Six years ago, I finally took the introductory class at my local indoor rock climbing gym. Since then, I have made new friends and grown a community with a group of young adults who invited me to join them as we partnered in our climbs. While over twenty years divide us, what unites us is our love of the challenge—working on a higher level climb, tackling a chimney or overhang that may be beyond our skill, practicing a new move like a heel hook, or climbing with only three points of contact rather than all four (both hands and feet).

Indoor climbing—as challenging as it may feel—is relatively easy because the route is clearly marked by the same color holds from bottom to top. Standing on the ground, you can see what the challenges are in front of you as you scan both the placement and types of holds ahead of you.

Every year, however, as winter fades and spring arrives, many climbers—including my friends—want to move outdoors to the fresh air, the warming sun, and the holds that only nature can create. For a few years, I declined the invitation despite the stories that they would share when we next met up.

Finally, on a long spa weekend with my mom, I signed up for the all-day outdoor climbing activity. This climb was in no small rocky outcropping in one of the many DC-area parks. No, we were in the foothills of one of the mountain ranges outside Tucson, Arizona. As luck would have it, I was the only climber on the trip, so I had many opportunities to face new challenges with the support of my instructor.

Here’s what I learned. Where indoor climbing is all about mastering a route someone else has created, outdoor climbing is all about finding a route in front of you, one that you create entirely through the sense of touch. Without color-coded holds to guide the climb, you must rely on feeling for the little ledge, the jagged corner to hang onto, or the crack that only your fingertips can recognize. I didn’t know where I was going to go until I put my hands or feet out on the rock in front of me and felt my way up.

This week’s CatholicsRead titles draw us beyond what we think we may already know a lot about in order to find wisdom and insights that will move us bit by bit further along in our spiritual journey.

Did you know that along with the Desert Fathers in the early Church, there were Desert Mothers? Let Laura Swan’s The Forgotten Desert Mothers by Paulist Press both introduce you to these early Christian women, but dig deeply into their sayings, lives, stories, and spiritualities. I guarantee that something will resonate with you as you read.

We often associate a piece of Church music with a particular part of Mass or an event. But GIA Publications’ Themes and Variations: Music and Imagination goes beyond that. With each essay, theologian and musician Don Saliers embraces the connection between musical passages and life’s passages, exploring the powerful way in which music explores a double journey into the depths of humanity and the mystery of the divine.

Altogether too often, our view of the Blessed Virgin Mary begins and ends with the Gospels. Mary in the Christian Tradition by Owen Cummings from Paulist Press provides not only an overview of Mary in the Christian tradition, beginning with the New Testament, but also looks at Marian traditions through Church history, from the Reformation through Vatican II and contemporary views of her role.

There are probably times when we all take the Eucharist for granted, expecting to receive at Mass without fully contemplating and living it. Cardinal Blase Cupich in Take, Bless, Break, Share: A Strategy for a Eucharistic Revival from Twenty-Third Publications proposes five strategies to help Catholics deepen the encounter with Christ through a profound experience of the Eucharist—one that leads to living rich, faith-filled lives. Cardinal Cupich encourages us to ponder and pray about our participation in Christ’s abundant gift of the Eucharist and its connection to daily life in a complex world.

St. Joseph is perhaps one of the most beloved saints among Catholics today, although his appearance in the Bible is relatively brief, leaving us with little knowledge of who he was and what drove his devotion to and unwavering trust in the Lord. Go to Joseph by Brother Mickey McGrath from GIA Publications, is an exploration of this man—a husband, a father, a craftsman, a traveler, a guide, and much more.

You may know Thomas Merton, but do you know his well-loved, 158-word prayer from Thoughts in Solitude? Author Steven Denny shows in The Merton Prayer from ACTA Publications how Merton’s is the quintessential modern pilgrim’s prayer.

Susan Briehl and Marty Haugen have created four simple prayer services for small gatherings: a prayer of lament, a prayer for healing, a prayer of consolation, and a prayer of commendation to help you find your way along that healing journey. With prayers and psalms, songs and scripture, poems and pictures, Turn My Heart: A Sacred Journey from Brokenness to Healing from GIA Publications, Inc., guides us through the steps that define difficult times and into God’s healing presence.

Any one of these resources should help you on your continued climb towards greater understanding and living of God’s call.

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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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