The How-Tos You Didn’t Know You Needed for Confession, the Rosary and Adoration

Ascension Press presents ‘Pocket Guide’ series.

Handy guides can augment your prayer time.
Handy guides can augment your prayer time. (photo: Ascension Press)

These sleek guides to essential Catholic spiritual practices are great for beginners or anyone who needs a refresher.

Catholic spiritual practices are sometimes easier said than done. How many times do we walk into adoration or confession, or pick up a rosary, and need some encouragement?

Ascension Press, the Catholic outreach platform known for bite-size YouTube videos breaking down the faith, has the perfect tools for those in such situations. With its series of “pocket guides” to adoration, the sacrament of reconciliation and the Rosary, Ascension provides beautiful books to guide readers through essential Catholic practices.

They're slim and lightweight, making them easy to carry throughout the day and incorporate into a routine. They’re also beautiful, with leather covers imprinted with gold and silver designs, making great confirmation or conversion (or Christmas) gifts.

I incorporated all three guides into my routine for a week and used them in action with the practices they inform.


Pocket Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation

By Father Josh Johnson and Father Mike Schmitz 

Father Josh Johnson and Father Mike Schmitz’s Pocket Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation was my favorite of the three for its gentle explanation of the mercy and love that underlie the sacrament. It’s structured so that it walks you through the need for confession with a commentary on Genesis’ account of Adam and Eve’s fall and then explains the Ignatian method of examining your conscience

It’s especially encouraging to hear the priest’s perspective from his side of the screen. Father Schmitz recounted his time doing prison ministry and said some things I will carry with me every time I’m ashamed or embarrassed of confessing some sin. 

“After I had been ordained maybe five months, I heard confessions at a federal penitentiary for sex offenders and murderers,” he writes. “When someone comes to confession and says ‘Here’s what I’ve done,’ I’ve heard all of this before, and twelve times worse.”

The priests also address real issues that keep people from receiving the sacrament’s grace, such as the scandal caused by bad priests, personal shame or ignorance of the sacrament. (“If God already knows what I’ve done,” some might say, “what’s the point of telling a priest?”) There are stories from the lives of the saints and their personal ministries to demonstrate that these struggles are more common than we might think, which is a comfort.

The only thing I would have preferred is an expanded examination of conscience. The one at the end of the book is good, but I thought a book dedicated to the sacrament of confession would have more than one examination, offering questions specific to people in different states of life.

I highly recommend this guide for every Catholic, but especially for those who get nervous before going to confession or who haven’t been in a long time.


Pocket Guide to the Rosary: Reflections From the Bible and the Saints

By Matt Fradd

This book was less a “pocket guide” than a “beginner’s guide.” It’s good that the entire reflection on each mystery takes about the same time to read as it does to recite the decade. Unfortunately, the book leaves a lot more to be said.

After a brief introduction explaining the Rosary as a contemplative prayer, each mystery is given a brief explanation, theological insight and personal application. None of these run more than a few sentences, which makes it good for quick meditation. I found this a benefit for reading during my short commute to work.

However, I found myself wishing that the explanations quoted or cited Scripture verses instead of providing a somewhat-rushed recap. The brevity may make it good for reading aloud before each mystery in a group setting, but I’m not inclined to revisit this guide for my personal prayer.


Pocket Guide to Adoration

By Father Josh Johnson

Contemplative mental prayer is one of the most difficult elements of faith to articulate, let alone give a “how-to” with concrete steps. When entering adoration, it can be hard to figure out what to “do,” but Father Johnson lays out exactly how you can get the most out of your time with Jesus.

He starts by recounting how difficult he found it to fill an hour of adoration with prayer — instead of distractions — when he was young and gives four tools to contemplate Our Lord: sacred Scripture, the Rosary, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the lives of the saints. 

This guide is best for those unfamiliar with adoration, who are easily distracted, or looking to make time before the Blessed Sacrament more fruitful.