Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Meme: 5 Random Things About Me!

I was just tagged by Vehige at Thursday Night Gumbo.

Now, the correct title of this meme is "5 Random Things About Me!"

1. I collect Nightmare Before Christmas stuff.
2. I can watch the same movie back to back many times over, up to 8 or 9 viewings, Check out my Movie List.
3. I think most beer made in North America is garbage, give me a good pint any day. (Guinness, Smithwicks, Cafferys, Double D …)
4. When I find an author I like I try and read evrything they have published.
5. I collect Rosaries.

I tag the following Relapsed Catholic, Irish Catholic and Dangerous & Bics, Blahniks and Bras.

(This is only the second Meme I have done, I dont usually and found this one rather difficult. The picture is my baby girl in a nightmare onezie, on my blanket, both Christmas presents from my dad and stepmom.)

P.S. Afterthought, 6. I love School and Learning and if I was wealthy I would go to school till I die.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Wild At Heart by: John Eldredge

Wild At Heart
John Eldredge
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 0785268839

This book was my first introduction to John Eldredge's thoughts. I have read it four times since starting the first time in 2003. It is considered by some the new classic on how to be a man, and more specifically, how to be a Christian man.

Eldredge's main premise is that men and women were created differently, and that we were created with specific roles, or character traits that we need to nourish if we are to be who God wants us to be. His main 4 areas are that a man needs:

  1. A Wound to Heal
  2. A Battle to Fight
  3. An Adventure to Live
  4. A Beauty to Rescue
He unpacks each of these in a variety of ways. I have read this book, worked through the Field Manual and the DVD curriculum series by myself, with one close friend, and then facilitated it in a group setting. Most men were hesitant to embrace all the ideas yet many came around by the time we were half way through the book.

"Deep in a man's heart are some fundamental questions that simply cannot be answered at a kitchen table. Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for?" p. 5

"The plan from the beginning of time was that his father would lay the foundation for a young boy's heart, and pass on to him that essential knowledge and confidence in his strength." p.62

"He created Adam for adventure, battle and beauty; he created us for a unique place in his story and he is committed to bringing us back to the original design." p.103

"You are a new creation in Christ. The New Testament calls you a saint, a holy one, a son of God. In the core of your being you are a good man. Yes, there is a war within us, but it is a civil war." p.145

These are but a few samples of the writing from the book. The one draw- back of the
DVD curriculum is that it does not follow the book exactly, and with 12 chapters in the book and field manual that follow each other exactly and 8 in the DVD, it doesn't seem weighted evenly.

Check it out; it will be worth it.

Review of Wild At Heart
Review of Wild At Heart Field Manual
Review of Wild At Heart Multi-Media Facilitators Kit

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Wild At Heart Field Manual by: John Eldredge

Wild At Heart Field Manual
John Eldredge
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 0785265740

This is the field manual for the book Wild At Heart. Mine is very worn from having been worked through 4 times. This is a great resource if you are working through Wild At Heart, either by yourself or in a group. It will help you really examine and work through the book.

This workbook is well laid out with lots of room for answers, and a number of little sections to help you on your journey as you work through it. Some of these supplemental sections are:

  • A Break in the Clouds
  • From the Map
  • Warning!
  • Dispatch
  • Getting Your Bearings
Each chapter which parallels the book, begins with a 'Gut Reaction' - what is your first take on that chapter in the book? This helps set the bearings for where you will go in that chapter. As you work through it you will be drawn deeper and deeper into the masculine journey.

Eldredge begins each chapter with quotes that span church history and denominations. He must be one of the most widely read men I have encountered. He draws from that breadth of knowledge to show a variety of views on topics and tries to help you see where God is wanting to work in your life.

The one drawback, if you use it in conjunction with the DVD curriculum, is that the DVD does not follow the book exactly, and with 12 chapters in the book and field manual that follow each other exactly, and 8 in the DVD, it doesn't seem weighted evenly.

The Field Manual is indispensable if you are going to work through the DVDs and is a great supplement to the original book. For you, or other men in your life, this book will be a great tool on your journey to authentic Christian manhood.

Review of Wild At Heart
Review of Wild At Heart Field Manual
Review of Wild At Heart Multi-Media Facilitators Kit

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Wild At Heart Multi-Media Facilitator's Kit by: John Eldredge

Wild At Heart Multi-Media Facilitator's Kit:
A Band of Brothers (DVD)
John Eldredge
Thomas Nelson
ISBN-10: 1400200865
ISBN-13: 9781400200863

This is an excellent study series for a group of men. The one drawback of the DVD curriculum is that it does not follow the book exactly, and with 12 chapters in the book and field manual that follow each other exactly, and 8 in the DVD, is doesn't seem weighted evenly. Yet even with that against it, this is an awesome series.

I first worked through this series by myself, then with one close friend - a pastor I know. Then both he and I led different groups through it: I a small group at my home, and he with the men in his church on Sunday evenings. Later he and I jointly did a weekend retreat to refresh the material for his men before they launched into some other material.

These DVDs will show you a group of men, John Eldredge and the Ransomed Heart Ministry Team, working through each of the issues raised in the book and having some frank discussions on camera, and some fun in the wilderness, as they work through these issues.

This facilitator's kit comes with the DVDs, posters to promote your event, invitations to use in smaller settings, and a manual. The manual goes through each week and suggests movie clips to start with, or music to use while gathering. It is a great resource and will help you get the most out of the book and field manual.

I would advise you not to try to use this without the men having the book and field manual, because it will be frustrating and will severely limit how much you can get out of the material. It is really designed for, and functions best as, a group study.

The DVDs are well done and very professional, the gag reel is hilarious, and some of the outtakes will have you on the floor laughing. It is not all super serious; there is a lot of fun as these men bonded further while filming this. Watch them launch their cell phones with a skeet shooter and shoot them out of the sky.

This tool will help you become a better man, husband, father, and son. Worth the time, effort, and money.

Review of Wild At Heart
Review of Wild At Heart Field Manual
Review of Wild At Heart Multi-Media Facilitators Kit

Friday, 26 January 2007

Love Letters to the South: Messages of Hope and Healing from the World’s Best-Loved Celebrities by: Naomi Strasser

Love Letters to the South:
Messages of Hope and Healing from the World’s
Best-Loved Celebrities
Naked Ink Press
ISBN 1595558578

Some books defy almost all categories. This is definitely one of those books. It is a book of hope, dreams, encouragement and support, for those who lost so much in Hurricane Katrina. This book is the brainchild of Naomi Strasser who, along with photographer friend Paul Alexander, decided to create art that would help in some small way to heal.

Alexander donated his time in photographing celebrities from around the world and from different strata of society. Many others contributed to the work, from the stylists working with the celebrities, to Ryan Priest doing the design and layout. This book was the work of the generosity of many, many people who all championed it and gave of their time and talents to make it happen.

The book is a collection of 71 unique portraits of celebrities, from Johnny Depp, Kelly Hu, and Coldplay, to Viggo Mortensen, Helen Bonham Carter and so many more. Accompanying each portrait is a letter, or encouragement note, to encourage the giving to continue. And it is for those who are far from home now, that they should keep hoping and dreaming of their return. Interspersed with photos of the actual devastation from Katrina, these notes provide hope, encouragement and support.

From Johnny Depp who writes “Help and Keep Helping”, to Helen Bonham Carter stating “No amount of rain can drown the music of New Orleans”, the words will challenge us to appreciate what we have and to help those less fortunate than we find ourselves to be.

The publisher, Naked Ink Press, is doing their part as well; they have committed to give at least $25,000 US dollars to both the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and to Habitat for Humanity’s Operation Home Delivery. That is $2.50 from each book, sold for a minimum of $25,000 each more depending on sales.

Shawn Ashmore states: “She beat you, but she didn’t break you!! Stay strong!!” Picking up this book, either for yourself or for others as a gift, will help to make those words come true. So along with Kevin Bacon we will say “Thinking of U.”

It may be trite, but giving this book as a gift, will be a gift that keeps on giving.

(First Published in Imprint 2007-01-26 as "Love it" in the 'Love it/Hate it' book review column.)

Saturday, 20 January 2007

2 New Publications

New publications.

I have had articles picked up by two new publications, which now gives me 6 publications that I have been published in, in under two years. In the January 14th-19th issue of the National Catholic Register, just published my review of The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints by Ralph Martin. And the January/February issue of Beyond Ordinary Living reprinted my review of Religious Nuts Political Fanatics: U2 in Theological Perspective by Robert Vagacs. Here is the list of all the publications I have written for.

Imprint - The University of Waterloo Paper
St. Anthony Messenger - A Catholic Magazine
National Catholic Register - A Catholic Newspaper
Beyond Ordinary Living
The Record - Kitchener Waterloo's Loacal Paper
Across the Creek - SJU Student Union Paper

So in under two years I have published over 75 book reviews in 6 publications. I do not see any end soon. Thanks for coming by and checking out my reviews. And for all of you who have encouraged me in my writing, and overcoming my dyslexia to become a published writer, many thanks.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Byzantium by: Stephen R. Lawhead

Stephen R. Lawhead
ISBN-10: 0061057541
ISBN-13: 9780061057540

At nearly 900 pages this book is amazing in many ways. First, you read that much in such a short time, for once you have picked it up you will find yourself unable to put it down. This book is a fictional retelling of St. Aidan's life. St. Paul's Cathedral in London, Ontario has a St. Aidan's Chapel that has a beautiful set of tapestries depicting the life of this servant of God. St. Aidan died in 651 after serving at home in Iona, among the Gauls - first as a slave and then as a Bishop, and he even visited Byzantium in his lifetime, and the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire.

I was familiar with this church and with the artwork depicting Aidan's life. Yet it was not until almost halfway through the book, that I slapped my forehead and said 'Aidan the monk = St. Aidan'. The book is so craft- fully written that one easily becomes so lost in the story that it did not even click that I knew about this tale.

Lawhead is a master wordsmith, who is most know for his Arthurian legend series, or his Celtic series, yet this stand-alone novel is every bit as much worth the time and attention as his other better-known works. This book was a departure for Lawhead, in that it was written from the beginning as a stand-alone. Therefore, if you do not like getting sucked into a series, where you need to read 4 or 5 books to get the whole story, this book is a great starting point in Lawhead's works.

The story in this novel is powerful and moving. It is the story of a young man who was taken as a slave and later returned as a Minister, and eventually as a Bishop. It is the story of the spread of Christendom, and the story of service. Once you begin you will not be able to put this book down. So be warned!

Friday, 12 January 2007

Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei by: Robert Hutchison

Their Kingdom Come:
Inside The Secret World of Opus Dei

Robert Hutchison
Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN 0312357605

Seldom do I come across a book that turns me off so quickly, and so completely, as this book did. For a little over a year I have been researching Opus Dei with the goal of doing my Thesis on the organization. If even a tenth of what this book claims is true, then this group is the best in the world at keeping secrets, and the people I have known who are members are great deceivers, better than what the devil himself is given credit for being.

The cover of the book claims: "A responsible piece of investigative reporting … packed with meticulous detail." from Publishers Weekly. Yet I find none of that in this book in comparison with other books on the same subject. Both this author, and Michael Walsh in his book The Secret World of Opus Dei, claim to have access to secret documents that are not reproduced or evidenced other than their claims given to their existence.

Hutchison claims that Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, was not really interested in the spiritual life of his followers. He states: "Escriva was interested in power. He was a schemer. God's schemer. And he wanted to control higher education, and later government ministries." p.87 This book makes such wide and varied accusations against Opus Dei that it is hard to believe the author has not been charged with libel and slander. Hutchison claims that Opus Dei has overturned governments, controlled the FBI and the CIA, bankrupted the Vatican so that Opus Dei could bail them out, and orchestrated assassination attempts including the one against Pope Paul VI. He even went so far as to claim that Opus Dei controls the majority of the Clergy and Laity in the Roman Curia and that they even actively recruit in the Pentagon and other government organizations around the world to achieve the power and control they want. Hutchison even alludes to the fact that Pope John Paul II was really just a puppet for Opus Dei; he calls JPII Opus Dei's Pope.

How this book is published as Non-Fiction and not Fiction I will never know. Of the 30 odd books I have read, both for and against Opus Dei in the last year, this book is definitely the worst and thus deserves a 'Hate It' book review. If you want to read something unbiased and informative, I would start with John Allen Jr.'s book Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church. It is worth the read. But this book by Hutchison is trash and does not deserve your time, effort or hard-earned money.

(First Published in Imprint 2007.01.12 as 'Hate it' part of the 'Love it/ Hate it' book review column.)

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

In Conversation With God: Volume #1: Advent and Christmastide By: Francis Fernandez Carvajal

In Conversation With God
Volume #1: Advent and Christmastide
By: Francis Fernandez
ISBN 0906138205
Scepter Press
7 Volume Set
ISBN 0906138191

Sometimes when I start to read a book, I know it will be so good I do not mark in it the first time I read it through. This series falls into that category. However, this being my second time through these books, I am now underlining, making notes in the margins and reading much deeper than my first time through last year. As such, I will just state that these are awesome devotional books and deserve the time and attention of a 6 or 7 page devotion each day. They will help you grow closer to Christ, and through that, to the other people in your life.

This volume spans the time from the first Sunday of Advent till either January 12th or the Second Sunday after the Ephiphany. Thus this book has 51 devotions for this joyous Church Season. If you cannot afford the whole set, start with this volume or the Lent and Eastertide volume, then add the others over time. It is usually cheaper to buy the boxed set but sometimes that amount of money is not available up front.

Rather than going on and on in my own words, I will share a few of the quotes I underlined this year and copied into my journal. They will give you a sampling of the quality and diversity of the writing in this volume in this series:

We are not only precursors, however; we are also witnesses to Christ. Together with the grace of Baptism and Confirmation, we have received the honourable duty of making our faith in Christ known through our words and our deeds." p.60, 61

"We have to act in such a way that others will be able to say, when they meet us: This man is a Christian, because he does not hate, because he is willing to understan
d, because he is not a fanatic, because he is willing to make sacrifices, because he shows that he is a man of peace, because he knows how to love." p.62

"Mastery of oneself - which is part of true meekness - is the weapon of those who are really strong; it prevents us from answering back too quickly and from speaking wounding words which afterwards we wish we had never said. Meekness knows how to wait for the right moment, and to express its judgments in a way that carries conviction." p.86

The purpose of the examination of conscience is to get to know ourselves better, in order to become more receptive to the graces the Holy Spirit pours out upon us, and to grow to resemble Christ himself." p.107

"If we make a habit of attentively reading and meditating on the Holy Gospel every day, we shall, in a sense, take part in the life of Christ; we shall get to know him better everyday; and, perhaps without our realizing it, our life in the world will come
to be a reflection of his." p.130

"As we raise up our minds and hearts in prayer, we can enquire of ourselves: Am I seeking God in my work or in my study, in my family, out in the street … in everything? Am I daring in my doing apostolate? Does Our Lord want more of me?" p.189

"We have to be attentive, because Our Lord also shows himself in the normal events of every day. May we know how to recover this interior light, which for us breaks through the monotony of days which are all the same, and find Jesus in our Ordinary life!" p.328

These are but a few of the Gems in this book that I found this year. And I am sure that next year will have just as many. Hopefully these samplings will whet your appetite for these great books.

Scepter Press in North America has just reprinted them again this fall.

About the Complete Series:

The complete series is worth the money, time and effort. 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 volumes 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 whether 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 all be read as a complete section, or part in the morning, midday and evening to cover each of the three sections. 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.

This series was originally published in Spanish and was completed in January 1991; the English translation was completed in 1993. It has been immensely popular since they first started coming out in1988. They are published around the world, and have helped thousands of readers in enriching their spiritual lives.

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.

Books edited by Francis Fernandez Carvajal:
Year of Faith Treasury: The Sacrament of Confession 
Year of Faith Treasury: The Virtue of Faith
Year of Faith Treasury: The Virtue of Fortitude 

In Conversation with God:

In Conversation with God eBooks:
Volume 1 Part 1 Advent 
Volume 1 Part 2 Christmas and Epiphany
Volume 2 Part 1 Lent and Holy Week
Volume 2 Part 2 Eastertide
Volume 3 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 1-6
Volume 3 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 7-12
Volume 4 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 13-18
Volume 4 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 19-23
Volume 5 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 24-28
Volume 5 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 29-34
Volume 6 Part 1 Special Feasts January-March
Volume 6 Part 2 Special Feasts April-June
Volume 7 Part 1 Special Feats July -September
Volume 7 Part 2 Special Feats October -December

Books by Francis Fernandez Carvajal:
Overcoming Lukewarmness
Through The Winds and Waves
The Day that Changed My Life

Monday, 8 January 2007

The Way, Furrow, The Forge by: Saint Josemaria Escriva

The Way, Furrow and The Forge
Josemaria Escriva
Hard Cover Sinag-Tala
ISBN 9715540406
Soft Cover Scepter
ISBN 1889334723

I have previously reviewed each of these separately, yet the value
and importance of this combined edition deserves another post. The greatest asset of this combined edition is you have the 3 most famous works by St. Josemaria Escriva in a nice neat combined edition. The individual mini editions may be slightly more portable but in this edition you have it all. The greatest advantage of this 3 in 1 edition is the combined indexes, you have a single index and can search all three books, in either the Subject Index or the Scripture Index. This book is an invaluable tool for spiritual growth!

The Way
Josemaria Escriva
Various Individual Editions
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."

"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?"

"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."

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 bec
ome a better Christian and a better person.

Josemaria Escriva
Various Individual Editions

This is one of three great little books by Josemaria Escriva's The Way, Furrow and The Forge. Each of thes
e 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:

"As soon as you willfully allow a dialogue with temptation to begin, the soul is robbed of its peace, just as consent to impurity destroys grace."

"Prayer is the humility of the man who acknowledges his profound wretchedness and the greatness of God. He addresses and adores God as one who expects everything from Him and nothing from himself. Faith is the humility of the mind which
renounces its own judgement and surrenders to the verdict and authority of the Church. Obedience is the humility of the will which subjects itself to the will of another, for God's sake. Chastity is the humility of the flesh, which subjects itself to the spirit. Exterior mortification is the humility of the senses. Penance is the humility of all the passions, immolated to the Lord. Humility is truth on the road of the ascetic struggle."

"Being faithful to God demands a struggle. And it means close combat, man to man - the old man against the man of God - in one small thing after another, without giving in."


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.

The Forge
Josemaria Escriva
Various Individual Editions

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:

ach day be conscious of your duty to e a saint. A saint! And that doesn't mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end."

"Make an effort to respond at each moment to what God is asking of you: have the will to love him with deeds. They may be little deeds, but do not leave any out."

"To die is a good thing. How can anyone with faith be, at the same time, afraid to die? But as long as the Lord wants to keep you here on earth, it would be cowardice for you to want to die. You must live, live and suffer and work for Love: that is your task."
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.

(I have the 3 in 1 edition, the Hard Cover Centenary Complete Works of St. Josemaria Escriva and the Mini Editions. I use all 3 and find there are advantages to each.)

Books by St. Josemaria Escriva:
Christ Is Passing By
Conversations with Saint Josemaria
The Forge
Friends of God

Holy Rosary
In Love with the Church
The Way
The Way of the Cross
The Way, Furrow, Forge (3 in 1 Edition)

Books about St. Josemaria Escriva:
A Man Who Knew How to Forgive: Lessons from the Life of St. Josemaria Escriva - Francesc Faus

Other Way of the Cross Reviews:
The Way of The Cross
The Way of The Cross II

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Catholic Devotions Meme

Catholic Devotions Meme

It was an open Tag on Irish Catholic and Dangerous! Those who read this blog and would like to consider yourself tagged.

1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus.
Stations of the Cross.
Adoration of the blessed sacrament.

2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer.

3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?
I wear a rope rosary around my neck with a St. Patrick's Medal. I have recieved a 5 fold scapular and a brown scapular. But am as of yet undecided about wearing them. I also tend to colect Rosary's and end up giving them away, of my whole collection only 3 are more than 4 years old, as I give them away and then replace them.

4. Do you have holy water in your home?

5. Do you "offer up" your sufferings?
I try.

6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?
I have off and on. Corrently more off.

7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? How Frequently?
I try and do a visit weekly. When I was at University the first time I used to do 4 hours a week. Now It is inconsistent.

8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or a Sunday morning Mass person?
Both, depends on wife's work schedule and access to a car.

9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?

10. Favorite saints:
Irish Saints, Patrick, Bridget and Columba.

St. Alphonsus Mary de Ligouri
St. Josemaria Escriva
St. Edith Stein
Bl. Damien the Leper

11. Can you recite the Apostles' Creed by heart?
Yes since I was a child. Nicene not so much any more.

12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?

13. Bonus Question: When you pass by an automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?

Added bonus question: Have you named your Guardian Angel?
I did not but my spiritual director years ago told me their names.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Rocky Balboa Movie Review

Rocky Balboa

Sylvester Stallone

Yes this is a review of the 6th and final installment in the Rocky saga. Rocky has been called the greatest underdog story of all time. It has been given two thumbs up by Elbert & Roeper; it has been given rave reviews and is currently 3rd in box office holiday season sales. With all of that, why would Imprint
review this movie as well? The answer to that question is how the movie is relevant to students.

Rocky Balboa is called a truly inspirational story. It is the story of a man who has had it all, lost most of it and rebuilt what he could. The film was written, directed and starred in by Sylvester Stallone. But this story is older than even that. For Stallone wrote the first Rocky story and held on to it for years. He would not sell it because no one would let him star in it. With his perseverance and determination, he held onto the script until he could play the role of Rocky.

In this film, Rocky is again the underdog. He is 53, retired, and running a restaurant. He is also widowed, and looking for something more in life. He decides to try and fight again - he is thinking something local, for charity. And yet he is given a shot at the champ.

his is a story of overcoming - the story of living your hopes and dreams. It is about believing in yourself and following those dreams. Rocky states: "What is it you said to the kid? The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very rough, mean place... and no matter how tough you think you are, it'll always bring you to your knees and keep you there, permanently... if you let it. You or nobody ain't never gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit... it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward... how much you can take, and keep moving forward. If you know what you're worth, go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit." And he lives that in this film.

Yet Rocky is not the only character to face this adversity in this film. Paulie, his brother-in-law, who only has his work and alcohol is laid off from his job. Rocky's son Robert has lost his way, and is trying to not live in his father's shadow. And each of these three men must deal with their grief at the loss of Adrian, who was wife, sister and mother to these three men.

Rocky must also face his aging body. In the beginning of the training sequences he
realizes that this will not be the simple battle of determination to get the body in shape. It will be in part mind over matter as he must reconquer and retrain his body to be that of a fighter.

Rocky's opponent Mason "The Line" Dixon (played by actual former heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver) does not take the fight seriously, he has the youthful disregard and disrespect for age and experience that Rocky will bring to the ring in this battle of athletes from different eras.

Rocky Balboa will motivate us to face our own challenges with perseverance and a community for support, and with hope and by prayer. The story will promote discussions about where we find our courage, what we want from life and how we can overcome loss and yet stand strong and remain faithful. It will also help us to classify what we call a victory.

Rocky is not just another boxing movie, or even just a sport movie, and it is definitely not just a squeal. It is a movie that will help you find the courage to follow your dreams and encourage you to pursue hopes.

So when the world knocks you down, you can either lay there or get up. That is what Rocky Balboa teaches us.

(First Published in Imprint 2007-01-05 as 'Final Rocky flick hits home, the heart'.)

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Top 3 books of 2006

Shelly's Bookshelf asked the following question.

It was really hard to pick my top 3 books of the 200 I read last year. I had to go back through the list of all the books I read and reviewed, then the list of what I classified as favorite and influential books as I read them. This caused me to really ponder what would be the top 3. Here is what I came up with:

God Rides a Yamaha - Kathie Shaidle
Which is the story of a woman's struggle with faith, doubt, and lupus.

May Crowning, Mass, and Merton: And Other Reasons I Love Being Catholic - Liz Kelly
A great book where one women share's what she really loves about the Catholic tradition.

Life After God - Douglas Coupland
An awesome book, that is really hard to describe.

I have linked to my reviews of each of these three. It was really hard to narrow the list to 3. It would have been easier to choose 3 fiction and 3 non-fiction, but that was not the question given.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Catholic Publishers Part 1

Catholic Publishers!

This will be the first of a series of reviews of Catholic Publishers and Publishing houses. I will highlight their area of expertise and, to my knowledge, some of their better offerings.


Novalis is the largest of the Canadian Catholic Publishing companies. They publish in both English and French, and have a wide range of books on a wide range of topics. Because they are the largest Canadian publisher, they are not nearly as specialized as many of the publishing houses south of the border or around the world. The authors I would recommend are Michael W. Higgins, and Irma Zaleski. Novalis is also the Canadian distributor of many of the American Catholic Publishing Houses here in Canada.

Scepter Press

Scepter is one of the publishers whose works I have been reading a lot of lately. They are the North American distributors for Scepter UK, Four Courts and a few others. These books specialize in the Spirituality of Opus Dei; they have numerous editions of all the books by St. Josemaria Escriva, and by many authors who are members of Opus Dei. I have yet to read anything from this publisher that was a disappointment. Besides the works of St. Josemaria Escriva, I would highly recommend Edward G. Maristany and Federico Suarez.

Loyola Press

This is one of the larger Catholic Publishing Houses. They have a great website that is easy to navigate and have a lot of resources available. I would highly recommend the writings of Liz Kelly, and the Seeker's Guide Series.

Pauline Books & Media

This is an organization dedicated to what they call Media Evangelization. They desire to use all the means that modern technology has - books, magazines, music, radio, videos, and the internet - to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Well that is a start. Next week I will try to profile a few more for you.
You may also want to check out these articles:

Some Catholic Resources on the Web
4 Resources

Monday, 1 January 2007

Life After God by: Douglas Coupland

Life After God
Douglas Coupland

Pocket Books

ISBN 0671874330

(Other Editions Available)

This is one of those books that I have wanted to review for a while, but was unsure of how to approach it. I love the book and have read it over a half dozen times in less than two years. Yet it is such an atypical book that it is difficult to review. I can just be blunt and state that the book will grab you and draw you back in again and again.

The book is published as fiction, yet rumors have it that Coupland will admit that it is at least partially autobiographical. It is a collection of recollections, thoughts, memories and drawings by Coupland. It is the recount a man's life, and as we find out he is telling the story to find out how his life got to where it is. He wants a record for his daughter so that maybe she will understand him better. My favorite of the individual entries is:

"Now -- here is my secret:
I tell it to you with an openness of heart I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray
that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me to be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond able to love." p.359

Every time I pick up this book, I get something more out of it. Sometimes I read it from beginning to end, and then at other times I just pick it up and read at random. This book deals with many of the 'big' questions all of us will have to deal with in our lives. Questions like: How do we deal with Loneliness? Anxiety? Failed relationships? How can we find quiet in our lives? It also deals with the question of being raised without a religion or belief system and how, as we age, we end up struggling with spiritual questions.

If you can track down the first edition hardcover it is worth it. It is in a different format and shape. With the dust jacket off, it looks like a prayer book or bible. If you read it without the jacket in public places people will often ask you what you are reading. This was intentional and the shape and design of this book are part of the art of the book, and part of the complexity Coupland has woven into it. The front cover of the hardback also has an outline of a hand, like a tracing of a child's hand. As we are all reaching out beyond ourselves in search of some greater meaning in life, we are reaching out like a child in search of a parent.

My hat is off to Coupland and this amazing work of art - on all the levels that it is art of the deepest level. Coupland has created a masterpiece that will become a classic, which will survive through the ages.