Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Cries of Jesus from the Cross: An Anthology - Reverend Fulton J Sheen

The Cries of Jesus from the Cross: An Anthology
Reverend Fulton J. Sheen D.D.
Allan J. Smith (Editor)
Sophia Institute Press
ISBN 9781622826209
eISBN 9781622826216

Over the last three years I have read a dozen books by or about Reverend Fulton J. Sheen. A couple of the others were anthologies after a form and excerpts of Sheen’s own writings compiled by an editor. One was a flop and I never bothered finishing it. The books of Advent and Lenten meditations are well done but leave a reader wanting more. But I often find when I read something by Rev. Sheen, I want more. And this book falls in that category. Of the 4 or 5 books I have read that were compiled of Sheen’s works this is by far the best. Allan J. Smith is the editor of this amazing volume, and though his name does not appear on the cover, credit is due. From the introduction of the volume we are told:

“Given their importance and the impact they had on society, it seemed appropriate to bring together in this anthology some of Archbishop Sheen’s meditations on the words of Jesus and Mary from seven books he wrote from 1933 to 1945: 

The Seven Last Words (1933)
The Cross and the Beatitudes (1937)
The Rainbow of Sorrow (1938)
Victory over Vice (1939)
The Seven Virtues (1940)
Seven Words to the Cross (1944)
Seven Words of Jesus and Mary (1945)

This anthology has been arranged into seven chapters, each of which addresses one of the seven last words spoken by Christ on the Cross. And for each chapter, a passage from each of these books has been selected to provide seven unique reflections for study and meditation. 

1. The words spoken by Christ from the Cross
2. The Beatitudes
3. Sorrow and suffering
4. The seven deadly sins
5. Seven virtues
6. Groups who reject the Church and Christ’s teachings
7. The unity of Jesus and Mary

These reflections may be read one after another as they appear in this book, or they may be read randomly as the reader chooses. Since this anthology comprises seven Sheen titles, the reader may also read one complete book at a time. For example, by reading the fourth reflection from each chapter of this anthology, the reader will have read Sheen’s Victory over Vice; or by reading the third reflection from each chapter, he will have read The Rainbow of Sorrow.”

And for each of the seven chapters we have seven sections. So the actual sections in the book are:

First Word
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
1. Father, Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Do!
2. Blessed Are the Meek
3. Unjust Suffering
4. Anger
5. Fortitude
6. A Word to the Humanists
7. The Value of Ignorance

Second Word
This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.
1. This Day Thou Shalt Be with Me in Paradise
2. Blessed Are the Merciful
3. Pain
4. Envy
5. Hope
6. A Word to the Sinners
7. The Secret of Sanctity

Third Word
Woman, behold thy son; behold thy mother.
1. Woman, Behold Thy Son
2. Blessed Are the Clean of Heart
3. Suffering of the Innocent
4. Lust
5. Prudence
6. A Word to the Selfish
7. The Fellowship of Religion

Fourth Word
My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?
1. My God! My God! Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?
2. Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
3. God and the Soul
4. Pride
5. Faith
6. A Word to the Intelligentsia
7. Confidence in Victory

Fifth Word
I thirst.
1. I Thirst
2. Blessed Are They That Hunger and Thirst After Justice
3. The Need for Zeal
4. Gluttony
5. Temperance
6. A Word to the Moderns
7. Religion Is a Quest

Sixth Word
It is finished.
1. It Is Finished
2. Blessed Are the Peacemakers
3. A Planned Universe
4. Sloth
5. Justice
6. A Word to the Sensationalists
7. The Hour

Seventh Word
Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.
1. Father, into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit
2. Blessed Are They That Mourn
3. Eternal Freedom
4. Covetousness
5. Charity
6. A Word to the Thinkers
7. The Purpose of Life
About the Author: Fulton J. Sheen

The beauty of the way this book has been compiled is that it can be read many ways. You can read it in the transitional method of starting at the beginning and proceeding until the end. You can read thematically and read numbered sections in each chapter, for example read the second sections ‘Blessed are …” chapters. Or read through the fifth sections on the virtues. Or you can randomly open it and read any section for spiritual reading or deeper reflection. Smith states in the Introduction:

“For example, by reading the fourth reflection from each chapter of this anthology, the reader will have read Sheen’s Victory over Vice; or by reading the third reflection from each chapter, he will have read The Rainbow of Sorrow.”

For fans of Sheen’s works this book ties together the seven separate books and shows us the bigger picture of Sheen’s thought and theology. For people just beginning their foray into the works of Sheen this book will serve as an amazing introduction. The print edition is a round 400 pages, and the eBook edition comes in at 320. By today's standards where so many books are being published at under 250 or even right around 200 pages this book is a larger volume. But trust me it is worth it. This book is an incredible read. I average over 100 books read a year, and more than double that the last few years. This book is one of the best Christian books I have read in the last few years. 

Let me reiterate that, of the hundreds of books read in the last few years, one of the best!

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

Books by Fulton J. Sheen:
God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy
The Seven Last Words
Philosophy of Science
The Eternal Galilean
Calvary and the Mass
The Cross and the Beatitudes
Communism and the Conscience of the West
Peace of Soul
Three to Get Married
Life Is Worth Living Series 1-5
Way to Happiness
Way to Inner Peace 
Life of Christ
Missions and the World Crisis
The Power of Love
Footprints in a Darkened Forest
Lenten and Easter Inspirations
Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen

Books About Fulton J. Sheen:
The Archbishop and I

Friday, 21 September 2018

How to Think Like Aquinas The Sure Way to Perfect Your Mental Powers - Kevin Vost

How to Think Like Aquinas:
The Sure Way to Perfect Your Mental Powers
Dr. Kevin Vost
Sophia Institute Press
ISBN 9781622825066


I have been a fan of Dr. Kevin Vost's writings since first encountering them in 2006. That was the year he published his first Catholic book, since that time he has published 18 works, covering a wide range of topics. But one he comes back to often is memorization. And in this new book he uses the tools of Saint Thomas Aquinas to help us learn how to build a memory palace, and to use the powers of the intellect and the will and to train both. The introduction begins with this statement:

"We should all strive to think more like Aquinas, but only if we desire to know what is true, to love what is good, to grow in happiness and holiness while wayfarers on earth, and ultimately to share in eternal beatitude with God and the communion of saints when we arrive home in heaven. You see, in all of human history, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was among the very best guides to fulfilling these desires. Dozens of popes have sung his praises as philosopher and theologian, the Catechism of the Catholic Church abounds in references to his writings, and even secular scholars have acknowledged his monumental contribution to the field of philosophy.2 They praise him foremost for what G. K. Chesterton called in his biography of Thomas "that unusual human hobby: the habit of thinking.""

I raced through this book the first time I read it. I could hardly put it down. I am now working through it a second time, this time taking my time. And really working through the exercises and suggested practices to apply the skills and truths taught. The description of the book is:

"In these pages, you'll learn St. Thomas Aquinas's unique powers of intellect and will, and how he can train us to perfect them. Best-selling author of The One-Minutea Aquinas offers here a fully guided, illustrated tutorial of exercises to perfect your intellectual powers of memory, understanding, logical reasoning, shrewdness, foresight, circumspection, practical wisdom, and so much more that lead to happier and holier lives. You'll also learn:

The connections between thinking, happiness, and holiness

How to perfect intellectual powers you may not now you possess
Why a failure to understand human nature impairs our ability to understand anything
The three fundamental acts of practical wisdom
The eight parts of prudence every Catholic should keep in stock
How training our memories can make us deeper thinkers
How critical thinking alone is insufficient for reaching the truth
Why Catholics should cherish reason as well as faith and know how to use it!
How to spot twenty common logical fallacies

How thinking like Aquinas can inoculate you from twenty damaging isms and worldviews wreaking havoc in our world today."

In many ways this book is the culmination of Dr. Vost's earlier works. It ties together themes from many of his works and ties them together in a practical and applicable way. Even though Vost is a brilliant man and scholar he writes in such a way that the general public can engage and benefit from reading this book. The sections in the book are:

Introduction: Why You Should Think Like Aquinas (and How)
Part 1
Navigating the Small Streams of Knowledge
1. Speak Slowly and Carry a Big Heart and Mind
2. The Power of Pure Prayer
3. From the Cell to the Wine Cellar: On Crafting a Study Space You Can Love
4. The Benefits and Perils of Friendliness to Study
5. Set Your Intellect Free by Avoiding Worldly Entanglements
6. The Imitation of Christ (and of Those Who Imitate Him)
7. Loving Truth Regardless of Its Source (and On the Perfection of Memory)
8. How to Read Any Book: On the Power of Understanding
9. Filling Your Mental Cupboard to the Brim: On Building a Knowledge Base
10. Knowing Your Mental Powers - and Their Limits
Conclusion to Part 1
Part 2
Fathoming the Depths of Wisdom
Prologue to Part 2
11. Reason Gone Wrong
12. Premises of Sand
13. Wrong Thinking about the Faith
14. Mnemonic Master Table
About the Author

Each chapter in part one of the book ends with a section called Doctor's order, a sort of prescription for learning the lesson of that specific chapter, and tool to help lock the teaching in. These Doctor's orders are broken into three sections, Reflect, Read, and Remember. The Reflect section is to help you apply what you have learned. The Read section is some examples of how to take the lesson further. And the Remember section will help you sink in the lesson. And Chapter 14 provides a Mnemonic Master Table of all we have learned in Part 2 of the book.

When reading books by Kevin Vost I realise how much more I have to learn. And each of his books has served as a guide along that path. I believe this book is his best to date. I do not know any Christian who would not benefit from reading this book. And I look forward to when my children are a few years older and I can share this book with them, and that is the highest praise I can give a book. This book is an excellent read by an amazing author.

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

Books by Dr. Kevin Vost:
Full Range of Motive (2001)
Memorize the Faith! (2006)
Fit For Eternal Life (2007)
From Atheism to Catholicism (2010)
Unearthing Your Ten Talents (2010)
St. Albert the Great (2011)
Tending the Temple (2011)
Three Irish Saints (2012)
Memorize the Reasons! (2013)
One-Minute Aquinas (2014)
Hounds of the Lord (2015)
Seven Deadly Sins (2015)
Memorize the Mass! (2016)
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2016)
The Porch and the Cross (2016)
The Catholic Guide to Loneliness (2017)
The Four Friendships (2018)
How to Think Like Aquinas (2018)
Memorize the Latin Mass! (2018)

Books Contributed to:
Man Up! (2014)

Author profile interview with Dr. Kevin Vost.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky - CTS Twentieth Century Martyrs

Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis
CTS Twentieth Century Martyrs
Helena Scott
Ethel Tolansky
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860820687
CTS Booklet B655

That is the eighth and final book co-written by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky, That I have tracked down and read. These eight books are wonderful reads, I have already each of them twice and will likely read them again, either with my children or on my own. This book and Sophie Scholl and The White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis, are the only two of the 8 that are part of the CTS Twentieth Century Martyrs series. And this is the only biography they wrote that covers two people. It is the story of both Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel two men who were Catholic priests, both were imprisoned at Gusen 1, a sub camp of Mauthausen concentration camp. And both lived to serve others, often at great personal sacrifice and risk.

The back of the book states:

"Heroic sanctity and goodness could be thought of as things of the past, of other ages, for the saints of old. The 20th century has witnessed some of mankind's most demonic actions, from the Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Siberian camps, to the killing fields of Cambodia. Some say this proves God is dead. But, like so many others of our times, Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel, two priests interned at the infamous Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp during the Second World War, bore witness in their flesh that God is far from dead, but alive. Their faith, courage and love unto death saved countless fellow prisoners."

The chapters in this book are:

The Mauthausen Concentration Camps
Conditions at Mauthausen
Father Johann Gruber
Austria and the Nazis
Mauthausen Gusen Concentration Camp
A Different Kind of Patriotism
Tending to Physical Needs First
The 'Gruber Organization'
Extra Food for the Prisoners
Arrest and Death
Father Jacques Bunel
The Bunel Family
Lucien's Illness
Childhood - and Vocation
Contemplative Vocation
St. Joseph's School, Le Havre
The Little School at Avon
The Fight Against anti-Semitism
A Place of Shelter
Taking Jewish Students
Under Arrest
The Transit Camp of Compiegne
Neue Breme Camp, near Sarrebruck
Exercising His Priestly Ministry
Celebrating Mass in the Concentration Camp
The End of the Battle

The introduction of this book begins with these words:

"There is a clear link between the two priests who are the subjects of this booklet. Father Johann Gruber, an Austrian priest, and Father Jacques Bunel, a French Carmelite priest, were both imprisoned by the Nazis in Gusen I, a satellite camp of Mauthausen concentration camp, and were both instrumental in saving the lives of many of their fellow prisoners. "

We know that Father Jacques arrived at Mauthausen on April 23rd 1944, only 16 days after Father Gruber has been executed. And that he was at Gusen I by May 18th. They both showed their faith in how they lived. In their charity, their service and their devotion to other people. People who were sent to Mauthausen had a short life expectancy; they were worked hard, and worked to death. Mauthausen and its satellite camps were among the most brutal, cruellest of the concentration camps. And it is here that these two priests found their selves, and where they lived their calling as priests and followers of Christ. The poet Jean Cayrol stated:

"Father Gruber was amazing. On the day he met me I had about fourty-eight hours to live: I was starving and desperately cold, had almost no clothes, and was at the very end of my strength. I was working in the quarry. Somebody said to him, "Something's got to be done quickly. Cayrol is one of the ones in most urgent need of help." He came to find me, and brought me five litres of potatoes mashed up in water. I called a friend, and between the two of us we ate it all in five minutes. Father Gruber has tears in his eyes as he watched.
  He was a little round man. We used to call him Papa Gruber because we truly owed him our lives. He was an absolutely unbelievable person. He risked his life to find us food.""

This booklet is full of stories about both priests. We will never know the number of people they saved. There is no list. But there are many, many testimonies. I never particularly enjoy reading books about World War II, especially about the concentration camps. But I know that they are important books to read. We need to remember our history so that we do no repeat the mistakes. This book shows us what truly living the gospel mean, especially living it in some of the worse conditions humans have known. It shows the valiant faith of Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel. They lived the gospel, and their lives are an example to us.

This book is at times a hard read. And from the beginning we know the ending will not be pleasant. But Scott and Tolansky do an amazing job of telling the story of these two priest. It is a book that will challenge the reader, and inspire them. It is another faith filled book from the Catholic Truth Society! 

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 Scott and Tolansky:
Pius XII
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
Benedict XVI

Josemaria Escriva
Alvaro Del Portillo

A Pope of Surprises: The First Five Years of Pope Benedict XVI's Papacy
Sophie Scholl and The White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis
Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel: Victims of the Nazis

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Played by Ear - Daniel A.Lord S.J.

Played by Ear
Daniel A. Lord S.J.
Loyola University Press
ISBN 9780829400496


Reading this book was both a great joy and a terribly frustrating, It was a joy to read such an incredible autobiography. It was frustrating in all the books he has written that he mentioned and many of the books he mentions that shaped him are all out of print and proving very hard to track down. Even tracking down this book proved not easy. This is the fourth book or booklet by Daniel a. Lord S.J. that I have read this year but it is by far the longest. My introduction was I Don't Like Lent, and it was wonderful. My youngest daughter then received two children's books by Father Lord, for her first communion, and they were wonderful reads for the whole family. Then after many tries I was able to track down this volume through inter-library loan to read.

This autobiography is unlike any that I have read. It was written as a series of letters, from the author to various people. He stated that he wrote in this form because it was natural to him. He also stated he tried not to duplicate too much that is included in his other books, but often touches upon them or refers to them. (The more the pity they are all out of print.) In the introduction we are told:

"He wrote exactly thirty adult books and twelve booklets.  His pamphlets must number nearly three hundred. He wrote forty-eight children's books.  He wrote twenty-five plays, twelve pageants, three musicals; and he published five separate musical compositions, not to mention the tunes incorporated in his pageants, some written in collaboration with others."

From my research only 2 of those books for adults are still in print. And about 50 of the pamphlets are available electronically. The booklets he wrote for children seem to still be available in beautiful hard cover editions. But the rest of his works are very difficult to track down. In the first letter he is writing to young parents and he states about his own school days:

"What I remember most clearly about grammar school was the competition between a group of us for the largest number of books read each week.  We were spurred on by Sister Mary Blanche, who loved books simply and intelligently.  We considered it a feat comparable to athletic victories to score high in the records of books taken from our school library, read, and returned in jig time.  I cannot recall that any of these books were ever assigned for class reading.  They seem to have been the object of supererogatory love."

His love of books and knowledge is a theme that runs through the letters and throughout his won life. And it appears to be something he holds in common with readers who discover his works. Outside of the two passages from the book already quoted, two other passages really had an impact upon me. I took pictures of the text and printed the paragraphs to have them up on my desk at work. In part as a reminder and in part to reflect on them.

First speaking about his early school days he states:

"Yet often, as my priestly life progressed and I have spoken to small college bodies on Catholic campuses, I have bragged in this fashion: "I am a graduate of a small college in a run-down building situated in the very center of Chicago's darkest Ghetto.  Yet I would not trade what I got there for the most spectacular college education the universities of the world could offer."  And I have meant sincerely what I said."

Another speaking about finances while growing up he says:

"Of a Satruday evening my dad simply tossed the pay envelope on the table in the kitchen.  On Monday morning my mother gave him the money he would need for carfare, lunches and incidedntal expenses of the week.  For the rest, his was the generosity and trust, hers was the financial managements that came in its small way close to genius.  When I hear moderns protesting the terrible lack of money, once more I smile.  Times are changed, no doubt of that; and money has no longer the purchasing power that once it had.  But I wonder if in domestic matters it is nearly as much a question of "how much income" as it is of "how well managed and with what generosity, loyalty, good humor, and love.""

I truly enjoyed reading this book. But having it on inter-library loan I felt rushed. I did not have long to read it, and it was an old and frail copy. I could only read it during dedicated times, and because of the condition, would not carry it to read on my commute to work. I would love to eventually track down my own copy of this and take my time and reread the letters at a more leisurely pace.

Lord was a man, a priest, and a Jesuit from a different time. His faith was contagious, to those who knew him, and like me those who encountered him via his writings. I was encouraged and challenged while reading this book. A few times I stopped and took notes, and at other times, stopped and prayed. If you can lay your hands on this book it is a wonderful read!

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

Books by Daniel A. Lord:
Father Finn, S.J., The Story Of His Life Told By Himself For His Friends Young And Old
Played by Ear

Children's Books:
The Our Father: Our Prayer to God
The Hail Mary Our Mother in Heaven

Red Arrows in the Night

Our Nuns: Their Varied and Vital Service for God and County
I can read ANYTHING!? All right! - then read THIS!
Confession is a joy?
Religion and Leadership
Fashionable Sin - A Modern Discussion of an Unpopular Subject
My Mother, The Study of an Uneventful Life
You Can't Live That Way
The Call to Catholic Action
Our Part in the Mystical Body
I Don't Like Lent

Three Great Catholic Writers That You Might Never Have Heard Of!  Curtayne - Lord - Powers

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Marian Prayer Book - Catholic Truth Society

Marian Prayer Book
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860827976
CTS Booklet D752


Searching on the CTS site for the term 'Prayer Book' currently turns up 107 results. Many are available in various electronic formats and in print. This is one of them that is only available in a print format. I picked it up a few months ago now, and have read and prayed through it twice now. And my son who is 10 has been borrowing it to pick new prayers to be able to pray.

The chapters in the Marian Prayer Book are:

Standard Marian Prayers
Prayers from the Missal and Breviary
The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Litany of Loreto
Prayers from English Sources
Prayers from approved Marian Apparitions
Orthodox Church Prayers
Other Marian Prayers and Devotions
Marian Hymns
Mary in the Bible

Some of the prayers are available in English and a number of the prayers are available in parallel in Latin and English. But this is more than just a collection of prayers. It is also a teaching tool, that can be used to teach others or for self-directed learning. Each chapter begins with teaching in italics, and often each prayer in the book also has instruction. Sometimes it is an explanation of the prayer, or history of the prayer, or information about a pope who approved or encouraged the specific prayer or devotion. For example the information about the Hail Holy Queen - Salve, Regina is:

"Attributed to several sources, the probable author is Herman the Lame (1013-1054), a monk of Reichenau Abbey in Germany."

For anyone with a deep Marian devotion this book will likely have a few prayers you are unfamiliar with. For those of you with a growing Marian appreciation this is an excellent prayer book, and wonderful resource in your spiritual tool box. My only regret is that there is no eBook edition so that I could always have it with me. This is a wonderful little prayer book, so pick it up and give it a try!

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.

Reviews of Other Prayer Books:
Handbook of Prayers by: Rev. James Socias General Editor
The Saints Pray for Us - Encounter The Saints Series
A Simple Prayer Book - Catholic Truth Society
Marian Prayer Book - Catholic Truth Society