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Monday, 18 February 2019

From Temperament to Character - Alexandre Havard - On Becoming A Virtuous Leader

From Temperament to Character:
On Becoming A Virtuous Leader
Alexandre Havard

Scepter Publishers
eISBN 9781594173370
ASIN B07MQFW42T



Alexandre Havard is the founder of the Virtuous Leadership System, prior to the publication of this volume he has written two other books on leadership. The book Virtuous Leadership is considered by many one of the best books on the topic. And Created for Greatness, focuses on self leadership. The author came highly recommended to me, and before even finishing this book, I picked up another to have it on hand once I finished this book. This book is written geared at business leaders, but the lessons can be applied by those of who want to lead ourselves, lead our families, and lead in our parishes and communities. The main focus of the book is that Virtuous Leadership can only truly succeed with a basic understanding of temperament and character, which, together constitute our personality. Part of the description of the book states:

“The Virtuous Leadership approach to temperament affirms the legitimate diversity of our physiological and psychological makeup, and proposes that temperament, rightly understood, undergirds the efforts of all persons to flourish and achieve excellence.”

And the rest of the book fleshes out what that looks like for us. The chapters in this volume are:

Foreword by Cameron Thompson, PhD
Preface
1. Temperament and Character
2. The Virtues of Character
3. The Cholerics: Their Personal Challenges
4. The Melancholics: Their Personal Challenges
5. The Sanguines: Their Personal Challenges
6. The Phlegmatics: Their Personal Challenges
7. Develop the Virtue You Are Challenged By
8. Discover Your Mission
9. The Foundation and Essence of Leadership
10. Self-Knowledge
11. An Active Heart
12. Why Serve?
13. The Upward Spiral of Growth
14. Magnanimity and Humility Go Hand in Hand
15. Virtue Ethics
16. Virtuous Leadership and Management
17. Virtuous Leadership and Education
18. Virtuous Leadership and Success

Once I started reading this book it was hard to put down. The further in the more work I realized that I need. And the more effort I need to put in. This is a book that will help us close the gap between who we want to be and who we currently are. It will help us become better at being. My first time through I highlighted over 50 passages in this book. Here is a sampling of those passages that hit me:

“On the foundation of temperament, we build character. Character is made up of virtues. The most important virtues are prudence, courage, self-mastery, justice, magnanimity, and humility. Virtues are moral habits, acquired through training. We are not born with character; it is something we build.”

“A leader is a mature person, but maturity (or integrity) is not his essential characteristic. Striving for greatness and devotion to service—these are his specific traits.”

“IN ORDER TO IMPROVE, we need to strengthen our heart (through humility and magnanimity), our intellect (through prudence), and our will (through courage, self-mastery and justice). Reason, will, and the heart blend seamlessly in the human person. We cannot separate them from each other without doing enormous damage to all three. Rationalists elevate the mind above all things, voluntarists the will, and sentimentalists the heart. Each approach corrupts them all.”

“If the virtues of the will and the heart cannot develop in the absence of prudence, likewise prudence cannot develop in the absence of the virtues of the will and the heart. Why? Because the intellect (our prudence) interprets reality through the lens forged by the will and the heart. The proud judge as true whatever flatters their pride; the intemperate, whatever helps them acquire power, money, or pleasure; the pusillanimous, whatever justifies their small-heartedness.”

“MAGNANIMITY AND HUMILITY ARE inseparable. Magnanimity without humility is pride, and humility without magnanimity is pusillanimity. One needs a pure heart, a strong will, and a bright intellect not to break the intimate link that unites these two virtues. Magnanimity and humility go hand in hand. An important aspect of humility is to acknowledge our dignity, talents, and greatness. And when we speak of magnanimity, we must never forget to mention that our dignity, talents, and greatness are gifts from God.”

“THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF ETHICS: rules-based ethics and virtue ethics. In the first system, an action is correct if it conforms to the rule, incorrect if it does not. In the second system, good is that which brings us closer to human excellence, bad that which leads us away from it.”

“Virtue gives us many things: spiritual freedom, unity of life, wisdom, creativity, and cultural maturity. Virtue is the only way to achieve self-realization.”

“Virtues, by contrast, help you behave virtuously always and everywhere: at work, with your family, among friends, during free time, and even when you are alone. Virtue unifies your personality and daily activities, both public and private, making the living of a double life impossible.”

“WE SEEK VIRTUE FIRST AND FOREMOST in order to achieve human excellence, and secondarily to become effective as human beings. Virtue means first excellence in being (aretÄ“, in Greek) and secondarily effectiveness in action (virtus, in Latin).”

“Prudence, courage, self-mastery and justice are the foundation of leadership, whereas magnanimity and humility constitute the essence of leadership.”

I hope those few quotes will give you some insight into how great this book is. And that they will inspire you to pick it up and give it a read.

This book is one of those pivotal books in a reader’s life. It is one of the best leadership or personal development books I have read. It is a book that I would add to my list of ‘Life Changing Books’. And one I know I will return to and reread again and again. Always looking to work on improvement, striving not for perfection but for perfect effort. It is an incredible read and I challenge you to read it and see if it can help transform your life and help you lead by that example.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Alexandre Havard:
Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence
Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity
From Temperament to Character: On Becoming A Virtuous Leader
My Russian Way: a spiritual autobiography




Saturday, 16 February 2019

Remember Your Death Memento Mori Journal - Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP

Remember Your Death
Memento Mori Journal:
Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 
9780819865212


I have previously reviewed ‘Remember Your Death Memento Mori: A Lenten Devotional’ and now it is time to review the companion volume, the ‘Remember Your Death: Memento Mori Journal’. This book is designed so that it can be used in several ways. It can be used as a workbook during lent with the Lenten Devotional. It can be uses for keeping a record of your daily Examen. Or just as a spiritual journal. The sections of this book are:

Introduction
How to Use This Journal
247 Journal Pages
Memento Mori Prayers
     Short Memento Mori Aspirations
     Prayer for a Holy Death
     Hail Mary
     Te Deum
     Prayer to Jesus Life
     Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving
     Anima Christie
     Ancient Prayer to the Virgin Mary
     Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel
     Prayer to Saint Joseph for a Happy Death
     Prayer to the God of Truth
     Prayer to Our Mother of Mercy
     Prayer to Jesus, Fountain of Living Water
     Prayer for a Good Death
     Eternal Rest Prayer for the Deceased
     Prayer for the Faithful Departed
     In Paradisum
     Prayer for Departed Relatives and friends
     Prayer for God’s Mercy
     Prayer for the Dying
Acknowledgements

The 247 Journal pages each have quote at the top of the page. Some are by the author, some contributed but unattributed, many from the bible and the saints, popes and even one from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  few are taken from literature, for example William Shakespeare, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oscar Wilde, and Blaise Pascal. 

The introduction reminds us that “Remembering one’s death is an absolutely essential aspect of the Christian life, not only because it helps us to live well, but also because it helps us to remember what Christ has done for us. Jesus trampled death!” The section on how to use this journal outlines four ways it can be used other than just as a journal. How to use it to journal with intention or a plan. 

This is a beautifully crafted hard cover journal. And when you combine the quality of the construction with the ways to use it, and the quotes to inspire thoughtful reflection it becomes even more of a treasure. I am sure anyone blessed with a copy of this journal who uses it will be blessed. 

My only wish is that an eBook edition would be released for those of us prefer an electronic library and who keep electronic journals. I feel I will be transcribing the quotes from the book to my eJournal as lent proceeds this year. But even with that personal wish, I cannot think of a single reason not to recommend this volume. Especially if you will use it in conjunction with the Lenten Devotional

An excellent toot for helping you to grow in your faith. It will help you remember your death; and live better now while doing so. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP:
Remember Your Death: Memento Mori A Lenten Devotional
Remember Your Death: Memento Mori Journal
The Prodigal You Love





Friday, 15 February 2019

Rome: A Pilgrim's Companion - David Baldwin - CTS Christian Shrines Series

Rome: A Pilgrim's Companion
CTS Christian Shrines Series
David Baldwin
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860823251
eISBN 9781784693077
ASIN B071GBTX5H
CTS Booklet D676


This is the sixth book in the CTS Christian Shrines Series that I have read. I have long had an interest in Pilgrimage. I have written about personal pilgrimage, and desire for pilgrimage previously. While in university doing a Religious Studies Degree with a specialization in Roman Catholic Thought I would have loved to have had this book, other in this series, and many from the CTS catalogue. I love a lot about this book, and this series. I love that the book can be used as a guide to plan and execute a pilgrimage. I have never been to Rome, and it is unlikely I ever will. This book allows me to virtually go on tour to Rome. I have read this book once and used adaptive technology and listed to it after finishing reading it. Having done several courses in both church and art history, while listening to this book I just closed my eyes and went on pilgrimage in my mind. I also love learning about the history, the devotion, and the prayers associated with Christian shrines. And Rome is one of the most important sites in Catholic tradition. And in this specific volume I love the prayers scattered throughout the text. I have copied a few into my journal and plan to use them often. David has written many of the books in this series and this one is one of the best so far.  The book is written to be a companion for visiting the eternal city but can be read an enjoyed even if you never plan to make it to Rome. The sections in this volume are:

Rome - The Eternal City
The Beginning
     Domine Quo Vadis?
     The Catacombs
     Three Special Places
Rome Today
     Weekly Events
     The Vatican
St Peter’s Basilica
     Some History
     Ground Level
     Below Ground
     Above Ground
Our Lady In Rome
     St Mary Major
     Four Historical Marian Churches
Pilgrimage To The Seven Churches
     St Paul’s Outside The Walls
     Basilica Of St Sebastian
     St John Lateran
     The Holy Cross In Jerusalem
     St Lawrence Outside The Walls
The Saints In Rome
Journey’s End
Suggested Itineraries
Rome - A Timeline
Index

This volume begins with these words:

“There is no other place in the world such as Rome that portrays the story of Christianity - and the human condition - on such an expansive and vivid, yet compact tapestry. It presents a wealth of physical evidence reaching back through the millennia, and in so doing, evokes many emotions, rekindles many memories, and brings to light fresh sentiments and perspectives about one’s Christian faith, as seen through the places, people and events - past and present - that drove it forward, and continues to do so, in such a powerful and enduring manner.”

And that is the sense the reader gets from this volume. It is part travel guide, part art history, and part prayer book. For those planning on going to Rome, you can follow specific plans outlined in this volume, or you can pick and choose and build your own tour based on the information contained within. It also has clear information of specific events that take place and when that would be of interest. There are three separate pilgrim paths you could choose to follow: Our Lady in Rome, The Pilgrimage to the Seven Churches, and The Saints in Rome.

At the end of the volume is a brief timeline of Rome. And an excellent index. The index has three sections, Index of Churches and Basilicas, Index of Places, and an Index of People. When you consider the information presented in this volume and how it is presented, and combine that with the prayers and meditations throughout the book, it is in many ways an essential guide for those going in person to Rome, and a wonderful resource for those of us who will experience Rome through the book alone.

The CTS Christian Shrines Series seems to have two main styles of books. Pilgrimage companions and books focusing on the message from the shrine. This book is from the first category. And from the three I have read so far the best yet. There are also numerous other books from CTS that could support your quest for knowledge on pilgrimages and Christian shrines. This was a wonderful read, and I look forward to exploring more in the Christian Shrines Series. And highly recommend this wonderful series and specifically this excellent volume. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Other Books in the CTS Christian Shrines Series:
Message of Assisa
Message of Fatima
Message of Guadalupe
Message of Walsingham
Santiago: Santiago de Compostela - The Pilgrim Way of St James
The Message of Carmel at Aylesford

Pilgrim’s Companions:
Why Pilgrimage?
Fatima - A Pilgrim's Companion
Glastonbury - A Pilgrim's Companion
Holy Land - A Pilgrim's Companion
Lisieux - A Pilgrim's Companion
Poland: A Pilgrim's Companion
Rome - A Pilgrim's Companion







Thursday, 14 February 2019

Relic of His Heart - Jane Lebak

Relic of His Heart
Jane Lebak
Philangelus Press

ISBN 9781942133261
eISBN 9781942133278
ASIN B07G5L16Y9


This is the fourth story I have read by Jane Lebak, and the first of her Angel books. It is very different than her Father Jay Farrell series: Bulletproof Vestments, The Boys Upstairs, and A Different Heroism. I am always a little leery about books featuring angles, both fiction and non-fiction. But after how much I loved the father Jay series I should have been more willing to trust the pen of Jane Lebak. I hard a really hard time putting this novel down. I started reading before bed and stayed up too late. The next day I read it on my commute to work, I read through my lunch and both my coffee breaks and finished the book in under 24 hours. And on my way home that night started reading a collection of Lebak’s short stories.

This book has a bit of everything in for the connoisseur of Catholic fiction. There is an angel, a relic, a war crime. Our protagonist is a wid-wife who has been approached by an Archangel to help find a relic that has been missing for 80 years. The story is part contemporary fiction, and part historical fiction. It has two Italian families who have been feuding longer than anyone can remember. Tessa is a midwife and loves her work. She is a caregiver. And when the angel appears to her again asking for help finding a relic. She only agrees to help if the angel will help in any ways he can influence a bill that will essentially end midwifery in Massachusetts. Tessa’s husband, Gary, is a freelance writer, and he writes a piece about the missing relic, and the effects of war. As he researches to find more info soon both Tessa and Gary and on the hunt. And that first article has poked the bee’s nest. Both of the families in Italy have reached out, a solder comes forward to tell a story, and another soldiers family is threatening legal action. There is a lot to unravel, and with the angel jumping around it time, things get more than a little confusing for Tessa. 

This story was a great read. Theologically I am not sure it is 100%. But as a work of fiction it will make you think. Help you see the world in a different light. And maybe stir you to prayer. I loved the characters, Tessa, Gary, and the Archangel have some very interesting interactions. I find the history in this story especially interesting. The history of a town, the local parish, and the two feuding families. Also the story of the soldiers and what really happened that night as it is unravelled from the mists of time and legends. 

As mentioned, I was hesitant to read Lebak’s books about angels, after how much I enjoyed this one I am likely to devour the rest. A great read, and I look forward to reading more from Lebak’s pen.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!


Books by Jane Lebak:
Pickup Notes
Love's Highway
Forever And For Keeps
Half Missing

Relic of His Heart
With Two Eyes Into Gehenna
...

Father Jay Series:
Bulletproof Vestments
The Boys Upstairs
A Different Heroism

...

Seven Archangels:
1.0 An Arrow In Flight
2.0 Sacred Cups
3.0 Shattered Walls
4.0 The Wrong Enemy
5.0 Annihilation


Seven Archangels Short Stories:
2.1 Damage
2.2 Even A Stone
2.3 Hired Man
2.4 Winter Branches
5.5 Once Only

Seven Angels Short Story Bundle 2.1-2.4

The Adventures of Lee and Bucky:
1.0 Honest And For True
2.0 Upsie-Daisy

Rails of Sweet Grove:
2.0 Love's Rules of the Road

Non-Fiction:
Carrying to Term: A Guide for Parents after a Devastating Prenatal Diagnosis




Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Seven Angels Short Story Bundle - Jane Lebak

Relic of His Heart
Jane Lebak
Philangelus Press

ISBN 9781942133261
eISBN 9781942133278
ASIN B07G5L16Y9


This volume contains four previously published volumes and a few extra stories. Prior to picking up this collection I had read the four volumes but grabbed this to be able to read the extra stories. But reread all the stories as they appeared in this collection because they are so good. The stories in this collection are:

Even A Stone 
Rent An Angel 
Mice In The Pantry (Gabriel) 
Guardian Angels Online 
How Angels Fledge 
A Rock For Christmas 
Hired Man (Gabriel II) 
Right Behind You 
Inhuman Resources 
Never Pray For Patience 
The Gold Star Saints 
Damage 
Winter Branches 

The stories encompassed a wide rang of themes, and span from the far past to today. The portrayal of angels, their lives, their work, and even to some extant their hopes is intriguing. I have yet to read any of the novels in the Seven Archangels Series but know that I will read them all. For the sampling of stories, we get in this collection is just brilliant. And now a brief review of each story:

Even A Stone 

A humorous story about a Knight with questionable intent, who encounters an Archangel sitting on a rock as punishment. An interesting twist of fate in this story. Dragons, Knights, and Angels oh my.

Rent An Angel 

What could go wrong when two angels decide to get into the entrepreneurial spirit? They offer their services for compensation. That compensation can be a call to your mother, a good deed, write a letter to grandma, and more. But soon business is spiraling out of hand and between growing business and repeat customers things are about to come to a head. And that happens when the Archangel Gabriel appears in the office of the two and begins an Audit.

Mice In The Pantry (Gabriel) 

This is one of two stories that appears also in the volume Hired Man. In this story Gabriel is working as a hired hand in the house of Tobias. Yes, that Tobias from the book of the bible, but based on this story it is many years after the biblical account, or an alternate time line. Gabriel feels a great strain trying to save a child’s life without his angelic powers. It is a moving story.

Guardian Angels Online 

This short piece is written as entries in an Angelic online form. With Subjects, poster name, and number of replies. There is a lot of humour in this piece like a reminder from the admin: 
“-if you’re using your charge’s computer, please be sure to log off after each session and clear the cache and the history.  
-please no “me too” postings”
The wit and witticism in this piece is exceptional. 

How Angels Fledge 

A powerful poem.

A Rock For Christmas 

A guardian angel of a Star? “And so, with no planetary guardians to banter with, Orithnael had settled in for a few billion years of catching up on his reading. That and what he’d come to know was the norm for guarding a fusion reactor: long days of boredom punctuated by moments of panic.” His friends all celebrating Christmas on earth. But he receives a surprise gift. 

Hired Man (Gabriel II) 

We return to the angel Gabriel in this story and to the family of Tobias. For a second time during his year of service Gabriel is called upon to help in a medical emergency. This time a birthing. And now I am desperate to read more of Gabriel’s time in the house of Tobit. 

Right Behind You 

This story so skewers the Left Behind series and phenomena in mainline Evangelical Christianity. It is satire at it’s best. I did laugh out loud. 

Inhuman Resources 

Another piece of Satire. Satan comes home from a day at work to his apartment. It has been invaded by one demon who just cant seem to keep his post, and soon a few others join the pity party. One of the best lines in this one is: “Satan dropped onto the couch. Sometimes he wondered why he’d rebelled: in Heaven, God handled the staffing issues.”

Never Pray For Patience 

This offering is a chapter from a novel, Honest and for True, I have not read the novel, but this story sure makes me want to. I found myself losing patience for the main character myself! 

The Gold Star Saints 

This one is social commentary on the participant award generation. The generation where everyone is supposed to feel special, everyone gets a medal or ribbon, and no one fails. 

Damage 

This is one hell of a story. Literally. A demon is assigned to be a guardian angel for a baby who is anencephalic. But a strange connection develops. It is also a powerful testimony for the pro-life movement because of being written from personal experience. It is a very moving read.

Winter Branches

The story of an angel whose charge did not convert. An angel who feels like a failure. Who does not feel worthy of having another charge to care for. A story of grief and of loss. 

As can be seen from those brief summaries this is a masterful collection of stories some funny, some ironic, some with deep insight! One of the great things about this collection is that before each story Jane tells us the story of how the story came to be. These brief introductions are some times a few lines to a few paragraphs.

In summary this is a wonderful collection. My only regret is that it is not longer. I have found out there is another standalone published short story Once Only: A Seven Archangels Story, which I will be pursuing shortly! A few of these stories had me laughing out loud. A few inspired moments of prayer, for friends, and family. But not sure I am ready to pray for more patience just yet. Not sure I would survive the effort. Writing short stories, writing any short fiction is a craft unto itself. I know many readers who do not like anthologies, or short story collections but I love them. And this book is a masterfully written collection of stories about angels, and a demon or two. It is more then worth the price of this collection. I am sure there will be at least a few of the stories that move you. I have now read four novels, 4 published short story books and this collection, with everything I read I have a greater respect for Mrs. Lebak and her skill with the pen. Pick up the book and give a few stories a try! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Jane Lebak:
Pickup Notes
Love's Highway
Forever And For Keeps
Half Missing

Relic of His Heart
With Two Eyes Into Gehenna
...

Father Jay Series:
Bulletproof Vestments
The Boys Upstairs
A Different Heroism

...

Seven Archangels:
1.0 An Arrow In Flight
2.0 Sacred Cups
3.0 Shattered Walls
4.0 The Wrong Enemy
5.0 Annihilation


Seven Archangels Short Stories:
2.1 Damage
2.2 Even A Stone
2.3 Hired Man
2.4 Winter Branches
5.5 Once Only

Seven Angels Short Story Bundle 2.1-2.4

The Adventures of Lee and Bucky:
1.0 Honest And For True
2.0 Upsie-Daisy

Rails of Sweet Grove:
2.0 Love's Rules of the Road

Non-Fiction:
Carrying to Term: A Guide for Parents after a Devastating Prenatal Diagnosis







Tuesday, 12 February 2019

A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller Jr. - Saint Leibowitz Book 1

A Canticle for Leibowitz
Saint Leibowitz Book 1
Walter M. Miller Jr.
Bantam Spectra
ISBN 9780553379266

 


I originally read the short story by the same title as this novel in ‘Sacred Visions’ edited by Andrew M. Greeley and Michael Cassutt many years ago. I also have read the short story version in a few different courses in university. When reading this book and about the author I cannot help but think of another favorite Catholic author of mine, J.F. Powers. There are similarities between the two. Both wrote predominantly short stories. Both were heralded for their skill as writers. Both published novels that were in reality a compilation of short stories. Powers published two novels both won the Nation book award, and Miller only published this one novel, and it is clearly the rework of three short stories into a single-story spanning thousands of years. The difference between the two men is Powers wrote contemporary fiction, and Miller Science Fiction, and Powers was a life long Catholic and Miller a convert.

It is hard even today not to read a story like this and wonder if in some ways it will end up proving prophetic. Will mankind unleash a destruction, either through nuclear war, or EMP, or plague that will set us back to the dark ages? I loved the short story version of the first part of this novel. But the changes between that version and the novel cause one to wonder. The addition of the Latin. The changing of the Abbot’s name, and the addition of characters. The conflict between civil and ecclesial authorities in the novel are an important part of the story.

I find that reading a novel like this provides both hope and despair. Hope that the monasteries will continue to be repositories and protectors of knowledge. That there will be men of faith that will stand up for truth even if it is contrary to popular opinion and causes conflict with those in worldly power. With all that is going on in the church in 2018 and 2019 I wish we have more bishops with the temperaments and fortitude of the abbots we encounter in this novel. Each time I have encountered Saint Leibowitz I have come away thinking, and that is one of the great things that this novel does. It helps us to reflect, and maybe on some things we would rather not. But that we honestly should. And this time I will read ‘Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman’ and see where Miller started to take the story next.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Walter M. Miller Jr.:
St. Leibowitz Series:

A Canticle for Leibowitz
Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman

Collections of Short Stories:
Conditionally Human
The View from the Stars
The Science Fiction Stories of Walter M. Miller Jr.
The Best of Walter M. Miller Jr.
Conditionally Human and Other Stories
The Darfstellar and Other Stories





Monday, 11 February 2019

Mary Mysteries of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Francesca Aran Murphy - CTS Deeper Christianity Series

Mary: 
Mysteries of the Blessed Virgin Mary
CTS Deeper Christianity Series
Francesca Aran Murphy
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860824227
eISBN 9781784693466
ASIN B073FMGTHK
CTS Booklet SP17


I have now read over 50 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society over the last year. I first discovered them by tracking down out of print books by Irish author Alice Curtayne. From there have jumped off and read numerous books in several series and have over 100 in my wish list of books to be read. I have read CTS books that have been out of print for over 100 years, and some published in the last few months. All the books I have read have been rated 4 or 5 stars out of 5. And this one is a very solid 5 stars!  This volume is the fourth I have read in the Deeper Christianity Series, and every time I prepare a review I stumble across another volume or 2 in this series. There are currently 20 in the series that I have found, 16 are in print, and 15 are available as eBooks.

With each volume I finish in this series, I find that I am more eager to read the next. I have taken to alternating reading this series and another by CTS as a way of slowing down my progress a bit, least I devour the whole series and not get around to reviewing it. The specific chapters in this volume are:

The Practice of Marian Devotion
Apparitions, Hymns and Feasts
The Theology of Marian Devotion
Mary & Christian Faith
Mary’s Intercession

This volume is a little primer on Marian devotions. It is part history, part theology, and part prayers. Considering the length of this volume it packs a lot of useful information. I have read books five or six times the length of this that were not nearly as useful. This book is easily accessible. It is written at a high school reading level but could be read to youth. The ‘Further Reading’ section is an excellent resource, it breaks the recommendations into three sections:

On the Rosary
On the Theology of Marian Devotion
Other Accessible Books Include

Francesca Aran Murphy has 25 distinct works that I have been able to find and list, and yet this is the only one for the Catholic Truth Society. I loved the clarity and succinctness of the writing and will likely track down others by the author to read. And I know for a certainty that I will read all the books I can track down in the Deeper Christianity Series from the Catholic Truth Society.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the Deeper Christianity Series:
7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit
8 Deadly Sins Learning to Defend the Life of Grace
Christian Fasting Disciplining the Body, Awakening the Spirit
Deepening Prayer Life Defined by Prayer
Desire & Delight
Faith, Hope and Love The Theological Virtues
Fruits of the Holy Spirit Living a Happy Life
Icons
Lectio Divina Spiritual Reading of the Bible
Making Sunday Special

Mary in the Liturgy
Mary Mysteries of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Providence and Prayer
Prudence, Justice, Courage, and Temperance
Purgatory A Mystery of Love
Spiritual Warfare Fighting the Good Fight

The Church's Year Unfolding the Mysteries of Christ
The Name of God The Revelation of the Merciful Presence of God
Understanding The Story Of The Bible
Union with God




Friday, 8 February 2019

Understanding the Diaconate: Historical, Theological, and Sociological Foundations - W. Shawn McKnight

Understanding the Diaconate:
Historical, Theological, and Sociological Foundations
W. Shawn McKnight
David W. Fagerberg (Foreword)
Catholic University of America Press
ISBN 9780813230351
ASIN B07JKXHJT6

 


I have both a personal and academic interest in Diaconal studies. Over the last few years I have read a half dozen books about the Diaconate, I have started an not finished just as many, and still have that many in my to be read pile. And I must state, clearly, and definitively, that this is by far the most comprehensive book on the Deaconate that I have read to date. I read this book of three weeks, taking my time, and really digging into the material. I know it may seem odd, but I want to begin with two quotes from the conclusion:

“An inadequate role description for Latin-rite deacons hampers the effectiveness of their ministry. For the diaconate to become successful it must have a specialized ministry that is well-defined and important to the life and mission of the church. Deacons know they are called to serve as ordained ministers, and they have some concrete guidance regarding what they are allowed to do, but pastoral demands and a lack of clarity pull them in various directions. We should not assume that, because the ranks of permanent deacons have been growing and the pastoral need is great, the diaconate will simply flourish now that it has been restored. The original Golden Age of the deacon in the history of the church, as we have seen, occurred before the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire, before the church grew to its large present structure of dioceses and parishes.”

and

“For the diaconate to thrive, bishops, priests, the laity, and the deacons themselves must understand what deacons are called to do and whether a particular ministry is appropriate for the diaconate. The deacon’s role cannot be reduced to a simple set of tasks, whether charitable or liturgical. Such limitations of the deacon’s scope occurred after the Golden Age of the diaconate in the church’s history, and the result was the gradual diminishment of the diaconate to a mere stepping stone to the priesthood—the very situation that the Second Vatican Council sought to remedy by restoring a “permanent” diaconate. Instead, deacons need a focal understanding of their role that organizes many potential activities, encouraging some and discouraging others.”

As I was reading this volume, I had to reign myself in and slow down and process the material. It was hard to put the book down. It in part reads like an academic text, and in part like a spiritual manual. The textbook part is objective, honest, and critical. Critical in the sense of a true and complete look at the Diaconate in history, as it is today, and what it could grow to become. But the book is also infused with faith and hope. Hope that the diaconate can grow and flourish not just in numbers, but in substance, in fulfilling the role envisioned. And part of that growth will only come about because of books like this that flesh out what the role of deacons should be, what it should not be, and help to fill the knowledge gap in regard to both of those.

The focus in this book is the charism of the deacon. What it is meant to be. Bishop McKnight also examines what it often becomes. The emphasis is on the deacon as social intermediary. The bridge between clergy the people and bishops. And between the church and those in need.

Reading this book as someone who has been discerning the diaconate and put off applying because of family issues. This book provides encouragement, and clarification. It Is very academic, and yet remains accessible. The writing is such that you just want to keep reading. And in fact, I was greatly disappointed upon finishing it to not find any other book by Archbishop McKnight available to pursue. But that being said, I will likely return to this volume and reread it in another year or so.

I recommend this book to all deacons, to grow in your knowledge, understand, practice and charism of your ordination. For those discerning the diaconate I have not come across a better resource. For Bishops, priests, and other religious this book will be an excellent read, not just to highlight what deacons are called to be, but what they are not. And for the rest of the lay faithful it will give you a clear understanding of Deacons, Priests, and Bishops, their roles, their relationships to each other and their relationships to us. It is an excellent read and I give it a solid 5/5 stars recommendation.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

For all reviews and articles about the Diaconate click here.


Thursday, 7 February 2019

Glastonbury: A Pilgrim's Companion - David Baldwin - CTS Christian Shrines Series

Glastonbury: A Pilgrim's Companion
CTS Christian Shrines Series
David Baldwin
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860828805
eISBN 9781784694074
ASIN B073H1RGPB
CTS Booklet D763


This is now the fourth book in the CTS Christian Shrines Series that I have read. I have long had an interest in Pilgrimage. I have written about personal pilgrimage, and desire for pilgrimage previously. While in university doing a Religious Studies Degree with a specialization in Roman Catholic Thought I would have loved to have had this book, other in this series, and many from the CTS catalogue. This book would have been a great resource for two specific courses: ‘Sacred Spaces’ and ‘Faith Quests’. What I love about this series and specifically this book, is learning about shrines that I am less familiar with. I love learning about the history, the devotion, and the prayers associated with Christian shrines. David has written many of the books in this series and this one is another great little read. The book is written to be a companion for visiting the shrine but can be read an enjoyed even if you never plan to make it to Glastonbury. The sections in this volume are:

Foreword
Glastonbury
Setting the Scene
The Abbey
The Restored Shrine of Our Lady of Glastonbury
The Tor
Other Places of Interest

For those who plan to visit Glastonbury the last chapter will be of specific interest. As this section contains 18 locations of interest associated with Glastonbury and in and about the surrounding region. But in the forward rhe Right Reverend Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard states:

“This welcome Pilgrim’s Companion is much more than a guide. The tenth in David Baldwin’s series on Christian Shrines, it manages to combine a poetic, almost mystical narrative, beautifully encapsulating the spirit of the place, with a minimum of tourists’ directives, ensuring that the pilgrim neither loses the way nor misses the point.”

And that is in part of what is attracting me to this book and the series. The sense of mystical, the sense of divine and the captured spirit of Glastonbury and other sites explored through the series. Part of the description of this book is:

“Glastonbury is the oldest Marian Shrine north of the Alps. It is a place of myth, mystique, legend, tradition and faith, which, for many reasons, has a high profile in Britain and abroad and to where many head, seeking truth. Arguably, after Walsingham, it is the second most prominent Marian shrine in England and Wales.”

So give this book a try and either virtually or physically go on pilgrimage and immerse yourself in the history, prayers and legends of this shrine.

The CTS Christian Shrines Series seems to have two main styles of books. Pilgrimage companions and books focusing on the message from the shrine. This book is from the second category. There are also numerous other books from CTS that could support your quest for knowledge on pilgrimages and Christian shrines. This was a great little read, and I look forward to exploring more in the Christian Shrines Series. And highly recommend this wonderful volume. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Other Books in the CTS Christian Shrines Series:
Message of Assisa
Message of Fatima
Message of Guadalupe
Message of Walsingham
Santiago: Santiago de Compostela - The Pilgrim Way of St James
The Message of Carmel at Aylesford

Pilgrim’s Companions:
Why Pilgrimage?
Fatima - A Pilgrim's Companion
Glastonbury - A Pilgrim's Companion
Holy Land - A Pilgrim's Companion
Lisieux - A Pilgrim's Companion
Poland: A Pilgrim's Companion
Rome - A Pilgrim's Companion







Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Mainland: It Has Begun - Sara Francis - Terra Testimonies Book 2

The Mainland: It Has Begun!
The Terra Testimonies Book 2
Sara Francis
ISBN 9780998993355
ASIN B07KSGNNDQ


This book is written in very different style. It goes back and primarily through three alternating first person narratives gives us the back stories of a trio of siblings. In book one we found our about the isles, and about most of the earth being in ruins. In this book we find out how the world got there. Our narrators are Shane, Aymie, and Mark Hodgins, they have been separated since they were very young, and yet fate and circumstance has brought them together. This is their story. This story is very different that the first in the series. But it answers a lot of questions from the first volume and sets us up for where the story goes next.

The world is starting to fall to pieces, and Mr. White has a plan. He has created the white school where children are being trained and learning to work as teams. They plan on rescuing as many other children as they can. But old friends appear to be becoming enemies and an enemy might be your greatest allay. When the world is being turned upside down it is hard to know who to trust. 

I will admit there were a few times while reading this book, that with the jumping from story to story I almost put it down. But I am thankful I did not. And by the time I got to the end I was hungry for the next volume to find out where the story goes next. But what these three went through, and what they survived, you cannot help but find yourself cheering them on.

This story could almost be a precursor to books like The Hunger Games, and Divergent. It could be the back story that set up those stories. The difference is this is not pure dystopian. This novel has an underlying current of faith. It is also subtle, one of the homes where children is taken in is run by nuns. At the White Home there is a priest who is a counselor and available to the residence for conversation and support. And even Mark comments that he has not accepted the believes that both his brother and sister started following. 

This novel is backstory, in fact, it is the back story of the three Hodgins, and in some ways the backstory of an organization. An organization committed to saving humanity. It is a great read in what is proving to be an excellent series. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Sara Francis:
Stardust: A Collection of Poems

...

The Terra Testimonies Series:
The Isles: Is It All a Lie?
The Mainland: It Has Begun!

The Underground:
...

The Adventure of Wobot Series:
Wobot and the 3 Technicians
Wobot, the Gear, and Motion








Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Christian Fasting Disciplining the Body, Awakening the Spirit - Sister Mary David Totah - CTS Deeper Christianity Series

Christian Fasting:
Disciplining the Body, Awakening the Spirit
CTS Deeper Christianity Series
Sister Mary David Totah
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860827723
eISBN 9781784692537
ASIN B071FD4YST
CTS Booklet SP34



I love the books and booklets that I have read from the Catholic Truth Society. I have read about 50 of these booklets over the last year, some out of print for over 100 years, and some just published in 2018. The books span a wide range of topics, from biographies, church teaching, lives of the popes, Christian living, and more. And there are several series. This book is part of the Deeper Christianity Series, and currently there are 16 tiles in print in this series, and this is the second that I have read from this series.

Fasting has been an area of interest to me for thirty years now. When I was a university student ai went to a conference with Campus Crusade for Christ over New years 1989, and the leader Bill Bright was challenging Christians, and Christian leaders to fast for the 40 days of Lent. From that point on I have been fascinated with Fasting from both the Spiritual and Physical benefits. One of the best books I have read on the subject was God's Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis. Written by a medical doctor and Christian.

This book was an interesting little read. I cannot say there was much new information for me, but it was a great refresher. Because of the size of this volume it is easily accessible and a great beginning for those considering this spiritual discipline. The chapters in the volume are:

The nature of Fasting
Fasting in Other Traditions
Fasting in the Old Testament
Fasting in the Teaching and Mystery of Christ
The Fast of the Church
Fasting and the Spiritual Life
The Friday Penance – Rediscovering Catholic Identity
The Value and Meaning of Fasting
Questions and Answers

Sister Mary David starts this book by stating:

“Fasting, in our days, has become one of the most neglected spiritual practices. Because of misunderstandings regarding the nature of fasting, Christians tend to fast very little, or disregard fasting altogether. Yet fasting was practised by Christ himself.”

She then proceeds to remind us of Jesus fast for 40 days in the desert, and of Jesus saying some spirits only come out by prayer and fasting. She also highlights Paul’s writings on the importance of fasting. In the section called ‘Physical and Spiritual Aspects’ she states:

“In the Church’s tradition, fasting is much more than a penance. Fasting for the Christian has two aspects: physical and spiritual, outward and inward. On the outward level, fasting involves physical abstinence from food and drink; yet rules about eating and drinking must never be treated as an end in themselves, for fasting has always an inward, spiritual purpose. Man is a unity of body and soul, and our fasting is a practice that involves both. So fasting will also include abstinence from evil thoughts, desires, and deeds.”

Overall Sister Mary Davis does a wonderful job in examining Fasting, in its historical context, compares it to other Christian traditions, Jewish customs, and even mentions non-Christian fasting practices. She highlights some of the church teaching on the topic, and changes to that teachings over the years. This is a well written little volume, that would be of benefit to any who read it and try and grow in knowledge and practice of this discipline. And I look forward to reading other books by Sister Mary David, and other volumes in the Deeper Christianity Series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the Deeper Christianity Series:
7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit
8 Deadly Sins Learning to Defend the Life of Grace
Christian Fasting Disciplining the Body, Awakening the Spirit
Deepening Prayer Life Defined by Prayer
Desire & Delight
Faith, Hope and Love The Theological Virtues
Fruits of the Holy Spirit Living a Happy Life
Icons
Lectio Divina Spiritual Reading of the Bible
Making Sunday Special

Mary in the Liturgy
Mary Mysteries of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Providence and Prayer
Prudence, Justice, Courage, and Temperance
Purgatory A Mystery of Love
Spiritual Warfare Fighting the Good Fight

The Church's Year Unfolding the Mysteries of Christ
The Name of God The Revelation of the Merciful Presence of God
Understanding The Story Of The Bible
Union with God


Other Books by Sister Mary David Totah:
A Divine Gift: The Consecrated Life
Confirmation: The Spirit of Christ
Christian Fasting Disciplining the Body, Awakening the Spirit