My family has a tradition of creating collages of items that ground or inspire us—pictures, quotes, and various other odds and ends. I’ve created such collections at home and at work. They serve as a sort of public declaration, proclaiming, “This is who I am. Deal with it.”
One of the permanent fixtures in my workspace is a printed copy of a reflection from www.InwardOutward.org, a project of the Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. It is titled “Two Major Tasks,” and comes originally from the writing of Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM. It begins with the following words:
There are two major tasks in the human spiritual journey. The task of the first half of life is to create a proper container for one’s life and answer some central questions: ‘Who am I?’ ‘What makes me significant?’ ‘How can I support myself?’ ‘Who will go with me?’ The task of the second half of life is, quite simply, to find the actual contents that this container was meant to hold and deliver.
I have kept this quote for a long time; the reflection resonates with my experience of life’s different phases.
Like many teenagers, I was somewhat self-involved. During my adolescence, I pondered the question, “Who am I?” very intensely. This question became particularly important as I faced the stresses of navigating high school and making big decisions about my future. On most days I spent at least a few moments in contemplation, seeking God’s help in my journey of self-discovery.
Though the first half of my life has come and gone, and I have largely moved on to the task of filling that “container” with answers to those questions, I have never felt like the questions were completely answered. So, throughout the last couple of decades, I have continued to re-evaluate, reflect on, and analyze my past answers and decisions. These reflections have led me to explore new and more refined responses based on the nuances, subtleties, and internal wisdom revealed by age and experience.
The task of understanding ourselves can never be finished because we are the mysterious and unfathomable creation of a loving and merciful God. This week’s CatholicsRead titles offer us some of the best Catholic approaches to this ongoing task of understanding ourselves.
In What’s the Message, from Paulist Press, Kevin Sullivan calls the Bible “the best self-help book of all time.” He presents a helpful introduction to the Bible for readers who might otherwise have been intimidated by its size and antiquity and provides a good starting place for those who want to engage in a deeper study of the Scriptures.
During Lent, we focus on sin and redemption. Ascension’s The Divine Mercy Catholic Bible highlights God’s loving and merciful search for us through his Word and sacraments. It also includes additional articles that can help readers understand Divine Mercy more deeply.
For those who are seeking to imitate the mercy of God in their own lives, Loyola Press presents The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness by Marina McCoy. She delves into the principles of Ignatian spirituality and lays out ten steps toward forgiveness.
Few Catholic devotional practices are as widely loved and practiced as the Stations of the Cross. Ascension’s Pocket Guide to the Stations of the Cross helps readers to discover the depths of Christ’s love shown to us by his Passion and death.
The answer to the question, “Who am I?” is profoundly influenced by our gender. In Reveal the Gift: Living the Feminine Genius from Ascension, Lisa Cotter uncovers a transformational vision of a woman’s purpose by exploring the writings of St. John Paul II on the “feminine genius.”
That core question is also related to our professions and the choices we make in the economic sphere. The Homeboy Way from Loyola Press shares the story of Homeboy Industries CEO and author Thomas Vozzo. He provides a clear path to a new bottom line—including 55 rules to break—and presents the “Homeboy Way” as the perfect antidote to the massive currents of social injustice and inequity in today’s world.
Any of these resources can be a helpful guide on your own path towards greater self-understanding.
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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.