Young authors aim to help peers cope, deepen their faith

By Trista Turley

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — New pocket-size books by two young Catholic authors are aimed at helping their peers put their faith into action and find answers to problems in prayer.

The first book, “The Radical Bible” by Kevin Ahern, is a compilation of scriptural passages, statistics and commentary by Catholic and non-Catholic contemporary thinkers. The selections address poverty, oppression and other major social issues the global community is currently facing.

“Keeping the Faith: Prayers for College Students” by Kerry Weber is a compilation of prayers designed to help college students cope with a variety of challenges ranging from homesickness to difficulties with a roommate.

Ahern, former president of the International Movement of Catholic Students, said he intends his book to be “a tool for personal and group reflection for those seeking to respond to God’s radical call for reflection and action in the world.” His book is a revision of a 1972 release of the same title.

Ahern told Catholic News Service that he received a copy of the original while working in Rome. He said the book — which like his was published by Orbis — served as a source of inspiration to him while he traveled with the student movement, but he felt that it could be improved to resonate with modern-day readers.

His version is “very, very different from (the original,)” Ahern said in a phone interview. “I tried to add other quotes and other dimensions from Scripture that were more spiritual in nature.”

Ahern hopes that the use of widely resonating Scripture passages will unite Catholics in spirituality-based reflection and social action.

“One of the big problems in the church today is polarization between those concerned with social justice and those concerned with spirituality,” he stated. “I think Scripture provides a common ground.”

In selecting which social issues to address in the book, Ahern said he wanted to focus on global affairs rather than interpersonal issues. “I wanted to address the issues that are affecting the entire human family,” he said. “I also wanted to avoid getting into issues that would be too political in a sense.”

In addition to addressing social issues with broad, global implications, Ahern said he focused on featuring quotes from a diverse group of great thinkers.

“We can learn from people from other faith traditions, not just non-Catholics, but also non-Christians,” he stated. Ahern’s book features commentary by Pope Benedict XVI, Blessed Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh among many others.

Ahern told CNS he hopes the combination of profound scriptural excerpts and thought-provoking commentary will inspire readers to work for social justice and become more actively engaged in their faith. “The Bible isn’t just speaking to us in Mass and prayer,” he said, “but also in how we live.”

Ahern has worked on social justice issues for the United Nations and several Catholic nongovernmental organizations. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in theological ethics at Jesuit-run Boston College.

Weber said she wrote “Keeping the Faith: Prayers for College Students,” published by Twenty-Third Publications, while she was working as an editor for Catholic Digest magazine. She said the concept of the prayer compilation originated as a group idea.

“We were looking to reach out to different age groups and thought this was a good idea (for college students),” Weber told CNS in a phone interview.

Weber said that she was chosen to write the book because she was only a few years removed from being a college student.

Her co-workers at Catholic Digest aided in the book’s development by brainstorming prayer topics relevant to college students, but all the prayers in the book are her own original compositions. She said her writing was influenced by her own college experiences.

“I looked through some of my journals, some old photos and I tried to think about those experiences and what I was going through,” Weber stated. “I really tried to draw from those experiences.”

“Going through college for me was one of the first times that I was truly making decisions on my own to go to church, or to pray, or to really live my faith,” she said.

Weber believes that college is a pivotal period of faith formation for many students. “It’s a time when a lot of people are questioning and growing and deciding what they truly believe,” she stated.

Weber graduated from Dominican-run Providence College in Rhode Island in 2004. This book is the first of what she hopes will be multiple published works. “I would love to publish another book for sure,” she stated.

Editor’s Note: “The Radical Bible” can be purchased online for $12 at www.orbisbooks.com. “Keeping the Faith: Prayers for College Students” can be purchased online for $6.95 at www.23rdpublications.com. Shipping and handling are extra.

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