Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mom, writer, editor, marketing professional, and coffee drinker. You’re just as likely to find her hiding out back with a book as you are to discover her playing in the yard with a few farm animals (or wait — are those her kids?) She is the author of many books, the most recent of which she co-edited with Lisa Hendey: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections. She blogs at SnoringScholar.com and writes online regularly at CatholicMom.com and Integrated Catholic Life. Reinhard holds a master’s degree in marketing and communications and has worked for many years in corporate and nonprofit organizations. She lives in central Ohio with her husband and children.
I was barely a mom and quite a new Catholic when I first heard Johnnette Benkovic’s “Women of Grace” program on our local Catholic radio station.
Her voice accompanied me, at various times, throughout the next decade of my work in and throughout our parish and family and in the drives that inevitably came up. At one point, I also downloaded the podcast and listened to it.
The last time I read one of her books was 2007, when Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life met my dog-earing and underline-it-to-death ways.
When I saw that Benkovic had a daily devotional out this year, published by EWTN no less!, I was intrigued.
And then it arrived.
Not only is Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God delightfully simple, it’s beautifully designed. It’s a hardbound book that’s not so small as to get lost in your diaper bag but not so big as to not fit in your briefcase.
This isn’t so much a book you’ll want on the shelf. It’s a book you’ll want to use.
Each day offers a quotation from Scripture, the saints, and other holy men and women, followed by questions for reflection (which often have a bit of a “go do it” feel to them, inspiring action in your reflection).
Here’s a sample of the daily format, from May 15, feast day of one of my special patrons, St. Dymphna:
May 15: St. Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr (d. ca. 620)
Hear us, O God, Our Savior! You chose St. Dymphna as heavenly patron of those afflicted with mental and emotional illness. Through her prayers grant relief and consolation to all who suffer in this way…. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, graciously grant those for whom we pray patience in suffering and resignation to your divine will. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
— Traditional prayer for the intercession of St. Dymphna
For whom do I need to ask St. Dymphna’s intercession? I resolve to use this prayer to pray for him or her for the next week or more as the Holy Spirit leads me.
Peppered throughout, there are biographies of saints and stories from Benkovic’s own daily life. The biographies give you a taste of the saint and are great for inspiring further thought.
I’ve really enjoyed, too, Benkovic’s anecdotal essays as well, such as the one below, which appears in June:
Golden Apples and Silver Settings
Some years ago I overheard a father calmly reprimanding his child. What struck me about the conversation was the dad’s choice of words, his gentle tone of voice, and his loving disposition. It was clear that in the midst of the admonition this father was communicating love, encouragement, and hope.
As the conversation came to a close with a loving hug, I began to think about the creative power of words. It was clear to me that the words this father had spoken were powerful and would have a positive impact on his little boy.
Throughout the first creation account, we see God bringing the world into being through His speech.
But when God creates man, He says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” If we are made in God’s image and likeness, and if God creates by speaking, then the words we speak create as well. Like the words of God, our words have creative power.
But unlike God, we are stained by original sin. Our words can be constructive or destructive. Our words can bring comfort, hope, and life—or they can bring anguish, devastation, and death. My favorite Scripture verse on speech is Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” That father’s words to his son were golden apples bringing nourishment to his son’s soul and spirit, placed on the silver setting of love and tenderness. So, too, our words must be tempered with the love of God. Then, even in the midst of a reprimand or correction, we will still create “golden apples.”
This is a lovely book, perfect for year-round use (and anytime gift-giving…it’s not locked into a certain year).