul II is a comprehensive and well written account of one of the most revered popes in Catholic history.

Have you read any of the books listed above? Do you belong to a parish reading group? Do you have a book recommendation for October? If so, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Carry On Wayward Son: K-Tel, Kansas, and a Story of Regret

Leftoverture by KansasIt’s hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since “Carry On Wayward Son” first rocked the airwaves. But it’s true. Kansas released their breakthrough album Leftoverture in 1976, and “Carry On Wayward Son” hit number 11 on the charts in early 1977. That song was so important to me as a teenager that it was one of two song titles that I wrote in permanent marker on the front of the boom box I owned as a kid. But as much as I love that song, it also reminds me of one of my more painful high school memories, and one of my biggest regrets.

As I’ve written earlier, the first new album I ever owned was a cassette of The Long Run by the Eagles. But that’s not exactly true. That was my first new album by a single artist. The first album that I bought with my own money was a 1979 K-Tel cassette called The Rock Album. If I had to pick just one album that was the soundtrack of my adolescence, it would be The Rock Album. Kansas, Boston, Styx, Toto, ELO–the bands on this album became constant companions through my high school and college years. There were some great songs on that album:

  1. “Don’t Bring Me Down” by Electric Light Orchestra
  2. “Dirty White Boy” by Foreigner
  3. The Rock Album by K-Tel“Two Tickets to Paradise” by Eddie Money
  4. “Something’s on the Move” by Jethro Tull
  5. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult
  6. “The Dream Police” by Cheap Trick
  7. “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” by Robert Palmer
  8. “Renegade” by Styx
  9. “More Than a Feeling” by Boston
  10. “Too Rolling Stoned” by Robin Trower
  11. “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” by Journey
  12. “Isn’t It Time” by the Babys
  13. “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas
  14. “Hold the Line” by Toto

In fact, I love that album so much, that I’ve recreated it digitally with iTunes, and I play it when I’m feeling particularly nostalgic–which happens to be more and more frequently these days.

As I suppose it was intended to, The Rock Album got me interested in each of those bands, and because I loved “Carry on Wayward Son” so much, I eventually bought the full album Leftoverture. I thought the album art was cool, and I loved hearing Robbie Steinhardt’s violin soaring among all the electric guitars and keyboards. I studied the album’s cryptic yet spiritual lyrics, trying to figure out who Father Padilla might be, and learning that a magnum opus was an artists’s most important work. It wasn’t long before I became a huge Kansas fan and was determined to collect all their albums.

But that’s where this story becomes painful to tell.

Monolith by KansasYou see, during our senior in high school, some friends and I were over at our friend Shelby’s house. Shelby used to have us over all the time, and he loved music as much as I did. This particular day we got to talking about how much we loved Kansas, and I found out he had a cassette of Monolith, the one Kansas album I didn’t own. When he found out I didn’t have it, he offered to lend it to me. Shelby was generous like that. I took it eagerly and listened to it for several months. Before school got out for the summer, Shelby asked me for the album back. To my shame and regret, I lied and told him I had already given it back to him. I wanted to keep it so that my collection would be complete, and because I liked the album so much. Shelby looked at me for a few seconds, then shrugged his shoulders and said he must have forgotten. I don’t know if he knew I was lying, or if it just wasn’t a big deal to him. And I’ll never know, because we each went our separate ways after graduation, and a few years later Shelby was involved in a fatal car accident.

He was trying to change the cassette tape in his car stereo when he lost control of the truck he was driving and went off the highway into a ditch.

I never got the chance to give Monolith back to Shelby or tell him how sorry I was for stealing it.

It’s a little thing, I know, a piece of plastic that probably cost five bucks back in 1980. And people were borrowing tapes and dubbing copies all the time. But this looms large in my memory as a betrayal of friendship and a moment of intense selfishness.

A monolith is “a large single upright block of stone, especially one shaped into a pillar or monument.” That copy of Monolith that Shelby gave to me has become a monument to a painful incident in my life and a reminder that you never know how much time you have to reconcile with loved ones. Even the titles of many of Monolith‘s songs remind me of the incident: “On the Other Side,” “Angels Have Fallen,” “How My Soul Cries Out for You,” “A Glimpse of Home,” “Away from You,” “Stay Out of Trouble,” “Reason to Be.”

So here’s to Shelby, and to not waiting until it’s too late.

Carry On Wayward Son

Carry on my wayward son,
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Now don’t you cry no more

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond the illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high
Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I’m dreamin’,
I can hear them say

Carry on my wayward son,
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Now don’t you cry no more

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely
means that I don’t know
On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about I’m like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune, but
I hear the voices say

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life’s no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you


Jump Starting the Writing Habit Again

Boy in Leaves

It’s about time to jump start my writing again. For the past several days I’ve been using the prompts from The Daily Post to help reestablish a daily habit of blogging, and it feels good to be writing regularly once more.


Today fall begins, and the days of autumn are begging to be written about. Soon there will be leaves to jump in and pumpkins to carve. And to my mind, we are entering one of the greatest stretches of feast days in the church year: St. Vincent de Paul, the Archangels, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, Our Lady of the Rosary, St. John XXIII, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Luke, not to mention the great Solemnity of All Saints. I can hardly wait to try and put these days into words.

Stylish Prayer

Some people are naturally stylish. Their clothes, their hair–their entire manner–exude style, a magical word that blends elegance, originality, and visual appeal. While I am most certainly not stylish, I appreciate my stylish family and friends. Whenever I try to be stylish, either in my appearance or in my writing, I come off artificial, stilted, and phony.

The same thing happens when I try to be stylish in prayer. Oh, I don’t intentionally try to be stylish, but that’s what it is when I’m not myself in prayer, when I try to imitate someone else’s prayer style. My prayer ends up artificial, stilted, and phony.

It’s at those times that I need reminding that all God asks of us is to be ourselves.

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” — Luke 18:10-14

Why Silence?


Silence is God’s invitation to communion. We enter into silence to be transformed, to be raised up, to be loved. In silence, God whispers to the heart and the heart whispers back.

Why a whisper? Why silence?

If the great God of the universe were to speak in full voice we would be overpowered. But God meets us gently, softly. In silence we discover that God does not yell, but speaks instead with tenderness and care. Silence with God is an island of peace, a refuge from the raging storms of life.

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. — 1 Kings 19:11-12