What we’re reading this month: November 2023

The books U.S. Catholic writers have enjoyed this month, including “More Than I Imagined” and the “Liturgy and Life Study Bible.”
Arts & Culture

More Than I Imagined

By John Blake (Convergent Books, 2023)

As a veteran journalist, John Blake gives voice to the stories of Black people suffering from racism and violence. In More Than I Imagined, Blake offers his deepest and most involved story: his own.

Blake grew up in Baltimore, known for the devastating effects poverty and the drug trade have had on the Black community there. Blake’s father was a Black merchant sailor who spent months away from home, and his mother was a white woman who left when he was a child. For a biracial child, segregation existed not only outside of him but within. He experienced shame for being part white in a community that suffered due to systemic racism and because his mother had abandoned him.

Blake’s journey to healing began with Christ. Beginning in college, Blake met white Christians who loved him. This culminated in a multiracial church service in Atlanta that honored the worship practices of both white and Black people.

“I saw White, Black, and brown people hug and call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ after worship service,” he writes. “I sat in home Bible studies and held hands with White people while we prayed about our struggles. It marked the first time that I shared my fears and hopes with a White person.”


Blake discovered that when communities come together, stereotypes give way to radical acceptance: seeing the other not only as an equal but as one’s own family. Eventually, Blake was able to forgive his mother and her family and heal from his internal disintegration.

Blake’s journey echoes Pope Francis’ “culture of encounter,” which “returns to each person their dignity as children of God” by seeing others as Christ does. May Blake’s story encourage us to practice radical inclusivity with those who are different from us.

—Matt Kappadakunnel

Liturgy and Life Study Bible 

Edited by John W. Martens and Paul Turner (Liturgical Press, 2023) 

Since the Second Vatican Council 60 years ago, Catholics have placed greater emphasis on biblical literacy. Yet, as biblical scholar Timothy Milinovich writes in an article titled “The Basics of Biblical Literacy”: “The Christian canon of Scripture remains an unexplored mystery to many Catholics in America.” 


The Liturgy and Life Study Bible serves as a resource to help Catholics explore and appreciate the riches of scripture through the lens of the church’s liturgical practice. The study Bible includes the entire text of the Revised New American Bible and, like many study Bibles, also includes maps, explanatory notes, and commentaries on each book. 

However, this text is unique among study Bibles in that it also includes references showing where scripture passages are used in the three-year cycle of readings for Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Roman Gradual and Martyrology, and other rites and blessings. Moreover, the introductory essays by liturgical and biblical scholars further develop the relationship between the word of God and common prayer. As such, this resource strengthens readers’ understanding of the connection between liturgy and scripture. This reflects the truth stated in Verbum Domini (On the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church), Pope Benedict XVI’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation on how the Catholic Church should approach the Bible: The liturgy is “the privileged setting of the Word of God.”

The Liturgy and Life Study Bible will serve as a useful reference work for liturgists, liturgical musicians, preachers, catechists, and anyone else who serves as a minister of the word. It can also be a valuable guide for anyone seeking a deeper engagement with sacred scripture through the rich experience of the Catholic liturgy, as well as in personal meditation and prayer.

—Rhonda Miska


Briefly noted:

Rebellious Saints: Inspiring Stories for Young People

By Christian Linker (Paulist Press, 2023)

In this illustrated book, 22 saints tell their stories of how they fought injustice and shared God’s love in their time.

The Writing on the Wall: Signs of Faith Against Fascism

By Eric Martin (Wipf and Stock, 2023)

This book invites people of faith to imagine an antifascist counter-witness that does more than merely preach against hate in the face of rising fascism.

Ed Marciniak’s City and Church

By Charles Shanabruch (ACTA, 2023)

Chicagoan Ed Marciniak was a leader in Catholic social action, the fight for workers’ rights, civil rights, affordable housing, and more. This book explores how his actions continue to inform religious and public institutions.

This article also appears in the November 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 11, page 39). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.


About the author

Rhonda Miska

Rhonda Miska is a preacher, writer, spiritual director, and lay ecclesial minister currently based in Minneapolis. Read more of her work at rhondamiskaop.com.

About the author

Matt Kappadakunnel

Matt Kappadakunnel has a background in investment management and investment banking. He spent multiple years studying to be a Catholic priest and graduated from Creighton University. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

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