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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Homily Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Deacon Ed MacIntosh


Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

(Note: This homily really hit home, it aligns so closely with books I have been reading and processing over the last year. It is posted here with permission.)

The Catholic writer, Matthew Kelly, tells us that the best way to serve and to please God is to become what he calls, “the best version of ourselves.” Kelly’s idea is that by being that best version of ourselves we will come closer to living our lives in the manner that God, in whose image we were created, has intended.

So, in other words, if I strive to be the best husband, father, deacon and friend that I can be; only then, am I truly being the Ed who was made in the image and likeness of God. Anything I do contrary to that  separates me from God and detracts from my likeness to Him.

Last weekend I took part in an event in the London Diocese called, The Men of Faith Conference.  It was a great experience, and so moving to be part of a group of about 300 men who had gathered to discuss, and hopefully deepen their faith.

One of the speakers was Fr. Ben Ludtke from Detroit. Fr. Ben’s message touched on how hard it can be to stand up for the faith but how important it is to do just that.  The line he used a few times throughout his presentation that I think was so spot on was, “it takes guts to be a Catholic.”

I agree with Fr. Ben, it takes guts to make the ‘right’ choice instead of the popular choice; to make the moral choice instead of the choice that feels easiest in the moment; when the world today, just like in the time of Jesus, gives a totally different message.

The world tells us…

  • you could be happy if you look out for number 1, and put your own needs first.
  • you could be happy if you get ahead by taking advantage of other people as long as you don’t get caught.
  • you could be happy if you talk trash or offer alternative facts to make someone else feel or appear to be inferior.
But that is not what Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel.  Jesus says, “Blessed are you…” or in another translation, “Happy are you…” These are encouraging words to hear from our Lord for those of us who try to live out his message in our day to day lives.

There are some of the Beatitudes that we already have the ability to achieve on our own; showing mercy, being a peacemaker, being humble. But there are also times when we will need to turn to God for help to achieve what is being asked of us...and it's not a bad thing to recognize that we cannot do it all by ourselves.

I want to share this little story with you…
One Sunday as they drove home from church, a little girl turned to her mother and said, "Mommy, there’s something about the Deacon’s message this morning that I don’t understand." The mother said, "Oh? What is it?" The little girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. He said God is so big that He could hold the world in His hand. Is that true?" The mother replied, "Yes, that's true."

"But Mommy, he also said that God comes to live inside of us when we believe in Jesus and when we receive Holy Communion. Is that true, too?" Again, the mother assured the little girl that what the Deacon had said was true.

With a puzzled look on her face the little girl then asked, "If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, won’t He show through?"

The little girl, in her own way, had unwittingly summarized what it means to live a life in keeping, with not only Gospel values, but more specifically, the story we hear in today’s Gospel. The closer we get to Jesus by following His message, by learning more about Him, by receiving Him in the Eucharist…the more He will show through us.

Jesus, in this very well known text that we call the Beatitudes, delivers a guide for us to follow that shows us, not only what we need to do but what He will do for us when we align ourselves closer to Him.

In fact, it is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the Beatitudes are explained as the “vocation of the faithful”, they show us the “actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life” and in fact, the Beatitudes really are like an instruction book for how to live - how to “be the best version of ourselves”.

They  “describe for us the paths that lead to the Kingdom of heaven. Sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we tread them, step by step, by everyday acts.  By the working of the Word of Christ, we slowly bear fruit in the Church to the glory of God.”

And the promises made to us in the Beatitudes, which are already secured through the Paschal Mystery, surely are cause for rejoicing.

It may be a difficult path to follow but we have faith that if we are “pure in heart” we receive the promised reward and we “shall see God”.

There are times when I take our children shopping. They want to spend the money they have been saving for a particular item.  They have done their part, they have worked hard doing chores or extra things around the house but inevitably they will turn to me and ask, “Dad, if I don’t have all that I need will you help me?”

So it is with God. Of course, we need to do our part, but those times in our lives where we fall short, God makes up the difference, carrying us the rest of the way.

As Pope Francis said at World Youth Day in 2014:
"In proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus asks us to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love, the path that alone leads to eternal life. It is not an easy journey, yet the Lord promises us his grace and he never abandons us.  We face so many challenges in life: poverty, distress, humiliation, the struggle for justice, persecutions, the difficulty of daily conversion, the effort to remain faithful to our call to holiness, and many others. But if we open the door to Jesus and allow him to be part of our lives, if we share our joys and sorrows with him, then we will experience the peace and joy that only God, who is infinite love, can give."

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
"Deacon Ed"
Rev. Mr. Ed MacIntosh
St. Agnes Parish, Waterloo, ON

With permission.



Monday, 30 January 2017

Practical LPIC-1 Linux Certification Study Guide - David Clinton

Practical LPIC-1 Linux Certification Study Guide 1st ed. Edition
David Clinton
Apress Press
ISBN 9781484223574
ASIN B01N8YV1N3


I reviewed an different edition of this book, and then found out about this new edition. Other than formatting changes the changes are minimal. So here is my review. I need to be up front with you. I have always been a little leery of Linux Certification. I have been a Windows Sys Admin for years now, I spent a few short years supporting Apples OSX, and though Linux certification was on my wish list, it is something I have started a number of times but never seen through to completion. Because I only ever managed a few systems or applications that ran on Linux I always figured out what I needed to know, but never took the time to go further. 

But after doing David Clinton's 'Linux Server Skills for Windows Administrators' on PluralSight I had a hunger to know more and go deeper. And I am very thankful I have. I have not written my exams yet but they are on my training plan for this year. This book is the most compact, and easily digestible of the CompTIA Linux+, or LPI-1 book I have ever tried to use. Within a few hours I was up and running with a vm within a vm and working through the exercises. And at the end of each chapter is a test to check your knowledge. If I did not score at least 75% I redid the chapter.

No based on my learning styles I learn best from reading and second best from hands on doing. With this book I was able to maximize my learning. With the hours I spend going through this book I feel like I have a better grasp of Linux than working doing it a bit here and a bit there on the job of the last dozen years. David states in the introduction: "Now, about this book. I chose to have the chapters closely follow the LPIC exam topics. Not only will this make it much easier for you to study for each of the two exams required for LPIC-1 certification, but I believe that the exam objectives are actually nicely aligned with the tools you'll need in the real world. Whether or not you end up taking the exam, if you manage to learn this material, you'll have done yourself a real favor." And I completely agree with his assertion. He also says: "If you want to really "get" this stuff, you'll have to roll up your sleeves, open up a terminal, and do it. As soon as you finish a chapter or a section, try out what you've learned on a real living, breathing Linux system. Even better, take on your own projects. Be ambitious. Be adventurous. Take (managed) risks." And I found that to be true, every time I tried to study Linux before using this book I always worked with a GUI, but by following David's guidance I worked with a command line only version a little every day for weeks until I was immersed in it.

I have heard that David is currently working on textbooks for the advance Linux exams and I know I will use those once I have written these exams. His writing style is easy to digest, it is clear, concise and to the point. It was by far one of the best certification books I have ever used, and I currently hold 37 certifications and have written nearly 50 exams over the last 10 years. I can highly recommend this book, if you are new to Linux or already have a lot of experience and just want to achieve the designation this book will be a great resource for your exam prep.

An excellent resource that I can highly recommend.

Note: This book was previously published as: 

Teach Yourself Linux Administration and Prepare for the LPIC-1 Certification Exams: Complete. Quick.
David Clinton
Bootstrap-IT

ISBN 9781329803701
ASIN B01AVG4URG



It was by far one of the best certification books I have ever used, and I currently hold 37 certifications and have written nearly 50 exams over the last 10 years.

Books by David Clinton:
Teach Yourself Linux Administration and Prepare for the LPIC-1 Certification Exams: Complete. Quick.

Learn Amazon Web Services in a Month of Lunches
Practical LPIC-1 Linux Certification Study Guide 1st ed. Edition

Pluralsight Courses by David Clinton:
Linux Server Skills for Windows Administrators

LPI: Linux Essentials (010-150)
Linux Encryption Security (LPIC-3 303)
Linux Network Security (LPIC-3 303)
Linux Server Virtualization (LPIC-3 304 Part 1/2)
Linux High Availability Cluster Management (LPIC-3 304 Part 2/2)
Network Vulnerability Scanning with OpenVAS
Using Docker on AWS
Protocol Deep Dive: SSH and Telnet

Related Articles:
Review of Pluralsight Service


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Choosing Happiness: Working Within - Francisco Ugarte

Choosing Happiness: Working Within
Francisco Ugarte
Scepter Press
ISBN 9781594172625
ASIN B01MUBRS5D



When reading books in translation, at times there is a feeling of things being slightly off. There was no sense of that when I read this book. In fact I have already recommended it to a few friends and from their feedback and my own reading I can state that this is a wonderful book. This English edition of this book is a great tool for Christians looking to grow in part of our fundamental call as followers of Christ. to live happiness, to live joy and to do so by working internally.

In the introduction to this book it states:

"In the literature about happiness, which is surprisingly scarce for a subject of such importance, we tend to find two approaches: the classic and the contemporary. The classic approach, which explains the nature of happiness philosophically, may seem rather abstract to the modern reader, who seeks practical solutions relating to everyday life. The contemporary approach, however, is often reduced to "formulas" for making us happy, formulas that don't solve the basic problem because they lack content.

The purpose of this book is to delve more deeply into the substance of happiness, to reveal the way to be happy in daily life, and to connect this daily joy with the infinite happiness of the next life. As the title Choosing Happiness: Working Within suggests, it's a matter of looking inside ourselves and at our truest, deepest needs, choosing to be happy in this life and the next by identifying and seeking those sources of happiness which meet and match authentic human needs."


Then the book goes on to examine what is true happiness, what are some barriers to happiness and gives many examples of happiness. And even what many falsely assume is happiness. The sections in this book are:

INTRODUCTION
1. I WANT TO BE HAPPY!
The Natural Inclination toward Happiness
Pleasure, Joy, and Happiness
A Difficult Conquest
Is Happiness for This Life or the Next?
2. WHERE IS HAPPINESS FOUND?
The Possession of Material Goods
An Interior Task
Dependence on Choice
The Present and the Ordinary
3. RESENTMENT AND ENVY
The Poison of Resentment
The Remedy of Forgiveness
The Problem of Envy
Solutions to Envy
4. OPTIMISM LEADS TO HAPPINESS
What Studies Reveal
Naïve, Misguided, or Enthusiastic "Optimism"
The Threat of Pessimism
The Nature of Optimism
Keys to Optimism
5. CAN SUFFERING BRING HAPPINESS?
Suffering and Evil
The Process of Suffering
The Meaning of Suffering
The Human Value of Suffering
The Spiritual Value of Suffering
CONCLUSION
APPENDIX: FEATURES OF A MATURE PERSONALITY
WORKS CITED

Francisco states: "The path to happiness seems to be progressive in the sense that we can never say, while traveling it, that we have reached the goal. We can always be happier. And being happy is equivalent to having "a successful life," as various contemporary authors have rightly noted;6 the subjective consequence of happiness is a sensation of permanent peace, which can be distinguished from simple pleasure and also from joy." But that does not mean we should stop striving for it. The author makes big distinctions between, joy, pleasure and happiness. The way the distinction between these three is described is: "The three distinctions described here correspond to a state of being that we often colloquially refer to as happiness. We say that someone is happy when we are actually referring to the immediate result of a specific pleasant stimulus, such as alcohol; we say someone is happy when a life event produces a perception of more stable happiness, such as attaining a goal. The latter is more properly identified with joy; we can say that we are joyful for having achieved what we have intentionally worked toward. It is one's permanent situation, one that no longer depends on particular circumstances, that constitutes happiness." And from that conclusion then goes on to highlight how we can work towards true happiness.

"If happiness occurs in the interior of a human and if that is where we must work to obtain it, it follows that our happiness depends on ourselves. Some who are not happy blame their unhappiness on another person-a husband, a mother-in-law, an associate at work-or on external circumstances, such as the economic situation, sickness, old age, the problems of the country, and so on. This makes it appear that to obtain happiness, we first must solve all of those difficulties, which may lead us to conclude that happiness is utopia and it is better to give up on it."

Francisco provides a list of what we should choose to truly choose happiness.:

  1. Choose attitudes that favor happiness.
  2. Watch our reactions.
  3. Avoid egocentric orientation.
  4. Orient our lives toward gratifications rather than sensible pleasures.
  5. We, ourselves, have to make the decision.
There are a number of other great lists in this book: The Process of Suffering, The Human Value of Suffering, The Spiritual Value of Suffering, the appendix Features of a Mature Personality and more. I have copied out a few of these lists to reread each day to help solidify the teachings of this book.

This book was so go that I have added a few others, that are available in English, by Francisco Ugarte to my to be read list. This book was an excellent read and I can endorse heartily it to you. I cannot strongly enough recommend this book to you. Please read it and share it with others, for your own growth in true happiness and theirs.

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

Books available in English by Francisco Ugarte 

Some under the name Francisco Ugarte Corcuera:
Choosing Happiness: Working Within
From Resentment to Forgiveness: A Gateway to Happiness
Deep Friendship: Moving beyond the Superficial


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Teach Yourself Linux Administration and Prepare for the LPIC-1 Certification Exams: Complete. Quick. - David Clinton

Teach Yourself Linux Administration and Prepare for the LPIC-1 Certification Exams: Complete. Quick.
David Clinton
Bootstrap-IT

ISBN 9781329803701
ASIN B01AVG4URG



I need to be up front with you. I have always been a little leery of Linux Certification. I have been a Windows Sys Admin for years now, I spent a few short years supporting Apples OSX, and though Linux certification was on my wish list, it is something I have started a number of times but never seen through to completion. Because I only ever managed a few systems or applications that ran on Linux I always figured out what I needed to know, but never took the time to go further. 

But after doing David Clinton's 'Linux Server Skills for Windows Administrators' on PluralSight I had a hunger to know more and go deeper. And I am very thankful I have. I have not written my exams yet but they are on my training plan for this year. This book is the most compact, and easily digestible of the CompTIA Linux+, or LPI-1 book I have ever tried to use. Within a few hours I was up and running with a vm within a vm and working through the exercises. And at the end of each chapter is a test to check your knowledge. If I did not score at least 75% I redid the chapter.

No based on my learning styles I learn best from reading and second best from hands on doing. With this book I was able to maximize my learning. With the hours I spend going through this book I feel like I have a better grasp of Linux than working doing it a bit here and a bit there on the job of the last dozen years. David states in the introduction: "Now, about this book. I chose to have the chapters closely follow the LPIC exam topics. Not only will this make it much easier for you to study for each of the two exams required for LPIC-1 certification, but I believe that the exam objectives are actually nicely aligned with the tools you'll need in the real world. Whether or not you end up taking the exam, if you manage to learn this material, you'll have done yourself a real favor." And I completely agree with his assertion. He also says: "If you want to really "get" this stuff, you'll have to roll up your sleeves, open up a terminal, and do it. As soon as you finish a chapter or a section, try out what you've learned on a real living, breathing Linux system. Even better, take on your own projects. Be ambitious. Be adventurous. Take (managed) risks." And I found that to be true, every time I tried to study Linux before using this book I always worked with a GUI, but by following David's guidance I worked with a command line only version a little every day for weeks until I was immersed in it.

I have heard that David is currently working on textbooks for the advance Linux exams and I know I will use those once I have written these exams. His writing style is easy to digest, it is clear, concise and to the point. It was by far one of the best certification books I have ever used, and I currently hold 37 certifications and have written nearly 50 exams over the last 10 years. I can highly recommend this book, if you are new to Linux or already have a lot of experience and just want to achieve the designation this book will be a great resource for your exam prep.


An excellent resource that I can highly recommend.

Note: Since writing this review I have found out that the book has been republished as: 

Practical LPIC-1 Linux Certification Study Guide 1st ed. Edition
David Clinton
Apress Press
ISBN 9781484223574

ASIN B01N8YV1N3



It was by far one of the best certification books I have ever used, and I currently hold 37 certifications and have written nearly 50 exams over the last 10 years.

Books by David Clinton:
Teach Yourself Linux Administration and Prepare for the LPIC-1 Certification Exams: Complete. Quick.

Learn Amazon Web Services in a Month of Lunches
Practical LPIC-1 Linux Certification Study Guide 1st ed. Edition

Pluralsight Courses by David Clinton:
Linux Server Skills for Windows Administrators

LPI: Linux Essentials (010-150)
Linux Encryption Security (LPIC-3 303)
Linux Network Security (LPIC-3 303)
Linux Server Virtualization (LPIC-3 304 Part 1/2)
Linux High Availability Cluster Management (LPIC-3 304 Part 2/2)
Network Vulnerability Scanning with OpenVAS
Using Docker on AWS
Protocol Deep Dive: SSH and Telnet

Related Articles:
Review of Pluralsight Service



Friday, 27 January 2017

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

A Man Who Knew How to Forgive:
Lessons from the Life of St. Josemaria Escriva
Francesc Faus
Scepter Press
ISBN 9781594171536
eISBN 9781594171574
ASIN B00540AZZ6



This book took me completely by surprise. I have read a lot about Saint Josemaría Escrivá over the last 15 years or so, but the depth of his mercy, and his ability to forgive and be cheerful in almost all circumstances is incredible. I really believe that all people, especially Christians can improve in our practice of forgiveness. And in this book we have an incredible example, actually many examples from a man that lived through far more than most of us will ever experience.

This book draws examples from Saint Josemaría Escrivá's life and ministry but breaks them down chronologically, before the Spanish civil war, during the war and after the war. The specific sections in this book are:
Introduction
Part I: Forgiving Amid A Climate Of Hatred

A Young And Poor Student
Darkening Clouds
A Heart In Love With Freedom
Reconciliation Through Soccer
Climbing The Hill Of Forgiveness
Prejudice And Class Hatred
The Construction Worker Covered With Lime
Black Spain!
A Cockroach!
Mud On His Head
Festering Hatred
Where Did This Forgiveness Come From?
A Wager By His Students
The Wounded Gypsy
The Brothel Owner's Brother
The Strength With Which To Go Forward

Part 2: Forgiveness In Times Of War
The Conflict Breaks Out
Pursued Like A Criminal
The Refugees
Living Space
Family Life
A Noticeable Absence
The Fugitive
Murdered Friends
The Periscope And The Laugh
A Story Of Resentment
Forgiveness In Less Dramatic Situations: Patience

Part 3: Forgiveness In Peacetime
"Friendly Fire"
The Circumstances Of The Time
Where Were The Attacks Coming From?
In Barcelona: "A New Storm"
Some Events And Their Repercussions
Pray, Be Silent, Forgive, Work, And Smile
Consolation In Tribulation
The Shock Wave Reaches Rome
Where Freedom Is Not Loved
A Man Who Knew How To Apologize

Appendix I
On The Life And Message Of St. Josemaría Escrivá
Appendix II
Excerpts From Pope John Paul Ii At The Canonization Of St. Josemaría

Saint Escrivá's ability to forgive brought me to tears a few times while reading this book. I am not sure in the same circumstances I could even ask God to help me forgive. Faus states "Awareness of being a sinner in need of forgiveness did not take away his peace or hope. He lived trustingly, because he abandoned himself to the mercy of God." And that is central to many of the stories in this book. His own awareness of the need for mercy and forgiveness allowed him to be so forgiving, and when needed to ask forgiveness of others.

The stories in this book are moving, they are personal and they are a great example to us as people of faith. Reading this book may bring to mind people you need to forgive or even people you need to ask forgiveness of. It will soften your heart, and once softened the Holy Spirit will be able to work and using the examples from Saint Escrivá's life guide you to live more love, more forgiveness, and to live a life of sanctity.

This book was an incredible read. I have already added it back into my reading list to reread it again in 6-8 months. I know I need the reminders of the examples in this book. And I think you would benefit from it also. It is well worth reading for all who hope to grow closer to god!



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


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

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




Thursday, 26 January 2017

7 Riddles to Nowhere - A.J. Cattapan

7 Riddles to Nowhere
A.J. Cattapan
Vinspire
ISBN 9780997173253

eISBN 9781370450107
ASIN B01JPVA8X8



This was the second book by A.J. Cattapan I have read, and currently there are only two available. And this was an wonderful read. When I was in university I did two different Children's Literature courses and I believe this book would be a great addition to either of them. The pace is incredible. The plot and story are both wonderful. 

When I started reading this book I thought about The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and a few paragraphs one of the characters compares the events happening to that same book. And as much as I loved that book in the end, it took a while to grow on me, where this book had me hooked from the get go. In fact I found it very hard to put this book down, I kept saying 'just one more chapter' until the book was finished in two sittings. 

As can be guessed by the title, and the comparison to The Westing Game this book focuses around seven riddles. There are a group of heirs trying to obtain a fortune. Now most of the heirs know the family story and stories about their quirky uncle Edward. But Kameron Boyd, Kam is not related, he is the mystery cousin. And the other cousins are searching for the treasure for the money; Kam wants to find the treasure so that he can save his school. Kam has been to five schools in seven years. He also cannot speak when adults are around outside of his home. St. Jude's has had declining enrolment for years, and though it does well on the state wide tests, and has great equipment the diocese plans to close it down unless the school can come up with a plan. And thus enters the 7 Riddles contest. Because of his issue talking this is the first time Kam has felt at home in a school and has real friends. And he wants to win the contest to keep that together.

This story is part adventure, part scavenger hunt, part church history, part travel, and a whole lot of mystery. Kam and his friends visit 5 Catholic churches in and around Chicago while following the riddles. The artwork and layout of the churches are true to real life. Because of his issue talking this is the first time Kam has felt at home in a school and has real friends.

The whole story takes place over a few days. The main part of the clue hunt is during a single day. Kam and his friends are wonderful characters. And the church history that is woven into the story is a lot of fun. Both of the 5 churches visited and the theology behind some of the clues and riddles. 

I absolutely loved this story and look forward to reading it again with my children. The oldest now and the others as they grow older. And I sincerely hope that we see more from A.J. Cattapan soon, I for one will be keeping an eye out for more reads and if they are as good as this we are in for some more great reading! 

Books by A.J. Cattapan:
Anglehood
Seven Riddles to Nowhere


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

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Product Review - TRESemmé Botanique Detox & Restore Shampoo

TRESemmé Botanique Detox & Restore Shampoo
With Green Tea & Ginger
739ml
Tresemmé
ASIN B0199WNOM0


First the good, then the bad, and than the ugly.

The Good:
No Dyes.
No Parabens.
Silicone-Free.
Safe for color treated hair.

The Bad:
The Smell
Does not lather well.

The Ugly:
The Smell

I was really interested in trying this product. I love ginger and green tea. I have had numerous Shampoos' with either or both scents before, but usually they are colored bright green. But the scent on this one was so bad that after a few uses my wife stated I had to stop using it. Neither my wife nor I could take the scent. I honestly cannot recommend this product.



Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Angelhood - A.J. Cattapan

Angelhood
A.J. Cattapan
Vinspire
ISBN 9780990304289
eISBN 9781311820785
ASIN B00VN1JAVU





I have mixed feelings about this book. It is my introduction to A.J. Cattapan's writings, and it is very well written. But I also have a little unease. So First I will cover off the positives and then share my concerns.

First this book is very well written. It grabs you right away and you really want to know what is going to happen next. It is new and unique in presenting Guardian Angels, as people who have already passed away, and they are given a chance to help someone who faces struggles similar to their own. So when you die you become a guardian angel, and as an angel you have the choice to fight for your charge or give up. We see both in this book.

Nanetta was a young girl with her heart set on one thing. She wanted to get into a specific university program. When she doesn't she commits suicide. But the peace she was expecting in the afterlife did not come. First she goes through periods of darkness and witnessing the life of a girl named Vera. She soon meets another guardian angel who starts to teach her some of the ropes. But even the angels have their own faults and soon he is distracted and disappearing all the time. Nanette is desperate to help Vera and struggling to find a way.

It is a very touching and moving book. And I do believe that it might help some young people who are considering suicide realize the greater extent of the impact of their actions. And the book could be used as a discussion guide about the topic of suicide, and even why we are here.

But my concern is that some young readers might take the book too literally. That they might consider the possibility of the second chance in the afterlife, that there is no theological basis for.

As fiction it is very well written, with strong characters and a compassionate and moving storyline. The pacing is good. The handling of the topic is excellent. And I would recommend it but I would be selective about who I passed this book on to. The nuances of the theology and fictional betrayal of angels would be lost on less mature readers or those more grounded in the faith. But as mentioned it is very well written.

Books by A.J. Cattapan:
Anglehood
Seven Riddles to Nowhere


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

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Landry News - Andrew Clements and Brian Selznick

The Landry News
Andrew Clements
Brian Selznick (Illustrator) 
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
A Division of Simon and Schuster

ISBN 9780689828683
eISBN 9780689850523
ASIN B008O4M174



This is the 17th book by Andrew Clements that I have read in under a year. With each new book I am even more impressed with his writing. A number of his books have achieved 5 out of 5 Stars from me but this is one of the best I have yet read by Clements. As I have stated in other reviews one of the best things about most of Clements writings is it is in a realistic fiction style. By that I mean they are stories you could see happen in real life, with kids your know, or in schools you or your children go to. 

Brian Selznick now of Hugo Cabret fame illustrated this book. He has illustrated a number of Andrew Clements books. And his illustrations always add to the stories. 

This story is different than a number of Clements other stories in that the Teacher, Mr. Larson plays a key role. This book deals with a number of issues, free speech, responsibility, divorce, anger management and learning to try again. Many years ago Mr. Landry was teacher of the year, but now he sits at the front of the class disengaged and for all appearances just waiting for retirement. His classes are unstructured and he allows the students to self-direct. But an incident with Cara Landry, and her passion for creating newspapers sparks a flame. The flame is sparked in Clara, in Mr Landy, in their class, and through the papers distribution the whole school.

The principal who has had longstanding conflict with Mr. Larson sees this as his opportunity to force Larson into early retirement. And as things escalate, the tension between the two rises and it raises the stakes, all the way to the board, and local and regional news. And things come to a head at a school board meeting. Fortunately by this point Cara and many of the students are now on Mr. Larson's side. The piece that started the conflict was written by a student about his feelings during his parent's separation and divorce. 

I will not spoil the story for you other than to state that it is very moving and powerful. This is another great book by an amazing author and I greatly recommend it to you.   

Books by Andrew Clements:
Bird Adalbert
Noah and the Ark and the Animals
Santa's Secret Helper
Temple Cat
Mother Earth's Counting Book
Billy and the Bad Teacher
Who Owns the Cow
Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers
Frindle 
(Adapter)Philipp's Birthday Book
Riff's BeBop Book
Real Monsters Go for the Mold
Things That Go EEK on Halloween
Real Monsters Stage Fright
Music Time, Any Time
Double Trouble in Walla Walla
Workshop
Gromble's Haunted Halloween
Hey Dad, Could I Borrow Your Hammer
The Landry News
Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play
The Mouse Family
The Janitor's Boy
Circus Family Dog
The Christmas Kitten
The School Story
Things Not Seen 
The Jacket 
A Week in the Woods
Slippers at Home
Naptime for Slippers
The Report Card
The Last Holiday Concert
Slippers at School
Slippers Loves to Run
A Million Is a Lot of Dots
Lunch Money
Things Hoped For
Room One: A Mystery or Two
No Talking
Things That Are
Lost and Found
Extra Credit
Troublemaker
About Average
The Map Trap

Pets to the Rescue Series
Ringo Saves the Day!
Brave Norman
Tara and Tiree, Fearless Friends
Delores and the Big Fire

Jake Drake Series
Jake Drake Know-It-All
Jake Drake, Bully Buster
Jake Drake, Teacher's Pet
Jake Drake, Class Clown

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Series
We the Children
Fear Itself
The Whites of Their Eyes
In Harm's Way
We Hold These Truths

Reading Program Books
Karen's Island
Three Wishes for Buster
Bill Picket: An American Original, Texas Style
Hurricane Andrew
Ham and Eggs for Jack
Life in the Desert
Desert Treasure
Inventors: Making Things Better, Steck-Vaughn
Milo's Great Invention

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Deacon Reader - James Keating Editor

The Deacon Reader
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809143894
ASIN B006QHVTUG



In starting to read about the permanent diaconate I could not think about a better book to begin with. This collection of essays edited by James Keating does an amazing job of giving a historical background, the factors that lead to reinstating this ministry, a general overview, and some personal reflections on this ministry. To be honest while reading this book I stopped a few times and wrote down extensive notes, and started looking for other books mentioned.

The sections in this book are:

Introduction
PART ONE Historical and Theological Foundations for Diaconal Identity
1. The History of the Diaconate
2. The Contemporary Renewal of the Diaconate
3. The Deacon and Gaudium et Spes
4. The Diaconate as Medius Ordo: Service in Promotion of Lay Participation
5. The Deacon: Icon of the Sign of Hope
6. The Moral Life of the Deacon


PART TWO Pastoral Foundations for Diaconal Identity
7. Theological Education and the Diaconate
8. Father and Shepherd
9. The Deacon and Personal Prayer
10. The Deacon and Work
11. The Sacramental Ministry of the Deacon in Parish Life


PART THREE Sociological Foundations for Diaconal Identity and Marriage
12. The Diaconate and Marriage: A Sociological Reflection
13. The Deacon's Wife: An Emerging Role


Epilogue: The Kenotic Leadership of Deacons
Notes
Select Theological Bibliography

And the contributors are:
Thomas Baker
Charles A. Bobertz
Owen F. Cummings
William T. Ditewig
Edward J. Enright
James Keating
Gerald F. Kicanas
Mark A. Latcovich
William S. McKnight
Paul McPartlan
Rebecca Meehan
Ray R. Noll
Michael Ross

I fist looked at the Diaconate almost twenty five years ago. And I wish there had been a book like this at that time. This book has a strong focus on the history and theology of the deacon. The greatest strength of this book is the diverse voices. Hearing from so many men who are deacons or in involved with the ministry and formation of deacons. They bring years of practical knowledge to their respective chapters in this book.

From my first reading of this book, one of the most powerful chapters was chapter 2, The Contemporary Renewal of the Diaconate, by  Deacon William T. Ditewig. This chapter focus on the modern renewal up to and including Vatican II. Deacon William states: "At least four streams of influence converged at the council: (1) the German experience prior to the Second World War, (2) the Dachau experience and postwar developments centered in Germany and France, (3) pastoral developments related to the missio ad gentes and catechetics, and (4) significant papal teachings. I reread this chapter through a few times, and am trying to track down one of the books that it mentions that was last published in 1965. This books is worth the price for this chapter alone.

I also loved the chapters in the second section. The focus on The pastoral foundation of the identity of the deacon. The focus on the theological education and its importance to the deacon's formation and life. The deacon and work, and the ministry of being ordained and yet working in the world. The deacon's prayer life. And the Sacramental ministry of the deacon. I am sure I will end up reading books on each of these topics but the overviews given in the essays in this chapter. A great quote from this section is "Most diaconate formation focuses on the deacon's "church" identity: theology, sacramental ministry, preaching, and pastoral endeavors. This is all to the good, but as a result few deacons have had much chance to reflect on how their diaconate might find expression in their work, and how their work experiences can enrich the church. This chapter offers a few beginning reflections on this topic, along with some thoughts that might help stimulate thinking about some new future directions." And really leads on to ponder, reflect and pray. And looking at life in work "A second challenge for deacons as working people is to serve as a model of people who do not build walls between their lives as workers on the one hand and their lives as Christians on the other. Erecting those walls is a tempting proposition, because being a Christian person in a workplace is not a task that comes without problems. The fact is, Christian values and business values, while not completely incompatible, are not identical, and no one in business can lose sight of it." Yes all Catholics all Christians are called to model their faith at work. But with deacons there will end up being an even greater expectation.

The chapter on the deacons wife was also an eye opener. If a deacon, can end up being caught between two worlds, or bridging two words, the deacons wife will experience that but with an extra layer.

I have found that by reading this book I am not only thinking about my future but praying for the deacons that I know. Praying for their ministry, their families and they witness.  This was an excellent read. I would recommend this book to those who are considering the ministry of being a deacon. But it would also be great for committed Catholics who want to understand this ministry in their church and maybe learn how to support these men in a new way.

A great read and I look forward to reading more from some of the contributors over the next few months. Overall I would rate this as an excellent read!


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


Books by James Keating:
The Deacon Reader 
Spousal Prayer: A Way to Marital Happiness 
Listening for Truth: Praying Our Way to Virtue 
The Heart of the Diaconate
Pure Heart, Clear Conscience: Living a Catholic Moral Life 
A Deacon's Retreat 
Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion 
Spirituality and Moral Theology: Essays from a Pastoral Perspective 
Seminary Theology: Teaching in a Contemplative Way  
Seminary Theology II: Theology and Spiritual Direction in Dialogue
Seminary Theology III: Seminary Formation and Psychology  
The Way of Mystery: The Eucharist and Moral Living
Conscience and Prayer: The Spirit of Catholic Moral Theology  
Resting on the Heart of Christ 
Spiritual Fathers: A Workbook for Priests and Dads 
Entering Into the Mind of Christ: The True Nature of Theology 
Communion with Christ: Practical Prayer
The Character of the Deacon: Spiritual and Pastoral Foundations  
The Priest as Beloved Son 
Moral Formation in the Parish: With Your Whole Heart Turn to God
Christ as the Foundation of Seminary Formation



Saturday, 21 January 2017

Live Well Today - Fr. Thomas Dailey - St. Francis de Sales's Simple Approach to Holiness

Live Well Today:
St. Francis de Sales's Simple Approach to Holiness
ISBN 9781622823017
ASIN B011PX9SNA


To be honest I picked up this book based on the title 'Live Today Well', and did not even notice the subtitle 'St. Francis de Sales's Simple Approach to Holiness' until I went to read it. But having read one book by de Sales last year and having two on my reading plan for this year I was very eager when I began the book. For almost 20 years now I have signed off my personal emails with 'Peace and Strength! Yours, learning to be'; I have seen my life purpose as learning to be and to become good at being. Or as Mathew Kelly puts it so often 'to become the best version of myself'; and therefore the title of the book grabbed my attention, but the subtitle fits with my daily goals, each day to be better than the day before, to grow in holiness and God's grace. And this book really lives up to my high expectations. 

The sections in this book are:
Introduction
Part 1 Salesian Spirituality
The Devout Life
St. Francis's Spiritual Directory
Part 2 Our Daily Routine
Our Daily Routine
On Rising: Starting Your Day Right
On the Day's Preparation: Looking to Be Holy
On the Direction of Intention: The Key to Spiritual Perfection
On Meals: Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
On Work: And Taking Spiritual Repose
On Leisure: Interacting with Others
The Examen: Reviewing Our Daily Progress
On Retiring: Practicing Detachment
Part 3 Sacred Moments
Sacred Moments
Prayer: Communing with the Divine
Living the "Little Virtues"
Confession and the Grace of Reconciliation
Mass and the Grace of Encounter
Conclusion
The Universal Call to Holiness
The Spiritual Directory
Helpful Resources for Living Well

This book begins with an excellent quote: 

Let us be firmly resolved to serve God with our whole heart and life. Beyond that, let us have no care about tomorrow. Let us think only of living today well, and when tomorrow comes, it also will be today and we can think of it then.

- St. Francis de Sales, letter CXC, to Mademoiselle de Soulfour, July 22, 1603

And the book only gets better from there. Father Dailey states: "The seminal insight of the Salesian tradition remains as relevant today as it was in the saint's time - namely, that a life of devotion is a universal human calling, that holiness is possible in all walks of life, that a meaningful and fulfilling existence awaits all those who live well." And the book goes on from there to give real, concrete examples of what this spirituality is, and how to live it out, and through living it out learning to live today well.

This book does an excellent job of giving guidance in living a spiritual life, but balancing that with living in the world and all of our responsibilities. The book is very well written. It is not a complicated theological treatise, it is intended as a simple guide and it meets that goal. There are tricks and tips for the spiritual life. You will learn about overcoming your greatest temptation, yow to make good confessions, yow to manage your time, and different ways to become aware of God's presence. 

This book is an excellent read. It is a great introduction to Salesian spirituality. It was way more than I expected and I was hoping for a lot from this book. Father Thomas writes in a very engaging manner. This is another excellent resource from Sophia Institute Press and I commend it to you if you are serious about growing in your spiritual life!

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

Books by Saint Francis de Sales:
Introduction to the Devout Life
The Sign of the Cross
The Art of Loving God
Roses Among Thorns
Finding God's Will for You


Sermons of St. Francis de Sales:
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Prayer
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Advent and Christmas

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Permanent Diaconate - A Reading List

The Permanent Diaconate - A Reading List

And so the journey begins. I am looking to do some reading on the Diaconate, or really all aspects on being a married deacon. I reached out on facebook, twitter and Google+ looking for recommended reads. Here is the list I have so far but would love more ideas. So please add them in the comments or drop me a line.

Yes this is research but also a sort of pre-discernment reading.

The Deacon Reader
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809143894
ASIN B006QHVTUG



101 Questions & Answers on Deacons
William T. Ditewig
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809142651
ASIN B008AK8G26



A Deacon's Retreat
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809146444
ASIN B0064II3HY



The Heart of the Diaconate: 
Communion with the Servant Mysteries of Christ
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809149179
ASIN B015CVY69M



This final one on my starting list might be hard to track down but I am trying to find it. It is mentioned in the second essay in The Deacon Reader the specific essay is The Contemporary Renewal of the Diaconate by Dcn. William T. Ditewig, PhD. 

Married Men As Ordained Deacons
Wilhelm Schamoni
Otto Eisner (Translator)
1st Edition 1955
Catholic Distributors
2nd Edition 1962
Burns & Oates


And I will add more as I get recommendations or these books lead me into further readings.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!
Note: Links on titles to books will be links to reviews as I read those books.


Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Phoenix Project - Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford - A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Buisness Win

The Phoenix Project:
A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Buisness Win
Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford
IT Revolution Press
ISBN 9780988262591
eISBN 9780988262577
ASIN B00AZRBLHO
 




This was one of the books on the It bookshelf at work. And there was a whole stack of them. This book was really a big surprise to me. For once I started it I could hardly put it down. The writers take some topics that can be pretty dry at the best of times and absolutely arid at the worst and make them not only palatable but incredibly enjoyable. The book teaches the Agile Methodology and the ITIL Principle’s in a very engaging way.

In some ways this book reads like a self-help book for IT leadership, and IT departments as a whole. It is an easy read, and reminiscent of Robin Sharma, Dan Millman and like Patrick Lencioni it is told as a story or a parable if you will. But unlike Lencioni it is all story; where his books are a parable story and then a breakdown unpacking of it. That functionality is woven into the book through the potential board member, and his sage like advice and guidance to our protagonist.  This book is an easy read, in fact many reviewers talk about not being able to put the book down.

I have worked corporately in IT for about a dozen years now, and have as many years prior to that working mostly with non-for-profits. I truly believe that almost every IT department, team, or worker could benefit from reading this book. I know a few people in the industry that I have worked with that already incorporate these ideas. I know many others who want to but have yet to get them implemented. And I know some that just don’t get it and they most of all need to read this book.




The book follows a car parts company, Parts Unlimited, company as it teeters on the brink. Some bad choices have caused upheaval. A guy known for getting it done gets promoted, but within hours Bill realized that his corner of IT may have run well but overall there are major issues. He soon finds out that he has 90 days to turn around the company and make the Phoenix Project a success or the company might be sold and split up in parts. A number of the main players are people you will recognise, either current coworkers or former coworkers. But you will also learn many skills that you can take from the book and start applying to your tasks, and if you are lucky up through your organization.

This book really is a page turner, and for a book about IT, DevOps, and infrastructure management that really says something about the quality of the writing. And As I said anyone in an IT role would benefit from the reading! A great resource.





Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Distractions - Philip Kosloski - A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Stay Focused During Prayer

Distractions: 
A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Stay Focused During Prayer
Schedule That Will Change Your Life
Philip Kosloski
Philip A. Kosloski




Over the past year I have read 5 books by Philip Kosloski. I stated in another review that his book read like a university paper. That cannot be said about this one. This is more like a spiritual classic. In some ways it reminds me of the writings of Brother Lawrence or Saint Patrick's writings. It is short, to the point and yet with a lot of meat. This is the third book on prayer by Kosloski that I have read, the other two on prayer are; Basic Field Manual for Hearing God's Voice and 3 Methods of Prayer That Will Change Your Life were available from Kindle. But he also has three great books that are currently only available through his website. They are: Serviam, Distractions and Horarium and each of the three were excellent reads!

Kosloski's major focus in his writing is prayer and discernment. Both are great themes. For those of us who wish to grow and deepen in our spiritual life. The sections in this book are:

Introduction: 
Are You Distracted During Prayer? 
I. Go To Your Inner Room 
II. The Secret to Praying Without Looking at the Clock 
III. How to Stay Focused During Prayer and Reduce Unnecessary
Distractions 
IV. Is God Distracting Us During Prayer? 
V. The Battle of Prayer: Why We Shouldn't Lose Heart If We Fail 
Appendices
Resources on Prayer 

In the introduction Kosloski states: "In this eBook I will cover some of the most common distractions that we all experience and offer simple, clear advice that will help you overcome these obstacles to a fruitful prayer life." And that is exactly what he does. The Four key distractions he tackles are:

1. Place
2. Time 
3. Exterior Concerns 
4. Wandering Thoughts 

So this book focuses on human distractions. Distractions of our own making. But He also gives in this book some quick guidance on discernment about if something is from God, ourselves or the enemy. But this book is also part workbook. At the end of each chapter is reflection and then space to journal on some guiding questions. 

One of the key passages that really hit me was "The key is to balance our time of prayer with the right amount of spiritual reading, devotions and mental prayer. I have learned that it is much more of an art, than a science." In my own life I have oscillated between too much reading and not enough. In the spiritual life it is about finding the balance. Another key point is "Remember, Prayer is Not All About You"! 

Another great quote is "Prayer is a "battle" and the battlefield is in our hearts. Will we give-up and run away or fight until the last breath leaves our body?" As usual Kosloski draws extensively from church documents and other writings. He also gives a list of great resources to take what we learn here to another level.

Another great book from Philip Kosloski give it a try I am sure you will not be disappointed!