Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Finding Life's Purpose: Inspiration for Young People - Pope Benedict XVI

Finding Life's Purpose: Inspiration for Young People
Pope Benedict XVI
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860827198

I recently picked up this volume and also Don't be afraid to be Saints: Words from John Paul II and Benedict XVI, World Youth Days 1984-2008. After reading this volume I am even more interested in reading that one. But back to this book by Pope Benedict XVI. I must first declare that even though this book was compiled based on talks given to youth, it is a book that any Christian can read and benefit from. I finished reading this book and immediately started reading it with my 10 year old son. He is really appreciating it, and it is likely one I will read multiple times over. This is an amazing little volume!

The chapters in this book are:

Happiness Comes From Friendship With God
Discover The Purpose of Your Life
Radiate Christ's Love To All
Making the Best of School and Study
Turn To The Saints

In the introduction we are told:

"It is not often that a Pope, or indeed anyone else, had the opportunity to speak to the students of the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time. And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness."

Those words spoken to the young on September 17th and 18th in 2010 are just as valuable to us today, youth and those of us who are older. This book was very hard to put down, and thank to its brevity it can be easily read again and again. The tips in this book written for youth can be applied by any of us at any state in life. I have made a number of notes and have been applying them over the last week, and will continue to use this book as a tool for growth.

In the section Turn to the Saints there are brief biographies and prayers to:

St Thomas Aquinas
St Josephine Bakhita
St Damien of Molokai
St Rita
St Thomas More
St Martha
St Joseph of Cupertino

The prayers to the Saints are wonderful but the one I appreciated most was earlier in the book. It was a prayer for students:

Daily Study Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI

"Lord, you are my strength and my guide. Grant me wisdom and understanding. Help me to do the best I can, and to enjoy this day you have given me. Help me to be kind and considerate to the people you send into my life, and not to give up if things seem difficult."

I have added a daily calendar reminder to pray this prayer. And I added it to a collection of prayers I have been compiling. As I stated earlier this book is an incredible read and I highly recommend it. It is worth tracking down for young people in your life, or for your own growth and edification.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Benedict XVI:
The Way of the Cross - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - Pope Benedict XVI
Finding Life's Purpose: Inspiration for Young People
Don't Be Afraid To Be Saints - with Pope John Paul II

Books About Pope Benedict:
Habemus Papam! Pope Benedict XVI - Regina Doman and Sean Lam
Benedict XVI - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
A Pope of Surprises: The First Five Years of Pope Benedict XVI's Papacy - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky

Monday, 20 August 2018

Paul VI - Anthony Symondson - CTS Biographies

Paul VI
CTS Biographies
Anthony Symondson
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825323
eISBN 9781784693824
ASIN B073H111T3

I have now read nearly a dozen books in the CTS Biographies series from the Catholic Truth Society. The ones that have really grabbed my attention currently are the biographies of popes. First I read the one on Pius XII, and then Benedict XVI both by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky and both were excellent reads. And now I have read this one and also picked up the three other biographies of Popes by CTS I could find.

With his upcoming canonization I renewed interest in the man, his life, his work, and his papacy of Pope Paul VI, the man born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 and who died in 1978. Paul VI was the Pope when I was born, and the first Pope I remember passing away. I remember in grade school the announcement that he had passed, and following the election as part of current events. Looking back on the man things always end up circling back to his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, 'Of Human Life'. And in fact the introduction of this book begins with these words:

"On 25th July 1968 Pope Paul VI promulgated the encyclical, Humanae Vitae, 'Of Human Life'. Many regard this document as the most prophetic of his encyclicals for the way that it foretold the consequences of taking the conception of life lightly and the diminution this would have on human society. Pope Benedict XVI declared at a conference in Rome marking the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae that, 'The truth of Humanae Vitae does not change; rather, in the light of the new scientific findings, its teaching becomes ever more up-to-date and induces reflection on its intrinsic value.'

This anniversary provides an opportunity to look at the life and achievement of Giovanni Battista Montini (1897-1978) who reigned as Paul VI from 1963 until 1978. Peter Hebblethwaite, Pope Paul's English biographer (to whose work this study is deeply indebted) described him as the 'first modern Pope' and that is an accurate description. Battista Montini was consistently a man of his time and the theological discourse, political controversies and social development of the twentieth century - locally in Italy, more widely in Europe, the United States and the emerging nations of the Third World - engaged his time and attention as a Vatican diplomat in the department of the Secretary of State and later as Pope."

And as I write this review 10 years after this book was first published there ia much renewed interest and scholarship around Paul IV and specifically Humanae Vitae. The chapters in this introductory book to Paul VI are:

A simple funeral
Diplomatic career
Archbishop of Milan
The Second Vatican Council
Steering the Church in troubled times
Final years and legacy

A previous biographer coined the title for Paul VI as the first modern pope, And it has been maintained. Paul was the first modern pope to travel and he traveled extensively. He travelled to the Holy Land, the United States, and even India. During his pontificate the Papacy went from being a leader of the Catholicism, to playing a role of universal significance. There are many who do not appreciate Paul and his legacy, and many others who do. This book gives us keen insight into the man who would become pope. Paul, often portrayed as shy or cold in manner was actually a man moved deeply about spiritual and physical needs of mankind. In the book we are told:

"Pope John's observation on Paul's likeness to Hamlet preyed on his mind a little. Others accused him of being Quixotic. He did not keep a diary but wrote personal memoranda in a fine script. In 1975, when he was seventy-eight, beginning to weary, and was seen by the world to be pessimistic and querulous, he made the following note:

 What is my state of mind? Am I Hamlet? Or Don Quixote? On the left? On the right? I don't feel I have been properly understood. I have two dominant feelings: Superabundo gaudio. I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed (2 Co 7:4).

From the heading of this note we know that the two dominant feelings in his mind were certainty and joy (Certezza e Gioia). In Italian culture Hamlet is the symbol of indecisiveness. 'To be or not to be' is the only Shakespearian quotation known in Italy. Don Quixote tilts at imaginary windmills. Many thought that Paul's analysis of late-twentieth-century problems was faulty -that is the substance of the Don Quixote charge. For either he was attacking the wrong targets, or he was prophetic in the strict sense that he correctly diagnosed the present and prepared for the future. Thirty years after his death many consider that his analysis of the present and anticipation of the future was prescient."

Paul struggled his who life and especially during his pontificate to find the balance between openness and fidelity. In the book we are told:

"Years later the Argentinian bishops petitioned Pope John Paul II to consider the beatification of Paul VI. His later Jesuit confessor, Paulo Dezza, recognised that, since Paul's death, an ever-growing esteem and admiration for him had developed that superseded the dismissive attitudes of the last painful years of his pontificate."

And that is what I feel most people will come away from this book with, a greater appreciation, esteem and admiration of the man that we will soon call Saint Pope Paul VI. This book is a great read and another excellent book from CTS.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Other CTS Biographies of Popes:
Pius XII - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Paul VI - Anthony Symondson
John Paul II The Road to Sainthood - Jim Gallagher
John XXIII The Universal Parish Priest CTS Biographies - Josephine Robinson
Benedict XVI - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Pope Francis - Dushan Croos

Other books by or about Pope Paul VI:
Love's True Meaning The Message of Humanae Vitae 50 Years On - Fr Anthony Doe

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

Twentieth  Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

The readings for this weekend's mass are:

First Reading Proverbs 9:1-6
Responsorial Psalm 34:1-2, 9-14 Response 8
Second Reading Ephesians 5:15-20
Gospel John 6:51-58

For the fourth week in a row we focus on Jesus being the bread of life. Both the first reading and the psalm have to do with seeking wisdom. Paul in the second reading exhorts us to right living with very clear examples, and in the Gospel Jesus explains the flesh and blood. The themes from the past few weeks are repeated, even the first section of the Psalm is a direct repeat of last week. That tells us very clearly this lesson is important. We need to pause and really reflect upon the lessons in these readings.

From the first reading:

"You who are simple, turn in here!"
To those without sense she says, 
"Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight."

Wisdom is needed in this day and age. With what the world is throwing at us, and with what is being brought to the light from within the church. Now more than ever we need to be praying for renewal and healing, both within the church and for those who have been hurt by it. From the Psalm we are reminded to seek the Lord, and fear. But the fear should be that of recognizing God's holiness and out unworthy

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.

O fear the Lord, You his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good. Thing

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord,
Which of you desires life,
and covets man days to enjoy good?

Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.

R. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Paul reminds us to be careful in how we live in the second reading, about avoiding drunkenness, about not being foolish. He reminds us to be filled with the Spirit and to give thanks. I wonder how we would live if we read this passage every day for a week, for a month? When I was in university a chaplain challenged us to read 1 chapter of Proverbs ever month, at the end of the year you would have read it through close to 12 times. It had a deep impact. But for us I would challenges us to read this passage each day for a week, maybe even a month and see the impact it has on you, on your relationship, on your work life.

And now we arrive at the gospel. In today's language we would say that Jesus is doubling down. He is even more emphatic in his statement:

"Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is the true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in them."

I marvel at stories of Saints that survive for long periods on just communion. I know how nourishing it is to my spirit, and how central to my life it is. I cannot imagine not partaking as often as I can. I am comforted just sitting in a church in from of the tabernacle, stopping in to say hi to Jesus. And I know that this is what distinguishes us most as Catholics. 

I pray for you for a blessed weak.

Related Posts:

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Five Loaves and Two Fish Meditations on the Eucharist - Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan

Five Loaves and Two Fish:
Meditations on the Eucharist
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825903


I read a biography of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky, and was amazed. Before I had even finished reading the biography I had ordered this book and waited for its arrival eagerly. It did not disappoint. Actually, I had to stop reading a few times and process, this book is so moving and when you consider the life circumstances of cardinal Van Thaun it is even more incredibly. A tag line for this book is:

"Inspiring meditations on the Eucharist by Vietnamese Cardinal persecuted by the Communists."
But that barely begins to do justice to his story. And the story behind many of the meditations in this book. The description of the book is:
"In 1975, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was arrested by the Communist government of Vietnam and imprisoned for thirteen years, nine of them in solitary confinement, and then finally exiled from Vietnam in 1991. 
Always reticent about speaking of himself, Cardinal Nguyen slowly began to realise that his prison experience of suffering and hope could help others in their journey of faith. The reflections he prepared for the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris became the framework for Five Loaves & Two Fish; the content is his personal Magnificat for the wonders God had worked in and through the small offering of his life - like the fish and loaves in the Gospel, which fed thousands."
But what the description does not show is the joy that he lived. The joy he lived and wrote about in those horrendous conditions will stun you. For a few years now, I have been praying to learn to live more joy. Compared to what he lived through I have absolutely no excuse. The example he gives is incredible. The chapters in this book are:

The First Loaf: Living the Present Moment
The Second Loaf: Discerning between God and Go's Work
The Third Loaf: Prayer: a Fixed Point of Reference
The Fourth Loaf: The Eucharist: My Only Strength
The Fifth Loaf: Love and Unity: The Testimony of Jesus
The First Fish: My First Love: The Immaculate Virgin Mary
The Second Fish: I Have Chosen

The last chapter is mostly contained of an excerpt from his book The Road of Hope. He states:

"At the beginning of the last chapter of The Road of Hope, there are twenty-four paragraphs; I wanted them to correspond to the hours in a day. In each of these twenty-four paragraphs, I repeated the word "one"; one revolution, one campaign, one message, one strength … They are very practical points. If we live the twenty-four hours of our day radically for Jesus, we will be saints."
The book itself is incredible, but even if we only read these 24 paragraphs we will be challenged to live our life more fully. I have read through these several times now over the past week. I can think of numerous people I would love to hand this book. It is an exceptional read and I give it top marks! Read it if you dare.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan:
Five Loaves & Two Fish
The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison
Prayers of Hope, Words of Courage
Prières d'espérance
J'ai suivi Jésus: un évêque témoigne

Books about Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan:
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky

Friday, 17 August 2018

Staircase for the Sisters - Pamela Love and John Joseph

Staircase for the Sisters
Pamela Love
John Joseph (Illustrator)
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 9780819890979


This book arrived in the mail quite unexpectantly, but it was an instance hit. As soon as the package was opened the youngest two children wanted to read this book. They both loved it, and my youngest daughter has carried the book around for a week now. At first getting people to read it to her, like Nana and Auntie, and then reading it to friends and family who have visited.

A new church is built for the nuns next to a small school. But the architect and builders made a big mistake. They forgot the stair case to the choir loft for the nuns. The builder said it could not be fixed. Other builders said it could only be done by removing pews or altering the outside wall. The first solution was not acceptable because the pews were needed for students, and the other was not because of the cost involved. So the nuns prayed a novena to Saint Joseph, on the final day a man showed up with tools, a donkey and a promise that he could add stairs but he had to work while no one watched him.

It is wonderful to see this true story retold in a picture book for children. And to see how much the children loved the book. The chapters in the book are:

The Story
The Staircase Today
About Saint Joseph
What is a Novena?
Novena to Saint Joseph

My kids were fascinated that the story is true. The loved the photos of the real staircase at the end of the book. My youngest asked a lot of questions about Novena's after we read this book and asked if we could pray a novena for her brother who is having spine surgery later this year. So, we are now praying the novena at the end of the book.

The illustrations in this book are wonderful. In fact, my daughter wants a copy of one of the pictures of the carpenter to have on her wall in her prayer corner. The pallet used fits perfectly with the Spanish mission's story. John Joseph has done an amazing job with the illustrations and the accentuate the written story wonderfully.

This is an excellent book for young readers, and those who read and pray with them!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Reviews of other books by Pamela Love:
Brigid and the Butter: A Legend about St. Brigid of Ireland
Staircase for the Sisters