I love great books that lead me closer to God! My fondness for them is even greater when the books are penned by my friends here at CatholicMom.com. So you can imagine why I’m thrilled to tell you about a great new book from longtime CatholicMom.com contributor Ginny Kubitz Moyer. I invite you to sit in on my conversation with Ginny about her newest book Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses and urge you check out this book.
Q: Ginny, congratulations on the publication of your latest book Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses. It truly is an engaging and beautiful resource. Could you kindly reacquaint yourself and you family with our readers?
Thanks, Lisa! I’m a writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband Scott and my two young boys, Matthew and Luke. When I’m not writing I am teaching high school English (unless I’m on summer vacation, as I am now … aaahhh!).
I’m also a cradle Catholic who was lapsed in college, then came back about six years later. A large part of what drew me back was the sensual nature of Catholicism, which I got to see up-close when I lived abroad in my early twenties. Even though I wasn’t practicing my faith anymore, I kept feeling drawn to the churches of Paris. I’d often drop in and visit them, just to walk around. I was captivated by the sights and smells of those old, old churches. They ended up awakening a spiritual hunger I didn’t know I had.
One fascinating thing about Catholicism is that it is so grounded in the five senses. If you think about stained glass, music, incense, rosaries, crucifixes, the Eucharist, you can easily see how our worship and devotions involve seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting. We don’t have to retreat from the physical world to get close to God; instead, the five senses are entry points for God’s goodness to become known to us.
And this happens outside of church as well as inside. I’m a big fan of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, who had a very practical and grounded spirituality. He believed that God meets us where we already are, and that the small things that make up our daily lives – the sound of the birds, the blue of the sky, the smell of dinner cooking – are evidence of God’s presence and God’s love for us. The trick is to recognize them as such.
Q: The Examen is a core gift to this project. For readers who may not be familiar with this particular concept, please share a bit about the Examen. How can engaging our senses in the Examen be a gift to our prayer lives?
St. Ignatius taught others to pray a prayer called the Examen, which (in its most simplistic form) involves reviewing the past day and thinking about where you saw God in it. The idea I had for this book was to encourage this kind of prayer within the framework of the five senses.
The book has twenty-five chapters, and each chapter focuses on some experience of a particular sense – listening to a favorite song for hearing, paying attention to the colors around you for sight, praying the rosary for touch. Some of these chapters are reflections based on my own personal stories or the stories of others, while some are based in Scripture passages.
Following each chapter is an Examen-based prayer exercise that invites readers to review when and how they’ve experienced that particular thing, and invites them to reflect on how those experiences can be a window into understanding God. I’ve included several possible prayer prompts for each topic, so there is a lot of variety there (one reader called it a “Choose Your Own Adventure” approach to prayer, which I love).
Q: While this book is for adults, I think moms and dads can definitely employ some of these techniques to help their children more fully engage in prayer. As a mom, how have you used some of these types of prayer prompts with your sons? What’s the impact?
Focusing on the senses is a great conversation-starter and a super way to introduce gratitude. Just the other night at the dinner table, I asked everyone, “What’s one of your favorite smells? What’s one of your favorite things to eat? What is one of your favorite sounds?” It was fun to hear what the kids said (and what my husband said, too!). You can easily bring that conversation back to God – “When we enjoy those things, we’re enjoying God’s goodness. Let’s say thanks.”
Q: For the mom out there who is too exhausted to carve our prayer time, what words of encouragement can you give about finding the sublime in the ordinary and how that can lead us closer to God and one another?
That sounds familiar! I always seem to want more prayer time than I’m getting.
I think a lifesaver for the busy mom is the awareness that prayer doesn’t have to be a thing you formally set aside time to do. I think that I’m most spiritually grounded when I have a prayerful state of mind and consciously notice God’s presence as I go about my daily business. I can notice the beauty of the sky on the morning commute, or relish the taste of the coffee that my husband got up early to make, or take a moment and savor the voices of my kids as they play in the yard, voices which will change in the years ahead and won’t ever sound quite like this again. When you do that and consciously think about how God’s goodness is evident in those things, then you are living prayer … and that’s a great habit to cultivate. And St. Ignatius would approve.
Q: How can readers learn more about you and your work?
My website is RandomActsofMomness.com, where I blog weekly (ish). I’ve written two other books (Random MOMents of Grace and Mary and Me) and have contributed to a few others; you can find out more on my Amazon page.
Q: Ginny, thank you again for sharing your gifts with us and for this beautiful book! Are there any closing thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
I just want to say that we are so fortunate to have such a rich, vibrant, tangible faith. Life is a feast for the senses, and Catholicism is, too. No wonder I couldn’t stay away.
Copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey