Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Finding Life's Purpose: Inspiration for Young People - Pope Benedict XVI

Finding Life's Purpose: Inspiration for Young People
Pope Benedict XVI
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860827198

I recently picked up this volume and also Don't be afraid to be Saints: Words from John Paul II and Benedict XVI, World Youth Days 1984-2008. After reading this volume I am even more interested in reading that one. But back to this book by Pope Benedict XVI. I must first declare that even though this book was compiled based on talks given to youth, it is a book that any Christian can read and benefit from. I finished reading this book and immediately started reading it with my 10 year old son. He is really appreciating it, and it is likely one I will read multiple times over. This is an amazing little volume!

The chapters in this book are:

Happiness Comes From Friendship With God
Discover The Purpose of Your Life
Radiate Christ's Love To All
Making the Best of School and Study
Turn To The Saints

In the introduction we are told:

"It is not often that a Pope, or indeed anyone else, had the opportunity to speak to the students of the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time. And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness."

Those words spoken to the young on September 17th and 18th in 2010 are just as valuable to us today, youth and those of us who are older. This book was very hard to put down, and thank to its brevity it can be easily read again and again. The tips in this book written for youth can be applied by any of us at any state in life. I have made a number of notes and have been applying them over the last week, and will continue to use this book as a tool for growth.

In the section Turn to the Saints there are brief biographies and prayers to:

St Thomas Aquinas
St Josephine Bakhita
St Damien of Molokai
St Rita
St Thomas More
St Martha
St Joseph of Cupertino

The prayers to the Saints are wonderful but the one I appreciated most was earlier in the book. It was a prayer for students:

Daily Study Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI

"Lord, you are my strength and my guide. Grant me wisdom and understanding. Help me to do the best I can, and to enjoy this day you have given me. Help me to be kind and considerate to the people you send into my life, and not to give up if things seem difficult."

I have added a daily calendar reminder to pray this prayer. And I added it to a collection of prayers I have been compiling. As I stated earlier this book is an incredible read and I highly recommend it. It is worth tracking down for young people in your life, or for your own growth and edification.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Benedict XVI:
The Way of the Cross - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - Pope Benedict XVI
Finding Life's Purpose: Inspiration for Young People
Don't Be Afraid To Be Saints - with Pope John Paul II

Books About Pope Benedict:
Habemus Papam! Pope Benedict XVI - Regina Doman and Sean Lam
Benedict XVI - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
A Pope of Surprises: The First Five Years of Pope Benedict XVI's Papacy - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky

Monday, 20 August 2018

Paul VI - Anthony Symondson - CTS Biographies

Paul VI
CTS Biographies
Anthony Symondson
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825323
eISBN 9781784693824
ASIN B073H111T3

I have now read nearly a dozen books in the CTS Biographies series from the Catholic Truth Society. The ones that have really grabbed my attention currently are the biographies of popes. First I read the one on Pius XII, and then Benedict XVI both by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky and both were excellent reads. And now I have read this one and also picked up the three other biographies of Popes by CTS I could find.

With his upcoming canonization I renewed interest in the man, his life, his work, and his papacy of Pope Paul VI, the man born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 and who died in 1978. Paul VI was the Pope when I was born, and the first Pope I remember passing away. I remember in grade school the announcement that he had passed, and following the election as part of current events. Looking back on the man things always end up circling back to his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, 'Of Human Life'. And in fact the introduction of this book begins with these words:

"On 25th July 1968 Pope Paul VI promulgated the encyclical, Humanae Vitae, 'Of Human Life'. Many regard this document as the most prophetic of his encyclicals for the way that it foretold the consequences of taking the conception of life lightly and the diminution this would have on human society. Pope Benedict XVI declared at a conference in Rome marking the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae that, 'The truth of Humanae Vitae does not change; rather, in the light of the new scientific findings, its teaching becomes ever more up-to-date and induces reflection on its intrinsic value.'

This anniversary provides an opportunity to look at the life and achievement of Giovanni Battista Montini (1897-1978) who reigned as Paul VI from 1963 until 1978. Peter Hebblethwaite, Pope Paul's English biographer (to whose work this study is deeply indebted) described him as the 'first modern Pope' and that is an accurate description. Battista Montini was consistently a man of his time and the theological discourse, political controversies and social development of the twentieth century - locally in Italy, more widely in Europe, the United States and the emerging nations of the Third World - engaged his time and attention as a Vatican diplomat in the department of the Secretary of State and later as Pope."

And as I write this review 10 years after this book was first published there ia much renewed interest and scholarship around Paul IV and specifically Humanae Vitae. The chapters in this introductory book to Paul VI are:

A simple funeral
Diplomatic career
Archbishop of Milan
The Second Vatican Council
Steering the Church in troubled times
Final years and legacy

A previous biographer coined the title for Paul VI as the first modern pope, And it has been maintained. Paul was the first modern pope to travel and he traveled extensively. He travelled to the Holy Land, the United States, and even India. During his pontificate the Papacy went from being a leader of the Catholicism, to playing a role of universal significance. There are many who do not appreciate Paul and his legacy, and many others who do. This book gives us keen insight into the man who would become pope. Paul, often portrayed as shy or cold in manner was actually a man moved deeply about spiritual and physical needs of mankind. In the book we are told:

"Pope John's observation on Paul's likeness to Hamlet preyed on his mind a little. Others accused him of being Quixotic. He did not keep a diary but wrote personal memoranda in a fine script. In 1975, when he was seventy-eight, beginning to weary, and was seen by the world to be pessimistic and querulous, he made the following note:

 What is my state of mind? Am I Hamlet? Or Don Quixote? On the left? On the right? I don't feel I have been properly understood. I have two dominant feelings: Superabundo gaudio. I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed (2 Co 7:4).

From the heading of this note we know that the two dominant feelings in his mind were certainty and joy (Certezza e Gioia). In Italian culture Hamlet is the symbol of indecisiveness. 'To be or not to be' is the only Shakespearian quotation known in Italy. Don Quixote tilts at imaginary windmills. Many thought that Paul's analysis of late-twentieth-century problems was faulty -that is the substance of the Don Quixote charge. For either he was attacking the wrong targets, or he was prophetic in the strict sense that he correctly diagnosed the present and prepared for the future. Thirty years after his death many consider that his analysis of the present and anticipation of the future was prescient."

Paul struggled his who life and especially during his pontificate to find the balance between openness and fidelity. In the book we are told:

"Years later the Argentinian bishops petitioned Pope John Paul II to consider the beatification of Paul VI. His later Jesuit confessor, Paulo Dezza, recognised that, since Paul's death, an ever-growing esteem and admiration for him had developed that superseded the dismissive attitudes of the last painful years of his pontificate."

And that is what I feel most people will come away from this book with, a greater appreciation, esteem and admiration of the man that we will soon call Saint Pope Paul VI. This book is a great read and another excellent book from CTS.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Other CTS Biographies of Popes:
Pius XII - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Paul VI - Anthony Symondson
John Paul II The Road to Sainthood - Jim Gallagher
John XXIII The Universal Parish Priest CTS Biographies - Josephine Robinson
Benedict XVI - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Pope Francis - Dushan Croos

Other books by or about Pope Paul VI:
Love's True Meaning The Message of Humanae Vitae 50 Years On - Fr Anthony Doe

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

Twentieth  Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

The readings for this weekend's mass are:

First Reading Proverbs 9:1-6
Responsorial Psalm 34:1-2, 9-14 Response 8
Second Reading Ephesians 5:15-20
Gospel John 6:51-58

For the fourth week in a row we focus on Jesus being the bread of life. Both the first reading and the psalm have to do with seeking wisdom. Paul in the second reading exhorts us to right living with very clear examples, and in the Gospel Jesus explains the flesh and blood. The themes from the past few weeks are repeated, even the first section of the Psalm is a direct repeat of last week. That tells us very clearly this lesson is important. We need to pause and really reflect upon the lessons in these readings.

From the first reading:

"You who are simple, turn in here!"
To those without sense she says, 
"Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight."

Wisdom is needed in this day and age. With what the world is throwing at us, and with what is being brought to the light from within the church. Now more than ever we need to be praying for renewal and healing, both within the church and for those who have been hurt by it. From the Psalm we are reminded to seek the Lord, and fear. But the fear should be that of recognizing God's holiness and out unworthy

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.

O fear the Lord, You his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good. Thing

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord,
Which of you desires life,
and covets man days to enjoy good?

Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.

R. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Paul reminds us to be careful in how we live in the second reading, about avoiding drunkenness, about not being foolish. He reminds us to be filled with the Spirit and to give thanks. I wonder how we would live if we read this passage every day for a week, for a month? When I was in university a chaplain challenged us to read 1 chapter of Proverbs ever month, at the end of the year you would have read it through close to 12 times. It had a deep impact. But for us I would challenges us to read this passage each day for a week, maybe even a month and see the impact it has on you, on your relationship, on your work life.

And now we arrive at the gospel. In today's language we would say that Jesus is doubling down. He is even more emphatic in his statement:

"Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is the true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in them."

I marvel at stories of Saints that survive for long periods on just communion. I know how nourishing it is to my spirit, and how central to my life it is. I cannot imagine not partaking as often as I can. I am comforted just sitting in a church in from of the tabernacle, stopping in to say hi to Jesus. And I know that this is what distinguishes us most as Catholics. 

I pray for you for a blessed weak.

Related Posts:

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Five Loaves and Two Fish Meditations on the Eucharist - Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan

Five Loaves and Two Fish:
Meditations on the Eucharist
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825903


I read a biography of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky, and was amazed. Before I had even finished reading the biography I had ordered this book and waited for its arrival eagerly. It did not disappoint. Actually, I had to stop reading a few times and process, this book is so moving and when you consider the life circumstances of cardinal Van Thaun it is even more incredibly. A tag line for this book is:

"Inspiring meditations on the Eucharist by Vietnamese Cardinal persecuted by the Communists."
But that barely begins to do justice to his story. And the story behind many of the meditations in this book. The description of the book is:
"In 1975, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was arrested by the Communist government of Vietnam and imprisoned for thirteen years, nine of them in solitary confinement, and then finally exiled from Vietnam in 1991. 
Always reticent about speaking of himself, Cardinal Nguyen slowly began to realise that his prison experience of suffering and hope could help others in their journey of faith. The reflections he prepared for the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris became the framework for Five Loaves & Two Fish; the content is his personal Magnificat for the wonders God had worked in and through the small offering of his life - like the fish and loaves in the Gospel, which fed thousands."
But what the description does not show is the joy that he lived. The joy he lived and wrote about in those horrendous conditions will stun you. For a few years now, I have been praying to learn to live more joy. Compared to what he lived through I have absolutely no excuse. The example he gives is incredible. The chapters in this book are:

The First Loaf: Living the Present Moment
The Second Loaf: Discerning between God and Go's Work
The Third Loaf: Prayer: a Fixed Point of Reference
The Fourth Loaf: The Eucharist: My Only Strength
The Fifth Loaf: Love and Unity: The Testimony of Jesus
The First Fish: My First Love: The Immaculate Virgin Mary
The Second Fish: I Have Chosen

The last chapter is mostly contained of an excerpt from his book The Road of Hope. He states:

"At the beginning of the last chapter of The Road of Hope, there are twenty-four paragraphs; I wanted them to correspond to the hours in a day. In each of these twenty-four paragraphs, I repeated the word "one"; one revolution, one campaign, one message, one strength … They are very practical points. If we live the twenty-four hours of our day radically for Jesus, we will be saints."
The book itself is incredible, but even if we only read these 24 paragraphs we will be challenged to live our life more fully. I have read through these several times now over the past week. I can think of numerous people I would love to hand this book. It is an exceptional read and I give it top marks! Read it if you dare.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan:
Five Loaves & Two Fish
The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison
Prayers of Hope, Words of Courage
Prières d'espérance
J'ai suivi Jésus: un évêque témoigne

Books about Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan:
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky

Friday, 17 August 2018

Staircase for the Sisters - Pamela Love and John Joseph

Staircase for the Sisters
Pamela Love
John Joseph (Illustrator)
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 9780819890979


This book arrived in the mail quite unexpectantly, but it was an instance hit. As soon as the package was opened the youngest two children wanted to read this book. They both loved it, and my youngest daughter has carried the book around for a week now. At first getting people to read it to her, like Nana and Auntie, and then reading it to friends and family who have visited.

A new church is built for the nuns next to a small school. But the architect and builders made a big mistake. They forgot the stair case to the choir loft for the nuns. The builder said it could not be fixed. Other builders said it could only be done by removing pews or altering the outside wall. The first solution was not acceptable because the pews were needed for students, and the other was not because of the cost involved. So the nuns prayed a novena to Saint Joseph, on the final day a man showed up with tools, a donkey and a promise that he could add stairs but he had to work while no one watched him.

It is wonderful to see this true story retold in a picture book for children. And to see how much the children loved the book. The chapters in the book are:

The Story
The Staircase Today
About Saint Joseph
What is a Novena?
Novena to Saint Joseph

My kids were fascinated that the story is true. The loved the photos of the real staircase at the end of the book. My youngest asked a lot of questions about Novena's after we read this book and asked if we could pray a novena for her brother who is having spine surgery later this year. So, we are now praying the novena at the end of the book.

The illustrations in this book are wonderful. In fact, my daughter wants a copy of one of the pictures of the carpenter to have on her wall in her prayer corner. The pallet used fits perfectly with the Spanish mission's story. John Joseph has done an amazing job with the illustrations and the accentuate the written story wonderfully.

This is an excellent book for young readers, and those who read and pray with them!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Reviews of other books by Pamela Love:
Brigid and the Butter: A Legend about St. Brigid of Ireland
Staircase for the Sisters

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Benedict XVI - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky - CTS Biographies

Benedict XVI
CTS Biographies
Helena Scott
Ethel Tolansky
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860823398
First Edition 2005
Revised Edition 2010

Over the years I have read a handful of books by Pope Benedict, a few before his election and a few after. This however is the second book about him that I have read in as many weeks. This book is part of the CTS Biographies Series from the Catholic Truth Society. It is also the 7th book I have read by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky over two months, and the 27th from CTS. I have loved all the biographies by Scott and Tolansky that I have read and this this one is one of the best. It was first published in 2005 after the election of Benedict XVI, and the revised edition of 2010 has an additional chapter with a brief look the first five years of his pontificate. The who also contributed on a book called 'A Pope of Surprises: The First Five Years of Benedict XVI's Papacy' that I will be reading soon that has a chapter for each of those first five years. But back to this specific volume. The description of the book is:
"Joseph Ratzinger was born in Catholic Bavaria in 1927 and witnessed war's 'gates of hell' in Nazi Germany.  After the war he became a priest and later a theologian, university professor and rising academic star.  He rose to prominence as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican and was elected Pope at 78 years old.  This booklet penetrates popular stereotyping to reveal the truth, complexity and thought of this very modest and pious theologian. Here we discover a 'humble and thoroughly kind man', a leading thinker very much in touch with this modern age.  Updated in 2010, the booklet evaluates the first 5 years of his papacy."
And the chapters are:

The Bells Ring out
Early life
Towards Priesthood
Academic Life and Vatican Council
Archbishop, Cardinal and prefect
Pope Benedict 

This book does a great job of introducing us to the life, election and early years of Pope Benedict XVI. The more I read about and by Benedict XVI, the more I want to read. And the more I appreciate the man, his faith, and his life of service. Writing about then cardinal Ratzinger deciding to leave the board of a literary magazine he was involved with, Ratzinger stated:
"I have always tried to remain true to Vatican II, to this today of the Church, without any longing for a yesterday irretrievably gone and without any impatient thrust towards a tomorrow that is not ours."
And he ended his relationship with the journal. Previously I was unaware that three different times he asked then pope John Paul II to leave his work at the Vatican and return to Academic work. His faith and devotion are encouraging. And the way he was portrayed in the media, looking back, is a disgrace. This volume will show you his faith, a faith based on reason and extensive study. Yes, he was an academic, but he always strove to understand the other side and was open to change. No matter what new responsibility was thrust upon him, he yielded to the call, and leading of the Holy Spirit. 

This book is a wonderful read, and though currently out of print, is worth the time and effort to track it down. It will challenge you and inspire. Another excellent read from the Catholic Truth Society.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Scott and Tolansky:
Pius XII
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
Benedict XVI

Josemaria Escriva
Alvaro Del Portillo

A Pope of Surprises: The First Five Years of Pope Benedict XVI's Papacy
Sophie Scholl and The White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis
Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel: Victims of the Nazis

Books by Benedict XVI:
The Way of the Cross - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - Pope Benedict XVI
Finding Life's Purpose: Inspiration for Young People
Don't Be Afraid To Be Saints - with Pope John Paul II

Books About Pope Benedict:
Habemus Papam! Pope Benedict XVI - Regina Doman and Sean Lam
Benedict XVI - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
A Pope of Surprises: The First Five Years of Pope Benedict XVI's Papacy - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky

Other CTS Biographies of Popes:
Pius XII - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Paul VI - Anthony Symondson
John Paul II The Road to Sainthood - Jim Gallagher
John XXIII The Universal Parish Priest CTS Biographies - Josephine Robinson
Benedict XVI - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Pope Francis - Dushan Croos

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Father John S Hogan Author Profile and Interview

Father John S Hogan Author Profile and Interview

I first encountered the writings of Father John S. Hogan by chance. After discovering books from the Catholic Truth Society. Within a couple of weeks, I had read the four books he currently has published. To date all his books are published by the Catholic Truth Society, and he is the editor of the living fruitfully series. His writing is wonderful. And though he will deny it he is a modern renaissance man, a priest, philosopher, an educator, a researcher, a student, an author and more. He took time from some of his many duties and answered some questions for the readers here at Book reviews and More. So, now in his own words Fr. John S. Hogan.

1. Father Hogan when did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

I cannot remember for definite when I wanted to be a writer, it seems as if I always wanted to write. Certainly as a child I was always scribbling – some would say I have not advanced beyond that! It was part of my nature, so that always led me to believe it was God’s gift, one I had to use for him.

2. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

My family, initially. My mother taught me to read and write before I went to school. My aunt-godmother, Brigid, was an avid reader and she encouraged me to read and explore ideas, I owe a great deal to her. I was also blessed with good English teachers who took pains to encourage me to write. I was always writing fiction, short stories and poetry, in my secondary school years and my English teacher there, Mrs Kelly, challenged me to improve upon my writing and explore ideas with greater clarity.

3. You have been blogging since 2010. What inspired you to pursue writing books?

I always wanted to write books, I suppose there is a desire in every writer to see their name in print, and not just in papers or magazines but on the covers of a book. Of course there is the element of pride in that, so I have to be careful there. Before I entered seminary the plan I had for my life was to get my PhD, lecture in English literature and write books. God intervened, but the urge to write is still there and to produce books to help people come to know their faith. There are many great Catholic writers both in fiction and non-fiction who do just that and I sense that God wants me to do my bit.

4. There was a gap in your blogging between 2016 and 2018. That gap also coincides with your publishing 4 books. What the break and reduced blogging a result for a focus on longer work for publication?

That gap in the blogging stirs my conscience. I started the blog to converse with people on the net, to explore the faith and write about the saints. Because the time I have for writing is short other projects intervened and prevented my blogging. I have a number of unfinished works, books included, and if these were ever to see the light of day I had to take time away from the blog. I hope to continue to blog, but perhaps, for now, not as much as before.

5. How do you balance the heavy workload of being a parish priest with writing both your blog and books?

This is the question! I have to juggle my time, manage it carefully. My duties as a priest must come first, but I am also aware that my writing is also meant as an act of service, so I have to take ‘stolen moments’ here and there to work on the books. I can be foolish at times and take those moments from time for sleep and recreation, which are very important if a priest is to have a balanced life and good health. Not from the time for prayer though, that must be sacrosanct.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

I cannot operate in chaos. I am sometimes amused when I see writers’ desks and they look like a bomb hit them. I need order on the desk if I am going to write. After that, it is just like most writers. Research and thought comes first, then a plan (thanks to Mrs Kelly’s influence) – I try to lay out each chapter or section and decide what I will address in each one before I begin writing. Then it is simply sitting down and getting the ideas out, writing a continuous narrative. I write to the end, I do not stop and edit – that happens later. When the first draft is finished, I begin the editing process, often producing two, three or four more drafts. Information may be added along the way, or taken out. I find I can stand back from my work and be vicious when I need to – I don’t usually get sentimental. I discovered this when I was working with copy editors and proof-readers, I was happy to sacrifice my ‘darlings’ if they were superfluous to requirement.

7. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

This is another interesting development in my writing. When I was younger I used to listen to music when I wrote - classical music, but now I work in silence. I think the silence not only helps me think and reflect; but allows me to enter into what I am writing without any distractions. It also allows me to pray as I write.

8. What current projects are you working on or are in the back burner in some stage of development?

I have a number of books on the back burner. Some are partly written and if I get time I may finish them off, if they serve a purpose. I have just finished a biography of St Thomas Becket and that will be looking for a publisher in the next few weeks.  I have a book of devotions to St Thomas due to be published by Gracewing at the end of November.

9. Your books to date include two volumes in a series on the fruit of the spirit, a biography of Saint Edmund Arrowsmith, and A Book of Martyrs, focusing on martyrs from England, Scotland, and Wales. Do you see yourself writing more books in the fruit of the Spirit series?

I am series editor for CTS’s Living Fruitfully series, so I do plan to write at least one more booklet for it.

10. Are there other saints you would like to be a hagiographer for? Are there specific saints you would love to write about?

There are many saints I would love to be biographer for! As I mentioned I have been working on a biography of Thomas Becket and I have a great desire to make him better known at this time: given his own struggles, I believe he is a saint for our times. I hope a publisher will share my enthusiasm there. I also aim to do more work on St Edmund Arrowsmith. I feel a certain call to share the stories of the martyrs, so perhaps I will delve more into the lives of some of them.

11. Which authors have influenced and shaped your style as a hagiographer?

I am cautious about the term hagiographer as, in recent times, it has a certain ring to it. I love to read the lives of the saints, but I tend to be drawn more to the writing and method of historians when it comes to exploring and writing about the saints. I have great admiration for Eamon Duffy, professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge – he has a meticulous approach to research which I admire. I also like the historian John Guy – in his work he brings history to life, a similar approach to the lives of the saints would be good – we need to be wary of a pious approach to men and women who were flesh and blood and had to deal with many of the struggles we must face.  There are many others, like a magpie I read and learn from all sorts of writers, novelists included. I like Sigrid Undset, her biography of St Catherine of Siena is a masterpiece, and her gift as a novelist helped her conjure up Catherine’s times with extraordinary vivacity. Marcelle Auclair’s biography of St Teresa of Avila is just as good, again she immerses the reader in 16th century Spain. I try to bring that sense to my books, I want the reader to find themselves in the middle of the period surrounded by the people of the time and then encounter the subject of the book, be it a saint or other figure. I have tried to do this in my biography of Thomas Becket. I suppose it is the literary version of waking up to find a crowd standing around you!

12. Do you have any plans to make a foray into the realm of fiction, or do you see your efforts remaining focused on non-fiction?

I have not ruled it out. There is always the worry that a priest writing fiction is taking time from other tasks, literary included, that might be of greater benefit to the faith. But the Lord composed fiction to teach his disciples, so I can see my way past that worry. So, in this regard, I have a few ideas in my head. Time will tell.

13. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well-rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?

I presume the Bible is a given. There are so many, but here is a selection:

The Complete Works of Shakespeare, quite apart from the sheer brilliance of the man and his plays, in his work Shakespeare offers extraordinary insights into the human person.

The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri. One of the masterpieces of world literature, Dante’s epic, I think, draws us to explore the meaning of life and like Shakespeare offers us insights into the human person, our weaknesses and the means to overcome them.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I am a Tolkien fan, but I think his novel should be required reading. We didn’t study it in university, our professors did not see it as high literature at all, and yet it is a work of genius. Tolkien reminds us of the values that make for good living and teaches us that we need to face life and its challenges with courage and humility.

The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton. I love Chesterton, his sheer brilliance, verve, wit, insight and magnanimity are extraordinary in an age of peevishness and ideology. Any book, or every book, of his should be on the list of those who want to grow as human beings and as Christians. I particularly like Chesterton’s chivalry, his challenge for all of us to jump right into life and live it and our faith with gusto. This book is excellent because it explores who we are and who Christ is, and how both are related.

The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. With all the talk about love today, we need to listen to a sane voice who can teach us clarity and understanding.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This is one of my favourite novels. Far from being a horror story, this is a book that warns us of the dangers of trying to claim for ourselves what is not ours.  I see it as a novel about original sin.

The Reform of Renewal by Fr Benedict Groeschel. A timely book that reminds us that, if we are tempted to believe that reform begins with structures, we need to remember it has to begin with us – with our becoming better people and better Christians.

The Autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, written by herself. As a Secular Order Carmelite I would be expected to put this on the list, however, it is an insightful book. It is about one woman’s struggle with faith and prayer while being a primer on how to engage in conversation with God. St Edith Stein, having read it, said, “This is the truth”; I think that is enough of a recommendation.

Fr Damien’s Letters, the collected letters of St Damien of Molokai. St Damien’s congregation has just retranslated and published the saint’s letters describing his life and ministry among the lepers. The teaching of this holy man provides sufficient food for thought for those who want to grow in charity.

To Raise The Fallen. A collection of writings and letters from the Irish Jesuit and martyr of charity, Fr Willie Doyle. He was an extraordinary man and priest whose love of God and neighbour brought him onto the battlefields of World War I, risking his life to care for the men in his care and ensuring that they had the Last Sacraments before they died. A man of astonishing love and courage.

14. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?

There were so many, and I have forgotten most of them. When I was a child I loved adventure books, so there were many of those. Enid Blyton was a staple. I didn’t reach much of Roald Dahl. As a child I ventured into books for older people, so as soon as I was allowed I was reading Agatha Christie. I adored history and then of course there were the usual classics.

15. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?

There are quite a few. As I said earlier, I love Tolkien and Chesterton. I also like my crime novels, recently I have been delving into Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Tey and I find it hard to pass any of their novels when I find them in a bookstore. I also like C.J. Sansom – his Shardlake series is very good.  I also like Daphne du Maurier – her short stories are second to none.  In terms of religious works, I find Fr Benedict Groeshel’s works worth reading time and time again, as are the works of Fulton Sheen, George Weigel and Scott Hahn. Of course the writings of the saints are always rewarding: St Teresa of Avila, St Therese, St Augustine, St Anthony of Padua – I love his sermons, they are rich, not just in Scripture and learning, but evocative and as well as nourishing. I also love St Damien of Molokai, though not a writer, his letters, now published again by his congregation, are fine pieces of writing, giving us a glimpse into his life among the lepers. I think he is an ‘author’ worth getting to know.

16. If you had to pick 10 books about saints for a reader which books would be on your list?

I could recommend so many, but here are eleven:

Marcelle Auclair, St Teresa of Avila
St Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul
Blessed Marie-Eugene Grialou, Under The Torrent of His Love (one of the best books on St Therese)
Sigrid Undset, Catherine of Siena
John Guy, Thomas Becket
George Weigel, Witness to Hope (St John Paul II)
Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion
R.W. Chambers, Thomas More
Gordon Brook-Shepherd, The Last Habsburg (Though a secular, purely historical biography of Blessed Karl of Austria, it is a fine piece of work in which even the non-religious historian cannot escape recognising the holiness of this man).
Jan de Volder, The Spirit of Fr Damien (St Damien of Molokai)
Franςois Trochu, The Curé of Ars

17. You wear many hats, priest, author, blogger, founder of the Fraternity of St Genesius, a co-host of EWTN's series Forgotten Heritage, chaplain and spiritual director. How do you balance it all?

I have no idea, to be honest. I deal with what I have to deal with now, get the work done and make sure I keep myself organised, so I don’t meet myself on the way back.

18. In many ways you are a modern renaissance man, a priest, philosopher, an educator, a researcher, a student, an author and more. Very few people today are as well rounded as you are to what do you attribute this?

I don’t know how to answer this question. I don’t see myself in that description at all. I am just a priest trying to fulfil the duties I have been given and use what strengths God has given me to carry out those duties to the best of my ability.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

Can I presume the Bible is a given and already on the island as is the Missal and Divine Office?

John Haslett & Cameron M. Smith, Wilderness Survival for Dummies
St John of the Cross, Collected Works
St Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul
JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
John Guy, Thomas Becket
Fr Willie Doyle, To Raise the Fallen
St Damien of Molokai, Fr Damien’s Letters
Butler’s Lives of the Saints (can the collected volumes count as one book?)
Martin Gilbert, Churchill
G.K Chesterton, The Collected Father Brown

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

Pray. Read widely. Listen. Reflect. Look at the great masters, take note of what the teachers say. Pray. Then write and write, or draw and paint. Be open to correction, try and find a distance from your work so it may improve. Above all, consecrate it to God and his service. Do not be afraid of rejection, what you do is not for them, it’s for God.

Father Hogan has given us a lot to think about. I know that I have added about 10 books to my wish list from this interview. And will also read anything else he publishes. If you have not read any of his books I highly recommend them.

Books by John S. Hogan:
Edmund Arrowsmith (Saints of the Isles)
A Book of Martyrs: Devotions to the Martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales

Books in the Living Fruitfully Series:

Author profile and interview with father John S. Hogan

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Finnian and the Seven Mountains Issue 1 - Philip Kosloski and Michael Lavoy

Finnian and the Seven Mountains Issue 1 
Philip Kosloski
Philip A. Kosloski

Michael Lavoy (Illustrator)

I need to state two things at the beginning of this review. First is has been over 20 years since I have purchases a serialized comic as each issue came out. I tried last year when Cecil Castellucci’s Shade the Changing Girl Came out, but just find it hard to get into a weekly serial. If I am reading this format, I prefer the anthology format, or compiled graphic novel versions of story arcs. I am pretty sure the last comic I picked up an entire series for was Frank Miller’s Batman Year 1 that came out in 1987. But if the other volumes in this series are as good the counter on that might just reset.

Having read and loved Philip Kosloski’s The Last Monks of Skellig Michael, I was already familiar with the setting of this story, and it’s ties to the latest Star Wars movies. Over the last year I have also read numerous books by Alice Curtayne including a few collections of stories about Irish Saints. So the setting, characters and events, in this story are even more familiar. As such it is great to see this story come to life in a new format.

Philip Kosloski does a great job with the story, and Michael Lavoy does an excellent job with the illustrations and the lettering. The text is easy to follow, and the illustrations done with a bright vibrant pallet. It is interesting that based on the art and the story Brandon is portrayed or appears older and more mature than Finnian, when historically Brandon was about 15 years younger. 

I have read through this story twice now, once by myself and once with my son. He loved the illustrations, especially of Saint Michael the Archangel, he also asked a lot of questions about the Star Wars link. At 10 years old and determined to become a priest, he was familiar with both Brandon and Finnian from other books we have read this year.

This story is based on legends about Skellig Michael, and tales of historic Saints. It will bring to life, in a new way, saintly men who many might be unfamiliar with. And even if the reader is familiar with the stories to see it rather than just read it. I know my son would prefer a physical copy, but I am a devotee of the electronic format. It is a great beginning and we look forward to the continuing story. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Philip Kosloski:
Basic Field Manual for Hearing God's Voice
3 Methods of Prayer That Will Change Your Life
In the Footsteps of a Saint: John Paul II's Visit to Wisconsin
Star of the Sea: A Mariner's Journey
A Practical Guide to Discern God's Will
Serviam: A Practical Guide to Discerning God's Will
Distractions: A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Stay Focused During Prayer
The Horarium: A Simple Guide to Creating a Daily Prayer Schedule That Will Change Your Life
The Last Monks of Skellig Michael


Finnian and the Seven Mountains:
Issue 1

Monday, 13 August 2018

Catholic Christianity Getting Started - Catholic Truth Society

Catholic Christianity: Getting Started
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860828614
eISBN 9781784694029

Since discovering them earlier this year I have read over 25 books from the Catholic Truth Society, have another 25 to read and double that on my wish list. I have read some incredible books and nearly every time I write a review, while researching for the review, I find another 2 or 3 I want to read. I have read books in the CTS Biographies Series, Living the Liturgy Series, Living Fruitfully Series, Saints of the Isles Series, books on reading the Catechism, and some YOUCAT resources. Of the 27 books I have read so far 25 get 5/5stars. I had pretty high expectations for this book. This book opens with these words:
"Many people find it hard to believe in a loving God. They doubt his existence altogether, or their experience of suffering and human tragedy make them doubt his love. Scientists seem to be solving the great puzzles of the universe, and psychologists seek to unlock the deepest mysteries of the human heart. 
But there are some questions that don't go away. 
     What caused the whole universe to exist in the first place?    
     Why is there so much suffering in the world?      
     What is the meaning of human life?   
     What is the point of my own individual life?      
     Is there such a thing as life after death? 
These are huge questions. You would be suspicious if someone claimed to answer them with any certainty. There is a limit, surely, to what we can discover for ourselves, and very often we need to admit that some questions are simply beyond human understanding."
This book addresses those questions and More. The sections in this book are:

The Heart of Christianity
A Guide for Christian Living
What is the Catholic Faith?
How to Become a Catholic
Signs and Symbols Inside a Catholic Church
How to Pray
Everyday Catholic Prayers
Further Reading

This is not a long volume, it comes in at under 50 pages in the print edition. But there is a lot of great information. This book would be excellent for a spouse who is not Catholic, for a teen looking to be able answer questions about their faith to friends and families. The chapter on How to Become a Catholic, is particularly good. And would be worth reading for someone returning to the church. 

One of the paragraphs in this book that had particular impact on me is:
"The journey doesn't end with Confirmation. As Catholics we should pray every day, take part in the Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, live the seasons and feasts of the Church's life, receive the sacraments and live a life of Christian charity towards our fellow man. Christ invited us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. You are special and unique in the sight of God. He wants the best for you and is leading you to himself. As you reflect on how to become a Catholic, try to be open to God's will."
Except for the last line I transpose it as 'As you reflect on your life as a Catholic, try to be open to God's will.' As such any Catholic Christian can read this book and benefit from it. This is a wonderful little read, and the teaching on different types of prayer and the small collection of prayers just add to the overall benefit of this book.

Another great read from the Catholic Truth Society.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

The readings for this weekend's mass are:

First Reading 2 Kings 19:4-8
Responsorial Psalm 34:1-8 Response 8
Second Reading Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
Gospel John 6:24-35

This is the third week we encounter the same story in the gospels. That tells us how important this message is. Jesus was preparing the disciples for the last supper, and the establishment of the communion celebration. Jesus states:
"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors are the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever' and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
I can attest to the power of communion. The handful of times I have missed mass over the last four years, the week after has always been a much bigger struggle. And the weeks where I make it to mass more than once, usually go much better. In fact I wish my work and home schedule allowed for more of the week day masses. 

But this week's readings are about more than Jesus being the bread of life. In the first reading we see Elijah being fed miraculously by an Angel, and not just once, but two meals to sustain him for a 40 day journey. This echo's how communion sustains us through our week. And it has not been provided by an angel but by the very Son of God, and is the Son of God. 

Again this week we have Paul, this still in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul is reminding us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. To live the life we have been called to and marked with the seal. He call for forgiveness where it is needed, and that we live to imitate Christ. This verse ties in well with the ongoing explosion of the clergy scandal in the United States and other countries. I do not know how a priest could preach on these words and live the life that is now coming to light. I am asked again and again about why I am Catholic in light of the current news. My answer is that I believe in the Catholic church, and I believe anyone can become a saint, or a sinner.  I believe the keys of the kingdom were given to Peter and been passed down, through history there have been great popes saintly men, and there have been scoundrels. And I believe that the Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals that have sinned and failed to live up to their celibacy, and abused their positions will be held accountable in the next life unless they truly repent. But looking back on my own life, my failures, my sins, I can state I would not cast the first stone. 

And with that I want to draw us back to the responsorial Psalm, For we cannot focus on the failures of men within the institution. We need to keep our eyes on God:

"R. Taste and See that the Lord is Good.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall be ashamed.
The poor one called, and the Lord heard,
and saved that person from every trouble.

"The Angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him,
and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."

I love being catholic. I love that there are masses multiple times a day every day in my town. I love that the Catholic church founded schools, hospitals, and feeds the hungry around the world. Yes there is a need to clean house in the leadership, especially at the moment in the US. I think about the often touted future prediction of Father Joseph Ratzinger from 1 radio broadcast in 1969. From that longer piece I always come back to this quote:
"Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge - a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship."
And further on:
"And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man's home, where he will find life and hope beyond death."
And so I try each day to learn to be, and learn to be better at being. I strive to live my faith, and teach it to my children. To each day try and be the best version of myself. And through that to let my Catholic faith be a witness. And as always I pray for you my readers, and ask you to pray for me.

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