Friday, 25 January 2019

Message of Walsingham - R.W. Connelly - CTS Christian Shrines Series

Message of Walsingham
The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham
CTS Christian Shrines Series
R.W. Connelly
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860820304
eISBN 9781784693565
CTS Booklet D646

This book was originally written in 1973 and was expanded in 1998 and again in 2015. Some of the expansions are devotional guides and collection of prayers. Of all the Marian shrines in the CTS Christian Shrines Series or even the pilgrimage sites with the subtitle ‘A Pilgrim's Companion’ this book is about the location I am least familiar with. And that might be the reason I start with this book. I wanted to approach the series and this book with fresh eyes. I am thankful for the book and this message contained.

The sections in this book are:

Walsingham Ever Ancient - Ever New

     Origins Of Walsingham
     Growth Of Walsingham
     The Dowry Of Mary
     The Reformation
     The Desolation
     1897: Annus Mirabilis
Modern Times
     First National Pilgrimage
     England’s National Shrine
     Years Of Progress
     Slipper Chapel Statue
     Site Of The Original Shrine
Devotions For Pilgrimage

     Departure For A Safe Pilgrimage
     During The Journey And On The Holy Mile
     Visit To The Holy Ghost Chapel
     Visit To The Slipper Chapel
     Visit To The Chapel Of Reconciliation
Message Of Walsingham
     Mary Of Nazareth
     The Word Of God
     What Do Pilgrims Seek?
     Walsingham Today
     Walsingham Association

I was fascinated to read about the history of Walsingham. Some of the history that was of particular interest was:

“Walsingham has been a place of pilgrimage since 1061. This is the traditional date and is based upon the statement in the Pynson Ballad published in the last years of the fifteenth century.

In that year, when St Edward the Confessor was King of England, five years before the Norman Conquest, a lady of the village, Richeldis de Faverches, received a vision from Our Lady. The Pynson Ballad relates how Richeldis was ‘led in spirit’ to the Holy Land and shown the house where Mary was told she was to be the Mother of God. Richeldis was then requested by Our Lady to build another house like this at Walsingham and was promised: ‘Whoever seeks my help there will not go away empty-handed’.

This vision is the start of the Walsingham story. It shows that Mary herself selected Walsingham as a holy place, and invited people to visit her and seek her aid.”


“For over 350 years Walsingham was to be a land of desolation. With the Priory in ruins, the village seemed to forget its religious heritage. The vast majority of Englishmen had no interest in Our Lady of Walsingham. Even many Catholics through the difficult days of persecution found it difficult to preserve the memory of a shrine they could not visit. Yet it is remarkable that despite all the vicissitudes of English Catholics they never completely forgot the Lady of Walsingham.”

I am very intrigued by the resurrection of this shrine and pilgrimage site. Also, of the dray not only to Catholics but those of the Anglican persuasions. It is interesting that the current shrine is not on the original site, but near by. The original site being under private ownership. We are told:

“There has been some discussion in recent years as to whether the present Shrine should be sited in the Slipper Chapel, which after all is one mile outside Walsingham. At one time it was understood that this was merely a temporary site and that eventually the Shrine would return to Walsingham.

Perhaps in the distant future it will be possible for the Shrine to return to the village, but for the moment it is accepted that there are no practical possibilities for this. The cost of a new shrine would be prohibitive; the provision of land impossible. The old Catholic dream of rebuilding on the ancient site remains a dream. The Priory is in private hands and the owner has no wish to sell his family home.

It may be that future generations will have the privilege of restoring Our Lady to her old home, but in the meantime development will continue at the Slipper Chapel. It will not be in vain. No matter what the future may hold, the Slipper Chapel will always be a place for pilgrims to congregate either as the centre of the Shrine or as the starting point for processions into Walsingham.”

I have never been to Walsingham and have not been to the UK in almost 30 years. The section of prayers to be used while on pilgrimage and on site are intriguing. I copied the Prayer of Erasmus to my prayer journal and see my self praying it often. But even with never expecting to visit this shrine I have been blessed and benefited from reading this book.

The CTS Christian Shrines Series seems to have two main styles of books. Pilgrimage companions and books focusing on the message from the shrine. This book is from the second category. I loved reading this book and look forward to exploring more in the Christian Shrines Series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Other Books in the CTS Christian Shrines Series:
Message of Assisa
Message of Fatima
Message of Guadalupe
Message of Walsingham
Santiago: Santiago de Compostela - The Pilgrim Way of St James
The Message of Carmel at Aylesford

Pilgrim’s Companions:
Why Pilgrimage?
Fatima - A Pilgrim's Companion
Glastonbury - A Pilgrim's Companion
Holy Land - A Pilgrim's Companion
Lisieux - A Pilgrim's Companion
Poland: A Pilgrim's Companion
Rome - A Pilgrim's Companion

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Toward the Gleam - T.M. Doran

Toward the Gleam
Toward the Gleam Book 1
T.M. Doran
Ignatius Press
ISBN 9781586176334

This book was a very pleasant surprise. It had been on my radar for a while and sat on my kindle for a few months. But once I started reading it I could not put it down. I read through my breaks at work and through my lunches and devoured the book over three days. It was so hard to put down when I had to take breaks from it.

This novel in the historical fiction style is told in a compelling way. There are so many characters that bibliophiles and bookaholics will recognize as authors and professors from the last century. It is an interesting blend of history, and the fantasy story that our Professor John Hill has uncovered. The main story is set between the first and second world wars. The story starts with an old man appearing at a monastery and telling the abbot the story of the artifact and book he is leaving in their care. Some of his companions cannot but be recognized as members of the Inklings. And his adventures while trying to find out if his translation of the story are possible take him to numerous countries, confirming with specialists in many disciplines. And still only getting a partial translation. But in his attempts to gleam information he arouses the interest of a man who ends up being a formidable and most dangerous foe.

There are so many interesting characters in this novel, both the representations of authors from the time, and the other characters in the story. A giant of a man who was formerly a slaver. A woman who can become almost anyone and is a master of disguise. A strange hermit in the hills. And then our own Professor Hill, his with, and his close group of friends. The longer Professor Hill has his artifact and the further he proceeds in his translation, the more danger he is in, and not just him, but his family and his friends. The story itself is story wrapped around a mystery, focused on philosophical questions. Questions that were important in the time that the story is set, and in many ways even more important today.

This story is a much more intellectual novel than many that are available today. It is not a Tom Clancy or a Robert B. Parker type of mystery. There is a depth in this story that you can go to again and again. It is well that can be plumbed and will leave you thinking. It is a novel that will suck you in and keep you turning the pages.

I have had this book for a while, but it just sat in my 'to be read pile' for a more than a year. It is a curious book, and many characters from history, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, and more. Once I got going, I could not put it down. A great beginning and looking forward to where the story will go in book 2. If you have read much by or about the Inklings I am certain you will enjoy this story immensely. A great read for fans of literary fiction or historical fiction of all ages. A great read!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by T.M. Doran:
Iota: A Novel
Circling the Turtle

Toward the Gleam Series:
Toward the Gleam
The Lucifer Ego

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Superstar - Courtney Sheinmel and Jennifer A. Bell - Stella Batts Book 8

Stella Batts Book 8
Courtney Sheinmel (Author)
Jennifer A. Bell (Illustrator)
Sleeping Bear Press

ISBN 9781585368563
eISBN 9781634704045

My oldest and I have been reading the Stella Batts books for a few years now. And recently I started reading them with my youngest daughter as well. These books hold up well even to several readings over multiple years. My oldest is a most reluctant reader, but she always enjoys the Stella Batts stories, and now she can read a whole book to me in 2 or three sittings. It was her idea to reread these books and we are now more than half way through the series a second time. But now back to this specific book.

The books in the Stella Batts series form one continuous story. Each is written as if it a story written by Stella about her own life. Her life revolves around family, friends, and her families store Batts Confections. The focus in the book is family, friendship, and forgiveness. While Stella and her family are out at a restaurant, they meet a talent scot who wants to have Stella audition for a small part in a Superstar Sam episode being filmed locally. Superstar Sam is Stella’s favorite show and she is terribly excited. But that excitement soon turns to resentment and jealousy, but to find out why you will need to read the book. 

In this volume Stella has another run in with Joshua. And things escalate. Stella even must call and apologise to him. But her Mother helps her see things from a different angle, and this conflict that has been ongoing since the first volume seems to turn a corner.

As always there are several illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell scattered throughout the book. A few full-page illustrations and many smaller pieces interspersed in the text. My girls love the illustrations. And the story. 

One of the things that we appreciate most about this series is that it is in the genre of realistic fiction. The events and characters could be our family, they could be family or friends from the neighbourhood or school. We always have great discussions after reading a Stella Batts book, not only what do they like about the book, but how it applies to them. And this one has two great lessons. The first as mentioned earlier is the Stella – Joshua conflict. And the Second is Stella’s jealousy of her sister penny, and her coming through in a big way to support her sister when the time counts.  

This is a great Middle Grade read. A great book in an excellent series!

Books by: Courtney Sheinmel:
Stella Batts:

Stella Batts Needs A New Name
Stella Batts Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Stella Batts Pardon Me
Stella Batts A Case of the Meanies
Stella Batts Who's in Charge?
Stella Batts Something Blue
Stella Batts None of Your Beeswax
Stella Batts Superstar

Stella Batts Scaredy Cat
Stella Batts Broken Birthday

Other Books:
My So-Called Life
All the Things You Are

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Don't be afraid to be Saints: Words from John Paul II and Benedict XVI, World Youth Days 1984-2008

Don't be afraid to be Saints: Words from John Paul II and Benedict XVI, World Youth Days 1984-2008
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope John Paul II
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860824883
CTS Booklet Do 775 

I picked up this booklet to read after reading Finding Life's Purpose: Inspiration for Young People, which was taken from talks and sermons given by Pope Benedict in 2010 to young people on September 17th and 18th. So, this volume predates that volume and is taken from World Youth Days (WYD) between 1984 and 2008. But this volume is not direct excerpts from the WYD messages. This volume begins with a quote from Pope John Paul II in 2000 and the letter of invite from Pope Benedict XVI from 2008 and then the table of contents after these two pull page quotes.

The contents in this booklet are:

Come to Sydney
Christ is your Teacher
Discover your Vocation
Become a Witness
Formed by the Eucharist and Sacraments
Born to Love and Serve
The Challenge: Christ to the World?
To Live the Truth
Pilgrims looking for Christ

Based on the 68 quotes referenced in the endnotes the bock draws back and forth across various World Youth Days, and across both Popes. I personally have never been to a World Youth Day but have known many who gone and been blessed. And I believe the words spoken to the youth can encourage, and challenge those of us who are no longer in that category.  The opening words in the first chapter are:

“Christ’s call leads along a way which is not easy to travel, because it can also lead us to the Cross. But there is no other way which leads to truth and which can give life. Nevertheless, we are not alone on this path. Mary, through her fiat, opened a new way for humanity. By he acceptance of, and total dedication to the mission of her Son, she is the prototype of every Christian vocation.”

and later in the same chapter:

“You are young, and the Pope is old, 82 or 83 years of life is not the same as 22 or 23. But the pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakeably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. You are our hope, the young are our hope.”

I am in the middle I am not yet in my 80’s but also far from my 20’s. But the message in this book speaks to me, and gives me hope, and inspires me to bring hope. I need to bring and live that hope to my family, my friends, my coworkers. This book is a reminder to all of us, to live our call and be bold for the gospel. As a side note as much as I enjoyed this volume I enjoyed the one by Benedict XVI that is called out at the beginning of this review even more.

Another excellent resource from the Catholic Truth Society, and though out of print worth tracking down.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 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

Be Saints! An Invitation from Pope Benedict XVI - Amy Welborn and Ann Kissane Engelhart

Related Articles:
Daily Study Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI
Which popes do you have a devotion to and why?

Monday, 21 January 2019

The Lamb Will Conquer Reflections on the Knock Apparition - Father Nigel Woollen

The Lamb Will Conquer:
Reflections on the Knock Apparition
Father Nigel Woollen
Veritas Publications
ISBN 9781847307897

The apparition in Knock has always fascinated me. Likely in part because of my Irish heritage, and in part because it was talked about so much less then Fatima and Lourdes, when I was growing up. This apparition happened almost a ninety hears before I was born, and yet learning about it is one of my earliest memories. I remember our teacher talking about it as we prepared for our first communion. When I first saw this specific book, I had just finished reading The Story of Knock by Alice Curtayne and was doing some research for reviewing that booklet. I immediately wanted to read this volume, but it was hard to track down in North America. I have since read this volume twice and will likely read it again at a latter date.

Father Nigel Woollen has written a wonderful little volume. And of all the readings I have done on Knock it is the one that turns it into a devotion, and not a historical study. The book begins with these words:

“‘You’re mad to go to Knock!’ the kind lady said, chuckling. I was a bit taken aback. Where I come from, this means: you’re crazy or stupid to go to Knock. She hastily explained that in West of Ireland parlance, it signifies: you really want to go to Knock – you simply can’t wait to go! And indeed I couldn’t. From my first visits to Ireland, this village in County Mayo has held a deep fascination for me; it’s a place in which you feel at home straight away, but also sense something quite unique. There’s an atmosphere of peace rarely found elsewhere, a feeling that heaven touches earth in a particular way. So, for the many of us who are ‘mad to go to Knock’, it’s worth exploring in depth the meaning of the Knock event, to understand something of what God wanted to reveal to those witnesses of 1879, and what he wants to say to us today. ‘I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace’ (Psalm 84:9).”

I have never been to Knock, and I might never make it there. But that does not mean I cannot learn from the events there and use them to help me grow in my faith and in living out that faith. I want to pull out one phrase from the above quote to emphasise the point:

“So, for the many of us who are ‘mad to go to Knock’, it’s worth exploring in depth the meaning of the Knock event, to understand something of what God wanted to reveal to those witnesses of 1879, and what he wants to say to us today.”

I might not be mad to go to Knock, but I am mad about Knock, and this book is a wonderful read to help stoke that madness. Father Woollen further in the introduction declares:

“To ask God to reveal himself is a risk! He always answers our prayers – yet not always in the way we think: ‘the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:9).”

And that is in part what we do when we explore the apparitions of Mary, and specifically Knock, we are asking God to reveal himself to us. We open ourselves to the greater spiritual reality. The chapters in volume are:

Tear the Heavens Open!
Joseph: Icon of the Father
John: The Beloved Son
Mary: Bride of the Spirit
The Lamb: Love Conquers All
Conclusion: A New Creation
Appendix: Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Knock

There are chapters on each of the figures who appeared, except for the angels. One of the things that has always fascinated me about this event was the silence. And Father Woollen states:

“In order to hear God speaking to us we need silence. A key element of the Knock apparition was its silent nature; neither the Lamb, nor Mary, nor Joseph nor John the Apostle say one word (even though the Evangelist appears to be preaching), yet this silence speaks volumes! Silence – not just an absence of words, but a loving desire to adore the Lamb – begets a joyful expectancy that God will speak to us. Within silence, we encounter the presence of the one who is Love, we can experience a glimpse of heaven: ‘there was silence in heaven for about half an hour’ (Revelation 8:1).”

I think this message of silence is even more important in our world today. How many of us really get time to silently reflect, and to listen? Without a device, without words, maybe even without others. Father Woolen says:

“We could describe the Knock phenomenon as a divine secret. In its biblical sense, a secret (or mystery) is something that is incomprehensible to us human beings without a special light from God. The secret of the Knock apparition, this vision without words, is awesome in its depth and radiance: as we’ll discover, it reveals the Trinity, the mysteries of our redemption, the sacraments and, above all, the beauty and splendour of Jesus the Lamb of God, our Bread from heaven, the one who gives himself completely to us, and invites us to give ourselves to him, in a covenant relationship of mutual sacrificial love.”

And from there walks us through the apparition, with a focus on Joseph, Mary, and John the disciple. And as he leads us in reflection on these three and the Lamb as Jesus we will grow. Later in the book he says:

“It’s good to come back home after a trip, especially when you’ve been away a long time. For some, it might be the family home, that contains many happy memories; for others instead, it would be a place they felt an affinity with, even if far from their origins – for some of us, a place such as Knock becomes a home, because that’s where we’ve found something that seems to correspond to the deepest yearnings of our hearts.”

And that sums up a feeling I have had about Knock for most of my life. But was not something I could ever have put in words. At my confirmation I received a print of the apparition in Knock, it was on my wall for a few years and was lost during one of my moves during my university years. I can still recall reflecting and meditation on the image and feeling a sense of peace, of belonging of homeness. In the conclusion Father Nigel writes:

“To sum up, the secret of the Knock Apparition is manifold. It affirms our redemption by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, the Lamb of God, who is in his own flesh our gateway to heaven. It presents his closest friends, who seem each in their turn to reflect in a particular way one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. St Joseph shows us how we can become merciful like the Father, while St John encourages us to live as a beloved son or daughter, as a true child of God. And Mary, Bride of the Spirit and Woman of the Eucharist, shines out for us as she stands beside our crosses, imparting to us the faith and the hope she lived to the utmost on this earth, so that we can experience the joy of the resurrection and a new Pentecost of love, in the Holy Spirit.”

This book is a wonderful read. For people who already have a devotion to the apparition at Knock it will deepen your knowledge. But it will also serve as an excellent introduction to Knock for those less familiar. I believe that anyone who reads this book with an open heart, will be challenged, will be encouraged and will grow. As mentioned, I am already planning to read this book again, and am looking foreword to reading Father Nigel’s new book, Learning to Love: Journeys Through Life with the Rosary. I give this book my highest recommendation it is an excellent read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Nigel Woollen:
The Lamb Will Conquer: Reflections on the Knock Apparition
Learning to Love: Journeys Through Life with the Rosary

Other Books about the Knock Apparition:
The Story of Knock – Alice Curtayne

Other Books About Marian Apparitions:
20 Answers Apparitions & Revelations - Michael O'Neill
Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary - Catherine Odell
Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World – Jean M. Heimann
Apparitions of Mary: Their Meaning in History - Donal Anthony Foley

Encounter the Saints books that Include Apparitions:
Saint Bernadette Soubirous And Our Lady of Lourdes - Anne Eileen Heffernan, Elizabeth Tebo and Mari Goering - Encounter the Saints Series Book 2
Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto: Shepherds of Fatima - Anne Eileen Heffernan and Patricia Edward Jablonski - Encounter the Saints Book 6
Journeys with Mary Apparitions of Our Lady - Zerlina De Santis - Encounter the Saints Series Books 9
Saint Catherine Labouré And Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal - Marianne Lorraine Trouvé and Cathy Morrison - Encounter the Saints Book 30
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque And the Sacred Heart of Jesus - Emily Beata Marsh and Dani Lachuk - Encounter the Saints Series Book 37