Wednesday, 31 May 2006

The Way by: Josemaria Escriva

The Way
Josemaria Escriva

This is one of three great little books by 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 then others. Some examples that particularly grabbed my attention are:

“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.”

“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?”

“Fight against that weakness which makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of lukewarmness... and, in the words of the Scripture, God will vomit the lukewarm out of his mouth.”

Each of these three little books will help you grow deeper in the Christian life. They will challenge you every time you pick them up and read. I have gotten to the point that I always carry one of them with me, and while waiting for a ride, or before class, or in any spare moment open it and read, and through that reading I pray. Through that prayer I hope to become a better Christian and a better person.

Books by St. Josemaria Escriva:
Christ Is Passing By
Conversations with Saint Josemaria
The Forge
Friends of God

Holy Rosary
In Love with the Church
The Way
The Way of the Cross
The Way, Furrow, Forge (3 in 1 Edition)

Books about St. Josemaria Escriva:
A Man Who Knew How to Forgive: Lessons from the Life of St. Josemaria Escriva - Francesc Faus

Praying 15 Days with St. Josemaria Escriva - Guillaume Derville

Volumes in the St Josemaria Escriva's Collected Letters:
Letters 1: Singuli dies, 24 March 1930
Letters 2: Videns eos, 24 March 1931
The Burgos Letters (1938-1939): Three Circular Letters

Other Way of the Cross Reviews:
The Way of The Cross
The Way of The Cross II

Monday, 29 May 2006

Battlestar Galactica Season 1

Battlestar Galactica
Season 1
Universal DVD
ISBN 1417054069

This is one of the best shows on TV right now, according to many media outlets. "A Breakaway Hit!" -TV Guide and "The Best Show on Television." –Newsday are but two examples of the rave reviews it has received. If you are a sci-fi fan, this is a must-see show. If you aren't a sci-fi fan, you should still consider checking this out. Even though it's in space and has killer robots, it is more human than most other drama shows on TV today. So say we all.

This box set includes the miniseries that re-launched this show and returned it to TV for the first time since the 1970’s. It has the 4-hour miniseries and the 13 episodes from the first season. It stars Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama Captain of the Battlestar Galactica, and Mary McDonnell as the newly invested president of the 12 colonies of man. She was formerly the secretary of education.

The Cylon’s had not been heard from in years. Then in one day they attack and destroy nearly all human life in attacks on all planets and most military assets. Now with the war against the Cylon robots lost, the Battlestar Galactica crew speed toward the fabled 13th colony on a long lost planet, called Earth. Galactica Commander Adama and President Laura Roslin face waning supplies, crushed morale, ... and the credible threat Cylons aboard the ship. Cylons that look like humans now not just shiny machines.

Humanity’s children have come home and they are trying to destroy their creators.

Some of the amazing cast are:
Edward James Olmos as Commander William Adama
Mary McDonnell as Laura Roslin
Katee Sackhoff as Lt. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace
Jamie Bamber as Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama
James Callis as Dr. Gaius Baltar Vice President
Tricia Helfer as Number Six
Grace Park as Lt. Sharon "Boomer" Valerii
Richard Hatch as Tom Zarek (The original Apollo)
Tahmoh Penikett as Lt. Karl C. "Helo" Agathon
Michael Hogan as Col. Saul Tigh
Aaron Douglas as CPO Galen “Chief” Tyrol
Alessandro Juliani as Lt. Felix Gaeta
Kandyse McClure as P02 Anastasia Dualla
Paul Campbell as Billy Keikeya

This cast works so well together, that after the miniseries they rewrote parts of the series to give the “Chief” a much larger role.

This series will draw you in and capture your imagination. It is full of religious symbols and images. There are visions, prophecies, and sacred scrolls. It is a drama of the most intense nature. Check it out, you will watch the DVD’s over and over again.

The best Sci-fi series since Babylon 5.

So Say We All!

Sunday, 28 May 2006

Handbook of Prayers by: Rev. James Socias General Editor

Handbook of Prayers
Rev. James Socias General Editor
Scepter Press
ISBN 9781936045631
ASIN B008B105D2
Our Sunday Visitor

I was introduced to this great little book on a retreat last winter with Opus Dei. A number of the men there had it and I borrowed one for a while on the retreat. This is a little treasure that should be in every Catholic home.

A number of features make this one such a nice prayer book. It is compact and fits in a breast pocket. Also it contains great pen and ink sketches and illustrations, especially for the Stations of the Cross. It has such a variety of prayers if you only had this prayer book it would be sufficient for a wide and varied prayer life.

The first section of the book is a series of articles on How to Be a Better Catholic. The next section is a collect of basic prayers, the Sign of the Cross, Hail Mary, Our Father … then the sections become more specific:

Midday Prayers
Evening Prayers
Preparation for Mass
The Eucharistic Sacrifice
Prayers after Mass
Communion Outside Mass
Eucharistic Adoration
Guide for a Good Confession
Devotions to the Blessed Trinity
Devotions to Our Lord Jesus Christ
Devotions to the Holy Spirit
Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Devotions to St. Joseph
Various Prayers
Prayers at the Time of Death
Prayers for the Dead
Sacraments When in Dander of Death

I guarantee that if you pick up this little book, you will find yourself referring to it time and time again. It will become one of your most valued books, for help in developing your spiritual life.

(Note: an eBook edition has been released now.)

Spiritual Game Plan (An excerpt from this book)

Saturday, 27 May 2006

The Sun, the Moon & the Stars by Steven Brust

The Sun, the Moon, & the Stars
Steven Brust
Orb Books
ISBN: 0312860390
Ace Books
ISBN: 0441790992

Returning once again to Steven Brust, I am now choosing to review not one of his Vlad Toltos or Dragaera books going on to a much deeper book by this very creative writer. There are two editions of this book that I know of. The current Orb edition and a much older Ace edition.

Quoting from the back’s of the books:

Once Upon A Time

there was a kingdom, that
lived in darkness, for the Sun, the
Moon, and the Stars were hidden in a box …
which was hidden in a sow’s belly …
which was hidden I a troll’s cave …
which was surely hidden at the end of the world.
And …

Once Upon A Time

there was a struggling young painter
who also lived in darkness, and – like
the hero of that Hungarian folktale – was
beginning his most perilous quest.
shooting for the Moon. And the Sun.
And the Stars …

Once Upon A Time

there was a studio of artists who feared
they were doomed to obscurity, for though
they worked and they worked,
no one was interested in the paintings
that stood in racks along their studio walls.

The Sun, the Moon
& The Stars

is a tale of two quests, of two young men
who are reaching for the moon. And the sun.
And the stars.

This is a story that I read every few years. Each time I read it I get more from it. The story is of a artist telling his friends a fairy tale he was told in his youth. In telling them the story he is living a fairy tale in that he is attacking the biggest canvas he has ever painted. One he bought after selling a painting that has sat blank for a long time. Now before giving up on being artists living in community he tries to tackle that canvas.

As both a write and a painter this story draws me in. Each time I read it, I hope to become better at both my crafts. This story is a modern day fairy tale told with compassion, conviction and daring. It dares us to learn to dream again, to hope to wish, and maybe if we are lucky the magic of the story will rub off on us.

Books by Steven Brust:
Vlad Taltos Publishing Order:
Jhereg (1983)
Yendi (1984)
Teckla (1987)
Taltos (1988)
Phoenix (1990)
Athyra (1993)
Orca (1996)
Dragon (1998)
Issola (2001)
Dzur (2006)
Jhegaala (2008)
Iorich (2010)
Tiassa (2011)
Hawk (2014)
Vallista (2017)

Vlad Taltos: Chronological Order:
Taltos (1988)
Dragon, main chapters (1998)
Yendi (1984)
Dragon, interludes (1998)
Tiassa, section 1 (2011)
Jhereg (1983)
Teckla (1987)
Phoenix (1990)
Jhegaala (2008)
Athyra (1993)
Orca (1996)
Issola (2001)
Dzur (2006)
Tiassa, section 2 (2011)
Iorich (2010)
Tiassa, section 3 (2011)
Hawk (2014)
Vallista (2017)

The Khaavren Romances:
The Phoenix Guards (1991)
Five Hundred Years After (1994)
The Viscount of Adrilankha, published in three volumes:
The Paths of the Dead (2002)
The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
Sethra Lavode (2004)

Other Books:
Brokedown Palace (1986)
To Reign in Hell (1984)
Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille (1990)
Agyar (1993)

Co Written:
The Gypsy (1992) with Megan Lindholm
Freedom & Necessity (1997) with Emma Bull

Incrementalist (with Skyler White):

Incrementalist Short Stories
Fireworks in the Rain - Steven Brust
Strongest Conjuration - Skyler White

Short Stories:
An Act of Contrition - Liavek (1985)
An Act of Trust - Liavek: The Players of Luck (1986)
A Dream of Passion - in the convention chapbook for Ad Astra (1986)
An Act of Mercy - Liavek: Wizard's Row (1987, with Megan Lindholm)
An Act of Love - Liavek: Spells of Binding (1988, with Gregory Frost and Megan Lindholm)
Csucskári - Excerpt from The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: First Annual Collection (1988)
A Hot Night at Cheeky's - Liavek: Festival Week (1990)
Looking Forward: Excerpt from Athyra in Amazing Stories, March (1993)
Attention Shoppers - Xanadu (1993)
Abduction from the Harem - in Timewalker Issue 14 (October 1996)
Drift - Space Opera (1996)
Valóság and Élet - in Sandman: Book of Dreams (1996)
Calling Pittsburgh - in Lord of the Fantastic: Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny (1998)
When the Bow Breaks - The Essential Bordertown (1998)
The Man From Shemhaza - in Thieves' World: Enemies of Fortune (2004), reprinted in Year's Best Fantasy 5 (2005)
Klava with Honey - Eeriecon Convention Chapbook #4 (2005)
Chapter One - in Eeriecon Convention Chapbook #6 (2007)
The Desecrator - on (2011)
Fireworks in the Rain - on (2013)

Friday, 26 May 2006

A Wolf Story by: James Byron Huggins

A Wolf Story
James Byron Huggins
Harvest House Publishers
ISBN 1565071263

Huggins is one of those authors I discovered by chance a few years ago. I have read most of the books he has written, my favorites are Reckoning and A Wolf Story. Both are worth your time and effort.

A Wolf Story is an allegory in the style of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. In part it is a coming of age story, and part the story of good vs. evil. Long long ago, the inhabitants of the deep deep woods were given a choice. A choice that each of them in turn must make for themselves. Those who were about to make the choice would always face trials, temptations and fears. This difficult choice was either to follow the Silver Wolf and his lord, the Lightmaker or else they would join the dark Council and become part of the forces for evil.

The choice has become all the more difficult for the forces of light have been decimated, and the Dark Council is at he door of eternal victory. It is the story of a young wolf, who must choose and has been left alone to make that choice.

In this epic final battle between good and evil, the questions becomes is it really a battle of strength vs. strength, wits against wits, wills against wills. It is a path to the future but will that be a future in darkness and oppression or a path to peace, a peace won through sacrifice and pain. A peace hard won. Tis story is an allegory of the Christian life, told in a way that will captivate readers both young and old.

James Byron Huggins was born in 1959. He is a novelist, journalist, religious activist, and police officer; all these titles appear on his resume. A graduate of Morgan County High School, and Troy State University, Huggins began his career as a journalist with the Hartselle Enquirer. In the late 80’s he smuggled Christian materials into Romania. He was a beat cop for 5 years before returning to writing fulltime. His first three novels Reckoning, A Wolf Story, Leviathan were Christian best sellers. Then he broke into the main stream science fiction with such books as Cain, Hunter, Rora, Nightbringer, The Scam, Sorcerer. Both Cain and Hunter have been optioned to be movies and are suppose to star Stallone and Willis respectively.

Monday, 22 May 2006

Conversations With Josemaria Escriva

Conversations With Josemaria Escriva
Josemaria Escriva

This is a great book, a collection of interviews with Josemaria Escriva. The interviews were written at different time's and for different publications.

Pedro Rodriguez for Parabra
Peter Forbarth for Time Magazine
Jacques Guilleme-Brulon for Le Figaro
Tad Szulc for the New York Times
Enrico Zuppi & Antonio Fugardi for L’Osservatore della Domenica
Andres Garrigo for Gaceta Universitaria
Pilar Salcedo for Teva
And a homily given by Escriva October 8th 1967

These articles will give you a very clear view of Josemaria’s vision and mission for members of Opus Dei, for how they can sanctify work, be sanctified and sanctify others through their work.

This collection will be a great introduction to Escriva’s though and the work.

Books by St. Josemaria Escriva:
Christ Is Passing By
Conversations with Saint Josemaria
The Forge
Friends of God

Holy Rosary
In Love with the Church
The Way
The Way of the Cross
The Way, Furrow, Forge (3 in 1 Edition)

Books about St. Josemaria Escriva:
A Man Who Knew How to Forgive: Lessons from the Life of St. Josemaria Escriva - Francesc Faus

Praying 15 Days with St. Josemaria Escriva - Guillaume Derville

Volumes in the St Josemaria Escriva's Collected Letters:
Letters 1: Singuli dies, 24 March 1930
Letters 2: Videns eos, 24 March 1931
The Burgos Letters (1938-1939): Three Circular Letters

Other Way of the Cross Reviews:
The Way of The Cross
The Way of The Cross II

Sunday, 21 May 2006

Faith and the Media

Should we put faith in the media?

More questions than answers debated at St. Jerome's fourth annual conference on Catholics in public life

Can the media be impacted by one's faith, or should all reporting try and be completely impartial? This was one of the main questions attacked last weekend at the Catholics in Public Life Conference., held at St. Jerome's.

This was the fourth biannual conference; the conference is hosted in partnership between St. Jerome's and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. The conference brings together people in the media and the public eye and people interested in honest debate. Past conferences have had such notaries as humanitarian Romeo Dallaire, author Reginald W. Bibby and politician Claude Ryan.

This year's conference speakers were just as powerful. The four panelists for Friday's talk "Catholic Voices in the Media and the Public Square: an Evening of Discussion" were Robert Mickens, Vatican reporter for London's The Tablet, Paul Baumann, editor, at New York's Commonweal, Marina Jimenez, senior writer for the Globe and Mail and Sir Peter Kavanagh, CBC Radio producer. The questions they tackled are as impressive as their resumes: Is the Roman Catholic faith a public or private faith? Do debate and honest inquiry equate with dissent? What should Catholic laity do to become more media savvy? Friday's panel discussion was facilitated, guided and to some extent corralled by Michael W. Higgins, president and vice-chancellor and author of The Muted Voice: Religion and the Media and co-author of Portraits of Canadian Catholicism.

About 200 people attended the public lecture Friday evening. The panelists first answered a series of questions from Higgins and then took questions from the floor, such as, "Should workers in the media who claim faith be required to have a note from a psychiatrist proving sanity?" "Since 9/11, is faith more or less a part of the media reality?" "Is the mainstream commercial media taking an increasing interest in religious and quasi-religious coverage?"

In response to these questions, our panelists had many strong views. Sir Peter Kavanagh stated at one point that "the British Broadcasting Corporation is one of the most resourced broadcasters and media outlets in the world. And what the BBC starts to do, other public broadcasters will start to do. So as they are currently increasing religious coverage and specials, an increase in religious coverage will spread. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will follow suit, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will increase their religious coverage." Later Marina Jimenez stated that the lack of religious coverage in Canada was surprising. She said, "according to Stats Canada, 24 per cent of Canadians are Protestant Christian and another 50 per cent are Catholic, so if 74 per cent of Canadians are Christians, why is the percentage of the religious coverage not that proportionate?"

After questions were opened up to the public, many other interesting questions were raised. "How has the Internet changed your work as a reporter?" "The media is the synthesis of the future; the media can spin stories and shape culture. As a person of faith how do you react to a story that is denied?" "Many other faith traditions seem to have an active voice in the media; how can we as Catholics develop a Catholic voice?" "How were the Catholic and mainstream media affected last year by the Muslim cartoon scandal?" And many more.

Robert Mickens, in reference to his job as a Vatican reporter, stated, "The Vatican is such a political beast that still wields great power around the world. My job is not to explain Church decisions but to report the politics that are behind them. I am more like a beat reporter in Ottawa or Washington."

After the official panel discussion Friday evening there was a wine and cheese social. The four panelists and the four facilitators leading discussion times were available for personal discussion and questions. Then again Saturday morning at breakfast and lunch the celebrities were more than accessible for personal time.

The focus on Saturday was discussion times in groups of about a dozen people. Each group had one of the panelists and a facilitator to keep the conversation on track. Each group met for two discussion. Scott Kline from Saint Jerome's University, who helped to host and facilitate the event summarized the discussion times.

Kline stated, "First, the Catholic Church and Catholics should speak on a wide range of topics. Not just be a single-issue focus. Second, there is unease around the Internet and where we are heading with it? Third, the laity needs to organize itself to show the wide range of opinion within the church on social issues and political issues. Lastly, change in the church is slow, but it does happen. This slowness in regards to change is not always a bad thing."

(First published in Imprint 2006-05-19 as ‘Should we put faith in the media?’.)

Books by Michael W. Higgins:
Genius Born of Anguish: The Life & Legacy of Henri Nouwen
The Unquiet Monk: Thomas Merton's Questing Faith
Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Geography of Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton: Faithful Visionary
Jean Vanier: Logician of the Heart
Faith and Literature Matters
Power And Peril: The Catholic Church At The Crossroads
Stalking the Holy: The Pursuit of Saint Making
My Father's Business: A Biography Of His Eminence G. Emmett Cardinal Carter

Books with Douglas R. Letson:
Soundings: Conversations about Catholicism
The Jesuit Mystique

Contributed to:
Commonweal on Contemporary Theologians
Introducing John Moriarty In His Own Words
Vatican II: A Universal Call to Holiness
Impressively Free: Henri Nouwen as Model for a Reformed Priesthood (with Kevin Burns)
Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry into the Clerical Abuse Scandal (with Peter Kavanagh)

Saturday, 20 May 2006

Waterloo Loses a Good Man - Michael W. Higgins Heads East

Have you ever met a person who instantly captured your attention? Have you ever met a professor or seen a public speaker who captured your imagination? Have you ever had a hero or mentor who mentored you through their work or writings? I have met two such men here at UW and met them both at the same time.

I had the privilege of meeting Michael W. Higgins in the classroom back in the spring of 1998. I had just returned to school as a part-time mature student and to be honest I did not expect to do well. I had been out of university for about five years and was lacking in confidence. I took two courses that term, RS 209 - Paul's Life and Letters with Peter Frick and RS100C - Faith Quests with Michael W. Higgins. Both of these men are scholars, professional men of character and also men of devout faith. Both of these men are involved internationally in scholarship and the promotion of specific areas of focus in their studies.

Yet here in this article I want to focus on Higgins, for the primary reason that he is leaving us. In almost every public lecture of his that I attended since that first class, he quoted Donald Nicholl's article "Scientia Cordis," an article about science of the heart and people who go on faith quests. Yet one of the quotes from that book can sum up Higgins for us. "Hence the characteristic medium of the ‘scientia cordis' is neither a principle nor a law but a story -- a story that will move the heart." (Donald Nicholl's Beatitude of Truth, p.161.) Higgins is a man who opens up whatever he is teaching or talking about through a story, and he always speaks so passionately that the audience is drawn in and captivated by his topic and talk.

Michael W. Higgins is part of the who’s who of Canadian intelligential with degree’s from SFXU, UT, and two from York, he met his wife while studying for the priesthood. Graduating (magna cum laude) at St. Francis Xavier University he then moved on and was mentored by the distinguished poet-scholar Eli Mandel. He arrived at St. Jerome’s University at The University of Waterloo in 1982 and has been a tour de force since then. Publishing many books articles and much much more.

He has a breadth of experience and roles to equal 10 lesser men: some of his former positions include being CTV Vatican Correspondent, Toronto Star Columnist, and regular contributor to The Record. He has authored numerous scripts for the CBC's Idea's program and served as editor for Grail: An Ecumenical Journal. He is also the author of many books, including Stalking the Holy, Power and Peril, Heretic Blood and The Jesuit Mystique. He has balanced these and many more roles while remaining an active member in his faith community, a public speaker, a husband and father. Last year, TVOntario named him one of the "Top Ten" lecturers in Ontario.

Currently Higgins is St. Jerome's University's President and Vice-Chancellor, but he is leaving Waterloo to pursue the same roles at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Maritimes' gain is truly our loss. Waterloo is losing a world-class scholar, a man who served in and around his community and a person of character, faith and integrity. So thus we must bid him farewell; we will have no choice but to follow his future exploits from afar.

(First Published in Imprint 2006-05-19 as ‘Waterloo loses a good man’.)

Books by Michael W. Higgins:
Genius Born of Anguish: The Life & Legacy of Henri Nouwen
The Unquiet Monk: Thomas Merton's Questing Faith
Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Geography of Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton: Faithful Visionary
Jean Vanier: Logician of the Heart
Faith and Literature Matters
Power And Peril: The Catholic Church At The Crossroads
Stalking the Holy: The Pursuit of Saint Making
My Father's Business: A Biography Of His Eminence G. Emmett Cardinal Carter

Books with Douglas R. Letson:
Soundings: Conversations about Catholicism
The Jesuit Mystique

Contributed to:
Commonweal on Contemporary Theologians
Introducing John Moriarty In His Own Words
Vatican II: A Universal Call to Holiness
Impressively Free: Henri Nouwen as Model for a Reformed Priesthood (with Kevin Burns)
Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry into the Clerical Abuse Scandal (with Peter Kavanagh)


Related Posts:
Waterloo Loses A Good Man
Michael W. Higgins
Faith in the Media Conference 2006

Friday, 19 May 2006

May Crowning, Mass and Merton: And Other Reasons I Love Being Catholic by: Liz Kelly

May Crowning, Mass and Merton:
And Other Reasons I Love Being Catholic
Liz Kelly
Layola Press
January 2006
ISBN 0829420258
270 pages.

This is a fascinating little volume, part meditation, part, biography and part theology. Liz Kelly open’s up to us her life and her faith and in doing so can help us to understanding our own faith and tradition better. She examines the things, traditions, places and people that are a source of encouragement, challenge and trial to her faith, and through these pense’s and thoughts opens our eyes to see Catholicism in anew light. As she states in her prologue “One: It’s hard. Being Catholic has taught me about balance and prudence and the deep joys of daily discipline and commitment…Two: It’s Hard. Sometimes it is painful to be Catholic, not because of rules and regulations so often associated with being Catholic are so restrictive, but because the love of heaven leads us to fearless expansiveness…”(p.XIII, XIV) Yes being Catholic can be hard but as Kelly shows us it has much in the way of consolation and rewards to make the hardships worth the efforts.

Kelly has separated her book into five roughly equal parts that examine different aspects of the Catholic tradition:
  1. Objects with Meaning
  2. Those who Journey With Us
  3. Devotion in Practice
  4. Truths That Bring Grace
  5. Rhythms of the Faith
In each of these area’s she examines different elements and examples of peoples, places, things, beliefs and practices that are means of grace in our lives. She opens up each of these categories like a flower blooming in an ever progressive way to draw us deeper into understanding the faith she is explaining to us.

In the first section she examines such elements as the Crucifix, Holy Water, incense, the Rosary, kneelers … and through them helps us to focus our faith on what matters most. She states “I don’t think heaven needs my burning candle any more than it needs holy water or incense. Sacramentals are for us, because we are sensory beings, and symbolism and sacramentals help infuse the spiritual into other planes of our experience – physical, emotional, mental.”(p.12) In exploring these items she opens us to the grace inherent in the use of them as tools to draw us closer to God. Not as an end in themselves, but as a means to an end.

In looking at the lives of some of those who journey with us in this quest for faith and a life in God, Kelly shares some of those examples of saints and people of faith who’s stories can be a source of challenge, inspiration and encouragement in our own journey with God. In Writing about Pope John Paul II Kelly says: “This picture is famous now, Pope John Paul II and his would be assassin, sitting together in intimate conversation two years after the incident. The Holy Father leaning toward the man with gentle attention, …He was unafraid of the vulnerability created by living in forgiveness, of sitting in total love with the enemy.”(p.59) Later while reflecting on the Communion of Saints Kelly reminds us of our own call to be saints, “Most saints did not have easy lives. Many were persecuted and martyred. They were an odd lot, many of them outcasts who experiences every kind of human suffering and weakness. And many of them began as ordinary folks like you and me.”(p.81) She also reminds as that our service is to be done for God “Like many of the saints of the church, Pier Giorgio seemed to lead two lives, not contradictory lives, but one that people observed and one that was hidden.”(p.98) So too our lives should bear silent witness to the work of God in and through us.

Through these examples and the many more that Kelly presents she shows a faith that is rich, vibrant and challenging. This book’s greatest strength is the devotion in which it was written and the sentiment of finding peace in the journey of life. Peace that ultimately can only come from God, but we have a gracious God who has given us many tools to help us along out part. This book is once such tool, for it reveals to us so many other tools that God has provided.

(First Published in St. Anthnoy Messenger June 2006 Book Review Section)

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Trends: Female Authors

I find again and again that my reading ends up following trends, sometimes trends I am not even aware of till I go through the list of all I have read recently. I am the first to admit that when I find an author I like I usually read all or most of their works or at least those I can get my hands on. So it should not surprise me that patters show up in my reading time and time again.

What has surprised me is that 4 of my top authors of the last few years are women, and women of faith. One Mormon and three Catholic. And a few years back it was an Episcopalian.

Terry Tempest Williams

Is a Mormon who writes extensively on Environmental Preservation Issues from a spiritual perspective. She has written children’s book’s environmental studies, natives studies and biographical works.
I would recommend starting with
Red or Refuge or An Unspoken Hunger.
Liz Kelly

Liz Kelly is a jazz singer and writer who has CDs and has published both fiction and nonfiction. She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska and currently works for Harvard University.
I have yet to track down her music but both her books are great reads.
Her Books The Rosary: A Path into Prayer and May Crowning, Mass and Merton are both worth reading.
Irma Zaleski
Zaleski, who was born in Poland in 1931, she escaped to England after the second world war, and came to Canada in 1952, she has led a vivid and diverse life. She has been a professor at the University of Toronto, a translator and a writer. In 1986 she moved to Combermere, Ontario. In her youth she practiced Buddhism and has studied Christian traditions from both the east and the west. As such she brings a breadth and depth to her writings that only comes with such diverse experience.
God is Not Reasonable would be one of the best of her books and a great starting point in her canon.

Kathy Shaidle

Kathy is an award-winning Toronto author, editor and writer for print & web.
God Rides a Yamaha is a must read for anyone struggling with illness or who has journeyed with someone who has.

Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine was born on November 29th, 1918, and spent her formative years in New York City. She preferred writing stories, poems and journals for herself, rather than focusing on her schoolwork.

A Wrinkle in Time, Troubling A Star
or A Ring of Endless Light would be a great intro to her children’s literature. She has won the John Newbury Award twice, one of only two authors to do so.

L’Engle though most known for her children’s writing has also published many books of adult fiction, theology, and poetry.

I highly recommend the writings of the authors. Check them out, it will be worth the Time and effort.

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life by Henri J.M. Nouwen

With Burning Hearts:
A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life

Henri J.M. Nouwen
Orbis Books
ISBN 1570755086

Recently I heard a priest from Opus Dei state that Henri Nouwen’s books are not spiritual writing, that all of Nouwen’s books are about Nouwen. After finishing this volume I would have to disagree lately, but not completely, this book like many of Nouwen’s draws from Henri’s personal experience, but all writers write from the lense that filters all we see and do. How could our life experience not affect how we see the world.

Nouwen states in the introduction: “Every day I celebrate the Eucharist. Sometimes in my parish church with hundreds of people present, sometimes in the Daybreak chapel with members of my community, sometimes in my father’s living room with just him and me. Very few days pass without my saying, ‘Lord, have Mercy,’ without the daily readings and a few reflections.” p.9 The rest of the book is a series of reflections on the Christian life through the filter of the Eucharist and through the eyes of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The five sections in the book are:
  1. Mourning Our Losses: “Lord Have Mercy”
  2. Discerning the Presence: “This is the Word of God”
  3. Inviting the Stranger: “I Believe”
  4. Entering into Communion: “Take and Eat”
  5. Going on a Mission: “Go and Tell”
Each section draws us into a deeper understanding of our life, and our life as a people of the word and of the Eucharist.

The first section focuses on loss, our loss of what we believe in, what we hope for and what we sometimes dream of. After loss the disciples questioned their following Jesus, and if we are honest sometimes we doubt as well. “We remember the time that Jesus was so real for us that we had no question about his presence in our lives. He was our most intimate friend our counselor and guide. He gave us comfort, courage, and confidence. We could feel him, yes, taste and touch him. And now? We no longer think of him very much, we no longer desire to spend long hours in his presence. We no longer have that special feeling about him.” p. 27,28. through the losses we have in our life we have come to have periods of doubt and struggle with our faith, we come bruised and broken by this world. “We come to the Eucharist with hearts broken by many losses, our own as well as those of the world.” p. 31 but Nouwen goes on to give us hope, our hearts are broken and we experience loss so that we can also be healed and restored, so that through the Eucharist we can receive the water of God’s grace.

After we have a renewed hope and have begun healing we must discern the presence of God in our lives. He declares “We cannot live without words that come from God, words to pull us out of our sadness and lift us up to a place from where we can discover what we are truly living.” p.51 In this section we are reminded that God’s words give life, we are nourished by them, challenged, encouraged and admonished. “Without the word, our life has little meaning.” p.60 As Catholics as Christians how could we not live immersed in the Word, in the guidebook God has given to us.

Inviting the Stranger, “Interesting, stimulating, and inspiring as all these strangers may be, when I do not invite them into my home, nothing truly happens.” p.69 Jesus stated that he stands at the door and knocks, the question is do we invite him in? Do we want him to permeate our whole life? Do we want to have Jesus be a part of our everyday life? This section asks many good questions that if we are honest will challenge us.

Communion is central to the Catholic faith. It is what unites Catholics around the world, we are a people who share a common table, and Nouwen focuses on what that means to us. “We can’t really live without bread that is taken, blessed and broken, and given. Without it there is no fellowship, no community, no bond of friendship, no peace, no love, no hope. Yet, with it, all can become new!” p.80,91 Later he states: “God desires communion; a unity that is vital and alive, an intimacy that comes from both sides, a bond that is truly mutual. Nothing forced or ‘willed,’ but a communion freely offered and received. God goes all the way to make communion possible.” p.87 Through the Eucharist we can have communion with God and through that communion with each other.

Finally our life as people of the word and of the table we are given a mission. Nouwen tells us “It is not just the Eucharist, but the Eucharistic life that makes the difference.” p.106 Through those two things we are prepared and called to mission, the mission to live as Catholics, as people who make a positive difference in the lives of those we impact and those who cross our path. “We have a mission to fulfill and it is good that we are excited about it, but first we have to listen to what others have to say. Then our stories can be told and bring joy.” p.109 Nouwen also sows us a vision of what that life would look like: “In the Eucharist we are asked to leave the table and go to our friends to discover with them that Jesus is truly alive and calls us together to become a new people – a people of the resurrection.” p.110

The meditations and reflections in this book, will draw you closer to the Lord’s supper, and through that to the people in your life. It is beautifully illustrated with artwork by Duccio Di Buoninsegna, the combination of words and pictures will feed your soul and challenge your mind.

Sunday, 14 May 2006

A Wizard of Earthsea by: Ursula Le Guin

A Wizard of Earthsea
Ursula k. LeGuin
Various Editions
Various Publishers

This is the first in a series of books. There are 4 novels in the series and two collections of short stories. It follows the life and career of Ged a young man from the Island of Gont. Le Guin has created a very unique world, a world that is mostly water and each nation is a collection of islands. This book is also one of a few that has different editions published for children, teens and adults ans scifi. This book is also one of a few that has children’s teens and adult editions in print.

Ged apprentices to the local Wizard on God, and is eventually sent to the school for wizards on Roke. There in anger during a fight with other youths he releases a dark shadow, an evil. The Masters of the school appear and banish it from the island. However this shadow and Ged are now tied together in a very unique way.

After leaving the school Ged becomes haunted by the shadow he has released. He tries to return to the protection of Havnor but cannot return to the island the magic protecting the island will not let him approach. So he decides to head south.

The shadow is getting closer and closer to him, and he must discern it’s true name or else he will not be able to defeat it. Can he solve the puzzle, will he wrestle with his shadow and win or will he succumb to the evil he has let loose.

This is a book I first read back in highschool. Then a few years back had to read it for an English literature course at the University of Waterloo I was about a third of the way through it when I realized I had read it before and that is when I found our that the story continues. Since then the two collections of short stories have been published in this world.

Le Guin deals with some big questions of life in this book. Such questions as:

Who am I?
Do I have a role or purpose in life?
Can I defeat the darkness within me?
Can good conquer over evil?
Why am I here?
Can I make a difference?

This book will be a good read for anyone who has ever struggled with some of these questions. Or who wants to use a novel to help them grow to have a deeper understanding of themselves.

Reading Notes on this book:

This book brings to mind many images and many of the books I have read. Also the themes that play so often in my mind and my own life.

Like in A Wrinkle in Time the power of naming and unnaming or X-ing. Also the gift of our real name that we are given. As well the importance of friendship especially Vetch's sticking with Ged on the long journey.

Also the old maxim "Every man must face his own devil." Ged in anger and pride released his own evil, through growth time and humility he conquered his own evil to become whole and balanced again.

The Last theme is the importance of balance in the universe and that all we do has affects beyond us. Either for good or for bad. Either these effects are on others, things, the environment or even the cosmic battle of good and evil.

The Books of Earthsea:

A Wizard of Earthsea - 1968
The Tombs of Atuan - 1971
The Farthest Shore - 1972 (Winner of the National Book Award)
Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea - 1990 (Winner of the Nebula Award)
Tales from Earthsea - 2001
The Other Wind - 2001

The Short Stories of Earthsea:

The Word of Unbinding - 1964
The Rule of Names - 1964
Dragonfly - 1997
Darkrose and Diamond - 1999
The Finder - 2001
The Bones of the Earth - 2001
On The High Marsh - 2001


The Word of Unbinding
The Finder
Darkrose and Diamon
The Rule of Names
The Bones of the Earth
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Tombs of Atuan
On the High Marsh
The Farthest Shore
The Other Wind

Note: The short story "Dragonfly" from Tales from Earthsea is intended to fit in between Tehanu and The Other Wind and, according to Le Guin, is "an important bridge in the series as a whole".

Also check out this great Earthsea site. It should be noted as well that these books have editions in Children's (9-12) Teen, Sci-Fi and adult fiction, It appeals to a very wide audience.