I’ve been a busy deacon the last few weeks, but with my desk finally clear (more or less), I have a chance to plow through some of the books people have been sending me — many written by deacons. (And it seems like the feast of St. Jerome might be a good day for thinking bookish thoughts…the Holy Father certainly thinks so!)
If you’re in the market for some deacon-y reading, check these out:
“The Love That Is God” by Deacon Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing) “Fritz” Bauerschmidt is a longtime social media friend (you can see his contributions over at Pray Tell), a deacon in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and an all-around great guy who just happens to have written a stunningly good book about, of all things, love. Fritz teaches theology at Loyola University Maryland, and this book has the clarity, concision and generosity of spirit you’d expect from a good teacher. He unpacks all the different ideas that go into our understanding of the simple truth “God is love,” and manages to weave in everyone from Aristotle to Julian of Norwich, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dorothy Day. Accessible, eloquent and wise, “The Love That is God” is a treasure that you will want to keep close by. It even includes, as a bonus, a superb homily by the good deacon that was the impetus and inspiration for the book.
“Encountering Christ the Servant” by Deacon Dominic Cerrato (Our Sunday Visitor) This slender volume, written by the editor of The Deacon magazine (formerly Deacon Digest) is subtitled “A Spirituality of the Diaconate,” and could serve as both an excellent introduction to diaconal spirituality and a welcome (and sometimes challenging) refresher for deacons themselves. Deacon Cerrato looks at the interior life of the deacon, the “servant mysteries” in the “sacrament of the present moment,” and some ways that deacons are called to live that spirituality, drawing on sources as varied as Therese of Lisieux and Pope Saint John Paul II. For deacons, this would be excellent reading for retreats; for priests and laity, it can offer fresh insight into diakonia.
“The Deacon: Icon of Christ the Servant, Minister of the Threshold” by Deacon Tim O’Donnell (Paulist Press) I had the privilege of reading this before it was published, and wrote a blurb for the back cover, right under one by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who wrote: “I highly recommend this book for Catholics and anyone seeking to understand the workings of the Church…a thoughtful and enlightening understanding of diaconal ministry.” Well, there you go. This book is another must-have for deacons, deacon aspirants, candidates, and anyone who might want to know more about this vocation (and I’d even include priests in that group.) The book’s triumph is in gathering together material from many sources — scholarly, historical and theological, all voluminously notated at the end — and presenting an overview of the diaconate that is clear and accessible. This book would be a great resource in formation.
“Because of Our Fathers” edited by Tyler Rowley (Ignatius Press) This collection of personal remembrances and anecdotes would have been perfect to give at Father’s Day — but you might want to put it on your list for Christmas. While not, strictly speaking, a “deacon book,” it will resonate with all those deacon readers out there who are also fathers. Tyler Rowley has enlisted 23 Catholics, including Anthony Esolen, Father Paul Scalia, Abby Johnson and Bishop Joseph Strickland, to write about (as the book’s cover puts it) “how their fathers led them to Christ.” The writings are affectionate, personal, nostalgic, and often inspiring. Father Paul Scalia, for example, remembers his father, the iconic Supreme Court justice, hoisting him on his shoulders to see the Holy Father at a papal Mass: “My father gave me a sense of transcendence. Dad put on his shoulders so that I could see beyond him, to another father, the pope…I recall those other moments when Dad — by word and action — pointed us beyond himself.” You’ll find abundant wisdom, gratitude and love in these pages. I’m already thinking of fathers I know who will appreciate what this book has to say.