Early in my career, I worked in media research for one of the top advertising agencies in Chicago. Our team was tasked with evaluating the new network TV shows. One of the best parts of my job was attending the ABC, CBS, and NBC network premiere parties (FOX and others were but glimmers in their founders’ eyes at the time!) While the primary audience for these events was the local station reps and sales managers, ad agency media people were critical. At the end of the day, we were the people who decided how popular every new show would be—meaning, how many eyeballs would be watching each episode. For advertisers, our clients, that translated into how much those eyeballs cost.
Though I haven’t attended a premiere party in 35 years, I have never lost my love for “armchair quarterbacking” the networks’ new seasons. As a self-professed American culture geek, I’ve been more right than wrong—I knew “Designing Women” would be a huge hit, but I preferred “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” to “30 Rock.” As streaming has become more popular, my TV viewing habits have changed as accordingly.
So, it was only a few weeks ago that I got to watch an episode of “Ordinary Joe.” The premise grabbed me—one guy, three storylines that reflect different sets of choices he makes. Had I picked this one, it would have landed in my “failure” column, but the idea of how different choices set us on different paths really resonates with me.
This week’s crop of CatholicsRead titles feel like an episode of “Ordinary Catholic Joe” or “Ordinary Catholic Jane”—there but for the grace of God go I. Let me demonstrate.
One of the things that the pandemic has revealed is that we can either allow stress and chaos to overwhelm us and lead us to harmful behaviors or lead us to adopt healthy practices like prayer journaling to seek refuge and calm with God. Ave Maria Press’s Awaken My Heart Prayer Journal is one of those books that can help you develop the latter practice.
Based on my experiences at the funerals of those who have died from suicide, I have watched how the lack of clear, faith-based resources on the subject has hurt the families and friends of the deceased, sometimes with long-term and negative consequences. Had Franciscan Media’s After Suicide: Seven Things for Catholics to Know been around, pastors and pastoral ministers might have been better able to support their grieving in a compassionate and merciful way.
At various points in life, it’s normal to ask, “Who do I follow?” CatholicsRead has three books that take slightly different spins on the most obvious choices, Jesus, Mary, and the saints. Twenty-Third Publications’ Jesus and the Barbecued Fish Breakfast looks at some of the Gospel stories with the lens of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Ave Maria Press’s Behold the Handmaid of the Lord is a summary of the central teachings of St. Louis de Monfort’s classic on Mary. Magnificat’s JOY includes meditations from the saints on a life of everlasting joy.
Another normal question to ask, especially in difficult or challenging times, is, “Who do I ask?” CatholicsRead has two extremely well-known authors who might have responded, “Don’t ask me. Ask those who have proven to have good answers.” Sr. Joan Chittister in Twenty-Third Publications’ Grace-filled Moments with Sr. Joan: 365 Reflections on Life, Loss, Healing and Joy turns to St. Benedict whose teachings and writings have led so many to the good answers. Richard Rohr in Franciscan Media’s Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps shows how the Twelve Steps can lead to a hopeful and transformative path.
Probably my favorite of this week’s list, OSV’s Grace in Tension: Discover Peace with Martha and Mary addresses the perennial question most of my female friends ask, “Am I am Martha or a Mary?”
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.