As most of you know, I'm a devout fan of the Jewish roots of our Catholic faith and share my enthusiasm with you in my "Our Jewish Roots" articles found here, usually twice a month, on Catholic Exchange. So, you can only imagine my joy when I discovered some of the works of Meredith Gould, a self-proclaimed "Jew in identity, Christian in faith, and Catholic in practice." Meredith clearly is my kind of gal and it was with great anticipation that I ordered a copy of Come to the Table: A Catholic Passover Seder for Holy Week. After a few emails back and forth with Dr. Gould, sharing a common passion for His Passion, Meredith providentially included a copy of The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day. So I began reading both, quite simultaneously, the Saturday morning of their arrival, and was unable to put either down until they were both finished late Sunday evening.
Let me begin by saying that I have never been more entertained in learning how to flesh out my faith than by these writings. For me, they will proudly take a place on my shelves alongside many other wonderful books that have blessed my life as a Catholic. What endeared me to Dr. Gould's work was the way in which she could evoke fond memories of my Polish Catholic grandmother's home altar, ablaze with lit candles and statues of the Infant of Prague (with outfits, as Meredith points out). What a contrast with my own meager upbringing in the faith, sadly enough my mother's intentional statement against the life she led in the early 50's, including a daily rosary hour during which, she now confesses, the one prayer in her heart was that the phone wouldn't ring and be for her. Meredith's writing is so honest, so insightful, and yet full of reverence, awe, and, of course, some great suggestions! She allows you to embrace your own Catholic identity with a renewed sense of value for what it is while encouraging you to be all that you can be as a Catholic. And, not coincidentally, reminding you that it can be fun along the way.
As we are in the midst of Lent, I want to begin with Come to the Table: A Catholic Passover Seder for Holy Week. This book is for any person who has ever longed to experience, more intimately, a relationship with Christ by experiencing His last supper. A Holy Thursday Catholic Passover is the ideal conclusion to the beauty of weekly Stations of the Cross as our eyes shift their focus from His passion to His resurrection. Meredith uses a fun, conversational tone as she explains preparing the Jewish home and the significance of everything on the Seder plate. You cannot help but be fascinated with these things that were both part of Christ's life and the focal point of His death.
Although my own many Pesach dinners were quite a bit different from Meredith's — her household didn't read Hebrew and the families with whom I celebrated were all from Israel — my heart was nonetheless flooded with warm memories as I read this book. Not only does Meredith provide some great explanations of the Jewish Seder, she then provides a Catholic way in which to experience these same traditions. For instance, Dr. Gould lays out the order of a Catholic Passover Seder which begins with Kiddush (The Cup of Sanctification) and includes, among other things, blessing the greens (Karpas), blessing the bitter herbs (Moror), and ends with Nirtzeh (Our Cup of Salvation). Come to the Table offers a unique, even perfect, way to celebrate Holy Week as a Catholic family within your own home or, if you are feeling ambitious, a wonderful tradition to bring to your parish. Come to the Table is a fantastic tool in drawing us all back to Christ and the heritage we have in Him.
As I mentioned, I read The Catholic Home while I read through Come to the Table. I know, I know, it's a habit I have. I never have less than three books going at once and these two from Meredith really worked well together. I also always have a fiction book, written by a Catholic author, on my nightstand as I am anxious to see our world embrace these works. Anyhow, what I enjoyed about The Catholic Home was, again, Meredith's easy, conversational tone. If you are someone who prefers a more academic approach or tone to your non-fiction literature, this might not be for you. However, having said that, I would highly encourage you to give Dr. Gould's work a try because you will find that it is in her occasional irreverence that there is great reverence. It is in her friendly style that you will find a friend in Christ. One of the things that struck me about this book was it is truly jam-packed with all sorts of information. Are you looking for something on All Souls Day? This book gives you a bit of information, an excerpt from the Catechism and a beautiful insight into Mexican tradition. Need to remind yourself why Ordinary Time in the liturgical year is not so ordinary? Dr. Gould shares her personal thoughts on that in a way that makes you say, "Hmmm…I like that…I think I will do a better job of embracing this "down time." The Catholic Home is sure to complement any of your other Catholic resource books in a new and exciting way. Meredith will make you think, smile, and nod your head in agreement as you consider how very blessed you are to be a Catholic.
I have Meredith's site posted on the book review link at www.bezalelbooks.com. While her books are available on Amazon, why not visit her site and order your own autographed copy of either or both books? What a great gift for someone's Easter basket. And, as I'm sure Meredith would point out, it's a whole lot less fattening than chocolate!