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Books to Stretch Your Perspective

Last week we shared some summer reading focused on building skills and knowledge as a church musician. If you want something that will stretch you a little further, here are some options that touch on a Catholic perspective on immigration, diversity, social justice, women’s leadership — and Harry Potter.

We live in a highly politicized and polarizing era — and the algorithms that control what we’re exposed to on every virtual platform keep us in our comfort zone. They give us more of what we already seek or want or are.

If you’re looking to stretch your faith perspective, here are some options from Catholic publishers that may do just that.

Note: Many descriptions below are quoted or summarized from the publisher websites. Click the title of each book to read more or purchase that title.

“Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s: A Black Catholic Celebration of Faith, Tradition and Diversity”
Marcia Lane-McGee and Shannon Wimp Schmidt (Ave Maria Press, 2022)

“…this ground-breaking book examines the intersection of faith, race, culture, and identity with hopefulness, humor, and joy. [Popular podcasters] Lane-McGee and Schmidt share their experiences as Black women in the Church and invite Catholic women from all walks of life to look with new eyes at the feasts and seasons of the liturgical year through the lens of Black Catholic culture.”

“Jesus Was a Migrant”
Deirdre Cornell (Orbis, 2014)

“A biblically grounded presentation of the value of migrants, immigrants, and refugees to each and all of us.”

“Rising: Learning from Women’s Leadership in Catholic Ministry”
Carolyn Woo, Ph.D (Orbis, 2022)

“Leadership in the Catholic Church is often identified with sacramental ministry, and on that basis, it is widely perceived that women have no influence in the Church. Yet, as this book shows, women in fact occupy many leadership roles across a range of Catholic ministries, from the parish and diocesan level to national organizations in the fields of education, healthcare, communications, and social service.”

In Rising, Woo features 16 of these remarkable women’s stories and draws from her own experience as one of those remarkable lay women leaders in the Catholic church. Her work points the way to an expanded understanding of ministry and leadership in the church. She is former dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and CEO and President of Catholic Relief Services (2012-2016).

“God’s Works Revealed: Spirituality, Theology, and Social Justice for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Catholics”
Sam Albano with forward by Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv. (Paulist Press, 2022)

The author of this work is a writer, educator, and member of the LGBTQI Catholic community who also serves as the national secretary of DignityUSA, the oldest and largest organization of LGBTQI Catholics. The book examines the impact that official teachings have on the lives of lesbian, gay, or bisexual Catholics.

“Liberating Mindfulness: From Billion-Dollar Industry to Engaged Spirituality”
Gail J. Stearns (Orbis, 2022)

“In an attempt to reclaim mindfulness from the commercial and corporate juggernaut it has become, and to demonstrate its usefulness in spiritual (including Christian) life, the author incorporates insights from retreats she has attended at top meditation/mindfulness centers and from interviews with key leaders in the field.”

The book’s promise is to bring mindfulness to the growing discipline of mindfulness. Have a think on that

“A Monk in the Inner City: The ABCs of a Spiritual Journey”
Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB (Benetvision, 2013)

This is a quick and accessible read, a collection of essays by Kownacki, a longtime leader of the Pax Christi movement and advocate for social justice. A member of the Erie Benedictines in northwest Pennsylvania, she moved to her urban childhood home and helped transform the neighborhood into a small inviting oasis surrounded by drug deals and violence that “erupts at the curb.”

She died in January 2023 and her work should not be forgotten.

“Baptizing Harry Potter: A Christian Reading of J. K. Rowling”
Luke Bell (Paulist Press, 2010)

Reviewers noted this Christian take on the immensely popular series is “remarkable for its warm, erudite, often humorous, scrupulously researched and referenced Christian perspective on a series usually considered to be Children’s Literature. That its author is a Christian monk is interesting, but infinitely more important is that he is widely and deeply well-read, naturally contemplative and reflective, able to make effective, sometimes startling literary associations while continually engaging the reader.”

As a grandmother of a 6-year-old who has already plowed through the first Harry Potter book with his parents, I want to be able to help him make connections.

Written by Kathy Felong, who is director of liturgy at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Fairview, Pennsylvania.

Copyright © 2023 Catholic Liturgical Ensemble Formation

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