Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Cries of Jesus from the Cross: An Anthology - Reverend Fulton J Sheen

The Cries of Jesus from the Cross: An Anthology
Reverend Fulton J. Sheen D.D.
Allan J. Smith (Editor)
Sophia Institute Press
ISBN 9781622826209
eISBN 9781622826216

Over the last three years I have read a dozen books by or about Reverend Fulton J. Sheen. A couple of the others were anthologies after a form and excerpts of Sheen’s own writings compiled by an editor. One was a flop and I never bothered finishing it. The books of Advent and Lenten meditations are well done but leave a reader wanting more. But I often find when I read something by Rev. Sheen, I want more. And this book falls in that category. Of the 4 or 5 books I have read that were compiled of Sheen’s works this is by far the best. Allan J. Smith is the editor of this amazing volume, and though his name does not appear on the cover, credit is due. From the introduction of the volume we are told:

“Given their importance and the impact they had on society, it seemed appropriate to bring together in this anthology some of Archbishop Sheen’s meditations on the words of Jesus and Mary from seven books he wrote from 1933 to 1945: 

The Seven Last Words (1933)
The Cross and the Beatitudes (1937)
The Rainbow of Sorrow (1938)
Victory over Vice (1939)
The Seven Virtues (1940)
Seven Words to the Cross (1944)
Seven Words of Jesus and Mary (1945)

This anthology has been arranged into seven chapters, each of which addresses one of the seven last words spoken by Christ on the Cross. And for each chapter, a passage from each of these books has been selected to provide seven unique reflections for study and meditation. 

1. The words spoken by Christ from the Cross
2. The Beatitudes
3. Sorrow and suffering
4. The seven deadly sins
5. Seven virtues
6. Groups who reject the Church and Christ’s teachings
7. The unity of Jesus and Mary

These reflections may be read one after another as they appear in this book, or they may be read randomly as the reader chooses. Since this anthology comprises seven Sheen titles, the reader may also read one complete book at a time. For example, by reading the fourth reflection from each chapter of this anthology, the reader will have read Sheen’s Victory over Vice; or by reading the third reflection from each chapter, he will have read The Rainbow of Sorrow.”

And for each of the seven chapters we have seven sections. So the actual sections in the book are:

First Word
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
1. Father, Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Do!
2. Blessed Are the Meek
3. Unjust Suffering
4. Anger
5. Fortitude
6. A Word to the Humanists
7. The Value of Ignorance

Second Word
This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.
1. This Day Thou Shalt Be with Me in Paradise
2. Blessed Are the Merciful
3. Pain
4. Envy
5. Hope
6. A Word to the Sinners
7. The Secret of Sanctity

Third Word
Woman, behold thy son; behold thy mother.
1. Woman, Behold Thy Son
2. Blessed Are the Clean of Heart
3. Suffering of the Innocent
4. Lust
5. Prudence
6. A Word to the Selfish
7. The Fellowship of Religion

Fourth Word
My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?
1. My God! My God! Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?
2. Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
3. God and the Soul
4. Pride
5. Faith
6. A Word to the Intelligentsia
7. Confidence in Victory

Fifth Word
I thirst.
1. I Thirst
2. Blessed Are They That Hunger and Thirst After Justice
3. The Need for Zeal
4. Gluttony
5. Temperance
6. A Word to the Moderns
7. Religion Is a Quest

Sixth Word
It is finished.
1. It Is Finished
2. Blessed Are the Peacemakers
3. A Planned Universe
4. Sloth
5. Justice
6. A Word to the Sensationalists
7. The Hour

Seventh Word
Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.
1. Father, into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit
2. Blessed Are They That Mourn
3. Eternal Freedom
4. Covetousness
5. Charity
6. A Word to the Thinkers
7. The Purpose of Life
About the Author: Fulton J. Sheen

The beauty of the way this book has been compiled is that it can be read many ways. You can read it in the transitional method of starting at the beginning and proceeding until the end. You can read thematically and read numbered sections in each chapter, for example read the second sections ‘Blessed are …” chapters. Or read through the fifth sections on the virtues. Or you can randomly open it and read any section for spiritual reading or deeper reflection. Smith states in the Introduction:

“For example, by reading the fourth reflection from each chapter of this anthology, the reader will have read Sheen’s Victory over Vice; or by reading the third reflection from each chapter, he will have read The Rainbow of Sorrow.”

For fans of Sheen’s works this book ties together the seven separate books and shows us the bigger picture of Sheen’s thought and theology. For people just beginning their foray into the works of Sheen this book will serve as an amazing introduction. The print edition is a round 400 pages, and the eBook edition comes in at 320. By today's standards where so many books are being published at under 250 or even right around 200 pages this book is a larger volume. But trust me it is worth it. This book is an incredible read. I average over 100 books read a year, and more than double that the last few years. This book is one of the best Christian books I have read in the last few years. 

Let me reiterate that, of the hundreds of books read in the last few years, one of the best!

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

Books by Fulton J. Sheen:
God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy
The Seven Last Words
Philosophy of Science
The Eternal Galilean
Calvary and the Mass
The Cross and the Beatitudes
Communism and the Conscience of the West
Peace of Soul
Three to Get Married
Life Is Worth Living Series 1-5
Way to Happiness
Way to Inner Peace 
Life of Christ
Missions and the World Crisis
The Power of Love
Footprints in a Darkened Forest
Lenten and Easter Inspirations
Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen

Books About Fulton J. Sheen:
The Archbishop and I

Friday, 21 September 2018

How to Think Like Aquinas The Sure Way to Perfect Your Mental Powers - Kevin Vost

How to Think Like Aquinas:
The Sure Way to Perfect Your Mental Powers
Dr. Kevin Vost
Sophia Institute Press
ISBN 9781622825066


I have been a fan of Dr. Kevin Vost's writings since first encountering them in 2006. That was the year he published his first Catholic book, since that time he has published 18 works, covering a wide range of topics. But one he comes back to often is memorization. And in this new book he uses the tools of Saint Thomas Aquinas to help us learn how to build a memory palace, and to use the powers of the intellect and the will and to train both. The introduction begins with this statement:

"We should all strive to think more like Aquinas, but only if we desire to know what is true, to love what is good, to grow in happiness and holiness while wayfarers on earth, and ultimately to share in eternal beatitude with God and the communion of saints when we arrive home in heaven. You see, in all of human history, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was among the very best guides to fulfilling these desires. Dozens of popes have sung his praises as philosopher and theologian, the Catechism of the Catholic Church abounds in references to his writings, and even secular scholars have acknowledged his monumental contribution to the field of philosophy.2 They praise him foremost for what G. K. Chesterton called in his biography of Thomas "that unusual human hobby: the habit of thinking.""

I raced through this book the first time I read it. I could hardly put it down. I am now working through it a second time, this time taking my time. And really working through the exercises and suggested practices to apply the skills and truths taught. The description of the book is:

"In these pages, you'll learn St. Thomas Aquinas's unique powers of intellect and will, and how he can train us to perfect them. Best-selling author of The One-Minutea Aquinas offers here a fully guided, illustrated tutorial of exercises to perfect your intellectual powers of memory, understanding, logical reasoning, shrewdness, foresight, circumspection, practical wisdom, and so much more that lead to happier and holier lives. You'll also learn:

The connections between thinking, happiness, and holiness

How to perfect intellectual powers you may not now you possess
Why a failure to understand human nature impairs our ability to understand anything
The three fundamental acts of practical wisdom
The eight parts of prudence every Catholic should keep in stock
How training our memories can make us deeper thinkers
How critical thinking alone is insufficient for reaching the truth
Why Catholics should cherish reason as well as faith and know how to use it!
How to spot twenty common logical fallacies

How thinking like Aquinas can inoculate you from twenty damaging isms and worldviews wreaking havoc in our world today."

In many ways this book is the culmination of Dr. Vost's earlier works. It ties together themes from many of his works and ties them together in a practical and applicable way. Even though Vost is a brilliant man and scholar he writes in such a way that the general public can engage and benefit from reading this book. The sections in the book are:

Introduction: Why You Should Think Like Aquinas (and How)
Part 1
Navigating the Small Streams of Knowledge
1. Speak Slowly and Carry a Big Heart and Mind
2. The Power of Pure Prayer
3. From the Cell to the Wine Cellar: On Crafting a Study Space You Can Love
4. The Benefits and Perils of Friendliness to Study
5. Set Your Intellect Free by Avoiding Worldly Entanglements
6. The Imitation of Christ (and of Those Who Imitate Him)
7. Loving Truth Regardless of Its Source (and On the Perfection of Memory)
8. How to Read Any Book: On the Power of Understanding
9. Filling Your Mental Cupboard to the Brim: On Building a Knowledge Base
10. Knowing Your Mental Powers - and Their Limits
Conclusion to Part 1
Part 2
Fathoming the Depths of Wisdom
Prologue to Part 2
11. Reason Gone Wrong
12. Premises of Sand
13. Wrong Thinking about the Faith
14. Mnemonic Master Table
About the Author

Each chapter in part one of the book ends with a section called Doctor's order, a sort of prescription for learning the lesson of that specific chapter, and tool to help lock the teaching in. These Doctor's orders are broken into three sections, Reflect, Read, and Remember. The Reflect section is to help you apply what you have learned. The Read section is some examples of how to take the lesson further. And the Remember section will help you sink in the lesson. And Chapter 14 provides a Mnemonic Master Table of all we have learned in Part 2 of the book.

When reading books by Kevin Vost I realise how much more I have to learn. And each of his books has served as a guide along that path. I believe this book is his best to date. I do not know any Christian who would not benefit from reading this book. And I look forward to when my children are a few years older and I can share this book with them, and that is the highest praise I can give a book. This book is an excellent read by an amazing author.

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

Books by Dr. Kevin Vost:
Full Range of Motive (2001)
Memorize the Faith! (2006)
Fit For Eternal Life (2007)
From Atheism to Catholicism (2010)
Unearthing Your Ten Talents (2010)
St. Albert the Great (2011)
Tending the Temple (2011)
Three Irish Saints (2012)
Memorize the Reasons! (2013)
One-Minute Aquinas (2014)
Hounds of the Lord (2015)
Seven Deadly Sins (2015)
Memorize the Mass! (2016)
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2016)
The Porch and the Cross (2016)
The Catholic Guide to Loneliness (2017)
The Four Friendships (2018)
How to Think Like Aquinas (2018)
Memorize the Latin Mass! (2018)

Books Contributed to:
Man Up! (2014)

Author profile interview with Dr. Kevin Vost.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky - CTS Twentieth Century Martyrs

Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis
CTS Twentieth Century Martyrs
Helena Scott
Ethel Tolansky
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860820687
CTS Booklet B655

That is the eighth and final book co-written by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky, That I have tracked down and read. These eight books are wonderful reads, I have already each of them twice and will likely read them again, either with my children or on my own. This book and Sophie Scholl and The White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis, are the only two of the 8 that are part of the CTS Twentieth Century Martyrs series. And this is the only biography they wrote that covers two people. It is the story of both Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel two men who were Catholic priests, both were imprisoned at Gusen 1, a sub camp of Mauthausen concentration camp. And both lived to serve others, often at great personal sacrifice and risk.

The back of the book states:

"Heroic sanctity and goodness could be thought of as things of the past, of other ages, for the saints of old. The 20th century has witnessed some of mankind's most demonic actions, from the Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Siberian camps, to the killing fields of Cambodia. Some say this proves God is dead. But, like so many others of our times, Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel, two priests interned at the infamous Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp during the Second World War, bore witness in their flesh that God is far from dead, but alive. Their faith, courage and love unto death saved countless fellow prisoners."

The chapters in this book are:

The Mauthausen Concentration Camps
Conditions at Mauthausen
Father Johann Gruber
Austria and the Nazis
Mauthausen Gusen Concentration Camp
A Different Kind of Patriotism
Tending to Physical Needs First
The 'Gruber Organization'
Extra Food for the Prisoners
Arrest and Death
Father Jacques Bunel
The Bunel Family
Lucien's Illness
Childhood - and Vocation
Contemplative Vocation
St. Joseph's School, Le Havre
The Little School at Avon
The Fight Against anti-Semitism
A Place of Shelter
Taking Jewish Students
Under Arrest
The Transit Camp of Compiegne
Neue Breme Camp, near Sarrebruck
Exercising His Priestly Ministry
Celebrating Mass in the Concentration Camp
The End of the Battle

The introduction of this book begins with these words:

"There is a clear link between the two priests who are the subjects of this booklet. Father Johann Gruber, an Austrian priest, and Father Jacques Bunel, a French Carmelite priest, were both imprisoned by the Nazis in Gusen I, a satellite camp of Mauthausen concentration camp, and were both instrumental in saving the lives of many of their fellow prisoners. "

We know that Father Jacques arrived at Mauthausen on April 23rd 1944, only 16 days after Father Gruber has been executed. And that he was at Gusen I by May 18th. They both showed their faith in how they lived. In their charity, their service and their devotion to other people. People who were sent to Mauthausen had a short life expectancy; they were worked hard, and worked to death. Mauthausen and its satellite camps were among the most brutal, cruellest of the concentration camps. And it is here that these two priests found their selves, and where they lived their calling as priests and followers of Christ. The poet Jean Cayrol stated:

"Father Gruber was amazing. On the day he met me I had about fourty-eight hours to live: I was starving and desperately cold, had almost no clothes, and was at the very end of my strength. I was working in the quarry. Somebody said to him, "Something's got to be done quickly. Cayrol is one of the ones in most urgent need of help." He came to find me, and brought me five litres of potatoes mashed up in water. I called a friend, and between the two of us we ate it all in five minutes. Father Gruber has tears in his eyes as he watched.
  He was a little round man. We used to call him Papa Gruber because we truly owed him our lives. He was an absolutely unbelievable person. He risked his life to find us food.""

This booklet is full of stories about both priests. We will never know the number of people they saved. There is no list. But there are many, many testimonies. I never particularly enjoy reading books about World War II, especially about the concentration camps. But I know that they are important books to read. We need to remember our history so that we do no repeat the mistakes. This book shows us what truly living the gospel mean, especially living it in some of the worse conditions humans have known. It shows the valiant faith of Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel. They lived the gospel, and their lives are an example to us.

This book is at times a hard read. And from the beginning we know the ending will not be pleasant. But Scott and Tolansky do an amazing job of telling the story of these two priest. It is a book that will challenge the reader, and inspire them. It is another faith filled book 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

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Played by Ear - Daniel A.Lord S.J.

Played by Ear
Daniel A. Lord S.J.
Loyola University Press
ISBN 9780829400496


Reading this book was both a great joy and a terribly frustrating, It was a joy to read such an incredible autobiography. It was frustrating in all the books he has written that he mentioned and many of the books he mentions that shaped him are all out of print and proving very hard to track down. Even tracking down this book proved not easy. This is the fourth book or booklet by Daniel a. Lord S.J. that I have read this year but it is by far the longest. My introduction was I Don't Like Lent, and it was wonderful. My youngest daughter then received two children's books by Father Lord, for her first communion, and they were wonderful reads for the whole family. Then after many tries I was able to track down this volume through inter-library loan to read.

This autobiography is unlike any that I have read. It was written as a series of letters, from the author to various people. He stated that he wrote in this form because it was natural to him. He also stated he tried not to duplicate too much that is included in his other books, but often touches upon them or refers to them. (The more the pity they are all out of print.) In the introduction we are told:

"He wrote exactly thirty adult books and twelve booklets.  His pamphlets must number nearly three hundred. He wrote forty-eight children's books.  He wrote twenty-five plays, twelve pageants, three musicals; and he published five separate musical compositions, not to mention the tunes incorporated in his pageants, some written in collaboration with others."

From my research only 2 of those books for adults are still in print. And about 50 of the pamphlets are available electronically. The booklets he wrote for children seem to still be available in beautiful hard cover editions. But the rest of his works are very difficult to track down. In the first letter he is writing to young parents and he states about his own school days:

"What I remember most clearly about grammar school was the competition between a group of us for the largest number of books read each week.  We were spurred on by Sister Mary Blanche, who loved books simply and intelligently.  We considered it a feat comparable to athletic victories to score high in the records of books taken from our school library, read, and returned in jig time.  I cannot recall that any of these books were ever assigned for class reading.  They seem to have been the object of supererogatory love."

His love of books and knowledge is a theme that runs through the letters and throughout his won life. And it appears to be something he holds in common with readers who discover his works. Outside of the two passages from the book already quoted, two other passages really had an impact upon me. I took pictures of the text and printed the paragraphs to have them up on my desk at work. In part as a reminder and in part to reflect on them.

First speaking about his early school days he states:

"Yet often, as my priestly life progressed and I have spoken to small college bodies on Catholic campuses, I have bragged in this fashion: "I am a graduate of a small college in a run-down building situated in the very center of Chicago's darkest Ghetto.  Yet I would not trade what I got there for the most spectacular college education the universities of the world could offer."  And I have meant sincerely what I said."

Another speaking about finances while growing up he says:

"Of a Satruday evening my dad simply tossed the pay envelope on the table in the kitchen.  On Monday morning my mother gave him the money he would need for carfare, lunches and incidedntal expenses of the week.  For the rest, his was the generosity and trust, hers was the financial managements that came in its small way close to genius.  When I hear moderns protesting the terrible lack of money, once more I smile.  Times are changed, no doubt of that; and money has no longer the purchasing power that once it had.  But I wonder if in domestic matters it is nearly as much a question of "how much income" as it is of "how well managed and with what generosity, loyalty, good humor, and love.""

I truly enjoyed reading this book. But having it on inter-library loan I felt rushed. I did not have long to read it, and it was an old and frail copy. I could only read it during dedicated times, and because of the condition, would not carry it to read on my commute to work. I would love to eventually track down my own copy of this and take my time and reread the letters at a more leisurely pace.

Lord was a man, a priest, and a Jesuit from a different time. His faith was contagious, to those who knew him, and like me those who encountered him via his writings. I was encouraged and challenged while reading this book. A few times I stopped and took notes, and at other times, stopped and prayed. If you can lay your hands on this book it is a wonderful read!

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

Books by Daniel A. Lord:
Father Finn, S.J., The Story Of His Life Told By Himself For His Friends Young And Old
Played by Ear

Children's Books:
The Our Father: Our Prayer to God
The Hail Mary Our Mother in Heaven

Red Arrows in the Night

Our Nuns: Their Varied and Vital Service for God and County
I can read ANYTHING!? All right! - then read THIS!
Confession is a joy?
Religion and Leadership
Fashionable Sin - A Modern Discussion of an Unpopular Subject
My Mother, The Study of an Uneventful Life
You Can't Live That Way
The Call to Catholic Action
Our Part in the Mystical Body
I Don't Like Lent

Three Great Catholic Writers That You Might Never Have Heard Of!  Curtayne - Lord - Powers

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Marian Prayer Book - Catholic Truth Society

Marian Prayer Book
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860827976
CTS Booklet D752


Searching on the CTS site for the term 'Prayer Book' currently turns up 107 results. Many are available in various electronic formats and in print. This is one of them that is only available in a print format. I picked it up a few months ago now, and have read and prayed through it twice now. And my son who is 10 has been borrowing it to pick new prayers to be able to pray.

The chapters in the Marian Prayer Book are:

Standard Marian Prayers
Prayers from the Missal and Breviary
The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Litany of Loreto
Prayers from English Sources
Prayers from approved Marian Apparitions
Orthodox Church Prayers
Other Marian Prayers and Devotions
Marian Hymns
Mary in the Bible

Some of the prayers are available in English and a number of the prayers are available in parallel in Latin and English. But this is more than just a collection of prayers. It is also a teaching tool, that can be used to teach others or for self-directed learning. Each chapter begins with teaching in italics, and often each prayer in the book also has instruction. Sometimes it is an explanation of the prayer, or history of the prayer, or information about a pope who approved or encouraged the specific prayer or devotion. For example the information about the Hail Holy Queen - Salve, Regina is:

"Attributed to several sources, the probable author is Herman the Lame (1013-1054), a monk of Reichenau Abbey in Germany."

For anyone with a deep Marian devotion this book will likely have a few prayers you are unfamiliar with. For those of you with a growing Marian appreciation this is an excellent prayer book, and wonderful resource in your spiritual tool box. My only regret is that there is no eBook edition so that I could always have it with me. This is a wonderful little prayer book, so pick it up and give it a try!

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.

Reviews of Other Prayer Books:
Handbook of Prayers by: Rev. James Socias General Editor
The Saints Pray for Us - Encounter The Saints Series
A Simple Prayer Book - Catholic Truth Society
Marian Prayer Book - Catholic Truth Society

Monday, 17 September 2018

Where You Lead - Leslea Wahl

Where You Lead
Leslea Wahl
ISBN 9781732134867
eISBN 9780463200247

While I was reading this book I could hardly put it down. I was reading it on my commutes to work, and sharing about it with my oldest daughter when I got home. We have added it to her school reading list for this year, and if we were not in the middle of school books at the moment I would be rereading it again already with her. This book feels like a mash up of a female lead from Madeleine L'Engle crossed with Nancy Drew, and the movie National Treasure. As such though written for the young adult market but would be appealing and entertaining to anyone who likes that historical mystery type of story.

The story combines the historical elements, with mystery and action, but the key factor is underlying it all is faith. The two great strengths of the story are the ability by Wahl to weave a plot this is so gripping and entertaining and yet maintaining the believability factor. And Second the characters. I need to admit that the budding relationship element (romance) in the novel is not what attracts a middle aged man to the story. But it is done in such a way that at least for this reader the romance is secondary. The theme of trusting and following God's leading, even when you do not understand it. The main characters realization that the little things we do in faith matter as much as the big things God calls us to do. And the whole mystery of missing civil war gold.

The story begins with Eve waking up from a vision. It was more real than many of her memories. And inspired by it, she starts searching for the guy she sees in the vision, and works towards steering her family into a cross country move. Set in and around Washington, DC the book is full of significant sites, and reminder of the past, the history. Soon Nick and Eve are doing all they can to unravel a mystery and track clues that go back to the civil war.

The writing is tight. The characters very well developed. Once you start reading you will find it hard to put the book down. It is a gripping read and the tension really builds as the main characters find themselves threatened on more than one front. Even as a non-American the story is gripping it will draw you in and keep you riveted to the pages. This is a good clean Christian novel.

The novel is an excellent read, and could serve as the beginning of a series, but for that only time will tell. As mentioned written for a Young Adult audience, but great for anyone who enjoys a good mystery!

Books by Leslea Wahl:
The Perfect Blindside
An Unexpected Role
Where You Lead

Contributed to:
Secrets: Visible & Invisible 7 Amazing Stories - Catholic Teen Books

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

The readings for this weekend's mass are:

First Reading Isaiah 50:5-9
Responsorial Psalm 116:1-9 Response 9
Second Reading James 2:14-18
Gospel Mark 8:27-35

The first reading from Isaiah reminds us that God is our help. To put it in today's terms 'He has our back'. The psalm echo's this message the response is:

"I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living."

The implication being, that no matter what is thrown at us, God is right there with us. God is our deliverer. The second reading has a different focus. It focuses on the fact that true faith will be visible. Our actions will live up to our theology. Our faith will be demonstrated by our works. And the last words of the gospel today tie it all together:

          "Whoever wants to become my follower,
          let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
          For whoever wants to save their life will loose it,
          and whoever loses their life for my sake,
          and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it."

At the moment it might not be easy being a Christian, and being Catholic. There is great conflict within the church. And growing hostility from the world. But that is all the more reason to live our faith. For our life to be an example, in all we do and all we say. We can witness with our words, but we also need to witness with what we do, and what we choose not to do. Our actions must live up to our theology!

Related Posts:

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Body Swap - Sylvia McNicoll

Body Swap
Sylvia McNicoll
Dundurn Press
ISBN 9781459740907
eISBN 9781459740921
eISBN 9781459740914

To date I have read six books by Canadian author Sylvia McNicoll. The theme of this book has been done before, in numerous variations in movies. But this book is one of the best variations on that theme.

In this story fifteen-year-old Hallie is hit by eighty-two-year-old Susan's SUV. They both go to the gates of heaven. But heaven looks and smells like a carnival. And they wake up in line for the ride. The god like figure, the coaster operator gives them the option of a second chance, but to do so they must go back in swapped bodies. Picture Morgan Freeman in Evan Almighty, at least the personality and interaction, his name is Eli. And this begins our adventure.

Hallie is not handling her wrinkled skin and achy joints. And Susan needs to deal with a forehead zit and a crush on a guy who's a player. Hallie faces a life in a long-term care residence and giving up the vehicle. Susan is accused of shoplifting. Susan and Hallie need to find a way to work together. They need to live each others lives, and they need to prove Susan innocent of the crash. Oh, and by the way they are on the clock, they only have a set number of days is all they have. Susan needs to let go of some of her anger and frustration. Hallie needs to learn to appreciate and respect the wealth of knowledge the elderly.

The story is written in alternating chapters. And both our main characters are learning to find their voice. They are learning to find a way to be heard. And they are learning a lot about each other. There are times where this book will really pull at your heart strings.

This is another wonderfully written book by Sylvia McNicoll. I think it will challenge the thinking of tweens, teen, and even retirees. It is very well written and a great new spin on an old type of story. McNicoll executes masterfully in telling this story.

Books by Sylvia McNicoll:
Blueberries and Whipped Cream - 1988
Jump Start - 1989
The Tiger Catcher's Kid - 1989
Project Disaster - 1990
More than Money - 1990
Facing the Enemy - 1992
Bringing Up Beauty - 1994
The Big Race - 1996
Walking a Thin Line - 1997
Double Dribble - 1999
Smoky and the Gorilla - 1999
Grave Secrets - 1999
Caught in a Lie - 2000
A Different Kind of Beauty - 2004
Beauty Returns - 2006
Last Chance For Paris - 2008
Slam Dunk Robot  2007
crush. candy. corpse. - 2012
Dying to Go Viral - 2013

Body Swap - 2018

The Great Mistake Mysteries:
The Best Mistake Mystery - 2017
The Artsy Mistake Mystery - 2017
The Snake Mistake Mystery - 2018

Books Written as Geena Dare:
Stage School Series:
Dan Clowning Around #5 - 1998
Matt Heartbreak Hero #6 - 1998
Lauren Dating Dreams #7 - 1999
Abbi Secret Stranger #9 - 1999
Jenna Standing Tall #10 - 1999
Dan Double Drama #11 -1999

Book Ghostwritten as Sharon Siamon:
The Spellbound Sleepover 1999

Mom and Dad's Guide to Martial Arts 1999

Foreign Editions unavailable in English to date:
Zannas vanskelige valg  2007 (Alpha Wolf)
Zanna - mellom barken og veden 2007 (River of Ice)
Snøras   2008 (Avalanche)
Zanna i fare 2008 (Victim's Impact)
Redningsaksjonen  2009 (The Nine Minute Disaster Zone) 

Author Profile and Interview with Sylvia McNicoll

Friday, 14 September 2018

A Simple Prayer Book - Catholic Truth Society

A Simple Prayer Book:
Including the Order of Mass New Translation
Catholic Truth Society
Paperback Edition
ISBN 9781860822599
CTS Booklet D665
Leatherette Presentation Edition
ISBN 9781860825989
CTS Booklet D711


A few months back I put together an order of books from the Catholic Truth Society. I ordered a few books that did not have eBook editions, and that I could not find in Canada. In that order I picked up 4 copies of this book, 1 for me and 1 for each of my three children. My mistake was not ordering more. I have already committed to giving mine away. And wish I had more on hand so I could give the copy I carry with me away and just replace it.

In this book you will find a wonderful collection of prayers. In the chapter on the order of the mass there are parallel Latin and English versions of many of the prayers. The sections in this book are:

Prayers and Devotions

Basic Prayers
Morning and Evening Prayer

   Morning Prayer
   During the Day
   The Angelus
   Evening Prayer
Prayers to the Holy Spirit
Penitential Prayers

   Sacrament of Reconciliation
   Examination of Conscience
   Going to Confession
   The Way of the Cross
Prayers to Our Lady
   The Holy Rosary
   Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions
   Act of Faith, Hope and Charity
   For the Faithful Departed
   Prayer of Saint Ignatius
   Prayer to Saint Michael
   In Temptation
   Prayer for the Pope
   Prayer for Vocations
   Prayer for Peace
   Prayer before a Crucifix
   A Night Prayer
The Divine Mercy

The Eucharist
The Order of Mass

   The Introductory Rites
   The Litury of the Word
   The Liturgy of the Eucharist
   The Communion Rite
   The Concluding Rites
If You Can't Get to Mass
   Spiritual Communion
Prayers for Holy Communion
   Before Holy Communion
   After Holy Communion
Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction
   A Visit to the Blessed Sacrament

Catholic Teacher
Summary of Christian Doctrine

   The Mass Simply Explained
   The Sunday Obligation
   Fasting and Abstinence
   Note on Indulgences

I have worked through this book twice now before writing this review. I really appreciate the simplicity of this little book. The order of the sections works incredibly well. I have been praying the Prayer for Priests almost daily since I fist came across it. I pray for the priests I know, and those in my diocese and the diocese I grew up in.

I really wish I had ordered 20 of these when I had them shipped from the UK. And I plan on saving up and buying copies for all the altar servers at our church as Christmas presents this year. Thought they likely would all be given away by now. I always have a few prayer books that I absolutely love and keep on me they are:

Handbook of Prayers by: Rev. James Socias General Editor
The Saints Pray for Us - Encounter The Saints 
The Pieta

And now I am adding this book to the list. I only have two regrets about this book. First, I will need to order a bunch and always keep them on hand, and second that it is not available as an eBook. This booklet is an excellent little prayer book, my children ages 12, 10, and 7 and I all love it. It is an excellent resource for your prayer life. We highly recommend it!

(On a side note, this book is available in several languages, I picked up a copy in Spanish because I am trying to learn that language, but it is also available in: Portuguese, Polish, Italian, Tagalog, German, Welsh, French.)

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.

Reviews of Other Prayer Books:
Handbook of Prayers by: Rev. James Socias General Editor
The Saints Pray for Us - Encounter The Saints Series
A Simple Prayer Book - Catholic Truth Society
Marian Prayer Book - Catholic Truth Society

Thursday, 13 September 2018

No Fixed Address - Susin Nielsen

No Fixed Address
Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books
ISBN 9780735262751
eISBN 9780735262768

I became interested in this book because of a shout put by Arthur Slade. He spoke so highly about it, I knew I had to give it a read. Being completely honest I had not encountered any of Susin Neilsen's works before giving this one a read, even in my years as a bookseller. As an introduction to her works this book was an incredible read. Once I started reading I could hardly put it down. This book is moving. It does an amazing job of capturing living with someone with mental health issues, and either being close to or living on the street.

This is the story of Felix Knuttson, a twelve year old boy with great skill at trivia. His other skill is covering for his mother. For the longest time it has just been him and his mom. His father has returned to the art scene in Toronto after realizing that he preferred men. His mother is an artist who has had some success, and a lot of failures. She seems to be able to land jobs but had a hard time keeping them. And she has proven to have a hard time at keeping a place for them. And that is where we begin with this novel. Felix and his mother have been living in a van. They have moved it around. Felix is trying to hold it together at school and help keep his mother together. What starts as a few weeks in a van stretches, and stretches, from a summer novelty, to school returning, and fall turning to winter. Felix has a chance to compete on a national quiz show. The weekly episodes are pre-filmed, but the finale is aired live. Some secrets are just too hard to keep in.

Many years ago, I was in a place where each month I wondered if I would have a roof over my head at the end of the month. I cannot imagine being in that place and being a youth looking after a parent. But I know that it happens. This book does an incredible job of capturing that. In university and after I lived with a few friends who have struggled with mental health. Watching them spiral down and not being able to do anything is a terrible feeling. Nielsen has captured that feeling perfectly.

This novel is written for a Middle Grade or Young Adult audience, but I am sure it will transcend those genres. But by combining the underlying themes of split families, depression, mental health, and homelessness it touches on so many issues in contemporary society. This is an amazing read that will help you look at the world a little differently.

Books by Susin Nielson:
We Are All Made of Molecules
Optimists Die First
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
Word Nerd
Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom
No Fixed Address
The Magic Beads
My Messed-Up Life

Degrassi Books:
Shane (Degrassi, #12)
Melanie (Degrassi, #13)
Wheels (Degrassi, #17)
Snake (Degrassi, #18)

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life - Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life
Madeleine L'Engle
Sarah Arthur (Forward)
Convergent Books

Crown Publishing 
ISBN 9781524759308
eISBN 9781524759315

I had the privilege of meeting L'Engle at a conference 20 years ago now. Reading this book was in many ways like being back at the small retreat with her. I could hear her voice and feel her presence. I am a fan of L'Engle's work in the span of 2 years I read about 30 of her books, spanning the breadth and depth of her writing. And with the reprint of this and I believe 3 other title of her non-fiction works on the same day, I am very excited to see her works coming back into print and being available in numerous formats.

I devoured this book over three days. But that is a bit deceptive. Even though it is listed as nearly 400 pages because of the format some thoughts and reflections take up less than a quarter of a page. The introduction is written by Sarah Arthur, who just published A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle

This book is a collection of thoughts, reflections, and personal history. A number of them stuck me, and made me thing of author friends. I shared this one with a friend:

"Cooking Up Stories

When I start working on a book (and I'm usually thinking about several books over several years before I actually start to write one), I'm somewhat like a French peasant cook. There is a big black stove, several pots on the back of it. And the cook goes by and drops a carrot in one pot and a piece of potato in another and an onion and a piece of meat in another. At dinnertime, you look and see which pot smells best and pull it forward. The same thing is true with writing. There are several pots on my back burners. An idea for a scene goes into one pot, a character into another, and a description of the tree in the fog in another. And when it comes time to write, I bring forward the pot which has the most in it-or more likely, this being a less literal world, the pot shoves itself out at me. Now the dropping in of the ideas is sometimes quite conscious. I know I'm putting a carrot in this pot. But sometimes something has been added when I don't even realize it. And I look into the pot and say, "Oh that's there, just what I need." But I don't know when it got put in. When it comes time to write, I look at everything in the pot. I sort, I organize, I arrange, I discover, I think about character and storyline. And most of this part of the work is done by the me of which I am aware. It is a conscious act."

Another one that really grabbed my attention was:

"The Theological Under Level of Story

C. S. Lewis used to write a book of fiction and a book of theology simultaneously, both dealing with the same theological problem. But if we saw in the fiction theology rather than story, then he would have failed. Obviously, the seven Narnia books are deep Christian parables; but if this message reached all of the young readers in a conscious rather than an unconscious way, first of all they would reach only people who were already Christians. And they wouldn't have that under level, that stratum which makes people go to them and read them again and again and again".

The Chapters In The Book Are:
1. Section I: Serving The Gift
Artists And Their Art
2. Section II: Co-Creators With God
Inspiration And The Creative Process
3. Section III: My Books Wrote Me
Elements Of A Writer's Life
4. Section IV: Faith Foundations
Writing From Truth
5. Section V: An Accepted Wonder
The Wisdom Of Children
6. Section VI: Finger Exercises
A Writer's Technique And Style
7. Section VII: The Empty Page
Getting Started
8. Section VIII: A Life Of Their Own
Creating Characters
9. Section IX: Paints Of The Writer's Palette
Words And Symbols
10. Section X: This I Know
Telling Our Story
Appendix I: Sources For This Book
Appendix Ii: Index Of Selections And Sources
Appendix Iii: A Chronology Of Madeleine L'Engle's Life And Books
Appendix Iv: Books By Madeleine L'Engle
Reading Guide

But there are 300 separate entries in this collection. One of the other reflections in this volume is:

"Storytellers Search For Truth

People have always told stories as they searched for truth. As our ancient ancestors sat around the campfire in front of their caves, they told the stories of their day in order to try to understand what their day had meant, what the truth of the mammoth hunt was, or the roar of the cave lion, or the falling in love of two young people Bards and troubadours throughout the centuries have sung stories in order to give meaning to the events of human life. We read novels, go to the movies, watch television, in order to find out more about the human endeavor. As a child I read avidly and in stories I found truths which were not available in history or geography or social studies."

And one final one to share:

"Good Art Heals

Stories should be healing. If they're not, there's something wrong. A story which leaves you frightened, fragmented, depressed, cannot be a Christian story. If I'm in need of healing, if I can go to the museum and look at the paintings, I will be healed. Music is very healing to me. Once I was full of righteous indignation over something and my adolescent said, "Oh, Mother, sit down and play Bach for a while," knowing that if I did and gave that time to the beautiful structure of Bach, I would at least calm down. Art heals us, puts us all together, but only if we're willing to open ourselves to it and collaborate with it".

I want to speak about this one. A few years before I discover L'Engle's writings I was a huge fan of Frank E. Peretti. I loved This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. But when I finished his book The Oath I literally felt slimed. I felt like I had read a Christian Stephen King, and never read another book by him. 

This book is full of wit and wisdom. It is advice from a Christian artist to Christian artists. Anyone who would like to have their faith reflected in their art would take something away from this book. And for fans of her writings it gives us a deeper insight into the woman, her faith and her process.

An excellent read, for readers and for writers.

Related Articles:
Madeleine L'Engle Bibliography
Becoming Madeleine A Biography of the Author of a Wrinkle in Time - Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Léna Roy
A Light So Lovely The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle, Author of A Wrinkle in Time - Sarah Arthur

Reviews of Books by Madeleine L'Engle:
Penguins and Golden Calves
Bright Evening Star
The Rock That Is Higher