Wednesday, 31 May 2006

The Way by: Josemaria Escriva

The Way
Josemaria Escriva

This is one of three great little books by Josemaria Escriva’s The Way, Furrow and The Forge. Each of these three volumes are collections of thoughts, pense’s musings and meditations. They can be read from beginning to end or randomly opened and read just as you find them. Some of the reflections will require more thought and work then others. Some examples that particularly grabbed my attention are:

“Fight against the softness that makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of tepidity … and, in the words of the scriptures, God will vomit out the lukewarm.”
#325

“When I made you a present of that life of Jesus, I wrote in it this inscription: ‘May you seek Christ, may you find Christ, may you love Christ. These are three very distinct steps. Have you at least tried to live the first?”
#382

“Fight against that weakness which makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of lukewarmness... and, in the words of the Scripture, God will vomit the lukewarm out of his mouth.”
#325

Each of these three little books will help you grow deeper in the Christian life. They will challenge you every time you pick them up and read. I have gotten to the point that I always carry one of them with me, and while waiting for a ride, or before class, or in any spare moment open it and read, and through that reading I pray. Through that prayer I hope to become a better Christian and a better person.

Monday, 29 May 2006

Battlestar Galactica Season 1

Battlestar Galactica
Season 1
Universal DVD
ISBN 1417054069


This is one of the best shows on TV right now, according to many media outlets. "A Breakaway Hit!" -TV Guide and "The Best Show on Television." –Newsday are but two examples of the rave reviews it has received. If you are a sci-fi fan, this is a must-see show. If you aren't a sci-fi fan, you should still consider checking this out. Even though it's in space and has killer robots, it is more human than most other drama shows on TV today. So say we all.

This box set includes the miniseries that re-launched this show and returned it to TV for the first time since the 1970’s. It has the 4-hour miniseries and the 13 episodes from the first season. It stars Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama Captain of the Battlestar Galactica, and Mary McDonnell as the newly invested president of the 12 colonies of man. She was formerly the secretary of education.

The Cylon’s had not been heard from in years. Then in one day they attack and destroy nearly all human life in attacks on all planets and most military assets. Now with the war against the Cylon robots lost, the Battlestar Galactica crew speed toward the fabled 13th colony on a long lost planet, called Earth. Galactica Commander Adama and President Laura Roslin face waning supplies, crushed morale, ... and the credible threat Cylons aboard the ship. Cylons that look like humans now not just shiny machines.

Humanity’s children have come home and they are trying to destroy their creators.

Some of the amazing cast are:
Edward James Olmos as Commander William Adama
Mary McDonnell as Laura Roslin
Katee Sackhoff as Lt. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace
Jamie Bamber as Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama
James Callis as Dr. Gaius Baltar Vice President
Tricia Helfer as Number Six
Grace Park as Lt. Sharon "Boomer" Valerii
Richard Hatch as Tom Zarek (The original Apollo)
Tahmoh Penikett as Lt. Karl C. "Helo" Agathon
Michael Hogan as Col. Saul Tigh
Aaron Douglas as CPO Galen “Chief” Tyrol
Alessandro Juliani as Lt. Felix Gaeta
Kandyse McClure as P02 Anastasia Dualla
Paul Campbell as Billy Keikeya

This cast works so well together, that after the miniseries they rewrote parts of the series to give the “Chief” a much larger role.

This series will draw you in and capture your imagination. It is full of religious symbols and images. There are visions, prophecies, and sacred scrolls. It is a drama of the most intense nature. Check it out, you will watch the DVD’s over and over again.

The best Sci-fi series since Babylon 5.

So Say We All!



Sunday, 28 May 2006

Handbook of Prayers by: Rev. James Socias General Editor

Handbook of Prayers
Rev. James Socias General Editor
Scepter Press
093393260X
Our Sunday Visitor
0879735791

I was introduced to this great little book on a retreat last winter with Opus Dei. A number of the men there had it and I borrowed one for a while on the retreat. This is a little treasure that should be in every Catholic home.

A number of features make this one such a nice prayer book. It is compact and fits in a breast pocket. Also it contains great pen and ink sketches and illustrations, especially for the Stations of the Cross. It has such a variety of prayers if you only had this prayer book it would be sufficient for a wide and varied prayer life.

The first section of the book is a series of articles on How to Be a Better Catholic. The next section is a collect of basic prayers, the Sign of the Cross, Hail Mary, Our Father … then the sections become more specific:

Midday Prayers
Evening Prayers
Preparation for Mass
The Eucharistic Sacrifice
Prayers after Mass
Communion Outside Mass
Eucharistic Adoration
Guide for a Good Confession
Devotions to the Blessed Trinity
Devotions to Our Lord Jesus Christ
Devotions to the Holy Spirit
Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Devotions to St. Joseph
Various Prayers
Prayers at the Time of Death
Prayers for the Dead
Blessings
Sacraments When in Dander of Death

I guarantee that if you pick up this little book, you will find yourself referring to it time and time again. It will become one of your most valued books, for help in developing your spiritual life.

Saturday, 27 May 2006

The Sun, the Moon & the Stars by Steven Brust

The Sun, the Moon, & the Stars
Steven Brust
Orb Books
ISBN: 0312860390
Ace Books
ISBN: 0441790992


Returning once again to Steven Brust, I am now choosing to review not one of his Vlad Toltos or Dragaera books going on to a much deeper book by this very creative writer. There are two editions of this book that I know of. The current Orb edition and a much older Ace edition.

Quoting from the back’s of the books:


Once Upon A Time

there was a kingdom, that
lived in darkness, for the Sun, the
Moon, and the Stars were hidden in a box …
which was hidden in a sow’s belly …
which was hidden I a troll’s cave …
which was surely hidden at the end of the world.
And …

Once Upon A Time

there was a struggling young painter
who also lived in darkness, and – like
the hero of that Hungarian folktale – was
beginning his most perilous quest.
shooting for the Moon. And the Sun.
And the Stars …

Once Upon A Time

there was a studio of artists who feared
they were doomed to obscurity, for though
they worked and they worked,
no one was interested in the paintings
that stood in racks along their studio walls.

The Sun, the Moon
& The Stars

is a tale of two quests, of two young men
who are reaching for the moon. And the sun.
And the stars.


This is a story that I read every few years. Each time I read it I get more from it. The story is of a artist telling his friends a fairy tale he was told in his youth. In telling them the story he is living a fairy tale in that he is attacking the biggest canvas he has ever painted. One he bought after selling a painting that has sat blank for a long time. Now before giving up on being artists living in community he tries to tackle that canvas.

As both a write and a painter this story draws me in. Each time I read it, I hope to become better at both my crafts. This story is a modern day fairy tale told with compassion, conviction and daring. It dares us to learn to dream again, to hope to wish, and maybe if we are lucky the magic of the story will rub off on us.


Books by Steven Brust:
Vlad Taltos Publishing Order:

Jhereg (1983)
Yendi (1984)
Teckla (1987)
Taltos (1988)
Phoenix (1990)
Athyra (1993)
Orca (1996)
Dragon (1998)
Issola (2001)
Dzur (2006)
Jhegaala (2008)
Iorich (2010)
Tiassa (2011)
Hawk (2014)
Valista (TBD)

Vlad Taltos: Chronological Order:
Taltos (1988)
Dragon, main chapters (1998)
Yendi (1984)
Dragon, interludes (1998)
Tiassa, section 1 (2011)
Jhereg (1983)
Teckla (1987)
Phoenix (1990)
Jhegaala (2008)
Athyra (1993)
Orca (1996)
Issola (2001)
Dzur (2006)
Tiassa, section 2 (2011)
Iorich (2010)
Tiassa, section 3 (2011)

The Khaavren Romances:
The Phoenix Guards (1991)
Five Hundred Years After (1994)
The Viscount of Adrilankha, published in three volumes:
The Paths of the Dead (2002)
The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
Sethra Lavode (2004)

Other Books:
Brokedown Palace (1986)
To Reign in Hell (1984)
The Sun, the Moon & the Stars (1987)
Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille (1990)
Agyar (1993)
My Own Kind of Freedom (2008)

Co Written:
The Gypsy (1992) with Megan Lindholm
Freedom & Necessity (1997) with Emma Bull
The Incrementalists (2013) with Skyler White

Short Stories:
An Act of Contrition - Liavek (1985)
An Act of Trust - Liavek: The Players of Luck (1986)
A Dream of Passion - in the convention chapbook for Ad Astra (1986)
An Act of Mercy - Liavek: Wizard's Row (1987, with Megan Lindholm)
An Act of Love - Liavek: Spells of Binding (1988, with Gregory Frost and Megan Lindholm)
Csucskári - Excerpt from The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: First Annual Collection (1988)
A Hot Night at Cheeky's - Liavek: Festival Week (1990)
Looking Forward: Excerpt from Athyra in Amazing Stories, March (1993)
Attention Shoppers - Xanadu (1993)
Abduction from the Harem - in Timewalker Issue 14 (October 1996)
Drift - Space Opera (1996)
Valóság and Élet - in Sandman: Book of Dreams (1996)
Calling Pittsburgh - in Lord of the Fantastic: Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny (1998)
When the Bow Breaks - The Essential Bordertown (1998)
The Man From Shemhaza - in Thieves' World: Enemies of Fortune (2004), reprinted in Year's Best Fantasy 5 (2005)
Klava with Honey - Eeriecon Convention Chapbook #4 (2005)
Chapter One - in Eeriecon Convention Chapbook #6 (2007)
The Desecrator - on tor.com (2011)
Fireworks in the Rain - on tor.com (2013)

Friday, 26 May 2006

A Wolf Story by: James Byron Huggins

A Wolf Story
James Byron Huggins
Harvest House Publishers
ISBN 1565071263

Huggins is one of those authors I discovered by chance a few years ago. I have read most of the books he has written, my favorites are Reckoning and A Wolf Story. Both are worth your time and effort.

A Wolf Story is an allegory in the style of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. In part it is a coming of age story, and part the story of good vs. evil. Long long ago, the inhabitants of the deep deep woods were given a choice. A choice that each of them in turn must make for themselves. Those who were about to make the choice would always face trials, temptations and fears. This difficult choice was either to follow the Silver Wolf and his lord, the Lightmaker or else they would join the dark Council and become part of the forces for evil.

The choice has become all the more difficult for the forces of light have been decimated, and the Dark Council is at he door of eternal victory. It is the story of a young wolf, who must choose and has been left alone to make that choice.

In this epic final battle between good and evil, the questions becomes is it really a battle of strength vs. strength, wits against wits, wills against wills. It is a path to the future but will that be a future in darkness and oppression or a path to peace, a peace won through sacrifice and pain. A peace hard won. Tis story is an allegory of the Christian life, told in a way that will captivate readers both young and old.

James Byron Huggins was born in 1959. He is a novelist, journalist, religious activist, and police officer; all these titles appear on his resume. A graduate of Morgan County High School, and Troy State University, Huggins began his career as a journalist with the Hartselle Enquirer. In the late 80’s he smuggled Christian materials into Romania. He was a beat cop for 5 years before returning to writing fulltime. His first three novels Reckoning, A Wolf Story, Leviathan were Christian best sellers. Then he broke into the main stream science fiction with such books as Cain, Hunter, Rora, Nightbringer, The Scam, Sorcerer. Both Cain and Hunter have been optioned to be movies and are suppose to star Stallone and Willis respectively.

Monday, 22 May 2006

Conversations With Josemaria Escriva

Conversations With Josemaria Escriva
Josemaria Escriva

This is a great book, a collection of interviews with Josemaria Escriva. The interviews were written at different time's and for different publications.

Pedro Rodriguez for Parabra
Peter Forbarth for Time Magazine
Jacques Guilleme-Brulon for Le Figaro
Tad Szulc for the New York Times
Enrico Zuppi & Antonio Fugardi for L’Osservatore della Domenica
Andres Garrigo for Gaceta Universitaria
Pilar Salcedo for Teva
And a homily given by Escriva October 8th 1967

These articles will give you a very clear view of Josemaria’s vision and mission for members of Opus Dei, for how they can sanctify work, be sanctified and sanctify others through their work.

This collection will be a great introduction to Escriva’s though and the work.

Sunday, 21 May 2006

Faith and the Media


Should we put faith in the media?

More questions than answers debated at St. Jerome's fourth annual conference on Catholics in public life

Can the media be impacted by one's faith, or should all reporting try and be completely impartial? This was one of the main questions attacked last weekend at the Catholics in Public Life Conference., held at St. Jerome's.

This was the fourth biannual conference; the conference is hosted in partnership between St. Jerome's and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. The conference brings together people in the media and the public eye and people interested in honest debate. Past conferences have had such notaries as humanitarian Romeo Dallaire, author Reginald W. Bibby and politician Claude Ryan.

This year's conference speakers were just as powerful. The four panelists for Friday's talk "Catholic Voices in the Media and the Public Square: an Evening of Discussion" were Robert Mickens, Vatican reporter for London's The Tablet, Paul Baumann, editor, at New York's Commonweal, Marina Jimenez, senior writer for the Globe and Mail and Sir Peter Kavanagh, CBC Radio producer. The questions they tackled are as impressive as their resumes: Is the Roman Catholic faith a public or private faith? Do debate and honest inquiry equate with dissent? What should Catholic laity do to become more media savvy? Friday's panel discussion was facilitated, guided and to some extent corralled by Michael W. Higgins, president and vice-chancellor and author of The Muted Voice: Religion and the Media and co-author of Portraits of Canadian Catholicism.

About 200 people attended the public lecture Friday evening. The panelists first answered a series of questions from Higgins and then took questions from the floor, such as, "Should workers in the media who claim faith be required to have a note from a psychiatrist proving sanity?" "Since 9/11, is faith more or less a part of the media reality?" "Is the mainstream commercial media taking an increasing interest in religious and quasi-religious coverage?"

In response to these questions, our panelists had many strong views. Sir Peter Kavanagh stated at one point that "the British Broadcasting Corporation is one of the most resourced broadcasters and media outlets in the world. And what the BBC starts to do, other public broadcasters will start to do. So as they are currently increasing religious coverage and specials, an increase in religious coverage will spread. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will follow suit, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will increase their religious coverage." Later Marina Jimenez stated that the lack of religious coverage in Canada was surprising. She said, "according to Stats Canada, 24 per cent of Canadians are Protestant Christian and another 50 per cent are Catholic, so if 74 per cent of Canadians are Christians, why is the percentage of the religious coverage not that proportionate?"

After questions were opened up to the public, many other interesting questions were raised. "How has the Internet changed your work as a reporter?" "The media is the synthesis of the future; the media can spin stories and shape culture. As a person of faith how do you react to a story that is denied?" "Many other faith traditions seem to have an active voice in the media; how can we as Catholics develop a Catholic voice?" "How were the Catholic and mainstream media affected last year by the Muslim cartoon scandal?" And many more.

Robert Mickens, in reference to his job as a Vatican reporter, stated, "The Vatican is such a political beast that still wields great power around the world. My job is not to explain Church decisions but to report the politics that are behind them. I am more like a beat reporter in Ottawa or Washington."

After the official panel discussion Friday evening there was a wine and cheese social. The four panelists and the four facilitators leading discussion times were available for personal discussion and questions. Then again Saturday morning at breakfast and lunch the celebrities were more than accessible for personal time.

The focus on Saturday was discussion times in groups of about a dozen people. Each group had one of the panelists and a facilitator to keep the conversation on track. Each group met for two discussion. Scott Kline from Saint Jerome's University, who helped to host and facilitate the event summarized the discussion times.

Kline stated, "First, the Catholic Church and Catholics should speak on a wide range of topics. Not just be a single-issue focus. Second, there is unease around the Internet and where we are heading with it? Third, the laity needs to organize itself to show the wide range of opinion within the church on social issues and political issues. Lastly, change in the church is slow, but it does happen. This slowness in regards to change is not always a bad thing."

(First published in Imprint 2006-05-19 as ‘Should we put faith in the media?’.)


Saturday, 20 May 2006

Waterloo Loses a Good Man - Michael W. Higgins Heads East

Have you ever met a person who instantly captured your attention? Have you ever met a professor or seen a public speaker who captured your imagination? Have you ever had a hero or mentor who mentored you through their work or writings? I have met two such men here at UW and met them both at the same time.

I had the privilege of meeting Michael W. Higgins in the classroom back in the spring of 1998. I had just returned to school as a part-time mature student and to be honest I did not expect to do well. I had been out of university for about five years and was lacking in confidence. I took two courses that term, RS 209 - Paul's Life and Letters with Peter Frick and RS100C - Faith Quests with Michael W. Higgins. Both of these men are scholars, professional men of character and also men of devout faith. Both of these men are involved internationally in scholarship and the promotion of specific areas of focus in their studies.

Yet here in this article I want to focus on Higgins, for the primary reason that he is leaving us. In almost every public lecture of his that I attended since that first class, he quoted Donald Nicholl's article "Scientia Cordis," an article about science of the heart and people who go on faith quests. Yet one of the quotes from that book can sum up Higgins for us. "Hence the characteristic medium of the ‘scientia cordis' is neither a principle nor a law but a story -- a story that will move the heart." (Donald Nicholl's Beatitude of Truth, p.161.) Higgins is a man who opens up whatever he is teaching or talking about through a story, and he always speaks so passionately that the audience is drawn in and captivated by his topic and talk.

Michael W. Higgins is part of the who’s who of Canadian intelligential with degree’s from SFXU, UT, and two from York, he met his wife while studying for the priesthood. Graduating (magna cum laude) at St. Francis Xavier University he then moved on and was mentored by the distinguished poet-scholar Eli Mandel. He arrived at St. Jerome’s University at The University of Waterloo in 1982 and has been a tour de force since then. Publishing many books articles and much much more.

He has a breadth of experience and roles to equal 10 lesser men: some of his former positions include being CTV Vatican Correspondent, Toronto Star Columnist, and regular contributor to The Record. He has authored numerous scripts for the CBC's Idea's program and served as editor for Grail: An Ecumenical Journal. He is also the author of many books, including Stalking the Holy, Power and Peril, Heretic Blood and The Jesuit Mystique. He has balanced these and many more roles while remaining an active member in his faith community, a public speaker, a husband and father. Last year, TVOntario named him one of the "Top Ten" lecturers in Ontario.

Currently Higgins is St. Jerome's University's President and Vice-Chancellor, but he is leaving Waterloo to pursue the same roles at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Maritimes' gain is truly our loss. Waterloo is losing a world-class scholar, a man who served in and around his community and a person of character, faith and integrity. So thus we must bid him farewell; we will have no choice but to follow his future exploits from afar.

(First Published in Imprint 2006-05-19 as ‘Waterloo loses a good man’.)

Friday, 19 May 2006

May Crowing, Mass and Merton: And Other Reasons I Love Being Catholic by: Liz Kelly

May Crowing, Mass and Merton:
And Other Reasons I Love Being Catholic
Liz Kelly
Layola Press
January 2006
ISBN 0829420258
270 pages.


This is a fascinating little volume, part meditation, part, biography and part theology. Liz Kelly open’s up to us her life and her faith and in doing so can help us to understanding our own faith and tradition better. She examines the things, traditions, places and people that are a source of encouragement, challenge and trial to her faith, and through these pense’s and thoughts opens our eyes to see Catholicism in anew light. As she states in her prologue “One: It’s hard. Being Catholic has taught me about balance and prudence and the deep joys of daily discipline and commitment…Two: It’s Hard. Sometimes it is painful to be Catholic, not because of rules and regulations so often associated with being Catholic are so restrictive, but because the love of heaven leads us to fearless expansiveness…”(p.XIII, XIV) Yes being Catholic can be hard but as Kelly shows us it has much in the way of consolation and rewards to make the hardships worth the efforts.

Kelly has separated her book into five roughly equal parts that examine different aspects of the Catholic tradition:
  1. Objects with Meaning
  2. Those who Journey With Us
  3. Devotion in Practice
  4. Truths That Bring Grace
  5. Rhythms of the Faith
In each of these area’s she examines different elements and examples of peoples, places, things, beliefs and practices that are means of grace in our lives. She opens up each of these categories like a flower blooming in an ever progressive way to draw us deeper into understanding the faith she is explaining to us.

In the first section she examines such elements as the Crucifix, Holy Water, incense, the Rosary, kneelers … and through them helps us to focus our faith on what matters most. She states “I don’t think heaven needs my burning candle any more than it needs holy water or incense. Sacramentals are for us, because we are sensory beings, and symbolism and sacramentals help infuse the spiritual into other planes of our experience – physical, emotional, mental.”(p.12) In exploring these items she opens us to the grace inherent in the use of them as tools to draw us closer to God. Not as an end in themselves, but as a means to an end.

In looking at the lives of some of those who journey with us in this quest for faith and a life in God, Kelly shares some of those examples of saints and people of faith who’s stories can be a source of challenge, inspiration and encouragement in our own journey with God. In Writing about Pope John Paul II Kelly says: “This picture is famous now, Pope John Paul II and his would be assassin, sitting together in intimate conversation two years after the incident. The Holy Father leaning toward the man with gentle attention, …He was unafraid of the vulnerability created by living in forgiveness, of sitting in total love with the enemy.”(p.59) Later while reflecting on the Communion of Saints Kelly reminds us of our own call to be saints, “Most saints did not have easy lives. Many were persecuted and martyred. They were an odd lot, many of them outcasts who experiences every kind of human suffering and weakness. And many of them began as ordinary folks like you and me.”(p.81) She also reminds as that our service is to be done for God “Like many of the saints of the church, Pier Giorgio seemed to lead two lives, not contradictory lives, but one that people observed and one that was hidden.”(p.98) So too our lives should bear silent witness to the work of God in and through us.

Through these examples and the many more that Kelly presents she shows a faith that is rich, vibrant and challenging. This book’s greatest strength is the devotion in which it was written and the sentiment of finding peace in the journey of life. Peace that ultimately can only come from God, but we have a gracious God who has given us many tools to help us along out part. This book is once such tool, for it reveals to us so many other tools that God has provided.

(First Published in St. Anthnoy Messenger June 2006 Book Review Section)


Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Trends: Female Authors

I find again and again that my reading ends up following trends, sometimes trends I am not even aware of till I go through the list of all I have read recently. I am the first to admit that when I find an author I like I usually read all or most of their works or at least those I can get my hands on. So it should not surprise me that patters show up in my reading time and time again.

What has surprised me is that 4 of my top authors of the last few years are women, and women of faith. One Mormon and three Catholic. And a few years back it was an Episcopalian.

Terry Tempest Williams

Is a Mormon who writes extensively on Environmental Preservation Issues from a spiritual perspective. She has written children’s book’s environmental studies, natives studies and biographical works.
I would recommend starting with
Red or Refuge or An Unspoken Hunger.

Liz Kelly

Liz Kelly is a jazz singer and writer who has CDs and has published both fiction and nonfiction. She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska and currently works for Harvard University.
I have yet to track down her music but both her books are great reads.
Her Books The Rosary: A Path into Prayer and May Crowning, Mass and Merton are both worth reading.

Irma Zaleski
Zaleski, who was born in Poland in 1931, she escaped to England after the second world war, and came to Canada in 1952, she has led a vivid and diverse life. She has been a professor at the University of Toronto, a translator and a writer. In 1986 she moved to Combermere, Ontario. In her youth she practiced Buddhism and has studied Christian traditions from both the east and the west. As such she brings a breadth and depth to her writings that only comes with such diverse experience.
God is Not Reasonable would be one of the best of her books and a great starting point in her canon.


Kathy Shaidle

Kathy is an award-winning Toronto author, editor and writer for print & web.
God Rides a Yamaha is a must read for anyone struggling with illness or who has journeyed with someone who has.


Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine was born on November 29th, 1918, and spent her formative years in New York City. She preferred writing stories, poems and journals for herself, rather than focusing on her schoolwork.

A Wrinkle in Time, Troubling A Star
or A Ring of Endless Light would be a great intro to her children’s literature. She has won the John Newbury Award twice, one of only two authors to do so.

L’Engle though most known for her children’s writing has also published many books of adult fiction, theology, and poetry.


I highly recommend the writings of the authors. Check them out, it will be worth the Time and effort.

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life by Henri J.M. Nouwen

With Burning Hearts:
A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life

Henri J.M. Nouwen
Orbis Books
ISBN 1570755086

Recently I heard a priest from Opus Dei state that Henri Nouwen’s books are not spiritual writing, that all of Nouwen’s books are about Nouwen. After finishing this volume I would have to disagree lately, but not completely, this book like many of Nouwen’s draws from Henri’s personal experience, but all writers write from the lense that filters all we see and do. How could our life experience not affect how we see the world.

Nouwen states in the introduction: “Every day I celebrate the Eucharist. Sometimes in my parish church with hundreds of people present, sometimes in the Daybreak chapel with members of my community, sometimes in my father’s living room with just him and me. Very few days pass without my saying, ‘Lord, have Mercy,’ without the daily readings and a few reflections.” p.9 The rest of the book is a series of reflections on the Christian life through the filter of the Eucharist and through the eyes of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The five sections in the book are:
  1. Mourning Our Losses: “Lord Have Mercy”
  2. Discerning the Presence: “This is the Word of God”
  3. Inviting the Stranger: “I Believe”
  4. Entering into Communion: “Take and Eat”
  5. Going on a Mission: “Go and Tell”
Each section draws us into a deeper understanding of our life, and our life as a people of the word and of the Eucharist.

The first section focuses on loss, our loss of what we believe in, what we hope for and what we sometimes dream of. After loss the disciples questioned their following Jesus, and if we are honest sometimes we doubt as well. “We remember the time that Jesus was so real for us that we had no question about his presence in our lives. He was our most intimate friend our counselor and guide. He gave us comfort, courage, and confidence. We could feel him, yes, taste and touch him. And now? We no longer think of him very much, we no longer desire to spend long hours in his presence. We no longer have that special feeling about him.” p. 27,28. through the losses we have in our life we have come to have periods of doubt and struggle with our faith, we come bruised and broken by this world. “We come to the Eucharist with hearts broken by many losses, our own as well as those of the world.” p. 31 but Nouwen goes on to give us hope, our hearts are broken and we experience loss so that we can also be healed and restored, so that through the Eucharist we can receive the water of God’s grace.

After we have a renewed hope and have begun healing we must discern the presence of God in our lives. He declares “We cannot live without words that come from God, words to pull us out of our sadness and lift us up to a place from where we can discover what we are truly living.” p.51 In this section we are reminded that God’s words give life, we are nourished by them, challenged, encouraged and admonished. “Without the word, our life has little meaning.” p.60 As Catholics as Christians how could we not live immersed in the Word, in the guidebook God has given to us.

Inviting the Stranger, “Interesting, stimulating, and inspiring as all these strangers may be, when I do not invite them into my home, nothing truly happens.” p.69 Jesus stated that he stands at the door and knocks, the question is do we invite him in? Do we want him to permeate our whole life? Do we want to have Jesus be a part of our everyday life? This section asks many good questions that if we are honest will challenge us.

Communion is central to the Catholic faith. It is what unites Catholics around the world, we are a people who share a common table, and Nouwen focuses on what that means to us. “We can’t really live without bread that is taken, blessed and broken, and given. Without it there is no fellowship, no community, no bond of friendship, no peace, no love, no hope. Yet, with it, all can become new!” p.80,91 Later he states: “God desires communion; a unity that is vital and alive, an intimacy that comes from both sides, a bond that is truly mutual. Nothing forced or ‘willed,’ but a communion freely offered and received. God goes all the way to make communion possible.” p.87 Through the Eucharist we can have communion with God and through that communion with each other.

Finally our life as people of the word and of the table we are given a mission. Nouwen tells us “It is not just the Eucharist, but the Eucharistic life that makes the difference.” p.106 Through those two things we are prepared and called to mission, the mission to live as Catholics, as people who make a positive difference in the lives of those we impact and those who cross our path. “We have a mission to fulfill and it is good that we are excited about it, but first we have to listen to what others have to say. Then our stories can be told and bring joy.” p.109 Nouwen also sows us a vision of what that life would look like: “In the Eucharist we are asked to leave the table and go to our friends to discover with them that Jesus is truly alive and calls us together to become a new people – a people of the resurrection.” p.110

The meditations and reflections in this book, will draw you closer to the Lord’s supper, and through that to the people in your life. It is beautifully illustrated with artwork by Duccio Di Buoninsegna, the combination of words and pictures will feed your soul and challenge your mind.

Sunday, 14 May 2006

A Wizard of Earthsea by: Ursula Le Guin

A Wizard of Earthsea
Ursula k. LeGuin
Various Editions
Various Publishers


This is the first in a series of books. There are 4 novels in the series and two collections of short stories. It follows the life and career of Ged a young man from the Island of Gont. Le Guin has created a very unique world, a world that is mostly water and each nation is a collection of islands. This book is also one of a few that has different editions published for children, teens and adults ans scifi. This book is also one of a few that has children’s teens and adult editions in print.


Ged apprentices to the local Wizard on God, and is eventually sent to the school for wizards on Roke. There in anger during a fight with other youths he releases a dark shadow, an evil. The Masters of the school appear and banish it from the island. However this shadow and Ged are now tied together in a very unique way.


After leaving the school Ged becomes haunted by the shadow he has released. He tries to return to the protection of Havnor but cannot return to the island the magic protecting the island will not let him approach. So he decides to head south.


The shadow is getting closer and closer to him, and he must discern it’s true name or else he will not be able to defeat it. Can he solve the puzzle, will he wrestle with his shadow and win or will he succumb to the evil he has let loose.


This is a book I first read back in highschool. Then a few years back had to read it for an English literature course at the University of Waterloo I was about a third of the way through it when I realized I had read it before and that is when I found our that the story continues. Since then the two collections of short stories have been published in this world.


Le Guin deals with some big questions of life in this book. Such questions as:

Who am I?
Do I have a role or purpose in life?
Can I defeat the darkness within me?
Can good conquer over evil?
Why am I here?
Can I make a difference?

This book will be a good read for anyone who has ever struggled with some of these questions. Or who wants to use a novel to help them grow to have a deeper understanding of themselves.


Reading Notes on this book:

This book brings to mind many images and many of the books I have read. Also the themes that play so often in my mind and my own life.

Like in A Wrinkle in Time the power of naming and unnaming or X-ing. Also the gift of our real name that we are given. As well the importance of friendship especially Vetch's sticking with Ged on the long journey.

Also the old maxim "Every man must face his own devil." Ged in anger and pride released his own evil, through growth time and humility he conquered his own evil to become whole and balanced again.


The Last theme is the importance of balance in the universe and that all we do has affects beyond us. Either for good or for bad. Either these effects are on others, things, the environment or even the cosmic battle of good and evil.

The Books of Earthsea:

A Wizard of Earthsea - 1968
The Tombs of Atuan - 1971
The Farthest Shore - 1972 (Winner of the National Book Award)
Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea - 1990 (Winner of the Nebula Award)
Tales from Earthsea - 2001
The Other Wind - 2001

The Short Stories of Earthsea:

The Word of Unbinding - 1964
The Rule of Names - 1964
Dragonfly - 1997
Darkrose and Diamond - 1999
The Finder - 2001
The Bones of the Earth - 2001
On The High Marsh - 2001

Chronology:

The Word of Unbinding
The Finder
Darkrose and Diamon
The Rule of Names
The Bones of the Earth
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Tombs of Atuan
On the High Marsh
The Farthest Shore
Tehanu
Dragonfly
The Other Wind


Note: The short story "Dragonfly" from Tales from Earthsea is intended to fit in between Tehanu and The Other Wind and, according to Le Guin, is "an important bridge in the series as a whole".

Also check out this great Earthsea site. It should be noted as well that these books have editions in Children's (9-12) Teen, Sci-Fi and adult fiction, It appeals to a very wide audience.


Friday, 12 May 2006

The Giver, Gathering Blue & Messenger by: Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is one of those unique authors who has won the John Newbery Medal for children’s literature twice. Once for the first book in this trilogy and once for a book about the Holocaust called Number the Stars. (Just as an aside only one other author has ever done that Madeleine L’Engle who I would also recommend highly.) I would begin by recommending any of her books; they are all worth the time and the effort. This trilogy is set in a post apocalyptic world. The first two books each focus on different community’s who have recovered from the devastation differently, both have strengths and both have weaknesses. And a young boy must heal them both and the land if either is to survive.

The Giver
Lois Lowry
Laurel-Leaf Books
ISBN:0440219078

Jonas is a young boy who lives in a community with a lot of technology and many rules about it. He has only seen an airplane twice for planes were not suppose to over fly villages, it was against the rules. Children of the same age are raised together and each December they move up a grade, when the reach the age of twelve they are selected for occupational training Jonas in talking to his friend states about selections: “Jonas Shrugged. It didn’t worry him, how could someone not fit in? The Community was so meticulously ordered, the choices so carefully made.” However all the other Twelve’s were assigned and Jonas was skipped then at the end of the ceremony it was announced that he had been selected he was chosen to become the ‘receiver of memory.’ He was to learn all the history and story of the people and become an advisor to the council that ruled the village. It only happened every so many generations and only 1 keeper of memories was installed in each village. Jonas and his family take in an infant who is not maturing and growing quickly enough. The child is given a year extension, when the child is marked to me replaced (abandoned and killed). Jonas takes the child and runs away. Through the winter Jonas knows he will not make it and pours all the memories he has learnt into the child. But can he save the child? What will happen to him and his community? Jonas thought his world was perfect, that the elders had everything under control, that there would never be war again. But also a world without choices. Till he is given the knowledge of the past the choice to save a child or let it die?

Gathering Blue
Lois Lowry
Laurel-Leaf Books
ISBN:0440229499

Kira, is an orphan and she has a twisted leg, she lives in a village with very little technology and one that casts aside those who do not contribute. The weak, injured, and helpless are abandoned. However things are starting to turn around for Kira, she has been spared by the all powerful Council of Guardians, for she has a gift she is a weaver and can die cloths in ways no other in the community can. As an artisan she is installed in the palatial Council Edifice and spends the whole year working her trade, her primary task is to care for the Robe of Remembrance that tell’s the story of this community. But with her privilege comes expectations that she will do the council biddings. She befriends a young boy and his ragged dog, Matty ‘The Fiercest of the Fierce’. Matt tells Kira about another village where people are not cast aside, where they share their food. Matt brings her a gift the color blue, and a blind man that is her father. She is torn between staying and leaving the life she knows, and the truths she can find out what will happen.

Messenger
Lois Lowry
Thomas Allen & Son
ISBN:0618404414

Matt has returned he is with Kira’s father and living in the new community from beyond yonder. This village is guided by love and compassion, and guided by the ‘Leader’ a seer arrived in this village one winter night many years ago on a sleigh with an older boy who did not survive the journey. The Seer can see the future and can often see for people what might be for his people. Matty is almost at the age where he will be named, he is hoping to be named ‘Messenger’ for he takes message both in the village and to other villages which many can not do. But things are changing, the village is becoming hostile, starting to turn people away and the woods are becoming ferial and people are dieing. Can the Leader save the village, can the world be healed, what will happen to Kira, her father and Matty?

These three books will challenge you, after reading The Giver the first time I was overwhelmed and it haunted me for a long time. I went back and have reread it many many times. All three books raise questions about community, love, friendship, and care for other people. They also show dark paths that we as a people can go down, and how it can devastate all around us when we make the wrong choices for the wrong reasons.

Thursday, 11 May 2006

10,000 Hits and Counting

10,000


Thanks So Much!


Sometime today we passed 10,000 hits on this blog since I added a stat counter back in October. Thanks for coming and checking it out, and for coming back and reading.

Yours Steven

Wednesday, 10 May 2006

Just Wondering

Greetings again friends and readers:

I have been pondering some questions lately. I was wondering why people come and read this blog? I am averaging about 100 hits a day and over 200 page views. I also post all of my reviews on Amazon.com and here is a link to my profile on Amazon ad also the list of all of my reviews I have over 1300 helpful votes on that site and under 10 unhelpful. So I was wondering what do you think? Are there specific books you would like to see me reviewing? Here’s a list of all the books I have read for the last decade, is there something specific you would want to see reviewed? Let me know. Or if you disagree with a review let me know I am open to other opinions and dialogue on my writings.

Peace and Strength!
Yours, learning to be
Steven R. McEvoy

"There is no such thing as coincidence, just the illusion of coincidence!
... There is no certainty, only opportunity!
... This is the most important moment in your life... Commit to it!
... I, like god, do not play with dice and do not believe in coincidence!"
-V in V for Vendetta

Friday, 5 May 2006

In Conversation With God by: Francis Fernandez

In Conversation With God
Francis Fernandez
Carvajal
7 Volume Set

Scepter Press

ISBN: 0906138191


This is an amazing Catholic meditation and daily reflection series. The seven volumes have daily readings for each day of the church year as well as volume 6 & 7 being special Feast Days. The readings draw heavily upon the writings of Josemaria Escriva the founder of Opus Dei, Pope John Paul II, and the daily readings from the common liturgy for that day. The Sundays have three sets of readings depending on if we are in year A, B, or C in the church readings. These devotions are all about 6 pages long and divided into 3 sections. They can be read all as a lump or part in the morning, midday and evening. I find that with every day there is so much meat in these devotions that I am already planning on reading them again next year.


"We have a duty to rest. Resting in order to serve God and other people better.
We should learn to rest. If we can avoid becoming totally exhausted we should not fail to do so. God wants us to look after our health, and to know how to recover our strength. It is part of the fifth commandment. We need to rest in order to be fit, to restore lost energy, and so that our work may be all the more effective. Above all, we need it so as to serve God and other people better."
Francis Fernandez
In Conversation With God Volume #3 p.217


"For this reason asking advice about reading is an important part of the virtue of prudence, very especially if it is a question of theological or philosophical books, which can radically affect our formation and even our faith itself. How important it is to be right about books! It is still more important to consult our spiritual director about books specifically destined to aid the formation of our soul."
Francis Fernandez
In Conversation With God - Volume #3 p.117

Are but two samplings of what I have already copied out into my journal this year. There is a complete subject, and biblical reference index in volume 7, unfortunately the earlier volumes indexes only go as far as that volume #. The indexes are subject, and reference quoted by church Fathers, Popes and Saints. These books will draw anyone deeper into a faith and a life of action based upon that faith.

The 7 Volume's are:
Volume #1 Advent and Christmastide
Volume #2 Lent and Eastertide
Volume #3 Ordinary Time Weeks 1-12
Volume #4 Ordinary Time Weeks 13-23
Volume #5 Ordinary Time Weeks 24-34
Volume #6 Special Feasts January-June
Volume #7 Special Feats July -December

Complete Set 7 Volumes


Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Between Heaven Hell by: Peter Kreeft

Between Heaven & Hell
Peter Kreeft
IVP
ISBN: 0877843899

November 22, 1963 was a day that all who were alive that day will remember. It was the day J.F. Kennedy was killed. But in the shadow of that famous death two other great men died that day, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis. This book deals with those three famous men and a fictional dialog they would have sometime after life, but before a final judgment.

These three great men each believed in an afterlife but differently. Lewis in ancient western theism, Kennedy was a humanist, and Huxley believed in ancient eastern pantheism. Each also believed or practiced different forms of Christianity. Lewis was more mainline orthodox Christianity, Kennedy was a modernist or humanistic Christianity and Huxley an Orientalized or mystical Christianity.

The three men meet in a white mist or fog, they debate where they are, what they believe and where they think they will end up. Like many of Kreeft’s books it is written as a dialogue, a conversation in three parts. They each present their world views, their view of the afterlife and their understanding of what their life meant. Yet each is open to the ‘truth’ what truth really is and if it has eternal impact.

This is one of those fun light reads, written in a unique and engaging manner that will presenting the three most common views currently accepted in Christianity, and three of the common interpretations of Christianity in today’s world. If you want to understand other streams of Christianity or the Christians around you this book will give you a clear, concise and humorous presentation of the three main approaches today.

(First Published in Across the Creek Volume 2 Issue 11 - The St. Jerome's Student Union Paper in the column 'Booklook'. 2007.01.25)

Other Kreeft Reviews:
Socrates Meets Jesus
The Sea Within
Handbook of Christian Apologetics
Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics
The Journey
The Unaborted Socrates
The Best Things In Life
Between Heaven Hell

Articles That Mention Kreeft:
Opus Dei
Opus Dei Part II
Catholic Catechism Dialogue blog
4 Resources