Wednesday 31 May 2017

Exodus 90 at Day 90

Exodus 90 - Day 90 Check In

A 90 Day program for Christian men with a focus on Prayer, Asceticism, and Brotherhood. From Those Catholic Men. And my fraternity is now 90 days in. Here are some reflections on the program.

This was a time to refocus, a time to make gains in the spiritual disciplines and the physical disciplines. For me that means 90 days of:

No television.
No sugar and sweets.
No alcohol.
No meat on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Daily Rosary.
Daily exercise.

After 90 Days our fraternity has decided to stay together. We are still working out what that will look like, especially considering we are a remote fraternity that met over the web and not in person. 

The Top 5 Things I learned from Exodus 90 are:

1. Disciplines are easier to add than remove. It is easier to start new habits than removing bad habits but Exodus 90 really helps with both.
2. Knowing you have men in your corner willing to pray for you anytime is encouraging, it provides motivation and it strengthens you to stick to your commitments.
3. Things will not always go as planned. Occasionally you need to be flexible, move the date or time of the meeting. But our commitment to each other gets us through the difficulties.
4. Exercising regularly and changing it up helps a lot. After 90 Days I see it continuing and getting better.
5. By combining spiritual disciplines with physical discipline Exodus 90 is the whole package.

I can recommend Exodus 90 to any man who wishes to deepen their spiritual life.

From the Exodus 90 website:

"Exodus 90: The Purpose

The goal of Exodus is to achieve the freedom necessary to fully engage the love of God and the love of neighbor. Exodus is based on a challenging 90-day period of purification, a dying to self, which is supported by a fraternity of like-minded men for greater interior freedom and, eventually, a more purified and selfless love.

Most importantly Exodus is for men who have difficulty finding God and desire to radically unite himself to his Heavenly Father. Exodus is not a program of penance and self-abasement. It is a program for men who seek, together, to strive for more-perfect FREEDOM. This is the cornerstone of the exercise and much will be lost if that is forgotten."

When you register for the Exodus 90 program you get a 30-page manual and 90 days of emails direct to your inbox. Each email has a scripture passage, a meditation, an action list and links to supporting articles.

An special thanks to Dr. Taylor Marshall and Jared Zimmerer who mentioned this program on The Maccabee Society Podcast a number of months back, and who made it through their 90 day journey.

This is my commitment for the next 90 days, discipline and working out for the body, the mind and the spirit!

This is also my second attempt at the Exodus 90 Program. One of the goals of the program is to start together and finish together. Each time a member of the fraternity falls, the whole group restarts at Day 1. The first time I tried to do this by the 6th time we had to restart in under 6 weeks everyone had quite. So I am starting again on Ash Wednesday with a new crew! The 4 of us have each others backs and will see this through to the end.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Exodus 90 Articles:
Exodus 90 My Commitment
Exodus 90 My Commitment - Take 2
Exodus 90 at Day 30
Exercise Update
Exodus 90 at Day 60
Exodus 90 at Day 90
What's Next After Exodus 90

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: An Ordinary Christian - Maria Amata Di Lorenzo & Robert A. Ventresca

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
An Ordinary Christian
Maria Amata Di Lorenzo
Robert Ventresca (Translator)
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 9780819811622

I have head the name Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati many times, but until recently never really looked into his life. It is a name I came across in courses in school in passing. Or seen author authors and bloggers mention briefly. But after reading this book I know that I will be spending some more time looking at this man’s incredible life. For Pier Giorgio did more living and more serving in his 24 years of life than many of us who have much longer time on earth. He was born in April of 1901 and he died in 1925 on July 25th.

This book is very well written and also well translated. For sometimes when you read something in translation it feels like a bit is lost or that something is a little off. That is not the case with this volume. To be honest this book was so good that even while I was reading it I was looking up both the author and translator to see what other works that had available.

What an incredible story this is, it is about a Man with a heart for God, a man with a heart for service. And man who strove to be his best and bring out the best in others. Pier Giorgio lived a life of dedicated service, thorough his works of social action, his charity, his personal prayer and communal prayer life. He was involved with many activities including the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic youth groups and catholic student groups. He was a Third Order Dominican. And he was involved with and helped establish a Catholic Newspaper called Momento.

This book does an amazing job of chronicling the life of this incredible young man. It follows his journey of faith. And also his physical travels back and forth to Germany a few times. It highlights the insight he had into the need for social justice, and his though was on the cutting edge of that theology.

But most of all this is a book about example. The example of speaking out when we see a wrong. An example of serving when and where we can. The example of making sacrifices and living completely for Jesus Christ. And above all doing so with faithful submission to the Church authority. But it is also an example of staying healthy in body, spirit and mind. For Blessed Pier Giorgio He loved being in the outdoors and climbing mountains.

I was amazing in reading this book about how much Frassati accomplished in his lifetime, and because of this story I am inspired to increase my efforts. This is an incredible read about man who loved God and served others, it serves as an example for us today. Very well written and translated and I highly recommend this book!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Monday 29 May 2017

The Fathers Know Best - Jimmy Akin - Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church

The Fathers Know Best:
Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church
Jimmy Akin
Catholic Answers Press
ISBN 9781933919348
eISBN 9781933919546

In the last few months I have finished three books by Jimmy Akin. Each has been a great read in its own way, but this particular book I loved. Having spent over 20 years in University as an undergrad, and 10 of that part time working on a religious Studies Degree, with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought, I have encountered the church fathers a number of times. I have read a few different collections of sayings of the church fathers and sections of a number of other books by and about the Desert Fathers and Mothers. I will state that this book is the best book I have read to date on this topic. This volume pulls it together differently than any other book I have encountered. In past readings of the desert fathers some sort strictly by author, some by topic and some in chronological order. What Jimmy does different is that he sorts by major topic, then sections within the topic and then in chronological order. Jimmy also ties the quotes from the desert fathers to church canons from Church Council’s.

Unlike many other books on the church Fathers Jimmy starts out with setting the ground work. He defines what he means by Church Father, as compared to ecclesial writers. He also sets the church fathers in their time. He has sections about the fathers, their world, And the regions that these writings draw from. In fact the Sections in this book are:

Foreword by Marcus Grodi
I. Introduction

1.  About This Book
2.  About the Fathers

II. The World of the Fathers
3.  The World at a Glance
4.  “My Witnesses in Jerusalem”
5.  The Second Holy Land
6.  Greece and Rome
7.  The Far West
8.  North Africa

III.  Ad Fontes!—“To the Sources!”
9.  Know Your Fathers
10. Know Your Councils
11.  Know Your Writings
12.  Know Your Heresies

IV. God

13.  The One True God
14.  God Has No Body
15.  The Trinity
16.  The Three Persons of the Trinity
17.  The Divinity of Christ
18.  The Eternal Sonship of Christ
19.  Filioque

V. Creation
20.  Creation out of Nothing
21.  Creation in Genesis

VI. The Sources of Faith
22.  The Canon of Scripture
23.  Apostolic Tradition

VII. The Church and the Pope
24.  The Catholic Church
25.  Apostolic Succession
26.  Peter the Rock
27.  Peter’s Primacy
28.  Peter in Rome
29.  Peter’s Successors
30.  The Authority of the Pope

VIII. Morality

31.  Mortal Sin
32.  Abortion
33.  Contraception and Sterilization
34.  Homosexuality
35.  Astrology

IX. Sacraments and Worship

36.  Baptism as a Means of Grace
37.  Baptismal Regeneration
38.  The Necessity of Baptism
39.  Trinitarian Baptism
40.  Infant Baptism
41.  Confirmation
42.  The Real Presence
43.  The Sacrifice of the Mass
44.  Confession
45.  Bishop, Priest, and Deacon
46.  Women Priests?
47.  The Permanence of Marriage
48.  Sabbath or Sunday?

X. Mary, the Saints, the Miraculous
49.  Mary, Full of Grace
50.  Mary, Mother of God
51.  Mary, Ever Virgin
52.  Intercession of the Saints
53.  Ongoing Miracles
54.  Private Revelation

XI. The Last Things

55.  Salvation Outside the Church
56.  Reward and Merit
57.  Purgatory
58.  Hell
59.  Reincarnation?
60.  The Resurrection of the Body
61.  The Antichrist

Translations Used
Documents Used
Scripture Index

There is a lot to digest in this book and the way that Jimmy presents the material. In fact I often rip through books in a day or two, but took my time with this volume and spent over a week working my way through it. I have also already added it back into my to be read pile to revisit it again later this year or early next year. Some books you can read once and be done with them, others you come back to again and again, my feeling is this book by Jimmy Akin will be in that latter category for me, and likely for many other readers.

There are a few things that make this book excellent for personal study or for evangelization. First Jimmy predominantly draws upon publically available translations, that way you can go further in your readings with specific fathers or topics. Second he draws mainly from protestant commentaries, or translations of the quotes. For the most part the times he does not is when those sayings have been dropped from the protestant editions. And finally because of the format with an introduction, then the quotes, the material has been wrapped and packaged in a much easier way to digest. Some versions just have the quotes with no context, but Jimmy goes the distance to give us context and cohesion across the specific topics.

As I stated above of the numerous books with quotes about the desert fathers this is now my favorite. It will be the one I recommend to friends and family. It will be the one I encourage seekers to read when the topic is broached. And it is the one that I will reread again and again. An excellent resource for any serious Christian who cares about the early years and traditions of our faith!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Jimmy Akin:
The Salvation Controversy
Cracking the Da Vinci Code
The Fathers Know Best
The Drama of Salvation
Justification by Faith and Works
A Daily Defense: 365 Days ( plus one) to Becoming a Better Apologist
Mass Revision: How the Liturgy is Changing and What it Means for You
Pope Names: The Definitive Guide to the History of Papal Naming, Why Popes Choose the Names They Do, and What Name the Next Pope Will Choose
Why Mormonism Is Not Christian: The Essential Facts Every Catholic Must Know
Mormons: The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints: A Catholic Perspective
20 Answers Salvation - 20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers
The Bible Answer Man Debate: Jimmy Akin vs. James White
Annulments: What You Need to Know
Islam: A Catholic Perspective
Mark: A Commentary
The Nightmare World of Jack Chick
God Is Love: Understanding Benedict XVI's First Encyclical
Words of Wisdom from the Church Fathers

20 Answers Faith and Works - Jimmy Akin

Contributed to:
Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind
Surprised By Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic
The Best of Catholic Answers Live: 47 Answers to Questions from Non-Catholics
The Bible Alone?: Is The Bible Alone Sufficient?

Sunday 28 May 2017

The Saints Pray for Us - Christina Miriam Wegendt FSP (Editor) - Encounter the Saints

Saints Pray for Us
Encounter the Saints Series
Christina Miriam Wegendt FSP (Editor)
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 9780819872173
eISBN 9781306806367

The Encounter the Saints series currently has 34 books about specific Saints, 2 books about Blesseds, 1 Book about Mary and this prayer book. I have currently read about a sixth of the series and truly love them all. But this book is to date my favourite. It takes the first thirty books in the series and has a special prayer for each of the saints, blessed or Mary. Each of the thirty prayers are accompanied by Brief biographical information and a wonderful color print. 

I believe that the prints are modified versions of the original covers of the thirty books. But a part of the picture has been enlarges and superimposed over the rest. Also these pictures are in full vibrant colors. (Check out the two examples below.)

I have already been through this book twice, once praying my way through it myself, and once with my three children. I currently have the eBook edition but plan on buying a copy for each of my children to have their own. This is an incredible little prayer book. You not only have the thirty specific prayers there is also a wonderful Litany of the Saints at the end of the book. 

The Saints and Blesseds you pray with are:

Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto
Blessed John Paul II
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Saint André Bessette
Saint Anthony of Padua
Saint Bakhita of Sudan
Saint Bernadette Soubirous
Saint Catherine Labouré
Saint Clare of Assisi
Saint Damien of Molokai
Saint Edith Stein
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Saint Faustina Kowalska
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
Saint Francis of Assisi
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Saint Isaac Jogues
Saint Joan of Arc
Saint John Vianney
Saint Juan Diego
Saint Katharine Drexel
Saint Martin de Porres
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Saint Paul
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Saint Teresa of Avila
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Litany of the Saints

In the introduction to this book Sister Patricia Edward Jablonski states: 
"I have some favorite saintly friends. Besides the Blessed Mother, they include St. Paul, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Bernadette, St. Faustina, and St. John Vianney. These saints show me many ways to come closer to Jesus. They teach me how to pray and how to trust in God. Best of all, they're always ready to pray for me to God. Since they are very pleasing to the Lord, he's happy to give them the graces they ask for. In this book you will find prayers to thirty different saints. I hope that you and they will become very good friends. I hope that they will keep you always close to Jesus. I know that they will pray for you. May God bless you!"
This book does in fact do that. My children have already gravitated to specific saints. I have written out prayers and put them on their wall so they can work on memorizing them. Or just pick one to pray. 

This is an amazing book. My youngest is 6 and I am nearing 50 and we both love using this book to pray. The prayers in this book offer encouragement, motivation, inspiration, and examples of faith; a faith that was lived in a variety of situations in life, and from around the world. But that is one of the incredible things about this book and this series they should us the saints from all walks of life and inspire us to work towards becoming the best versions of ourselves. 

Now I should point out that some of the prayers are the exact same as in the Encounter the Saints books, and some are variations and some are very different. 

Again drawing from the introduction to this book: 
"Friends are special. They understand us. They share our happy and sad times. They help us to become the best persons we can be."
And I am sure that this book and these prayers will help us along that part by these thirty examples. A wonderful book that I wish I could put in the hands of every child on my children's school and at our Church. One of the best books of prayers I have seen for children, and some of us that are not so young also.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Encounter the Saints Series from Pauline Books and Media:
Blessed James Alberione Media Apostle
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati Journey to the Summit
Journeys with Mary Apparitions of Our Lady
Saint André Bessette Miracles in Montreal
Saint Anthony of Padua Fire and Light
Saint Bakhita of Sudan Forever Free
Saint Bernadette Soubirous And Our Lady of Lourdes
Saint Catherine Labouré And Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Saint Clare of Assisi A Light for the World
Saint Damien of Molokai Hero of Hawaii
Saint Edith Stein Blessed by the Cross

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Daughter of America
Saint Faustina Kowalska Messenger of Mercy
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini Cecchina's Dream
Saint Francis of Assisi Gentle Revolutionary
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla The Gift of Life
Saint Ignatius of Loyola For the Greater Glory of God
Saint Isaac Jogues With Burning Heart
Saint Joan of Arc God's Soldier
Saint John Bosco Champion for the Young
Saint John Neumann Missionary to Immigrants
Saint John Paul II Be Not Afraid
Saint John Vianney A Priest for All People
Saint Juan Diego And Our Lady of Guadalupe
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha: Courageous Faith
Saint Katharine Drexel The Total Gift
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque And the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Saint Martin de Porres Humble Healer
Saint Maximilian Kolbe Mary's Knight
Saint Paul The Thirteenth Apostle

Saturday 27 May 2017

The Artsy Mistake Mystery - Sylvia McNicoll - The Great Mistake Mysteries Book 2

The Artsy Mistake Mystery 
The Great Mistake Mysteries Book 2
Sylvia McNicoll
Dundurn Press
ISBN 9781459738812
eISBN 9781459738829

This book is the second in the Great Mistake Mysteries Series. It is another wonderful read from Sylvia McNicoll. This is a wonderful book in an amazing series. Currently it is book 2 of a planned trilogy but after reading the first two I hope it goes well beyond the three planned volumes. In my review of volume 1: The Best Mistake Mystery I stated that in some ways it reads like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon but written for kids. And that feeling in many ways is even stronger after reading this volume. The story is wonderfully written and the pace of this volume is a little quicker than the first book. Again one of the greatest strengths of this book is our main characters; Stephen Nobel and Renée Kobai. It is great to watch them grow and mature.

In this book both Stephen and Renee are still working on growing their friendship. And finding ways to deal with the stress they each have in their life. Family stress, school stress, and stress from just being kids goring up. Local art starts disappearing. From painted mailboxes, to fish on the kindergarten wall.  But more than that is going on. Stephen has a run in with kids in black caps. A gun is found in the school and the whole neighbourhood soon seems to be on alert, and more than a little anxious and nervous. But Being a little obsessive compulsive Stephen cannot just let it go. And as more things go missing life becomes more complicated, for Stephen is accused of the thefts and someone even claims to have video evidence. Throw in a little blackmail, interrogations from the police and you have a mystery with a bit of everything. 

This story has a number of themes, first is the theme of friendship. Second t deals with Stephen's obsessions in a great way. There is also the theme of the value of art. And also the importance and impact that art can have on people. 

Can Stephen and Renee figure it out again, or will then end up taking the fall for something they did not do? To find out you will need to read the book.

I absolutely loved this book and am anxiously awaiting the third instalment. It is an excellent read, and my younger two children loved it. My son could not stop talking about the book for about a week after we read it, so the art of Sylvia's words also leave an impact and have an influence on the readers. An excellent read it a great series so give it a try I am sure you will be entertained!

Books by Sylvia McNicoll:
Blueberries and Whipped Cream - 1988
Jump Start - 1989
The Tiger Catcher's Kid - 1989
Project Disaster - 1990
More than Money - 1990
Facing the Enemy - 1992
Bringing Up Beauty - 1994
The Big Race - 1996
Walking a Thin Line - 1997
Double Dribble - 1999
Smoky and the Gorilla - 1999
Grave Secrets - 1999
Caught in a Lie - 2000
A Different Kind of Beauty - 2004
Beauty Returns - 2006
Last Chance For Paris - 2008
Slam Dunk Robot  2007
crush. candy. corpse. - 2012
Dying to Go Viral - 2013

Body Swap - 2018

The Great Mistake Mysteries:
The Best Mistake Mystery - 2017
The Artsy Mistake Mystery - 2017
The Snake Mistake Mystery - 2018
The Diamond Mistake Mystery - 2019

Books Written as Geena Dare:
Stage School Series:
Dan Clowning Around #5 - 1998
Matt Heartbreak Hero #6 - 1998
Lauren Dating Dreams #7 - 1999
Abbi Secret Stranger #9 - 1999
Jenna Standing Tall #10 - 1999
Dan Double Drama #11 -1999

Book Ghostwritten as Sharon Siamon:
The Spellbound Sleepover 1999

Mom and Dad's Guide to Martial Arts 1999

Foreign Editions unavailable in English to date:
Zannas vanskelige valg  2007 (Alpha Wolf)
Zanna - mellom barken og veden 2007 (River of Ice)
Snøras   2008 (Avalanche)
Zanna i fare 2008 (Victim's Impact)
Redningsaksjonen  2009 (The Nine Minute Disaster Zone) 

Author Profile and Interview with Sylvia McNicoll

Friday 26 May 2017

Sixth Friday of Easter 2017 - Pray to the Holy Spirit from Saint Josemaría Escrivá

Pray to the Holy Spirit from Saint Josemaría Escrivá

Come, O Holy Spirit:
enlighten my understanding
to know your commands;
strengthen my heart
against the wiles of the enemy; inflame my will…
I have heard your voice,
and I don’t want to harden my heart to resisting,
by saying ‘later… tomorrow.’
Nunc coepi! Now!
Lest there be no tomorrow for me!
O, Spirit of truth and wisdom,
Spirit of understanding and counsel,
Spirit of joy and peace!
I want what you want,
I want it because you want it,
I want it as you want it,
I want it when you want it.

Tomorrow the 10 day devotion to the Holy Spirit begins; a tradition in the Catholic Church. It is a way of preparation for the Solemnity of the Pentecost. Above is a prayer from St. Josemaria's consider using it during these days.
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

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
Letters: Letter 3: Res omnes, 9 January 1932
Letter 4: Vos autem, 16 July 1933 : Letter 4: Vos autem, 16 July 1933 
Letter 5: Euntes ergo, 2 October 1939 
Letter 6: Sincerus est, 11 March 1940
Letter 7: Quem per annos, 24 October 1942 
Letter 8: Legitima hominum, 31 May 1943 

Other Posts:

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

Thursday 25 May 2017

Norms of Piety - J.M. Muntadas - A Plan for Everyday Living

Norms of Piety:
A Plan for Everyday Living
Scepter Booklet Book 61
J.M. Muntadas
Scepter Press
ISBN 9781594173035

First I must state how excited I am to see these Scepter booklets coming back into print. Of the roughly 200 booklets I have only ever been able to track down about a third of the older out of print editions. But not only is Scepter bringing them back into print, they are completely redoing them and these are beautiful new eBook editions. This specific booklet was originally booklets 61 and 62 was originally published in 1977. The chapters in this booklet are:

The Morning Offering
Morning prayer
Holy Mass
Reading of the Gospel and other spiritual reading
The Angelus
A visit to the Blessed Sacrament
Afternoon prayer
The Holy Rosary
Examination of conscience
Frequent confession
Praying the Hail Holy Queen on Saturdays
Always: Presence of God
Consideration of our divine filiation

From the introduction the goal of this plan is to:

"This fully personalized plan, the result of reflection, will enable us to accomplish more with the time we have available, and will help us to be realists. In this sense a plan of life expands in a practical way to embrace both the human and the spiritual. For a Christian, the full life is nothing more than human life itself lived in a Christian manner. Hence the importance of religious formation and of the interior life in order to sanctify human activities and, at the same time, to turn them into instruments of apostolate."

And from there it states:

"What follows are some of these norms of piety. They are not all of those practiced by ordinary Christians. Indeed, some very important ones, like the day of recollection, annual retreat and aspirations, have been left out. But in this and the following booklet (Scepter Booklet No. 62) you will find fifteen norms, each with a brief explanation to help you live them better."

And that is what the rest of the book does. It explains what the 15 norms are and how to integrate those into your life. The booklet is short, practical and easily applied. The advice in this book can be applied by students in high school or someone who is retired. Any Christian who wishes to deepen their spiritual life can use this book as a blueprint for changes, for growth to establish a patterns and habits in the spiritual life.

The book concludes with a chapter on Cheerfulness. J.M. Muntadas states:

"Cheerfulness cannot be bought and sold; it has to be earned. The secret lies in piety, in sincerity, docility, and hard work. Of course we come home at the end of the day tired, worn out. But sad?-never. And why? "Cheerfulness is an integral and necessary part of Christian psychology, even in the midst of adversity and tribulation"(29). God made us to be happy, eternally in our heavenly home, but the happiness of heaven belongs to those who have known how to find happiness on earth. It is a norm for which we have to train."

And I must admit that Cheerfulness is the one I need to work on most after reading this booklet. I have been praying to live more joy for a while, and this book really reinforced that intention.

This is a great little book. I believe that if you read and apply the lessons within it you will experience spiritual growth! This is a great book in an amazing series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Wednesday 24 May 2017

A Graduate's Guide to Life - Frank J. Hanna

A Graduate's Guide to Life:
Three Things They Don't Teach You in College That Could Make All the Difference
Frank J. Hanna

Wellspring Publishing
Beacon Publishing for
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781929266272
eISBN 9781929266883

This is one of those small books that pop up around graduation time each year. I have read numerous books along this line, over the years there have been a few that I have really enjoyed. Such as James Allen’s As You Think, Todd Duncan’s Life by Design, or John Maxwell’s The Journey from Success to Significance or The Choice is Yours. Or the ever popular Dr. Seuss Oh The Places You Will Go. But to be honest all of those books pale in comparison to this book. To be honest this book was so good that when I finished it, I decided to immediately read it again, and thus have read it twice now back to back.

Hanna begins the introduction to this book with a statement, he declares:

“Within the pages of this short book, I’m going to give you a recipe for becoming successful. This recipe only has three ingredients: an understanding of reality, an understanding of competition, and an understanding of wealth. These concepts are not complex, so it won’t take us long. You’ll see.”
And then he goes on to do so. Some of the ideas he presents in this book were very new to me. Some were theories I was aware of but never seen them applied to life as a whole. In under 50 pages Hanna gives some excellent advice for those just starting out on careers after graduation, but it is also great advice for anyone who wishes to live a more fulfilled and meaningful life! The chapters in this book are:

An Understanding of Reality
An Understanding of Competition
The Real Purpose of Human Competition
How Competition Can Destroy Success
Abundance and Value—an Alternative Way
The Real Way to Get Wealthy
The True Nature of Wealth
How Does Wealth Disappear?
The First Essential Ingredient of Wealth is Hope
The Second Essential Ingredient of Wealth is Human Relationships
Why Good Communion Works
Going Forward

Hanna states:

“So first, a question: How many of you and your friends were told as you headed off to college that these would be the best four years of your life? By the way, this is a rhetorical question. In other words, I already know the answer, because I have asked numerous groups of college students this question. The answer is: all of you. All of you were told, by someone, perhaps your parents, that your college years should be the best four years of your life. But you know what? It is horrible advice! Truly terrible. It can send you down the wrong path and have negative consequences in your life. 
In the following chapters, I’ll show you why and give you a better alternative. Let’s start by taking a look at the first ingredient in the wealth recipe: an understanding of reality.”
And I had never really thought about it that way. I know people who still look back at University or even High School as the best years of their life. They are constantly living back in the glory days, and because of that not fully living in the present. Hanna says:
“My favorite definition of education is from Josef Jungmann. He said that “education is the process of introducing a person to reality.” I love that definition, and it is so true. I have been involved with the field of education for many years, and I have helped to start a number of educational institutions, and I know from firsthand experience that this is indeed the goal of education—to introduce a person to reality.”
Then he goes on to focus on how important reality is:
People love to fool themselves, to provide an answer that is more palatable, even if it is wrong. It is so prevalent that, in order to guard against it, we developed a concept in our business called “reality-based management.” In other words, manage based on the way things actually are, rather than how you wish they were. We even created a slogan for our business: “Measured by reality.”
Think about how often have we in our own life lived based on the way we wished things were, rather than they really are. Now How many times did that lead to disappointment? Do you have the strength, to see things as they really are and live from that place? Moving on to competition he has some startling examples from both sports and business but this statement really stuck with me:
Regardless of your religious or ethical beliefs, most scientists concur that over the past ten thousand years human beings have built increasingly sophisticated and prosperous civilizations via cooperation, not competition.
How much more could we achieve is cooperation was our primary focus not competition. If our goal was working together to get things done and done well; instead of competing in order to get ahead? Hanna challenges us in our thinking he says:
Good competition, with love, can raise us to heroic heights. We find ourselves pushing with more energy and force than we might have thought possible. But we should also hope that our competitors can do the same thing—push themselves past where they thought possible, into the realm of the heroic. It is only human competition when both of these elements exist; otherwise, it is the activity of mere animals.
Hanna’s final focus is on wealth. But he is interested in real wealth not just accumulating possessions. He first defines wealth, drawing from more traditional meanings:
The word wealth itself comes from the Middle English word weal, meaning “well-being.” Simply put, our wealth is a function of our well-being. Unfortunately, well-being is hard to quantify, so we use a very very inaccurate shortcut. We instead define wealth as material goods.
His examples especially from the economic collapse of 2008-2009 so what most consider wealth at a personal, corporate even national level is based on future expectation and evaluation and that it is very fragile.  He says “Wealth can be created out of thin air when hope increases, and it can vanish into thin air when hope is diminished.”. Finally he goes on to tie the three themes, wealth, reality and competition to help shape a new focus that will take graduates, (an any of us open to change) to greater fulfillment and finding a purpose with real meaning. Hanna concludes the book with saying “This book is an exercise in hope—my hope for your future wealth. I hope it has also brought value to your life.” And I believe this book will help open eyes so that it will come true.

This is a wonderful little read. Yes it is a great gift for graduates, but it would also be great for us all. I have already read this book twice and will likely read it again once a year over the next few years, it was an instant favorite and I encourage you to give it a read and see if your life is changed!

Books by Frank J. Hanna:
A Graduate's Guide to Life
What Your Money Means

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Saint Clare of Assisi: Runaway Rich Girl - Kim Hee-Ju

Saint Clare of Assisi: Runaway Rich Girl
Kim Hee-Ju
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 9780819890870

This book is both written and illustrated by Kim Hee-Ju. It is a graphic novel in a semi-manga style. The reason I say semi is it has the typical oversized eyes, but it does not have disproportionate body sized, and it is in full color instead of black and white whit shading. Now I am by no means an expert on graphic novels. But I do enjoy a few artists that I have been introduced to. And this is a really good offering.

I read this book with my three children, ages 10, 9 and 6. The 6 year old loved it. She has carried it around for 2 weeks now. We have reread it a few times. She took it to school to share with her classroom. Her best friend and her have sat on the back porch and read through it a few times now. She even slept with the book the first few nights. And I do not think you can really give a book better praise then kids love reading it and read it again and again.

This book is really two stories in one. It is the stories of both Francis and Clare of Assisi. It starts with Clare remembering back to Francis's conversion and renouncing his worldly possessions. It is the story of Clare's love for God and appreciation for the work Francis was doing. And it is the story of Clare's call and life of service. And it is wonderfully told through both pictures and words.

Graphic novels are a good art form, and method of storytelling in and of themselves. But they are also great for reluctant readers. This is a good book and I really look forward to reading more in the series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Graphic Novels from Pauline Books and Media:
St. Francis of Assisi: Messenger of Peace
St. Teresa of Avila: God's Troublemaker
Philip Neri: The Laughing Saint
Mother Teresa of Kolkata: Saint Among the Poor
Saint Clare of Assisi: Runaway Rich Girl
The Legend of Saint Christopher: Quest for a King

Monday 22 May 2017

20 Answers The Real Jesus - Trent Horn- 20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers

20 Answers The Real Jesus
20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers 
Trent Horn
Catholic Answers Press
ISBN 9781938983931
eISBN 9781938983955

Some good news and some bad news; first the good news this series has just been expanded from 20 to 23 books and I believe more will release in the fall expanding it even further. The bad news is that Trent Horn has not authored any of the new volumes. Of the 23 books now available Trent Horn has written 10, and they are each great reads. 

This year I took the 20 Answers Challenge, at the time it was to read all the books available in the Catholic Answers series (that were available at the time).  You can still get the first 20 books for 50% off, an incredible deal, so get them with this deal while you can! They are really great reads. That will enhance your faith and your ability to defend it. I have rated 18 of the 20 with 5 out of 5 stars, and the other two got 4 stars. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religious Studies with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought, and I love the clarity of through and the format of this series. I cannot wait until my three children are a little order to read these books with each of them. The 20 questions that Trent answers in this volume are:

1. Is there any evidence that Jesus actually existed as a historical person?
2. But is there any evidence outside of the Bible that Jesus was real?
3. If Jesus really existed and performed miracles, then why didn't more ancient historians write about him? I've heard that there were dozens of ancient historians who lived shortly after Jesus and none of them wrote about Jesus being a real person.
4. Can we trust the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life? I heard they were written decades or even centuries later by anonymous authors.
5. We don't even have the original manuscripts of the Gospels, so how can we know that the words and deeds of Jesus were not made up or changed by various scribes who copied the New Testament?
6. I watched a video on the Internet that said the ancient world had legends about many dying and rising gods. People believed these gods were born on December 25, had twelve disciples, were crucified, and then rose from the dead. Were the stories about Jesus simply copied from pre-existing pagan mythology?
7. I'm willing to accept that a man named Jesus existed and was a wise teacher, like Buddha. However, I think everything about him being the son of God was added at a later time and embellished. Is there evidence that Jesus originally claimed to be the Son of God?
8. In the Bible, Jesus never says, "I am God. Worship me." In fact, didn't Jesus claim to be the "Son of man" and on several occasions deny that he was divine?
9. If Jesus was God, then how was God still running the universe when Jesus was a baby? Did Jesus know everything about the universe when he was five? In short, how is it possible for God to become a man?
10. Even if Jesus' words were accurately recorded, so many things he said seem crazy or just impossible to accept. Why would I want to worship someone like that?
11. Jesus said that there were people standing in front of him who would see the coming of the kingdom of God before they died (Mark 9:1). He also described the end of the world and said his generation would not pass away until it took place (Matt. 24:35). But the kingdom didn't come and the world didn't end. How can I believe in Jesus when he was so obviously wrong?
12. I heard that Jesus was married and that the Church suppressed other Gospels that depict him as just an ordinary man and not the Son of God. Is this true?
13. Why do Christians believe that Jesus had to die in order for God to forgive our sins? Why couldn't God just forgive our sins outright?
14. How can we be so certain that Jesus really died on the cross, and didn't just pass out and walk out of the tomb later? Or, how do we know that Jesus wasn't just left on the cross to rot or that his body wasn't thrown in a shallow grave and eaten by dogs? Those outcomes are far more likely than Jesus dying and rising from the dead.
15. How do we know Jesus' tomb was really empty? Maybe this was simply a legend that developed over time in order to explain what happened to Jesus.
16. What about the stories of the risen Jesus appearing to people? Maybe these were legends that developed later.
17. Even if the apostles believed that Jesus rose from the dead, that doesn't prove it really happened. How do we know they weren't suffering from a group hallucination?
18. But Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:37-50 that the "natural body" cannot enter heaven, but only the "spiritual body." Doesn't this mean that the apostles believed only in the "spiritual" resurrection of Jesus, and so a body lying in the tomb would not have disproved their "Easter faith"?
19. Is it possible to believe that Jesus really performed miracles? Christians don't believe the miracle stories of other religions, and besides, wouldn't miracles violate the laws of nature?
20. What should I believe about Jesus?

From the introduction of this booklet Horn states:
"Is the Christ of faith a mere fantasy? Or is he the same person as the Jewish carpenter who lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago? This is an essential question. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his book Jesus of Nazareth, "For biblical faith the historicity-and thus the 'facticity'-of the Incarnation is indispensable. Faith demands that we consider Jesus as approachable by historical research."
Since faith and reason cannot contradict one another, there must be rational, evidence-based answers to pressing questions about Jesus of Nazareth that do not contradict the "Christ of faith" who is worshipped by billions of Christians around the world. In this booklet we will look at some of those answers."
This book tackles questions around the key claims about Christ that Christian's believe. It is written to refute false claims or attacks against orthodox beliefs. And also to Support sound Christian doctrine.  It also brings in a lot of external historical evidence and proofs. Of the 20 books I have read in this series I think this is one of the most important. And one every Catholic, no that every Christian should read!

This is an incredible booklet and is part of an amazing series! It is another great read from Catholic Answers and Trent Horn.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Note 2: Currently this is an amazing series of books is being offered at a 50% discount so get it while you can. That is right you can get all 20 physical books or all 20 eBooks for just $34.95! If you want a way to go deeper this year give this series a try! #20AnswersChallenge

20 Answers Series:
20 Answers Abortion - Trent Horn
20 Answers Angels & Demons - Fr. Mike Driscoll
20 Answers Atheism - Matt Fradd
20 Answers Death & Judgement - Trent Horn
20 Answers Divorce & Remarriage - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers End of Life - Jason Negri
20 Answers Faith & Science - Trent Horn
20 Answers God - Trent Horn
20 Answers Islam - Andrew Blezad
20 Answers Jehovah's Witnesses - Trent Horn
20 Answers Mary - Tim Staples
20 Answers Miracles - Karlo Broussard
20 Answers Mormonism - Trent Horn
20 Answers Salvation - Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Scripture and Tradition - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers The Bible - Trent Horn
20 Answers The Eucharist - Trent Horn
20 Answers The Papacy - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers The Real Jesus - Trent Horn

20 Answers The Church - Trent Horn
20 Answers Witchcraft & the Occult - Michelle Arnold
20 Answers Apparitions & Revelations - Michael O'Neill
20 Answers Bible Prophecy - Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Homosexuality - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers The Reformation - Steve Weidenkopf
20 Answers The Sacraments - Fr. Mike Driscoll

20 Answers Bioethics - Stacy A. Trasancos
20 Answers Conversion - Shaun McAfee
20 Answers Faith and Works - Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Anti-Catholic Myths - Jimmy Akin
20 Answers The End Times - Jimmy Akin
20 Answers The Rosary - Tom Nash
20 Answers Seasons & Feasts – Michelle Arnold
20 Answers New Age -  Michelle Arnold
20 Answers Catholic Social Teaching – Mark Brumley
20 Answers Prayer – Hugh Barbour O. Praem and Sebastian Walshe O. Praem
20 Answers Faith & Reason – Christopher Kaczor
20 Answers The New Testament – Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Protestantism – Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Marriage & Sex – Todd Aglialoro
20 Answers The Early Church – Jim Blackburn
20 Answers The Old Testament – Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Judaism – Michelle Arnold
20 Answers The Sacraments – Father Mike Driscoll

Other Books from Catholic Answers:
Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties - Trent Horn
A Daily Defense: Apologetics Lessons for Every Day - Jimmy Akin
The Apostasy That Wasn't: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church - Rod Bennett
Answering Atheism - How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity - Trent Horn
Persuasive Pro Life: How to Talk About Our Culture's Toughest Issue - Trent Horn and Fr Frank Pavone
The Protestant's Dilemma: How the Reformation's Shocking Consequences Point to the Truth of Catholicism - Devin Rose
Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines - Tim Staples
Handed Down: The Catholic Faith of the Early Christians - James L. Papandrea
Demons, Deliverance, Discernment: Separating Fact from Fiction about the Spirit World - Fr. Mike Driscoll
Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith - Devin Rose
100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura - Dave Armstrong
The Drama of Salvation: How God Rescues You from Your Sins and Brings You to Eternal Life - Jimmy Akin
The Truth is Out There (Brendan and Erc in Exile Book 1 - Brother Amadeus and Amadeus
...Memorize the Reasons! Defending the Faith with the Catholic Art of Memory - Kevin Vost
Marching Orders: A Tactical Plan for Converting the World to Christ - Dan McGuire

The Fathers Know Best - Jimmy Akin
Why We're Catholic: Our Reasons for Faith, Hope, and Love - Trent Horn
The Old Evangelization: How to Spread the Faith Like Jesus Did - Eric Sammons
What the Saints Never Said - Trent Horn