Who We Are & The Stories We’re In by Julia Harrell

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Pilgrim

I’ve been a member of a Well-Read Mom group outside Washington, DC for three years. During that time, I’ve discovered some new gems and reread some old favorites. I was thrilled when The Power and The Glory, one of my all-time favorite novels, was on the Well-Read Mom list last year, the ‘Year of the Contemplative.’ It’s fitting that The Power and The Glory was a ‘Year of the Contemplative’ selection since I’m still thinking about it now. Greene’s whiskey priest haunts me, and I think it’s because of the way Christ haunts him. The whiskey priest is weak and compromised. He has fathered and then abandoned an illegitimate child. He drinks too much. He fails even to pray the daily office. But for all that, he is not Padre Jose, living with a common-law wife and too terrified of the government even to offer a prayer for a grieving mother. The whiskey priest, at least, is on the run, offering Mass and hearing confessions from villagers in remote outposts of the Mexican mountains. What makes the whiskey priest different from Padre Jose? It isn’t great personal moral fiber. It isn’t natural courage or piety. The whiskey priest possesses none … Read More

Saved by the Well-Read Mom book club

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Contemplative


by Maggie Kosloski (This article originally appeared on aleteia.org on November 17, 2016. ) https://aleteia.org/2016/11/17/saved-by-the-well-read-mom-book-club/ Having small children at home doesn’t mean busy mothers can’t indulge their love of reading and desire for conversation and friendship. Reading has been a singular and great joy in my life. I was lucky to have been exposed to many great works of literature as a child, and came to love novels—to enter into the life of a character, whether real or fiction, is a gift. Stories offer an ability to see the world from another’s point of view and to gain insight into other times and places. I feel like some of the most transformative moments in my life were the result of something I read and the subsequent internal struggle with the issues the book presented. A good book gives a person much about which to pray and reflect. Recently, a friend introduced me to the following quote from St. Isidore, which perfectly sums up my thoughts about the impact reading has had upon my life: “If a man wants to always be in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God. When we … Read More

Awakening the Moral Imagination, Awakening the Culture, Part 2

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Contemplative

by Marcie Stokman I once heard about a pastor and his wife who studied theology and read the Bible every day. After listening to a talk on the importance of literature as a method for communicating the faith, they were intrigued and began reading C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. At one point, the wife stopped her husband’s reading and exclaimed, “Tom, something has been missing from our lives, and it is the imagination!” In this brief anecdote, we see a woman who has discovered the fascinating connection between reading good literature and understanding deeper realities. I have no doubt that reading literature did not supplant her reading and meditating on God’s Living Word, the greatest literature of all time! But when we read works of literature, not only do we strengthen our imaginative muscle, but we also learn truths that are powerfully conveyed through story. Robert Houston Smith writes, “When functioning as it should… imagination is the most important means by which higher truths can be communicated.” One could argue that TV and film exercise the imagination, however, awakening the imagination via good literature is an entirely different experience from sitting passively in front of images streaming in from a … Read More

Awakening the Moral Imagination, Awakening the Culture (Part 1)

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Contemplative

by Marcie Stokman There is a battle going on in our culture and at the heart of this battle is the education of the imagination. We are together in Well-Read Mom to awaken our moral imagination to a greater truth of reality. This awakening, we believe, can benefit our lives and the lives of our families as well as impact the broader culture. What is the imagination and how can a well-formed imagination help us? Human beings have the unique capacity to imagine. The imagination is what allows us to perceive more than what is immediately before our eyes. We ponder the universe. We can live with a sense of wonder. We ask questions like, “Why am I here?” and “What is the meaning of life?” Animals can’t do this. Dogs don’t sit around and ponder how they can make a difference in the world or how family meals can be more meaningful. We have a remarkable capacity to use our imagination, but here’s the catch: this capacity needs to be developed. When we are inundated with a constant stream of images, this imagination can be severely diminished or underdeveloped. Over 60 years ago, C.S. Lewis made this observation about … Read More

A New Way to Wait

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Contemplative

For our family, the past three months have been a time that we’ve had less opportunity to spend time with my husband, Jim, because he has been on his busiest work rotation. On the very last day of his rotation, we were waiting for Jim to return from work before starting dinner. As we waited that day, he kept on getting delayed. All of us were tired from the day and hungry for dinner (also a bit crabby).   A recent conversation with my friend Marta kept coming to mind. After two months of not having dinner with her husband, she said, “I realized that the very experience of not being able to spend so much time together makes this waiting for another real. Instead of distracting my son from the fact that my husband is not around, this can be the starting point to show and experience what waiting is.” Marta’s words kept coming to mind, however, and challenged me to live that evening differently and to encourage my kids to do so too. So as our expected dinner hour came and went and my daughter Lia asked why we were not eating, I told her that yes, it … Read More

“Why I am Grateful for Well-Read Mom” by Missy Christensen

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Contemplative

Well-Read Mom member Missy Christensen contacted us after the recent shooting at Tree of Life, a Conservative Jewish synagogue in Pittsburg, to share how she was impacted in a new way because of her experience with Well-Read Mom. As a busy homeschool mom of six, who would rather read a classic novel than about current events, I wanted to ignore the headlines about the latest mass shooting. I didn’t want to know the reasons, the details, the victims. But then I kept seeing Pittsburgh as I scrolled through the newsfeeds. Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, with its cobblestone roads, its trolley cars, its grass-filled parks, its majestic libraries. I came to intimately know Pittsburgh while reading Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood. Pittsburgh had its Scot Irish part of town, its black part of town, and, no doubt it had its Jewish part of town. Pittsburgh had been wounded. So, I clicked. And then I wept. I wept with my new friend, Asher Lev, who at the tender age of six had already been impacted by the accusations that his people crucified Christ. Asher showed me how marginalized Jews really feel in our country and in our world. I became aware of what a … Read More

“My Shawl” by Well-Read Mom Charlotte Ostermann

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Contemplative

The following poem is reprinted from the Well-Read Mom ‘Year of the Mother’ Journal.  My Shawl by Charlotte Ostermann I sit and knit a shawl to warm my soul When winds begin to howl and darkness falls, To weave, to tie, to join and be made whole — My life’s work bundled here within these walls. As back and forth my fingers ply their trade And prayers are woven into cloth with dreams My soul is not confined, nor thoughts constrained But freed to fly by hands content with seams. This seeming smallness of my daily world, The tiny stitches of a humble life, Will add up to my glory by God’s grace When at time’s end my knitting is unfurled And all my works as woman, mother, wife Have made a home for me before His face. Charlotte Ostermann is a speaker and author of Souls at Rest. She lives on a ‘farm wannabe’ near Lawrence, Kansas.

Friendship, Reading, and a Single Good Book

NadineYear of the Contemplative

By Susanna Parent “Do you want to join a Well Read Mom book club?” I tilted my head and looked at my friend confusedly. “A Well Read Mom group? But we aren’t moms or even married yet.” Over the next few minutes my friend explained to me what Well Read Mom was and how she wanted to start a group with our friends and maybe we could call ourselves the Well Read Ladies. Having recently graduated I was craving something to keep me engaged intellectually and with our group starting our first year in the Year of the Friend, I couldn’t think of a better time to begin. Our initial group began with a small number, many of us recent college graduates. Our states in life were varied: some single, a couple of us newly married and even a few pregnant. Over the course of our few years together, women in our group have given birth to children and some have moved away; yet we continue to journey on, our group evolving with time. One of the first books we read during the Year of the Friend was a book by American Novelist, Anthony Doerr. I had never heard of … Read More

Why I Need Well-Read Mom

NadineYear of the Contemplative

By Marcie Stokman “You’re not going to read this huge book, are you?” Pete put my anxiety into words as he thumbed through our yellowed copy of Les Miserables last May. “How am I going to read this massive novel?” I panicked, “Why did we put this big old book on the list anyway? This is asking too much.” Then an idea struck, “I know! I’ll suggest to my group that since we’ve been faithful with the reading all year-long, we should take a break and watch the movie instead. The ladies will probably be relieved,” I reasoned. But walking into my group, there came Linda, raving about Les Miserables. “I apologize for starting the book early,” she was saying, “but I need to get going on it and oh my, the writing is absolutely beautiful. And the surprising thing is it’s not so hard. It reads easy and the beauty! Oh, the beauty!” So much for suggesting the movie. Instead, I went home and began to read Les Miserables. This is why I need to be accompanied, to overcome my objections. I wish it weren’t so, but each time I pick up the next Well-Read Mom book, the mental … Read More