Book Notes: “The Lost Art of Sacrifice” by Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach’s “The Lost Art of Sacrifice” is the book that every Catholic (and Christian) living the cushy life in America needs to read. Surrounded by all the wonderful modern comforts of 21st century America, it’s hard to find a place for sacrifice. For many of us, even the mere thought of giving up hot showers, our nightly TV shows, or our morning cup of (Starbucks) coffee seems impossible. We’ve grown accustomed to living comfortably, and not just comfortably, but extravagantly. I remember the semester I spent studying abroad in Rome. I was shocked to find that our apartment had minimal heat (that we did not control), no air conditioning, limited amounts of hot water, and no laundry machines. I was even more shocked to learn that this was normal for much of the world. How privileged we are, and we don’t even notice it most of the time.

Now don’t get me wrong. Even after having read this book, I still take my showers warm (borderline hot) and my tea iced and flavored with peach. I still watch TV and indulge in the occasional trip to Starbucks for a Frappuccino. But Vicki Burbach’s book has reawakened the beauty of sacrifice in my life. She has reminded me that the life of sacrifice begins with small steps, with little sacrifices and sufferings offered for the Body of Christ. Even as we are tempted to berate ourselves for having lost the art of sacrifice, Vicki gives us hope that it can be found.

“The Lost Art of Sacrifice” begins by exploring the reasons why we lost the art in the first place. Secularism, Communism, and materialism all played a role in the replacement of sacrificial love and redemptive suffering with ideas like the prosperity gospel and socialist ideologies. After decades of being told that we deserve to be rich and happy (and we’re not talking Gospel-joy here), it’s easy to believe the lies. And they’re so palatable. Who wouldn’t want to be rich? Or happy? Starbucks Frappuccinos are just so good, and hot showers are just glorious. But we are meant for more, and that often means embracing less.

“The Lost Art of Sacrifice” reminds us that sacrifice and suffering are essential to the Christian life. How could they not be when we all profess belief in a man who sacrificed His divine life for us, who suffered and died that we might live? How can we strive to be like Him and have no room for suffering? Jesus Christ called us to follow Him, and then He went to the cross. It’s not a palatable place to have been led, but that’s where He walked. And we need to take up our crosses and follow Him.

After spending several chapters delving into the various reasons why America (and most of the world, probably) lost sight of the art of sacrifice, Vicki Burbach explores ways that we can rediscover it. Most of us have not been called to make massive sacrifices like living and serving in a third-world country or dying for the faith. But all of us are called to sacrifice. All of us will suffer at some point in our lives. It’s how we approach that suffering that matters. If we choose to offer it up, to unite it with the suffering, crucified Christ, our suffering becomes redemptive and our sacrifices have eternal consequences. Vicki considers several practical ways to make sacrifice a central part of our lives, ranging from traditional devotions to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

If you think there is something missing in your comparable, cushy American life, this is the book for you. If you want to grow closer to Christ by embracing a life of sacrifice, this is the book for you. Sacrificial love truly is a lost art, and it’s about time that we rediscovered it. Vicki Burbach’s new book is a wonderful place to start.

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