Sunday 30 June 2019

Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman - Mike Aquilina and Juan Velez

Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman
Mike Aquilina
Juan Velez
Our Sunday Visitor
ISBN 9781592768004

This book was edited and compiled by Mike aquiline and Juan Velez. It is one of three books co-authored by Mike that are in this style and format:

Take Five: On-The-Job Meditations with St. Ignatius
Take Five: Meditations with Pope Benedict XVI
Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman

It is the second of the three that I have read. And yet I plan on reading the third and then reading all of them over again. This book was very hard to put down. I had to ration it and found myself doing one meditation in the morning, and one in the evening because I just could not stop reading. In the How To Use This Book section we are told:

“Yet so many sermons and books on the spiritual life seem to ignore these everyday realities and focus instead on matters that are important — methods of meditation, volunteer work, almsgiving — but that hold a marginal place in the ordinary days of ordinary people.

In this book, we bring the rich teachings of Cardinal John Henry Newman to bear on the everyday circumstances of working life. Cardinal Newman lived a busy life as a teacher, editor, administrator, and clergyman — and he still found time enough to write books that have been profoundly influential in the fields of theology, philosophy, history, and fiction. His collected works fill dozens of volumes.”

Each meditation is an extract from the works of cardinal Newman’s, from sermons, many sources, but mainly Newman’s writings and talks. They can be read in any order. And you can return to the book and read them again and again. There are 76 meditations or reflections in this volume. They cover a wide range of topics. The format of each is:

Think About It – a few points for prayer.
Just Imagine – a biblical passage for reflection.
Remember – a quote to take with you for the day.

As I stated in my previous Take Five review: I am typically an eBook guy, I read 30 eBooks for every physical book. This is one I will pick up a physical copy of to keep in my bedside bookcase, so that I can randomly open it any where and read them again from time to time. The 76 meditations are:

1. The Soul’s Happiness
2. The World Is Too Small to Satisfy Us
3. God Is the Only Key
4. God Is Always There
5. Feel-Good Religion
6. To Watch for Christ
7. Progress Through Virtues
8. Be Sincere and Humble Before God
9. The Snares of Pride
10. Love Lasts
11. Understand and Accept Others
12. Conscience: God’s Voice
13. The World as Witness
14. Deep in History
15. Beyond Study: Prayer and Fasting
16. Trust in Religious Truths
17. Faith’s Power of Persuasion
18. The Greatest Science
19. Holiness in Everyday Life
20. Back to Basics
21. Make Small Sacrifices
22. Fight, Not Flight
23. Self-Examination
24. Check Your Emotions
25. Playing Judge
26. Conversion: A Question of Truth
27. The Joy of Seeing God
28. Defending the Practice of Celibacy for Catholic Clergy
29. Power of Prayer
30. Your Guardian Angel
31. Jesus’ Story Is Mary’s, Too
32. The Rosary as a Great Creed
33. Make the Holy Family Your Home
34. Walk by Faith
35. The Church’s Supernatural Origin
36. God’s Oracle
37. The Heart’s Reasons
38. Bringing Friends to Christ and the Church
39. Only the Finest for God
40. Jesus Had a Home
41. Thank God!
42. Think of the Martyrs
43. Pray Constantly
44. Overcoming Anti-Catholicism
45. Scripture Is Sacred
46. What Are You Looking For?
47. Joy, the Sign of a Christian
48. Life Without God
49. Speak Kindly
50. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
51. Lasting Peace in Heaven
52. The Holy Eucharist Is a Feast
53. Know Yourself
54. Turning Away From God
55. Making Our World Holy
56. Don’t Write Anyone Off
57. Restoring God’s Image
58. Bear Witness to Christ
59. Take Courage
60. The Gospel Paradox
61. A Child’s Happiness
62. The Hunger for True Bread
63. Worldliness
64. Build on a Solid Foundation
65. There Are No Short Ways to Perfection
66. Learn How to Do Without
67. God Made Us Valuable to Himself
68. In Mary’s Arms
69. Not Worrying About What Others Think
70. Living in God’s Presence
71. Don’t Be Puffed Up
72. You Are in God’s Hands
73. Keeping in Touch With Friends
74. Save Your Soul
75. Reviving Old Friendships
76. Friendship Based on Christ

This volume Focuses on 5 areas of Newman’s thought:

1. The pursuit of objective religious truth.
2. Teaching on the virtues.
3. Defense of the Catholic Church.
4. A devout spiritual and moral life.
5. Generosity and loyalty in his friendships.

Some of the meditations are only a few short sentences. And some are a few long paragraphs. An example is:

13. The World as Witness

Christianity is not a theory. It is a historical fact, and history is its witness.
Christianity has been long enough in the world to justify us in dealing with it as a fact in the world’s history. Its genius and character, its doctrines, precepts, and objects cannot be treated as matters of private opinion or deduction, … unless the testimony of so many centuries is to go for nothing. Christianity is no theory of the study or the cloister. It has long since passed beyond the letter of documents and the reasonings of individual minds, and has become public property. Its “sound has gone out into all lands,” and its “words unto the ends of the world.” It has from the first had an objective existence, and has thrown itself upon the great concourse of men. Its home is in the world; and to know what it is, we must seek it in the world, and hear the world’s witness of it.
Dev, 3-4


 With the Incarnation, Christ entered history and embraced our humanity.

 Can I respond intelligently to those who misconstrue events in Christian history?

 We must learn about the decisive contributions of Christianity to the world of culture, education, family life, science, government, and public life.


In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
LUKE 2:1-7


Christianity’s home is in the world; and to know what it is, we must seek it in the world, and hear the world’s witness of it.”

This book is an excellent read. It is great as in introduction to Newman’s thought. It is wonderful as a devotional. The hard part will be sticking to just one meditation at a time. Another excellent resource from Mike Aquilina and my introduction to the works of Juan Velez. Highly recommend. 

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

Book by Juan Velez:
Passion For Truth: The Life of John Henry Newman
A University Education for the 21st Century: The Opening of the American Mind
Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman

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

Saturday 29 June 2019

Bad Luck and Trouble - Lee Child - Jack Reacher Book 11

Bad Luck and Trouble
Jack Reacher Book 11
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
Penguin Random House Canada
ISBN 9780385340557
eISBN 9780440336853

Reacher has been out of the army over ten years when this story begins. At one point in his previous life as an MP Military Policy he was the CO Commanding Officer of an elite unit. They had a motto: ‘You do not mess with the Special Investigators!’ and someone has done just that. Frances Neagley, likely the only person who could track Reacher down has done so. She sent him a secret message. And it did not take him long to figure it out. Neagley informs Reacher that someone has been targeting their old unit. She has not been able to reach any of them and knows that at east one is dead for sure. 

In a story that travels back and forth from LA to Vegas. The deeper they dig the less they know. And as the confirmed body count climbs. Reacher must take a step back and re-evaluate their initial assumptions. As they slowly peace things together they realize that the implications of their intel goes way beyond a group of 8 friends and former co-workers. It might have national or international consequences. 

This is the 11th Reacher novel I have read, and it was great to encounter so many characters who had only been mentioned in passing. Other than Neagley, I do not recall meeting any of the others. He dedication to his former team is equal to that of his older brother. The story is intense and one of the better ones in the series. 

I freely admit that I am slightly addicted to the Jack Reacher Books! I have read 10 other novels, Jack Reacher's Rules, the short story collection and 5 other published short stories for a total of 18 works in 13 weeks. And every time I finish one, it is a coin toss for what one I will pick up next. But so far only one story has not bene great, most of them are good reads and a few like this one are great! Now to toss a coin and figure out what one to read next. 

Another great read in the Reacher series one of the best. 

Books by Lee Child:
Jack Reacher Books Publishing Order:

Killing Floor
Die Trying
The Visitor /Running Blind
Echo Burning
Without Fail
The Enemy
One Shot
The Hard Way
Bad Luck and Trouble
Nothing to Lose
Gone Tomorrow
61 Hours
Worth Dying For
The Affair
A Wanted Man
Never Go Back
Make Me
Night School
The Midnight Line
Past Tense
Blue Moon

The Sentinel Jack Reacher's Rules

Reacher Short Stories and Novella’s:
No Middle Name – Complete Collected Short Stories
Stories in No Middle Name Collection:
Too Much Time
Second Son
Deep Down
Guy Walks into A Bar
James Penney’s New Identity
High Heat
Everyone Talks
Not A Drill
Small Wars
Maybe They Have A Tradition

No Room At The Motel
The Picture of the Lonely Diner

Other Short Stories:
The Fourth Man
The Christmas Scorpion
Faking a Murderer with Kathy Reichs
Cleaning the Gold with Karin Slaughter
Good and Valuable Consideration with Joseph Finder

Other Books by Lee Child
The Hero
Jack Reacher: A Mysterious Profile

Friday 28 June 2019

In Conversation With God Volume 2 Part 2 Eastertide - Francis Fernandez

In Conversation With God
Volume 2 Part 2 Eastertide 
Francis Fernandez
Scepter Press
eISBN 9780906138878

I have been reading this series for almost 30 years now. Since they first started being available in English. At first, I bought them in individual vinyl covered editions. And later replaced them with the boxset. And then once the eBooks were available I grabbed them up, and after 2 years of using the eBooks gave my physical copy to a local school teacher to use in his high school class. I love these books and have read them around 15 times over years. But I love the newer eBook edition.

I have said it before but there are a few features I love about the eBook versions that I want to highlight. First as a reader you can highlight and make notes easily in the digital editions. You can also pick colors and change your highlighting from year to year. But the best feature of the Kindle version is you can export your highlights and notes and start fresh. I also like having all the volumes on me at all times. I can use them to look something up, using the Subject index or index of quotations to look something up in any volume. I also love that in eBooks you can change the page color, the font, and even font size to make reading better suited to your personally. 

As with each volume in this series each reading in this book is about 6 pages long. Each Day is broken into three sections. There are numerous references. But I want to give you a sample of the highlights I made in this volume this year.

“We must always foster joy and optimism and reject sadness, which is sterile and leaves the soul at the mercy of many temptations. When one is happy, one is a stimulus and an encouragement for others; sadness, on the other hand, obscures and causes damage.”

“A Christian household must be happy, because supernatural life leads us to practising those virtues (generosity, cordiality, a spirit of service ...) to which joy is so intimately united. A christian home makes Christ known in an attractive way among families and throughout society.”

“Hidden under the accidents of bread, Jesus wants us to come and receive him frequently. The banquet, he tells us, is ready. Many indeed are those who are absent, and Jesus waits for us to tell all those others that he is also waiting for them in the Tabernacle.”

“Many good Christians develop the habit of giving their first thought of the day to God. The ‘heroic minute’ follows: it facilitates the Morning Offering and getting the day off to a good start. The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and ... up. The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish.”

“This prayer which is so efficacious and pleasing to our Lady will in many moments of our life be the most effective channel for petition, for thanksgiving, and for making atonement for our sins: ‘Immaculate Virgin, I know very well that I am only a miserable wretch, and all I do is increase each day the number of my sins ... ‘ You told me the other day that was how you spoke to Our Mother.”

Across the 7 Volumes in this series; or 14 eBook volumes because each book is split in two there are over 450 meditations. There is a meditation for each day of the church calendar, Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Eastertide and of course the 34 weeks of Ordinary time. There are also 2 volumes dedicated to special feats, specific feats, novenas, Saints, and holy days that fall on specific calendar days. 

These books are incredible food for your spiritual life. Every time I read them, every day I am challenged, challenged to become a better version of myself, challenged to live more joy, more hope, more dedication. These books will change your life, and as you read them again and again you will only grow to appreciate them more.  

I had planned on reviewing each of the eBook editions as I read them but have fallen behind. This is my third time reading this volume as an eBook. This series has been invaluable in my spiritual life. Sometimes I read it for years in a row. And every time I benefit from it. I grow, I deepen. I strive to mature. 

Of all the devotionals and spiritual books I have read over the last nearly 30 years I can recommend this series as one of the best. You can read it again and again and always get something more out of it. I was recently asked to come up with my all-time Top Ten Catholic Books this series came in at number 4 but to be honest 2-5 are almost all interchangeable. So this is one of my all-time top Christian reads!

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

Books edited by Francis Fernandez Carvajal:
Year of Faith Treasury: The Sacrament of Confession 
Year of Faith Treasury: The Virtue of Faith
Year of Faith Treasury: The Virtue of Fortitude 

In Conversation with God:

In Conversation with God eBooks:
Volume 1 Part 1 Advent 
Volume 1 Part 2 Christmas and Epiphany
Volume 2 Part 1 Lent and Holy Week
Volume 2 Part 2 Eastertide
Volume 3 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 1-6
Volume 3 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 7-12
Volume 4 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 13-18
Volume 4 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 19-23
Volume 5 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 24-28
Volume 5 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 29-34
Volume 6 Part 1 Special Feasts January-March
Volume 6 Part 2 Special Feasts April-June
Volume 7 Part 1 Special Feats July -September
Volume 7 Part 2 Special Feats October -December

Books by Francis Fernandez Carvajal:

Thursday 27 June 2019

Heat Wave - Maureen Jennings - Paradise Café Book 1

Heat Wave
Paradise Café Book 1
Maureen Jennings
Cormorant Books Inc.
ISBN 9781770865426
eISBN 9781770865433

My first thought even before beginning the novel, was not there are 4 series by Maureen Jennings I need to read and follow. The second what that there was going to be something different about this series, the other three series are all named after the main character, Detective Murdoch Series, Detective Inspector Tom Tyler Series, Christine Morris Series. And yet this series is named after a location, the paradise café. And boy was I right! It was a highly addictive read, like most of Jennings other works! I devoured the book in two sittings on consecutive days. But on the first I must admit I stayed up much latter than I should have considering I get up at 5am for work. I lost track of how many times I thought ‘just one more chapter’. I just had to keep reading. 

The story is told in the first person from the perspective of Charlotte Frayne, she is a junior associate at a private investigation firm. The firm is owned by one Thaddeus Gilmore. But very early on her boos believes he will be charged with his wife’s attack and murder if she does not recover. And she has a new client one of four men who own the Paradise Café. And the two cases seem to be over lapping. Charlotte must balance two investigations, her aging grandfather, undercover work at the café, all during a terrible heat eave that is engulfing Toronto. An interesting cross over is that one of the police detectives working the case is Jack Murdoch, whom we met after he returned from the Great War in the novel Let Darkness Bury the Dead. And this novel is set in 1936 just two years before a second world war, but there are hits of it’s approach in the novel.

The story moves along at a quick pace. The characters are wonderful. Especially the brilliant and passionate Charlotte Frayne, and intriguing Detective Jack Murdoch, Hilliard Taylor, and to be honest the who crew at the Paradise café.  The historical fiction elements including the anti-semitism, nazi, communist, and blue shirts is an interesting mix. A side element that really captured my attention was the paining, and the story behind it being reworked again and again. 

I have now read six books by Jennings in as many weeks. Fortunately, there are many more to go. This is a wonderful mystery novel and I hope it is a series with many books yet to come. I look forward to what the group of friends both old and new at the Paradise Café will get into and hopefully out of next. An excellent read! Here is to another in the series soon! 

Books by Maureen Jennings:
Detective Murdoch Series:

0.5 Shipwreck
1.0 Except the Dying
2.0 Under the Dragon's Tail
3.0 Poor Tom Is Cold
4.0 Let Loose the Dogs
5.0 Night's Child
6.0 Vices of My Blood
7.0 A Journeyman to Grief
8.0 Let Darkness Bury the Dead

Detective Inspector Tom Tyler Series:
1.0 Season of Darkness
2.0 Beware This Boy
3.0 No Known Grave
4.0 Dead Ground in Between

Christine Morris Series:
1.0 Does Your Mother Know?
2.0 The K Handshape


Paradise Café Series:

1.0 Heat Wave
2.0 November Rain

Other books:
The Map of Your Mind: Journeys into Creative Expression
Investigating Murdoch Mysteries: The Official Companion to the Series – with Michelle Ricci and Mir Bahmanyar

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Why We Need the Holy Spirit - Chris Padgett - 40 Days to a Deeper Encounter with the Lord and Giver of Life

Why We Need the Holy Spirit:
40 Days to a Deeper Encounter with the Lord and Giver of Life
Chris Padgett
Little Red House Publishing
ISBN 9780999021101
Word Among Us Press Edition
ISBN 9781593252731

I picked this book up to read after listening to a few audio talks by Chris. I actually started the book a few times before I made it through. No fault of the author or material, I just kept missing days and was slow getting back to it. But once I got going, I looked forward to the next installment as I worked through the book over 40 days. The book takes a walk through the Acts of the Apostles. It looks at the work of the Holy Spirit in that book, at what the Spirit did and helped us the believers to overcome. It looks at physical, spiritual, and supernatural barriers that were overcome. It also examines conflict between different religious, and even internal conflict within the fledgling community of believers. I admit I love Chris Padgett’s Divine Mercy Audio reflection, and that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Each of the 40 meditations in this book follow the same format. They begin with a quote from scripture, followed by a Catechetical Application, practical Application, and ends with some questions for reflection. Some have as few as 1 question and others as many as four, and sometimes even with subsequent questions. In the introduction Chris states:

“Many Catholics give the Holy Spirit little more than a cursory glance. We invoke him as we make the Sign of the Cross during the Mass and acknowledge him during the Creed, but do we really know him? Do we really need to know him? If so, how can we know him?”

And the introduction ends with these words:

“In this book, we show how the gifts of the Spirit given to you at baptism and strengthened at confirmation are meant to be applied at every moment of your day. These gifts— wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord— help us to love and serve God and our neighbor. The more we reflect upon them and strive to live in them, the more we will be able to endure whatever happens in our lives. So the question isn’t whether or not we need the Holy Spirit in our life but how can we build a relationship with him— the One who has sealed us in baptism, strengthened us in confirmation, and calls us to do amazing things for Christ in this life. Today is the day to begin understanding what it means to encounter and walk with the Holy Spirit!”

I have been involved with charismatic movements within the Catholic Church, and across denominational lines. What I love about this book is that it is not a how to live a life in the spirit book. It does not have the goal that everyone will speak in tongues by the end of 40 days. In fact, it’s focus from the above two quotes is exactly the opposite. It is about understanding the Holy Spirit and about relationship with the spirit. And through that learning to live the gifts and fruit of the spirit in our own lives. When I was in university the first time the book Good Morning Holy Spirit by Benny Hinn was immensely popular for a while on Campus. As much as I do not agree with most of Hinn’s teachings, waking up each day and greeting Father, Spirit and Son is a good way to start the day. This book will help us grow in our understanding of the Spirit and deepen our relationship with this member of the trinity. A sample chapter from the book is:

Thirteenth Meditation

“And Simon answered, ‘Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.’”

– Acts 8:24

Catechetical Application
How can you encounter the Holy Spirit through this passage?
What does it say about who the Holy Spirit is, what he does, and the gifts he gives?

The story of Simon the Magician is very interesting. Simon was quite famous in Samaria, and many people there respected and followed him. When Philip preached the Gospel in the area, Simon believed and was baptized. He saw great signs and miracles performed, and he was “amazed” (Acts 8:13). When Peter and John heard that the people of Samaria were receiving the Word of God, they made their way there to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands my receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:18,19). This did not go over well. “But Peter said to him, ‘Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:20-24). Wow!

In the fifth chapter of Acts, we saw that the high priest and Sadducees were jealous of the apostles and throw them in jail. The people who belonged to the synagogue of freedmen and others instigated many to speak falsely about St. Stephen, causing him to be stoned to death. We also saw Simon the Magician was struggling with sin. Why? Because he was likely jealous at the way God was working through the apostles, and he determined to buy what could not be purchased. The sin is called out, and he cries out for forgiveness.

We may not have attempted to purchase the things of God, but we all have struggled with sin. I bet it is likely that we have been bitter and jealous of others. Sin often causes hurt and pain to others, whereas the gift of the Holy Spirit brings peace and forgiveness. While we may not be called out by the Church for our sins, the Holy Spirit calls each of us to repentance.

Practical Application
What does this passage say to you about your own life?

Everyone has sinned, in some manner, at some time. People who seem to have everything together are probably just better at appearances. We often build walls and wear masks because we don’t want to be hurt. We want others to look up to us and see us as strong and confident in our faith. It is difficult to have a particular sin pointed out, but if we receive such correction in a spirit of humility, great growth can occur.

Think about a gifted coach, one entrusted with training a team to compete at the highest level of their sport. We can imagine him or her not only implementing a thought-out physical regimine but also an emotional and psychological one as well to train the athletes under their charge. The well-known saying mind over matter is often true in the journey towards athletic success, and an effective coach knows his or her players well enough to ensure such an outcome.

Simon the Magician, who was seriously mistaken in his understanding of God’s ways, can teach us much about ourselves and our own sins. Simon cries out for mercy, which shows that he accepted the reality of his grave sin and desired healing. We sometimes spend too much time trying to justify our sins, instead of learning from them and wanting to change. If we fully believed that the Church and its teachings have been given to show us the right path, would it be easier to accept our sins and seek healing in the sacrament of reconciliation?

There can be a tendency among Christians to lift up a person as a role model to the point of almost “divinizing” him. When someone is seen as having their spiritual life completely together, we need to be careful not to resent—or be envious—their holiness and even wish for their demise. Remember—Paul condemned the unhealthy tendency to idolize certain leaders in the Church, noting that some were aligning themselves with their “spiritual heroes,” such as himself, Apollos, Peter, etc. rather than Jesus.

Maybe you struggle with comparing yourself with others. Maybe this started as a desire to be better or as an appreciation for another’s holiness, but in the end it has left you conflicted and uneasy. To become aware that we need to be on guard against envy is a sign of a maturing faith. If we want to be a true gift to others, we must always be open to letting the Holy Spirit make whatever refinements and changes in our lives that are needed for true sanctity.

When we have sinned, the remedy is confession. To acknowledge our sin and ask for healing is how we as Christ’s followers protect ourselves against jealousy, envy, and bitterness. Confession is the way we get back on track to true spiritual health. We all have a long way to go on our journey; none of us have yet arrived. But the love God has for each of us is so profound that he will bring people into our lives who can help us see that we are not a lost cause.

You may have noticed that this magician’s name was Simon, and in many ways I think the juxtaposition of this Simon the Magician with Simon Peter is intentional. The latter was chosen by Christ as the first bishop of Rome, the first pope, after allowed the Lord to shine his love in the darkest places of his life. The former accepts the mercy of Christ and become set on the right path towards healing. What will your story be like if you allow the love of God to correct and heal you?

What are areas in your life that need to be confessed for healing?
How can you protect against jealousy and bitterness?
What keeps you from confession?”

This book is a wonderful read. It is a book all Christians could benefit from reading. I really enjoyed it once I got going and stuck with it. And it is a book I can easily recommend. And the titles of several other books by Padgett are really intriguing so I expect I will be reading and reviewing them soon.

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

Books by Chris Padgett:
Why We Need the Holy Spirit
I'm Not OK. You're Not OK. But It's OK!
Spirituality You Can Live With-Stronger faith in 30 days
Why the Eucharist Matters for Your Life
Wholly Mary: Mother of God
Falling Forward


Books with Linda Padgett:
Holy Marriage, Happy Marriage: Faith-Filled Ways to a Better Relationship
Not Ready for Marriage, Not Ready for Sex: One Couple's Return to Chastity
Marriage and Ministry: How to Have One Without Destroying the Other


Audio Talks by Chris Padgett:
Get to Know the Mother of God
The Rosary Project: A Celebration of Prayer and Song
Slaying Giants: Preparing for Greatness


Tuesday 25 June 2019

My Russian Way - Alexandre Havard - A Spiritual Autobiography

My Russian Way: 
A Spiritual Autobiography
Alexandre Havard
Anthony T. Salvia (Translator)
University of Mary Press
ISBN 9780965288095

After reading From Temperament to Character: On Becoming A Virtuous Leader, I became fascinated with this book. It is currently the only one by Alexandre Havard that is not available as an eBook in English. This book was a fascinating read. While reading it I have mentioned it to at least 20 people and shared numerous quotes from the book with friends, family and co-workers. Here are some numbers based on my first reading of this book:

91 pages of text
52 quotes or references in the book
43 highlights
4 pages of photos
2 full page icon’s: 
     Saint Josemaria Escriva
     Our lady of Fatima

Alexandre begins with his grandparents. And works his way through their history, and his own history. He writes clearly and succinctly. And yet there is a passion and power in his prose. He is writing about his life but more importantly about his spiritual life. One quote appears twice in the book, in the dedication and as part of a longer quotation later on, from Anton Chekhov’s The Student: 

“The past is linked with the present by an unbroken chain of events flowing one out of another. It seemed to him … that when he touched one end the other quivered.”

Alexandre writes about the strings that impacted him, and he writes about some of the impact he has had. Other than a brief conclusion the book ends with:

“I sense that my life is about to take a new turn. I feel this is not the end of my Russian way but merely the end of the beginning. I feel I am entering into one of the most rewarding periods of my life – even if, objectively, all if fraught with uncertainty. But that is a story for another time. For now, enough is enough.”

I hope someday he writes that next story, and that it becomes available in English. Alexandre was shaped and influenced by men whom I have only known through their writings, writings about them, and their impact on others. Specifically, Saint Josemaria Escriva and Blessed Alvaro del porta. Their impact on his life, it’s direction, and his lifelong mission is undeniable. And as the chains travel through time, their impact on Alexandre has ripples and impacted me, and I believe will impact any who read this volume. 

I cannot share all the quotes that impacted me while reading this volume but a random selection below will give you a sampling. 

Speaking about Modern Education:
“The modern university outs the accent more and more on information, and less and less on education in the broad sense of the term. It produces managers rather than leaders, knowledge rather than wisdom, techniques rather than courage. It Concerns itself more and more with things, and less and less with persons. The Crisis of the modern world is not a crisis of information, it is a crisis of formation, a crisis of authentic education.”

Recalling part of his family heritage:
“The descendants of Gedeon and Elioz—the Gedevanishvilis — were charged by royal decree with protecting the cloak and the cathedral. On my family’s coat of arms are the Ten Commandments engraved on two tablets (indicative of our Jewish origins), the cloak of Christ, the episcopal miter and scepter, the sword and the banner, and the keys to the cathedral at Mtskheta.”

Remembering his grandfather:
“Pavel is an intense worker. He is tough and persistent. His motto is: “As long as the ball isn’t punctured, it bounces back.”

He is highly intelligent. He listens a lot and says little.

Everyone comes to him for advice.

This man who suffered so much has a hard time smiling,
but he is gentle and humble of heart.”

Family wishes:
“In 1991, the Soviet regime falls. A year later, my parents move to Georgia, thus fulfilling my maternal grandfather’s most cherished dream—that the family return to liberated Georgia. My mother is 54 years old.”

About his attraction to Russian literature:
“What strikes me about Russian literature is its moral and Christian content. It is aimed at the reader’s heart. It seeks to ennoble and transform.”

Speaking on Vocation:
“It is 1979 and I am 17 years old. In a few months, I will graduate from secondary school.

I must decide on a career but am more concerned about what kind of life I will lead, what kind of man I will be. I know that if I do not decide the matter soon, others will do it for me—my parents, my friends, the girls I know, French
society with its empty slogans and fads.

I seek refuge at the famous Sacré Coeur Basilica at the summit of the Montmartre butte. Sacré Coeur is French for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in which I now find comfort and consolation.”

“One of the most important Russian theologians of the emigration, Alexander Schmemann, says that the Christian’s on-going flight from the world stems from an inability to square the circle of a basic Christian paradox: to be “in the world” but “not of this world.”

Saint Pope John Paul II:
“During my university years, it is John Paul II who shapes my thinking.

Later, I would have the chance to be in his presence, to listen to him and speak to him in Rome, Helsinki and Tallinn.

John Paul II, like Escriva, is a giant. For me, he is also a father and a master.”

And a final quote:
“The years pass and nothing happens.

Or so it seems outwardly. In reality, these are years of great spiritual intensity.”

This book is an excellent read. This book was also an inspiring read. I have loved his leadership material I have read, and now I want to read the rest of his works. I just wish an eBook was available or it was easier to lay your hands on. This is a book I will keep buying copies of to give away. I give it my top recommendation. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! You can access a PDF of this book at the Virtuous Leadership Institute site.

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