Tag Archives: Loyola Press

10 rules of thumb for living with less

August 24, 2015

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It’s not all about you — or your stuff

The search for meaning in our lives, for activity that truly satisfies, is a spiritual journey even for people not connected to any organized religion.

BlessedByLessThat’s the belief of author Susan V. Vogt, and in “Blessed by Less,” her book about living lightly, she named the spiritual principles that guided her and “rules of thumb” as practical advice. Her principles “are about letting go of what is less important to make way for a contemplative heart in action.”

One’s worth and importance, Vogt wrote, are not dependent on what we own, how we look and feel, how much we know and what we can accomplish.

“Spirituality is about seeking the Divine Presence. It’s not all about me,” she noted. “God’s presence surrounds me if I but look and listen. The spiritual response is to turn this contemplative awareness into action for the good of humanity.

“Uncluttering our lives, both materially and inwardly,” Vogt wrote, “can bring us a fuller, more meaningful life and free us to attend to the needs of others. . . . We want to make a positive difference in our world. Learning to live more generously, humbly and lightly is a way to do this.”

Deciding how much is enough — and how much is too much — is something every person needs to answer for him or herself, Vogt added, but she included the following 10 “Rules of Thumb for Living Lightly”:

  1. Living in destitution in not a virtue; helping people out of destitution is.
  2. Be prudent, responsible and wise.
  3. Be generous, unencumbered and fair.
  4. The less I have, the less I have to guard, clean and repair.
  5. If I don’t need it now (or soon), can I give it to someone who does?
  6. Spend in order to save.
  7. Decide which technologies save time, energy and money — and which ones waste time, energy and money.
  8. Let go of anger, grudges and compulsions to lighten the heart.
  9. Smile and laugh more.
  10. Forgive others. Forgive myself. It lifts the spirit.

 

Excerpts are from “Blessed by Less: Clearing Your Life of Clutter by Living Lightly,” by Susan V. Vogt. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2013). Paperback, 122 pp., $13.95.

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Willing to be ‘blessed by less’?

August 17, 2015

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BlessedByLessAre you ready to clear your life of clutter by living lightly?

Those willing to try the suggestions Susan V. Vogt offers in “Blessed by Less” — an easy-to-read, 122-page paperback — will find they are right in sync with the recent encyclical of Pope Francis that encourages better stewardship of the earth’s resources and valuing all creation.

Vogt hits a nerve right from the start: “Your life is an overflowing closet. You know it is.”

Living lightly, she writes, “is not just about the stuff we accumulate, and it’s not just for people in the second half of life. It’s about an attitude of living with fewer burdens and encumbrances, whether you’re 21 or 65.”

There is a spirituality to that attitude, one held by those who remember that their existence is more than accumulating possessions and gaining status, and those spiritual principles drive this Loyola Press book. As Vogt puts it, “It’s a delicate dance to balance my own genuine needs with those of others. The spiritual paradox is that the less tightly I cling to my stuff, my way, and my concerns, the happier and more blessed I feel. Once I have enough, less is more.”

How many of us are aware of what Vogt labels “creature comfort creep”?

It’s feeling perfectly comfortable with a possession like a cell phone until we see people around us who have a newer phone with even greater capabilities. We
“have to” buy it, thus creating a “new normal,” one that will itself one day be outpaced by a yet newer model. The creature comfort creep goes for seeing others with a lifestyle we might covet, too.

As good as are the suggestions for how to go about decluttering and living lightly, there is great advice here too about the intangibles in our lives, such as privacy, social media, feelings, over-scheduling and over-committing, being consumed with being right, winning arguments and getting one’s way.

The chapter on letting go of emotional baggage is as valuable as Vogt’s criteria for making purchases. She does an excellent job of condensing good things to remember into lists and bullet points, and each chapter has suggestions both basic and more complex, plus an appropriate Scripture passage to mediate on and questions to reflect upon or discuss.

And, in a approach I hadn’t seen before, “Blessed by Less” includes ideas to try “For those in the first half of life” who may be more in the accumulating mode and “For those in the second half of life,” more likely to be looking to disburse some of those accumulations, both the material and the emotional. That’s good thinking.

Deep in a chapter on recycling the author drops what may be the one take-away from the book that could be a mantra for everyone in the 21st century:

“The best way to recycle is to reduce the need for it (recycling) by buying and accumulating less in the first place.”

 

 

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Young adult, Catholic and funny: Meet Matt Weber

August 25, 2012

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Matt Weber is a single, twenty-something guy who isn’t shy about being Catholic.

Weber frankly doesn’t seem shy about much. He bares a lot about himself in a just-out, lower-case titled paperback,  “fearing the stigmata,” which is billed by Loyola Press as “Humorously Holy Stories of a Young Catholic’s Search for a Culturally Relevant Faith.” There’s a lot of truth in that.

In a bit of a reversal of the usual routine in which a popular book is made into a movie or a TV series, “fearing the stigmata” can be accused of being a TV show that’s been made into a book.

The TV  piece — “A Word With Weber” — is a two-minute segment that runs every week on CatholicTV.com, and two minutes is just about how long it takes to read a chapter in the book.

The contents are somewhat similar, too. Every chapter starts with an off-beat story or memory, produces at least a giggle and usually several, and ends with a connection to Weber’s faith life or spiritual journey — and maybe, just maybe — to yours and mine.

Funny and faith go together fabulously

Weber writes about his mom asking at the post office for “Madonna” stamps at Christmas time and being told that there is yet to be a stamp issued that honors the pop singer.

He writes about playing balloon-volleyball with nuns, dressing up as Zak the Yak for a reading encouragement program, about liking Cheez Balls, about appreciating Mass, about his observations after years of watching the collection basket being passed, and about stopping after work to pray before a statue of Mary at a busy intersection.

He snitches on himself about the time he received Holy Communion and then had to play the harmonica — yes, the harmonica — as he accompanied the choir for the communion hymn. It’s only slightly irreverent. Weber, of course, being a good Catholic gentleman, had the sense of preface the story about being the harmonica player at church by noting: “If you have strict notions about church music — pre-Vatican Two-era — and you just fainted, I apologize.”

Since a regular workout seems important to his generation, Weber is right on the target audience with his wish that “people could look to religion or church the same way they look to a gym.” A priest is like a person trainer, he writes, and the pews and kneelers like Nautilus equipment: “At a gym, it’s health. At a church, it’s spiritual health.  A soul is nourished with community and Christ, and we don’t even have to break a sweat.”

He sneaks in advice for older Catholics that “young adult Catholics want just a little nod, a little recognition that they are on the Catholic team, too.”

And he has some advice for his own media-obsessed generation: While he’s all for You-Tube and Facebook, some of life’s events are better savored by “soaking in the moment without the worry of technologically capturing it.” I love his introspection: “Am I experiencing life in order to write about, and is something lost in the attempt to communicate the moment?”

Telling it like he is

What readers will most appreciate is Weber’s unabashed honesty. As do many of us today — not just twenty-somethings — he struggles with, in his words, “the overall challenge of trying to be a good Catholic. . . . The real problem lies in knowing what voices to listen to.”

And a Weber take-away? ” Be a good Catholic in whatever way you can.”

The book is funny, filled with the self-deprecating kind of humor that SiriusXM’s Lino Rulli, aka “The Catholic Guy.” brings to his afternoon radio show.

After you read “fearing the stigmata,” or maybe even before, you really need to check out “A Word With Weber” on http://www.CatholicTV.com. There’s a typical segment here. See one and you’ll want to watch several. Just Google Matt Weber CatholicTV.

Check out the book on the Loyola Press site. But before you click over to one of those sites, read just one more paragraph — after this one, I mean. It’s the most clever writing in the book, and it comes as Weber begins a chapter by repeating a nugget of wisdom an Irish seatmate shared on a flight from Dublin to Boston: “Matty, me boy, let me tell you something about love. It is the itch around the heart that you just can’t scratch.” Weber follows by writing:

“Perhaps this is a common phrase in Ireland, or maybe she made it up. In my younger years, I never really thought too much about love. I knew that love was patient and kind, a type of story, all we need, in the time of cholera, cannot be bought, and the name of a shack. I had heard that C.S. Lewis identified four kinds of love. The Greeks wrote about it. And Paul, the apostle, was pretty sure it bears all things, believes all, hopes all things, and endures all things.”

I wish I’d written that.

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Empty nest moms, try some inspiration

April 16, 2012

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“Small Mercies: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life” is an easy reading collection of anecdotes from which Nancy Jo Sullivan has reached back and harvested the God moments.

Those are the small mercies of the title, mercies she suggests her readers take the time to share with others as part of their own lives.

You can speed through Sullivan’s newest work in less than an hour, the language is that familiar. Written at her kitchen table in St. Paul, it’s the kind of personal, real-life prose that makes you almost feel that Sullivan is sitting with you at your own kitchen table sharing the stories over a cup of coffee.

The points she makes in each of the 20 short chapters aren’t rocket science, just, well, small mercies — good things not to forget, good things to remember to do. They touch on topics like unconditional acceptance, remembering one’s dreams, dealing with the loss of a marriage and a child, fear of the future, taking risks, heartache and, of course, hope.

A divorced Catholic, the mother of three daughters, one a Down’s Syndrome girl who lived to only 23, Sullivan senses God touching her life almost at every turn. She puts it this way:

“The most precious revelations of God’s love are often hidden in the ordinary moments that shape our days….We can find God’s small mercies in the mundane conversations we share at the kitchen table or in the unexpected chats we have with strangers. When we encourage a coworkers, support a friend, or receive the care of a loved one, God’s mercies shine brightly, like votive candles.”

More than a memoir

Women “of a certain age,” as they say, may best appreciate the voice that 50-something Sullivan writes from, that of an woman looking back at her motherhood years yet looking forward to being more than an empty nester, finding the courage to see herself as more than a wife and mother, grieving yet coping.

She has a great line there. After cleaning out photos of her grown children and filling 10 scrapbooks, she writes about finally being ready to move on. Her own future, as she put it, is “an empty scrapbook waiting to be filled.”

You’ll find gems of that kind of turn-of-phrase sprinkled throughout “Small Mercies.” It’s inspiring writing.

At times Sullivan seems to reach a bit to connect an anecdote with a spiritual lesson, but it’s a minor fault if a fault at that. If anything it’s a reminder to readers to look for God in all things. As Sullivan writes, “God is always closer than we think.”

At end of each chapter Sullivan uses the framework of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to invite reflection and offer thoughts and ideas for how readers, too, can share God’s small mercies and put them into practice for the next chapters in their own lives. For this Loyola Press 108-page paperback, it’s just the right, helpful touch.

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50 reasons a questioning-yet-hopeful Catholic stays Catholic

April 13, 2011

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Mary, the Mass, Dorothy Day, Bishop Ray Lucker, Sister Thea Bowman, Catholic Charities — those are just six of the 50 answers that Michael Leach proposes as his response to the question “Why Stay Catholic?”

The question is the title of the Loyola University paperback out within the past month. Leach, who for more than 30 years has been involved in Catholic book publishing for organizations such as Crossroads and Orbis, offers very personal reasons his faith remains a key part of who he is and how he lives.

The list of a half-a-hundred are divided into three areas — ideas, places and people — and a few of the inclusions might lend you to see them as a give-away that the author resides on the decided progressive side of our church’s ideological divide. That may very well be true, but other inclusions in the 50 are even more evidence of what this reviewer sees as more prevalent than the assumed liberal-conservative camp arrangement.

That reality is that even presumed liberals cherish Catholic traditions, value Catholic institutions, and love the church in spite of its weaknesses.

Leach has a marvelous chapter — reasons #24 — titled “The Papacy, or It’s a Tough Job, but Somebody’s Got to Do It.” With a dash of papal history, a smidgen on infallibility and a poignant piece on what he’d do if he were pope, Leach explains the good that our earthly spiritual leaders can do and have done, and does so gracefully.

Minnesotans will want to read why he includes St. Paul native and late bishop of New Ulm Ray Lucker in his “people” section. And locally owned St. Patrick’s Guild gets a mention as one of the good Catholic bookstores that are Leach’s reason #48.

Along with loving his church, Leach challenges it in this 224-page work. Readers will find that he was a priest for just a few short years, and I find that’s often a turn-off for some. Stay with him, though.

I too began to sour on Leach when he acknowledged that, like at least 60 percent of those who call themselves Catholic, he isn’t a regular Massgoer. Again, stay with him. There’s comfort to be found in doing so.

Finally, make sure you get to reason #50, Leach’s vision for Vatican III.

Would that everyone who calls themselves Catholic had the same vision. — bz

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Talk around the dinner table? It’s in the cards!

June 22, 2009

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“The Meal Box,”
by Bret Nicholaus and Tom McGrath

So you want to have more meaningful conversations around the dinner table, something to counter the gobble-up-and-scatter tendency in too many of our homes?

You need “The Meal Box.”

You love your faith and you want your children to love it and to grow up with the values you cherish, but you could use some tips on ways to do that without seeming like you’re always preaching?

“The Meal Box” is there for you.

A product of Loyola Press, “The Meal Box” is being plugged as “fun questions and family faith tips to get mealtime conversations cookin’.” It’s all that and more.

Young and old can join in

Packaged like a deck of playing cards, it’s a plastic box with 54 cards, each containing a question that will get just about any age-group talking at suppertime.

Here are a few examples:
  • When it comes to things that make you really happy, what five things would you rank at the very top?
  • Suppose you were told that you could have one wish come true — but the wish you make would have to be for someone else, not for yourself. What would you wish for, and for whom would you wish it?
  • If you could have 100 of anything right now, what would you choose?

“Food for Family Thought” — the parenting/faith formation aids — comes on the flip side of each card. For the three examples above, the alternate side of the cards suggest:

  • When asked what it would take to get to heaven, Jesus said, “Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe the naked.” That’s what parents do each day. It’s a paradox that our greatest happiness comes when we freely give of ourselves. Think about that the next time you’re fixing supper or folding laundry.
  • Empathy is a fundamental building block for all moral growth. Make it a family value to frequently consider how your behavior and choices affect others. When your child talks about other children’s experiences, gently ask, “And how do you think he/she felt about that?” This will nurture your child’s capacity for compassion.
  • One task of parents is to help their children develop the skills of discernment — that is, to make wise choices. This is better taught through example and be establishing limits than by coercion and criticism.

The opposite of ‘bowling alone’

“The Meal Box” questions are such a painless way for parents to connect with their children, to enrich family-time, and to counteract the tendency for family members to do their own thing and go off into their own little worlds.

The younger ones may even forget about whose turn it is to play Wii. Teens may pull the iPod earphones out for a few minutes to chime in with their thoughts.

And, if you’re empty nesters like my wife and I, you may find “The Meal Box” questions adding an engaging new feature into your day. Think about talking over dinner about “What is one seemingly impossible goal that you would like to see the world achieve during your lifetime?”

You may even skip watching “Wheel of Fortune” some nights to ponder questions like that! – bz

For purchase information, go to http://www.loyolapress.com.

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