Tuesday 31 July 2018

Product Review - Mass Explained App - Dan Gonzalez

Mass Explained App
Dan Gonzalez
Web Online


I have been aware of this app for a while now. It was on my wish list almost from my first becoming aware of it. It is pricier than a lot of apps out there, but after using it for a few months with my children, I have concluded it is more than worth it.

The app has a Nihil Obstat by Monsingnor Terance E. Hogan, SLD and also has an Imprimatur by the Most Reverand Thomas G. Wenski. And of the hundreds of Catholic apps I have tested across both iOS and Android this is the only app I recall that has both of those.

This app is a work of art. It is beautifully designed, and by far one of the most professional Catholic apps I have seen to date. My children love this app. My son, who is planning on being a military chaplain has worked through this app a few times now.

Dan took two years to develop the app, and it is obvious from the quality. From the app opening with a swinging thurible, to the extensive resources after the 23 chapters. The resource section includes links to 29 books, a number I have read and a few I have added to my reading list. From the book resources it then has a list of 10 Church documents, with links that open the documents right in the app. And then there are 6 categories of Catholic links:

General Mass Links
Sacred Music
Church Year/Readings
Catholic Bloggers
Catholic Podcasts
Catholic Publishers

And each section has numerous links. If this app were a book it would be well over 350 pages, and would be a beautiful coffee table book. As can be seen by the sample page below. The section on making the Sign of the cross is three pages long:

As can be see from this sample page the sidebar is full of brief facts, and there are sections where you slide through tidbits of information.

This app is great for personal use, for group study, for high school students or for RCIA. And my children ages 7, 10, 11 all loved it.And excellent resource.

This is an amazing app. As stated one of the best designed and delivered Catholic apps I have ever encountered. It has set a very high bar for any apps that follow it. I wish there was an version for smaller platforms, phones or mini tablets. But I understand that would require a complete redesign. I also wish there was a way to transfer usage, my devices are usually provided by work, and I use whatever platform they provide. It would also be nice if you could sign in on the app in iOS or Android and then be able to use that account for the web version of it. But even with those two items I would like this is an amazing app.

Other excellent apps from Agnus, LLC:
For Phones and Tablets:

Catholic Word Search
Catholic Words and Games

For Tablets Only:
The Mass Explained
Catholic Coloring

Monday 30 July 2018

Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky - CTS Biographies

Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
CTS Biographies
Helena Scott
Ethel Tolansky
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860825835
eISBN 9781784694630

I have been familiar with the works of Helena Scott for years now as the translator of some of the books by Fr. Jacques Philippe, I have recently discovered that she has cowritten 8 books for Catholic Truth Society with Ethel Tolansky. That is the good news. The bad news is most of them are out of print. The physical edition of this book was first released in 2009, and an eBook edition was released in 2017. This one is currently available in both formats and is a fascinating read! I will be honest other than encountering then name while researching the authors I did not know anything about this man. 

The chapters in this book are:
Archbishop Thuan and Vietnam
Early Life: Joy and Hope
Bishop Thuan: Witness to Hope
Cardinal Thuan: The Final Years

The problems began in earnest in 1975, and they proceeded quickly:

"On 23rd April came the news that Bishop Thuan had been appointed coadjutor archbishop of Saigon. In the normal course of events this meant that he would succeed the current Archbishop. However, events were so far from normal that the appointment promised only deeper trouble for the new coadjutor. The new Communist government soon set about dismantling the Catholic Church in Vietnam, confiscating Church property, arresting priests and religious and allocating them to labour camps, and generally making it hard for Christians to practise their faith.

Archbishop Thuan, as was his custom, abandoned himself and his future entirely into God's hands, handed over the diocese of Nha Trang to his successor, and travelled south to the newly renamed Ho Chi Minh City as soon as he could. Once he had settled into Ho Chi Minh City and taken up his work with Archbishop Binh, there was nothing further he could do except wait and see what action the new government would take. The answer came on 15th August."

And shortly after that:

"At the end of this meeting, Archbishop Thuan was put under arrest, and, with a military escort, taken back to Nha Trang by car, a 250-mile drive. There, after sleeping the remainder of the night in soldiers' quarters, he was taken to the Cay Vong parish rectory, a few miles outside the city. The new bishop of Nha Trang, Bishop Hoa, was summoned there too. Together with the parish priest, they were informed that Archbishop Thuan was to remain there under strict house arrest, and was allowed no contact with any of the parishioners. He could say Mass, but only in private.

The next thirteen years of Archbishop Thuan's life were spent in one form of captivity after another. At the time of his arrest he was forty-seven; he had been a priest for fourteen years and a bishop for eight. They had been years of intense pastoral activity, in which his outstanding intelligence, his gift for languages, his capacity for organisation and for sheer hard work, his wisdom in guiding souls, and his many other talents, had been used to the full in the service of God and the Church. All of this was now brought to an abrupt halt. What made it even worse was the tantalising fact that he was back in his old diocese, physically very close to the people whom he had worked with and loved for the past eight years - and they did not know he was there; he could have no contact with them. The sound of the Cathedral bells ringing, morning and evening, tore at his heart."

The heart of this man is what impressed me most while reading this book. I was inspired by his humility. And deeply moved by his devotion to his flock. He lived such an incredible life of service. According to a different site Cardinal Nguyen had 10 Rules of Life:

     I will live the present moment to the fullest.
     I will discern between God and God's works.
     I will hold firmly to one secret: prayer.
     I will see in the Holy Eucharist my only power.
     I will have only one wisdom: the science of the Cross.
     I will remain faithful to my mission in the Church and 
       for the Church as a witness of Jesus Christ.
     I will seek the peace the world cannot give.
     I will carry out a revolution by renewal in the Holy Spirit.
     I will speak one language and wear one uniform: Charity.
     I will have one very special love: The Blessed Virgin Mary

From this book you will find out that lived those rules no matter what his life circumstances. After reading this book, I have tracked down some of the works by Cardinal Nguyen to read, including CTS's edition of 'Five Loaves & Two Fishes'. And will be following his beatification process. Cardinal Nguyen lived a life that can serve as an example to us all. He lived the gospel, he trusted god through 15 years imprisonment, and years in exile. 

Over the last few years I have read a few books about Catholic Military Chaplains who served in Vietnam. From those books I saw a vibrant Catholic tradition that was persecuted and punished. This book is the first I have read about a native of Vietnam, his life and ministry. And it portrays and even more passionate faith than I had previously encountered in my readings. 

This was the third of the biographies by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky that I have read, and I have now tracked down most of the others. The writing style is engaging and the books very informative. I look forward to reading other books by the authors and highly recommend this volume. This book gives great insight into life as a Catholic Bishop under a communist regime. It shows us his great faith, his trust in God, and his love for his people. It was an excellent read and I recommend it to all who would grow in their faith. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Scott and Tolansky:
Pius XII
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
Benedict XVI

Josemaria Escriva
Alvaro Del Portillo

A Pope of Surprises: The First Five Years of Pope Benedict XVI's Papacy
Sophie Scholl and The White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis
Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel: Victims of the Nazis

Books by Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan:
Five Loaves & Two Fish
The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison
Prayers of Hope, Words of Courage
Prières d'espérance
J'ai suivi Jésus: un évêque témoigne

Author profile and interview with Helena Scott.

Sunday 29 July 2018

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

The readings for this weekend's mass are:

First Reading 2 Kings 4:42-44
Responsorial Psalm 145:10-11, 15-18 Response 16
Second Reading Ephesians 4:1-6
Gospel John 6:1-15

There is so much to unpack in this weekend's reading, especially the foreshadowing in the first reading, the gospel and the Lord's supper. It was interesting, as I was reading the first reading, I was thinking about the miracle of the loaves and fish, and when I flipped the page there it was. But it got me to thinking. Because the altar at our parish has 5 loves but has seven small fish. So, I did some research, and discovered an Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes, it is a historical Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration. There are many theories on why the feast of seven fish, and I would be interested in finding our why our parish altar is decorated with seven fish. But I digress. 

As mentioned above the first reading from the book of Kings, tells the story of Elisha's compassion on the crowds, and his trust in God to provide. In the story we read:

"Give it to the people and let them eat, 
for thus says the lord,
'They shall eat and have some left.'"
The servant set it before them, 
they ate, and had some left,
according to the Word of the Lord."

This story also echo's the reality of all men. We have a hunger, and that hunger can only be filled by communion, communion with God and with his people, and our Eucharistic celebration is the weekly, or daily reminder of that need, and the source of all true happiness.

The second reading is Paul's encouragement and challenge to the Church at Ephesus. Paul begs the believers to:

"lead a life worthy of the calling
to which you have been called,
With all humility and gentleness, with patience,
wearing with one another in love,

And that call still echoes down to us today. We need to strive both personally and corporately to live worthy of our calling as children of God. To live with Humility, gentleness and patience. And above all to live in love.

And then we come to the gospel reading. The multiplication of the five loaves and two fishes. But not only is everyone fed there is a plenitude left over. We need to turn to God, seen him and trust in him. 

Related Posts:

Saturday 28 July 2018

The Whisper in the Ruins - Lisa M. Hendey and Jenn Bower - Chime Travelers Book 3

The Whisper in the Ruins
Chime Travelers Book 3
Lisa M. Hendey
Jenn Bower (Illustrator)
Servant Books a division of
Franciscan  Media
ISBN 9781632530363

The five books in the Chime Travelers series were published in 2015-16. I came across them late and actually read book 5 first. I have since gone back and now read them all. Between my personal reading and reading with my children I have now read about a half dozen books on Saint Francis of Assisi in the last 2 years. And even with the fictional elements, this book is one of the best, and an absolute blast! 

This book begins with a blessing of the pets at the local parish. But the next morning people quickly realized that someone has thrown a rock through the stained-glass window of Saint Francis. While helping to clean up, the church bells begin to ring, and Patrick feels a rushing cool wind. In this third book in the series, when Patrick is transported in space and time, he immediately recognizes what has happened. Both he and his sister have had this happen once before and he instantly wonders who he will encounter and what he is there to do or learn. Patrick meets a young Francis, and very quickly suspects that it is Saint Francis of Assisi. He is soon able to confirm that suspicion. Young Patrick is able to witness so much about Francis's call and early ministry. And along the way he figures out why he is there and how he can take that lesson home.

The illustrations by Jenn Bower are wonderful. The story by Hendey is amazing. This is an excellent read and part of aa wonderful series. But be warned about the cuteness of the church mouse. It teaches good lessons without being preachy. It helps children come to their own conclusions, and I can say that for my oldest two, this book, and this series has inspired change in their lives. My children and I recommended this book for the whole family. Our only regret is that the series seams to have come to an end at 5 books. There are so many other saints we would love to see Patrick and Katie interact with. Maybe someday.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Lisa M. Hendey:
The Handbook for Catholic Moms
A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms
The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living
O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath

As Morning Breaks: Daily Gospel Reflection.
I Am God's Storyteller 

Chime Travelers Series:
The Secret of the Shamrock
The Sign of the Carved Cross
The Whisper in the Ruins
The Mystery at Midnight
The Strangers at the Manger

Contributed to:
Beautiful Mercy
Beautiful Eucharist
Small Steps for Catholic Moms
The Catholic Baby Name Book
One Body, Many Blogs: A Guide for Christian Bloggers
The Catholic Mom S Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections
The Church and New Media

Friday 27 July 2018

Saints of the Roman Canon - Julien Chilcott-Monk - CTS Living the Liturgy Series

Saints of the Roman Canon 
CTS Living the Liturgy Series
Julien Chilcott-Monk
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860828621
eISBN 9781784693909

This book was not exactly what I was expecting. But it was an excellent read. It is a collection of brief biographies and histories on all of the Saints that are part of the first Eucharistic prayer. 

The description of this book is:

"The lives of the saints mentioned in the first Eucharistic Prayer in the Roman Missal. The Roman Canon, or First Eucharistic Prayer, recalls many saints from the history of the early Church, and their names have become familiar with Mass-goers everywhere. It mentions Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Linus, Cletus and many others - but who were these saints and why of all the saints are they remembered so regularly? This eBook gives a short and enlightening biography of each and why we should get to know the lives behind the names. Learn about some of the most important saints and martyrs in the Catholic Church's history. An important new Mass participation aid to understanding the first Eucharistic prayer. Suitable for priests as an aid for catechises on the saints."

In the introduction Julien states:

"On hearing the names of particular saints in the Roman Canon we celebrate what we know of them - their characters, their characteristics, and circumstances of their martyrdom. Those, and there are some, whose lives and passions have now largely been forgotten, are celebrated because their contemporaries - fellow Christians and, sometimes, even pagan enemies - acclaimed their sacrifice and resolution in the face of torture and death, and we can thus hold in our minds, along with the better-known saints, all those whose examples and sacrifices are now little known or forgotten. In some cases, where there are doubts as to the identity of a particular saint, the possibilities are considered carefully.

In praying the saints of the Roman Canon, we can use in our contemplation whatever knowledge we have of them - their strengths, weaknesses, circumstances of their martyrdom, their names, their ages and positions in life. In knowing something of them and holding these themes in our minds, we are much better equipped to pray the Canon."

The chapters in this book and specific saints examined are:

The Virgin Mary
St Joseph
St Peter
St Paul
St Andrew
St James (the Great)
St John
St Thomas
St James (the Less)
St Philip
St Bartholomew
St Matthew
St Simon
St Thaddeus [Jude]
St Linus
St Cletus
St Clement
St Sixtus
St Cornelius
St Cyprian
St Lawrence
St Chrysogonus
St John & St Paul
St Cosmas & St Damian
St John the Baptist
St Stephen
St Matthias
St Barnabas
St Ignatius
St Alexander
St Marcellinus & St Peter
St Felicity & St Perpetua
St Agatha
St Lucy
St Agnes
St Cecilia
St Anastasia
Further Reading

After each biography there are tools to help in contemplation and prayer. Some ore poems, some hymns, and guides for contemplation. A sample chapter Saint Stephen is:

"26 December

Luke paints a colourful and three-dimensional picture of this man, the proto-martyr, in the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen was the first of seven deacons ordained by the apostles to assist them by caring for the less fortunate among both Hebrew and Greek Jews, of whom Stephen was one. He assisted also with preaching and teaching and soon gained a reputation as a marvellous orator and worker of miracles.

Stephen spoke with vigour and authority, so much so that the authorities conspired to have witnesses declare "We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God" (Ac 6:11). He was arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin. Perjurers made the case against him. In response to the allegations, Stephen launched into the most eloquent and beautifully crafted history of Israel and her relationship with God. He showed how, at every turn, Israel had consistently disobeyed and rejected God's commands and love. Stephen skilfully reaches the conclusion of his summary: "You stubborn people, with your pagan hearts and pagan ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? In the past, they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers." Afterwards, the council "rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him" (Ac 7:51-58). Stephen's clothes (his mantle, perhaps?) were laid at the feet of one Saul, a young man and persecutor of the Church. No one then knew that Saul would wear that mantle with pride.

We might dwell upon Stephen's fearlessness and confidence in the Lord.

Saint of God, elect and precious,
Protomartyr, Stephen bright
With thy love of amplest measure,
Shining round thee like a light;
Who to God commendedst, dying,
Them that did thee all despite.
Glitters now the crown above thee,
Figured in thy sacred name:
O that we, who truly love thee,
May have portion in the same;
In the dreaded day of judgement
Fearing neither sin nor shame.
(Sancte Dei pretiose, 1st millennium, tr. J M Neale)
Pray for all missionaries and missionary organisations.
St Stephen, pray for us."

This book was a wonderful little read. It is another excellent resource from the Catholic truth Society. And I look forward to checking out other books in the Living the Liturgy series and other books by Julien Chilcott-Monk.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Julien Chilcott-Monk:
The Way of the Passion
Come, Lord Jesus!
In the Name of the Father
Praying the Crucifix - Reflections on the Cross
Saints of the Roman Canon
A Calendar of Catholic Devotion
Walking the Way of the Cross: Liturgies and Meditations on the Stations of the Cross for Personal and Corporate Devotion
A Basic Dictionary of Bible People
John Henry Newman and the Path to Sainthood
Flesh, Bone, Wood: Entering Into the Mysteries of the Cross
Advent Joy. Journeying Towards the Nativity

Thursday 26 July 2018

Those Who Saw Her Apparitions of Mary, Updated and Revised - Catherine Odell

Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary, Updated and Revised
Catherine Odell
Our Sunday Visitor
ISBN 9781612781259
eISBN 9781306066938

This book was first published in 1985, was revised in 1995 and again in 2010. I am glad they changed the cover the last time it was revised as I would not likely have picked it up and looked at it with the red and black cover. The chapters in the latest edition of the book are:

1. Who Is Mary?
2. Why Does Mary Come?
3. The Church and Apparitions
4. The Apparitions at Guadalupe, Mexico, 1531
5. The Apparitions at Laus, France, 1664-1718
6. The Apparitions on the Rue du Bac, Paris, France, 1830
7. The Apparition at La Salette, France, 1846
8. The Apparitions at Lourdes, France, 1858
9. The Apparition at Pontmain, France, 1871
10. The Apparition at Knock, Ireland, 1879
11. The Apparitions at Fátima, Portugal, 1917
12. The Apparitions at Beauraing, Belgium, 1932-33
13. The Apparitions at Banneux, Belgium, 1933
14. The Messages of Akita, Japan, 1973-81
15. The Alleged Apparitions at Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1981-?
16. The Apparitions at Kibeho, Rwanda, 1981-89
17. The Apparitions at San Nicolás, Argentina, 1983-90
18. The Apparitions at Betania, Venezuela, 1984

Typically, when I look at a book on Marian apparitions I often look at the chapter on Knock first. I think in part this is because of my Irish heritage. And maybe because it is not as famous as Fatima or Lourdes, for some reason I have always been drawn to the story of Knock. This chapter is well written, and concludes with these words:

"On a dreary August night, during a sad century, the Virgin Mary had come to comfort the downtrodden Irish. It was a blessing, and the Irish had never concerned themselves with analyzing blessings. In Gaelic, they simply thanked heaven for it. "Cead mile failte!" as one believer said - "A hundred thousand thanks!""

One of the great things about this book is it gives equal weight to each of the apparitions. Each chapter is between 8-10 pages in length. I was surprised by the inclusion of Medjugorje, even the title of this chapter is 'The Alleged Apparitions at Medjugorje' And I know that in the late 80's and early 90's when I was in university I was fascinated with this apparent appearance. And know many people personally who have had experiences surrounding events there. But With the current pope and the previous two having reservations regarding this event, I was very surprised it made the list.

This book does a great job of introducing readers to 15 of the documented apparitions of Mary. They span from 1531-1984. For me it will serve as a jumping off point. There were a number of appearances I was unfamiliar with. It is very well written and is easily accessible. Catherine Odell has done a great job examining these events and devotions and presenting them to us. A great read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Catherine Odell:
Angels of the Lord: 365 Reflections on Our Heavenly Guardians
On Pilgrimage
Pepper Frannie
Advent Meditations with Saint Faustina
Father Solanus Casey, Revised and Updated
Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary
Solanus Casey: The Story of Father Solanus
Faustina: The Apostle of Divine Mercy
Praying the Rosary for Intercession
Your One-Stop Guide to Patron Saints

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Pius XII - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky - CTS Biographies

Pius XII
CTS Biographies
Helena Scott
Ethel Tolansky
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860821929

I recently read a biography by these two authors on Alvaro Del Portillo, and it was an incredible read. While researching my review on that book I discovered that the two on co authored 7 books, six of which are biographies of specific people. Unfortunately, all but the Alvara book and the one on Ngyuen are currently out of print. Yet with that being said this book is an excellent read and well worth spending the time to track down.

The description on the back cover of this book is:

"Pius XII was Pope at a very turbulent time in history (1939-1958), and widely admired and respected in his lifetime. Since 1963 attacks against him have increased, notably concerning the plight of the Jewish people in the second World War - each attach has been fully answered by those who have studied the facts. This biography, benefiting from the latest and best research, reveals the real Pope Pius XII, his goodness, holiness, courage, intelligence and concern for all, and while examining much of the often repeated arguments, looks far beyond them." 

The chapters in this book are:

Early Life and priesthood
Papal Nuncio and Secretary of State
Pope at the Outbreak of War
Pius and the Plight of the Jews
Pius Working Against the Nazis 
Pius XII - The Post-War Years

In the introduction it is stated:

"On of the best ways of finding out about a Pope is to read what he wrote. Pius XII wrote an enormous amount, and in the nineteen years of his papacy he published forty-one encyclicals (some short, some very long) as well as composing a hugs number of other documents, giving sermons and speeches, sending messages, and writing letters. His encyclicals alone cover a wide range of subjects, and show his deep concern for souls, the way he followed the course of events at every level in different countries around the world, his great love for Our Lady, and the urgency of his prayer for peace. What stand our is his love for God and others, his faithfulness to God's will, and his courage in guiding the Church and defending all those most in need. His writings show how he was fully aware of the dangers of the popular antireligious ideologies of the time, Fascism, Nazism and Communism, and was tireless in pointing out the truths which were taught by Jesus Christ, and the ways in which those truths applied to current problems and debates."

Reading this book was incredibly eye opening. I have come across excerpts of works by Pius XII often in my religious studies degree. But this book has inspired me to dig deeper and start reading his encyclicals and other writings. I loved reading about how thoughtful this man was, and how he examined issues and questions from every side before speaking on them. I am also inspired by his lifelong devotion to Mary, a devotion that only seemed to deepen and grow as his responsibility increased.  I was also intrigued by the fact that he had to leave seminary the first time because of health issues, and once he was recovered included a health regime as part of his daily disciplines throughout his life. 

While reading this book I could not help but think about some of the confusion and scandal in the church today. Pius XII was a man of learning, a man of prayer and a man of action. He was popular and appreciated during his life and shortly after by many, by Jews and Christians, and political from numerous countries. It is sad that his legacy has been so besmirched, and this book is one that will help counter that. 

This is the second biography by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky that I have read, and I have tracked down three of the others that are out of print. The writing style is very engaging, and the book incredibly informative. I look forward to reading other books by the authors and highly recommend this volume. It is an important book on an important Pope during a very difficult time in the church and the world. I have already read this book twice. I sincerely wish this book was still in print, so I could keep copies on hand to give away as gifts. Most of the physical books I read from CTS I pass on after reading them once or twice, this one I will be keeping in my personal library, because it is such an excellent read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Scott and Tolansky:
Pius XII
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
Benedict XVI

Josemaria Escriva
Alvaro Del Portillo

A Pope of Surprises: The First Five Years of Pope Benedict XVI's Papacy
Sophie Scholl and The White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis
Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel: Victims of the Nazis

Other CTS Biographies of Popes:
Pius XII - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Paul VI - Anthony Symondson
John XXIII The Universal Parish Priest - Josephine Robinson

John Paul I - Stephen Dean
John Paul II The Road to Sainthood - Jim Gallagher
Benedict XVI - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Pope Francis - Dushan Croos

Author profile and interview with Helena Scott.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Keeping Mary Close Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages - Mike Aquilina and Frederick W. Gruber

Keeping Mary Close
Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages
Mike Aquilina
Frederick W. Gruber
Servant Books
Franciscan Media 
ISBN 9781616368746
eISBN 9781616368753

I read this book about six months ago. It was an excellent read. But to be honest I have found it hard to approach reviewing this volume. In part I am a huge fan of everything I have read from the pen of Mike Aquilina, and I did not want this review to come across as just a fan boy. There are many great contemporary authors in Catholic Tradition today: Scott Hahn, Taylor Marshall, Kevin Vost, Amy Welborn and many more. But there is something about the books by Aquilina that really stick with me, for weeks, some like this one, for months. This was one of those books. I have always had a devotion to Mary, it was instilled by my Anglican grandmother. Even in my years away from the Catholic Church I always felt a closeness to Mary and prayed to her. This book helped me understand that more and helped me commit even more to helping my children always draw near to Mary. This volume focuses on Marian devotion from the time of Christ through to the council of Ephesus.

The chapters in this book are:

From Jerusalem to Ephesus 
Mary in the Bible 
Other Sources of Marian Devotion 
Her Name 
The Virgin 
The New Eve 
Mother of God 
Conceiving Her Conception 
Assuming Her Assumption 
Star of Evangelization 
The Illuminated Gospels 
 John Henry Newman, "The Dignity of Mary" 

In the introduction to this book James L. Papandrea states:

"You hold in your hands a great treasure: a window into the world of early Christian devotion. And when you look through that window, what you will see is a deep and enduring love and appreciation for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary was the first Christian, the first to say yes to Jesus, when the angel presented her with the divine plan of the Incarnation (see Luke 1:26-38). Or to put it in popular evangelical terms, she was the first person ever to accept Jesus as her Savior.

In this way, and in many others, Mary is our prototype-the first one like us who welcomed Jesus into her life and walked the path of discipleship. Just as she received Christ into her body, in her womb, so we also receive Christ into our bodies when we take his Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

Mary's importance for the Church, and for history, cannot be overestimated. She is as important as Jesus's inner circle of disciples: Peter, James, and John. She is as important as Paul. Graffiti in the Roman catacombs record the prayers of second- and third-century Christians-prayers asking for the intercession of Peter, Paul, and Mary. When the chi-rho monogram of Christ became a popular Christian symbol in the fourth century, it was often embellished to include the initials of Peter and Mary. And Mary is the only one of Jesus's followers to be mentioned in the creeds."

This historical focus of this book, is a counter to the tradition of the last 150-200 years to minimize, ignore or even supress Marian devotion. As such this book is desperately needed today. The first chapter of this book begins with a quote from the book of Acts 1:12-14:

"Then they returned to Jerusalem…. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers."

Thus we see, from days after Christ's death and resurrection, the early church had a close relationship to Mary and she played such a key role that she frequently appears in the early Christian writings, including those that made it into the canon and those that did not. But the book always ties it back to today. As Mary was central in the beginning, she is considered central to the new evangelization. If anything after reading this book, I believe we need more of a focus on Mary, her role, and her example. The authors state:

"Mary always stands in the midst of that Church. That is what we learn from the constant witness of the Fathers.
She is in its Scriptures.
She is in its preaching and proclamation.
She is in its poetry and songs.
She is in its creeds.
She is in the catacombs in Rome and the cemeteries of the Fayoum.
She is in its mosaics, frescos, and sculpture.
She is in graffiti at the Church's pilgrim shrines.
She is in the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha.
She is in the Church's calendar, on her feasts and those of her son.
She is burnished onto oil lamps and minted in coins.
She is ever among her fellow disciples. She is a mother to them, because she mothers her son, in whom they live."

This book was a phenomenal read. It looks back and shows us where we come from and can be used as a guide to plot the course forward. As I stated we need more of Mary today, in our lives, in our Parishes and in our world. This book is an excellent tool to remind us of that history and to help us on our way. Another incredible read by Aquilina! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Mike Aquilina:
A Year with the Angels: Daily Meditations with the Messengers of God
A Year With The Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living
Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts
Companion Guide to Pope Benedict's 'The Fathers' 
Faith of Our Fathers: Why the Early Christians Still Matter and Always Will
Fire of God's Love: 120 Reflections on the Eucharist
Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons 
Love in the Little Things: Tales of Family Life
Ministers & Martyrs: The Ultimate Catholic Guide to the Apostolic Age
Praying in the Presence of Our Lord: With St. Thomas Aquinas
Roots of the Faith: From the Church Fathers to You
Sharing Christ's Priesthood: A Bible Study for Catholics
Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols
Sweet Gridlock: Selected Love Poems 
Terms and Conditions: Assorted Poems
The Apostles and Their Times
The Church and the Roman Empire
The Fathers of the Church Bible
The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers
The Mass of the Early Christians
The Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, & the Hope for Tomorrow
The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church
The Way of the Fathers: Praying With the Early Christians
The Witness of Early Christian Women: Mothers of the Church
Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers
Why Me? When Bad Things Happen
Yours Is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World

Books co-written by Mike Aquilina:
A Pocket Catechism for Kids - Fr. Kris Stubna
Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth - Dion DiMucci
Keeping Mary Close: Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages - Fr. Frederick Gruber
Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians - Scott Hahn
Praying the Psalms the Early Christians - Christopher Bailey
Saint Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer - Mark W. Sullivan
Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again - James Papandrea
Something More Pastoral: The Mission of Bishop, Archbishop, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl - Ann Rodgers
Take Five: Meditations John Henry Newman - Fr. Juan Velez
Take Five: Meditations Pope Benedict XVI - Fr. Kris Stubna
Take Five: On the Job Meditations With St. Ignatius - Fr. Kris Stubna
Talking to Youth About Sexuality: A Parents' Guide - Fr. Kris Stubna
The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today - John Michael Talbot
The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Doubter's Novena: Nine Steps to Trust the Apostle Thomas - Christopher Bailey
The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Grail Code: Quest for the Real Presence - Christopher Bailey
The Great Life: Essays on Doctrine and Holiness in Honor of Father Ronald Lawler, O.F.M. Cap. - Kenneth Ogorek
The Holy Land: A Guide for Pilgrims - Fr. Dave Halaiko
The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions - Regis J. Flaherty
The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The World's First Christmas: Jubilee 2000 - Regis J. Flaherty
Weapons of the Spirit: Selected Writings of Father John Hugo - David Scott
What Catholics Believe: A Pocket Catechism - Fr. Kris Stubna