By: Bob Zyskowski, - March 25, 2008
I know what I'm giving Alec, whom I'm serving as sponsor for for his Confirmation this spring.
This little book may or may not be "essential" for his spiritual well-being, but it could be a wonderful asset if used as intended.
A paperback of just over 120 pages, "Essentials for Christian Living" is uniquely put together, offering prayers and truths about the Catholic faith one page at a time and encouraging readers to stop and reflect on what they just read. Each page has space below to jot thoughts that come to mind.
It's perfect for times when you don't have a lot of time. Open to any page and you're sure to learn or be reminded of something worthwhile. For example, could you explain why we Catholics make the Sign of the Cross before and after prayer?
One of the notes makes a great point: "Think of what you are doing." That may be this book's biggest plus: It pulls the reader into giving some thought to what defines us as Catholics -- our prayer, our sacraments and our creed.
Easy to slip into a purse or the pocket of a backpack, "Essentials for Christian Living" can be used by anyone who cares to put a little more effort into their relationship with God.
The basic prayers included are just that, basic. The Formulas of Catholic Doctrine -- The Golden Rule, the Beatitudes, the cardinal and theological virtues -- are excellent reminders of what is expected of us.
Taking the creed line by line, one sentence per page, forces readers to think more deeply about what they are saying in ways we aren't likely to at Mass.
All this for only $6.95. Can't beat it. -- bz
For the complete review
By: Neil Sullivan, Diocese of Harrisburg - April 3, 2008
Essentials for Christian Living is a tremendous resource for our response to the Universal Call to Holiness. Essentials is truly a handbook for the Catholic way of life and is a must have for anyone who is serious about growing in grace. Not only does it provide a concise collection of the prayers and tenets of our faith, but also it encourages us to allow the words on the pages to sink into our hearts and influence our lives. I look forward to sharing Essentials with both cradle Catholics and inquirers to the faith. It makes an excellent gift for confirmands, RCIA catechumens and candidates, liturgical ministers, engaged couples, new parents, the sick and homebound, catechists and students, as well as entire parish communities.
By: Carol Blank, WritingWorks - May 15, 2008
Essentials for Christian Living, from the official publisher of the Holy See in Rome, is a neatly packaged, pocket-sized handbook summarizing the core of what Catholics must know and put into practice. All entries throughout the book follow the same format: statement of the topic with space for making notes and a facing page with brief historical background, a reflection, a quotation, or a statement from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The first part contains traditional prayers, including the Mass, Rosary, and Stations of the Cross. The Angel of God entry in the prayer section is a good example of how the format works. On the page opposite the prayer we learn that (1) the Angel of God is a "brief synthesis of ancient prayers," (2) St. Thomas Aquinas taught that everyone is given an angel at birth, and (3) the Catechism of the Catholic Church qualifies belief in angels as "a truth of faith."
The prayer section is followed by formulas of Christian Doctrine. The majority of these are presented in numbered lists, as the four cardinal virtues and the four last things; and the seven capital sins, sacraments, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In the final section of the book, the statements of the Creed, the sacraments, and the Ten Commandments are treated individually.
The simplicity and compactness of this book make it an ideal resource for individuals and groups, especially those involved in religious education and evangelization.
By: Steve Lanza, North American Forum on the Catechumenate - March 1, 2009
There isn't any single prayer book or catechetical text that imparts the essentials of the Christian life and how to live it. The essentials of Christian living are best conveyed through relationship, through association with Christians who mentor, who provide good example and guidance, and who walk as spiritual companions with those who wish to become Christian.
Nevertheless, this book is wonderful. I like it a lot. I think initiation ministers will find it extremely useful. It can be a personal help to them as ministers. In addition, every parish should consider giving this book to catechumens, elect, or mystagogues as a treasure trove to excite and inform faith.
Part One (68 pages) contains 21 prayer texts in the Catholic tradition, ranging, for example, from those that are better known, such as the Sign of the Cross, the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the Rosary, the Acts of Faith, Hope, Love and Contrition, to a collection of simple but perhaps less well known invocations ("Heart of Jesus, I trust in you" and "Lord, increase my faith"). It concludes with "Amen" (the last prayer text presented in this section). Part One also includes a six-page general description of the Mass as the "supreme act of worship of the Christian people."
Part Two (53 pages) contains formulas of Catholic doctrine organized under three rubrics: what is the faith? (Creed), what does the faith give? (Sacraments) and what does the faith require? (Commandments). I was thrilled to read at the outset of this section the wonderful disclaimer/claim regarding these formulas of faith, these compact doctrinal statements: "They may appear to be dry, but in fact they refer to the one center that is Christ."
There are some features of this book that are especially useful for initiation ministry. First of all, the composition of the book begins with prayer texts and then proceeds to doctrinal texts. This placement of prayers before doctrine subtly reminds us of lex orandi, lex credendi. How many of us were first swept up into the love of God by the prayer of the Church and, afterwards, gradually came to understand through teaching and doctrine to whom we were praying and what it was we were praying? Also, for each prayer text or doctrinal statement a pithy explanation is offered that helps the reader to understand the heart of the matter.
Here the reader will be exposed to the thoughts of Romano Guardini, Blessed Charles de Foucauld, St. Francis of Assisi, Dante Alighieri, St. Benedict, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Leo the Great. References throughout the book point the reader to both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium. Finally, each page of the book has some space with lines meant to encourage journaling or notes by the user. The introduction explicitly invites the reader "to pause for a moment of inner silence, to focus one's attention, to write down a thought, to draw a picture, to formulate a resolution, to recall an example, to highlight a key word, to reflect on the text in the style of lectio divina."
This invitation points to the greatest value of this book. This gem of a book is meant to be interactive. The prayer texts and doctrinal formulas are but a springboard for an internal conversation which, in turn, might very well fuel a beautiful external conversation with one's sponsor, Godparent, catechist, or spiritual director.