Basilica Press has a series of booklets called Shepherds Voice where bishops in a question answer format cover a specific topic. I reviewed the first two books in the series before and I will be looking at the next three in the series now.
Draw Near to Me, O Lord: Heartfelt Prayers for Everyday Life by Cardinal Arinze is mostly a prayer book with prayers covering a range of circumstances. The book starts off with a concise introduction to prayer and addresses the various types of prayer. The rest of the booklet is full of prayers that the Cardinal has written himself. Now his prayers are not great works of prose or crafted as poems, but very straightforward prayers. He covers quite a large range of everyday subject dealing with for example prayers before driving your car, thanking God for a new job, various ones dealing with the virtues, marriage, vocational discernment, children. There are prayers for all phases of life and everything from the more mundane to more serious prayers. What I like about his prayers is that they are open to every part of life, just as we should be open to prayer for every part of life and that there is no part of our day that should be excluded from prayer. Cardinal Arinze obviously takes St. Paul’s injunction to pray always and this book is helpful in helping us to do the same.
If you are going to have a booklet on vocations it is harder to imagine a better bishop for the subject then Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz whose dinky diocese manages to have more priestly vocations than diocese magnitudes of sizes larger. God’s Plan for You: Understanding Your Personal Vocation does not disappoint in this regard. This book though is not priestly vocation centric and really covers the whole topic of vocation. Starting from everyone’s vocation to holiness he goes on to deal with vocations to the married life, to the single life, and to the priestly and consecrated life. The range of questions he questions he answers covers discernment to each of these vocation, and to what these vocations mean, and other aspects of answering the call to God’s plan for you. For a 42 page book I am really amazed at how much ground he covers and how succinctly he answers the questions. So often when we talk about vocations we just use this word as a shortcut to mean priestly vocations. This booklet doesn’t make that mistake and so it’s audience is pretty much for everybody. In my opinion I hope this book becomes widely used because I consider it outstanding and extremely useful both for parents and for young adults.
The next book in the series concentrates on the vocation to marriage. What God has Joined: A Catholic Teaching on Marriage by Kevin W. Vann is another home run. This is a great catechism on marriage and is one of the longer books in the Shepherds Voice series. Though it is a very manageable 63 page. This booklet should be given to everybody preparing for marriage within the Catholic Church. It covers the deep theological meaning of marriage, sexual morality, living the sacrament of marriage, tough questions concerning marriage, and finally marriage preparation. Bishop Vann has also done an excellent job in discussing all of these topics. You get the fullness of what the Church teaches on marriage in a manner that should be easily understood. All of the common questions that most people would have are answered and you can see the unity of the theology of what the Church teaches. There is so much misunderstanding when it comes to human sexuality and marriage and it is lovely to see these subject coherently written about in the light of the truth.
I have been quite enthused about all of the books in this series and I love the fact that the faith is taught fully in a manner that is easily digestible. Having an short question with an answer ranging only a couple of paragraphs is not daunting to most people and ensures that these books if given out will actually be read. I kept the first two books in the series in my desk for easy reference since I found them useful when wanting the references on a topic they covered.