After switching from German, my language of choice for four years in high school, and taking Italian 101 to fulfill my college language requirement my freshman year, I spent my sophomore year in college in Rome. As an undecided liberal arts major with a large group of studio art and architecture majors, I had a lot more free time than my peers (they were out sketching and in studio all hours of the day and night) which meant that I studied enough to do well—and still had a lot of free time left over.
Boredom never set well with me, so I would wander the streets with no goal or direction in mind. After just a few days, I knew that something had to change. Wandering Rome was not resolving my ennui.
So, I met with our program director and told her how bored I was. Knowing my penchant for randomly exploring streets and my limited language skills, she gave me a challenge. With a detailed map of the streets of Rome in hand, I had to find every Catholic Church within 10 minutes walking distance of our living space AND ask someone at each church to tell me what the Mass schedule was, all in Italian.
Yes, I am that traveler who likes Churches. Yes, I am that American who gets embarrassed when trying to speak the local language. But, yes, I am also that crazy person who loves maps. Give me a map and I can find anything. And I did.
First, I timed a ten-minute distance from our dorm, then drew a circle on my map that showed where I would be in 10 minutes in any direction. Then I started exploring. With various colored, thin-point markers in hand, I highlighted streets and alleys I had traversed and circled and x’ed out the churches and chapels I found. That map was my constant companion for the first 4 or 5 weeks of the school year.
I still love maps. Each one of this week’s CatholicsRead titles makes me think of different kinds of maps and their uses.
Catholic Book Publishing’s Franciscan Daily Companion, Ascension’s In St. Joseph’s Footsteps: 30 Days of Meditations, and Creative Communications 365 Hopeful Devotions for Catholics remind me of the days of AAA Triptiks, those step-by-step travel planners that were eventually replaced by apps like Google Maps, Mapquest, and Waze. Each of these three books offers a suggested daily “path”—a reflection, reading, prayer—to fill each day you have set aside, be it 30 or 365 days. These are the ones to keep at your bedside or on your desk and break that binding because you can’t start or continue or end your day without it.
I’m a big Disneyland (not DisneyWorld—we always stick with our first love!) fan, and I go ga-ga over their park maps because of how well they convey the potential adventures in front of me. Ascension’s The Great Adventure Catholic Bible takes the complexity of the Bible and turns it into an engaging journey through Scripture. Like so many of our theme parks, The Great Adventure Catholic Bible uses current technology and pairs with a podcast by Fr. Mike Schmitz.
Big art museum maps always confound me to some degree because they are all-inclusive and just so overwhelming. A prime example is Paris’ Louvre. When I went to Paris during a break in my sophomore year, I really wanted to see the chiaroscuro paintings especially by Caravaggio, so I ended up frustratedly racing through the museum halls to find them. I wish I had had a focused museum map like all of the following books to find the right path.
David Knight in The Way of the Spirit: Using the Gifts, Showing the Fruit from Twenty-Third Publications is the perfect map to refocus your intention on listening to the Holy Spirit and living your life to the fullest.
Awakening at Lourdes (Ave Maria Press) is a powerful story about how the goal we seek is sometimes not the one we expect to find. Christy Wilkens shares how the miracle of healing that they sought for their child in Lourdes led them to find a deeper love for each other, a renewed sense of appreciation for their faith community, and an abiding confidence in God’s mercy.
In Pray for Us, also from Ave Maria Press, itinerant missionary Meg Hunter-Kilmer stretches our preconceived ideas of what the path to holiness is as she writes about the lives of 75 extraordinary people.
Finally, thank you, Dr. Tim Hogan and RCL Benziger, for The Gift of Cultural Hurricanes: Tools to Rebuild Authentic Spirituality which provided a much-needed map to understand how smartphones and social media have transformed the landscape of human connections.
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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.