Five years ago, shortly after I followed my Air Force husband to rural North Carolina, a friend invited me to join a small group of Catholic military spouses for fellowship and study. Each month, one of us would offer to host the other ladies along with our gang of little ones to discuss a book of the host’s choosing over muffins and coffee. Because our group was constantly shifting, with new friends joining and others moving away, it has, over the years, offered a diverse selection that has provided a rich understanding of faith, relationships and self.
We’ve read biographies of saints. We’ve learned about the Rosary, prayer and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We’ve nudged each other to be gentler, to be quieter, to be humbler, and to be faithful. Through seasons of joy, sorrow, anxiety and uncertainty, the opportunity to read, reflect and share alongside other Catholic women has provided comfort, courage, understanding and wisdom.
As we emerge from a year of semi-solitude, the desire for community and comradery is so great. These books offer a place to join together with friends and newcomers for coffee, fellowship and conversation.
- Among Friends, Stories from the Journey by Father James Sichko
Father Sichko is an engaging storyteller who uses humor and lightheartedness to casually segue into deep and profound truths. In one chapter, he paints an amusing picture of a visit to Las Vegas where he wore his clericals to a rowdy boxing match and ended up on the Jumbotron. Giggles aside, it serves as a way of explaining how Christians are called to stand out, emerge from our comfort zones and serve others. Most chapters follow a similar progression, and because each chapter is a standalone story, it’s a summer read well suited to be picked up and put down as time allows.
- Who Does He Say You Are? Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels by Colleen Mitchell
Each chapter of Mitchell’s book looks at one of the women mentioned in the Gospels, and how that story helps us clarify who we were meant to be. Some of those women, like Mary, Elizabeth and Martha, we know well. Others, like the hemorrhaging woman and the woman caught in adultery, don’t even have names but can reveal important truths about what God intends for us. As a bonus, each chapter has built-in reflection questions either for self-study or discussion as a group.
- True Friend by Take up and Read
Take Up and Read offers some of the most thoughtful, and aesthetically beautiful, ways to read and ponder the Word. They offer daily studies for Lent and Advent, along with thematic devotionals, like True Friend, that allow you to plunge into the Bible with a specific lens. The writers of True Friend offer their own stories of friendship, alongside pertinent Bible passages, to help readers reflect on what it means to be a Christ-like friend to one another. Though this study is one of their older ones, it’s perfect for this summer as we all reassess our relationships after a year-long quarantine.
- Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai by Gavin Dawes
Over the years, our group has read about many saints, and I unfailingly feel like their model is unattainable. I’ll never be as resolute as Gianna Beretta Molla. Or as pure as Therese of Lisieux. But because Damien is a modern saint, his flaws, like jealousy and anger, are detailed alongside his gifts, which makes him a bit more human. His story, though one of great sacrifice, is also one of simple presence. He didn’t heal the sick or raise the dead, he simply said yes to a call and agreed to live alongside leprosy patients and care for them when no one else would. Presence is a noble and challenging call, and perhaps one that can bring us to our own sainthood.
- The Esther Anointing: Become a Woman of Prayer, Courage, and Influence by Michelle McClain-Walters
This book looks at current expressions of feminism and offers a faith-filled twist. McClain-Walters encourages women to be powerful, courageous and determined, but also to understand and value that which God intends for them as a woman. It offers a thoughtful rallying cry for women to be prepared for God to use them as one of his greatest tools. For those who feel stirred by the Holy Spirit to do more or be more, this is an evocative and illuminating read.