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The Mindful Catholic Review: Mindful in an Authentically Catholic Way

the mindful catholic by gregory bottaro

It is like I was born again in the slowness of that hospital room. It was easy to be mindful and open and feel since the feelings were overwhelming and could easily swallow me up. Of late, away from crisis, as work increases and volunteer opportunities arise revealing to me the tribe to which I belong, I learned about Dr. Bottaro’s book. I first thought, “I write about that all the time, this could be helpful for my writing.” Then, second and more sheepishly, “I probably need that.”

It is a self-help book, a how-to book in the practice of mindfulness, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.

My life is no longer the slow-pace waiting for my baby to wake up, but a wide array of choices I can make. Coming to Chapter Four, “Telling Ourselves Stories,” I felt he was speaking to me. It feels like time and schedules drag me along, especially on the weekends. Overwhelmed, my life feels cluttered and fractured and never quite enough.

What am I missing?

Prayer and attendance to the present moment.

But Is It Really Catholic?

I think The Mindful Catholic may be one of the best non-fiction books I have read. The theology is sound and used to a purpose. For those Christians uncomfortable with now-common practices that have their origin in Eastern spirituality, Bottaro astutely defends a unique Christian tradition behind the mindfulness practice.

The introduction, a little longer than expected, lays an important foundation to introduce the reader to mindfulness. “Mindfulness is awareness of the present moment, God is the present moment. He defined himself as ‘I am who am.’ God sees all as a present moment, and it is our goal to see as he sees.”

Dr. Gregory Botarro earned his degree at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, now Divine Mercy University, where I also studied. DMU approaches psychology in a revolutionary way, integrating theology, philosophy, and psychology, bringing in professors who are experts in their fields. Bottaro utilizes the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person (CCMMP).

This approach is the foundation and strengthens everything he has to say.

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What I Thought of The Mindful Catholic 

Like a good psychologist and therapist, Bottaro provides clear and concise summaries, in the beginning, of what we will learn, and as the chapters roll on, periodically of what we have learned. I like this technique as it grounds the learning process.

The author introduces himself and his credentials to the reader. Throughout the book, we gradually learn who Bottaro is, some of his habits (he hates traffic), about his wife’s labor and delivery (she is amazing), and in (my opinion) the best chapter on acceptance, about the tragic circumstances this young professional faced in his family. He makes it clear he practices (and needs) this thing of mindfulness he preaches.

There are certain analogies and explanations therapists will use again and again. I feel Bottaro is walking us down a well-worn path, one he knows well. His examples are clear. His analogies accomplish their goal of illustrating points in a thorough way. Bottaro does not waste words. I do not want an author to be my buddy. I bristle a little when writers refer to me as “friend” because it takes a lot to earn my trust as friend. An author should teach me something.

How to Be Mindful of God in the Present Moment

The practices begin in the traditional exercises of mindfulness and then develop into something wholly unique bringing in the core concept of mercy while staying true to the parameters of the psychological process. It is written from a Catholic perspective, but not a book about Catholicism.

In every chapter, Bottaro lays the foundation with Catholic thought. He identifies obstacles that may arise and lends a hand to the reader to approach those obstacles, offering them a better way than the one our defenses may have formed.

He wisely repeats concepts again and again. Throughout the day, I catch myself calling me back to the present moment with my children, “doing versus being,” I say inside myself. And I look at them and attend to them in the way in which I have fallen short of late.

Mindfulness in the Big Moments

When Bottaro comes to Chapter Five, “Acceptance,” his writing comes alive. The previous personal anecdotes might have been removed without too much impact, but as he tells the story of his mother’s death, Bottaro begins to write with passion and exhortation. He describes acceptance and you know he has felt it.

I have felt it, too.

“The path of acceptance is the one you walk with peace, but peace does not mean the alleviation of suffering…”

“This awareness will certainly take in painful realities, but it will also keep you open to seeing the deep beauty that lies inherently in all of life.”

Bottaro wisely visits the importance of mindfulness in natural childbirth. Even though it holds brief focus, a book on mindfulness would be incomplete without it.

As soon as I finished The Mindful Catholic, I wanted to pick it up again and dive deeper. I picked up this book for its usefulness to my profession but found in it a treasure for my heart. My plan is, now, to go back through it and practice the exercises after each chapter. I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

Further Reading from Dr. Bottaro!

If you loved The Mindful Catholic, you’ll want to check out the newest book from Dr. Bottaro and his wife, Barbra, called Sitting Like a Saint. In a busy world, we’re all looking for things that can make our lives simpler and less stressful. Mindfulness is a scientifically proven way to do it.

In this new book, the Bottaro’s offer easy tips and tricks, and introduce you and the kids to some of the great Saints of the Catholic Faith, helping your children to not only use mindfulness to enhance learning at school and at home, but become happier while doing it.

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Kathryn Anne Casey is a graduate of Divine Mercy University, freelance writer, housewife, and mother of four children. Her weekly newspaper column “Here’s to the Good Life!” and blog focus on art, psychology, consumerism and the importance of local community. Find out more about her here.

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Jacinta Gundrum
    August 6, 2018 at 4:59 am

    Eeek! I’m pretty sure Connie Rossini has debunked Dr. Bottoro’s arguments. You should really check her arguments out.

    • Reply
      Kathryn Anne Casey
      August 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      Jacinta, most of the arguments I see against this book stem from a belief that Dr. Bottaro is presenting mindfulness is an exercise in prayer. It is a psychological exercise that does not ignore our spiritual element. So the activity is training our mind to be able to focus (a skill we are losing in this culture). It would be bizarre and alarming if someone were encouraging us to pray to focus on a raisin! That is not what Dr. Bottaro is doing, instead, this is a form of training the mind to focus better and engage with our environment using our senses.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    January 13, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    I’m with Jacinta and Connie on this one! There are so many solidly Catholic books on prayer why why why delve into something whose roots are not based in Christian tradition ESPECIALLY when it comes to something so important as our prayer lives ???
    Sorry for being so blunt but souls are at stake !

  • Reply
    Ellen
    April 9, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    I am and have been an orthodox Catholic my entire life, and nothing in the world to me is as precious and beautiful. I desire to be a great saint someday! But, I have experienced trauma in my life, to the point that it has become crippling. The Mindful Catholic has opened healing in my brain in new ways from the trauma (learn more about how the brain heals from trauma, which is by making sense of your story and creating new neurons, aka, you do this by integrating your mind in memories in a way similar to mindfulness) and has actually helped me so much in prayer. Most days, my brain has been overwhelmed to the point of physically hurting, because of some of the trauma in the depths of my mind. But, now with the help of the Mindful Catholic, I am able to think a little bit more clearly and actually welcome the Divine Healer into those places of trauma, so He can make me whole again. I encourage people who are wary to 1) research what awareness is, 2) study how the brain heals from trauma (which, might I say, is a blessing and gift that God gave us minds who know how to heal themselves after traumatic situations!) and 3) just read the introduction of the book. By using the habits of this book, Jesus has become even more alive in me, and has brought color back into my life. My heart is bursting with joy, hope and love for Him and the way He heals us. The Mindful Catholic is merely a tool allowing the Divine Healer to work.

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