Catholic Spiritual Practices: A Treasury of Old and New

This month at the Patheos Book Club, we’re featuring a lovely new book called Catholic Spiritual Practices: A Treasury of Old New, edited by Colleen M. Griffith and Thomas H. Groome. At 157 pages, this accessible and practical guide for living our faith today makes for a wonderful Christmas gift or stocking stuffer for the devout Christian and seeker alike. Broken into three sections — Practices of Prayer, Practices of Care and Practices of Spiritual Growth – the book features short articles and instruction on more than 30 practices, by some of today’s most respected spiritual writers (N.T. Wright, Ann and Barry Ulanov, Wendy Wright, Joan Chittester and the co-editors, to name a few).

Published by Paraclete Press, Catholic Spiritual Practices is a joint project with The Church in the 21st Century Center (C21) at Boston College. C21 Associate Director Karen Kelly Kiefer joined us recently to talk about the genesis for the book.

Colleen Griffith and Thomas Groome

What was the inspiration for this new book on Catholic spiritual practices?

Back in the spring of 2009, The Church in the 21st Century Center released its bi-annual publication, C21 Resources, entitled “Catholic Spiritual Practices,” guest edited by Colleen Griffith. As soon as the publication hit mailboxes our phones began to ring and our e-mail inbox was flooded with requests for copies. We knew then that there was a thirst out there and that a small book, a treasury of sorts, might make sense as a future project.

I understand that Thomas Groome wasn’t initially a part of this project. How did he become involved, and what did he contribute to the final collection?

In the initial publication, Tom Groome had one essay on how to pray the Rosary. That particular essay was very popular and we received many letters of thanks, referencing that article.  As many know, Tom and Colleen are married to each other, so it seemed like a natural next step to sit down with both of them and discuss the possibility of a book project, knowing the popularity of the subject matter. In addition, Tom and Colleen had never combined forces on the book front, and they are both incredible powerhouses.

I will never forget that first meeting … they sat down and began pouring over the publication and reshaping it.  They had a vision instantly. They knew they had to delete some articles to make room for other practices, and then they had to decide what other practices were missing and add them to this collection. In a couple of hours, they had architected a plan and divided the book up into three sections:  Practices of Prayer, Practices of Care, Practices of Spiritual Growth.

Tom eventually added several essays on practices and prayers, and wrote the closing essay in the book with his final line, “If we keep on practicing, we’ll surely get better at it.”

The list of contributors to the book reads like a “Who’s Who” of spirituality writers from the Catholic tradition, and beyond. How were the contributors selected?

Colleen has great vision and selected many of the writers and their articles when she put together the publication in 2009. The foundation was solid and theologically grounded from the start.

Who was this book written for?  What do you think it offers to those in the Catholic tradition? And would this book appeal to non-Catholics? 

The beauty in this book is not only found in the sharing of practices but in the way that the book flows. It is 157 pages, 28 essays on practices and prayers, divided into three parts. It’s a small book, so you can slip it in your bag on the run or put it on your night table and just read an essay at a time if you so chose.  Honestly, you can take these lessons/practices and apply them to your life immediately and that’s priceless.

Regarding the audience for the book, I see its appeal for a wider audience, not just Catholics, but anyone looking for some faith nourishment.  It’s a great gift for the young person in your life and a timeless collection for those that are older.

To read a few selections from Catholic Spiritual Practices, visit the Patheos Book Club here.

About Deborah Arca

Deborah Arca is the Managing Editor of the Progressive Christian Portal and Book Club at Patheos.com.


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