Welcome to the Behind the Catholic Counter podcast. I’m Ian Rutherford, president of aquinasandmore.com. I interview catholic authors, publishers and manufacturers to give you the latest news about great new catholic books and gifts. You can listen to this and past episodes at aquinasandmore.com/podcast.
Before we get to this weeks interview, I wanted to mention two new books that you’re going to want to check out. The first is Redeemed by Grace from Ignatius Press, this is the heart wrenching but redemptive story of Ramona Treviño, a former planned parenthood worker who had a reversion to the catholic faith, and is now an international pro life speaker. The second is Hints of Heaven written by Father George Rutler and published by Sophia Institute Press. Father Rutler takes the deceptively simple stories in the parables, and delves into their deeper meaning.
Since Lent is almost here I also wants to highlight our Stations of the Cross chaplet made by a friend of ours right here in Colorado. Help her put her kids through college and get a special devotion for Lenten reflection. All of these gifts can be found at Aquinas and More.
If you haven’t send up for Brandon Vogt’s email list for addicted readers like me, you really should take a look at catholicbookdeals.com. Every week Brandon shares information on catholic book specials from all over the internet. You will usually find some from us in there as well.
Alright, lets go on with our interview, stay tuned afterwords for a special on our interview topic.
Ian: Today I am joined by Rita Ford, she has written a retreat guide and study guide for the book I Believe in Love, a personal retreat based on the teaching of Saint Therese of Lisieux from Sophia Institute Press. Thank you for joining me on the show today Rita.
Rita: Thank you Ian, thanks for having me.
Ian: My wife and I are both big fans of Saint Therese, we opened our store on October 1st and have always looked for roses as signs when we’re trying to discern things and my wife has a particular to devotion to her. When I showed her the book I Believe in Love she was really excited about it and now that there’s this whole study program that you came up with, we think this is just great. Can you tell us a little bit about your interest in Saint Therese and how you came to write these books?
Rita: Sure sure, I’m a Catholic wife and mother of four children, of varying ages between 11 and 22. A stay at home mom and have been involved a lot in my kids’ Catholic school education and volunteering here and there and a few years back I was the president of the Parents Teacher Club at our elementary school, and before i’d have started in my term I thought, you know we really should have a patron saint for our organization and in the next moment I knew it needs to be Saint Therese because of her little way and doing small things for great love and that’s really what volunteers of the school do,
Ian: hahaha! definitely
Rita: a lot of helping out here and there and just doing it because we love our children and we love our school and, so you know that was sort of the first step and so then I told our pastor and principal and they thought it was great. Then a couple of weeks later my pastor pulled me aside and said “you are never going believe this, someone said they wanted to donate a statue of Saint Therese to our parish” and you know we thought that was pretty cool on that, that you know these were signs that Saint Therese wanted to be part of things that our school, and so we went on and we have tried to put Saint Therese in activities at the school and tried to just put her, her phrase “doing small things with great love” around the, on the newsletter and just trying to incorporate that and a couple of years ago, my son- my oldest son, who is a senior at Franciscan University, he gave me the books for Christmas, I Believe in Love. I’d never seen it before and never read it before, and started reading it but by the second chapter, I just knew that there had to be a study and knew that i was the one to write it and I was supposed to start leading groups at the school for parents and it just came to me like a bolt, just like that and so I gathered a group of friends together and I said “I have this idea. Would you come along with me?” and they were sort of my guinea pigs, and we got together every week and they would read a chapter and I would halfway through the week email out questions and we would get together and that group of women turned out to be the perfect group. They all loved Therese and they all got something out of it and they all fed each other and it was really a Holy Spirit experience, you know, a real blessing. And so we went on and they agreed that they would lead groups at the school. Each of them did that and it grew from there.
The next thing I knew, my sister who is a Catholic writer and blogger, she was at a homeschooling conference. She asked if I see people from Sophia Institute Press – they are the publisher of I Believe in Love – so I said “yeah okay” and the next thing I knew I’m getting emailed, you know by the president of the publishing company and he asked can you send a copy and I think within 24 hours of that we had a deal. Therese has been leading me every step of the way, putting all of those people in my path and when I didn’t know what to do next, you know somebody would come knocking on my door. It’s been amazing. She really wants this out there. And there are people who have been to this study who, who just are sure that its change their lives and,
Ian: Oh fantastic.
Rita: yeah that she, you know Therese was so wonderful, so joyful, so humble, and she presents the gospel in a way that, we can relate to, because she speaks like a child and she behaves like a child and her trust in love and simplicity and we can all relate to that, its been a great eye opener for lots and lots of people.
Ian: Alright so tell me about the book I Believe in Love, what was it that drew you to this book and, what is this book like, is it based on the Story of a Soul, what is this book?
Rita: It was written by a French priest in 1969 I believe, and it reads to me like, it’s my understanding that this priest would present retreats and pull into the retreats the theology of Saint Therese. So the book is not about her life, it’s really her theology and, and so while you read the book it really feels like it’s very sequential in terms of what you learn this week, is built upon what you learn the week before and it’s a you know it’s kind of a nice slow journey towards a deeper understanding of that all the way through the book drawing on Therese and her theology and just how beautiful it is.
Ian: Now instead of chapters it’s arranged as conferences. Was this originally a series of lecture or retreats before it was put in a book?
Rita: I think it was- Yes I think it was, i think it was, I think it was a retreat, I don’t know that’s for sure but it- that’s the way it reads to me and that’s based on the information that i can find. I think these were like segments of a retreat each conference.
Ian: So going through this you have different sections, humble confidence, abandonment to Jesus, eternal charity, the cross, the Eucharist, which of these sections was your favorite in going through this book?
Rita: Well, funny that you know, I would say humble confidence because that’s where, that is the conference that I was reading when I knew I had to do something like this. But there’s a joke among the people who were in my many groups now and everyone laughs because every week when we come together I’d say, oh this is my favorite chapter. Humble confidence was the one that took my breath away and was the moment I knew, okay this needs to get out there. People need to hear this and read this and apply this to their lives.
Ian: What is humble confidence? It’s almost a contradiction terms it sounds like.
Rita: It is, it is and this is kind of funny, you know it’s about her theology about being small and putting your self last but at the same time doing it, knowing that being confident that God will take care of you that you don’t need to wave your hands around and get attention all the time because God knows who you are and what you’re doing at all times. It’s not always important for you to be first. You know she put herself last all the time. But knowing, having that confidence that God is with you and knows you and loves you and knows what’s in your heart. It gives you a relief to be – to be last, it’s not a punishment to be last it’s a beautiful thing to let others go first and to let others shine and stay in the background of ourselves. Not that we always have to do that, sometimes we are meant to be in the front, sometimes were meant to be the spokesperson or the leader but we don’t always have to be. It’s counter cultural, really because we’re taught with this to promote ourselves so much.
Ian: Oh it’s definitely a celebrity culture.
Rita: Yeah, that’s for sure but there is value in being the one behind the scenes and there is value in not calling attention to yourself, because you don’t need to in God’s eyes. He knows what you are doing. He knows that He’s going to take care of you and He knows what’s on your heart.
Ian: So if somebody wants to take part in this retreat and use the study guide in such, what is the structure like for a parish? How does it work? How long do you meet together? How does this all work?
Rita: Well here’s what I recommend. This is what I’ve been doing. There are ten chapters in the book so we do it as a ten week program and a group study. So ideally you have a – you know somewhere between six and ten people in a group, one of them designated as a leader and there’s a leader’s guide that goes with it so you don’t to have to have been through the program or even have read the book to lead the discussion. Everything is in there to lead a meeting. So ten weeks and about an hour and a half each time. We’re starting a group at our parish where we have a seminarian on our staff right now and he’s going to lead several groups together and he will give a little talk at the beginning of each session before each of the small groups break out. So they can be done in many settings with multiple small groups going at once or just small groups meeting at the parish or in people’s homes. My son led a group in his dorm room at Franciscan. So you had a bunch of guys sitting around discussing St. Therese.
Ian: So this is for everybody, it isn’t just a Bible study for women or anything like that, it’s for anybody
Rita: It is, not it’s not we have a group of a couples go through it, we have a group of senionr citizens at our parish going through it, and it was lovely to see those people because these are faithful loving Catholics who know their faith and know Therese and they were just so blown away by it. They were hearing things through Therese’s voice that they hadn’t heard in that way before. It’s not so much new information, it’s just a new presentation of the gospel, in a way that is just beautiful and joyful and accessible.
Ian: So if somebody is thinking about doing this and they’re saying- “Well I’m not sure I’m spiritually there. Saint Therese, she’s pretty impressive, doctor of the church and all that. I’m not sure that spiritually I’m ready to jump into this.” What would you say to them?
Rita: I would say “Don’t be afraid.” I would say that in my experience I’ve had people go through the program who have a great theology background alongside people who can’t really even tell you very much at all about their faith, who are not really active and attending mass regularly and all of people in between, and all of them have gotten things out of the study. It meets you right where you are – like I’ve said, very accessible and it calls you to make a change in your life. At the end of each conference there is a weekly challenge. They’re simple things but it causes you to think about what you’re doing throughout the week and how you can infuse holiness into your life, right where you are as you are driving a carpool, you know at your desk at work or on campus that you can put holiness into your lives. It’s very accessible information and so no matter what level you are spiritually, if you haven’t put much into your spiritual life in a long time, this is for you. And if you feel like you have exhausted all the resources you can out there for your spirituality, this is for you too because she present everything in such a fresh way a beautiful way of looking at the gospel. So I would encourage anybody to do this and don’t be afraid that it’s above you, that it’s too intellectual for you because it isn’t.
Ian: Now as far as being a leader for a retreat I Believe in Love, what do you recommend for somebody who is considering leading this in their parish if they haven’t actually been able to do a retreat with you or with somebody who’s done this before?
Rita: Well there’s a Leaders Guide that is a companion to the study guide and it has throughout the whole thing suggested ways to steer the conversation, prayers for opening and closing each session – you know really step by step how to run a meeting so that you can do it alongside everyone. You don’t have to read the book or done the study before. I knew when we where talking about publishing it that I couldn’t go to every parish and get it started and lead group everywhere so we wrote the Leaders Guide with that in mind so that anybody can pick it up and just help their friend go through it.
Ian: Do you have a favorite saying of Saint Therese?
Rita: There is one- hold on let me wrapped my head around this for a second, and she said – “In the evening of this life I shall appear for you in empty hand” – and I love that. I love that because it can mean so many things. It can mean they’re empty so I have – you know it’s ready to be filled by you. You know it’s empty because I have let go of all of things of the world or let go of my anger, my vanity, or whatever it might be in your life and I’m ready to grab your hand. It’s just- it’s beautiful, it’s a beautiful visual for me.
Ian: I appreciate you taking the time today to talk about the I Believe in Love Study Guide and Leaders Guide. This is definitely going to be something that we’re going to promote to parishes as a wonderful tool for spiritual growth. Thank you very much Rita.
Rita: Oh that would be great, you are welcome thank you.
Ian:Through next Friday get 15% off any of the I Believed in Love books or Study Guides, also if you want to do this study in your parish and you ordered 10 of the Study Guides, we’ll send you a free Leader Guide. Thank you for joining me today, for links to the books and websites we discuss to the show, see the show notes. Please subscribe to our podcast in itunes and comment on this and past episodes at aquinasandmore.com/podcast. At aquinasandmore.com we’re in the business of strengthening your faith to the products we sell, I look forward to having you shop with us for good faith is guaranteed God bless.
- Redeemed by Grace
- Hints Of Heaven
- I Believe in Love Retreat Guide
- I Believe in Love Study Guide
- I Believe in Love Leaders Guide
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.