Friday 29 April 2016

The Epistle to the Hebrews - Shane Kapler - and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics

The Epistle to the Hebrews:
and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics
Shane Kapler
Kenneth J Howell (Foreword)
Jared Zimmerer (Preface)
Angelico Press
ISBN 9781621381662

With averaging over 100 books a year I read a few amazing books, a few great books, a lot of good book and many that I give up on and never finish. Both this book and its companion volume The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living by Dr. Kevin Vost are in the amazing category. Until now I have only read a book that Shane co-authored, Tending the Temple, some of his books have been on my to be read pile for a while and after reading this one they really jumped up that ever growing list. I literally read this through in two 3 sessions and know that I will reread it again soon.

Shane takes the book of Hebrews and breaks it down into sections teaching on core Catholic truths. The chapters in this book are:

1. The Trinity (Hebrews 1-3)
2. The Incarnation (Hebrews 2-5)
3. The Word of God (Hebrews 4-6)
4. Christ's Priesthood, Our Salvation (Hebrews 7-11)
5. The Communion of the Saints (Hebrews 11-12)
6. The Eucharist (Hebrews 13)
7. The Authority of the Church's Leaders (Hebrews 13)

Each chapter is broken down into a number of sections or teaching points, with between 3 and 8 sections per chapter. As someone who spent 20 years as an undergrad, I greatly appreciate the scholarship in this book but also its brevity. Shane writes in a succinct manner with a tight economy of words. I wish had had encountered more books like Shane's during my religious studies degree. Not only was it intellectually stimulating but was engaging and addictive to read. As a seasoned Catholic I greatly enjoyed the book, especially the chapter on the Communion of the Saints.

I have always had a great appreciation for the Eucharist, and it was pivotal in drawing me back to the Catholic Church. Shane's chapter puts into words some of what I could only feel in my heart and spirit and not adequately describe. And why it is so pivotal to what it means to be Catholic.

Before I had even finished this book I recommended it to a few friends who have also in reading it got as much out of it as I have. It is an excellent read and I can think of a single reason not to commend it to you.

This book was an amazing read and to be honest as soon as I finished it I put it back on my 'to be read list' to read through it again. There is also a companion volume by Kevin Vost The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living. Separately they are each a great read but together they are awesome. And they really should be read together for the magnifying effect the teachings of each has upon the other. So give this book a chance it will have a direct impact upon your faith and practice.

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Books by Shane Kapler:
The God Who Is Love
Through, With, and In Him
The Epistle to the Hebrews
Tending the Temple

Marrying the Rosary to the Divine Mercy Chaplet

Books contributed to:
Man Up!

Tuesday 26 April 2016

The Porch and the Cross - Kevin Vost - Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living

The Porch and the Cross:
Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living
Kevin Vost
Kenneth J Howell (Foreword)
Jared Zimmerer (Preface)
Angelico Press
ISBN 9781621381709

I have been a fan of Kevin Vost's writings since I first encountered them. And even though I seldom read physical books any more I made an exception for this book as the eBook is not yet release. For as much as I have truly loved all of Vost's book I have read to date this book has had a massive and immediate impact on my life. For in this volume Dr. Vost takes us on a whirlwind tour of stoic philosophy, specifically 4 Philosophers and how as Christians we can leverage their wisdom and help take our practice of the faith to a new level.

The stoic scholars that we encounter are:  Gaius Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, Lucius Annaeus Seneca or Senica the Younger and Marcus Aurelius. No to be honest I had encountered three of our four teachers, and have read Aurelius's Meditations numerous times over the years. Vost approaches these four in a unique way, first he provides a brief biography, then he draws extensively from their own work some with more commentary than others and the a final chapter on each how in applying it we can become better at being. Then as a finale Vost ties it all together in a conclusion that unites what is good from stoic wisdom with true Christian love and how they combined can have an immense impact on our world.

While reading this book one of the biggest things that impacted me was the concept of how our reaction to an event or circumstance that drives our response. If we can learn to step back and look at the event, as just an event then often our reaction and out interpretations of those events will be radically different. From my first encounter of this though in the book I have been applying it there has been drastic change in my home life, my professional life and my social influence. By learning to look at events from the perspective of what is under my control and what is not and always moving forward towards what is best my life has already been changed. Matthew Kelly often states that God's plan for our life is "to become the best version of our self", Kevin through these four philosophers gives us numerous tools and techniques to work and strive for that one goal.

I must however give you a few warnings about this book. First if you are not open to change, to striving to be better do not bother picking up this book. Second if you do not have a true hunger and thirst for righteousness; "Blessed is he who does hunger and thirst for righteousness for he shall be filled" Matthew 5:6 leave this book on the shelf, it will challenge your beliefs about who you are, your role in the world and your calling as a Christian. And third if you simply want to read a short 200 page book, and then by all means leave in the store, for once you read you will likely reread it, or go off and read more from our 4 teachers from the porch. It will likely kick off a long reading list as you endeavor to go deeper into these lessons and work to achieve true wisdom. But if you are willing to take those risks, then this book is tremendous and can have a wonderful impact upon you; then because of the changes in you, on your family, your workplace your community. In my opinion the reward far outweighs the risk!

Kevin in quoting Mark Forstater about Marcus Aurelius  quotes: "It's in the nature of books about the spirit that they can be visited again and again. How often we return to books after a gap of some years and find that, with broader experience, we are able to read them in a deeper way, to see new facets that we had previously missed. Marcus Aurelius's book is one of these - it can't be outgrown; it does not date. It reads in a different way to someone who is twenty than to someone who is sixty yet still has something profound to tell them both about living the real good life." I belive the same could be said about Kevin's books in fact reading this one has inspired me to pick up and reread some of his other books.

This book was an amazing read and to be honest as soon as I finished it I put it back on my 'to be read list' to read through it again. There is also a companion volume by Shane Kapler - The Epistle to the Hebrews: and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics. Separately they are both great reads but together they pack an amazing 1, 2 punch. And should be read together for the magnifying effect the teachings of each has upon the other.

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Books by Dr. Kevin Vost:
Full Range of Motive (2001)
Memorize the Faith! (2006)
Fit For Eternal Life (2007)
From Atheism to Catholicism (2010)
Unearthing Your Ten Talents (2010)
St. Albert the Great (2011)
Tending the Temple (2011)
Three Irish Saints (2012)
Memorize the Reasons! (2013)
One-Minute Aquinas (2014)
Hounds of the Lord (2015)
Seven Deadly Sins (2015)
Memorize the Mass! (2016)
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2016)
The Porch and the Cross (2016)
The Catholic Guide to Loneliness (2017)
The Four Friendships (2018)
How to Think Like Aquinas (2018)
Memorize the Latin Mass! (2018)

12 Life Lessons from St. Thomas Aquinas (2019)
Aquinas on the Four Last Things (2021)
Books Contributed to:
Man Up! (2014)

Author profile interview with Dr. Kevin Vost.

Monday 25 April 2016

The Lost Stone - Jordan Quinn and Robert McPhillips - Kingdom of Wrenly Book 1

The Lost Stone
The Kingdom of Wrenly Book 1
Jordan Quinn
Robert McPhillips (Illustrator)
Little Simon an imprint of
Simon and Schuster
ISBN 9781442496927

This book was a recommendation based on other books read and reviewed. I showed the cover to my youngest two and read them the summary and they were clamouring to read it. That enthusiasm stayed through this book and we are now part way through book two. The book was so exciting to children they often did not want to stop and kept asking for one more chapter. Reading the eBook we pause and expand every picture and take a closer look at it.

This is a short story about friendship, responsibility and adventure. It is the story of Prince Lucas, and his desire to have friends, after sneaking out of the castle his father relents and allows him to play again with his only childhood friend his age, Clara the daughter of the queen's seamstress. The adventure is Lucas and Clara receive permission to hunt for the Queen's lost emerald. So together Clara and Lucas travel around the kingdom retracing the Queen's steps for the past few days, to try and find the stone. The two set out to retrace her he way through Primlox, Burth and Hobsgrove.

As an adult reading the series it seems a lot of time is setting up things for other books. There are currently 9 books out in this series and a tenth on the way in under two years. As such this story is a little slower than the next in the series.  The kingdom of Wrenly is composed of a mainland and four magical islands, Each island is predominately inhabited by one type of creature, Primlox for the fairies, Hobsgrove for wizards, Burth for the trolls and Crestwood for the dragons.

Overall it was a good read. The kids loved it and love the illustrations and there are lots of them. We will continue on and see how the series progresses.

Books in the Kingdom of Wrenly Series:
The Lost Stone
The Scarlet Dragon
Sea Monster!
The Witch's Curse
Adventures in Flatfrost
Beneath the Stone Forest
Let the Games Begin!
The Secret World of Mermaids
The Bard and the Beast
The Pegasus Quest

Friday 22 April 2016

The Leadership of One - Karla Brandau and Douglas Ross

The Leadership of One:
Become the leader people Choose to follow ... not have to follow
Karla Brandau and Douglas Ross
Discretionary Effort Leadership

With averaging over a hundred books a year I am often surprised by home some books fall into my hands. This book ended up in my hands by a chance encounter. And to be honest it is a quick and easy read, but also a very important one. The book is so important because it reminds us that the first role of a leader is self-leadership. Only through that primary role and responsibility will we develop the skills to lead others and to bring out the best in them. We will become true leaders by example.

Times they are a changing and to be effective leadership must change also, in today's workplace things are constantly changing; mergers, acquisitions, turn over and the changing demographic of the workplace are demanding it. Much like the writings from Brady Wilson or even Seth Godin - Brandau and Ross capture that changing dynamic and provide sound guidance on how to become the 21st Century leader or as they put it; the leader people choose to follow … not have to follow.

One of the first examples of this change they bring to our attention is the concept of a triple bottom line: "A triple bottom line means evaluating the company's performance in the public business world realized in profits, the private business world of their people, treating employees with respect and retaining their top people talent, and the social sphere of their community and how well they interact with the planet on environmental policies." It is no longer just about a good pay and benefits. Meaningful work has become much more than that.

Then they go on to highlight the main point, leadership begins with self. They state: "The fundamental assumption of this course is that becoming a 21st century leader is an individual growth process where each person seeking the coveted title of "leader" is first required to lead themselves into new territory of deeper self-development and professional growth." And that is done through personal growth and development: "Knowing you only have one person to lead means you focus on your professional growth, emotional intelligence evolution, and your ability to live in integrity." That development can be with books like this, through courses, group training and even one on one mentoring.

Through this book you can register online for some free assessments and tools to help you get started on this path. They offer this and if you are interested extended coaching: "The Leadership of One coaching gives you access to a variety of assessments, including identifying not only personality traits that people can observe, but hidden motivators that help explain why you make certain choices and why you value one behavior or activity over another."

This book was an awesome little read. It helped remind me of why some of us go the extra mile consistently and do the bare minimum. It all comes down to effort, or we should say discretionary effort. Through developing ourselves and through developing other we can help foster an environment that gets those results. One of the quotes from the book that had the most impact on me was "Discretionary effort is optional. It is freewill, which is an intentional choice by the employee." Most of my career, both corporately and in non-for-profits that has been a strength of mine but I did not have words for it. This book provides a framework for the language and for bringing out true leadership in self and through that to your teams and maybe even your whole organization. This was an excellent little read and I look forward to reading Discretionary Effort Leadership once it is available.

Books by Karla Brandau and Douglass Ross:
The Leadership of One
Discretionary Effort Leadership

Books by Douglass Ross:
A Liturgy of the Heart

Books by Karla Brandau:
Email Survival Skills
Dartnell-Pictorial Guide - Outlook-2010
Dartnell-Pictorial Guide - Outlook-2007
Wake Up the Winner Inside

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Hail Mary - Say a prayer for me please.

Say a prayer for me please.

Hail Mary, full of grace.

Our Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

(Note: this is my favourite image of our lady, I believe it was given to me early at Queen's University sometime around 1989-90)

Monday 18 April 2016

Our Father - Say a prayer for me please.

Say a prayer for me please. 

Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Hail Mary - Sabrina Bus and Xavier Deneux

Hail Mary
Sabrina Bus (Author)
Leslie Mathews (Translator)
Xavier Deneux (Illustrator)
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780802853127

The book is done in three parts. The first is the Hail Mary Prayer done in script across the top of the pages, the second is the illustrations, and the third is the text at the bottom of the pages explaining that specific line in the prayer.

This book has wonderful illustrations as seen from the example page spread below. It can be used to teach the Hail Mary Prayer but also to go deeper into the meaning of the words. It is a fun and engaging book.

We have had two books by Sabrina Bus in our house for over a decade, since our oldest was very young. We have both this one and its companion volume the Our Father. They were a gift from a friend of the family. Even though they are simple board books , that have been read hundreds of times, they are still often read and are treasured by our three children. I even enjoy going back and reading them which after so many years and so many readings cannot be said about many books. 

I highly recommend this book and the author. Give it a try.

(Note: in doing researching for this review I found that there are number of other books by the author and illustrator available in French, it is a pity they are not available in English.)

Books by Sabrina Bus:
In English:
Our Father
Hail Mary

In French:
Notre Père
Je vous salue, Marie
Mes premières prières du soir
Les fêtes chrétiennes
Arche de Noé pop-up

In Italian:
Ave Maria
Padre Nostro

In Spanish:
El Arca de Noe

Die Arche Noah

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Friday 15 April 2016

Our Father - Sabrina Bus and Xavier Deneux

Our Father
Sabrina Bus (Author)
Leslie Mathews (Translator)
Xavier Deneux (Illustrator)
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780802853134

We have had two books by Sabrina Bus in our house for over a decade, since our oldest was very young. They were a gift from a friend of the family. Even though they are simple board books they are still often read and are treasured by our three children. I myself loved the books from the first reading and even today after hundreds of readings enjoy them.

The book is sort of done in three parts. The first is the Our Father Prayer done in script across the top of the pages, the second is the illustrations, and the third is the text at the bottom of the pages explaining that specific line in the prayer.

This book is a wonderful teaching tool. As mentioned the children love it. They know the prayer by heart but still read the book. Sometimes they read through the prayer, sometimes the book text and sometimes both together. The illustrations are wonderful as you can see by the example below. I highly recommend this book and its companion Hail Mary.

(Note: in doing researching for this review I found that there are number of other books by the author and illustrator available in French, it is a pity they are not available in English.)

Books by Sabrina Bus:
In English:
Our Father
Hail Mary

In French:
Notre Père
Je vous salue, Marie
Mes premières prières du soir
Les fêtes chrétiennes
Arche de Noé pop-up

In Italian:
Ave Maria
Padre Nostro

In Spanish:
El Arca de Noe

Die Arche Noah

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Thursday 14 April 2016

Real Mercy - Jacques Philippe

Real Mercy
Mary, Forgiveness and Trust
Jacques Philippe
ISBN 9781594172472

It has been a few years since I have read a book by Father Jacques Philippe. It is my loss. Everything I have read by him has been excellent, even reading some different translations of his earlier books. I typically write two types of reviews, the first is short and sweet and just my own impressions, the second is to quote extensively from the source and give readers a great sampling to hook them. This is that second type. My first read through I highlighted over 25 passages and made notes. This book is an amazing resource for the year of mercy, or for anyone looking for growth in their spiritual life. This book is a compilation of three talks given in December of 2015. It also has two appendixes to go deeper on quotes from St. Faustina and St. Thérèse De Lisieux.

The chapters in this book are:
Mercy and The Mother Of God
Mercy and Forgiveness In The Family
Mercy and Trust In St. Thérèse Of Lisieux
Appendix I Quotations On Divine Mercy from St. Faustina
Appendix Ii Quotations from St. Thérèse De Lisieux

From the introduction we are told: "Because of our freedom we must not only recognize God's mercy but accept it. Fr. Philippe focuses on acceptance (or trust), because we so often lack humility, self forgiveness, and self-abandonment to his love, the portals to the flow of God's endless mercy." And the rest of the book builds upon those themes. It goes on to say: "This book is a gift. We are invited by the Lord to explore the depths of his mercy through the wisdom and keen spiritual sense of Fr. Philippe. Let us all accept Jesus's look of merciful tenderness as he "opens us up to a path of life."" And that is our task in reading this book to experience God, experience his mercy and through that to learn to extend and grow in mercy towards ourselves and outwards to others. Now let us get into the main body of the text.

And now to Father Philippe in his own words. "God in his mercy will forgive our sins and won't remember any of our faults. The greatest knowledge of God is the knowledge of his mercy." We need to learn to accept God's forgiveness, I once heard a talk where we were told the devil get's two victories, the first when we sin and the second when we do not accept God's forgiveness. Hopefully this book can be a tool to help your grow in knowing that mercy of God and experiencing it. That though also applies to our next quote: "We see in the Gospel that the mercy of God is the greatest mystery and the most beautiful treasure. However, we have a difficult time accepting it. It's not easy to welcome the mercy of God. We see it in the Gospel, and we see it in our daily lives. We have a hard time receiving the mercy of God because we really have very little trust in God's forgiveness." This is one of the greatest lessons in this book. Again Father Philippe declares: "We don't really believe in this reality of the forgiveness of God, and so we don't always fully welcome it. God forgives us, but we can't forgive ourselves." He reiterates this thought a number of times through the book.

Father Philippe also reminds us to accept that we fail but in doing so, to move closer to get through repentance. He says: "Sometimes it's good that we rejoice when we have accomplished great things. But in the moments where we feel our poverty, we should also rejoice, because the good news is for the poor." And from that we are suppose to live in a spirit of thanks. "There is a little secret in the spiritual life: The more the heart gives thanks, the more God gives, even when life isn't perfect, even when we don't have everything we need or want. The more we thank God, the more our heart is open to receive even more of his mercy and his gifts." God does want the best for us. He promises that he has plans for us to restore us.

There is a long section on Mercy in family life or community living. He declares: "When we live in a family, we live together under the same roof. We have very
close relationships; we are physically close. We can both support one another and love one another. We can teach our children. The family is a place of great graces; it is the fundamental unit of the Church." And he reminds us that living in community, living in family and loving the world is only achieved through accepting God's help: "I realize how much I need God's help because alone, I am not able to love. I am not able to count on my own strength. I have to count on the grace of God, on the Holy Spirit who comes to aid my weakness." We must rely on the spirit to work in and through us.

Speaking on forgiveness Father Philippe reminds us that forgiveness is about both the receiver and the giver; he states: "Forgiveness is not always easy; it is one of the most unselfish acts of love. Forgiveness can also be one of the greatest acts of freedom - the freedom to love even the one who has done you wrong." He goes on to say: "When I forgive someone, it is an act of hope. Through forgiving them, I have hope in the path that this person will take. I have hope for this person's progress, this person's conversion. I believe that this person, too, will meet Christ and his or her heart will be transformed." That is what we receive from God and what we have been commanded to do.

Another great reminder is that "We are not free in regards to the past when we have not forgiven. We can't receive the graces of the present moment, all the blessings God wants to give us. We can't receive them because we are attached to our past by this refusal of forgiveness." Again this reiterates how forgiveness is as much for us as it is for the offender. And another is "What sometimes blocks us from receiving mercy from God is our lack of trust, but it is also our lack of humility. We are not poor of heart. We want to save ourselves rather than welcome everything as a gift from God." We must learn to acknowledge and grow in the experience of living in God's mercy.

This book was an amazing read. I have already recommended it to a number of friends. With every book by Father Jacques Philippe that I read I find that I grow, I am challenged and I am drawn closer to God. His writing style is engaging and encouraging, it is like getting advice from an uncle or grandfather who only wants the best for you. The quote that hit me most is "Always have trust in God, but with humility and poverty of heart." If we can try and do that we will grow in mercy, for others and for ourselves and that is the key message that Father Philippe is encouraging us to do though this great little volume.

This book was an amazing little read. I will likely give away many copies over the next while. And I can say it is one of the best spiritual books I have read this year.

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Other Books By Fr. Jacques Philippe
From Scepter:

Called to Life
Time For God
Interior Freedom
In the School of the Holy Spirit
The Way of Trust and Love - A Retreat Guided By St. Therese of Lisieux
Thirsting for Prayer
Real Mercy: Mary, Forgiveness, and Trust

Fire and Light: Learning to Receive the Gift of God
The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes
Nine Days to Rediscover the Joy of Prayer
Nine Days to Welcome Peace
Priestly Fatherhood

St Paul's Alba House:
Searching for and Maintaining Peace
Discerning Your Vocation: A Catholic Guide for Young Adults (Forward)

Pauline Books and Media:

Time For God

Time For God
I Choose to be Free: the Power of Faith Hope & Charity (a different edition of Interior Freedom)

Books Contributed To:

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Why Am I Here? - Matthew Kelly and Hazel Mitchell

Why Am I Here?
A Story about Becoming The-Best-Version-Of-Yourself!
Matthew Kelly
Hazel Mitchell (Illustrator)
Beacon Children's a division of
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9780984131808

Over the past year I have read a number of books by Matthew Kelly. While compiling a list of his books I came across this one. Having three young children at the time of writing this ages 9, 8 and 5 I really wanted to share this book with them. It arrived at work and during lunch I read it through, after that first reading I was even more excited about sharing it with my children. My middle child just completed his first communion and my oldest is altar serving. This book was a great resource for helping them understand many truths. 

The illustrations are wonderfully done.  The lessons flow nicely. First Max has the conversation with his grandfather, and then he shares at school. He has successes and failures. And he resolves that with God's help each day he will work at being better.  

This book is great at teaching children they have the task of learning to be the best version of themselves. It also teaches children the practice of examination of conscience, at the end of the day evaluating your successes and your failures and committing to doing better tomorrow. 

I loved this book so much I am planning on buying one for my children's school library and for my son's classroom. It is an amazing little read and I highly recommend it. If you are already a fan of Matthew Kelly's writings and have young children in your life you will know the message and appreciate it. If you are not you might find you check out his other writings for yourself after reading this one with your kids. Either way you cannot go wrong with this book!

Books by Matthew Kelly:
I Know Jesus
The Long View
Decision Point: The Workbook
Decision Point: The Leader Guide
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
The One Thing
Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction
Why Am I Here?
Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness
Perfectly Yourself Discovering God's Dream For You
Building Better Families: A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing Children
The Dream Manager
The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved
The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose
Building Better Families - 5 Practical Ways to Build Family Spirituality
The Book of Courage
The Shepherd: A Modern Parable about Our Search for Happiness
Mustard Is Persecution, Matthew Kelly Foundation
A Call to Joy - Living in the Presence of God
The Rhythm of Life: An Antidote For Our Busy Age
Words from God
Resisting Happiness
The Narrow Path
Our Father
The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity
Why I Love Being Catholic
Good Night, Jesus
In a world where you can be anything ...

Beautiful ... Series:

Rediscover Books by Matthew Kelly:
Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose
Rediscover Advent
Rediscover Lent
Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation
Rediscover the Rosary: The Modern Power of an Ancient Prayer
Rediscover the Saints

Audio by Matthew Kelly from Lighthouse Media:
Becoming The Best Version Of Yourself
The Best Way To Live
Don't Just Try, Train
Faith At Work & The Holy Moment
The Four Signs Of A Dynamic Catholic - Excerpt
The Jesus Question
My Spiritual Journey
Our Lives Change When Our Habits Change
Raising Amazing Children
The Seven Levels Of Intimacy
The Seven Pillars Of Catholic Spirituality

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Flickers - Arthur Slade

Arthur Slade
Harper Collins
ISBN 9781443416658
eISBN 9781443416672

I have read and reviewed almost all of Arthur Slade's books, I fell in love with his writing years ago while working in a book store and look forward to each new read. This one is a departure from some of his more recent works and in many ways a return to his early works. My first thought was 'Chilling read!' as it literally brought Goosebumps to my skin while reading it. In many ways it reads like a more mature and dark tale along the lines of his Northern Frights series.  

This was a book that was hard to put down. I do not read many books in actually copy these days preferring the electronic version. But receiving an advanced copy of this I started in, and was hooked from the get go. It is a stunning story that spans decades and a continent. It is described as Gatsby meets the Twilight Zone and it does have that feel. It truly is a page turner. The story begins and ends near Lethbridge Alberta and begins in 1913 and goes until 1939. But most of the story takes place in Hollywood California during the end of the silent films era and the beginning of the modern movie. 

The story follows two twins, orphaned and being raised by their uncle and aunt who are budding stars themselves. But the key character is their mysterious patron Mr. Cecil. He is creating movies with sound, but also attempting to capture the energy of emotion. Hollywood in the 1920's was a strange place, maybe even stranger then it's modern incarnation is to us. And these children are thrown into roles they do not understand and a master manipulator is working towards ends that no one could imagine.

This is a great read. I really could not put it down. My mom saw the review copy and asked to read it after me, and she does not read young adult books but is giving this a read. The twin sisters are great characters. There are some interesting twists and more than a few scares. I read 52 books over the past 3 months and this was the top fiction read. This is an incredible story so give it a try!

Books by Arthur Slade:
The Dragonfly's Journey (1996)

John Diefenbaker: an Appointment with Destiny (2000)
Dust (2001)
Tribes (2002)
Monsterology (2005)
Villainology (2005)
Megiddo's Shadow (2006)
Jolted (2008)
Shades: 17 Startling Stories (2011)

Flickers (2016)
Crimson (2018)
Death by Airship (2019)
Mr. Universe (2021)

Hunchback Assignments Series:
aka Modo Mission Clockwork Series:
The Hunchback Assignments (2009)
The Dark Deeps (2010)
Empire of Ruins (2011)
Island of Doom (2012)

Modo Embers End - Graphic Novel (2014)

The Northern Frights Series
Draugr (1997)
The Haunting of Drang Island (1998)
The Loki Wolf (2000)

Northern Frights Reprint Editions:
Draugr (2020)
Drang (2020)
Loki Wolf (2020)

The Canadian Chills Series
Return of the Grudstone Ghosts (2002)
Ghost Hotel (2004)
Invasion of the IQ Snatchers (2007)

Monday 11 April 2016

Welcome Risen Jesus - Sarah A. Reinhard - Lent and Easter Reflections for Families

Welcome Risen Jesus:
Lent and Easter Reflections for Families
Sarah A. Reinhard
Liguori Publications
ISBN 9780764820748

This is the third book by Sarah A. Reinhard that I have read and the second devotional. And I must say it is a little gem. Of the 6 devotionals I read this lent it was the only one that had daily readings for the octave of Easter. Both this and the companion volume Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families are amazing!

The more of Sarah's work I read the more impressed I become. To be honest the kids loved both of these books so much I wish she had a set of them for Ordinary time. The book is designed to help families prepare for Easter by focusing on the three pillars of Lent, prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Each day contains a scripture quote, a reflection, an action for others a suggested fast for the day and then a prayer. Because we read it in the evening the fast and action became a focus for the next day. This year my children were ages 9, 8, and 5 over Lent and all three of them loved this book. In fact there were a few nights where we had been out late and I wanted to double up the next day and they always clamoured to do the reading. To the extent that twice we read them from my phone in the car on the way home instead of the ipad before bed.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is that the devotions are easy enough for children to appreciate, reflect on, and apply and yet they are deep enough that in my mid-forties I found them very moving. Another example of the power in these devotions is a few times my children asked to go back and reread part or all of the reading from the night before so they could share how they applied it. Here is a sample devotion:


Third Week Of Lent

Think: The Samaritan woman couldn't believe Jesus was being kind to her. Not only was he a Jew, but she was probably an outcast, someone no one else liked.
Jesus' tells her that God loves her and that he has the authority to share that love with her. "If you knew who I was, you'd be asking ME for a drink." He uses the image of a drink to refer to the "living water" of his saving grace.
He could be saying that to any one of us. Imagine him standing in front of you, holding your face in his hands, and telling you what he tells the Samaritan woman.

We're told that when we do something kind to the least of those among us-especially the poor and the helpless-we do it to and for Jesus.

We often have an opportunity to be nice to people and to share God's love without saying a word. Within our own family, especially, it's easy to forget that truly loving another is important and takes constant work.

In our dealings with people other than our family, we should also be aware of how we can be more like Jesus. Is there someone with whom no one plays, a person who's mean to others or who seems lonely or sad? What might you do to extend a kindness to that person?

Act: Take a drink to someone today.
Fast: Instead of making a mess, clean one up.
Pray: Help me to show compassion and kindness to those around me today, Jesus.

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
John 4:10

If you are looking for an amazing Lenten devotional for the whole family or children you love this is an excellent choice!

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Books by Sarah A. Reinhard:
Welcome Baby Jesus
Welcome Risen Jesus
A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy
Catholic Family Fun
Word by Word

Do I Really Have to Give Something Up for Lent?
An Examination of Conscience for Teens: Grades 6 and Up

Author Profile and interview  with Sarah A. Reinhard

Friday 8 April 2016

Living Faith Lent 2016 - Terence Hegarty

Living Faith Lent 2016
Terence Hegarty (Editor)
Creative Communications

This was my first time reading one of the Living Faith devotionals. It was very good. I did this one during my morning coffee at work during the week and at home on the weekends. Interestingly enough I have read a number of the contributors.  This one ended up on my recommended reads based on other books I had picked up. I am very thankful that I did.

To be honest it is a little simpler format than many of the other lent devotions I have experienced. There is no suggested action or penance each day. Instead you have a verse, a reflection and some reference passages. You can see an example day below.

Sample Day:

March 24 o Holy Thursday

In Communion

Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10: 16 (responsorial psalm)

My school-aged sons really enjoy doing science demonstrations and experiments, and so our learning spaces are cluttered with microscopes and other lenses, magnets, iron filings, circuits, crystal-growing substances and much more.

Electricity is a favorite area to explore. To see a light bulb powered by nothing more than a lemon, a potato or a solution of some sort is always exciting. We learn that this weird (and still, to me, mysterious) power is nothing we create from nothing- it's in things. It's there, we simply tap into it- and no more darkness.

So it is with Communion. We often hear of the need to "create community," but the reality is something different. Our Lord creates community through his life, death and resurrection. As I look around the congregation at Mass tonight, as I contemplate my brothers and sisters around the world, I am amazed and grateful that Jesus has made us one. I don't do it. I can't. It's his sacrificial love binding us in his blood, dwelling within us to bind us as brothers and sisters and powering us when, into a dark world, ite missa est- we are sent.

Loving Jesus, help me live out the true, deep communion of the cross and the Eucharist.

Amy Welborn

Exodus 12: 1-8, 11-14 o Psalm 116: 12-13, 15-18 o 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26 o John 13: 1-15

It was a wonderful book and I look forward to trying it again or the advent one.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Magnificat Lenten Companion 2016 - Ed. Father Peter John Cameron, O.P.

Lenten Companion 2016
The Magnificat
Ed. Father Peter John Cameron, O.P.
eISBN 9781941709184

This was one of the Lenten devotionals I used this year. I have used the Magnificat over the last for seasons of lent and every time have found it extremely beneficial. The meditations are wonderful. There is a wide range of contributors from clergy, religious and the laity. There is also a great 12 pages of prayers at the end of the Lenten devotions. It also contains the full devotion of the stations of the cross as part of the Good Friday readings.

The contributors this year were:
Father Peter John Cameron, O.P.
Father Romanus Cessario, O.P.
Anthony Esolen
Father Anthony Giambrone, O.P.
Father Tim S. Hickey
John Janaro
Elizabeth M. Kelly
Heather King
Melinda Knight
Lisa Lickona
Father Ambrose Mary Little, O.P.
Monsignor Gregory E. S. Malovetz
Regis Martin
James Monti is
Father Vincent Nagle, F.S.C.B.,
Martha Reynolds
Father George William Rutler
Rita A. Simmonds
Joshua Stancil
Father Richard Veras

Father Cameron does an amazing job editing these devotionals. As Mentioned I have used the advent or Lenten devotional books from Magificat 8 times over the last 5 years. I have always been impressed with the writing. The variety of contributors and the spiritual challenge they present. Each Day is a reflection based upon a bible passage, a prayer and a suggested penance. Sometimes it takes a day or two before you can complete the penance but keeping them in mind helps with the growth through this spiritual season. For me this time around one of the most moving was Elizabeth M. Kelly's reflection on March 17th:

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

He Believed What Jesus Said

Some years ago, my brother-in-law died in a plane crash. My nephew, another passenger and just thirteen at the time, survived but was stranded on the side of a mountain overnight awaiting rescue, all the while there with his father's body. Understandably, the night was torturous. Since then, my nephew has had numerous surgeries to repair various injuries sustained in the crash. For one of the last, my sister requested to be with her son immediately on entering recovery. She told my parents, "Sometimes, when he's coming out of anesthesia, he relives the crash. He wakes up crying, saying, 'Dad, please don't be dead!'" In private, my parents went to work. They began offering up their time in adoration for my nephew, specifically that he would wake up from this surgery thinking of something happy, maybe even wake up laughing and singing. Like the father in today's Gospel, their faith in a healing God was strong. They knew they only needed to ask with fervor and faith- and then believe what Jesus said. The father begged Jesus, Sir, come… before my child dies, and Jesus replied, Your son will live. At that very moment the boy was healed. The doctor's first words to my sister after surgery: "Boy, your son is a happy kid. He's coming out of surgery laughing and singing."

Reflection based on John 4: 43-54
Elizabeth M. Kelly

Father ever faithful, strengthen me, that my prayers may be uttered in confidence, heard in heaven, and answered in generous detail to echo the glory of your faithfulness. Today's suggested penance: Pray the rosary with the intention to renew your Marian devotion.

If you are in doubt about what to read next lent or event advent you cannot go wrong with the Magnificat Companion!

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Saint Augustine in 50 Pages - Taylor R. Marshall - The Layman's Quick Guide to Augustinianism

Saint Augustine in 50 Pages: 
The Layman's Quick Guide to Augustinianism
Taylor R. Marshall
Saint John Press

ISBN 9780988442535

This is the second volume by Taylor R. Marshall that I have read. I have also since attended two of his live webinars. I can highly recommend this book. Taylor really knows how to pack a lot of information into 50 pages. This book follows his immensely popular Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages: The Layman's Quick Guide to Thomism. Even though almost 900 years separated the two authors these in 50 pages books links them, their works and give good reasons for us to be studying them and going deeper. Marshall writes in a very engaging and easy to read style. To be honest I hit the end of the book and was surprised even knowing it was a short volume when I began. He presents the material in such a way that it does not seem like many academic writers, and as such is quickly becoming a favourite writer of mine. 

The chapters in this book are:
Who was Saint Augustine?
Augustine's Contributions
Augustine's Legacy
List of Books on Augustine for Beginners
The Writings of Augustine

Taylor states of Augustine that: "Augustine was great at writing and disputation. He kept the quill in his hand. His books and sermons reveal a man gifted for infusing heartfelt passion into theology so as to make it practical." And to be honest that is what Taylor himself is doing. This book can be a reminder for those of us who finished formal studies years ago, for the younger reader as a primer for a high school or first year university course. Or for anyone who wants to dip their toes in the pool of knowledge but be warned once you get the toes wet especially with an author like Taylor you will likely dive in.

This was a wonderful little read. And I do plan on going on and very soon reading more from Taylor R. Marshall. I can recommend this book and believe that it will spark a hunger and thirst for more knowledge. Give it a go you have nothing to lose and maybe a whole lot to gain. Well done Mr. Marshall well done.

Books by Taylor R. Marshall:
Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages: The Layman's Quick Guide to Thomism
Saint Augustine in 50 Pages: The Layman's Quick Guide to Augustinianism
God's Birthday: Why Christ Was Born on December 25 and Why it Matters

Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within
The Rosary in 50 Pages: The Layman’s Quick Guide to Mary’s Psalter

Sword and Serpent Series:
Sword and the Serpent
The Tenth Region of the Night
Storm of Fire and Blood

The Origins of Catholic Christianity Series:
The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity
The Catholic Perspective on Paul: Paul and the Origins of Catholic Christianity
The Eternal City: Rome & the Origins of Catholic Christianity

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)