Thursday, 25 May 2017

Norms of Piety - J.M. Muntadas - A Plan for Everyday Living

Norms of Piety:
A Plan for Everyday Living
Scepter Booklet Book 61
J.M. Muntadas
Scepter Press
ISBN 9781594173035

First I must state how excited I am to see these Scepter booklets coming back into print. Of the roughly 200 booklets I have only ever been able to track down about a third of the older out of print editions. But not only is Scepter bringing them back into print, they are completely redoing them and these are beautiful new eBook editions. This specific booklet was originally booklets 61 and 62 was originally published in 1977. The chapters in this booklet are:

The Morning Offering
Morning prayer
Holy Mass
Reading of the Gospel and other spiritual reading
The Angelus
A visit to the Blessed Sacrament
Afternoon prayer
The Holy Rosary
Examination of conscience
Frequent confession
Praying the Hail Holy Queen on Saturdays
Always: Presence of God
Consideration of our divine filiation

From the introduction the goal of this plan is to:

"This fully personalized plan, the result of reflection, will enable us to accomplish more with the time we have available, and will help us to be realists. In this sense a plan of life expands in a practical way to embrace both the human and the spiritual. For a Christian, the full life is nothing more than human life itself lived in a Christian manner. Hence the importance of religious formation and of the interior life in order to sanctify human activities and, at the same time, to turn them into instruments of apostolate."

And from there it states:

"What follows are some of these norms of piety. They are not all of those practiced by ordinary Christians. Indeed, some very important ones, like the day of recollection, annual retreat and aspirations, have been left out. But in this and the following booklet (Scepter Booklet No. 62) you will find fifteen norms, each with a brief explanation to help you live them better."

And that is what the rest of the book does. It explains what the 15 norms are and how to integrate those into your life. The booklet is short, practical and easily applied. The advice in this book can be applied by students in high school or someone who is retired. Any Christian who wishes to deepen their spiritual life can use this book as a blueprint for changes, for growth to establish a patterns and habits in the spiritual life.

The book concludes with a chapter on Cheerfulness. J.M. Muntadas states:

"Cheerfulness cannot be bought and sold; it has to be earned. The secret lies in piety, in sincerity, docility, and hard work. Of course we come home at the end of the day tired, worn out. But sad?-never. And why? "Cheerfulness is an integral and necessary part of Christian psychology, even in the midst of adversity and tribulation"(29). God made us to be happy, eternally in our heavenly home, but the happiness of heaven belongs to those who have known how to find happiness on earth. It is a norm for which we have to train."

And I must admit that Cheerfulness is the one I need to work on most after reading this booklet. I have been praying to live more joy for a while, and this book really reinforced that intention.

This is a great little book. I believe that if you read and apply the lessons within it you will experience spiritual growth! This is a great book in an amazing series.

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

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

A Graduate's Guide to Life - Frank J. Hanna

A Graduate's Guide to Life:
Three Things They Don't Teach You in College That Could Make All the Difference
Frank J. Hanna
Beacon Publishing for
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781929266272
eISBN 9781929266883

This is one of those small books that pop up around graduation time each year. I have read numerous books along this line, over the years there have been a few that I have really enjoyed. Such as James Allen’s As You Think, Todd Duncan’s Life by Design, or John Maxwell’s The Journey from Success to Significance or The Choice is Yours. Or the ever popular Dr. Seuss Oh The Places You Will Go. But to be honest all of those books pale in comparison to this book. To be honest this book was so good that when I finished it, I decided to immediately read it again, and thus have read it twice now back to back.

Hanna begins the introduction to this book with a statement, he declares:

“Within the pages of this short book, I’m going to give you a recipe for becoming successful. This recipe only has three ingredients: an understanding of reality, an understanding of competition, and an understanding of wealth. These concepts are not complex, so it won’t take us long. You’ll see.”
And then he goes on to do so. Some of the ideas he presents in this book were very new to me. Some were theories I was aware of but never seen them applied to life as a whole. In under 50 pages Hanna gives some excellent advice for those just starting out on careers after graduation, but it is also great advice for anyone who wishes to live a more fulfilled and meaningful life! The chapters in this book are:

An Understanding of Reality
An Understanding of Competition
The Real Purpose of Human Competition
How Competition Can Destroy Success
Abundance and Value—an Alternative Way
The Real Way to Get Wealthy
The True Nature of Wealth
How Does Wealth Disappear?
The First Essential Ingredient of Wealth is Hope
The Second Essential Ingredient of Wealth is Human Relationships
Why Good Communion Works
Going Forward

Hanna states:

“So first, a question: How many of you and your friends were told as you headed off to college that these would be the best four years of your life? By the way, this is a rhetorical question. In other words, I already know the answer, because I have asked numerous groups of college students this question. The answer is: all of you. All of you were told, by someone, perhaps your parents, that your college years should be the best four years of your life. But you know what? It is horrible advice! Truly terrible. It can send you down the wrong path and have negative consequences in your life. 
In the following chapters, I’ll show you why and give you a better alternative. Let’s start by taking a look at the first ingredient in the wealth recipe: an understanding of reality.”
And I had never really thought about it that way. I know people who still look back at University or even High School as the best years of their life. They are constantly living back in the glory days, and because of that not fully living in the present. Hanna says:
“My favorite definition of education is from Josef Jungmann. He said that “education is the process of introducing a person to reality.” I love that definition, and it is so true. I have been involved with the field of education for many years, and I have helped to start a number of educational institutions, and I know from firsthand experience that this is indeed the goal of education—to introduce a person to reality.”
Then he goes on to focus on how important reality is:
People love to fool themselves, to provide an answer that is more palatable, even if it is wrong. It is so prevalent that, in order to guard against it, we developed a concept in our business called “reality-based management.” In other words, manage based on the way things actually are, rather than how you wish they were. We even created a slogan for our business: “Measured by reality.”
Think about how often have we in our own life lived based on the way we wished things were, rather than they really are. Now How many times did that lead to disappointment? Do you have the strength, to see things as they really are and live from that place? Moving on to competition he has some startling examples from both sports and business but this statement really stuck with me:
Regardless of your religious or ethical beliefs, most scientists concur that over the past ten thousand years human beings have built increasingly sophisticated and prosperous civilizations via cooperation, not competition.
How much more could we achieve is cooperation was our primary focus not competition. If our goal was working together to get things done and done well; instead of competing in order to get ahead? Hanna challenges us in our thinking he says:
Good competition, with love, can raise us to heroic heights. We find ourselves pushing with more energy and force than we might have thought possible. But we should also hope that our competitors can do the same thing—push themselves past where they thought possible, into the realm of the heroic. It is only human competition when both of these elements exist; otherwise, it is the activity of mere animals.
Hanna’s final focus is on wealth. But he is interested in real wealth not just accumulating possessions. He first defines wealth, drawing from more traditional meanings:
The word wealth itself comes from the Middle English word weal, meaning “well-being.” Simply put, our wealth is a function of our well-being. Unfortunately, well-being is hard to quantify, so we use a very very inaccurate shortcut. We instead define wealth as material goods.
His examples especially from the economic collapse of 2008-2009 so what most consider wealth at a personal, corporate even national level is based on future expectation and evaluation and that it is very fragile.  He says “Wealth can be created out of thin air when hope increases, and it can vanish into thin air when hope is diminished.”. Finally he goes on to tie the three themes, wealth, reality and competition to help shape a new focus that will take graduates, (an any of us open to change) to greater fulfillment and finding a purpose with real meaning. Hanna concludes the book with saying “This book is an exercise in hope—my hope for your future wealth. I hope it has also brought value to your life.” And I believe this book will help open eyes so that it will come true.

This is a wonderful little read. Yes it is a great gift for graduates, but it would also be great for us all. I have already read this book twice and will likely read it again once a year over the next few years, it was an instant favorite and I encourage you to give it a read and see if your life is changed!

Books by Frank J. Hanna:
A Graduate's Guide to Life
What Your Money Means

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Saint Clare of Assisi: Runaway Rich Girl - Kim Hee-Ju

Saint Clare of Assisi: Runaway Rich Girl
Kim Hee-Ju
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 9780819890870

This book is both written and illustrated by Kim Hee-Ju. It is a graphic novel in a semi-manga style. The reason I say semi is it has the typical oversized eyes, but it does not have disproportionate body sized, and it is in full color instead of black and white whit shading. Now I am by no means an expert on graphic novels. But I do enjoy a few artists that I have been introduced to. And this is a really good offering.

I read this book with my three children, ages 10, 9 and 6. The 6 year old loved it. She has carried it around for 2 weeks now. We have reread it a few times. She took it to school to share with her classroom. Her best friend and her have sat on the back porch and read through it a few times now. She even slept with the book the first few nights. And I do not think you can really give a book better praise then kids love reading it and read it again and again.

This book is really two stories in one. It is the stories of both Francis and Clare of Assisi. It starts with Clare remembering back to Francis's conversion and renouncing his worldly possessions. It is the story of Clare's love for God and appreciation for the work Francis was doing. And it is the story of Clare's call and life of service. And it is wonderfully told through both pictures and words.

Graphic novels are a good art form, and method of storytelling in and of themselves. But they are also great for reluctant readers. This is a good book and I really look forward to reading more in the series.

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

Graphic Novels from Pauline Books and Media:
St. Francis of Assisi: Messenger of Peace
St. Teresa of Avila: God's Troublemaker
Philip Neri: The Laughing Saint
Mother Teresa of Kolkata: Saint Among the Poor
Saint Clare of Assisi: Runaway Rich Girl
The Legend of Saint Christopher: Quest for a King

Monday, 22 May 2017

20 Answers The Real Jesus - Trent Horn- 20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers

20 Answers The Real Jesus
20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers 
Trent Horn
Catholic Answers Press
ISBN 9781938983931
eISBN 9781938983955

Some good news and some bad news; first the good news this series has just been expanded from 20 to 23 books and I believe more will release in the fall expanding it even further. The bad news is that Trent Horn has not authored any of the new volumes. Of the 23 books now available Trent Horn has written 10, and they are each great reads. 

This year I took the 20 Answers Challenge, at the time it was to read all the books available in the Catholic Answers series (that were available at the time).  You can still get the first 20 books for 50% off, an incredible deal, so get them with this deal while you can! They are really great reads. That will enhance your faith and your ability to defend it. I have rated 18 of the 20 with 5 out of 5 stars, and the other two got 4 stars. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religious Studies with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought, and I love the clarity of through and the format of this series. I cannot wait until my three children are a little order to read these books with each of them. The 20 questions that Trent answers in this volume are:

1. Is there any evidence that Jesus actually existed as a historical person?
2. But is there any evidence outside of the Bible that Jesus was real?
3. If Jesus really existed and performed miracles, then why didn't more ancient historians write about him? I've heard that there were dozens of ancient historians who lived shortly after Jesus and none of them wrote about Jesus being a real person.
4. Can we trust the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life? I heard they were written decades or even centuries later by anonymous authors.
5. We don't even have the original manuscripts of the Gospels, so how can we know that the words and deeds of Jesus were not made up or changed by various scribes who copied the New Testament?
6. I watched a video on the Internet that said the ancient world had legends about many dying and rising gods. People believed these gods were born on December 25, had twelve disciples, were crucified, and then rose from the dead. Were the stories about Jesus simply copied from pre-existing pagan mythology?
7. I'm willing to accept that a man named Jesus existed and was a wise teacher, like Buddha. However, I think everything about him being the son of God was added at a later time and embellished. Is there evidence that Jesus originally claimed to be the Son of God?
8. In the Bible, Jesus never says, "I am God. Worship me." In fact, didn't Jesus claim to be the "Son of man" and on several occasions deny that he was divine?
9. If Jesus was God, then how was God still running the universe when Jesus was a baby? Did Jesus know everything about the universe when he was five? In short, how is it possible for God to become a man?
10. Even if Jesus' words were accurately recorded, so many things he said seem crazy or just impossible to accept. Why would I want to worship someone like that?
11. Jesus said that there were people standing in front of him who would see the coming of the kingdom of God before they died (Mark 9:1). He also described the end of the world and said his generation would not pass away until it took place (Matt. 24:35). But the kingdom didn't come and the world didn't end. How can I believe in Jesus when he was so obviously wrong?
12. I heard that Jesus was married and that the Church suppressed other Gospels that depict him as just an ordinary man and not the Son of God. Is this true?
13. Why do Christians believe that Jesus had to die in order for God to forgive our sins? Why couldn't God just forgive our sins outright?
14. How can we be so certain that Jesus really died on the cross, and didn't just pass out and walk out of the tomb later? Or, how do we know that Jesus wasn't just left on the cross to rot or that his body wasn't thrown in a shallow grave and eaten by dogs? Those outcomes are far more likely than Jesus dying and rising from the dead.
15. How do we know Jesus' tomb was really empty? Maybe this was simply a legend that developed over time in order to explain what happened to Jesus.
16. What about the stories of the risen Jesus appearing to people? Maybe these were legends that developed later.
17. Even if the apostles believed that Jesus rose from the dead, that doesn't prove it really happened. How do we know they weren't suffering from a group hallucination?
18. But Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:37-50 that the "natural body" cannot enter heaven, but only the "spiritual body." Doesn't this mean that the apostles believed only in the "spiritual" resurrection of Jesus, and so a body lying in the tomb would not have disproved their "Easter faith"?
19. Is it possible to believe that Jesus really performed miracles? Christians don't believe the miracle stories of other religions, and besides, wouldn't miracles violate the laws of nature?
20. What should I believe about Jesus?

From the introduction of this booklet Horn states:
"Is the Christ of faith a mere fantasy? Or is he the same person as the Jewish carpenter who lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago? This is an essential question. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his book Jesus of Nazareth, "For biblical faith the historicity-and thus the 'facticity'-of the Incarnation is indispensable. Faith demands that we consider Jesus as approachable by historical research."
Since faith and reason cannot contradict one another, there must be rational, evidence-based answers to pressing questions about Jesus of Nazareth that do not contradict the "Christ of faith" who is worshipped by billions of Christians around the world. In this booklet we will look at some of those answers."
This book tackles questions around the key claims about Christ that Christian's believe. It is written to refute false claims or attacks against orthodox beliefs. And also to Support sound Christian doctrine.  It also brings in a lot of external historical evidence and proofs. Of the 20 books I have read in this series I think this is one of the most important. And one every Catholic, no that every Christian should read!

This is an incredible booklet and is part of an amazing series! It is another great read from Catholic Answers and Trent Horn.

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

Note 2: Currently this is an amazing series of books is being offered at a 50% discount so get it while you can. That is right you can get all 20 physical books or all 20 eBooks for just $34.95! If you want a way to go deeper this year give this series a try! #20AnswersChallenge

20 Answers Series:
20 Answers Abortion - Trent Horn
20 Answers Angels & Demons - Fr. Mike Driscoll
20 Answers Atheism - Matt Fradd
20 Answers Death & Judgement - Trent Horn
20 Answers Divorce & Remarriage - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers End of Life - Jason Negri
20 Answers Faith & Science - Trent Horn
20 Answers God - Trent Horn
20 Answers Islam - Andrew Blezad
20 Answers Jehovah's Witnesses - Trent Horn
20 Answers Mary - Tim Staples
20 Answers Miracles - Karlo Broussard
20 Answers Mormonism - Trent Horn
20 Answers Salvation - Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Scripture and Tradition - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers The Bible - Trent Horn
20 Answers The Eucharist - Trent Horn
20 Answers The Papacy - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers The Real Jesus - Trent Horn

20 Answers The Church - Trent Horn
20 Answers Witchcraft & the Occult - Michelle Arnold
20 Answers Apparitions & Revelations - Michael O'Neill
20 Answers The Sacraments - Fr. Mike Driscoll

Other Books from Catholic Answers:
Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties - Trent Horn
A Daily Defense: Apologetics Lessons for Every Day - Jimmy Akin
The Apostasy That Wasn't: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church - Rod Bennett
Answering Atheism - How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity - Trent Horn
Persuasive Pro Life: How to Talk About Our Culture's Toughest Issue - Trent Horn and Fr Frank Pavone
The Protestant's Dilemma: How the Reformation's Shocking Consequences Point to the Truth of Catholicism - Devin Rose
Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines - Tim Staples
Handed Down: The Catholic Faith of the Early Christians - James L. Papandrea
Demons, Deliverance, Discernment: Separating Fact from Fiction about the Spirit World - Fr. Mike Driscoll
Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith - Devin Rose
100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura - Dave Armstrong
The Drama of Salvation: How God Rescues You from Your Sins and Brings You to Eternal Life - Jimmy Akin
The Truth is Out There (Brendan and Erc in Exile Book 1 - Brother Amadeus and Amadeus
Memorize the Reasons! Defending the Faith with the Catholic Art of Memory - Kevin Vost
Marching Orders: A Tactical Plan for Converting the World to Christ - Dan McGuire