Tuesday 28 February 2006

The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross - Liguori St. Alphonsus Liguori
Baron-Cotton Inc.

The Way of the Cross according to the method of St. Alphonsus Liguori is one of the most popular and best-loved Way of the Cross ever. Each station has traditional pictures of mosaics . The Stabat Mater is printed in both Latin and in English. This is the version I used to pray with my grandmother when I was young.

Way of the Cross
Pope Benedict XVI
Pauline Press

This is a new one for me, with amazing artwork and deep meditations. As a new read on an old topic this one really shook things up for me. It drew me in to the meditations and prayers in a new and intriguing ways.
Way of the Cross
St. Josemaria Escriva
Scepter Publication

Yet another new one for me this year, this one has a unique feature that is very challenging, each of the stations has a series of 5 ‘points for meditation’ at the end of the chapter. These points can be used collectively for a long meditation or can be used one by one on successive readings. This one is also awesome to do as a group with friends, family or at church. Escriva who was the founder of Opus Dei really takes a reader deep into the mysteries of the passion of Jesus Christ.

The Way of the Cross
Caryll Houselander
Liguori Press

This is a reprinting of an older version that was originally published in the 1950’s. This author enjoyed great popularity for her spiritual writings in the 40’s and 50’s. I came across this one last year but only got around to reading it this year. It has an a meditation between 4 and 8 pages per station. It also has woodcut prints by the author at the beginning of each chapter. Also each chapter ends with a prayer composed to tie the meditation to our own lives. The meditations in this edition go much deeper than some of the others. The reflections lead to deep introspection.

everyone’s way of the cross
Clarence Enzler
Ave Maria Press

This is the edition I have been using for years. It was originally published as ‘everyman’s way of the cross’ and has sold over 2 million copies. The photo’s accompanying each meditation are black and white photo’s of everyday life; an apartment building someone in a library, an old man sitting in a park. These down to earth pictures help bring the meditations hope to today and now.

But the focus of all of these gems is to draw us closer to God, to draw us closer to others and to help us seek the Spirit’s help to deepen our roots so that our faith will be stronger and we can live to serve others.

This article is continued in The Way of the Cross Part II.

All reviews of Stations of the Cross.

Sunday 26 February 2006

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition
Second Edition
Ignatius Press
ISBN 1574551108

This review will encompass the three volumes listed above as they are so linked and of value together that it would not make sense to review them separately. There are many versions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and even many different editions of each of those versions, so one would beg the question why review a book so readily available and so accessible. That would be a good question to ask. There is the ‘original edition’ the ‘second edition’ and now there is also a ‘definitive edition’ so why would we examine this work?

The answer is that like with Shakespeare, for which there are innumerable editions each reader tends to gravitate towards a specific version or set of editions. In having spent many hours reading these documents over the last few months I can only state categorically that this is the ‘best packaging’ of the Catechism that I have yet to investigate. The larger format makes it easier to work with than many of the smaller pocket version, the wide margins left for personal notes and thoughts is much appreciated. As well this edition is the only one I have found with a glossary and it also has a more extensive index then the other two editions I examined.

The Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Ignatius Press
ISBN 0898704510

The Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a wonderful resource for the inquiring mind or the serious academic. It is a treasure of all of the quote sources from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and allows you to go much deeper in your study without having to carry a giant reference library with you, or to have a stack or 10 or 20 books beside your desk.

Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Pope Benedict XVI – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Ignatius Press
ISBN 0898704855

The third volume the
Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI is an excellent resource in and of itself, it serves as an introduction not only to the history of the Catechism and the Catholic views on truth it also has excellent short introductions to each of the four sections in the Catechism.

These three volumes are essential for any serious Catholic scholar and together they would be amazing resources in any Christian home, or person’s office.

(First Published in Across the Creek
the St. Jerome's Students Union newspaper column 'Book Look' March 2006)

For a list of all books that are part of Father Mark Goring's Saint Mark’s School of Reading click here.

Thursday 23 February 2006

Lent Readings

With lent beginning next week my readings these past few weeks have focused on preparation for that. I have read a number of different ‘Way of the Cross” a new edition that is a very good one is by Pope Benedict XVI – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. It has just been released by Pauline Press. The artwork accompanying the meditations are by Dutch Symbolist painter Jan Toorop (1858-1928) The reflections are deep and moving and it is an excellent read.

I have also been continuing my research into Opus Dei, this past week I read Josemaria Escriva’s The Way, Furrow and The Forge. Each of these three volumes are collections of thoughts, pense’s musings and meditations. They can be read from beginning to end or randomly opened and read just as you find them. Some of the reflections will require more thought and work them. Some examples that particularly grabbed my attention are:

“As soon as you willfully allow a dialogue with temptation to begin, the soul is robbed of its peace, just as consent to impurity destroys grace.”
-Furrow #836

“Fight against the softness that makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of tepidity … and, in the words of the scriptures, God will vomit out the lukewarm.”
-The Way #325

“When I made you a present of that life of Jesus, I wrote in it this inscription: ‘May you seek Christ, may you find Christ, may you love Christ. These are three very distinct steps. Have you at least tried to live the first?”
-The Way #382

“Each day be conscious of your duty to e a saint. A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.”
-The Forge #60

“Make an effort to respond at each moment to what God is asking of you: have the will to love him with deeds. They may be little deeds, but do not leave any out.”
-The Forge #82

Finally I just finished another new book Charles de Foucauld: Journey of the Spirit by Cathy Wright it is a biography that is an easy read, but the material and life it examines are so deep that you will have to come back to it again later. There is a great deal in this little volume and it wets one’s thirst to find out more about de Foucauld or to find his own writings to devour. Here is a quote from one of his letters to leave off this post.

“Anything that doesn’t lead us to that – to better know and serve God – is a waste of time.”
-Charles de Foucauld

Monday 20 February 2006

Running Scared the Call of Pilgrimage by: Tom Maddix

Running Scared: the Call of Pilgrimage
Tom Maddix
October 2005
174 pages

The back of this book markets it as: “Part guidebook, part personal journal, part prayer book, Running Scared takes readers to key pilgrimage destinations in Europe, North America, and Asia.” From that, I was expecting much more from the book then received. The book should be biographical. There are few descriptions of the places and sometimes not even any details.

Yet the book does have an immense power. In walking with Tom through his journey, we can see our own journey in a new and clearer light. Maddix examines many aspects of pilgrimage: The Call to Pilgrimage, The Ins and Outs of Pilgrimage, Chance Encounters, Heights and Depths, How the Spirit can Nudge, and Listening and Life Lessons on the Path.

Maddix in some ways is a professional pilgrim - as one who has traveled the world over many times and visited pilgrimage sites, religious communities and shrines around the world, he is in some ways an expert on the topic.

Even though the book was not what was expected it was an excellent read and opened my eyes to many places of pilgrimage hereto unknown.

(First Published in 'The Impint' as "Running Scared runs astray" 2006-02-24)

Friday 10 February 2006

Religious Nuts Political Fanatics: U2 in Theological Perspective by Robert Vagacs

Religious Nuts Political Fanatics: U2 In Theological Perspective
By: Robert Vagacs
Cascade Books
December 2005
95 pages

Vagacs does many unique and intriguing things in this little volume. He examines the collective works of U2 through the theological lenses of Walter Brueggemann to interpret their albums and specific songs. The categories he borrows from Brueggemann are the themes of hope amidst despair, social justice and eschatological anticipation, exile in a scorched land, and finally grace and resurrection.

Vagacs was drawn to undertake this endeavor after attending a U2 concert, which raised a number of questions in his mind. He states: “They prompt me to ask what is it exactly about U2’s music that captivates people from such a diverse demographic, not to mention geographic, diversity? Is it their consistency, or their cohesiveness as a band? Is it their commitment to the music and each other? Is it U2’s concern and involvement with social justice issues? Perhaps it is simply the fact that they generate great music?” (p.ix)

Vagacs believes that there are 4 categories of readers for this book:
  1. You are neither a U2 fan nor a Christ follower.
  2. You are a U2 fan with no real connection to Jesus Christ.
  3. You are a Christian with no real connection to U2.
  4. You are both a U2 fan and a Christ follower.
No matter which category you are in, this book can be informative, both on the history of U2 and the progression of thought through their music, and the spiritual imagery and implications of their work album by album. No matter which of the four you are, this book will open your eyes.

Brian Walsh in the introduction states: “Rob Vagacs does not come to worship at the shrine of U2. That would be a blasphemy to his own faith and a terrible disservice to the band. Rather, this book opens our eyes to light that is shining in the midst of the darkness of a postmodern world.” (p.xvi) I believe it sums up the book well. This book will not herald U2 as the light, but as light bearers in a darkening world. This book will help you see light around you, whether in other people, music, or even theology.

Robert Vagacs is a local K-W author and his book is available at Words Worth Books (Waterloo), KW Books (Kitchener) and Book Express (Cambridge Centre) or through amazon.ca.

(First Published in Imprint 2006-02-10 as ‘If Bono met Jesus”.)
(Repirinted in Beyond Ordinary Living January/February 2007 as 'If Bono Met Jesus".)

Wednesday 8 February 2006


It surprises me more and more how catholic I am to my core. A few months back at a conference I picked up a gift card of an Icon of Blessed Damien the Leper, after watching the film Molokai I wanted the image to remind me of his service and his life. Yet since then I have been bombarded with icon’s and books about icon’s. I have been trying to read through the works of our new Academic Dean at St. Jerome’s University and have been trying to track down his one book, How to Pray with Icons by Myroslaw Tataryn.

Then a few weeks after that I am at a friends and he has started painting images that remind me of icons. At 16 he is doing some amazing work, I cannot wait to watch his art develop over the next few years.

Later while searching for Tataryn’s book I come across one called A Brush with God: An Icon Workbook by Peter Pearson a book about painting icons, so of course I mentioned it to my friend Brahm. But while still searching for Dr. T’s book I found one more, by the artist that painted my Icon of Damien, his book is called Christ in the Margins by Robert Lentz, Edwina Gateley: Lentz painted the 25 Icons and wrote biographies of the different people and Gateley wrote meditations on each group of biographies. To check out some more of Lentz’s images visit http://saintvictor.org/saints/damien.html where there are many of his images.

I also have just found this one Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying With Icons by Henri Nouwen, I will have to track it down and check it out.

Brahm's Icons

Brahm gave me permission to post his painings.

Robert Lentz's Icons

The Images come from http://saintvictor.org/saints/damien.html
or from http://www.bridgebuilding.com/catalog/icons.html where you can order prints cards ...
Damien The Leper & Guardian Angel
St. Therese de Liseux & Edith Stein of Osweich
Christ of the Desert & Steven Biko of South Africa

Thursday 2 February 2006

Molokai: The Story of Father Damien


This biography of Father Damien, the Catholic priest who in 1873 volunteered for service on the Hawaiian leper colony of Molokai. For 15 years Damien ministered nearly single-handedly to the quarantined community, supplying what medication he could procure while struggling against the red tape from organizations (religious and governmental) that would rather have forgotten all about the thousands of people dying in primitive conditions. He won some battles and lost others, finally succumbing to the disease himself in 1888.

The films earnestness led to the who's-who supporting cast (Sam Neill, Derek Jacobi, Peter O'Toole, Leo McKern, Kate Ceberano and Kris Kristofferson), but it is David Wenham who must carry the film as Damien, which he does spectacularly and with a touching humility, but with the spirit to fight for those he serves, in the midst of such conflict. Director Paul Cox was inspired in his choices of choosing scenes to highlight 15 years in a single film not two hours long. He uses amazing cinematographic tools to convey the story and the passage of time, a tree stand planted by Damien, the many construction projects he carries out, and watching ‘Little Bishop’ grow up and pass away. Pay particular attention to the music, and the use of the sound of the wind as the film progresses.

This is a story of faith and of service. If you want a film that will challenge your spirit and cause you to examine your own life in the light of the service given by others you could not pick a better film.

The Toronto Globe and Mail stated about the film “A Triumph of the Human Spirit!” Though this film did well at the film festivals it had little or no mainstream release in North America.

http://imdb.com/title/tt0165196/ Is the IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) site about the film.

After seeing this film I have been driven to track down books about Damien and the situation there on Molokai. In watching this film be prepared to be challenged.

(Make sure you get the Letterbox or Widescrene version to get the most out of this masterful film.)

Reviews of Books and Movies about Saint Damien:
Apostle of the Exiled St. Damien of Molokai - Margaret Bunson & Matthew Bunson
Pilgrimage and Exile: Mother Marianne of Molokai by: Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, O.S.F.
Molokai: The Story of Father Damien by: Paul Cox
Molokai: The Story of Father Damien
Father Damien de Veuster Apostle to the Lepers - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Saint Damien of Molokai - Virginia Helen Richards and D. Thomas Halpin
The Life and Letters of Father Damien, Apostle of the Lepers - Edited by Pamphile De Veuster 
Father Damien's Letters

Prayer of the Day - Saint Damien Prayer

Wednesday 1 February 2006

Opus Dei

Over the last few years I have been hearing more and more about Opus Dei. Especially the bad light that Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has shed on this organization. A number of years ago at Queen’s University I knew some people who were involved with the organization and I had nothing but respect and trust for this couple.

So in light of the recent proliferation of material both for and against Opus Dei, I have decided to do my own research. There are books against and for Opus Dei, and websites galore on both sides.

I decided that my research should return to the beginning. So I have been working my way through the complete works of Josemaria Escriva the founder of Opus Dei. (The Centennial Edition collects together St. Josemaría Escrivá's complete published works in honor of his canonization and the one hundredth anniversary of his birth. This set is essential for libraries and perfect for individuals seeking trustworthy guidance on how to follow Christ in every detail of their daily lives.

The Centennial Edition contains the complete texts of St. Josemaría's much-beloved books of aphoristic wisdom: The Way, Furrow, and The Forge. Also included are his three books of homilies: Christ is Passing By, Friends of God, and In Love with the Church. Lovers of St. Josemaría's writings will particularly cherish his two devotional guides, The Way of the Cross and Holy Rosary, and the hard-to-find collection of the saint's illuminating interviews about the nature and purpose of Opus Dei, Conversations with Josemaría Escrivá.) As well as working through In Conversation With God the devotional readings encouraged to members of Opus Dei written by Francis Fernandez. This devotional series of seven volume’s had readings that follow the Common Liturgy http://www.easterbrooks.com/personal/calendar/index.html It has a 6 or 7 page a day reading for each day of the church year and volume’s #6 and #7 are the special feasts that have calendar days.

I am now working through Michael Walsh’s Opus Dei: An Investigation Into The Powerful, Secretive Society Within The Catholic Church and John L. Allen JR.’s new book Opus Dei: An Objective look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church.

I have not come to any final conclusions yet, but I can only say that I do not understand what all the controversy is really about. From the Escriva books I have read and the month’s devotionals I have read so far, I only see a faith that is true and strong being encourage. A Faith that challenges one not to remain the same, but to ever be striving for more.

Don’t trust all the rumors check it out for yourself.

This Article is continued as Opus Dei Part II!

(For more reviews of Opus Dei books or books by Opus Dei Authors and authors they encourage a person to read. 01... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7... 8... 9... 10... 11... 12... 13... 14... 15... 16... these reviews include the works of Josemaria Escriva, The Pope's, Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn and many others.)