Sunday, 4 December 2022

The Pirate King - Declan Finn - The Pius Trilogy Short Story

A Pius Man
The Pius Trilogy Book 1
Silver Empire
ISBN 9781482553895
eISBN 9781370225095

I loved this story. But I hated that it is so short! Yes I knew it was a short story when I picked it up, but it is listed as 15 pages, and in reality is closer to 8 or if you stretch it maybe 10 of text. What a great short story. I have read 20 books by Declan Finn in the last few months, and 1 prior to that. I have loved what I have read to date. And I have plans to read all that I can lay my hands on. Both the Saint Tommy and the White Ops series are greatly entertaining, and I cannot wait for the Pius trilogy of 5 books to be back in print. So when I saw this as an eBook I scooped it up. This is truly another great story from Finn’s masterful pen. The description of this story is:

“Somali pirate Abdi Barre considers himself the Emir of the sea. So when a superliner crosses his path, he wants it.

And this pirate is going to get everything that's coming to him.”

Having read the first two White Ops and A Pius Man I was expecting an entertaining story with some serious action. It did not disappoint on that front! The story begins with these words:

“The super liner Queen Mary 2, was 1,132 feet long, carried 2,620 passengers and 1,253 crew members. It was essentially the size of a skyscraper landed on its side. Possibly the biggest liner of its kind in the world. It was, simply, big.

However, off the Eastern Coast of Africa, it was merely a great big target.

Abdi Barre smiled at the super liner. He was, at first, impressed at the size of the liner, and awed by its majesty. His second impression, however, was to plan to board her, and maybe—just maybe—hijack her. The boat would be worth a fortune. Any who could afford to ride on her would be worth a fortune in ransom.”

We are informed that:

“Barre, like many of his comrades, had been fishermen at one point, but they soon discovered that piracy was an easier way to make money. Somali society's clan-based organization, the lack of a central government, and Somalia's strategic location at the Horn of Africa, all made the enterprise easy. Somalia was also dirt poor, so recruits were frequent, and as plentiful as their plunder. Not to mention that the lucrative success of hijacking and ransoming hostages drew even more to the organization. They had money, power, the most beautiful girls, big houses, new cars, new guns, everything the modern crook could ask for.”

And further:

“With forty ships worth of pirates, there were nearly a thousand men on the main deck of the Queen Mary 2. They all came on and immediately unslung their rifles, ready to kill any who got in their way—though that was a touch melodramatic, and not perfectly true. Shooting was almost always a last resort, mainly because hostages were money. If large groups of people resisted, then they could mow them down. Usually, the only ones stupid enough to resist were the odd lone passenger.”

It is an excellent story with a major twist! I was really impressed with this offering from the pen of Finn. Short stories are a very different art form than novels. And this is a very short story. If I had not read anything else by Finn before reading this I would have immediately purchased other of his works. I can’t wait for the Pius Man Trilogy to be back in print and this story just majorly upped the anticipation. A great little read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Declan Finn:
Love At First Bite Series:
Short Stories:
Bad Date 
Blood Stained Cliffs of Dover
Honor at Stake
Demons Are Forever
Live and Let Bite
Good to the last Drop
Mad Dog Moon

The Last Survivors Series:
Codename: Winterborn
Codename: Unsub

Convention Killings Series:
It Was Only On Stun!
Set To Kill

Pius Series:
A Pius Legacy
A Pius Stand
Pius History
Pius Tales (Anthology)
Pius Trilogy Short Stories:

St. Tommy Series:

Top Secret Service Series:
Too Secret Service
Too Secret Service 2
Too Secret Service 3

Dances with Werewolves Series:
Dances with Warewolves
Dances with Werewolves Volume II
Dances with Werewolves: Omnibus Edition

White Ops Series:
Main Street D.O.A.

Other books:
Arresting Merlin
Sad Puppies Bike Back

Saturday, 3 December 2022

Doctors of the Church The 33 Great Catholic Teachers - Father Jerome Bertram - The Catholic Truth Society

Doctors of the Church
The 33 Great Catholic Teachers
Father Jerome Bertram
ISBN 9781860827464
CTS Booklet B742

A few years ago, I stumbled across the books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society quite by accident. I was researching an author I had run across, and was trying to track down all of her works. Soon I had a long lost of books from the CTS on my Wishlist, and it seems that for everyone I read I end up with 1 or 2 more on my wish list. At the writing of this review I have read over  325 titles from the CTS over the last 5 years and currently have almost 200 either in my ‘to be read’ pile or on my wish list still. I have read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and the Great Saints Series. This book based on the CTS Booklet number is part of the Biography series. It was published in 2011. Father Jerome Bertram has edited and written other volumes for the CTS. 

The description of this booklet is:

“The Doctors of the Church were saints who were devoted to the Word of God, eager to listen to the Holy Spirit, and to pass on to others what they had learned. Each memorable and influential figure is described in this intriguing booklet with a concise summary of their contribution to the Church and to the development of doctrine. Their preaching and writing continue to influence people today. Fr Jerome Bertram is a priest of the Oxford Oratory, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, author of various books on historical subjects and translator of Medieval Latin texts.”

The chapters and sections in the volume are:

What is a Doctor of the Church? 
The four Greek Doctors 
     Saint Athanasius (295-373) 
     Saint Basil the Great (330-379) 
     Saint Gregory Nazianzen (330-390) 
     Sa int John Chrysostom 
     The four Latin Doctors 
     Saint Ambrose (340-397) 
     Saint Jerome (345-420) 
     Saint Augustine (354-430) 
     Saint Gregory the Great (540-604)

The fathers of the first millennium 
     Sault Ephraem the Syrian (306-73) 
     Saint Hilary of Poitier (315-68) 
     Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (315-87) 
     Saint Cyril of Alexandria (376—444)
     Saint Leo the Great (390-461)
     Saint Peter Chrysologus (400-450)
     Saint Isidore of Seville (560-636) 
     Saint Bede of farrow (67 3-735) 
     Saint John Damascene (676-749) 

The scholars of the middle ages 
     Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072) 
     Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) 
     Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) 
     Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) 
     Saint Albert the Great (1206-1280) 
     Saint Bonaventure (1217-1274) 
     Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) 
     Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1379) 

The early modern reformers 
     Saint Teresa of A vi la (1515-82) 
     Saint John of the Cross (1542-91) 
     Saint Peter Canisius (1521-97) 
     Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) 
     Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1622) 
     Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) 

Into the age of revolution 
     Saint Alphonsus de' Liguori (1696-1787) 
     Saint Therese of Lisieux (1873-97) 

Will there be more? 
Further Reading 

Before moving on to the text it should be noted that a few doctors have been promoted since the publication of this volume. They are:

     John of Ávila (1500-1569)
     Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
     Gregory of Narek (951-1003)
     Irenaeus of Lyon (130-202)

This was a fantastic little volume. And I would love to see an updated version released by the CTS. I highlighted numerous passages while reading this booklet, some of them are: 

“Among the innumerable saints honoured, venerated or forgotten in the Western Church, there is a small band of outstanding teachers, no more than thirty three in two thousand years, who have been honoured with the title of “Doctor of the Church”. Since the Middle Ages it has been established that the title is conferred only by the Pope, in a public ceremony: more recently certain rules have been developed to help the Pope discern whether a particular saint is worthy of the title.”

“The title is not conferred lightly, although it is clear that some Doctors are of much greater importance than others. Some have a message that is enduring and essential for the faith of all time: others were called for particular times. and their work is done. Some have left writings that should be eagerly read by all Christians today, others are now veiled in obscurity. Their writings out of print and no longer accessible. For each age. God sends the message it needs to hear; some messages need to be repeated over and over again to the end of time.”

“We begin by looking at the eight teachers, three from Asia Minor. two from the North African provinces of the Roman Empire and three Europeans, who helped the Church come through the transition from a race of fugitives to become a kingdom of saints. These were the first to be acclaimed as "Doctors", and are frequently represented together in mediaeval art. Four are from the Eastern Church, four from the West. known as the Greek and Latin Doctors respectively.”

“Saint Athanasius towers over the turbulent fourth century, a valiant champion of the faith against the world.”

“Saint Athanasius holds the record for the number of times he was sent into
exile for his teaching: he died in obscurity, but his teaching triumphed.”

“Alexander and his clergy felt that Athanasius was probably right. and Arius probably wrong, but were not that sure about it. So Athanasius wrote a short pamphlet, which changed the world.

The pamphlet is called On the Incarnation, and explains not only that Jesus really is God by nature, but also shows why he became one of us, and why it is important to grasp these essential facts.”

“Athanasius began his career as a serial refugee. Now Bishop of Alexandria, he was driven into exile seven times by the Imperial supporters, on a variety of trumped-up charges, but in reality always because he would not compromise on his teaching that Jesus is true God. It became a proverb to talk of him as Athanasius alone against the world, contra mundum.”

“True sanctity does not make us less human. but rather enhances our common
humanity. Basil's social action shows how a deep love of Goel is inseparable from practical love of neighbour.”

“Chrysostom's social teaching is still relevant today. and still likely to be unpopular among the powerful and the wealthy.”

“In September 20 I 0. Pope Benedict XVI speculated publicly that Blessed John Henry Newman would fit the criteria laid clown for a Doctorate. He certainly enjoyed the “Charism of Wisdom”, with an acute mind and intellectual ability beyond most or us. His long ponderings on the Scriptures and the writings of the Church Fathers helped him to attain a “Mature Sapiental Synthesis”: in particular, his thought on the relationship between faith and reason, religion and science, is peculiarly relevant today.”

I hope those few quotes give you a fell for the content of this great little volume. The ‘Further Reading’ section at the end of the volume is excellent and refers readers to several other volumes from the Catholic Truth Society, most of which I have read and can endorse as well. They are:

Key Texts
     Spiritual Masters: Medieval Fathers and Writers (B 740)
     The Fathers of the Church (Do 780)

The Doctors of the Church
     Augustine of Hippo (B 703)
     Bernard of Clairvaux (B 735)
     Anthony of Padua (B 679)
     Thomas Aquinas (B 723)
     Catherine of Siena (B 690)
     Teresa of Avila (B 706)
     John of the Cross (B 702)
     Robert Bellarmine (B 728)
     Francis de Sales (B 708)
     Therese of Lisieux (B 204)

Blessed John Henry Newman
     John Henry Newman (B 665)
     Newman Prayer Book (D 729)

This was a great little read. I am very thankful I was able to track down a copy. It was both informative and entertaining. It was 33 brief biographies and highlights of their contributions that lead to them being named Doctors of the Church. 

It is another excellent resource from the Catholic Truth Society.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Father Jerome Bertram:
Jesus, Teach Us to Pray
Vita Communis: The Common Life of the Secular Clergy
Heresy Through the Ages
Traditions of the Oratory
Anointing: Christ's Healing Touch 
The Life Of Saint Edward, King And Confessor 

Friday, 2 December 2022

Space Team - Barry J Hutchinson - Space Team Book 1

Space Team
Space Team 1
ISBN 978-1912767366
eISBN 9781648818837

Several months before reading this I encountered the works of J.D. Kirk I also discovered that Kirk publishes children’s books as Barry Hutchison, and other adult fiction as Barry J. Hutchison. I have read 19 stories published under the Kirk Name and am now branching out to the ones under the Hutchinson names. He is coming up on 175 books across the three pen names. If I had known that or I might not have picked up this first one. Friends call me a ‘completionist’ in that when I find an author I like, I try to read everything they have published. I have enjoyed all I have read from his pen and this one was no different.

The description of this novel is:

“Cal Carver is having a bad day. Imprisoned and forced to share a cell with a cannibalistic serial killer, Cal thinks things can't possibly get any worse.

He is wrong.

It’s not until two-thirds of the human race is wiped out and Cal is abducted by aliens that his day really starts to go downhill.

Whisked across the galaxy, Cal is thrown into a team of some of the sector's most notorious villains and scumbags. Their mission should be simple enough, but as one screw-up leads to another, they find themselves in a frantic battle to save an entire alien civilization - and its god - from total annihilation.

A hilarious, fast-paced space adventure from the author the Independent calls "the new Terry Pratchett."

This was a fun read. A lot of slap stick humour. Over the top antics. And at times laugh out loud funny. It reminds me of several series and authors, most of whom, I read when I was much younger. So in a way it was like a jump back in time for me. The first to come to mind was Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steal Rat series with his Bill the Galactic Hero series, the next was Robert Asprin’s Phule’s Company Series, it also brought to mind the works of Tom Holt and of course the comparison to Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker Series are going to abound. But for all the sense of a mash up of these other series there is something different about this offering. And I think that has to do with Hutchinson’s characters and sense of humour. And the characters in this story are wild. Delenn in Babylon 5 states:

“Of course it is, for the simple reason that no one else would've ever built a place like this. Humans share one unique quality. They build communities. If the Narns or the Centauri or any other race built a station like this, it would be used only by their own people, but everywhere humans go, they create communities out of diverse and sometimes hostile populations. It is a great gift and a terrible responsibility, one that cannot be abandoned.”

Cal a low-level con man, who is scooped up from Earth by the Zertex corporation to help stop an intergalactic war, is that type of character. He builds community and he tags this odd assortment or military personnel, criminals, and a shape shifting blob and forges them into the Space Team.

I must admit I have greatly enjoyed all the books by Hutchinson that I have read to date, no matter what name they are published under. This one is a fun read, in what looks like a terribly humorous series. It has more of a Young Adult feel to it than mainline adult fiction to me, but I am certain it will have fans in both categories. There are currently 12 novels, a collection of short stories and I believe some graphic novels or comics set in this universe. So if you enjoy it there is a lot of reading ahead. I look forward to some of the other stories set in this world and exploring Hutchinson’s many other works. A great beginning it what should be a highly entertaining series to help hold me over till the next DCI Logan or Robert Hoon book comes out from Barry’s alter ego J.D. Kirk.  

Books by J.D. Kirk:

DCI Logan Series:
One for the Ages

Robert Hoon Thrillers:

Contributed to:
Everyday Kindness: A Collection of Uplifting Tales to Brighten Your Day

Books as Barry J. Hutchison:
Dan Deadman Space Detective Series:
Dial D for Deadman
Dead Inside
Dead in the Water

Space Team Series:
The Wrath of Vajazzle 
The Search for Splurt 
Song of the Space Siren 
The Guns of Nana Joan 
Return of the Dead Guy 
Planet of the Japes 
The Time Titan of Tomorrow 
The King of Space Must Die 
Sting of the Mustard Mines 
Sentienced to Death
The Hunt for Reduk Topa
Konto Garr: Bounty Hunter and Occasional Babysitter
A Lot of Weird Space Shizz: Collected Short Stories

Sidekicks Initiative Series:
The Sidekicks Initiative

The Bug Books Series:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Complete Season One

Other Books:
World Killer

Children’s books as Barry Hutchison:
Invisible Fiends Series:
Mr Mumbles 
Raggy Maggie 
The Crowmaster 
Doc Mortis 
The Beast 
The Darkest Corners 

The Missing Remote of the Apocalypse
The 13th Horseman 
The Book of Doom 

Benjamin Blank Series:
The Shark-Headed Bear Thing 
The Swivel-Eyed Ogre-Thing 
The Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing 

Beaky Malone Series:
The World's Greatest Liar
Worst School Trip Ever
Super Creepy Camp
Weirdest Show on Earth

Generator Rex Series:
The Trade
Mirror Mirror

Living Ted Series:
Night of the Living Ted
Revenge of the Living Ted
Invasion of the Living Ted

Spectre Collectors Series:
Too Ghoul for School
A New York Nightmare!
Rise of the Ghostfather!

Other works:
Rise of the Rabbits

Thursday, 1 December 2022

Insights - Peter Haverty

Peter Haverty
ISBN 9781955809177
eISBN 9781955809184

This book came highly recommended to me. I am not sure if I read a review or someone reading it mentioned it. I admit the book was a bit of a struggle for me. It took some real effort to not have it end up on my ‘did not finish’ pile. I am not sure if it is the style or the content but I had to work at this book. The description of the volume is:

“My first attempt at writing was based on the fact that I had collected over the years about 500 quotations from Catholic spiritual authors and I selected about 20 of these which I classified as "Insights". I printed them off in a hurry because I thought I was going to die in an impending operation. For a long time while preaching I had decided that to win a hearing from the congregation any discourse needs an arresting mother-idea or insight.

On recovering, I thought I could make it into a decent-sized book by adding on some 20 meditations on the topics following the sequence I use for a retreat. This part constitutes Part Two of the present proposed book.

The style of English corresponds, I suppose to what was current in the 1950's. Although over the years I have tended to preach in a controversial way.”

The sections and chapters in the book are:

More Insights
Original Sin
Transcendental Order

Part I
Chapter 1 God
Chapter 2 Jesus Christ
Chapter 3

Part II
First Step: Creation And Fall
The Devil’s Temptation Of Eve
Consequences Of The Fall
Effect Of The Consequences Of Original Sin
God’s Plan Of Redemption
The Narrow Gate
Divine Filiation
Hope Of Becoming Saints
Sin And Lukewarmness
The Last Things
The Last Supper: The New Commandment
The Passion And Death Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Glorious Resurrection Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Ascension Of Our Lord And The Coming Of The Holy Spirit
Suggestion For New Back Outer Cover Words

We are informed that:

“This edition is an expansion of the original booklet of ‘Insights’ produced in 2006, consisting of a collection of philosophical observations of the basic tenets of Christianity. These additional reflections are intended to provide the basis for meditations which could be used as the background to a retreat.”

And about the author:

“Peter Haverty joined Opus Dei in 1955 having previously been a student in the Men’s Residence, ‘Netherhall’, in London. He studied Chemical Engineering at Imperial College followed by a Graduate Apprenticeship and qualified as a Mechanical Engineer in 1957. 

In 1985, he went to Rome and attended the Lateran University obtaining his doctorate in Philosophy in 1961. During this period, he lived in the Opus Dei Headquarters in Rome, frequently meeting the Founder, St Josemaría Escrivá.

Fr Haverty was ordained by Blessed José María García Lahiguera on 5th August 1962. 

After spending a further year in Spain, he returned to England where his priestly and pastoral ministry has been carried on in London and latterly in Manchester where he how resides.”

A sample insight is:

In the Gospel of St Matthew, it says ‘Make your way in by the narrow gate. It is a broad gate and a wide road that leads to perdition, and those who go in that way are many indeed; but how small is the gate, how narrow the road that leads on to life, and how few there are that find it!’ (Mt 7:13).

These words give us a lot of food for thought. Of course, it leads to a great deal of speculation about how many will be saved; a number which I am sure Our Lord would say is known only by His Father. When we look around us today and see the sins being committed and very serious sins, so many abortions, so much overt sexuality, hedonism is rife, and abuse of children, which Our Lord said would be punished by tying a millstone round the neck of the perpetrators. The mind boggles; and yet on the other hand we know how loving and forgiving Our Lord is, and how many come back to Him with repentance. A few years ago, we celebrated the Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy and the Pope spoke a great deal about it. Pope St John Paul II wrote his second Encyclical about Mercy in ‘Dives in Misericordia’. This in turn was quite probably inspired by the communications of St Faustina Kowalska about this time of mercy in the life of the Church. Saint Josemaría was quite probably influenced by another holy nun, Madre Esperanza del Amor Misericordioso (Alhama Valero), foundress of the Slaves of Merciful Love, and promoter of the devotion to the Merciful Love of Jesus. Her Congregation was approved by the Sacred Congregation of Religious in 1949 and received the Decretum Laudis in 1970. She constructed the Shrine of Merciful Love in Collevalenza, which was visited by Pope St John Paul II in 1981. All of which leads us to take a more optimistic view of the outcome of those to be judged on departing this life.

But now, what do we reckon is this narrow gate? Briefly, I think it means the pains and sufferings of this present life. St John of the Cross says quite simply that it is the Cross of Our Lord. I feel sure he is not using the words of the precious Gospel just that we can amuse ourselves speculating about how many will go to heaven and how many will go to hell. It is, in effect, a complete waste of time for us to bother our heads about that. He is teaching us, as usual, about a very practical thing which is our attitude once more in approaching our spiritual life. In this case, our approach to the trials, difficulties and sufferings of life because, so frequently, we shy away from them and choose the easy way out. No matter who we are, rich or poor, no matter what age we are, young or old, we all have to suffer. In the Book of Genesis, after the Fall, the dire predictions of God, as a consequence of sin, are directed to the human race universally, without any exceptions whatsoever. God subjects each one of us to trials or tests of our faith and trust in Him. Are we going to be like our first parents, or are we going to be like our Saviour Jesus Christ, and His loving Mother Mary who is our Mother too? Adam and Eve failed and disobeyed God, Jesus and Mary overcame all the difficulties and came through triumphant.

We have to acknowledge that there is a difference between Jesus and us. He is God after all, but it is also true that He fought the good fight in His human nature. And, if we want take an example of someone who has only a human nature and is not God, we have Our Lady. Then, again, we have a whole army of Saints in Heaven who are a wonderful example for us and who were exactly the same as we are in every respect and quite a number of them followed a path which was leading to perdition until they came to their senses and repented of their foolish and evil ways. In this, as always, we have to choose which way we are going to travel the path of life. When Our Lord says ‘make your way in the narrow gate’, he is in effect saying: ‘embrace the Cross’. It is what He said on another occasion: ‘if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’ (Lk 9:23). But will we?

One of our problems is self-pity. The cross comes in the shape of a great pile of work which tires us out. Or it could be we receive some very sad news which makes us depressed. Somebody we were relying on to help us in our work and other difficulties leaves us abandoned. And what do we say? We say I have suffered enough and switch on the television, or pick up the newspaper, and avoid the cross.

In my opinion, this has a great deal to do with surprise. It seems to us that the extra amount of work which we weren’t expecting is like the last straw which broke the camel’s back, it is too much. Now this, in turn, is because of our failure to be prepared.

Our Lord gives us all these sayings and recommendations in the Holy Gospel and on top of that presents us with Himself, a portrait in pain, on the Cross, in the hope that the message will penetrate - we have to embrace His Holy Cross, so that when the time comes we will accept it generously. In other words, we have to cultivate in our hearts a love of the Holy Cross of Jesus. St Josemaría was well aware of this and encouraged us to meditate on the Cross. There is that interesting point in The Way which speaks about the cross without its crucified:

‘When you see a poor wooden Cross, alone, uncared for and of no value... and without its Crucified, don’t forget that that Cross is your Cross: the Cross of each day, the hidden Cross, without splendour or consolation..., which is awaiting the Crucified it lacks: and that Crucified must be you’. (The Way, no. 178)

St Josemaría, as we know, had a Cross without a figure on it, placed at the entrance of the oratories of the centres of Opus Dei to remind people of this. In addition, as we know, also in the early days of his ministry with young people he came in contact with, he would insist that they carry a crucifix around with them. When he attended his first circle (a ‘circle’ is a class of spiritual and doctrinal formation which Opus Dei offers to people) in Barcelona in 1939, Rafael Termes tells of how St Josemaría asked him if he had a crucifix and when he said he hadn’t, St Josemaría said to Isidoro, one of the first members of Opus Dei (I think it was Isidoro Zorzano who accompanied him on that occasion) ‘you give your crucifix to Rafael, we can get another one for you when we get back to Madrid’. This tells how much it meant to St Josemaría that we all have a crucifix with us all the time. In this way also we are able to kiss it when things get hard. And what is the idea of all this? Well, to be prepared of course, for when we reject the Cross, that is, fail to enter through the narrow gate. That’s because the difficulties, the bereavement, the financial loss, the extra burden of work, came upon us all of a sudden. We were taken by surprise and reacted primo primi with an instinctive, animal-like reaction, and threw it away. The opportunity was lost. One of the things I learnt in hospital was that just as the joys and the perks of life come and go very quickly, so do the pains and sorrows. And what happens is that we miss out on golden opportunities to offer sacrifices to God. No sooner does the pain begin, then it disappears. I am not saying that things like arthritis, sciatica or lumbago, disappear quickly, but most set-backs, sorrows and disappointments do. This means that in our nightly moment of examination of conscience it is sometimes a good idea to look back over the day and ask ourselves about the difficulties and pains of the day to find out if we offered them up. They are like caresses from Our Lord. On the day Pope St John Paul II was shot, and he was in hospital, Blessed Alvaro went to visit him and said to the Pope, that he considered the incident had been like a caress from Our Lady, and the Pope said, ‘that was just what I was thinking myself’!

When we mention St John Paul II, it brings to mind his total acceptance of the Cross in his final illness when he was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and accepted all the discomfort and pains that went with it. What was it that enabled him to accept it all? I am sure that it was voluntary mortification which he practised throughout his long life. A lot of people know, but for those who don’t, it helps to remember one of his first trips abroad to the Philippines. It happened that in the convent he was to stay they needed extra staff to help the nuns to prepare things for the Holy Father and the entourage. Well, I have it on good authority that a number of women members of Opus Dei were brought in to help out and because they had not had time to clean the whole house, they thought they would leave the chapel to the end when everybody has gone to bed. But when they went back to the chapel at midnight, they found the Pope on the floor of the chapel with his arms outstretched, praying! And this was after a long and tiring flight across the world. Of course, I am not suggesting you or I take these extreme measures, but we can at least take note, make some examination of how ready we are for sacrifice and mortification in imitation of Our Lord and his Saints.”

These insights are intended that they can be used for retreat. Maybe delivered as talks my experience would have been different. There is some excellent material in these Insights. But I struggled with read the book. The material is more than worth the effort and I can easily recommend the book.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Peter Haverty:
Only God Can Be Proved To Exist By Reason

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Room One A Mystery or Two - Andrew Clements

Room One A Mystery or Two 
Andrew Clements
ISBN 9780689866876
eISBN 9781442462250

Six years ago, I discovered the works of Andrew Clements. I was instantly hooked and have now read 20 books by him. Many consider him the ‘master of school stories’, and I would agree. I have a dual form of dyslexia and did not learn to read until after grade 7. So I never read ‘school stories’ when I was young. That combined with having my own school aged children has instilled a great appreciation for the genre and specifically for the works of Andrew Clements. Clements passed away in 2019 his last novel was The Friendship War, which is an excellent volume. Around the time I discovered Clements works I also encountered Chris d’Lacey both write amazing stories for children, but they are also stories that any of us can learn from. Back then I set the goal of reading all of their works, but as my own children have grown these books had slid by the way side. I have now returned to them yet again. This story has inspired me to recommit to that goal.

I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up. I grabbed it based on the author and title alone. The cover grabbed my interest as well. It was an interesting read and one of my favorites of all his books I have read. It is an excellent read. The description of the book states:

“Ted Hammond learns that in a very small town, there's no such thing as an isolated event. And the solution of one mystery is often the beginning of another.

Ted Hammond loves a good mystery, and in the spring of his fifth-grade year, he's working on a big one. How can his school in the little town of Plattsford stay open next year if there are going to be only five students? Out here on the Great Plains in western Nebraska, everyone understands that if you lose the school, you lose the town.

     But the mystery that has Ted's full attention at the moment is about that face, the face he sees in the upper window of the Andersons' house as he rides past on his paper route. The Andersons moved away two years ago, and their old farmhouse is empty, boarded up tight. At least it's supposed to be.

     A shrinking school in a dying town. A face in the window of an empty house. At first these facts don't seem to be related. But...”

Ted is a good kid, and he is trying to do the right thing. The importance and weight of promises plans a key role in this story. For example:

“Ted had reached the kitchen porch. He pushed all the fears out of his mind and pulled himself back to reality. Because whatever else was going on at this house, he’d made a promise. He had promised a girl that he’d bring her some food. And he was going to keep that promise.”

“Ted thought, I can’t lie to Mrs. Mitchell. But I promised I wouldn’t tell. I promised. I have to keep my promise.
And in the stress of the moment, with the dusty tennis racket in mid-swing, Ted saw what a powerful grip a promise can have.
And not just on him. A promise can grab hold of anyone.
Even a teacher.”

“She reached out quickly and took both his hands in hers, and when he tried to pull away, she held on. “Ted, listen to me. I’m so sorry. But you have to hear this. I started feeling like I had to do something last night. Even though I promised you I wouldn’t tell anyone. But I wanted to talk to you first. So I didn’t do anything, and I didn’t tell anyone. Not even my husband.””

It is also the story of a town on the verge of collapse rising to the challenge to help strangers in need. It was very interesting watching Ted as he worked through the questions, concerns and desire to help and do the right thing. He soon realizes he cant do it all on his own so he comes up with a plan to get help to provide help.

This is another excellent offering from the pen of Andrew Clements, it is a great Middle Grade read. A fantastic book for young readers, and for those of us who just love a great story!

Books by Andrew Clements:
Bird Adalbert
Noah and the Ark and the Animals
Santa's Secret Helper
Temple Cat
Mother Earth's Counting Book
Billy and the Bad Teacher
Who Owns the Cow
Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers
(Adapter)Philipp's Birthday Book
Riff's BeBop Book
Real Monsters Go for the Mold
Things That Go EEK on Halloween
Real Monsters Stage Fright
Music Time, Any Time
Double Trouble in Walla Walla
Gromble's Haunted Halloween
Hey Dad, Could I Borrow Your Hammer
The Landry News
Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play
The Mouse Family
The Janitor's Boy
Circus Family Dog
The Christmas Kitten
The School Story
Things Not Seen 
The Jacket 
A Week in the Woods
Slippers at Home
Naptime for Slippers
The Report Card
The Last Holiday Concert
Slippers at School
Slippers Loves to Run
A Million Is a Lot of Dots
Lunch Money
Things Hoped For
Room One: A Mystery or Two
No Talking
Things That Are
Lost and Found
Extra Credit
About Average
The Map Trap
The Friendship War
The Losers Club

Pets to the Rescue Series
Ringo Saves the Day!
Brave Norman
Tara and Tiree, Fearless Friends
Delores and the Big Fire

Jake Drake Series
Jake Drake Know-It-All
Jake Drake, Bully Buster
Jake Drake, Teacher's Pet
Jake Drake, Class Clown

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Series
We the Children
Fear Itself
The Whites of Their Eyes
In Harm's Way
We Hold These Truths

Reading Program Books
Karen's Island
Three Wishes for Buster
Bill Picket: An American Original, Texas Style
Hurricane Andrew
Ham and Eggs for Jack
Life in the Desert
Desert Treasure
Inventors: Making Things Better, Steck-Vaughn
Milo's Great Invention