Bookstores regrettably appear to be on the way out, but surprises can be enjoyed with visits to Catholic outlets.
At least, they were delivered through perusing one that caught my attention a few months ago.
Spending part of an early Saturday morning in Washington DC, my wife and I walked past the Catholic Information Centre and were attracted by a couple of the offerings.
Breakfast had to be enjoyed at a nearby coffee shop while waiting more than half an hour for its 10am opening to check on two books which were prominently displayed. We ended up buying both of them.
Drinking with the Saints was a most interesting attraction: a book covering almost 500 pages and providing a varied range of cocktails and other drinks to be enjoyed saluting what almost amounts to a saint for every day.
This month is particularly heavy with links honouring a few saints for which we have some devotion. St Dominic is one, thanks to my wife attending Santa Sabina College; St Helena is another, after whom my wife was named; and St Clare held special affinity for me as she is patron of television – a business in which I worked for a long time.
Glasses can be raised to toast each of them as suggested in the book, written by Michael P Foley, through drinks called Black Friars, Chilean Pisco Sour and Frozen Clarisse.
I am not in the business of giving away recipes for each of these but the book offers a selection of stories about the saints and their good works and points to the enjoyment of tipples which it associates with some of their endeavours. We’ve not indulged in the drinking so far but we have enjoyed those tales as was the case with a publication some years earlier about recipes from the saints.
Regarding drinking, the author highlighted religious connections to good drinking. Beer was nominated as being perfected in medieval monasteries; the méthode champenoise was invented by a Benedictine monk; and the first grapes for the Californian wine industry came from Blessed Junipero Serra and his Franciscan brethren.
Foley boldly calls on readers to “put something special in your glass when you toast our friends and intercessors in Heaven, the saints”.
He also features a small selection of prayers.
A Jesuit priest, Fr Mitch Pacwa SJ, who has reviewed the book suggests: “Slow one’s pace, savour a drink, and slip not into inebriation but a relaxed look at the saints.”
William Peter Blatty was the writer of the other book that attracted interest.
He’s an interesting and varied talent, having written a successful Pink Panther comedy film and also looked at demonic possession through The Exorcist, which proved a difficult book to sell initially but became a popular movie, later provoking many humorous send-ups.
Details of that sales push are contained in his latest autobiographical offering called Finding Peter.
Moving through the twists and turns of his life as outlined in the new book, Blatty teases readers to keep turning the pages to learn about a triumph over death involving the story of his son Peter who sadly died in his 20s.
Any doubts about Blatty being out to damage the Church can be put aside.
He has spent recent times petitioning the Vatican to sever the Jesuit connection to Georgetown University in Washington because it has allowed speakers on campus who support issues like abortion and euthanasia.
He’s a graduate of that university and a story from there in the late 1940s provided the base for his earlier book on exorcism which dealt with visits from Satan in the Georgetown area.
This author is a committed Catholic who has devoted the final third of Finding Peter to revealing 14 incidents which he believes offer evidence of life after death through links to his late son.
As with the saintly cocktails, the details must await any opportunity you may find to pick up a copy.
Both books have delivered some interesting food for thought – refreshing my winter bedtime reading and whetting the appetite to more regularly check offerings from Catholic bookshops.