Open Book: the overflowing bookshelf

Something about winter makes my To Be Read list grow by leaps and bounds. Despite being an avid hiker, I was unwilling to go outside during a recent record-setting cold snap. I used the time to dive into some of the books that have been waiting patiently for me.

book cover "Father Augustus Tolton" by Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers

At last year’s Catholic Writers Guild conference, I had the chance to meet Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers and pick up his book Father Augustus Tolton: the Slave Who Became the First African-American Priest. Designated “Venerable” by Pope Francis a couple of years ago, Fr. Tolton’s is a story of persistence and faith against obstacles higher than anything I’ve ever faced. The book contains biographical information, but is not strictly a biography. Its story is of faith, applied faith, and it challenges me as a Catholic reader to question how I’m nurturing and applying my own faith.

Walking is my exercise, discipline, and delight. I love being on a trail pretty much anytime of year. I like reading about other walkers’ adventures. But how to walk? Don’t I know that already? Annabel Sheets wrote 52 Ways to Walk as if to say “here. Learn something.” She invites readers to use their senses along the way, listen to the sounds of each environment, sing while walking, walk a “ley line” (a new term for me). She calls her book “my love letter to walking.” It’s fun and it gives me new ideas.

Book cover "The Revolutionary Samuel Adams" by Stacy Schiff

I’m taking the time for a hefty biography of The Revolutionary Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff. It’s time I learned more about this man’s role in our nation’s founding.

My own book, my first one, came out a few weeks ago: Pro-Life Journeys. It’s a weird feeling to be the author rather than the reader! I like hearing readers’ reactions to the book. We’ve had some good conversations, and I hope many more are ahead.

Open Book is a blog roundup hosted by My Scribbler’s Heart and Catholic Mom.

“Get right in there!”

Lobbying’s behind me, but civic engagement isn’t. I keep track of what my state legislature is doing and not doing on things like the right to life. A few days hence – when I’ll be away, as it happens – there will be seven hearings over two days on relevant bills.

Part of the work I do is to inform and encourage people who are concerned about human dignity, but who are still learning how to put that concern into public policy action. I sat down yesterday to write about the seven hearings – seven, when it can be a challenge to get people to turn out for even one.

Should I bother? I’m called to say Yes, whether I see results or not.

I keep in mind something Pope Francis said in 2015 in one of his unscripted moments. He was speaking to Catholic laity in Rome for a conference. From Carol Glatz of NCR Online:

Catholics must get involved in politics even if it may be “dirty,” frustrating and fraught with failure, Pope Francis said. Given today’s “throwaway” culture and so many problems unfolding in the world, “Do I as a Catholic watch from my balcony? No, you can’t watch from the balcony. Get right in there!” he said.

One man asked how to keep strong the link between faith in Jesus and the responsibility of building a more just and caring world.

Christians have a duty to work for the common good in the world of politics, the pope said, adding that that does not mean forming a Catholic political party.

“That is not the way. The church is the community of Christians who adore the Father, follow the way of the Son and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not a political party,” he said.

However, individual Catholics must get involved and “embroiled” in politics, he said, because it is one of the “highest forms of charity” since it seeks the common good.

NCR Online, 5/1/15, accessed 2/4/23

Embroiled. Perfect term for how it sometimes feels for a lay Catholic to step up and testify in front of people who just don’t want to hear it, even though they were elected to listen.

So yes, I’ll write about seven hearings for the readers who ask me what’s happening at the State House. Those are the people who’ll take the information and “get right in there,” urging representatives to do the right things, in season and out of season.

“Pro-Life Journeys” news

A few promotional notes: Pro-Life Journeys is an Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal until 2/7/23: 99 cents for the e-book. And if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you already have access to the e-book via your Amazon account.

cover of book "Pro-Life Journeys" by Ellen Kolb, showing seaside path with trees

I published Pro-Life Journeys a few weeks ago in a so-called “soft launch,” but it felt pretty intense for this first-time author! It’s been great to meet interested readers and to share the stories from Pro-Life Journeys about some of the remarkable people I’ve met in the course of my work.

The paperback version is available on Amazon along with the e-book. Readers in my area can also get the paperback directly from me, with a quantity discount not available on Amazon: two or more copies (purchased at the same time) for $6 each. You can contact me using the form on the home page of this blog.

There’s no formal book tour, but I’ve been delighted to accept invitations from local friends to speak about the book. The result is always good conversation. Pictured below: a visit to my community TV studio for an interview by neighbor and legislator Jeanine Notter.

Discussing “Pro-Life Journeys” with Jeanine Notter on “Chattin’ With Jeanine,” Merrimack TV