Book Reviews2 Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land

Book written by Curt Arens
For Curt Arens, working the land of his grandparents' farm along Bow Creek near Crofton, Nebraska not only brings him pleasure and a source of income, but also deepens his Catholic faith.

Raised on that land, the 44-year-old Arens writes about learning how to farm and the importance of his Catholic faith in "Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land." His first book was published in January as part of ACTA Publications' American Catholic Experience series, which features first-person reflections by lay people.

The 110-page book is filled with short stories about Arens' upbringing and the people who impacted his life - his family and friends and those in his parish and community. It traces his development as a farmer and a Catholic.

"The book is a tribute to the sacredness of rural life, particularly those hardworking, generous people in my own community," Arens said. "It is about the faith and farm lessons I've learned from my parents and grandparents, from my wife, children and in-laws, and from my neighbors and friends."

Arens tells about growing up on the family farm, imparting his personal stories about the details of farm life, of being a good steward, experiencing college and eventually marrying and taking over the family farm from his parents, all with faith at the base of each story.

Freelance Writer

A veteran freelance writer, Arens and his wife, Donna, have three children.

He has been published in Successful Farming, Nebraska Farmer, Nebraska Life, American Profile, Norfolk Daily News and Living Here. He founded "Farm to Family Connection," a Yankton, S.D.-based weekly radio program promoting local family farms and communities. He also writes a weekly column, "Farm to Family," for the six newspapers owned by the Northeast Nebraska News Agency in Hartington.

Arens told the Catholic Voice he wrote "Down to Earth" because he felt there was a need for more materials and books for rural Catholics and Christians that focus on the unique aspects of being in a rural parish, community and family farm.

He said the National Catholic Rural Life Conference is a "great organization" that works in this arena, and he wanted to write this book to lend a hand and add something to what is already out there.

"I also think farming is maligned by young people as a career choice because it appears too difficult and poverty-stricken," he said. "It is difficult, sometimes grueling. However, there are important rewards in raising a family in a rural area, wrapping oneself in the safety and loving embrace of a close-knit rural parish and community, and being closer than most to God's wonderful creation."

Two Messages

Arens spoke of two messages in the book: that food should never be taken for granted and the importance of deep devotion to the Eucharist and the Mass.

"We have gotten so used to cheap and plentiful food, but family farmers know that food is never guaranteed," he said. "A few minutes of hail or a few weeks of drought can destroy a crop before our very eyes. Months of labor and expense can be dashed away in short order. We truly need to value the gift of food from our Creator."

Jesus could have chosen any medium in which to be present at the Mass, but during the Last Supper, he chose the bread, a product of wheat from the fields, and wine, a product of the vine - both very agricultural products - as a medium to be present anytime Mass is celebrated, he said.

"The consecration is a sacred time - one of truly solemn awe - and as Catholics and farmers, we have a special appreciation for this great gift of his presence with us in these products of the land," he said.

Arens said his faith is strong, but still forming.

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"I am a Catholic who goes through the rhythm of faith like anyone else. However, I have a deep devotion - dating back to my preparation for first Communion with Sister Veronica Wolff at St. Rose of Lima School - to the Holy Eucharist and I love the Mass," Arens said. "I also am keenly aware of God's presence not only at Mass, but in the fields and meadows that I have the honor to steward over."

He said he learns something new about his faith every day from God, his pastor, his family and his friends.

"And believe me," he said, "I'm paying attention."

Printed with permission from the Catholic Voice.

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