Thursday 28 February 2019

Do I Really Have to Give Something Up for Lent? - Sarah A. Reinhard

Do I Really Have to Give Something Up for Lent?
Sarah A. Reinhard
Liguori Publications
ISBN 9780764820731

This little booklet is an excellent resource. I just finished reading it twice. I was reading it with my son when my oldest daughter came in. She asked if we could read it once I was done. And when my youngest gets home I have a feeling I will be reading it with her also. I I actually purchased this book a few years ago. It arrived to late to begin that first year. Last year it was buried on my desk, and this year my son kept asking me if we could read it. And Now we have. I wish we had read it last year, and now each of my children want their own copy. I just wish there was an eBook edition so they could each have it on their Kindle.

The description of this book is:

“Learn about a variety of opportunities to celebrate Lent, such as: giving up something meaningful, doing something for others, and sacrifice and sharing with others. With the thoughtful suggestions in this pamphlet, you will discover ways to help you grow closer to Jesus this Lent-and every day after.”

And the Chapters are:

Purpose of Lent
Give Up Something
Do Something
Fasting and Almsgiving: A Combination Sacrifice
Challenge Yourself
What is Lent?
The Meaning of lent
Looking Forward

This is a small volume of just 24 pages, but it does a great job of presenting the information concisely. The book if written for children, Teens can read it themselves and younger children can have it read to them. There is a great section about not making what you give up too hard, and also not making it too easy. It also has a great balance between what we do during lent, and what we refrain from doing. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

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

Wednesday 27 February 2019

The Substance of Things Hoped For Short Fiction by Modern Catholic Authors - John B. Breslin, SJ Editor

The Substance of Things Hoped For:
Short Fiction by Modern Catholic Authors
John B. Breslin, SJ Editor
Doubleday Religion
ISBN 9780385234283
ISBN 0385234287
ISBN 9780307590992
ISBN 0307590992


Father John B. Breslin, SJ, was a priest, a professor, and a writer. He was the editor of this collection. In the introduction he states:

“In a self-consciously ecumenical era, it may seem invidious to publish a “Catholic” anthology of short fiction. Surely, a Christian collection would be more in keeping with efforts to break down ghetto walls and remove the scandal of division that has undercut the credibility of Christ’s followers for the past four and a half centuries—-and more. Twenty years ago, as the effects of the Second Vatican Council began to seep down into the lives and imaginations of Catholics, such considerations would have made this anthology an instant anachronism, perhaps even an embarrassment to the bien pensants of the day.”

He also stated:

“As for the stories themselves, the choice was ultimately and inevitably personal, for which I assume full responsibility, taking the blame for omitting a reader’s favorite story while hoping to get occasional credit for introducing the same reader to a new author or a hitherto unknown tale.”

I recall picking up this collection in hardcover on a bargain table at a book store shortly after the paperback edition came out. At the time I was a student at Queen’s University and love the collection. For many of the contributors it was my introduction to their works. I read the book twice that year I believe. Later that year wile living in a rectory I loaned the book to a seminarian and never got it back.

But there was one story in the collection that came back to me often. In 2006 I wrote these words about that story and this book:

Haunting, that is the only way I can describe the short story. I read a short story years ago, back in the late 80's I had a collection of short Catholic Fiction, I read it ad enjoyed it, but there was a particular story that has haunted me. I can only describe it that way. Yet I no longer had the book. It was lent out and not returned back in the early 90''s and yet this story would come to mind again and again over the years. I did not know the author of the story, the editor of the book, all I could remember was that the book had a black cover with yellow writing.

A few weeks ago I was at a retreat at Mount Carmel Monastery in Niagara Falls, and this story came to mind again. So I decided to try and find it. I did searches on and and tried to find the book. I searched '`Catholic'' and 'fiction'' also 'Catholic' and '`Short Story'' and tried many other searches. Nothing matched what I remembered but there was a book from 1984 that they did not have a cover image for The Substance of Things Hoped For edited by John Breslin S.J. so I interlibrary loaned the book at school and found the story I was looking for. It was called, The Warm Sand by J. F. Powers and was very much what I remembered. I also found out that it had been made into a novel that won the National Book award in 1968 so I am now reading the book Wheat That Springeth Green of which the short story is chapter 6 in the book almost exactly. I have posted the Short Story as the post before this one and would love your take on it. I have my prie-dieu and at times it has been used, but not as much as it should. Check out the story and tell me what you think.

And in the almost twelve years since tracking the book down I have read it several times. When researching this review, I was surprised to discover that the paperback edition is still in print. It was a happy surprise as I can think of many people, I would want to share this volume with. The sections and stories in this collection are:


The Beginnings Of A Sin - Bernard Maclaverty
Delia - Mary Gordon
A Christmas Tale - Francois Mauriac
Alice Long’s Dachshunds - Muriel Spark
The Liar - Tobias Wolff

The Enduring Chill - Flannery O’Connor
Hot Ice - Stuart Dybek
Life After Death - Elizabeth Cullinan
Polikushka - Ignazio Silone
The Salvation Of Me - Breece D’J Pancake

A Father’s Story - Andre Dubus
Mothers - Shusaku Endo
Candles For The Madonna - Heinrich Boll
The Warm Sand - J.F. Powers
The Recruiting Officer - John Mcgahern
The Promiscuous Self - Walker Percy
Crucifixus Etiam - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
The Comedian- John L’heureux

A Visit To Morin - Graham Greene
Absolution - Morley Callaghan
Jack Frost - Josephine Jacobsen

Profiles of the Authors

There are some very powerful stories in this collection. The Warm Sand by J.F. Powers as mentioned has stuck with me for years. Other stories that stick out to me in particular were Mothers, by Shusaku Endo and The Enduring Chill by Flannery O’Connor which were both about the power of Mothers over sons. There are some that were a shock, both when I first read the collection and again rereading it now for example Hot Ice by Stuart Dybek.

Today I make a distinction between Catholic writers, Catholics who write Catholic stories, and authors who write Catholic stories. To some extent all three are represented in this collection. And some authors may even have works in more than one of the three categories.

Another interesting piece of this collection is the author biographies. These biographies provide some interesting information and also serve as a time capsule. As of the writing of this review in 2019 only 5 of the 21 contributors are still alive. For Powers it states he has 3 collections of short stories, the years after this collection was published, he published his second and final novel both of which won the national book award.

This collection has a wide range of stories, from a diverse group of authors. It does a great job of providing a snapshot of Catholic fiction from the last century. It is worth the time to pursue and if you do give it a read I would love to know what stories have an impact on you.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

I Am God's Storyteller - Lisa M. Hendey and Eric Carlson

I Am God's Storyteller 
Lisa M. Hendey
Eric Carlson (Illustrator)
Paraclete Press
ISBN 9781640601628

My children and I absolutely loved this book. Even my oldest who is almost 13 appreciated the story and message. This story is a delight. In will inspire children to use their creativity to serve God. Examples are given of story tellers, musicians, vocalists, actors, and more. All of the arts are presented in some fashion in this book. And we are reminded that all can be of service to God.

The book is part a history of the story tellers from the old testament. And then it turns to examples of Jesus as storyteller. Then it moves on the new testament stories, like Jon the Baptist, and Jesus bring lost in the temple. And then it challenges us to use our talents to be story tellers for God. My children have made up plays, and written songs, put on performances, and even written stories. This book affirms them in their creative passions but reminds them to use those gifts for God.

It is a wonderful overview of salvation history. The story of salvation, and our call to be story tellers ourselves. In some ways it reminds me of Calvin Miller’s The Singer and The Song but geared at a much younger audience. 

The book is wonderfully written and excellently illustrated. It would be an excellent addition to a home, school, or church library. A great read and am instant family favorite.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 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


Monday 25 February 2019

Santiago de Compostela: The Pilgrim Way of St James - David Baldwin - CTS Christian Shrines Series

Santiago de Compostela: The Pilgrim Way of St James
CTS Christian Shrines Series
David Baldwin
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860821073
eISBN 9781784693176
CTS Booklet D763

I have now read books from the CTS Christian Shrines Series 12 times over the last few months. I have been absolutely loving this series. So far, I have been focusing on the two main styles of books. Pilgrimage companions and books focusing on the message from the shrine. And have been alternating back and forth between the two types. But I had some trepidation about reading this volume. For I have always had a specific interest in the Way of Saint James. I did a fourth year seminar when in university on this pilgrimage, and have read extensively on it previously. But I should not have been concerned for I have loved all the books in the CTS Christian Shrines Series that I have read and this one is one of the best. I have long had an interest in Pilgrimage. I have written about personal pilgrimage, and desire for pilgrimage previously. But of the books I have read in the series this one is different than any of the others. 

This volume is part history. It is a history of pilgrimage and specifically Santiago de Compostela. It is also part prayer books with a collection of prayers for before, during and even after pilgrimage. But it is also part personal journal. In this volume there are dated entries by David Baldwin on his path and pilgrimage along this route. The actual chapters in the book are:

Pilgrim Ways
Saint James the Greater and Santiago de Compostela
Iter Sancti Jacobi
Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
El Camino de Santiago
Pilgrimage Reflections and Devotions

In the introduction the Ambassador to the Court of St James states: 

“A debt of gratitude is certainly owed to the author, David Baldwin, for providing such a scholarly and fascinating book which will help both seasoned pilgrim and attract those who have still to make the journey.”

And that really is a great summary of this book. It is an excellent work. It could serve as a great guide for those who wish to learn more about this pilgrimage. It could be used for study or meditation.  Or just as an introduction. 

I have been loving this series, and as stated this is one of the best in the series. There are also several other books from CTS that could support your quest for knowledge on pilgrimages and Christian shrines. But this volume on Santiago is a wonderful read. I look forward to exploring more in the Christian Shrines Series. And highly recommend this wonderful series and specifically this book on the Pilgrim Way of Saint James.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Other Books in the CTS Christian Shrines Series:
Message of Assisi
Message of Fatima
Message of Guadalupe
Message of Walsingham
Santiago: Santiago de Compostela - The Pilgrim Way of St James

Friday 22 February 2019

Finding God in Anger and Bitterness - Nick Donnelly - CTS Finding God Series

Finding God in Anger and Bitterness
CTS Finding God Series
Nick Donnelly
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784695736
eISBN 9781784696665
CTS Booklet PA55

I need to admit that read this book and writing this review are not easy tasks. I feel that I have struggled with both anger and bitterness for as far back as I can remember. It is not an easy thing to admit, or to start working on. But this little volume by Reverend Nick Donnelly is an excellent starting point. Reverend Donnelly draws from a wide range of sources like J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael O’Brien, Jordan Peterson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Catechism, the Compendium, numerous saints, christian authors and many others. In this concise volume there are 57 references to source materials and examples.

Not All Tears are Evil
Learning the Ways of your Heart
Let Jesus Heal your Heart
Fr Seraphim Rose and the Tears of the Heart
How to Help the Healing of your Heart

While reading this I found myself stopping to pray often. And not just at the end of the chapters where there is a prayer and reflection section specific to that chapter. The book looks clearly at the big difference between anger, and bitterness. It also clearly shows how resentment and bitterness can build up and provide a foothold in our lives. A foothold that the enemy will try and exploit. Donnelly states:

“In coming to understand the heart as the dwelling-place where ‘I am’, we remember that man is a unity of body and soul.13 This means that it is often not possible to distinguish between the physical heart and the spiritual heart, because both interact and influence each other. Anyone who has felt how the joyful ache of love makes his or her physical heart race knows this, or anyone who has experienced how fear for the safety of a loved one contracts the heart in agony, knows that the physical heart and the spiritual heart are inextricably linked.”

And he helps us to see that link. And to be open to following God’s lead. The prayer in the book I have been using daily since reading it is:

“Lord, remove the bitterness of my anger, the despair of my anger. When I am weak and in torment, purify me and strengthen me to resist evil and its pain and influence. Hold me in your heart and wipe away my tears until that day when there will be no more weeping and you will be all in all. Amen.”

There is much I learned while reading this book. This was an excellent read. And one that I really needed. I look forward to reading more in the ‘Finding God Series’. But now I have three different series from CTS on the go.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Nick Donnelly:
Finding God Series:

Finding God in Anger and Bitterness
Finding God in Doubt and Disbelief
Finding God When Prayer Doesn't Work
Finding God When a Loved One Loses Faith

Other Books by Nick Donelly:
Living with Illness and Suffering
Loving Mary: What Pope Francis Says
Finding Forgiveness with Pope Francis
Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis
Who Is the Devil?
Hope and Healing: Living with Illness and Suffering
Prayers for Grieving Parents: Help After a Miscarriage or Still Birth
Praying the Rosary with the Martyrs
Praying The Creed In The Year Of Faith
Praying the Rosary with the Saints
Our Journey to Christmas: With Pope Francis

Unattributed books cowritten\ghost written by Nick Donnelly:
Priesthood Today
Fit for Mission? Church
Fit for Mission? Schools
Fit for Mission? Marriage
Fit for Mission? A Guide

Thursday 21 February 2019

Why I Love Being Catholic - Matthew Kelly - Dynamic Catholic Ambassadors Share Their Hopes and Dreams for the Future

Why I Love Being Catholic: 
Dynamic Catholic Ambassadors Share Their Hopes and Dreams for the Future
Matthew Kelly (Forward)
Wellspring Publishing
for Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781635820454
eISBN 9781635820638

This book is part of an ever-growing genre of books about why people are catholic. I have read a few books along this line over the last year. Titles such as:

Why I Am Catholic (and You Should Be Too) by Brandon Vogt
Why We're Catholic: Our Reasons for Faith, Hope, and Love by Trent Horn
Forty Reasons I Am a Catholic by Peter Kreeft

And a slew of other books I have not considered reading yet. And yet this book is something very different from those three and the others in the genre at large. For this book is a collection from numerous contributors. There is no index, so I am not sure f some of the contributors offered answers in more than one section. But overall this book is an interesting read. There are moments that will make you smile, a few that might pull tears, and a lot that are inspiring. The book is broken into three sections:

One Why Do You Love Being Catholic? 
Two What Is Your Favorite Memory as a Catholic? 
Three As a Catholic, What Are Your Hopes for the Future?

The answers rand from a single sentence, to several paragraphs. And the answers as a diverse as you would expect from asking a hundred people such open-ended questions. It was a great book to read through, at times I felt inspired, at times encouraged and at times just empathy for the story being shared. 

I could see this book being used in the recruitment of Dynamic Catholic Ambassadors. I could also see it as a bathroom reader, just pick it up every time you are there and randomly read a story or two. Or keep it by your bed site table or prayer corner for when you need a little inspiration or motivation. This is a book I could not see myself reading through from beginning to end again but could see my self flipping through and reading a story from time to time. Overall a good read but definitely a niche market.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

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

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Dragon Assassin 2 Shadow Hunter - Arthur Slade - Dragon Assassin Book 2

Dragon Assassin 2: Shadow Hunter
Arthur Slade
Dava Enterprises

I love the works of Arthur Slade, he is one of my favorite contemporary authors and maybe my favorite living Canadian author. I began reading his books back in 2002 while working as a bookseller. That year I read Dust and Tribes and started tracking down some of his older works that at the time were out of print. But this new series Dragon assassin is proving to be among his best works yet. And with the planned release of a new story each month this year we are in for some excellent reads! 

My first impressions of book two were. I believe in many ways it is even better than book one. I absolutely loved it. I especially loved the last but with the three hands and a claw. A great continuation to the story.  But first a recap book one high level overview:

Assassin School
A Dragon
A deal with said dragon
And more

Book two begins with the basic need for survival. But not just for existence, surviving in order to exact revenge! This is a fast paced first person narrative. Our heroine is a member of the assassin’s guild. But on the eve of her graduation most of the guild is wiped out, but a group lead by her twin brother. Now Carmen is on a quest, she needs to find a way to destroy her brother for what he has done. And this adventure takes her all over the realm. She has a few surprises in store. And she reconnects with a few people from the school. This story has:

A reunion with a friend
An adversary turned friend
Aide from a former mentor and teacher
Another betrayal
A dragon to the rescue
The promise of three hands and a claw

I mentioned in book one that the characters and to some extent the story reminds me of Roger Zelanzy’s Amber Chronicles. And I still have that feeling, but this story is taking its own path. The characters are very well written. There is an emerging friendship, and a potential for a love triangle. This book is pure fantasy. The plot proceeds at an excellent pace, and leaves readers desperate for the third installment. It is excellently written, and I give it top marks. A great read in what is shaping up to be an incredible series. 

Well done Mr. Slade, well done!

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)

Librarian. Assassin. Vampire Series:
Amber Fang: The Hunted
Amber Fang: Betrayed
Amber Fang: Revenge
Amber Fang Box Set Books 1-3

Dragon Assassin Series:
Twin Fury
Shadow Hunter
Dark Wings
Elder Magic
Royal Blood
Hidden Powers
Burning Empire
Old Enemies

Books as Stephen Shea:
The Not So Simple Life
Viper - Short Story

Visual Bibliography for Arthur Slade
Author profile interview with Arthur Slade.

Author profile interview with Stephen Shea. 

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Illustrissimi: The Letters Of Pope John Paul I - Albino Luciani - Pope John Paul I

Illustrissimi: The Letters Of Pope John Paul I
Albino Luciani
Pope John Paul I
Papas (Illustrator)
Basil Cardinal Hume (Introduction)
Isabel Quigley (Translation)
William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.
ISBN 0002114186

Gracewing Publishing

This book was first published in 1976 in Italian, it is a collection of fictional letters, written to people from history, from the pages of books, and even from plays. The English edition was commissioned after the election of Albino Luciani to the chair of peter where he took the name Pope John Paul I. currently this is available as an eBook in a few different languages, but alas not in English. If you are English speaking it is well worth tracking down. While reading it I could not help but feel the penetrating insight, and how applicable the message in many of the letters are for today. Maybe even more so today. Over 40 years after his election to the Pontificate and death shortly there after. The volume I read has a wonderful preface by Cardinal Basil Hume, and was translated by Isabel Quigley.

The letters in this volume were addressed to:

Charles Dickens
Mark Twain
G.K. Chesterton
Maria Theresa of Austria
Charles Peguy
St Bernard of Clairvaux
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
King David
The Pickwick Club
Pinocchio 93
Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordova
St Bernardine of Siena
St Francis de Sales
St Romedio’s Bear
P.I. Chichikov
King Lemuel
Sir Walter Scott
The Unknown Painter at the Castle
St Theresa of Lisieux
Alessandro Manzoni
Luigi Cornaro
Aldus Manuzio
St Bonaventure
Christopher Marlowe
St Luke
Guglielmo Marconi
Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli
Felix Dupanloup
St Theresa of Avila
Carlo Goldoni
Andreas Hofer

We are told about the letters:

“The ‘Letters’ published here are not private correspondence with his relatives, friends or contemporaries, but are ‘open letters’ originally printed in the Italian Christian paper Il Messaggero di Sant’Antonio, and addressed to various individuals, some fictional, some historical.  He writes to legendary figures, to important scientific, historical and literary people, to characters from their books, plays, operas and poems, to saints, and even to Christ himself.”

Many of these letters spoke to me in a direct way. I could not help but read this book, and find myself reflecting on my own life, my passions, my responsibilities. The advice is often pointed. Such as this one on vacations written to Paolo Diacono:

“Well, here’s my first thought: don’t people sometimes spend too much on travel, a really unjustified amount? I’m not speaking of the odd case here and there. The mania for holidays, which makes people spend more then they can afford, is with us today as it was in Goldoni’s time, often at the expense of duties and domestic qualities like a sense of economy and an idea of where to draw the line, and what to save.”

Or this sample:

“The most frequent objections you’ll hear will concern the Church.  You may be helped by a remark quoted by Pitigrilli.  In London, at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, a preacher kept being interrupted by a dirty unkempt man.  ‘The Church has existed for two thousand year,’ this man shouted at one point, ‘and the world is still full of thieves, adulterers and murderers.’ ‘You’re right,’ replied the preacher.  ‘Water has existed for two million years, and look at the state of your neck!’

In other words, there have been bad popes, bad priests and bad Catholics.  But what does that mean?  That the Gospel has been applied?  No, just the opposite.  In those cases the Gospel hasn’t been applied.

Dear Pinocchio, there are two famous sentences about the young.  I recommend you the first by Lacordaire: ‘Have an opinion and make it work for you.’  The second is by Clemencau and I don’t recommend it at all:  ‘He has no ideas but defends them warmly.’”

Ingino Giordani in the preface stated:

“When I agreed to write the Preface to the English edition of the ‘Letters’ written by Pope John Paul I when he was Patriarch of Venice, I little thought that before I had completed the task we would be mourning his death.  This totally unexpected loss, and the sorrow it brought to millions of people throughout the world, naturally means that I now approach this task with very different thoughts and ideas from those in my mind when I accepted the publisher’s invitation in mid-September.

In any others case, I should have been embarrassed to give unreserved praise to an author.  But I am not at all embarrassed to give it to the Patriarch of Venice, since in these letters he has dealt most amusingly and dismissively with praises and compliments.  It is years since I had so attractive and lively a book in my hands, or one so useful to me and, I believe, to anyone else.”

And it is true some of the letters are deeply amusing. Some piece to the bone. Reading this collection has been both inspiring and a challenge to me and how I live my life. It is an incredible collection and I wish it was still in print or that an English eBook edition would come out. But no matter how you lay your hands on this book I challenge you to give it a read. 

Update: there is an English edition available from Gracewing Publishing in the UK.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Reviews of books about Pope John Paul I:
John Paul I - Stephen Dean

Books by Pope John Paul I:
A Passionate Adventure: Living the Catholic Faith Today

Monday 18 February 2019

From Temperament to Character - Alexandre Havard - On Becoming A Virtuous Leader

From Temperament to Character:
On Becoming A Virtuous Leader
Alexandre Havard

Scepter Publishers
eISBN 9781594173370

Alexandre Havard is the founder of the Virtuous Leadership System, prior to the publication of this volume he has written two other books on leadership. The book Virtuous Leadership is considered by many one of the best books on the topic. And Created for Greatness, focuses on self leadership. The author came highly recommended to me, and before even finishing this book, I picked up another to have it on hand once I finished this book. This book is written geared at business leaders, but the lessons can be applied by those of who want to lead ourselves, lead our families, and lead in our parishes and communities. The main focus of the book is that Virtuous Leadership can only truly succeed with a basic understanding of temperament and character, which, together constitute our personality. Part of the description of the book states:

“The Virtuous Leadership approach to temperament affirms the legitimate diversity of our physiological and psychological makeup, and proposes that temperament, rightly understood, undergirds the efforts of all persons to flourish and achieve excellence.”

And the rest of the book fleshes out what that looks like for us. The chapters in this volume are:

Foreword by Cameron Thompson, PhD
1. Temperament and Character
2. The Virtues of Character
3. The Cholerics: Their Personal Challenges
4. The Melancholics: Their Personal Challenges
5. The Sanguines: Their Personal Challenges
6. The Phlegmatics: Their Personal Challenges
7. Develop the Virtue You Are Challenged By
8. Discover Your Mission
9. The Foundation and Essence of Leadership
10. Self-Knowledge
11. An Active Heart
12. Why Serve?
13. The Upward Spiral of Growth
14. Magnanimity and Humility Go Hand in Hand
15. Virtue Ethics
16. Virtuous Leadership and Management
17. Virtuous Leadership and Education
18. Virtuous Leadership and Success

Once I started reading this book it was hard to put down. The further in the more work I realized that I need. And the more effort I need to put in. This is a book that will help us close the gap between who we want to be and who we currently are. It will help us become better at being. My first time through I highlighted over 50 passages in this book. Here is a sampling of those passages that hit me:

“On the foundation of temperament, we build character. Character is made up of virtues. The most important virtues are prudence, courage, self-mastery, justice, magnanimity, and humility. Virtues are moral habits, acquired through training. We are not born with character; it is something we build.”

“A leader is a mature person, but maturity (or integrity) is not his essential characteristic. Striving for greatness and devotion to service—these are his specific traits.”

“IN ORDER TO IMPROVE, we need to strengthen our heart (through humility and magnanimity), our intellect (through prudence), and our will (through courage, self-mastery and justice). Reason, will, and the heart blend seamlessly in the human person. We cannot separate them from each other without doing enormous damage to all three. Rationalists elevate the mind above all things, voluntarists the will, and sentimentalists the heart. Each approach corrupts them all.”

“If the virtues of the will and the heart cannot develop in the absence of prudence, likewise prudence cannot develop in the absence of the virtues of the will and the heart. Why? Because the intellect (our prudence) interprets reality through the lens forged by the will and the heart. The proud judge as true whatever flatters their pride; the intemperate, whatever helps them acquire power, money, or pleasure; the pusillanimous, whatever justifies their small-heartedness.”

“MAGNANIMITY AND HUMILITY ARE inseparable. Magnanimity without humility is pride, and humility without magnanimity is pusillanimity. One needs a pure heart, a strong will, and a bright intellect not to break the intimate link that unites these two virtues. Magnanimity and humility go hand in hand. An important aspect of humility is to acknowledge our dignity, talents, and greatness. And when we speak of magnanimity, we must never forget to mention that our dignity, talents, and greatness are gifts from God.”

“THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF ETHICS: rules-based ethics and virtue ethics. In the first system, an action is correct if it conforms to the rule, incorrect if it does not. In the second system, good is that which brings us closer to human excellence, bad that which leads us away from it.”

“Virtue gives us many things: spiritual freedom, unity of life, wisdom, creativity, and cultural maturity. Virtue is the only way to achieve self-realization.”

“Virtues, by contrast, help you behave virtuously always and everywhere: at work, with your family, among friends, during free time, and even when you are alone. Virtue unifies your personality and daily activities, both public and private, making the living of a double life impossible.”

“WE SEEK VIRTUE FIRST AND FOREMOST in order to achieve human excellence, and secondarily to become effective as human beings. Virtue means first excellence in being (aretē, in Greek) and secondarily effectiveness in action (virtus, in Latin).”

“Prudence, courage, self-mastery and justice are the foundation of leadership, whereas magnanimity and humility constitute the essence of leadership.”

I hope those few quotes will give you some insight into how great this book is. And that they will inspire you to pick it up and give it a read.

This book is one of those pivotal books in a reader’s life. It is one of the best leadership or personal development books I have read. It is a book that I would add to my list of ‘Life Changing Books’. And one I know I will return to and reread again and again. Always looking to work on improvement, striving not for perfection but for perfect effort. It is an incredible read and I challenge you to read it and see if it can help transform your life and help you lead by that example.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Alexandre Havard:
Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence
Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity
From Temperament to Character: On Becoming A Virtuous Leader
My Russian Way: a spiritual autobiography