What we’re reading this month: February 2024

The books U.S. Catholic writers have enjoyed this month, including “(R)evolutionary Hope” and “Sacred Self-Care.”
Arts & Culture

(R)evolutionary Hope

By Kathleen Bonnette (Cascade Books, 2023)

In his Confessions, St. Augustine famously asks, “What do I love when I love my God?” It seems a strange question. Some might say, “I love God!”—which is a circular response. This is the question that Kathleen Bonnette digs into in (R)evolutionary Hope: A Spirituality of Encounter and Engagement in an Evolving World. A loved one’s mental health crisis prompted Bonnette, an adjunct lecturer in theology at Georgetown University, to explore this and other related questions. Bonnette’s loved one believed God “was demanding retribution to punish her for her sins.”

How do we relate to God? How do we relate to one another in spiritually healthy ways? What is the purpose of our existence, and is heaven our only goal? “Can we eliminate dualism and hierarchy without undermining our tradition?” Bonnette asks. She believes we can, she says, “if we remain open to the transformative grace of conversion.”

Conversion is the overarching theme of Bonnette’s work, and she looks at it from many angles, starting with Augustine’s journey out of Manicheism. “The ethic that emerges from Augustine is one of ordered priorities within relationships,” Bonnette observes, and the way forward in intellectual conversion is recognizing our own limitations. Preconceived biases can make us incapable of perceiving truth, including truths others must live with, such as the obstacles created by systemic racism. Seeking intellectual conversion by questioning our own unawareness is part of the journey forward.

What we strive for, Bonnette concludes, is wholeness, “the fullness of the cosmic Christ.” This is what can pull us away from a hyper self-focus that blocks out the lived experiences of other human beings and into the work that’s necessary to transform for God and neighbor the world in which we live.


—Michelle Arnold

Sacred Self-Care

By Chanequa Walker-Barnes (HarperOne, 2023)

Self-care consists of “the practices we engage in to develop and nurture ourselves as beings who are beautifully and wonderfully created by God in God’s own image and likeness,” writes Chanequa Walker-Barnes in the introduction to this seven-week devotional. She describes self-care as “both a divine right and a sacred obligation” that is connected to Christian discipleship and offers a corrective to commercialized, individualistic approaches to self-care.

Walker-Barnes writes out of her own identities: a Black woman in the South living amid a resurgence of white nationalism; a clinical psychologist; a professor of practical theology and pastoral care; a spouse; a mother; and a two-time breast cancer survivor. Throughout the text she tells her own story of developing rhythms of self-care in response to stress.

Emphasizing the unity of the human person and the reality that no spiritual life exists divorced from the body, Walker-Barnes invites reflection on how habits around sleep, hydration, social media usage, and other “mundane” concerns intersect with discipleship.


Each of the 50 daily reflections includes a scripture verse, short reading, and practice. Each week also includes a longer devotional offering an overview of that week’s focus, a prayer, the text of a hymn from the African American Heritage Hymnal, and a benediction. The book concludes with an inventory on self-care practices and a guide to creating one’s own self-care rule of life.

The practical, accessible devotional is grounded in liberation theology. This book will serve any Christian looking to develop holistic self-care practices. It will be of particular interest to those seeking a balance between serving others and prioritizing their own well-being.

—Rhonda Miska

Briefly noted:

Psalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation as Told through Hip-Hop

By Lenny Duncan (Broadleaf Books, 2024)

Duncan treats the work of hip-hop artists from the last several decades like sacred scripture, their songs and lyrics illustrated and interpreted to tell the story of Black liberation in the United States.


The Cancer Factory: Industrial Chemicals, Corporate Deception, and the Hidden Deaths of American Workers

By Jim Morris (Beacon Press, 2024)

Morris tells the story of workers at a Goodyear Tire plant who experienced one of the nation’s worst outbreaks of work-related cancer.

A Generous Lap: A Spirituality of Grandparenting

By Kathy Coffey (Orbis Books, 2023)

Coffey reflects on the spiritual dimensions of grandparenting and how this stage of life can lead to growth and transformation.

This article also appears in the February 2024 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 89, No. 2, 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

Michelle Arnold

Michelle Arnold is a freelance writer and editor, who blogs for Patheos.com. She lives near San Diego, California.

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