I thought I would start reviewing the books I picked up recently at the Catholic Marketing Network’s trade show. I’m starting with Vinny Flynn’s 21 Ways to Worship: a Guide to Eucharistic Adoration (published jointly by MercySong and Ignatius Press), because I began to use it almost as soon as I got it. After the New Media conference ended on Friday, I headed over to my parish church (which fortuitously is just a couple of miles from the conference site) to spend some time in Adoration, and I took Flynn’s book with me.
Now, at our church (and maybe at yours, too), on days when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for Adoration, a collection of Holy Hour books is made available in the narthex so that people can have some devotional material to use during their time before the Blessed Sacrament. I don’t know how many people avail themselves of this resource, but probably most of those who adore regularly have gotten tired of just reading the same devotions over and over. Many people, however, don’t know how to spend their time alone with the Lord, and others may find they have fallen into a “prayer rut.” 21 Ways should be helpful to both groups, and really to anyone who wants to deepen their personal relationship with Christ.
The first thing I noticed is that the book is very attractively designed. While this is not essential, it is helpful. So many devotional books are full of such dense, ugly type that it is a kind of mortification to read them. You can see from the cover image above, this is a book that does not want to look intimidating. Inside there is an attractive layout on cream colored paper (not stark white), with attractive typography and enough “white space” to make the book easy on the eye. But, lest the graphic treatment seem too zippy for more traditional tastes, each chapter is illustrated with traditional devotional black and white images taken from old missals and prayer books, similar to those you see here.
The text also nicely balances being fresh and accessible while drawing from the wellsprings of traditional devotional practice, in such a way that even the most venerable devotional practices take on a new sheen. Flynn writes in a conversational style, and each chapter title is a friendly exhortation: “Evict the Tenants!” (dispel distractions), “For God’s Sake, Shut Up!” (be silent and allow the Lord to speak), “Go to the Office!” (pray the Liturgy of the Hours), twenty-one in all. Throughout, the author is encouraging you to try new things, none of which are really new at all but may be unfamiliar or untried. There is nothing “iffy” about the author’s advice: all is tried-and-true, taken from long Catholic traditions of prayer and meditation, just re-packaged to make it appealing and fresh to contemporary readers.
This book has gotten kudos from people such as Jeff Cavins, Fr. Larry Richards, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, and others who will be familiar to most Catholic readers, and it deserves their praise. I think this book should get as warm a welcome from those experienced in meditative prayer as from those who feel that they should spend more time before the tabernacle but don’t quite know what to do when they get there. I know I will be getting lots of inspiration from 21 Ways to Worship — and I may even have to buy an extra copy for the narthex table.