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.
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.
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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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