Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Deacon Reader - James Keating Editor

The Deacon Reader
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809143894

In starting to read about the permanent diaconate I could not think about a better book to begin with. This collection of essays edited by James Keating does an amazing job of giving a historical background, the factors that lead to reinstating this ministry, a general overview, and some personal reflections on this ministry. To be honest while reading this book I stopped a few times and wrote down extensive notes, and started looking for other books mentioned.

The sections in this book are:

PART ONE Historical and Theological Foundations for Diaconal Identity
1. The History of the Diaconate
2. The Contemporary Renewal of the Diaconate
3. The Deacon and Gaudium et Spes
4. The Diaconate as Medius Ordo: Service in Promotion of Lay Participation
5. The Deacon: Icon of the Sign of Hope
6. The Moral Life of the Deacon

PART TWO Pastoral Foundations for Diaconal Identity
7. Theological Education and the Diaconate
8. Father and Shepherd
9. The Deacon and Personal Prayer
10. The Deacon and Work
11. The Sacramental Ministry of the Deacon in Parish Life

PART THREE Sociological Foundations for Diaconal Identity and Marriage
12. The Diaconate and Marriage: A Sociological Reflection
13. The Deacon's Wife: An Emerging Role

Epilogue: The Kenotic Leadership of Deacons
Select Theological Bibliography

And the contributors are:
Thomas Baker
Charles A. Bobertz
Owen F. Cummings
William T. Ditewig
Edward J. Enright
James Keating
Gerald F. Kicanas
Mark A. Latcovich
William S. McKnight
Paul McPartlan
Rebecca Meehan
Ray R. Noll
Michael Ross

I fist looked at the Diaconate almost twenty five years ago. And I wish there had been a book like this at that time. This book has a strong focus on the history and theology of the deacon. The greatest strength of this book is the diverse voices. Hearing from so many men who are deacons or in involved with the ministry and formation of deacons. They bring years of practical knowledge to their respective chapters in this book.

From my first reading of this book, one of the most powerful chapters was chapter 2, The Contemporary Renewal of the Diaconate, by  Deacon William T. Ditewig. This chapter focus on the modern renewal up to and including Vatican II. Deacon William states: "At least four streams of influence converged at the council: (1) the German experience prior to the Second World War, (2) the Dachau experience and postwar developments centered in Germany and France, (3) pastoral developments related to the missio ad gentes and catechetics, and (4) significant papal teachings. I reread this chapter through a few times, and am trying to track down one of the books that it mentions that was last published in 1965. This books is worth the price for this chapter alone.

I also loved the chapters in the second section. The focus on The pastoral foundation of the identity of the deacon. The focus on the theological education and its importance to the deacon's formation and life. The deacon and work, and the ministry of being ordained and yet working in the world. The deacon's prayer life. And the Sacramental ministry of the deacon. I am sure I will end up reading books on each of these topics but the overviews given in the essays in this chapter. A great quote from this section is "Most diaconate formation focuses on the deacon's "church" identity: theology, sacramental ministry, preaching, and pastoral endeavors. This is all to the good, but as a result few deacons have had much chance to reflect on how their diaconate might find expression in their work, and how their work experiences can enrich the church. This chapter offers a few beginning reflections on this topic, along with some thoughts that might help stimulate thinking about some new future directions." And really leads on to ponder, reflect and pray. And looking at life in work "A second challenge for deacons as working people is to serve as a model of people who do not build walls between their lives as workers on the one hand and their lives as Christians on the other. Erecting those walls is a tempting proposition, because being a Christian person in a workplace is not a task that comes without problems. The fact is, Christian values and business values, while not completely incompatible, are not identical, and no one in business can lose sight of it." Yes all Catholics all Christians are called to model their faith at work. But with deacons there will end up being an even greater expectation.

The chapter on the deacons wife was also an eye opener. If a deacon, can end up being caught between two worlds, or bridging two words, the deacons wife will experience that but with an extra layer.

I have found that by reading this book I am not only thinking about my future but praying for the deacons that I know. Praying for their ministry, their families and they witness.  This was an excellent read. I would recommend this book to those who are considering the ministry of being a deacon. But it would also be great for committed Catholics who want to understand this ministry in their church and maybe learn how to support these men in a new way.

A great read and I look forward to reading more from some of the contributors over the next few months. Overall I would rate this as an excellent read!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by James Keating:
The Deacon Reader 
Spousal Prayer: A Way to Marital Happiness 
Listening for Truth: Praying Our Way to Virtue 
The Heart of the Diaconate
Pure Heart, Clear Conscience: Living a Catholic Moral Life 
A Deacon's Retreat 
Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion 
Spirituality and Moral Theology: Essays from a Pastoral Perspective 
Seminary Theology: Teaching in a Contemplative Way  
Seminary Theology II: Theology and Spiritual Direction in Dialogue
Seminary Theology III: Seminary Formation and Psychology  
The Way of Mystery: The Eucharist and Moral Living
Conscience and Prayer: The Spirit of Catholic Moral Theology  
Resting on the Heart of Christ 
Spiritual Fathers: A Workbook for Priests and Dads 
Entering Into the Mind of Christ: The True Nature of Theology 
Communion with Christ: Practical Prayer
The Character of the Deacon: Spiritual and Pastoral Foundations  
The Priest as Beloved Son 
Moral Formation in the Parish: With Your Whole Heart Turn to God
Christ as the Foundation of Seminary Formation

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Live Well Today - Fr. Thomas Dailey - St. Francis de Sales's Simple Approach to Holiness

Live Well Today:
St. Francis de Sales's Simple Approach to Holiness
ISBN 9781622823017

To be honest I picked up this book based on the title 'Live Today Well', and did not even notice the subtitle 'St. Francis de Sales's Simple Approach to Holiness' until I went to read it. But having read one book by de Sales last year and having two on my reading plan for this year I was very eager when I began the book. For almost 20 years now I have signed off my personal emails with 'Peace and Strength! Yours, learning to be'; I have seen my life purpose as learning to be and to become good at being. Or as Mathew Kelly puts it so often 'to become the best version of myself'; and therefore the title of the book grabbed my attention, but the subtitle fits with my daily goals, each day to be better than the day before, to grow in holiness and God's grace. And this book really lives up to my high expectations. 

The sections in this book are:
Part 1 Salesian Spirituality
The Devout Life
St. Francis's Spiritual Directory
Part 2 Our Daily Routine
Our Daily Routine
On Rising: Starting Your Day Right
On the Day's Preparation: Looking to Be Holy
On the Direction of Intention: The Key to Spiritual Perfection
On Meals: Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
On Work: And Taking Spiritual Repose
On Leisure: Interacting with Others
The Examen: Reviewing Our Daily Progress
On Retiring: Practicing Detachment
Part 3 Sacred Moments
Sacred Moments
Prayer: Communing with the Divine
Living the "Little Virtues"
Confession and the Grace of Reconciliation
Mass and the Grace of Encounter
The Universal Call to Holiness
The Spiritual Directory
Helpful Resources for Living Well

This book begins with an excellent quote: 

Let us be firmly resolved to serve God with our whole heart and life. Beyond that, let us have no care about tomorrow. Let us think only of living today well, and when tomorrow comes, it also will be today and we can think of it then.

- St. Francis de Sales, letter CXC, to Mademoiselle de Soulfour, July 22, 1603

And the book only gets better from there. Father Dailey states: "The seminal insight of the Salesian tradition remains as relevant today as it was in the saint's time - namely, that a life of devotion is a universal human calling, that holiness is possible in all walks of life, that a meaningful and fulfilling existence awaits all those who live well." And the book goes on from there to give real, concrete examples of what this spirituality is, and how to live it out, and through living it out learning to live today well.

This book does an excellent job of giving guidance in living a spiritual life, but balancing that with living in the world and all of our responsibilities. The book is very well written. It is not a complicated theological treatise, it is intended as a simple guide and it meets that goal. There are tricks and tips for the spiritual life. You will learn about overcoming your greatest temptation, yow to make good confessions, yow to manage your time, and different ways to become aware of God's presence. 

This book is an excellent read. It is a great introduction to Salesian spirituality. It was way more than I expected and I was hoping for a lot from this book. Father Thomas writes in a very engaging manner. This is another excellent resource from Sophia Institute Press and I commend it to you if you are serious about growing in your spiritual life!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Permanent Diaconate - A Reading List

The Permanent Diaconate - A Reading List

And so the journey begins. I am looking to do some reading on the Diaconate, or really all aspects on being a married deacon. I reached out on facebook, twitter and Google+ looking for recommended reads. Here is the list I have so far but would love more ideas. So please add them in the comments or drop me a line.

Yes this is research but also a sort of pre-discernment reading.

The Deacon Reader
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809143894

101 Questions & Answers on Deacons
William T. Ditewig
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809142651

A Deacon's Retreat
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809146444

The Heart of the Diaconate: 
Communion with the Servant Mysteries of Christ
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809149179

This final one on my starting list might be hard to track down but I am trying to find it. It is mentioned in the second essay in The Deacon Reader the specific essay is The Contemporary Renewal of the Diaconate by Dcn. William T. Ditewig, PhD. 

Married Men As Ordained Deacons
Wilhelm Schamoni
Otto Eisner (Translator)
1st Edition 1955
Catholic Distributors
2nd Edition 1962
Burns & Oates

And I will add more as I get recommendations or these books lead me into further readings.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!
Note: Links on titles to books will be links to reviews as I read those books.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Phoenix Project - Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford - A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Buisness Win

The Phoenix Project:
A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Buisness Win
Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford
IT Revolution Press
ISBN 9780988262591
eISBN 9780988262577

This was one of the books on the It bookshelf at work. And there was a whole stack of them. This book was really a big surprise to me. For once I started it I could hardly put it down. The writers take some topics that can be pretty dry at the best of times and absolutely arid at the worst and make them not only palatable but incredibly enjoyable. The book teaches the Agile Methodology and the ITIL Principle’s in a very engaging way.

In some ways this book reads like a self-help book for IT leadership, and IT departments as a whole. It is an easy read, and reminiscent of Robin Sharma, Dan Millman and like Patrick Lencioni it is told as a story or a parable if you will. But unlike Lencioni it is all story; where his books are a parable story and then a breakdown unpacking of it. That functionality is woven into the book through the potential board member, and his sage like advice and guidance to our protagonist.  This book is an easy read, in fact many reviewers talk about not being able to put the book down.

I have worked corporately in IT for about a dozen years now, and have as many years prior to that working mostly with non-for-profits. I truly believe that almost every IT department, team, or worker could benefit from reading this book. I know a few people in the industry that I have worked with that already incorporate these ideas. I know many others who want to but have yet to get them implemented. And I know some that just don’t get it and they most of all need to read this book.

The book follows a car parts company, Parts Unlimited, company as it teeters on the brink. Some bad choices have caused upheaval. A guy known for getting it done gets promoted, but within hours Bill realized that his corner of IT may have run well but overall there are major issues. He soon finds out that he has 90 days to turn around the company and make the Phoenix Project a success or the company might be sold and split up in parts. A number of the main players are people you will recognise, either current coworkers or former coworkers. But you will also learn many skills that you can take from the book and start applying to your tasks, and if you are lucky up through your organization.

This book really is a page turner, and for a book about IT, DevOps, and infrastructure management that really says something about the quality of the writing. And As I said anyone in an IT role would benefit from the reading! A great resource.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Distractions - Philip Kosloski - A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Stay Focused During Prayer

A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Stay Focused During Prayer
Schedule That Will Change Your Life
Philip Kosloski
Philip A. Kosloski

Over the past year I have read 5 books by Philip Kosloski. I stated in another review that his book read like a university paper. That cannot be said about this one. This is more like a spiritual classic. In some ways it reminds me of the writings of Brother Lawrence or Saint Patrick's writings. It is short, to the point and yet with a lot of meat. This is the third book on prayer by Kosloski that I have read, the other two on prayer are; Basic Field Manual for Hearing God's Voice and 3 Methods of Prayer That Will Change Your Life were available from Kindle. But he also has three great books that are currently only available through his website. They are: Serviam, Distractions and Horarium and each of the three were excellent reads!

Kosloski's major focus in his writing is prayer and discernment. Both are great themes. For those of us who wish to grow and deepen in our spiritual life. The sections in this book are:

Are You Distracted During Prayer? 
I. Go To Your Inner Room 
II. The Secret to Praying Without Looking at the Clock 
III. How to Stay Focused During Prayer and Reduce Unnecessary
IV. Is God Distracting Us During Prayer? 
V. The Battle of Prayer: Why We Shouldn't Lose Heart If We Fail 
Resources on Prayer 

In the introduction Kosloski states: "In this eBook I will cover some of the most common distractions that we all experience and offer simple, clear advice that will help you overcome these obstacles to a fruitful prayer life." And that is exactly what he does. The Four key distractions he tackles are:

1. Place
2. Time 
3. Exterior Concerns 
4. Wandering Thoughts 

So this book focuses on human distractions. Distractions of our own making. But He also gives in this book some quick guidance on discernment about if something is from God, ourselves or the enemy. But this book is also part workbook. At the end of each chapter is reflection and then space to journal on some guiding questions. 

One of the key passages that really hit me was "The key is to balance our time of prayer with the right amount of spiritual reading, devotions and mental prayer. I have learned that it is much more of an art, than a science." In my own life I have oscillated between too much reading and not enough. In the spiritual life it is about finding the balance. Another key point is "Remember, Prayer is Not All About You"! 

Another great quote is "Prayer is a "battle" and the battlefield is in our hearts. Will we give-up and run away or fight until the last breath leaves our body?" As usual Kosloski draws extensively from church documents and other writings. He also gives a list of great resources to take what we learn here to another level.

Another great book from Philip Kosloski give it a try I am sure you will not be disappointed!