My name is Barb, and I’m addicted to tips. Hand me a magazine and I’ll flip through to any helpful-hints article I can find. I have (physical and virtual) folders filled with cooking tips, tricks for kitchen organization, and strategies for keeping the laundry clean. And that’s before you count in the hacks I’ve been collecting lately, all related to making sure my teenager, who has type 1 diabetes, stays as healthy as possible.
Patti Maguire Armstrong’s new book fills in a gap in my tips-and-tricks collection, a gap I didn’t even realize was there. Holy Hacks: Everyday ways to live your faith & get to heaven (Ave Maria Press) is packed with hundreds of do-able ways to grow in holiness.
The author has done her research far and wide: from family customs to papal encyclicals (as far back as the 15th century!) to her own friends to Catholics in the media to Scripture and the saints and more, Patti Maguire Armstrong’s collection of tips truly has something for everyone.
Think of it as a cookbook. You don’t thumb through the pages feeling overwhelmed because you don’t have time to make every recipe. Instead, you find things that grab your attention, things that you would like to make. The key is to do everything in love, for and with Jesus, and in his name. (5-6)
Since I love to cook, I found this comparison spot-on. While it’s fine to read Holy Hacks from start to finish, you might get more out of it if you start at chapter 1, then skip around to the sections you feel you most need at the moment. Like your favorite cookbook, this handbook should be easy to reach when you need it for quick reference.
This book is filled with tips, but it’s not simply bullet point after bullet point. Sections of tips are interspersed with introductions of the people whose tips are offered here, explanations of virtue, and information about Catholic practices, which makes for fascinating reading.
Here’s a sampling of tips, one from each chapter, that I’ve already found myself doing or want to do more:
Chapter 1: Living the Holy Hack Life
Multitask with inspirational music, podcasts, or Catholic radio while folding laundry and doing other mundane tasks.
I’m on it! I particularly enjoy the Catholic Momcast, Among Women with Pat Gohn, Girlfriends with Danielle Bean, and Clerically Speaking.
Chapter 2: Holy Hacks for Humility
Resolve to compliment at least one person every day. Especially compliment people in conversation with others when they aren’t even present.
I have a friend who is fabulous at this; it seems to be in her nature never to leave a conversation without complimenting someone. I definitely want to follow her example.
Chapter 3: Hacks for Holy Relationships
Sacrifice your own preferences for someone else’s.
(This one would build humility too, I think!)
Chapter 4: Holy Prayer Hacks
Sing a hymn.
I do this! Singing is one of my favorite ways to pray.
Chapter 5: Holy Hacks for Spiritual Protection
Use prayers of spiritual protection such as St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.
I would like to memorize St. Patrick’s Breastplate this year. I already keep a little St. Michael statue on my desk to remind me to pray that prayer at least once a day (he’s pictured above).
Chapter 6: Holy Hacks for Evangelizing
Use social media not only to send messages and articles but also to engage with people. On Facebook, don’t unfriend people with anti-Catholic views. Ask them questions, express your views calmly, and pray for them. Be respectful and insist on the same.
Do the people who follow you on social media know you’re Catholic? Are you witnessing for the faith on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? I love these tips for using those platforms in a positive way.
Chapter 7: Holy Hacks Against Gossip
Before you open your mouth to gossip, stop and imagine you were the subject of the news you are tempted to reveal.
What a great strategy, and one you can also teach to your children.
Chapter 8: Holy Hacks from Catholics in the Media
I keep a little notebook on my nightstand for prayer requests and then ask Our Lady every morning to intercede “for all the intentions in my notebook.” When I run out of space, I buy a new one and on the first line write, “All of the intentions in my previous notebooks.” (Susan Brinkmann, OCDS, of Women of Grace)
Terrific tip! I have been looking for a way to organize prayer intentions and this seems perfect. I particularly like that you don’t have to have some kind of perfect system. You just start right now, and keep on going.
Chapter 9: Holy Hacks for Lent
Abstain from something at each meal. It could be mustard on your sandwich, the main course, French fries, salad dressing … just something that is a sacrifice. St. Francis de Sales advised people never to leave the table without having refused themselves something.
This is a great example of those little, silent sacrifices that can add up. I’d add: offer the sacrifice for a particular prayer intention.
Chapter 10: Holy Hacks for Christmas, Easter, and Other Holidays
Don’t put baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas morning.
Who should read this book?
Anyone! Holy Hacks will inspire people with families as well as singles, and most tips are appropriate for people of any age.
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Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
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