Saturday, 20 October 2018

Armed with Faith The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno - Stephen M. Digiovanni

Armed with Faith: 
The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM
Capodanno Guild
Stephen M. Digiovanni
ISBN 9781983237171

Over the last few years I have read several books about military chaplains. This is the second on father Vincent Capodanno that I have read. And it is an incredible read. It goes into a lot of details. Especially about his early years as a missionary priest. It gives us a very clear picture of the man, the priest and his life, that has now opened the cause for his canonization. Father Capodanno is currently classified as a Servant of God, he was priest, missionary, and chaplain to the United States Marine Corps. But he was also a brother, son, and friend. The author of this book has written a biography. He does not shy away from some of Vincent’s rougher edges or present just a super holy hagiography. 

In the introduction it is stated that: 

“Several years ago I asked Msgr. DiGiovanni to serve as the chairman of the Historical Commission in the Cause for the recognition of the sanctity of this hero.  He carefully studied the documentation available and spoke to those who knew Father Capodanno during his life.  This book offers the results of that study and is being published to help others learn about the priest who gave his life to minister to “his Marines.” 

While you will certainly appreciate the careful research and the literary talents of the pastor of the Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist in Stamford, CT, my hope is that you are also captured by the virtues of the pilgrim whose example has inspired so many.”

That theme of pilgrimage is expressed in the introduction and throughout the book. Part of what we see in this life is a man, an average man, who spent his like seeking for God, seeking God’s will, seeking to serve God, and through that to serve others. In the tradition of all Spiritual Quester’s he life was a journey, but not just spiritually, for Vincent, it ended up being a physical journey, half way around the world.

The chapters in this volume are:

Vincent Robert 
Formosa and Language School 
The Missions in Tunglo and Miaoli 
Hong Kong and Hawaii 
Training and Vietnam, 1966 
Vietnam, 1967 
September 4, 1967 
Epilogue Mission Diaries, 1958-1959 
Some Reflections on Adaptation to the Orient, Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM, November 
Biographical Timeline of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM  1929-1967 Bibliography

I stated earlier that Vincent was average, he was of average build, maybe leaning towards stocky. He was an average student. And according to parts of this text was average as a missionary, at least to one of his superiors. But that is what is so incredible about this story. Vincent was an average man, and he became a chaplain at an older age. He was a little older than many of the soldiers he served with. But with his age, and his maturity he brought a calm to the soldiers around him. Especially in battle. 

From the accounts in this book and other works about Capodanno, we see a man who excelled in courage, who excelled under pressure. A man who was committed to serving the best he could. In some ways this is an easier military biography to read. Vincent did not suffer in the concentration camps as others tried to strip his humanity. Or he was not a prisoner in China, and forced on a death march, beaten, and abused. What he did was live heroically. He had many medals for valor and courage. And in the end, he used his own body to shield an injured corpsman. That battle, and Vincent’s final hours has been pieced together from the testimony of the men he served and served with. I do not know how you could read this book and not be inspired and challenged in your own faith. 

One of the great things in this book is the publication of excerpts of Vincent’s missionary diaries. And also, a copy of his piece ‘Some Reflections on Adaptation to the Orient’. 

I am sure that as time goes on, and prayerfully the cause of Vincent moves forward to the stages of blessed and saint, that other books and future scholarship into the life and impact of Father Vincent Capodanno will take place. But this most recent book about his life is masterfully done and written with impeccable research and dedication to seeking the facts.

This is truly a book about a man whose life appeared average but was truly a great man. And this book is a great read about him. 

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

Friday, 19 October 2018

3 Things to Forget - Cynthia T. Toney - Bird Face Book 4

3 Things to Forget
Bird Face Book 4
Cynthia T. Toney
Write Integrity Press
ISBN 9781944120627

This is the fifth novel by Cynthia Toney that I have read in the last year and a half. And it is with mixed emotions that I read and review this book. For the author has announced that this is the fourth and final novel in the Bird face series. I can only hope that like Madeleine L'Engle's character Meg, that maybe someday we will encounter Wendy again, maybe even as a mother herself. But that might just be fanciful wishing on my part. As a father of daughters, I find that I now read a lot of books that I would not have read in my own youth, or even earlier in my years as an adult. 

This book is what I would consider classic clean young adult fiction. There is no sex, but there is talk about it. There are no alternative lifestyles just for the sake of diversity. It is good clean Christian fiction. And it also falls within the realms of normal life fiction. It is an excellent read. And was very hard to put down. If you have read some of the other Bird face books you will be familiar with the characters and some of the events. 

The story begins with Wendy on a flight to Alaska. She is going to spend the summer with Sam's family and will be volunteering at an animal reserve. She is thankful to be away from home, and her recent breakup with David, and the whole uproar over the who tutoring for hire incident. She is working with Sam, and Levi and Levi's sister Devorah. Both Sam and Levi are deaf and use sign language to communicate. So, Wendy is trying to learn more American Sign Language. To begin work she is often paired with Devorah, and Devorah initially opens up to Wendy. From that point on Wendy is praying for guidance on how to her with all she is dealing with.

This book focuses around themes of friends and family. It also has the element of Wendy a Catholic girl trying to understand, help and pray for a Jewish friend. Devorah is acting out because of how she is feeling. And Wendy has seen how destructive that can be and is trying hard to provide wise counsel. Wendy is also there because her surrogate grandmother Mrs. V, Sam's grandmother, has Alzheimer's and is going down hill. 

This book had a few surprises. But readers young and not so young will love following Wendy as she tries to fit in away from home, and find a balance between helping and being a nuisance.  When you add in the scenery from the Alaskan setting, and the animals at the shelter it provides a wonderful backdrop for the story.

Another excellent read from the pen of Cynthia T. Toney. I know that I am hooked on her writing and am addicting my oldest daughter. I am sure if you give this book or the series a try you will love them also. An excellent read that will entertain and challenge!

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

Books by Cynthia T. Toney:
The Other Side of Freedom

Bird Face Series:
8 Notes to a Nobody
10 Steps to Girlfriend Status
6 Dates to Disaster
3 Things to Forget

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

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Prayer of the Day Prayer for Priests

Prayer for Priests:

Father, you have appointed your Son Jesus Christ eternal High priest. Guide those he has chosen to be ministers of word and sacrament and help them to be faithful in fulfilling the ministry they have received. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Note: I do not know where this prayer came from. I copied it to my evernote prayer book and forgot to attribute it. With all that has been going on of late I have been extra faithful in praying for priests. For priests I know, and for priests in general. I can count on one hand the number of priests I have encountered in life that I have had a bad experience with in some way or fashion. and I could count many many priests that I have encountered that were great pastors, prayer warriors, and exceptional men. And I have read some incredible books by priests, and about priests.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Catholic Hipster Handbook - Tommy Tighe - Rediscovering Cool Saints, Forgotten Prayers, and Other Weird but Sacred Stuff

The Catholic Hipster Handbook:
Rediscovering Cool Saints, Forgotten Prayers, and Other Weird but Sacred Stuff
Tommy Tighe
Ave Maria Press
ISBN 9781594717079
eISBN 9781594717086

This book was not exactly what I was expecting. I had seen it mentioned by so many people that I was certain it would be something I would like and purchased it without realizing that it is an anthology with 12 contributors when you included Tommy. Sort of a modern-day group of apostles.

The contributors are:
Leticia Ochoa Adams
Sr. Brittany Harrison
Lisa M. Hendey
Steven Lewis
Anna Mitchell
Mary Rezac
Fr. Kyle Schnippel
Arleen Spenceley
Katherine Morna Towne
Sarah Vabulas
Tiffany Walsh

And the sections in this book are:

Foreword by Jeannie Gaffigan
Part One: Rediscover the Attitude
Part Two: Rediscover the Stuff
Part Three: Rediscover the Life
Part Four: Rediscover the Attraction
About the Contributors

Each chapter follows the same format, the main article, cool saint, forgotten prayer, and activity. When I first started reading this book I could not tell if it was satire, sarcastic, or real devotion. My wife often comments that sarcasm is lost on me so it took me a few chapters to figure it out. In the end I found I really enjoyed the book at took it at face value. I give it a solid 4/5 stars. And it took a few days to settle on that rating. I read fairly widely, and I read a lot, but I was unfamiliar with most of the contributors prior to reading this book. I have started following a few of the contributors on social media because of their contributions to this book.

I have known a few Catholic Hipsters, going back to a college and Careers group at Saint Mary's Cathedral in Kingston Ontario in the late 80's and early 90's. Hipsters before being a hipster was cool. What I loved most about this book was that it comments on several trends in the Catholic community today, some that are growing and others with longer standing. I really appreciated the section 'Forgotten Prayer' and also 'Cool Saint' the activity sections are good also.

This book comes across for the most part as a fun playful read. It pokes a little fun at certain traditions or practices but not in an irreverent manner. It has some interesting activities to try, either personally or in a group. It would be really intriguing to work through this book with a group of friends and find where it really connects with readers and where it misses the mark.

This is an easy read and very accessible. I would say it is even accessible for teens and tweens. So, could be a good study for a youth group. What I loved most were the prayers and saints presented. Overall a very refreshing read, particularly during this time of conflict within the church. So give it a read and figure out where you end up on the hipsters scale or tribes.

Books by Tommy Tighe:
The Catholic Hipster Handbook
How to Catholic Family: Nurturing Faith in the Messiness of Everyday Life


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Old Magic in a New World - David Vining - A Collection of Short Stories

Old Magic in a New World
A Collection of Short Stories
David Vining
ISBN 9781980891956


This was the second collection of short stories by David Vining that I have read. It is a collection of 5 stories with some interesting variations on the practice of magic. The stories in this volume are:

From Cork to Montgomery 
Sooner or Later 
A Witch's Counter 
Lessons Our Parents Taught Us

With any collection of short stories there is always a favorite, and by necessity a least favorite. In this collection my favorite was ‘Lessons Our Parents Taught Us’ I appreciated the backstory of Winston Gardner’s recollections of what his parents taught him, even as he treks across the country to get away from his parents and his six brothers and sisters. The unique ending of this story took me completely by surprise. And the magic in this story presents in a very different way than the others. The story ‘A Witch's Counter’ was my least favorite. Even though it gives a plausible explanation for the beginning of the trials in Salem. 

Each of the stories to some extent focuses around the theme of magic. But it is the theme of magic in the new world. Three of the stories also have an element of family interactions. Some that support and some that play key aspects of the plot. 

The description of this collection is:

“Magic and spells populate the world of history. 

See what happens when people gain the power to make others sneeze at will! When a man can make himself disappear from sight with a song! See what really started the witch trials at Salem, Massachusetts!”

But the story that has stuck with me most is: ‘From Cork to Montgomery’, It has come back to mind a number of times since reading it. The story is about a family leaving Ireland to not be renters and seeking their own parcel of land in America. But the further the family travels the lest the matriarch’s magic works. The daughter understands what is happening and how to counter it but the old woman can not give up her old ways. 

This was a very intriguing collection of stories. After reading David’s novel and a different collection of stories I had purchased all 5 of his current collections of short stories. David is a young author, but his works show a maturity and skill I have not seen in many with far more years than his. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and look forward to the next I will read. 

Books by David Vining:
A Quest Through Winter Sleep
The Battle of Lake Erie: One Young American's Adventure in the War of 1812

Collections of Short Stories:
Shoes for Two Soldier Sons
Old Magic in a New World
A Light in the Darkness
A Boy and His Satellite

Monday, 15 October 2018

Wisdom from Pope Paul VI - Saint Pope Paul VI and Mary Leonora Wilson FSP

Wisdom from Pope Paul VI
Saint Pope Paul VI
Mary Leonora Wilson FSP
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 9780819883773
eISBN 9780819883780


This book was published just prior to the canonization of Pope Paul VI. Saint Paul VI holds a level of personal fascination for me, he was pope when I was born, and I remember his passing as one of my earliest memories. This book contains a brief biography of Paul VI, contains a number of selections of his works either from talks, addresses or his writings, each ends with a prayer. And the final section is a collection of prayers attributed to Paul VI. Mary Leonora Wilson FSP is the person who wrote the brief biography and compiled this volume. She states in the introduction:

"I was thrilled when I heard that Pope Paul VI was going to be canonized; he has been a mentor and model to me for more than fifty years. This mentoring started-even though I wasn't aware of it-when I was just a teenager. I entered the congregation of the Daughters of Saint Paul on June 29, 1963, the same day that Pope Paul VI was crowned. The coronation ceremony was fascinating, but foreign to me. It was like opening a time capsule. Little did I know, I was witnessing the elaborate ceremony for the last time. The coronation was just one of the many trappings of aristocracy that would be removed, prompted by subsequent decisions of Pope Paul VI to simplify the papacy and render it more evangelical."

She also says:

"In those early days I was especially impressed with his love for Christ and the Church, his insistence on dialogue and ecumenism, his concern about rampant injustice and escalating violence in the world, and his unwavering serenity and gentleness despite harsh public criticism. I was particularly touched by his compassion, fired by his missionary vision, and awed by the way he embraced and carried the Cross of Christ. Pope Paul VI stoked the fire of my own love of Christ. More by his life than by his words, he taught me what it means to be a disciple of the Master. His weekly addresses illuminated my theology studies, and as I studied Scripture I began to recognize that he was indeed a contemporary prophet. He became "my pope.""

The sections in this book are:

A Brief Biography

     Life Is You, O God!
     Don't Be Afraid
     Believe in Christ
     Immersed in God

     God Loves Us!
     God IS Love
     Respond to Divine Love
     Love Is the Art of Peace

     Mystery of Love
     Extraordinary Bread
     Real Presence
     Mystery of Faith

Mary, Our Mother
     Devotion to Mary
     Look to Mary
     Mother of Christ
     The Rosary

     Inner Silence
     Need of Prayer
     Jesus Prays
     Personal Prayer

     God Is Our Happiness
     Serene in Christ
     Easter Joy
     Joy in the Church

     Christianity Is Demanding
     Live by Hope
     The Christian Lifestyle
     Christ Is for Us

     We Have Good News!
     God's Great Plan
     Epiphany Proclamation
     Now Is the Time

Selected Prayers
     Make Us Worthy, Lord
     Abandonment in God
     A Prayer for Faith
     Prayer for Peace
     Come, Holy Spirit
     Lord, I Believe
     Prayer to Mary, Our Mother
     A Priest's Prayer to Mary
     A Prayer for Vocations
     Blessed Are We
This book is an excellent little volume. For those with a devotion to Paul VI it will help it grow. For those who do not have a devotion It is packed with some amazing prayers and wisdom. And for casual readers it will open up the man, his though and his faith to you. And because of the design and format it can be read through from beginning to end, or randomly read sections as they pick your interest. One of the things I love most were the prayers, both the section of prayers at the end, but also the ones at the end of each chapter. This book is worth more than the price even if only used as a prayer book. My favorite prayer from the selected prayers on my first reading through is:

"Make Us Worthy, Lord

Make us worthy, Lord,
to serve our fellow men
throughout the world,
who live and die in poverty and hunger.
Give them today, through our hands,
their daily bread,
and through our understanding love,
give peace and joy. Amen."

Some of the prayers from the ends of chapters that I highlighted are:

"Jesus Master, I believe in you. Make me a true disciple-not merely in words, but in how I live my life. The standards of the world are so different from those you preached. Grant me the courage to be true to who I am-a Christian, a follower of you, Lord. You are my Way, my Truth, and my Life."

"Jesus, loving Master, your life is one great lesson in love! You say to me, "As I have done, so are you to do." I desire to follow you in the way of love by reaching out to those who need my help, listening to those who need understanding, resonating with those who need compassion, and encouraging those who need to be urged on. Help me always remember that it is you inviting me in my brother and sister."

"My hope, O Lord, is in you. You are my Way, my Truth, my Life; my one and supreme good. Help me to never lose sight of my ultimate destination or be detoured by the maze of slogans clamoring for my attention. Keep my heart and my gaze fixed on you, who give meaning to everything in and around me."

"Jesus Master, living the Gospel is not always easy and I often find myself challenged in living humility, patience, gentleness, and reconciliation, and bearing with one another in love. But with you, all things are possible and you have promised every grace to those who ask. So I ask you to help me live, generously and un-afraid, the Christian life as you modeled it."

"Jesus Incarnate, let me be like the star that by its glow leads others to you. May I always witness to you by what I think and say and do. In whatever ways I can, I want to spread your Good News to as many persons as possible, for you alone give meaning to our lives. May everyone know you, love you, and follow you, Lord."

The single passage from the writings of Paul VI that is really sticking with me is:

"Beloved sons and daughters! Let us maintain the desire for a life modeled after the Christian lifestyle. The Christian lifestyle is not always easy. It is, we know, a demanding style of living, sometimes inconvenient, and not always fashionable. But remember: it must not be judged only by what it takes away, but evaluated by what it gives. And if it is engraved on us by the law of sacrifice, that is, by the Cross, remember, or rather, experience for yourselves the paradox characteristic of the Christian way of life. It consists in an extraordinary and simultaneous fusion of braking and thrusting, of moderation and vitality, of sorrow and joy. The present life finds in this lifestyle its highest and fullest expression, as Saint Paul said: "I am overjoyed in all our affliction" (2 Cor 7:4).

May God help all of us impress on our modern life a new style, sweet and austere, the Christian lifestyle."

I hope this sampling of prayers and quotes will inspire you to pick up this book and give it a read. It is an excellent little volume and I know that I will be returning to it again and again!.

Saint Pope Paul VI pray for us.

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

Other books by or about Pope Paul VI:
Love's True Meaning The Message of Humanae Vitae 50 Years On - Fr Anthony Doe
Paul VI - Anthony Symondson- CTS Biographies
Wisdom from Pope Paul VI - Mary Leonora Wilson FSP

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

The readings for this weekend's mass are:

First Reading Wisdom 7:7-11
Responsorial Psalm 90:12-17 Response 14
Second Reading Hebrews 4:12-13
Gospel Mark 10:17-30

There is the option this week for a shorter gospel reading, it would be Mark 10:17-27, But I think the longer version gives us a lot to think about. But let's take a look at the readings in order. 

The beginning of the first reading is:

"I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to sceptres and thrones,
and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her."

I have written about this before, but when I was confirmed I picked the gift of knowledge. Looking back I often wish I had asked for a blessing of wisdom. For I see wisdom as putting knowledge into practice. As I grow older, I values wisdom far more than just knowledge. In my experience Knowledge is cold, hard, and rigid. And wisdom is more gracious, understanding, and more patience. I need more of those things in my life, and I need more wisdom in my life, wisdom about when to speak up, and when to stay silent, wisdom about what to do, and about what to not do, wisdom to know when to say 'yes' and when to say 'no'. And I need those things in all areas of my life. Physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectually. I also need them with my family, with friends, at work. In what I choose to invest my time on and what I choose to not spend time on. Fortunately as I grow older I realize that more and more. I sometimes get asked how I read so many books, and to be honest for every 5 books I finish I do not finish at least 1. I no longer slog through a book to the end, if I am not getting into it, or it just is not doing it for me. And by putting aside those books other books are finished more timely. I am also learning that as I approach a half century on earth, that I cannot just push through pain and injuries. I need to back off, take time, and recover. By as many lessons in life, these did not come easily, for I often lacked wisdom.

I loved the responsorial psalm this week:

"R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, that we may rejoice and be glad.

Teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.
Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.

Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands."

Our second reading is one of the shortest of the church year. Just two verses. 

"The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before God no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account."

Reading this passage I cannot help but think about a few books I have read on the four last things.

Death - Judgement - Heaven - Hell

There was some dialogue with friends regarding last week's reflection. Part of my response was "for me it has more to do with truth. If we are believing Christians. If we are practicing Catholics. And if we believe in a judgement as part of the four last things. Then there is a responsibility to speak the truth we believe. For it has eternal consequences." This passage speaks directly to that fact. And now we come to the gospel reading.

Jesus tells the young man to sell all he owns and follow Jesus. Many saints throughout the ages have lived those words literally. But how many of us today if we felt that call would follow? Compared to the time of Saint Francis, or even Mother Theresa, we for the most part have things so much easier. I wonder if I felt the call would I, would my children, would you? There are times I find it hard to follow God in the little things, how would I step out in the big things? And not just because of the promises at the end of the passage. But because of all God has done for me. 

This past week I read and reviewed Junia The Fictional Life and Death of an Early Christian by Father Michael E. Giesler. One passage really stuck with me, as Junia is likely to end up a martyr he brother and her have a conversation:
 "Junia, here's my advice to you as a brother. Take the oath. When you have to say the words that curse Jesus Christ, say them, but in your heart bless him. Then you're not lying to yourself, and you're remaining true to your God."Junia narrowed her eyes and looked at her brother indignantly."And would you do that to your best friend?"Marcus stared at her blankly."What do you mean?""What I said, Marcus. Would you curse your best friend publicly, in front of everyone, while in your heart you praise him?""I would, to save my life," he retorted."Well, I won't, even if it costs me mine," she answered."He must be quite a friend, then.""He is," she replied softly.
I want to live what kind of conviction, and that kind of love. 

Know that I pray for you my readers, and as always I ask you to pray for me. 

Related Posts:

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Junia The Fictional Life and Death of an Early Christian - Father Michael E. Giesler

The Fictional Life and Death of an Early Christian 
Father Michael E. Giesler
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9781889334646

eISBN 9781594171130

I recently finished one of Father Giesler’s non-fiction books, You See Me, You Hear Me, it was so amazing, I circled back to this one and bumped it way up on my reading list. I am so glad I did, this book is an amazing read. But I found out it is part of trilogy. It is hard to find the books by Father Giesler, for they are published under many different variations on his names. For example, this book on the cover has the name Michael E. Giesler, book 2 Marcus has the name Michael Edward Giesler, and book 3 Grain Of Wheat does not even have a name on the cover.  From what I have found his books are published under the following names: Michael E. Giesler, Rev. Michael Giesler, Father Michael Giesler, Michael Edward Giesler and just Michael Giesler. Based on how wonderful this book was I have already picked up his three historical fiction novels and look forward to reading them. One other strange thing about this series before I get to the review, Books 1 and 3 have eBook, kindle and print editions, where book 2 only has a print edition. But back to this specific book.

My first reaction after reading this book was WOW! I could barely put this book down. I read it on my commute to work, and it took all my discipline to put it down and start work when I should. But I ended up reading both my coffee breaks, and through my whole lunch. That is how addictive this book is. And I am very thankful I have books 2 and 3 ready to go. 

Yes, this book is a fictional story. But it is based in on a lot of history. There are stories of numerous saints from this time that this story mirrors. Saint Philomena among others. This story revolves around Junia, a roman citizen, and daughter of a senator who is about to become consul to the emperor. She is beautiful, intelligent, and loved by most. But in first century Rome, not all things are as they appear. After the death of her closest friend in the colosseum for being a Christian, she is drawn to the Christian faith. And soon one of her rivals in Roman society sets out to destroy her. She is given a choice of worship the emperor and renounce Christ or die. 

From the beginning readers know where this story is heading. But how father Giesler gets us there is masterfully done. As a first work if fiction the writing in this book is incredible. The characters are fully fleshed out. The pacing is excellent. The plot based on historical facts will transport you back in time. And based on the political culture today maybe a reminder of what may yet come to pass. 

As mentioned this book is a page turner, once you start reading you will not want to put it down. And the story continues a few weeks after the events of this book in Marcus. I read a lot of books, I average over 100 a year and this is an incredible piece of Christian fiction! A great read that I give a solid 5/5 Stars! 

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

Books by Rev. Michael Giesler:
You See Me, You Hear Me
Guidebook for Confessors
Family Grace: A Story of Conversion Through Friendship
Called by Name: Twelve Guideline Meditations for Diocesan Priests


Spanish Editions:
Dios te ve y te oye


Christian Historical Fiction Trilogy:
Grain Of Wheat


Friday, 12 October 2018

Finding Our Way Home A Family's Story of Life, Love, and Loss - J. Damon Dagnone

Finding Our Way Home: 
A family's story of life, love, and loss
J. Damon Dagnone
ISBN 9781723876165

This book was recommended on Facebook by a friend. I am very thankful it was, because I likely would not have stumbled across it otherwise. This book is not an easy read. Following this couple, this family as they journey through illness, loss and recovery is not a trip for the tepid. But for those willing to pick up the book. Damon does an incredible job or presenting their 12 year journey. He doesn’t seem to pull any punches. He is open, venerable, and at times the emotions are still very raw.

As a parent of a child with a medical condition reading this book stirs some of the worst-case scenarios. And as a fellow parent I cannot imaging this journey. But what is incredible is that you hear about so many couples that do not make it through a serious illness and death of a child. What Damon does in this book is give us a story of hope. Through their pain, their suffering, their continued process, and processing of this they give other parents hope. I would not want to be reading this book while going through critical care with a child. But am very thankful to have read it.

Damon chronicles the 12 years more as an autobiography. The book begins with these words:

“In the spring of 2006, I had just celebrated my thirty-third birthday and life was pretty great. The flowers and trees were blooming, the kids were outside playing with their friends, my residency in Emergency Medicine was nearing completion, and we were off to Disney World for our first family vacation. It was apparent to my wife Trisha and me that we had everything we could ever want. Our boys – four-year-old Thai and two-year-old Callum – were our pride and joy.

To say our vacation was the trip of a lifetime would be an understatement. The kids had such a good time just getting there – riding in the shuttle bus, going up and down the airport escalators, flying on the plane, then taking the tramway train and the express bus to Disney World – that once we reached the gates and they saw the giant images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Callum said, “Daddy, is it time to go home now? I’ve had so much fun!”

We had a perfect week seeing all the Disney characters and visiting the pavilions, riding the spinning teacups, buying overpriced balloons, eating popsicles and ice cream, and swimming in the endless number of pools at our hotel. Our trip was truly magical, except for the three occasions when Callum vomited for no apparent reason. The first time was in a restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, before dinner. The second was a few days later, right after we met Mary Poppins and Cinderella at breakfast. The third was at the end of our trip, in the Toronto airport. After the third episode Trisha and I were scared, Trisha even more than me as mothers generally have the best instincts when something is wrong with their child.”

They returned home, and the joy of that vacation quickly turned into every parent’s nightmare. Callum had been diagnosed with cancer, a brain tumor. And that is the start of the 12 years covered in this volume. The years of medical tests, treatments, surgery. Of trips back and forth between home, hospital in Kingston, and Sick Kids in Toronto.

It is also the story of life after the loss. Of returning to work or decided what to do in the future. Of first, second third even 9th anniversaries of the events that changed their life forever. Damon shares about some turning points. He has three realizations that helped him turn the corner:

“More months passed, and after a lot of personal reflection, I came to three realizations. The first was that shit happens. I asked myself, When things don’t go your way, how are you going to deal with it? Who do you want to be? How do you want to define yourself? The only way forward was positivity. Negativity would take me, and us, backwards. I decided it was time to accept defeat.

My second realization was that I loved who Trisha and I were. I loved our awesome children and our relationship with each other. In many respects, I had precisely the life I wanted. Despite losing Callum, Trisha and I had managed to find our way down the road, and I was proud of how far we’d come.
We’d always supported each other and worked towards being the best versions of ourselves, imperfect of course, but continually striving. I decided to cut myself some slack and be prouder of what we’d accomplished so far.

The third and last realization was definitely the most important one. I realized that I did have the ability to feel happier than I thought. The last year had proven this to me, especially during Trisha’s short pregnancy, when I’d been extremely happy. Maybe I could never have the pure depth of feeling I’d known before Callum’s illness, but I could achieve a lot more than I’d given myself credit for. Despite the disappointments and heartache, I had a renewed sense of hope and confidence. I’d felt happy and content for long enough this time that I knew we would continue to move forward.”

I am not prone to tears. But this book brought them to my eyes, more than once. I did not know Damon, but I was in school with his older brother. Many of the places they mention in Kingston I am familiar with. But I am so thankful to have read this book. In university I did two different courses on literature around death and grief. One focused on children’s literature, and the other was more general. This book would be a great addition to the curriculum of the latter, and the list of the family’s favorite books at the end could be a source for optional readings for the Children’s course. There are few books I read that I think everyone would benefit from reading, some because of political or religious views, some because of where people are at in life. This is a book I believe every adult would benefit from reading. For those who have gone through a loss, it might serve as a mirror. For others it will serve as a guide for how to help and support, and hopefully how not to help or try and support. I know a few physicians I have encountered at McMaster Children’s hospital who would benefit from reading it also. As such I think it would be a great addition to curriculum on patient care.

I strongly encourage you to pick up this book and give it a read, it will not only be of personal benefit but of benefit to friends and family you know. And thank you Damon for being so vulnerable and transparent in sharing your story!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

A Rosary Litany - Fr. Edward Looney

A Rosary Litany
Fr. Edward Looney
Our Sunday Visitor
ISBN 9781681923376

This book was first published in 2016 and is now republished in 2018. And with the reprinting it has a new cover and also an eBook edition. Over the last few years I have read a number of books about the Rosary, I have several others on my to be read list. And have read many over all my years of reading. And this book was a wonderful surprise. The description of this book is:

""A Rosary Litany" reintroduces the Christian faithful to a pious custom of praying the rosary, promoted by St. Louis de Montfort, and recommended by Bl. Paul VI and St. John Paul II. Fr. Looney recommends several phrases which could be inserted into the Hail Mary after the names of Jesus or Mary. Inserting these phrases guides and focuses one's meditation on the rosary mystery and when prayed in succession, the rosary becomes litany-like."

And the chapters are:

The Rationale Behind A Rosary Litany
How to Use A Rosary Litany
From the Popes

Joyful Mysteries
1. Annunciation
2. Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
3. Birth of Jesus
4. Presentation in the Temple
5. Finding of Jesus in the Temple

Luminous Mysteries
1. Baptism in the River Jordan
2. Wedding Feast at Cana
3. Proclamation of the Kingdom
4. Transfiguration
5. Institution of the Holy Eucharist

Sorrowful Mysteries
1. Agony in the Garden
2. Scourging at the Pillar
3. Crowning with Thorns
4. Carrying of the Cross
5. Crucifixion

Glorious Mysteries
1. Resurrection
2. Ascension
3. Descent of the Holy Spirit
4. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
5. Coronation of Mary

About the Author

Father Looney in the introduction states:

"Perhaps in our technological era, which is consumed by noise, people are no longer able to be still for twenty minutes to bring themselves into the presence of God and reflect. It has become difficult to meditate on one thing for a short amount of time because our thoughts are fleeting and the worries of life distract us. That is why, in recent years, Rosary devotional books have been written - to assist in the meditative and contemplative aspect of the Rosary.

This small devotional book, A Rosary Litany, reintroduces the Christian faithful to an old custom of praying the Rosary. Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, in The Secret of the Rosary, proposed for devotional purposes the addition of a meditative element to the Hail Mary prayer.

Popes Paul VI, in Marialis Cultus, and John Paul II, in Rosarium Virginis Mariae, also encouraged this devotion. These additional phrases guide and focus the meditation of the mystery within the context of the Hail Mary.

In each decade of A Rosary Litany, the de Montfort suggestion is provided, in addition to several other invocations that could be inserted after the name of Jesus or Mary. When prayed in succession, the Rosary becomes like a litany, on account of the varied invocations.

This book is a wonderful devotional guide. It was a very interesting read and wonderful way to read the rosary. In the chapter 'How to Use A Rosary Litany' we are offered three main ways to use a Rosary litany. Over all this is a wonderful little book. Over the last year I have read two other wonderful books on the rosary, first Marrying the Rosary to the Divine Mercy Chaplet by Shane Kapler and the other was Rediscover the Rosary: The Modern Power of an Ancient Prayer by Matthew Kelly. What I loved about the Kapler book was there were audio download links in the book, and you could download mp3's of the different mysteries. My son and I have been praying this version for over a year now. And that would be my only recommendation for this book, I would love to have audio downloads of even a few of the litany variations that I could pray along to while commuting to work. But other than that, this is an excellent book. If you already have a devotion to the rosary this book will help you experience it in a new way. And if you do not it is an excellent jumping off point. This book is wonderful, and I give it a solid 5/5 stars! I have already picked up father Looney's 'A Heart Like Mary's: 31 Daily Meditations to Help You Live and Love as She Does' and added it to my reading list. Give this little volume a try you will not be disappointed!

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

Books by Fr. Edward Looney:
A Heart Like Mary's: 31 Daily Meditations to Help You Live and Love as She Does
Our Lady of Good Help Mary's Message and Mission for Adele Brise and the World
A Rosary Litany

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Battle of Lake Erie - David Vining - One Young American's Adventure in the War of 1812

The Battle of Lake Erie: 
One Young American's Adventure in the War of 1812
David Vining
ISBN 9781718004528


I have not read a lot of books about navel warfare. The few I have I have appreciated. And I greatly enjoyed the few novels in the Aubrey & Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. This book combines the best of both worlds. It is a masterfully told story of the battle of Lake Erie. It is history brought to life. As a Canadian, I have encountered few American's who are familiar with the war of 1812. To read an account of one of America's most important victories of the war is intriguing from foreign eyes. 

The story follows the leadership of Oliver Hazard Perry over the American squadron on the great lakes. Oliver's younger brother, James Alexander, serves as a midshipman on board the American flagship. The story follows the brothers through this historic battle. 

Vining is either an amateur historian or an impeccable researcher. And maybe both. The attention to detail in the battles, life on ship, and navel warfare are exceptional. That is why the book reminds me so much of Patrick O'Brian. As such there is a great attention to details. But unlike O'Brian's writings this story is written from actual events. Readers will find themselves immersed in the battle. Now yes it takes some time for the set up, but that is part of the beauty of this work, the stage is set properly. And once the battle begins the reader is invested, especially with the midshipmen. 

As a first novel this is a fantastic read. The author has a passion for the subject, and his passion is contagious. His potential for excellence is clear. And I thoroughly enjoyed this read.

This book was recommended to me by and author whose works I love. I am always a little weary approaching new author, so I had picked up one of Vining's collection of short stories, A Light in the Darkness, to read first. It was an excellent read and I had picked up this novel and another of the collections of short stories. Before I had even finished this novel, I had purchased the other three collections of stories. That is how good Vining's writings are! 

An excellent read by a young author whose career I am eager to follow. Excellent for fans of historical fiction, for fans of navel warfare, or just for people who enjoy a great read!

Books by David Vining:
A Quest Through Winter Sleep
The Battle of Lake Erie: One Young American's Adventure in the War of 1812

Collections of Short Stories:
Shoes for Two Soldier Sons
Old Magic in a New World
A Light in the Darkness
A Boy and His Satellite

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Walking with the Celtic Saints: A Devotional - Andrew M. Seddon and Neil Kennedy-Jones and Gerlinde Kennedy-Jones

Walking with the Celtic Saints: A Devotional
Andrew M. Seddon 
Neil Kennedy-Jones
Gerlinde Kennedy-Jones
The Crossroad Publishing Company
ISBN 9780824522643

It seams over the last year I have had a renewed interest in Celtic Saints. I have had this book for a few years. It has sat on my bed site table reading pile. And on my dresser reading pile. I just have a hard time getting around to reading physical books with being on the go so much. I took it on retreat with me recently and read it over the free time on the final day. I absolutely loved it and am now in the process of reading it a second time with my 10 year old son. I have read a few books by Andrew M. Seddon, but had not encountered Neil and 
Gerlinde Kennedy-Jones prior to this book. (And as far as I can tell this is their only published work.)

The description of this book is:

"This light and enjoyable book is a series of stories and reflections on the Celtic saints. Each of the 15 chapters begins with a semi-fictional story or event from the life of a saint, showing some characteristic quality for which he or she is known. This is followed by a reflection that combines history and inspiration. Then comes a short original poem, scripture, meditation, and a blessing. A website connected with the book will offer fully arranged original hymns to accompany the poems."

The description on the dust jacket is:

"To enrich your family devotion, personal reflection, and book reading group, Walking with the Celtic Saints presents original tales that take you into the heart of Celtic Spirituality. As you read these original poems, reflections, meditations, and blessings, you'll walk with 15 people who can teach us important lessons about what matters most. Subjects include family, compassion and sharing, the Celtic cross, and the love of nature."

The 15 saints portrayed in the book are:

St. Brynach
St. Nectan
St. Patrick
St. Brendan
St. Edna
St. Baithen
St. Edfrith
St. Ceolfrid
St. Nathalan
St. Gwinear
St. Myllin
St. Aidrian
St. John of Beverley
St. Moling
St. Samson

The chapters are:

Journeying into the Garden
Breaking Bread Together
Stones and Psalms
Opening Creation's Book
The Celtic Cross
Showing God's Love
Working Together
A Written Treasure
Working in the World
Songs of Encouragement
A Call to Quietness
Soldiers for Christ
Trinity and Unity
Free Gifts
The Call to Care
Notes on the Saints

Each chapter in the book follows the same format. The sections in the chapters are:
The Story about the Saint
A Reflection
A Poem

In some ways this book reminds me of A Book of Irish American Blessings & Prayers by Andrew M. Greely. But with the addition of the story and reflection it goes that much further. This book is a wonderful read on many levels. My son really appreciates the story and reflection sections, while I love the invocation, poem and blessings. 

This book is a wonderful collection. The concept and execution is excellent. It was a joy to read. I just wish an eBook version existed, not only would I have read it much earlier, but know many people who would read it in that format. As it is I will pick up a few copies to give away this year at Christmas. Another excellent book about saints by Andrew M. Seddon, and this time with two co-authors. 

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

Books by Andrew M. Seddon:

Walking with the Celtic Saints (with Neil & Gerlinde Kennedy-Jones)

Historical Fiction:
Saints Alive Volume I - Saints of Empire
Saints Alive Volume II - Celtic Paths
Imperial Legions

Other Books:
Ring of Time
Iron Scepter
Wreaths of Empire
The Deathcats of Asa'ican and Other Tales of a Space Vet
Red Planet Rising
Tales from the Brackenwood Ghost Club
What Darkness Remains

Contributed to:
Sky Songs
Sky Songs II
Infinite Space Infinite God II
Fungi #20
The Tanist's Wife and other stories
Unintended Consequences
Silent Screams: An Anthology of Socially Conscious Dark Fiction
Eldritch Embraces: Putting the Love Back in Lovecraft
Tails from the Front Lines

Author Profile and interview with Andrew M Seddon.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Overcoming Lukewarmness Healing Your Soul's Sadness - Francis Fernandez-Carvajal

Overcoming Lukewarmness: Healing Your Soul's Sadness
Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9781594171437

Previously Published as:

Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise
Francis Carvajal
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9789711170516
Sinag Tala
ISBN 9789715540896

I owned the first edition of this book called, ‘Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise’ but lent it out and never got around to replacing it. The revised edition is called ‘Overcoming Lukewarmness: Healing Your Soul's Sadness’ and is an incredible read. Occasionally when I read a book, especially one I have had a while, or known about for a while, I really regret not having read it earlier. This is one of those times. Even while I was reading it, I could not but wish I had read it sooner. The forward of the revised edition of this book states:

“Every book has a small history. This one was born of a meditation during a few days of spiritual retreat. It appeared later, enlarged, with the title Lukewarmness. That was in 1978. Since then, the original Spanish edition has reached its twelfth printing.

Now, having wholly updated it with the experience of more than a few years, it appears with a new title: Overcoming Lukewarmness: Healing Your Soul’s Sadness. Lukewarmness is a pathology of love that puts the ideals of the Christian to sleep. It can be found, hidden, close to and constantly stalking the life of our first surrender, the joyful following of Jesus, that it tries to destroy or at least hinder.

Lukewarmness is, precisely, the great hidden enemy of that love, aging and destroying it, though that may be difficult to notice, particularly at the beginning. It is like those silent diseases that little by little extend into the whole organism, while the infected man barely notices his condition until it is pervasive. To lukewarmness we can apply words of an Italian poet describing a mortally wounded soldier: andava camminando ed era morto—he was walking and was dead.”

There are so many great reads, and so many books I want to read. And yet my first thought upon finishing this book, was that I will need to read it again. The chapters in this book are:

1. Created for Happiness
2. To Follow Jesus
3. Shortsighted and “Tired”: Lukewarmness
4. When Everything Is Hard
5. I Seek Your Face
6. Love and Little Things
7. The Wide Road
8. With the Light of Faith
9. Venial Sins and Lukewarmness
10. The Daughters of Lukewarmness
11. The Love of God and of Others
12. Who Fixes Us?
13. Embers

This book is not the work of one man. Francis Fernandez-Carvajal draws extensively from the Catechism, the writings of the popes and the saints both ancient and modern. A few of the paragraphs that really stuck with me are

“The real cause of sadness isn’t so much external problems as interior ones—sin of any kind and that special crisis of the theological virtues called indifference, suffered by the lukewarm soul. A Christian with this sickness loses joy little by little, his happiness of heart slips away almost without his realizing it, and his soul ages.”

“Lukewarmness always supposes a crisis of hope, losing heart, along with a crisis of faith and love. For the lukewarm person, Christ is a vague figure, insubstantial, with features poorly defined. The soul does not dare to make the generous affirmations of former days. Less is enough.”

“Lukewarmness arises from prolonged neglect in the interior life. It is always preceded by numerous small unfaithful acts. Unless these are repented of, the guilt weighs heavily on the relationship of such a soul with God.”

“The lukewarm man little by little forces God from his heart and grows solitary. Then he must flee from himself, do things so as to feel useful. Often he plunges into activities with all his strength, as if his very life depended on it.”

This book was recommended to me again recently while on retreat. I already had the book but not got around to reading it. There have been times my spiritual life has become arid, and spiritually lethargic. This book gives us tools to counter that. In the book of Revelation, Jesus speaks very strongly about lukewarness. And this book helps us understand why. 

The author of this book wrote the incredible In Conversation with God series, a seven-volume set that I have been read for almost 30 years now. His books are available in English published under the names, Francis Fernandez-Carvajal, Francis Carvajal, Francis Fernandez, and Francis Fernandez Carvajal but no matter what name they are published under these books are invaluable for spiritual growth. And this one deals with a topic that all Christians should be concerned about in today’s culture, both within and outside the church.

This is one of the best Catholic books I have read in the last few years, and I give it my highest recommendation.

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

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

In Conversation with God:

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

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