When I was a young child, there was a convent across the street from our elementary school for the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) who taught there and worked in the parish. Across the street in the other direction, there was another convent, this one of the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix, a cloistered community.
I was luckier than most kids in that not only did I have religious sisters as teachers, but some of them were friends of my family and joined us at important life events like my First Holy Communion (in our living room—it was the 70s!), or for pizza and Coca-Cola on weekends in our backyard.
I got to see beyond the modified habits that they adopted after Vatican II and understand and relate to them as people—people who had opinions about music and cheered for the same Detroit Tigers that I did. They shared their vocation stories, as well as both the joys and challenges of living out in community the faith that nourished them.
The IHMs I understood. The Sisters of Mary Reparatrix, not so much.
To a seven- or eight-year-old whose primary experience of women religious included a lot of interaction, some humor, and a few funny stories, being cloistered just seemed really weird. And understandably so; they lived behind walls through which I never entered and behind which they never left.
That was, until one day my mother took us to their convent to pick up altar bread. Besides the work of prayer, this particular convent made and supplied many of the surrounding parishes with the hosts that were used for daily and Sunday Eucharist.
While my mother talked with the woman who was the intermediary between the cloistered nuns and the rest of us, my brother and I wandered the public rooms, testing the furniture and looking at the artwork. When we finally left, we had lots of questions for her, like: “What did they do all day? Why are they so quiet? Will they come to the house and have pizza with us?”
Earlier this month, I connected my childhood experience of religious women with a reading from James, “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Despite the differences between the two orders, each had a specific way in which they lived out their faith through works. The IHM sisters taught—everything from math to softball—while the Reparatrix nuns made hosts that ultimately spiritually fed an entire community.
This insight has colored how I look at the resources for this week’s CatholicsRead list. Each of this week’s titles illustrates different ways in which we are called by our Baptism to live out our faith in works.
Two of them focus on the Eucharist, one for adults and the other for children.
In Living with Real Presence: Eucharist as an Approach to Life from Twenty-Third Publications, author S. James Meyer introduces us to a whole-life encounter with the living Christ, awakening a fresh awareness that the Eucharist is about life, love, and relationship.
From Catholic Book Publishing, we have First Communion–Premier Gift Set for boys which contains a My First Eucharist Edition First Mass Book; elegant pearlized rosary; laminated scapular; enamel pin; laminated bookmark; black imitation leather wallet with gold detail; and also matching secure, pinch-top rosary case. The kit is also available in pearlized White for that special young lady.
Since liturgy should to living a life of justice, Phyllis Zagano’s Just Church, from Paulist Press, engages the reader in the synodal pathway to a “just Church” that can and should reflect its social teaching. An important measure of justice is an ecclesiology open to participation by others beyond celibate clerics, especially in consideration of competing Catholic ecclesial bodies and methods of membership.
One of the other ways many of us live out our faith is through marriage. Love Basics for Catholics (Ave Maria Press) opens with a very basic and true assumption: When you begin to see the Bible as a book of love, it will change the way you view love, sex, marriage, family, and your personal relationship with God. Author John Bergsma starts from the creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the wedding between the Lamb and the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation to show how marriage in the Bible represents the love between God and his people.
Cardinal Jozef de Kesel’s Faith & Religion in a Secular Society, also from Paulist Press tackles the great challenges of the Church in modern society with a spirit of synthesis and clarity that make its message very accessible.
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.