Because my parents live in lovely southern California, I have regular access to that land of ultimate commercial happiness: Disneyland. Unlike other theme parks, Disneyland is all about the story, the stepping into a world of what could be—which also means stepping out of the world that is. I’ve been to Disneyland easily dozens of times. I’ve been there as a young adult and a not-so-young adult, and especially recall the trip with my very elderly, spitfire of a grandmother who endlessly grinned as we rolled her around the park in her wheelchair.

For Disney afficionados, some things only get better with time, like the spruced-up “It’s a Small World” or “Pirates of the Caribbean” rides. Other things evolve—like the snack selections, which have grown from sugar-laden treats to include fresh fruit. And some things just stay the same—the cleanliness, the colorful surroundings, the light throughout the park.

One visit, I took my seat and readied myself for one of the few rollercoasters at Disneyland: Space Mountain. The ride takes places in a very dark, cavernous space. For most of it, you cannot even see in front of you, putting all your other senses on high alert.

I’m not afraid of the dark, but I’d forgotten just how overwhelming the darkness inside Space Mountain could be, and had to rationally talk myself down from the proverbial ledge as anxiety and panic set in. Among the many messages I kept repeating to myself were, “It’s only a couple of minutes long,” and “it’s almost over.” The darkness was heavy and exhausting; I was afraid. I was so relieved when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

After that, I vowed never to go on Space Mountain again. And I won’t. But I learned something. The light that seeps into my pores when I walk under the Disneyland train onto Main Street is only possible because there is darkness. And it takes the bravery of faith to overcome darkness and walk into the light.

That paradoxical pairing between light and darkness is what binds this week’s CatholicsRead titles together. The authors and subjects of these books have braved dark places and walked with faith into the light. Here’s a little about each of them:

  Loyola Press’s Braving the Thin Places by author Julianne Stanz is a guide for modern-day spiritual seekers that draws wisdom from Celtic spiritual practices.

New City Press’s “In My Staying is Your Going”: The Life and Thoughts of Chiara Luce Badano tells the story of a strong-willed teenager, Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, who faced her cancer diagnosis and terminal illness with extraordinary faith and grace, as witnessed through the eyes of the people who shared her journey on earth and were transformed by her light.

OSV’s The Big Hustle: A Boston Street Kid’s Story of Addiction and Redemption tells the true story of Jim Wahlberg, the fifth of nine kids in the Wahlberg family, and his recovery which stands as a testament to God’s power and an invitation to all of us to hope in the darkest places.

Also from OSV, Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith? collects the pope’s daily homilies during the global isolation of the “long Lent” in the spring of 2020, which brought light to a dark time in our world.

Glimmers of Grace: Moments of Peace and Healing Following Sexual Abuse by Faith Hakesley shares what she has learned about the gifts God wants to give survivors of sexual abuse through their journey of healing.

Every Day with Saint Joseph is a daily devotional to help you connect with St. Joseph. Each reflection will give you an insight into a particular spiritual gift or charism that Saint Joseph exhibited as the husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus.

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Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.

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