Monday, 19 April 2021

Saint Bernard Abbot of Clairvaux Doctor of the Church - Alice Curtayne

Saint Bernard Abbot of Clairvaux Doctor of the Church
The Anthonian Press
Dublin (1931)

A few years back I encountered the works of Alice Curtayne. I became fascinated by them. I was able to track down about a dozen of the 32 books and booklets I believe she wrote. But it became harder and harder to find them, let alone at a reasonable price. The version I was able to track down literally crumbled as I read it. By the time I had finished this booklet twice both covers were off, and every of the other pages had split. And every time it moved it left crumbles of paper. But it was so worth tracking down and reading.

The book was first published in 1931 by the Anthonian Press, Temple Street, Dublin, C.14. And was printed in Ireland. It received:
     Nihil Obstat: Michael L. Dempsey S.T.L., Cnsor Theol. Dept
     Imprimi potest: Eduardus, Archiep. Dublinen., Hiberniae Primas.
     Dublini, die 12 Julii, 1933.

So the edition I laid my hands on is from at least 1933. The first half of this booklet is about Bernard and his role in the Cistercians and all of Europe during his lifetime. The second half is about his friendship with Saint Malachy and the founding of Cistercians in Ireland. It makes reference to another volume being needed on that friendship and in 1954 penned, Saint Bernard and His Friend Saint Malachy. Which I have yet been able to lay my hands on.

The cover of this booklet does not even contain Curtayne’s name. The title on the cover is St Bernard Doctor of the Church, the title on the title page is Saint Bernard Abbot of Clairvaux and Doctor of the Church. The back cover has No. 31 and something below that has been obliterated over time. The inside front cover has a prayer by Jas. A. McDermott it is Sr. Bernard’s MeMorare. The inside of the back cover has an image I believe of a flower or plant with these words:

 “O Clement 
O Pious
O Sweet

The book also contains several Illustrations:

Authentic Portrait of St. Bernard
St. Malachy Archbishop of Armagh, Friend of St. Bernard
St. Christian O’Connarchy
Blessed Eugene III.Pope 
Alexander III.

It also contains 2 Photo reproductions:

Mellifont Abbey was the Scene of one of the Emancipation Celebrations of 1929.
The Centenery

If this had been an eBook there were several passages I would have highlighted. Some of them are:

“It would be impossible within the space of the present booklet to relate all Bernard’s activities, but his three main enterprises must be told in order to convey some ide of his towering importance in European life. These were: his healing of schism in the Church; the episode of his duel with Abelard; and his preaching of the Crusade.”

“His monastic foundations increased to a total that is nearly as incredible as his written output. During his forty years as a Cistercian, he founded one hundred and sixty-three monasteries all over Europe, directing and largely organizing himself this chain of religious houses. These increased to the number of three hundred and forty-three before his death.

“From this life, bewildering in the very complexity of its achievements, I want the reader to grasp one single quality chiefly, what I can only describe as the Roman-ness of Bernard. The soul of orthodoxy, he was the greatest protagonist of the Faith in Europe, and a director of ecclesiastical affairs from their very center. While being a most obedient child of the Papacy, circumstances made him the counsellor of Honorius, the staunch defender of Innocent II, and the spiritual director of Eugenius III. He was, therefore, a sure interpreter of the mind of the church; his opinion counted in Christendom; his word had more authority and weight than that of any other living man in Europe.”

“Malachy was in the prime of life, probably in his forty-sixth year, when he first met Bernard. There is a strange conformity in the lives of the two Saints, which could be extended to great length if set out in its fulness.”

“After Malachy’s return to Ireland the two Saints corresponded, of necessity, about the foundation of a Clairvaux in Ireland. Saint Bernard trained his four Gaelic disciples for two years, and then he sent them back to their country, accompanied by nine Frenchmen, to form the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland.”

This was a wonderful little booklet to read. And every time I track down one of Curtayne’s works, I wish that they were all back in print. Thankfully Cluny Media has been working on that and has reprinted 6 of her works and one she contributed to. If you get the chance to read this I strongly encourage you to do so. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Alice Curtayne:
St. Catherine of Siena
A Recall to Dante
Saint Brigid of Ireland
Saint Bernard Abbot Of Clairvaux And Doctor Of The Church
Saint Anthony of Padua
Saint Columcille: the Dove of the Church
St Francis of Assisi: Founder of the Franciscan Order
St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland
House of Cards
Borne of the Wind
Lough Derg: St. Patrick's Purgatory
Twenty Tales of Irish Saints
More Tales of Irish Saints
Irish Saints for Boys and Girls
Jean-Baptiste Debrabant
Patrick Sarsfield
Saint Bernard and His Friend Saint Malachy
The Trial of Oliver Plunkett
The Irish Story
Francis Ledwidge: A Life of the Poet

Booklets by Alice Curtayne:
(Catholic Truth Society and others)
Saint Philomena
Saint Brigid, The Mary of Ireland
St. Bernard Doctor of The Church 1933
Saint Catherine Of Siena A Woman Who Changed The World
The Story of Knock

The servant of God, Mother Mary Aikenhead
The Holy Man of Dublin; or, the Silence of Matt Talbot
Croagh Patrick. An account of the great national pilgrimage to Ireland's holy mount. 
The New Woman Transcript of a Talk

Books Edited by Alice Curtayne:
The Complete works of Francis Ledwidge

Books Translated by Alice Curtayne:
Labours in the Vineyard by Giovanni Papin

Books Contributed to by Alice Curtayne:

Friday, 16 April 2021

If I Ran the Zoo - Dr. Seuss

If I Ran the Zoo
Random House Books for Young Readers
ISBN 0394800818
ISBN 9780394800813

Recently because of some media spotlight on Dr. Seuss and his works. I decided to reread the 6 books in question and two others. But alas only had 5 of the 6 on hand. This is the fourth of the reviews.

Dr. Seuss is famous for his many children’s books. Books that spark the imagination. Surprise, and amaze. There is a large collection of old animated shorts based on them. And these has been several movies both animated and life action. He also wrote two books that though written and illustrated in a similar style and format are considered adult books they are The Seven Lady Godivas and The Butter Battle Book. Butter Battle is a commentary on war and is often found in the children’s sections in bookstores and libraries. Godivas I believe is long out of print, I believe the last printing was in 1988. And I am only aware of it because it is the favorite book of a friend.  

I do not know a child who has not engaged with these books on some level. My youngest and my wife have a few of them memorized. And recite them to each other before bed, as much as read. My children loved the old, animated shorts, and like most of the movies. I was less fond of the live action movies but appreciate most of the animated ones. But back to this book.

This is yet another story about imagination. A young boy, Gerald McGrew is visiting the Zoo. And it is a perfectly good and respectable zoo. But young Gerald imagines what he would do if he ran the zoo. And soon it is a super, wonderous stupendous zoo filled with zany and crazy animals. Each bigger, better, and stranger than the last. 

Seuss at his best creating new animals with crazy names!

Note: I recently heard that 6 of the books by Dr. Seuss were being taken out of print. The 6 are: And to Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot's Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, The Cat's Quizzer. We had 5 of the 6 in our collection so I gave them a reread. The 6th The Cat's Quizzer I can only find used in Canada, the lowest price is $740. 

Books by Dr. Seuss:
McElligot's Pool 
The Cat's Quizzer

Thursday, 15 April 2021

An Easy Way To Become A Saint - Father Paul O'Sullivan

An Easy Way To Become A Saint
Father Paul O'Sullivan
ISBN 9780895553980
eISBN 9781505102376

This was the seventh volume from Father Paul that I have read, so far this year. I picked the first book, The Wonders of the Mass, up because it was promoted by TAN books in an email blast. They were promoting a bundle of books by Father Paul O'Sullivan. I know I have seen the covers before. After reading the first one I picked up a few more. And I realizes I should have grabbed the whole bundle. Each of the books I have read so far has been great. And this is another excellent read. The shorter description of this book is:

“A very optimistic book showing how an "ordinary" Catholic can become a great saint without ever doing anything "extraordinary"--just by using the many opportunities for holiness that to most people lie hidden in each day. Written with an assurance of success that is totally convincing and infectious. Many easy but infallible means of reaching great sanctity.”

And the chapters are:

Publisher's Note 
Foreword: An Easy Way to Become a Saint 

1. Two Kinds of Saints 
2. How to Love God 
3. The Wonderful Things God Has Done for Us 
4. God's Greatest Proof of Love 
5. The Passion 
6. After His Ascension 
7. We Must Do Everything for the Love of God 
8. The Principal Duties of the Day 
9. Reading 
10. Meditation 

How to Go to Confession 
The Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart

This is a shorter read. And about the middle of the pack of Father Paul’s books I have read to date. It comes in at 82 pages for the eBook and only 120 for the print edition. It is a very good book. That is well written. It has excellent spiritual advice. One of the chapters that had a great impact on me was Chapter 9 Reading. Father Paul states:

“We have pointed out that the reason for so little sanctity in many souls is not weakness or malice, but ignorance. Spiritual reading dispels this ignorance and helps us to feel all the charm and consolation of God's blessed love.

Every Catholic should without fail make spiritual reading daily for ten or fifteen minutes. The neglect of this duty is disastrous.”

He makes some recommendations about reading:

Read books that appeal to you.
Pray before reading.
Read your book not once but many times.

This section also has a quote or summary of several of Father Paul’s books, as well as makes reference to several other good options.

I believe I have now read all the books from TAN that are currently in print by Father Paul. There appears to be two other volumes that do not seem to be in print. Which I believe is a great pity. If they are anywhere as good as this one or the others I have read, it is a great loss that they are not still available. 

Father Paul writes in an easy and engaging way. It took everything I had to not consume his books back to back. Another fantastic read from the pen of Father Paul O’Sullivan. This book helps us realize the call to be saints, or as Matthew Kelly always puts it “To become the best version of ourselves.”. It is an excellent volume that any Catholic would benefit from reading. I highly recommend it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Father Paul Henry O'Sullivan, O.P:
All About the Angels
How to Avoid Purgatory
My Lord and My God, Or, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament
Our Lady of Fatima
Read Me or Rue It
St. Patrick and the Irish
The Divine Office: How to Say it Devoutly, How to Make it a Pleasure
The Glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Story of a Great Man: Doctor Antonio de Oliveira Salazar
The Ten Commandments: For Real - For Now
What Ireland Owes to Portugal

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Work Play Love - Mike Aquilina

Work Play Love
How the Mass Changed the Life of the First Christians 
ISBN 9781640604254
eISBN 9781640604278

This is the twelfth volume from the pen of Mike Aquilina that I have read. And it is one of my favorites. This is one of those books that every Catholic, every Christian should read. And if we were to read and live it, it truly would transform our families, our workplaces, our nations and our world. I know more than a few converts to Catholicism, who were greatly influenced once they started learning about the early church. This volume delves deeply into the early church and what made it different, and how it transformed the world. The description of the book states:

“…The Mass was the reality most essential to the life of believers, and it deeply affected everything they did. In Work Play Love popular author Mike Aquilina shows how the Eucharist shaped three basic dimensions of life for the early Christians. Work. Christians brought the fruits of their labor to the altar—not only bread and wine, but also cheese, olives, honey, dried fish, and freshly pressed oil. As they worshiped, they consecrated the world itself to God. In turn, this affected the way they approached their work. It was not just toil. It was an act of love, undertaken for the Father. They labored in imitation of Jesus the laborer. Made one with Christians in the Eucharist, Jesus worked through them and in them. Play. The Mass was a leisurely, contemplative act, but it was celebrated on a normal workday in the Roman world. It was useless by the standards of the city. And yet it called forth—gently, gradually—the most creative responses. The Mass inspired new forms of music, poetry, architecture, and painting. At liturgy Christians stood back and reconsidered the cosmos from God’s perspective. They saw their lives as part of a profoundly new and different narrative. This made for new and different art. Love. Christian ritual demanded personal and communal acts of charity. The earliest descriptions of the Mass show the importance of the collection and its distribution to the poor, the imprisoned, and the home-bound sick. Deacons and deaconesses were dismissed to take Communion to the same people in need. The fruits of the Mass extended beyond the time of liturgy—and the bounds of Christian community. Christians took care even of their persecutors. …”

One of the passages in the book that hit me most was:

“The Mass makes Christians—that’s what this book is about. The Eucharistic liturgy isn’t just a nice little ceremony we made up to remember a historical event, like fireworks on the Fourth of July. The Mass makes our lives whole. All the useful work we do is bound up in it. All our playful joy comes out of it. And all our Christian love funnels through it.”

The mass is so central to our faith. It is about placing the mass first, and through that transforming our work and our play. It is a book that will help us find greater fulfillment at work, with our family and friends, in all we do. And should be central to our life. Mike writes so powerfully and passionately. That it is hard to not want to aspire to more. To life the life he is describing in this volume. This is a book that will leave you fundamentally changed. I will leave you with one final quote:

“Everything is measured against the Eucharist. This meal we share is what forms us as Christians.”

And so, I challenge you to read this book, and through the guidance grow in understanding, and be formed. Be well formed. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Mike Aquilina:
A Year with the Angels: Daily Meditations with the Messengers of God
A Year With The Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living
Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts
Companion Guide to Pope Benedict's 'The Fathers' 
Faith of Our Fathers: Why the Early Christians Still Matter and Always Will
Fire of God's Love: 120 Reflections on the Eucharist
Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons 
Love in the Little Things: Tales of Family Life
Ministers & Martyrs: The Ultimate Catholic Guide to the Apostolic Age
Praying in the Presence of Our Lord: With St. Thomas Aquinas
Roots of the Faith: From the Church Fathers to You
Sharing Christ's Priesthood: A Bible Study for Catholics
Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols
Sweet Gridlock: Selected Love Poems 
Terms and Conditions: Assorted Poems
The Apostles and Their Times
The Church and the Roman Empire
The Fathers of the Church Bible
The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers
The Mass of the Early Christians
The Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, & the Hope for Tomorrow
The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church
The Way of the Fathers: Praying With the Early Christians
The Witness of Early Christian Women: Mothers of the Church
Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers
Why Me? When Bad Things Happen
Yours Is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World

Books co-written by Mike Aquilina:
A Pocket Catechism for Kids - Fr. Kris Stubna
Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth - Dion DiMucci
Keeping Mary Close: Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages - Fr. Frederick Gruber
Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians - Scott Hahn
Praying the Psalms the Early Christians - Christopher Bailey
Saint Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer - Mark W. Sullivan
Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again - James Papandrea
Something More Pastoral: The Mission of Bishop, Archbishop, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl - Ann Rodgers
Take Five: Meditations John Henry Newman - Fr. Juan Velez
Take Five: Meditations Pope Benedict XVI - Fr. Kris Stubna
Take Five: On the Job Meditations With St. Ignatius - Fr. Kris Stubna
Talking to Youth About Sexuality: A Parents' Guide - Fr. Kris Stubna
The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today - John Michael Talbot
The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Doubter's Novena: Nine Steps to Trust the Apostle Thomas - Christopher Bailey
The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Grail Code: Quest for the Real Presence - Christopher Bailey
The Great Life: Essays on Doctrine and Holiness in Honor of Father Ronald Lawler, O.F.M. Cap. - Kenneth Ogorek
The Holy Land: A Guide for Pilgrims - Fr. Dave Halaiko
The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions - Regis J. Flaherty
The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The World's First Christmas: Jubilee 2000 - Regis J. Flaherty
Weapons of the Spirit: Selected Writings of Father John Hugo - David Scott
What Catholics Believe: A Pocket Catechism - Fr. Kris Stubna

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Manual for Marriage - Dan and Danielle Bean

Manual for Marriage
ISBN 9781505116625
eISBN 9781505116649

I have read a couple of the “Manual For’s” from TAN Books. I greatly enjoyed and benefitted from reading the previous two and the same can be said for this volume. The previous volumes I have read in the series were Manual for Spiritual Warfare and Manual for Men. And this one was a logical progression. I honestly believe any marriage even the best of them could use work, and effort. I also believe that this book is an excellent volume towards that end. The beginning of the description of the book states:

“Dan and Danielle Bean, married for 25 years and veteran parents of 8 children, offer a modern take on an ancient idea: in marriage, we are called to something greater than ourselves. What can that mean in a modern world that abhors sacrifice, rejects the concept of permanence, and devalues the sacrament of marriage?”

And the description ends with:

“A thoughtful gift for engaged couples and newlyweds, this book is also a practical resource that can inspire and rejuvenate long-married and even struggling couples.”

I absolutely agree. This is an excellent resource for those engaged, for newlyweds and for those in longstanding marriages. The book begins with a quote from Chesterton that I have come across several times lately, it states:

“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary
man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.”

And that is true even more so today. The sections in the book are:

Publisher’s Note
Part One: Made in Heaven: The Extraordinary Vocation to Marriage
 1 Marriage as Vocation
 2 Marriage as Sacrament
 3 Two Become One
 4 Love Is a Choice
 5 Mutual Love
 6 Home and Family Life

Part Two: Wisdom and Prayers for Marriage
 7 Wisdom of the Church
     From Councils and Conferences
     From the Catechism
     From the Popes
 8 Scripture for Marriage and Family
     Marriage and Family
     Love and Friendship
     Virtue in Marriage
 9 Holy Men and Women
     Venerables and Blesseds
     Faithful Scholars
10 Prayers
     For Parents
     For the Family

I would say this book is worth the price for many of the chapters even if they were stand alone. I know that I will be returning to the book often. Especially the second section. And the chapters on Holy Men and Women and Prayers. When I first started reading this, we have friends going through a separation. I found myself copying passages and sharing them with the husband often. I only highlighted a few passages on my first read through. Some of them are:

“Wherever this book finds you, it’s important to recognize that the call to marriage is ongoing. Marriage is a call we must hear and respond to again and again, over and over, getting it right, and then messing it up, and then getting it right again. Marriage can be a mess, and it can be beautifully perfect. It’s simple, and it’s complex. It’s easy, and it’s hard. It’s all of these things for all of us generally, but it’s all of these things uniquely in your own marriage too.”

“Father Jarrett writes, “The married life is as much a vocation as the life of the cloister, and marriage should dominate the life of the married.”3 What does this mean and how do we achieve it? You and your spouse are made for each other, and you have a duty, through God’s grace, to bring each other to holiness in this world. That great responsibility comes from God, and the special grace he dispenses to spouses is ultimately ordered to eternal life with him in heaven.”

“So what is this “highest calling”? What is this noble work God sets before you inside of the vocation to marriage? It is nothing less than the salvation of your spouse’s soul. That is the great work you are called to in the married life. You are not made for yourself; you are made for your spouse, and your goal is heaven.”

“Find new ways to receive and appreciate the sacraments together. Look for opportunities to receive the Eucharist and sacrament of Penance together.”

“St. John Paul II teaches, “When they become parents, spouses receive from God the gift of a new responsibility. Their parental love is called to become for the children the visible sign of the very love of God, ‘from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.’”

“When our children are very small, we are all they know. We are like God to them, and our task is to teach them to know and love the one true God. Does that worry you? It shouldn’t. Right there, in the heart of your family, is the perfect place for your child to grow to know God. Through your marriage, God created your family just for that purpose. Your unique family, in the heart of your home, is a sacred thing.”

I hope these few quotes and ringing endorsements inspire you to pick this book up. To either read yourself, or to give as gifts. I would love to see churches adopt the book and give it to all couple in marriage prep. It is a fantastic volume. Give it a read I am certain you will benefit from the time and effort.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Danielle Bean:
From Heaven To Manger: Family Prayers and Activities for Advent
Giving Thanks and Letting Go
Manual for Women
Mom to Mom, Day to Day
Momnipotent: The Not-So Perfect Woman's Guide to Catholic Motherhood
My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom
Peace on Earth: Family Devotions for Advent
Small Steps for Catholic Moms: Think. Pray. Act. Every Day.
You Are Enough: 
You're Worth It!

Manuals from Tan Books:
Manual for Conquering Deadly Sin - Rev. Fr. Dennis Kolinski, S.J.C.
Manual for Eucharistic Adoration - The Poor Clares Of Perpetual Adoration
Manual for Marian Devotion - The Dominican Sisters Of Mary
Manual for Men - Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted
Manual for Women - Danielle Bean