Saturday, 20 October 2018

Armed with Faith The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno - Stephen M. Digiovanni

Armed with Faith: 
The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM
Capodanno Guild
Stephen M. Digiovanni
ISBN 9781983237171

Over the last few years I have read several books about military chaplains. This is the second on father Vincent Capodanno that I have read. And it is an incredible read. It goes into a lot of details. Especially about his early years as a missionary priest. It gives us a very clear picture of the man, the priest and his life, that has now opened the cause for his canonization. Father Capodanno is currently classified as a Servant of God, he was priest, missionary, and chaplain to the United States Marine Corps. But he was also a brother, son, and friend. The author of this book has written a biography. He does not shy away from some of Vincent’s rougher edges or present just a super holy hagiography. 

In the introduction it is stated that: 

“Several years ago I asked Msgr. DiGiovanni to serve as the chairman of the Historical Commission in the Cause for the recognition of the sanctity of this hero.  He carefully studied the documentation available and spoke to those who knew Father Capodanno during his life.  This book offers the results of that study and is being published to help others learn about the priest who gave his life to minister to “his Marines.” 

While you will certainly appreciate the careful research and the literary talents of the pastor of the Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist in Stamford, CT, my hope is that you are also captured by the virtues of the pilgrim whose example has inspired so many.”

That theme of pilgrimage is expressed in the introduction and throughout the book. Part of what we see in this life is a man, an average man, who spent his like seeking for God, seeking God’s will, seeking to serve God, and through that to serve others. In the tradition of all Spiritual Quester’s he life was a journey, but not just spiritually, for Vincent, it ended up being a physical journey, half way around the world.

The chapters in this volume are:

Vincent Robert 
Formosa and Language School 
The Missions in Tunglo and Miaoli 
Hong Kong and Hawaii 
Training and Vietnam, 1966 
Vietnam, 1967 
September 4, 1967 
Epilogue Mission Diaries, 1958-1959 
Some Reflections on Adaptation to the Orient, Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM, November 
Biographical Timeline of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM  1929-1967 Bibliography

I stated earlier that Vincent was average, he was of average build, maybe leaning towards stocky. He was an average student. And according to parts of this text was average as a missionary, at least to one of his superiors. But that is what is so incredible about this story. Vincent was an average man, and he became a chaplain at an older age. He was a little older than many of the soldiers he served with. But with his age, and his maturity he brought a calm to the soldiers around him. Especially in battle. 

From the accounts in this book and other works about Capodanno, we see a man who excelled in courage, who excelled under pressure. A man who was committed to serving the best he could. In some ways this is an easier military biography to read. Vincent did not suffer in the concentration camps as others tried to strip his humanity. Or he was not a prisoner in China, and forced on a death march, beaten, and abused. What he did was live heroically. He had many medals for valor and courage. And in the end, he used his own body to shield an injured corpsman. That battle, and Vincent’s final hours has been pieced together from the testimony of the men he served and served with. I do not know how you could read this book and not be inspired and challenged in your own faith. 

One of the great things in this book is the publication of excerpts of Vincent’s missionary diaries. And also, a copy of his piece ‘Some Reflections on Adaptation to the Orient’. 

I am sure that as time goes on, and prayerfully the cause of Vincent moves forward to the stages of blessed and saint, that other books and future scholarship into the life and impact of Father Vincent Capodanno will take place. But this most recent book about his life is masterfully done and written with impeccable research and dedication to seeking the facts.

This is truly a book about a man whose life appeared average but was truly a great man. And this book is a great read about him. 

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

Friday, 19 October 2018

3 Things to Forget - Cynthia T. Toney - Bird Face Book 4

3 Things to Forget
Bird Face Book 4
Cynthia T. Toney
Write Integrity Press
ISBN 9781944120627

This is the fifth novel by Cynthia Toney that I have read in the last year and a half. And it is with mixed emotions that I read and review this book. For the author has announced that this is the fourth and final novel in the Bird face series. I can only hope that like Madeleine L'Engle's character Meg, that maybe someday we will encounter Wendy again, maybe even as a mother herself. But that might just be fanciful wishing on my part. As a father of daughters, I find that I now read a lot of books that I would not have read in my own youth, or even earlier in my years as an adult. 

This book is what I would consider classic clean young adult fiction. There is no sex, but there is talk about it. There are no alternative lifestyles just for the sake of diversity. It is good clean Christian fiction. And it also falls within the realms of normal life fiction. It is an excellent read. And was very hard to put down. If you have read some of the other Bird face books you will be familiar with the characters and some of the events. 

The story begins with Wendy on a flight to Alaska. She is going to spend the summer with Sam's family and will be volunteering at an animal reserve. She is thankful to be away from home, and her recent breakup with David, and the whole uproar over the who tutoring for hire incident. She is working with Sam, and Levi and Levi's sister Devorah. Both Sam and Levi are deaf and use sign language to communicate. So, Wendy is trying to learn more American Sign Language. To begin work she is often paired with Devorah, and Devorah initially opens up to Wendy. From that point on Wendy is praying for guidance on how to her with all she is dealing with.

This book focuses around themes of friends and family. It also has the element of Wendy a Catholic girl trying to understand, help and pray for a Jewish friend. Devorah is acting out because of how she is feeling. And Wendy has seen how destructive that can be and is trying hard to provide wise counsel. Wendy is also there because her surrogate grandmother Mrs. V, Sam's grandmother, has Alzheimer's and is going down hill. 

This book had a few surprises. But readers young and not so young will love following Wendy as she tries to fit in away from home, and find a balance between helping and being a nuisance.  When you add in the scenery from the Alaskan setting, and the animals at the shelter it provides a wonderful backdrop for the story.

Another excellent read from the pen of Cynthia T. Toney. I know that I am hooked on her writing and am addicting my oldest daughter. I am sure if you give this book or the series a try you will love them also. An excellent read that will entertain and challenge!

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

Books by Cynthia T. Toney:
The Other Side of Freedom

Bird Face Series:
8 Notes to a Nobody
10 Steps to Girlfriend Status
6 Dates to Disaster
3 Things to Forget

Contributed to:
Secrets: Visible & Invisible 7 Amazing Stories - Catholic Teen Books

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Prayer of the Day Prayer for Priests

Prayer for Priests:

Father, you have appointed your Son Jesus Christ eternal High priest. Guide those he has chosen to be ministers of word and sacrament and help them to be faithful in fulfilling the ministry they have received. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Note: I do not know where this prayer came from. I copied it to my evernote prayer book and forgot to attribute it. With all that has been going on of late I have been extra faithful in praying for priests. For priests I know, and for priests in general. I can count on one hand the number of priests I have encountered in life that I have had a bad experience with in some way or fashion. and I could count many many priests that I have encountered that were great pastors, prayer warriors, and exceptional men. And I have read some incredible books by priests, and about priests.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Catholic Hipster Handbook - Tommy Tighe - Rediscovering Cool Saints, Forgotten Prayers, and Other Weird but Sacred Stuff

The Catholic Hipster Handbook:
Rediscovering Cool Saints, Forgotten Prayers, and Other Weird but Sacred Stuff
Tommy Tighe
Ave Maria Press
ISBN 9781594717079
eISBN 9781594717086

This book was not exactly what I was expecting. I had seen it mentioned by so many people that I was certain it would be something I would like and purchased it without realizing that it is an anthology with 12 contributors when you included Tommy. Sort of a modern-day group of apostles.

The contributors are:
Leticia Ochoa Adams
Sr. Brittany Harrison
Lisa M. Hendey
Steven Lewis
Anna Mitchell
Mary Rezac
Fr. Kyle Schnippel
Arleen Spenceley
Katherine Morna Towne
Sarah Vabulas
Tiffany Walsh

And the sections in this book are:

Foreword by Jeannie Gaffigan
Part One: Rediscover the Attitude
Part Two: Rediscover the Stuff
Part Three: Rediscover the Life
Part Four: Rediscover the Attraction
About the Contributors

Each chapter follows the same format, the main article, cool saint, forgotten prayer, and activity. When I first started reading this book I could not tell if it was satire, sarcastic, or real devotion. My wife often comments that sarcasm is lost on me so it took me a few chapters to figure it out. In the end I found I really enjoyed the book at took it at face value. I give it a solid 4/5 stars. And it took a few days to settle on that rating. I read fairly widely, and I read a lot, but I was unfamiliar with most of the contributors prior to reading this book. I have started following a few of the contributors on social media because of their contributions to this book.

I have known a few Catholic Hipsters, going back to a college and Careers group at Saint Mary's Cathedral in Kingston Ontario in the late 80's and early 90's. Hipsters before being a hipster was cool. What I loved most about this book was that it comments on several trends in the Catholic community today, some that are growing and others with longer standing. I really appreciated the section 'Forgotten Prayer' and also 'Cool Saint' the activity sections are good also.

This book comes across for the most part as a fun playful read. It pokes a little fun at certain traditions or practices but not in an irreverent manner. It has some interesting activities to try, either personally or in a group. It would be really intriguing to work through this book with a group of friends and find where it really connects with readers and where it misses the mark.

This is an easy read and very accessible. I would say it is even accessible for teens and tweens. So, could be a good study for a youth group. What I loved most were the prayers and saints presented. Overall a very refreshing read, particularly during this time of conflict within the church. So give it a read and figure out where you end up on the hipsters scale or tribes.

Books by Tommy Tighe:
The Catholic Hipster Handbook
How to Catholic Family: Nurturing Faith in the Messiness of Everyday Life


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Old Magic in a New World - David Vining - A Collection of Short Stories

Old Magic in a New World
A Collection of Short Stories
David Vining
ISBN 9781980891956


This was the second collection of short stories by David Vining that I have read. It is a collection of 5 stories with some interesting variations on the practice of magic. The stories in this volume are:

From Cork to Montgomery 
Sooner or Later 
A Witch's Counter 
Lessons Our Parents Taught Us

With any collection of short stories there is always a favorite, and by necessity a least favorite. In this collection my favorite was ‘Lessons Our Parents Taught Us’ I appreciated the backstory of Winston Gardner’s recollections of what his parents taught him, even as he treks across the country to get away from his parents and his six brothers and sisters. The unique ending of this story took me completely by surprise. And the magic in this story presents in a very different way than the others. The story ‘A Witch's Counter’ was my least favorite. Even though it gives a plausible explanation for the beginning of the trials in Salem. 

Each of the stories to some extent focuses around the theme of magic. But it is the theme of magic in the new world. Three of the stories also have an element of family interactions. Some that support and some that play key aspects of the plot. 

The description of this collection is:

“Magic and spells populate the world of history. 

See what happens when people gain the power to make others sneeze at will! When a man can make himself disappear from sight with a song! See what really started the witch trials at Salem, Massachusetts!”

But the story that has stuck with me most is: ‘From Cork to Montgomery’, It has come back to mind a number of times since reading it. The story is about a family leaving Ireland to not be renters and seeking their own parcel of land in America. But the further the family travels the lest the matriarch’s magic works. The daughter understands what is happening and how to counter it but the old woman can not give up her old ways. 

This was a very intriguing collection of stories. After reading David’s novel and a different collection of stories I had purchased all 5 of his current collections of short stories. David is a young author, but his works show a maturity and skill I have not seen in many with far more years than his. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and look forward to the next I will read. 

Books by David Vining:
A Quest Through Winter Sleep
The Battle of Lake Erie: One Young American's Adventure in the War of 1812

Collections of Short Stories:
Shoes for Two Soldier Sons
Old Magic in a New World
A Light in the Darkness
A Boy and His Satellite