Monday 4 December 2023

The Star of Bethlehem What did the Magi See? - Father Douglas McGonagle - CTS Books

The Star of Bethlehem: What did the Magi See?
Fr Douglas McGonagle
ISBN 9781784697648
eISBN 9781784697143
CTS Booklet D848

A few years back I stumbled upon the books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I instantly fell in love with the clear and concise writing; the wonderful lives of Saints and Blesseds, amazing histories and the church teaching. I have read over 375 books from the CTS, and I have been blessed and benefited from almost all of them. There are many wonderful series. This volume is a little different than anything else I have read to date. The description of this book is:

“The Christmas story traditionally shows a giant star hovering above the stable in Bethlehem, guiding the wise men to the infant Christ. What was this star and how did it lead the Magi? An astrophysicist turned priest offers a fascinating explanation.

The traditional imagery of the Christmas story paints a vivid scene: a bright star suspended above the Bethlehem stable, like a pinpoint on a vast map, orchestrating the path of the wise men as they journey to honour the newborn Christ. This star has been a source of fascination to many, evoking questions about its true nature. Was it simply a bright light in the sky? A planet or comet? How did it effectively guide the Magi to a humble village in Judea?

Before he became a priest, Fr Douglas McGonagle was an astronomer who wondered about the astral phenomenon described in the Gospel account of the Magi. Starting with his knowledge of stars and the Gospels, Fr McGonagle follows a trail of clues through the history and politics of first-century Judea, the principles of ancient astronomy, and even the coinage that circulated in the Roman Empire at the time. What ensues is a compelling account of what the Magi might have seen in the night sky, how it led them to discern the birth of the King of the Jews, and what this means for Christians today.”

And the chapters in this little volume are:

Possible Explanations for the Star
From Babylonian Exile to News of a Newborn King
Astronomy, Astrometry and Astrology
Philosophy: Rational Reflection
Astrology in the First Century BC
Playing Astrological Detective
What Makes a Portent Regal?
It Is All Greek to Me
What Did the Magi See?

I highlighted numerous passages while reading this volume, some of them are:

“A bright star shining in the night sky, its rays of light streaming down onto a stable in Bethlehem, is a classic Christmas tableau, and yet the star only appears in one brief and puzzling account in the Gospel of Matthew. As Pope Benedict XVI notes in his book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, “Hardly any biblical narrative has so caught the imagination or stimulated so much research and reflection as the account of the “Magi’ from the “land of the sunrise”, which the evangelist Matthew adds directly after the story of Jesus’s birth.””

“Now, we moderns are biased towards wondering what the star was physically. We wonder whether it could it have been a comet, or a close clustering of bright objects in the night sky such as the Moon, Jupiter, and Venus. Or might it even have been a supernova? All these modern speculations reveal our bias towards associating important events with visually spectacular displays.”

“Personally, I had no strong preference for one physical explanation for the star over another. How the star manifested itself was always secondary. To me it always seemed that the star’s importance derived from the role it played astrologically. After all, the Magi, the fellows who show up in Jerusalem asking for the whereabouts of the new-born king of the Jews, were astrologers. Since the Wise Men were astrologers, it always seemed logical to me that the star’s significance lay in it being an astrological omen of a regal birth. It might still have been an impressive visual display, perhaps even one worthy of a big budget sci-fi movie, but even so the display would remain secondary to what the star signified: the birth of a king.”

“Again, for me, the physical manifestation of the star was always secondary to the notion that the very” powers of the heavens”( Mt 24: 29 ) took note of the Incarnation and arranged themselves in such a way as to draw the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, into the presence of the one true God. That is, it was secondary to me, until I read the book The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi, by Dr Michael Molnar, then at Rutgers University.”

“On reading this, I too became intrigued. Whereas previously the physical nature of the star was only a mere curiosity to me, now that there might be hard physical evidence for the star’s historicity I became very interested in the star’s physical phenomena.”

“Based on the evidence and arguments presented in Dr Molnar’s book, I am quite willing to believe that the coins could be linked to the Star of Bethlehem and are a “legacy of the Magi”. I say “could be”, because, as a trained scientist like Dr Molnar, I know that it only takes one inconsistent datum to destroy the most cherished of theories. Scientific theories, whether astronomical or historical, are always tentative. As a scientist, I know it is dangerous to get too attached to a theory.”

“Provisional or not, I felt that Dr Molnar was on to something. I decided to write a public talk – a book report, really – that I could deliver to groups and so get the word out about the possible discovery of material evidence for the Star of Bethlehem. It was the autumn of 2004, and I was a parochial vicar in a suburban parish. My first talks, complete with PowerPoint eye candy, were given to my parishioners. Soon I was being invited to parishes in my Diocese, usually during Advent and Christmastide, to give what was becoming known as the “Star Talk”. I have given the Star Talk in many venues, including a science museum and a Benedictine abbey – both in the same week.”

“We will try to get ourselves into a first-century frame of mind by looking at the history that preceded the meeting of King Herod and the Magi. The so-called deuterocanonical or intertestamental period, the time between the return of the Israelites from Babylonian exile to the appearance of John the Baptist, spans about four hundred years. During this time, the scriptures are practically silent.”

“The story that we are entering into is convoluted, nuanced and confusing. I am sure that some of the confusion will be a result of my own shortcomings; for that, I ask up front for your forbearance, and I encourage the reader to persevere.”

“Dr Molnar begins his study by noting that there are four types of explanations for the Star of Bethlehem. These categories are supernatural, natural, mythical or astrological.”

“So, it is clear that Matthew is familiar with the role of angels as messengers and is apparently quite willing to use them to help move the plot line along. Even so, the Magi insist that it is a star, not an angel, that brought them to Jerusalem in search of the newborn king of the Jews: “For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him”( Mt 2: 2 ). Matthew does not say that the star is miraculous, let alone an angel; he just calls it a star and leaves it at that.”

“When we finish reading the Hebrew Scriptures and then pick up the New Testament, it is as if the Jewish people return from the Babylonian exile and, suddenly, it is four hundred years later. The Magi from the east are arriving in Jerusalem asking King Herod to kindly direct them to the newborn king of the Jews. However, a whole lot of interesting things have happened in those intervening years that have a direct impact on that meeting between the Wise Men and Herod.”

“It was around this time that work began on the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. The mere fact that such an effort was undertaken suggests that there was a significant population of Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles who were interested in the Hebrew Scriptures.”

“Even so, I will be using our modern concepts of Earth revolving on its axis while orbiting the Sun in order to explain what we see in the sky. Having these astronomical concepts and related terminology at our command will also aid in understanding the nature of the Star. Just keep in mind, though, that the ancient astronomers were still trying to figure all this out. One final note: one thing the ancients did know is that Earth is a sphere. Their estimated value of Earth’s diameter is very close to the value we know today. Chalk one up for our ancestors.”

“For the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, reliably knowing when to plant their crops, move their flocks to different pastures or even venture out on ocean voyages required accurate knowledge of the time of year. The annual parade of constellations across the night sky provided them with a yearly calendar. When Leo was in the evening sky, it was getting close to planting time. It was surely summertime when Scorpius appeared. Likewise, when Orion the Hunter was high in the night sky, it was winter. In addition to constellations, individual stars could also be used. For instance, the Egyptians knew that when the bright star, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major, first became visible in the east just before sunrise ( referred to as a “heliacal rising”), the Nile would soon flood. The heliacal rising of Sirius would signal that the time had come to plant crops.”

“The Judeo-Christian view of time might very well be unique. Be that as it may, I would suggest that a culture with a linear view of time finds it harder to believe in divination and astrology than a culture with a cyclical idea of time. For those who have a cyclical view of time, with human events recurring endlessly over and over again, the ideas of divination and astrology may seem much more plausible than they do to us. If cyclical time is also coupled with the concept of a deterministic universe, where there is no room for free will, then divination and astrology may seem not only plausible, but probable.”

“Well, whatever the star’s meaning turns out to be, always remember this key point: “Roman provincial coinage served as a primary medium for disseminating propaganda supporting the goals of Rome.”( Dr Molnar )”

“Molnar now knew where to look for the star – the zodiac sign of Aries – but he still needed to know when Jesus was born and what, exactly, would the Magi have considered an iron-clad portent for the birth of a king.”

“Another example of an eclipse helping to determine the date of a historical event is the death of Herod the Great. In his book, Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus tells how Herod died shortly after a lunar eclipse and just before the Passover. Though several lunar eclipses occurred during this period, the eclipse of 13th March 4 BC seems to be the best fit. I think the reader can now begin to see the problem: in Dionysius’s system of numbering the years from the Incarnation, Herod has apparently been dead for four years prior to the Incarnation in AD 1, yet both Matthew and Luke assure us that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. It would appear, therefore, that Dionysius’s numbering system is a bit off.”

“Both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod.”

“From the Judaean perspective, then, we will say that Herod’s reign begins when he attains practical authority in 37 BC and ends with his death in 4 BC. The birth of Jesus could have occurred anytime during the reign of King Herod and so 37-4 BC is our first “benchmark” or range of years for the birth of Jesus.”

“So, after adding up all the data, we can be reasonably confident that Jesus was born sometime between the years 9-5 BC. As I have been careful to note, we have been following an analysis laid out by Dr Molnar in his study. Reassuringly, Dr Molnar derived a similar range of 8-4 BC.”

“I want to be very clear that, in speaking of astrology, particularly the first-century Hellenistic form of astrology that was in vogue at the time of Christ’s birth, I am in no way condoning the practice of astrology. As the above warning states, and it comes straight out of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, all forms of divination are to be rejected: primarily because such practices undermine the Christian belief that we are free moral agents who possess free will and are not merely victims to the will of an all-powerful and capricious fate.”

“So, you have been warned: stay away from astrology!”

“There are many aspects to a regal birth, but we will, mercifully, limit ourselves to examining five major ones: 1. Exaltations 2. Rulers of the trines 3. Attendant planets 4. Masculine signs 5. Conjunctions and occultations.”

“Knowing that it was probable that Jesus was born sometime between 8 BC and 4 BC (9 BC-5 BC by our analysis ), Dr Molnar cranked up his computers to see if, indeed, the Moon had occulted Jupiter in the sign of Aries during this time period. Amazingly, not one but two lunar occultations of Jupiter occurred in Aries during this period, and both occurred in the year 6 BC, during the reign of King Herod, within our estimated range of years for Jesus’s birth. Just before sunset in Judaea on 20th March 6 BC and then again, a month later, on 17th April 6 BC, the Moon occulted Jupiter while in Aries. But which, if either, of these events would the Magi have considered the star?”

“The Romans were also well aware of a conviction held by their Jewish subjects that a Messiah, a king, was to appear who would lead them to independence from foreign rule. For eleven years, now, Jerusalem had been abuzz with rumours that a sign had appeared in the heavens signalling the birth of this long-expected king and deliverer. With the passage of years, this putative Messiah was getting older and would soon come into his manhood. Persistent rumours of a regal birth coupled with a restive people with a history of rebellion – this definitely required that some action be taken by local authorities to mollify the situation.”

“So, if this is true and the coins were intended to counter widespread rumours of an astrological portent in Aries signalling the birth of a Jewish Messiah, then we now have tangible proof that Matthew’s star is an historical event.”

“There is one last historical curiosity that might provide a little more substantiation that the coins may be linked to the Nativity. Antioch uses Aries on their coins for nearly two centuries, well into the mid-third century AD. Reportedly, they died out because of civil wars. 68 The tumult of the third century, referred to as the Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis, nearly destroyed the Roman Empire. It seems plausible that in the commotion, minting of provincial coins in Syria may have been affected.”

“The Peace is called “little”to differentiate it from the Peace of the Church resulting from the Christian conversion of Constantine the Great. Emperor Gallienus, in AD 259, promulgated the first declaration of tolerance with regard to Christians. So, could the relaxation of hostility towards Christianity, during the Little Peace, possibly have something to do with the fading away of the polemical anti-Christian coins? Perhaps.”

“Epilogue Have you ever wanted to experience the world just as Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew it? Have you wanted to look out and see the same things they saw two thousand years ago? Well, then, this is what I want you to do. On the next clear night, travel away from the glow of city lights to a rural spot with good horizons and look up. What you will see spread above you is the night sky appearing almost exactly as the people of Old and New Testament times saw it. The shepherds in the fields watching their flocks by night would recognise the constellations that you see and probably call many of them by the same names, albeit in a different language. Go out tonight and look up, for “the heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of His hands”( Ps 19: 1 ).”

I hope those quotes give you a feel for this volume. I greatly appreciated the details in the charts and the extensive research incorporated in this volume. It presents a very strong case. But I have also read some very strong evidence for the December 25th date. It was an interesting volume to read at the beginning of Advent. It is far more academic than many of the volumes from the CTS. It was a good read and I can recommend it to those academically inclined, or with a personal interest in the subject.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Companion to the Sunday Gospels Year A - Henry Wansbrough OSB - CTS Scriptures

Companion to the Sunday Gospels Year A
ISBN 9781784691370
CTS Booklet SC122

First I say after doing Year C last year and Year A this you I can easily state I love these volumes. I tend to read 2 or three weeks ahead of time, and then reread a specific weekends reading before Mass that Sunday.

As you can tell by the title this is one of three volumes with reflections for each Sunday of the three-year cycle of the Catholic Church. This was the second I have read, I do have the third for year B to read next. I greatly wished these were available in digital format, but I found out from the CTS that they do not have permissions for eBooks of the scriptures contained within. I believe that is a great pity, I would love to have the three of these as eBooks. Even without the scripture so you could read the passage on your own. I have now read several of the volumes from the Catholic Truth Society in the CTS Scriptures Series. All of the ones I have read prior to this have an introduction by Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB. The ones I have read prior to these Sunday Gospel Commentaries are:

This one has a two-page spread for each Sunday and a couple of feast days in the church year. There are 57 reflections in this volume. Each two-page spread has the Gospel for that day and facing it a reflection by Dom Henry. Each of the Gospel pages is outlined by the colour of vestments for that day. Only the volume for Year C has been rebranded to date, with new cover design. Both Year A and B are still available in older editions. The description of this volume is:

“The Sunday Gospels for Year A are accompanied by commentary on both the Gospel story and the place of God’s love in Christ’s ministry and in our everyday life.

Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB guides the reader through each of the Sunday gospels during Year A from Advent to the end of the liturgical year on Christ the King. Each Gospel passage is accompanied by succinct commentary on both the story and in particular the place of God’s love in Christ’s ministry and in our own everyday life, as his disciples.

Year A is the first year in the Church's three-year cycle and applies from Advent to Christ the King of the following year.”

And the product page for Year C informed us of the next few years that follow those readings. His volume does not but they are: 

The next few Year A’s fall on the following years:
Advent 2026 – Christ the King 2025
Advent 2029 – Christ the King 2028
Advent 2032 – Christ the King 2031

I have already tucked this volume away to reread it again in 2 years. And will likely cycle through the three volumes a few times. I want to call out that Dom Henry was the chief editor of the work of The Revised New Jerusalem Bible Study Edition, This volume uses that translation for the Gospel passages. There is no real introduction or forward to any of the three volumes in this set. This one has a brief note about Dom Henry and the source material at the beginning. The other two have it at the end. About Dom Henry we are informed:

“Dom Henry Wansbrough, OSB, is a renowned biblical scholar who regularly writes exegesis and reflections on scripture. He recently completed a new translation of the Bible, the Revised New Jerusalem Bible. He is a Benedictine based at Ampleforth Abbey.” 

We are also given a brief history of the Jerusalem Bible Translation and in the acknowledgements it states:

“CTS gratefully acknowledges the publishers of The Sunday Word for their permission to reproduce some of Fr Wansbrough's material in this publication.”

A Sample reflection is:

John 20:1-9
It was very early on the first clay of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from
the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb' she said 'and we don't know where they have put him.'

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Pete r, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead .

The Empty Tomb

There are several accounts in t he various Gospels of the discovery o f the empty tomb. The slight variations between them show all the marks of oral tradition, for in genuine oral tradition each 'performance' is different. Different people tell the story slightly differently, stressing different aspects. This story stresses the proof that the tomb really was empty, for the apostles examine the evidence carefully. Oth er accounts concentrate less on the evidence and more on the message, that they will meet the Risen Lord in Galilee. It was important to establish that the tomb was empty, to prevent the charge that the meetings with the Risen Christ were simply ghost appearances. Apart from the proof that this was a real, living and bodily person, these meetings stress two factors, the power of the Risen Christ and the commission given to the disciples. They are to go out into the whole world and spread the message, always accompanied by and strengthened by Christ himself. In this account Simon Peter is clearly the senior, authority figure, to whom the beloved disciple defers. But it is the love of the beloved disciple which immediately brings him to faith.

Question: Is the empty tomb the chief evidence for the Resurrection?”

I hope that sample reflections give you a feel for the volume. The first edition of this volume was released in 2016. I Have also read A Year With the Bible - 365 Daily Reflections, from Dom Henry and the CTS, which I can also easily recommend.

It was wonderful to read these reflections over the year. I found that having read these ahead of time helped me to interact with the Gospel more on Sunday’s even if it was not the focus of the homily. These are great little booklets. It is an excellent resource from the Catholic Truth Society! I just wish that these booklets were available electronically as well. It is great to pick up over the year. I can easily recommend this volume and the two companion volumes.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Henry Wansbrough OSB:
CTS Books:
36 Days & 36 Ways Daily Meditations from Advent to the Epiphany Year B
40 Days and 40 Ways Daily Meditations for Lent Year A
40 Days and 40 Ways Daily Meditations for Lent Year B
40 Days and 40 Ways Daily Meditations for Lent Year C
A Year with the Bible: 365 Daily Reflections
Companion to the Sunday Gospels: The Year of Mercy
Companion to the Sunday Gospels: Year B
Jesus: The Real Evidence
The CTS New Catholic Bible (Editor)

Other Books:
40 Days With Paul
Benedictines In Oxford (Editor)
Children's Atlas Of The Bible: A Photographic Account Of The Journeys In The Bible From Abraham To St. Paul
Doubleday Bible Commentary: Genesis
Doubleday Bible Commentary: The Gospel of Luke
Event And Interpretation
In the Beginning
Introducing the New Testament
Jesus and the Oral Gospel Tradition
Luke: A Bible Commentary For Every Day
Mark and Matthew
Risen from the Dead
Sunday Word: A Commentary on the Sunday Readings
The Bible A Reader's Guide: Summaries, Commentaries, Color Coding for Key Themes
The Gospel of Matthew: Take and Read (Editor)
The Gospels: Take and Read
The Holy Spirit
The Incarnation
The Lion and the Bull: The Gospels of Mark and Luke
The New Jerusalem Bible (Editor)
The New Testament of the New Jerusalem Bible (Editor)
The Passion
The Passion And Death Of Jesus
The Resurrection
The Spck Bible Guide
The Story of Jesus
The Story of Jesus: Photographed as If You Were There!
The Story Of The Bible: How It Came To Us
The Use and Abuse of the Bible: A Brief History of Biblical Interpretation

Saturday 2 December 2023

God Save The King - Josh Griffing

God Save The King

God Save The King - Josh Griffing

This is the fourth volume I have read from the pen of Griffing. This volume contains A story that has previously been published in the Planetary Anthropology Sol from Tuscany Bay Books. I have that volume and the other 10 in the series but have not read most of them yet. This story was one of two mentioned during the Tuscany Bay Open House on Facebook, and I picked it and another short by Griffing during the live session. The description of the story states:

“If ever you deal with the Fair Folk, mortal, these laws you must remember at your peril. Never give the Fae your word: it is your bond. Never give the Fae your name: it will be your binding. Never step over a Faërie Ring; neither eat nor drink of Faërie fare.

And whatsoever else you do, never under any conditions become intrigued in Faërie politics!

But King Oberon is missing, and James A. Dalworthy, of the Feliciana County Sheriff's Office, has been called upon to rescue him.”

I had no idea what this story was about when I picked it up. But having read a few others by Griffing I knew I was in for an entertaining story, and I was correct. This was a great little read. I enjoyed it immensely. I had not read the description prior to reading the story. I just rolled with it as it came; which is much like the main character James A. Dalworthy. On the day he is made redundant at work on his walk home from the Sheriff’s office he encounters a knight in full armour. After taking the night for tea he is translated into the world of the Fae, and as he is told all is not as it appears. He must learn not to trust his eyes, his ears, and especially what he is told.

This was an excellent read. Short form fiction is a very different art form from writing novels. The skills needed are different. From what I have read from Josh he is a master of short fiction. I look forward to rereading this volume again as I get around to reading the Anthology it was originally in. I would also have no concerns picking up the next offering from Griffing’s pen. This was a great read. I enjoyed this story tremendously. I would love to see other stories featuring James A. Dalworthy or the world of Fae as presented in this volume. I can easily recommend this volume!

Books by Josh Griffing:
Drawing Out the Bestiary
Pyre & Ice

Contributed to:
Earth: Planetary Anthology
Luna: Planetary Anthology
Sol: Planetary Anthology
Impossible Hope: Tales of Overcoming Odds
Futures That Never Were

God Save The King - Josh Griffing

The Night My Father Shot The Werewolf - Josh Griffing

Friday 1 December 2023

The Last Human - Richard Paolinelli - Dreams Of The Storyteller Book 8

The Last Human
Dreams Of The Storyteller Book 8

When I started reading the Dreams of the Storyteller Series there were 18 volumes in the collection. Then it expanded to 20, and now it is compressed to 14. Six of the stories have been split off into a different collection called Sherlock Holmes Pastiches. I have read a number from each collection and I have picked up several anthologies that Paolinelli has contributed to, that I have not got around to reading yet. I have also read 2 novel, Galen’s Way,  and Galen’s Blade and eagerly await the two forthcoming offerings in that series. I have also picked up several of his other novels after reading the first few stories in this series.

After having read a few of the stories by Paolinelli I am now trying to read one a week until I have read his whole back catalogue. Several of his stories and novels are towards the top of my ‘to be read pile’. 

Richard is not only an author but the driving force behind Tuscany Bay Books, I have read many volumes from the Bay by a number of authors and all have been well worth the read. This was one of several new short stories that dropped in the collection Dreams Of The Storyteller. There are now , as mentioned, 14 volumes in that collection, the first 2 date from 2014, 1 from 2022, and the rest have dropped in 2023. 

After reading the first story I went back and grabbed the whole collection. Much like I did with Declan Finn last year with reading a story a week until I have read all he has published.   

At the time of reading this I have read 417 books so far this year. This is another excellent story from Paolinelli’s masterful pen. I said in a previous review that I have been aware of Richard and his works for a few years now. It is my loss that I did not dig into his works earlier. Don’t make my mistake, pick some up and give them a read! The description of this story is:

“Anne Fontana needed a getaway, a vacation all to herself. But some vacations are just too short.

When she returns to civilization she discovers that the world has changed. To her horror, she discovers that she alone holds the power to save humanity, or change it irrevocably and she must choose before time runs out.

This story originally was published in Planetary Anthology Uranus by Tuscany Bay Books. It is republished here with permission.”

This story has a unique premise. And with how much I read that is saying something. The world has changed over a weekend. A scientist is one of very few people not impacted. She holds the power of reversing the change or embracing it. But will humanity still be humans if she embraces it? To find out what she decides and why you will need to read this excellent story.

This is another great short story, one that leaves you wanting more. This was a story that as soon as I finished it; it went back into the ‘to be read’ pile. I have a feeling that once I have read the 16 volumes in the Dreams of a Storyteller Series, I will circle back and reread them in publication order. This is a fantastic story in a wonderful collection. I can easily recommend it for fans of science fiction, classic scifi, or anyone who loves a great short story!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan!

For reviews of all books from Tuscany Bay click here.

Books by Richard Paolinelli:
When the Gods Fell
The Calling
The Last Lonely Trail
A Zombie Christmas Carol

Infinity Series:
Escaping Infinity
Exploring Infinity

Starguest 4th Age Series:

Timeless Series:
The Timeless
Secret of the Sphinx

Jack Del Rio Series:
Del Rio Omnibus Edition

Divine Trolls Comedies:
The Fall Of The House Of 770 Vile Aromas 
The Corvo

SeaDragon 1 May 1986
SeaDragon 2 June 1996

Sherlock Holmes Pastiches:

Non Fiction:
Perfection’s Arbiter
From The Fields
The Space Shuttle: 1981–2011 

Contributed to:
To Be Men 
Places Beyond The Wild
Space Force Building The Legacy
Secret Stairs 
A Tribute To H.G. Wells (2019 Edition)
Beyond Watson 
Holmes Away From Home, Vol. 2 
Sherlock Holmes Adventures In The Realms Of H.G. Wells 
Sherlock Holmes Aventures In The Realms Of Edgar Allan Poe
The Art Of Sherlock Holmes 
The Mx Book Of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, Part Xxii

Planetary Anthology Series:
Best Of Planetary Anthology Series
Galen's Way Richard Paolinelli

Galen's Blade Richard Paolinelli

Thursday 30 November 2023

The Abduction - Gordon Korman - Kidnapped Book 1

The Abduction
Kidnapped Book 1
Gordon Korman
ISBN 9780439847773
eISBN 9780545632676

When I picked this up to read as the next Korman book to read I was unaware it was related to a different series. So in a way starting this is a bit of a spoiler for me. This series continues sometime shortly after the On the Run Series. The book s in that series are:

The Fugitive Factor 
Now You See Them, Now You Don't 
The Stowaway Solution 
Public Enemies 
Hunting the Hunter 

And the volumes in this series are:

The Abduction
The Search
The Rescue

Mid last year, in the summer of 2022, Korman published his 100th book. Yes you read that correctly, his hundredth book. My introduction to Korman’s works was the 39 Clues back in 2009. Since then I have read over 30 of his books. Barely a drop in the buck, but with each one I read I am entertained and often challenged. My son often reads these books to me or with me. And now my youngest daughter has started reading them. I have been jumping around on different series and from his oldest works to his newest. There are so many great read in Korman’s canon. 

My son and I started reading Gordon Korman books together a few years ago, when he was given one as an end of year gift by his teacher. She gave the whole class the same Scholastic edition and wrote a note to each student in their copy of the book. Prior to that I had a read a few of his contributions to the 39 Clues series and had enjoyed them. My son and I have mostly been reading his more recent titles. I have set the goal of reading all of Korman’s books. 

The description of this volume is:

“It's every brother's worst fear: As Aiden and his sister, Meg, are walking home from school one day, a van pulls over and Meg is kidnapped. There's no way for Aiden to stop it from happening. He's the only witness to his sister's disappearance.”

Another description is:

“It's every brother's worst fear: As Aiden and his sister Meg are walking home from school one day, a van pulls over and Meg is kidnapped. There's no way for Aiden to stop it from happening. He's the only witness to his sister's disappearance. Why has Meg been kidnapped? Is it for ransom? As a vendetta against Meg and Aiden's parents? Or is there an even bigger conspiracy at work?

While Meg fends off her kidnappers and plans an escape, Aiden must team up with the FBI to try to find her--tracking down clues only a brother could recognize.”

Unlike many of Korman’s books the chapters do not have titles. The Falconers have just got their lives back. The parents released from prison and all charges cleared. The organization responsible believed to have been captured. And The kids are back at school trying to figure out how to go back to their old life after a crazy year and epic adventure to clear their parents name. And then just as things are settling down there is a kidnapping attempt. Adrian got away but they got his younger sister. 

Like the series this continues from this story is a darker than many of Korman’s offerings. It has a great pace. The characters are masterfully written. You will find yourself pulled into the story and deeply invested, especially if you have read the preceding series, or as in my case, only some of it. It is a story young readers will latch onto and be desperate to know what happens next! It is another excellent read from Korman’s skilful pen!

Books by Gordon Korman:
MacDonald Hall Series:
The Wizzle War (1982)
         (formerly The War With Mr. Wizzle)
The Zucchini Warriors (1988)
Light’s Camera, Disaster (1991)
          (aka Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood)
The Jokes on Us (1995)
          (formerly Something Fishy at Macdonald Hall)

Bugs Potter Series:

Jeremy Bloom Series:
The D−Poems of Jeremy Bloom (1992)
The Last-Place Sports Poems of Jeremy Bloom (1996)

Monday Night Football Series:
The Quarterback Exchange (1997)
Running Back Conversion (1997)
Super Bowl Switch (1997)
Heavy Artillery (1997)
Ultimate Scoring Machine (1998)
NFL Rules! Bloopers, Pranks, Upsets, and Touchdowns (1998)

Masterminds Series:
Masterminds (2015)
Masterminds: Payback (2017)

Slapshots Series:
The Stars From Mars (1999)
All-Mars All-Stars/The Dream Team (1999)
The Face-off Phony (2000)
Cup Crazy (2000)
Ouch I got slapped (2023)
4-in-1 Slapshots: The Complete Collection (2008)

Nose Pickers Series:
Nose Pickers from Outer Space! (1999)
Planet of the Nose Pickers (2000)
Your Mummy Is a Nose Picker (2000)
Invasion of the Nose Pickers (2001)
4-in-1 The Ultimate Nose-Picker Collection (2006)

Island Series:
Shipwreck (2001)
Survival (2001)
Escape (2001)
3-in-1 Island Trilogy Collection (2006)

Son of the Mob Series:
Son of the Mob 2: Hollywood Hustle (2004)

Everest Series:
The Contest (2002)
The Climb (2002)
The Summit (2002)
Everest Trilogy Box Set (2002)

Dive Series:
The Discovery (2003)
The Deep (2003)
The Danger (2003)

On the Run Series:
Now You See Them, Now You Don't (2005)
The Stowaway Solution (2005)
Public Enemies (2005)
Hunting the Hunter (2006)

Kidnapped Series:
The Search (2006)
The Rescue (2006)

Swindle Series:
Swindle (2008)
Zoobreak (2009)
Framed (2010)
Showoff (2012)
Hideout (2013)
Jackpot (2014)
Unleashed (2015)
Jingle (2016)

Titanic Series:
Unsinkable (2011)
Collision Course (2011)
S.O.S (2011)

The 39 Clues Series:
Vespers Rising (2011)
The Medusa Plot (2011)
Flashpoint (2014)

Hypnotists Series:
The Hypnotists (2013)
Memory Maze (2014)
The Dragonfly Effect (2015)

Ungifted Series:
Ungifted (2012)
Supergifted (2018)

Slacker Series:
Slacker (2016)
Level 13 (2019)

Non Series Books:
Son of Interflux (1986)
A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag (1987)
Radio 5th Grade (1989)
Losing Joe's Place (1990)
The Twinkie Squad (1992)
The Toilet Paper Tigers (1993)
Why Did the Underwear Cross the Road (1994)
The Chicken Doesn't Skate (1996)
No More Dead Dogs (2000)
Maxx Comedy: The Funniest Kid in America (2003)
Jake, Reinvented (2003)
Born To Rock (2006)
Schooled (2007)
Pop (2009)
Slacker (2016)
Restart (2017)
Notorious (2019)
War Stories (2020)
Game On (contains The Chicken Doesn’t Skate and The Toilet Paper Tigers (2021)
Unplugged (2021)
Linked (2021)
The Fort (2022)

On The Run Series by Gordon Korman

Wednesday 29 November 2023

C’est La Confiance - Pope Francis - CTS Books

C’est La Confiance
Pope Francis
ISBN 9781784697761
CTS Booklet DO971

I picked up this volume to read as part of Father Mark Goring’s Saint Mark’s School of Reading. I read the online version at the Vatican site before getting the CTS Edition. It is not the first papal document we have read together. Father Mark only did a few sessions on this work because of how late it the month it released. 

The description of this volume is:

“To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of St Therese of Lisieux, Pope Francis wrote this Apostolic Exhortation celebrating the saint’s great trust and confidence in God. “It is trust that brings us to love and thus sets us free from fear. “It is trust that helps us to stop looking to ourselves and enables us to put into God’s hands what he alone can accomplish.” (Pope Francis)

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of St Therese of Lisieux, Pope Francis wrote this Apostolic Exhortation celebrating the saint's great trust and confidence in God. 

“It is trust that brings us to love and thus sets us free from fear. It is trust that helps us to stop looking to ourselves and enables us to put into God’s hands what he alone can accomplish. Doing so provides us with an immense source of love and energy for seeking the good of our brothers and sisters. And so, amid the suffering of her last days, Therese was able to say: “I count only on love”. In the end, only love counts. Trust makes roses blossom and pours them forth as an overflow of the superabundance of God’s love.” Pope Francis”

The sections in this document are:

C’est La Confiance
1. Jesus For Others
     A missionary soul
     The grace that sets us free from self-absorption

2. The Little Way Of Trust And Love
     Apart from all merit
     Daily abandonment
     Fire burning in the night
     A most firm hope

3. I Will Be Love
     Charity as a personal attitude of love
     The greatest love in supreme simplicity
     In the heart of the Church
     A shower of roses

4. At The Heart Of The Gospel
     The Doctor of synthesis

I highlighted a few passages my third time through the booklet. Some of them were:

“These striking words of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face say it all. They sum up the genius of her spirituality and would suffice to justify the fact that she has been named a Doctor of the Church. Confidence, “nothing but confidence”, is the sole path that leads us to the Love that grants everything. With confidence, the wellspring of grace overflows into our lives, the Gospel takes flesh within us and makes us channels of mercy for our brothers and sisters.”

“It is confidence that sustains us daily and will enable us to stand before the Lord on the day when he calls us to himself: “In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own Justice and to receive from your Love the eternal possession of yourself”.”

“The earthly life of Saint Therese was brief, a mere twenty-four years, and completely ordinary, first in her family and then in the Carmel of Lisieux. The extraordinary burst of light and love that she radiated came to be known soon after her death, with the publication of her writings and thanks to the countless graces bestowed on the faithful who invoked her intercession.”

“In the name that Therese chose as a religious, Jesus stands out as the “Child” who manifests the mystery of the Incarnation, and the “Holy Face” of the one who surrendered himself completely on the Cross. She is “Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face”.”

“One of the most important insights of Therese for the benefit of the entire People of God is her “little way”, the path of trust and love, also known as the way of spiritual childhood. Everyone can follow this way, whatever their age or state in life. It is the way that the heavenly Father reveals to the little ones (cf. Mt 11: 25).”

“It is most fitting, then, that we should place heartfelt trust not in ourselves but in the infinite mercy of a God who loves us unconditionally and has already given us everything in the Cross of Jesus Christ.”

“Therese possessed complete certainty that Jesus loved her and knew her personally at the time of his Passion: “He loved me and gave himself for me” ( Gal 2: 20). As she contemplated Jesus in his agony, she told him: “You saw me”.”

“The act of love–repeating the words, “Jesus I love you”–which became as natural to Therese as breathing, is the key to her understanding of the Gospel. With that love, she immersed herself in all the mysteries of the life of Christ, making herself his contemporary and placing herself within the Gospel together with Mary and Joseph, Mary Magdalene and the apostles. Together with them, she penetrated to the depths of the love of the Heart of Jesus.”

“The transformation that was taking place enabled her to pass from a fervent desire for heaven to a constant, burning desire for the good of all, culminating in her dream of continuing in heaven her mission of loving Jesus and making him loved. As she wrote in one of her last letters: “I really count on not remaining inactive in heaven. My desire is to work still for the Church and for souls”.”

“She had come full circle. “C’est la confiance”. It is trust that brings us to love and thus sets us free from fear. It is trust that helps us to stop looking to ourselves and enables us to put into God’s hands what he alone can accomplish. Doing so provides us with an immense source of love and energy for seeking the good of our brothers and sisters. And so, amid the suffering of her last days, Therese was able to say: “ I count only on love”.”

“In an age that urges us to focus on ourselves and our own interests, Therese shows us the beauty of making our lives a gift. At a time when the most superficial needs and desires are glorified, she testifies to the radicalism of the Gospel. In an age of individualism, she makes us discover the value of a love that becomes intercession for others. At a time when human beings are obsessed with grandeur and new forms of power, she points out to us the little way. In an age that casts aside so many of our brothers and sisters, she teaches us the beauty of concern and responsibility for one another. At a time of great complexity, she can help us rediscover the importance of simplicity, the absolute primacy of love, trust and abandonment, and thus move beyond a legalistic or moralistic mindset that would fill the Christian life with rules and regulations, and cause the joy of the Gospel to grow cold.”

I hope those few quotes will give you a feel for this document. It is a good read. I am glad I picked up the CTS edition. I know it is available at the Vatican site. But I really enjoy the CTS versions of this and other Vatican documents. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.