hain-and-joyful-witness-cover-featured-w740x493I am 99% sure I’ve read all of Randy Hain’s books. And I’ve enjoyed them all.

But his latest, Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic (Servant Books, 2014), is something different than the rest, and I can’t help but call it his best writing. Though it’s unmistakably Hain’s voice, it’s also something more, like he let go and just poured himself into it all the way.

In the introduction, Hain shares his goals for the book:

These men and women are some of the extraordinary Catholics who in many ways are quite ordinary. This should give us hope that we will also discern how to grow in our faith and do more than the minimum required of us as Catholics. It would be easy to assume this book was written for somebody else, but I would dare say we all have room for improvement. …

There is an extraordinary Catholic in each of us. We are called to do more and lead lives of holiness, never forgetting that we are made for heaven and not this world. My sincere hope for you and me is that we will draw inspiration from the examples in this book and prayerfully commit to a new way of living our Catholic faith — a way of living that shines the light of Christ on all who encounter us, a life that can be best described as living a joyful witness.

I have never had tears in my eyes reading a Randy Hain book, but within ten pages, I had them coursing down my face. Don’t start thinking this is a tear-jerker, though, because it’s not. It is a tender and heartfelt series of insights, one that’s well-crafted and worth sharing.

Hain taps into his experience as senior editor of the popular e-zine Integrated Catholic Life, parish ministry, and traveling around the country to promote his books and work. He doesn’t lean on big names, but rather the people whose stories have really affected him.

Chapter 1, for example, tells the story of how his oldest son, who has high-functioning autism, was welcomed into the Catholic Church by a very special parishioner whose focus is catechizing and working with children with special needs. Jeanne Lyons, who I would have never “met” without Hain’s introduction in this chapter, is a woman who captured my heart. Her dedication and commitment are truly the light of Christ in her parish.

Throughout the book, Hain shares stories and unpacks what the rest of us can learn from them. Each chapter ends with a set of lessons that are great for those of us who may be tempted to be intimidated, rather than inspired, by the examples. Hain has also written reflection questions that make this book perfect for a book study or small group setting.

Do we feel let down by politicians and public figures who say they are Catholic but whose words and actions are often contrary to the teachings of the Church? Do we seek good examples for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren to emulate, because we hope such examples will demonstrate in word and deed what it means to be authentically Catholic? Perhaps we are looking in the wrong places. Maybe for too long we have placed the wrong people on pedestals. It is entirely possible that we need look no further than our own parishes, workplaces, and communities for what I like to call “regular Catholic heroes.”

…[R]egular Catholic heroes abound, but we may fail to notice them. It is easy to overlook the faithful, virtuous, humble, and selfless among us. Perhaps we are not aware of them because they go about serving Christ and his Church in quiet ways, avoiding the spotlight as much as possible. They care more about serving others than about getting credit for their efforts. When they are not working, they are likely to be spending quality time with their families, serving others in the community, or on their knees in prayer. They provide prayerful and joyful witness in the simplest of actions — and that makes them extraordinary.

In this book, Hain has done something inescapably brilliant: he’s gathered everyday heroes and highlighted their saintly efforts. This book isn’t just inspiring drivel: it’s full of practical tips that even slackers like me can apply.

You’re going to find yourself unable to not be changed by the incredible stories, the heartwarming examples, and the down-to-earth advice. Even better, you’ll be motivated to get off your couch and DO something!

This review originally appeared on my blog at the National Catholic Register.

Learn more about Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic here.

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