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


Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Second Sunday In Ordinary Time 2019

The Second Sunday In Ordinary Time 2019

It is interesting that we have no First Sunday of Ordinary Time, the readings go from the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2019to Monday of the first week of ordinary Time. So, this is the first Sunday after the season of Christmas. Our readings this week are:

First Reading Isaiah 62:1-5 
Responsorial Psalm -Psalm 96:1-4, 7-10 Response 3
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Gospel John 2:1-12

This year is year C in the cycle of readings. After this year the weekend readings circle back to year 1. But because of the shifting seasons, seldom do the weekends end up on the same day especially at this point in the calendar. Just this week I reviewed, The Church's Year Unfolding the Mysteries of Christ by David W. Fagerberg from the CTS Deeper Christianity Series. And I posted pictures of Church from last weekend, mentioning the end of the Christmas Season. It caused quite the controversy in a specific Catholic Facebook group. And I for the most part just watched the comments. My understanding is Christmas ended last week, and ordinary time began. Some more traditional parishes, especially those that follow the extraordinary form argue Candlemas ends on February 2nd. I did not want to get in the middle of it, and it is splitting hairs. So, for those who follow the ordinary form, the default since 1969 Christmas ended last weekend. Candlemas is 40 days from Christmas day and the 40 days of Lent, 40 years of wandering in the desert both have meaning. But from where I sit it is not worth fighting over. Personally, having been born after Vatican II, and being a revert to the Catholic faith, I know what I grew up with, and do not long for the Latin mass of either variation. But I can respect and appreciate those who appreciate it. But enough about when Christmas ends and let us look at this week’s readings.

The first reading is about the end of the exile. Both for Israel, and for us a followers of Christ. We are strangers in a strange land, and we look forward to a future home in heaven. Three phrases from this reading strike me:

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken.

For the Lord delights in you,

And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

If I am completely honest with you, for most of my life I felt and believed the opposite of these phrases. I believed I was forsaken and living under a curse. A curse of things that had been done to me, circumstances, and my own mistakes. I could not imagine God delighting in me, or rejoicing over me. Having worked through several of John Eldredge’s book a few years back, and having been through deliverance ministry, I prayed a prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ bring me fully alive,
Lord Jesus Christ restore me to glory.”

Praying and trusting that as Jesus stated in John 10:10 ‘I am come that you might have life and have it abundantly.’ I prayed the above prayer like the Jesus prayer, I prayed it while walking to and from campus, I prayed it while working out, while walking to and from work. And though I still struggle at times with believe God would want me, I trust it now and strive to live it out, in my work, in my family and with my friends. And this takes us to this week’s response:

“Declare the marvelous works of the Lord among all the people.”

That is what I attempt to do with these weekly reflections. With reviewing Catholic books. With opening up at times about my own faults and failures. God is so good. And I sing his praise, or in my case I write in praise of him and his works. The second reading is one I have studied often, both when a student leader at Queen’s University and later at the University of Waterloo I have lead several series of bible studies on the gifts of the spirit, and on the spiritual disciplines. And in my own life different gifts have been predominant at different points in my life. I love even just listing the gifts in this passage:

Discernment of Spirits
Interpretation of Tongues

All from the same spirit, all for the common good, a variety of gifts, services, and activities. But we are all one body. One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church!

And this week my prayer for you my readers is that your faith is sparked afresh, anew. That you are renewed this week and begin the fight again. Carry on, battle on, and persevere. 

Related Posts:
The Second Sunday In Ordinary Time 2019

Note: Link to all posts about St. Agnes Parish.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Smart Egg Labyrinth Puzzle - Product Review

Smart Egg
Labyrinth Puzzle


As a family we currently have 8 of these toys. They are puzzles that are enjoyed by the whole family. It began when my youngest brother bought one for my son. Instantly my son, both daughters and me all loved doing the puzzle egg. There are twelve eggs in the starter series.

Level 1 Eggs:
The first 6 eggs each teach you tricks but the stick basically moves through, up, down, back and forth. The eggs in this series are:


Level 2 Eggs:
The next 6 eggs get a little more complicated, you have all the movements of level 1 eggs, but there are internal pieces in the egg that you can move with the stick. Once those ‘tumblers’ are moved the stick has new paths open up and are required to complete the eggs. The eggs in this series are:


Space Capsule

Level 3 Eggs or 2 Layer Eggs:
These eggs get a lot more complicated. Not only do you have all the movements of level 1 and 2 eggs. But the egg itself has a core that slides down and rotates left and right. The first time I did one of these it took about 40 minutes and even with that there was a move in the middle I wasn’t sure how I did. The three eggs currently in this series all look the same from the outside but the insides are very different. The eggs in this set are:

Blue Dragon
Red Dragon
Black Dragon

There are several cool features to these toys. First each egg can be solved from top to bottom and from bottom to top. Then once you know an egg you can race and time yourself. There is an app with an electronic version of puzzle eggs, and a timer to keep your records with physical eggs. The first smart eggs were hand crafted of wood and limited in number (and limited editions). But as the popularity grew, they expanded into plastic eggs. And now there are tournaments and competitions. Please note level 1 and 2 eggs look the same, same size only difference is if they have internal pieces that move. Level 3 eggs are much bigger and easy to tell apart.

Note: We have eggs not listed above, those are from the official website which is outdated. And if you are local to Kitchener-Waterloo we get ours at J&J Cards and Collectibles. (And if you want, they do ship. I checked before posting this review and at that time they had stock of about 10 different ones on hand.)

Of the eggs listed above we have the 5 that are blue text, and we have three that are not listed. But I am sure we will have more soon.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Be Who You Are: Developing Your Christian Personality - Wenceslau Vial Editor

Be Who You Are:
Developing Your Christian Personality
Wenceslau Vial
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9781594173226


This book was not what I expected. When I first came across it I did not realize that it was an anthology and that Wenceslau Vial was both an editor and a contributor. In fact, Wenceslau contributed three of the 11 pieces in the collection. The description of this volume is:

“As St. Catherine of Siena so aptly stated, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!" Despite our fallen natures, we have the ability, through the solid Christian understanding of the human person—body and soul—how we can rise above it all. The authors guide us towards spiritual maturity, by teaching us how to improve one's personality, self-esteem, and virtue, without imitating models that distract us from our own identity. We learn how to live a happier and more coherent life, and how to acquire greater empathy with others—especially with our own family members and those in our immediate environment.”

And this book draws from several disciplines, and ten contributors to probe the depths of understanding self in growth in becoming better at being. For almost 30 years now my email signature has begun with ‘Yours, learning to be’, and it has been a life long endeavour to learn how to be, and to be good at being. This is a book that will assist with that process no matter where you are at in your life’s journey. This book would be a great read from late teens through to centenarians. There are many books I read and plan to read again, this might become one of those books that I read annually.

The sections in this volume are:

1. A Personality Identified with Christ
     Javier Sesé
 2. Authors of Our Own Lives
     Juan Ramón García-Morato
 3. A Healthy Self-Esteem
     Javier Cabanyes
 4. Character Built on Virtue
     José María Barrio and Rodolfo Valdés
 5. Building Interior Order
     José Benito Cabaniña and Carlos Ayxelá
 6. A Life in Dialogue with Others
     Alfonso Aguiló
 7. Sharing Others’ Feelings
     Javier Laínez
 8. Growth: A Family Project
     Wenceslao Vial
 9. Details of the Home
     Wenceslao Vial
10. The Others and I: Verses of the Same Poem
     Carlos Ayxelá
11. The Ripe Fruit of Personal Identity
     Wenceslao Vial
Works Cited
Recommended Reading

The contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds. A life long educator specializing in education and anthropology. A priest with degrees in the humanities, journalism, and a doctorate in philosophy. Degrees in philosophy, journalism, theology, mathematics, psychology and even a doctorate in medicine with a focus on neurology. The forward begins with these words:

“History recounts that in the times of ancient Rome pirates gradually took control of the Mediterranean Sea. Pompey the Great, consul of Rome, acted vigorusly to end this scourge, but he also tried to treat the pirates in a humane way. The outlaws, surprised by the leniency shown them, praised the Consul: “The more you act like a man, the more you resemble the gods.”

These words from the distant past can help us reflect on our own life. The first requirement for an upright character is acting as a human being. It is only on this foundation that a mature personality can be forged—a strong and friendly way of being that becomes the support for a rich spiritual life redounding to the benefit of many other people.

This book arose from an interdisciplinary group that gathered together ideas on how to develop a healthy, well-rounded personality.1 The fact that the contributors come from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests, has greatly helped to enrich the book’s content. As theologians, philosophers, priests, doctors, educators, and psychologists, they have all made contributions based on their own experience and expertise.

The book focuses on the features proper to a mature personality, with special attention to a Christian’s spiritual life. The Catholic Church has a long tradition of teachers of the spiritual life who provide a coherent synthesis of the various factors that converge to form a healthy personality. Among these, St. Josemaría Escrivá has been a key source of inspiration. The teachings of this saint contain valuable advice on the importance of strengthening human virtues as the foundation for the supernatural virtues, on the need to form Christians with their own criteria and standards, and on the essential requirement for “unity of life” in each person.
Although the book discusses a wide variety of circumstances, its focus above all is on those going through crucial phases in personality development, especially between the ages of fifteen and thirty (adolescents and young adults), and on those who in one way or another are involved in their formation.”

But as one who has been in a decades long quest of personal growth, I can state this book will benefit readers of all ages. It will be excellent for those in those developmental year, and those who work with them. But all of us can learn from this volume, and through that learning become better people. I loved how the Christian Virtues were woven throughout the book. And the Epilogue states:

“We have considered in the pages above some of the signs of maturity, by which we build up our life brick by brick. Psychological concepts have gone hand in hand with the virtues, which ennoble our being because they draw out what is best in our humanity. Like a pyramid, the apex of Christian maturity rises high above the broad and strong foundation of faith. Our faith tells us that we are creatures, and that an all-knowing and loving God has given us a mission in life. He offers us the best human identity possible, and fills us with a joy that has no merely human explanation.”

This collection is masterfully executed and was well planned. It is a book that will serve generations to come. I truly believe growth is a lifelong journey. And this is a book that we can use to help us, and to help us help others. An excellent read. And of all the books both Christian and secular I have read on personal development one of the best!

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

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Firefly Big Damn Hero - Nancy Holder and James Lovegrove - Firefly Book 1

Firefly Big Damn Hero
Firefly Book One
Nancy Holder
James Lovegrove
Joss Whedon
Titan Books
ISBN 9781785658266
eISBN 9781785658273

This book is the first in a new series of official Firefly novels. They are endorsed by Josh Whedon and planned and coordinated by Nancy Holder. And this specific novel is written by James Lovegrove. So, in a manner these are official Firefly Canon. The dedication of this book states:

“This novel is respectfully dedicated to the supremely talented artists, technicians and craftspeople who created the ’verse, peopled it with such memorable characters, and left us wanting more.”

And that would be a fact. I believe we are long past the time of getting the gang together and doing more TV shows or even another movie. But The characters, the people, the places, and even the ship, Serenity, can live on in this and other stories. This is a first book in a series, and as such it sets a tone. As such it is hard to write a review of this book.

I read this book in three sittings. But I paused about a third of the way through and read two other books. When I came back to it I seriously considered leaving it in my ‘did not finish’ pile. But decided to give it another chance. I am glad I did. Buy the ends of the book I was very thankful that I stuck it out. And it ended up being a great story. But it begins slow, and with the flipping back and forth in time, with Mal remembering back to his youth, it starts off slow or at least unfocused. For fans of the series this will be a good read. For those who like the space western genre it will be entertaining.

The Good:
Some great back Story information on Malcolm Reynolds.
More info on Preacher Book’s back story.
Seeing Zoë step up and take the lead.
Some good ideas from Jayne Cobb.

The Bad:
The story is very slow at some points.

It took a long time to really buy into it.
Wincing as Zoë plods along on a wrecked leg.

The Ugly:
Zoë and Wash pretending to be adopted siblings.
Wash wanting to turn that into a game in the bedroom.

Overall, I give the book a 4/5 stars. I debated 3 but by the end was entertained and enjoyed the way all the plot elements were wrapped up. I enjoyed the book enough that when I finished it, I added the next volume ‘The Magnificent Nine’ to my wish list to pick up once it is released. Looking forward to seeing where the story goes in this initial trilogy.

Sometimes it is hard with books about characters you know and love. It doesn’t matter if it is Star Trek, Star Wars, and now Firefly. You come to expect the characters to interact in a certain way, we know their personalities, and also their story. New authors coming in and writing with these characters need to be careful. They stray too far, and we lose the continuity of the characters. They stay to close to home, and they are just retelling old stories. This book finds a good middle ground. I especially like learning more about Book.

A good science fiction story worth the read.

Other Firefly Books:
Firefly Series:

Big Damn Hero
The Magnificent Nine

Other Firefly Books:
My Own Kind of Freedom – Steven Brust