Tuesday 30 April 2024

Killer Instinct - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 2

Killer Instinct 
The Naturals Book 2
ISBN 9780316540728
eISBN 9781423195122

Killer Instinct - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 2

I picked a copy of the first book a couple of years ago because my niece was reading it at the time. However, it got lost in the plethora of books on my kindle and I never got around to reading it. This year my youngest, 13, picked it to read in class for school reading and a book report. She has to read the physical copy and read it in class. She debated between this and the Inheritance Games series, both had come highly recommended, but a few other girls in her class were doing Inheritance. While picking it up I read the prologue and was hooked. My daughter is a little mad that I read it in 1 day and she has to wait and read it in class, but oh well! And she is even madder that I have now read book 2 and she has still not finished book 1. (I had told her on March break to read book 1 and do the report on book 2.

The description of this volume states:

“Friendship. Romance. Serial killers. The Naturals are on the case. 

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother's murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean's incarcerated father -- a man he'd do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer's psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer's brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?”

This series started just a year after Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers series which I read as they were releasing. I absolutely loved killers. The two series share a lot of tropes, and have some similar events, I believe both are worth reading. This series has a somewhat similar feal, except it is a team of ‘naturals’ young adults with special abilities, such as: human lie detector, ability to read emotions and feelings almost exactly and of course natural profilers. Cassis is brought in as the newest member of the team. This story is set a few months after the first volume. The concluding events of that story are still having lasting impact. 

Cassie is struggling with what she missed in the last story. And having a hard time letting go of a token of those events. But when a body shows up on campus and it copies the murders performed by Dean’s father the whole team wants to do all they can to help. Not just with the case, but also for Dean. We get a much deeper look at each of the 5 naturals. We encounter their new handler from the FBI and experience serious hostility both to and from this new agent. Soon the kids realize things are much more complicated than they first thought, and they are racing to a conclusion.

This story is very well written. I enjoyed it even more than book 1. The characters are crafted to near perfection. The case they are working on is dark and grim, and very personal. Cassie really feels she could play a role here, an has finally found where she fits. And based on events in this story that might all come to an end. The story moves at a great pace, with the whole story taking place over a short time span. 

Overall, I was impressed with this story, I loved it even more than book 1 and am desperate to start the next volume. I am surprised it took me almost a decade to hear about this series. Especially since when it released, I was reading and reviewing a lot of Young Adult books. This story is a great second novel in a series, and it leaves you desperate for the next instalment. But because of the serial killer investigations absolutely not for all readers. My daughter is mad that book three is now on the first page of my kindle, sorry, not sorry. A great read for mature teens and young adults, or even some of us older folks.

p.s. both my niece and daughter really prefer the original covers. And I admit I lean that way as well. Fortunately, the eBooks I have still have the original covers for the first three still.

Books by Jennifer Lynn Barnes:
The Lovely and the Lost (2019)
Nobody (2013)
Every Other Day (2011)

The Naturals Series:
All In (2015)
Bad Blood (2016)
Twelve (2017)

The Inheritance Games Series:
The Inheritance Games (2020)
The Hawthorne Legacy (2021)
The Final Gambit (2022)
The Brothers Hawthorne (2023)

Debutantes Series:
Little White Lies (2018)
Deadly Little Scandals (2019)

The Fixer Series:
The Fixer (2015)
The Long Game (2016)

Raised by Wolves Series:
Raised by Wolves (2010)
Sweet Sixteen (2015)
Trial by Fire (2011)
Taken by Storm (2012)

The Squad Series:
Perfect Cover (2008)
Killer Spirit (2008)

Tattoo Series:
Tattoo (2007)
Fate (2009)

Golden Series:
Golden (2006)
Platinum (2007)

The Naturals - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 1

Killer Instinct - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 2

All In - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 3

Bad Blood - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 4

Twelve - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 4.5

The Naturals - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 1  Reprint Edition

Killer Instinct - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 2  Reprint Edition

All In - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 3

Bad Blood - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 4  Reprint Edition

Twelve - Jennifer Lynn Barnes - The Naturals Book 4.5  Reprint Edition

Monday 29 April 2024

The Last Dinosaur - Manuel Alfonseca

The Last Dinosaur
Manuel Alfonseca
ISBN 9781540802712
eISBN 1230000258483

The Last Dinosaur - Manuel Alfonseca

This was the 22nd volume I have read from the pen of Manuel. Or I should say 22nd reading as I have read some of them more than once. It is another great story. It seems that with each new volume I read I have a greater appreciation for his skill and talent as an author. I first encountered his works based on the recommendation of a friend back in 2017. Once I started reading this book I could hardly put it down.

The description of this volume is:

“Ignacio Bastos was seventeen when he met Victor Arias, an old man obsessed with paleontology. This encounter changed his life by sending him on an amazing expedition to Malta, during which they make a unique, revolutionary discovery. Everything starts with the find of a fossil: the skeleton of a dinosaur.”

About the author we are informed that:

“Manuel Alfonseca has published more than 50 books, including 32 novels in different genres: historical, fantasy, science fiction, mystery and adventure. In 1988 he won the Lazarillo Award, and in 2012 he won the fourth edition of the La Brújula de Valores Award. With this book he was a finalist for the 1990 C.C.E.I. Award.”

The chapters in this work are:

The extinction of the dinosaurs
The diggings
The fossil
The metallic box
What was in the box
The translation
The crooks
The attack
The flight of the dinosaurs
The civil servant
An ancient catastrophe
The flight of Victor Arias
A modern catastrophe

I have had this book for a little while now but had not got around to reading it. I really wish I had read it earlier. It is a fascinating concept and it is well executed. In many ways it reminds me of T.M. Doran’s Toward the Glean trilogy. The tale includes the discovery of something that should be impossible in a most improbable place. Leading to the translation of an ancient document. The hopes and dreams of an old man, and a young man just trying to survive and look after his patron.   

The characters are well written. It has an intriguing plot. It was a great read. I will note I prefer the original cover with the green trim, but that is personal taste. It is a great book to read to late middle grade readers and also excellent for tweens and teens. I can easily recommend this book! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2024 Catholic Reading Plan!

The Last Dinosaur - Manuel Alfonseca

The Last Dinosaur - Manuel Alfonseca

Books by Manuel Alfonseca in English:
Jacob's Ladder
The Ruby of the Ganges
The Last Dinosaur
Ennia in Faerie
The Heirloom of King Scorpion
Beyond the Black Hole
The Water of Life

The Sleuths of the Spanish Transition Series:
Quetzalcoatl's Zahir

The Mystery of the Haunted House
The Mystery of the Sapphire Bracelet
The Mystery of the Honeymoon
The Mystery of the Egyptian Vulture Country House

Chronicles of the Magic Jigsaw Puzzle Series:
The Journey of Tivo the Dauntless
The Mystery of the Black Lake
The Silver Swan
The Secret of the Ice Field
The Lost Continent

The Chronicles of the Aeolian Family Series:

Human Cultures & Evolution
World Population: Past, Present, & Future
The Fifth Level of Evolution

Sunday 28 April 2024

Places of Grace My Visits to Shrines, Chapels, Graves, and Monasteries and the Graces I Received - Fr. Edward Looney

Meditations After Holy Communion: 
Guided Meditations for Every Sunday and Other Holy Days
Fr. Edward Looney

Bon Secours Books
ISBN 9798988403333

Places of Grace My Visits to Shrines, Chapels, Graves, and Monasteries and the Graces I Received - Fr. Edward Looney

This is the eighth volume from Father Looney it is another great read and wonderful resource for growth in your spiritual life, for devotion to shrines, saints, and spiritual places. The volume contains a total of 46 reflections. Some of the locations and people I was familiar with, many were new to me. It was wonderful to read these reflections and in some cause they inspired me to look up books on the people, or places to add to my reading list.

The description of this volume is:

“Catholic travel, or what we call pilgrimage, has been important in the life of Fr. Edward Looney. His first pilgrimage was with his parish on a local bus trip to see the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion when he was in eighth grade. Since then, he has boarded planes, rented cars, and travelled the world to see sites of Marian apparition, shrines of saints, and other spiritual sites and places along the way. Some of the places he visits are popular and attract many visitors. Others are hidden sites, off the beaten path. In Places of Grace, Fr. Looney recounts his experiences at shrines, chapels, monasteries, and graves, naming a grace he received from the Lord at each site. That grace will be different for each person. In his typical style, Fr. Looney weaves together personal anecdotes and experiences to arrive at a greater spiritual point, helping the reader and future pilgrim to better appreciate the holy sites they will visit during their earthly pilgrimage to Heaven. This book does not present the historical facts or architecture of holy sites, but the spiritual experience of a Catholic priest who hopes you will discover God's grace at a shrine or holy site.”

The sections and chapters in this volume are:

The Grace of Saying Yes (Champion, Wisconsin)
The Grace of Searching and Simplicity (Beauraing, Belgium)
The Grace of Participation and Remembrance (Lourdes, France)
The Grace of Encouragement (Zaragoza, Spain)
The Grace to Remain (Garabandal, Spain)
The Grace of Mary’s Presence (Guadalupe, Mexico)
The Grace of Silence (Knock, Ireland)
The Grace of Mystery (Walsingham, England)

The Grace of Mary (Washington, D.C.)
The Grace of Intercession (St. Augustine, Florida)
The Grace of Direction (Waukesha, Wisconsin)
The Grace of Stained Glass Windows (Hubertus, Wisconsin)
The Grace of Fulfilling a Promise (New Orleans, Louisiana)
The Grace of Quiet (Orlando, Florida)
The Grace to Visit (London, England)
The Grace of Disappointment (Belleville, Illinois)
The Grace of Research (Montreal, Canada)

The Grace of Entrustment (Cold Spring, Minnesota)
The Grace of Someone Else’s Faith (Northeastern Wisconsin)
The Grace of Nature (Cross Plains, Wisconsin)

The Grace of the Mass (Oconto, Wisconsin)
The Grace of Gift Giving (Quebec, Canada)
The Grace of Passing By (Briggsville, Wisconsin)
The Grace to Return (Chicago, Illinois)
The Grace of Gratitude (Detroit, Michigan)
The Grace of Dedication (Agreda, Spain)
The Grace of Adoration (Libertyville, Illinois)
The Grace of Connection (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
The Grace of Miracles (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
The Grace of Being Pursued (Emmitsburg, Maryland)
The Grace of Beauty (Hanceville, Alabama)
The Grace of Faithfulness to Death (Mexico City, Mexico)
The Grace of Availability (Watford, England)
The Grace of Saintly Witness (St. Cloud, Minnesota)

The Grace of Conviction (Escanaba, Michigan)
The Grace of Introduction (Chicago, Illinois)
The Grace of Preaching and Evangelization (Peoria, Illinois)
The Grace of Appreciation (Custer, Wisconsin)
A Grace Against Mediocrity (Marquette, Michigan)
The Grace of Renewal (Benton, Wisconsin)

The Grace of Stability (Conception, Missouri)
The Grace of Rest (Peosta, Iowa)
The Grace of Oblation (Rockford, Illinois)
The Grace of Ruins (Ireland)
The Grace of Continuity (Moncks Corner, South Carolina)
The Grace of a Thankful Heart (St. Leo, Florida)


I highlighted numerous passages while working through this volume. Some of them are:

““Places of Grace” is more than just a guidebook; it’s a roadmap for the soul, leading us to the sacred sites that have shaped the landscape of Catholic faith and devotion. Authored by Father Edward Looney, this meticulously curated collection invites us on a profound pilgrimage through shrines, chapels, graves, and monasteries, each bearing witness to the divine presence and the transformative power of grace.”

“Father Looney’s exploration of these sacred destinations is a testament to the enduring tradition of pilgrimage within the Catholic Church. With eloquence and insight, he unveils the hidden treasures of shrines, the mysteries of apparition sites, the sanctity of churches and chapels, and the hallowed ground of resting places for saints and blesseds. Through his words, we are reminded that pilgrimage is not merely an act of physical travel, but a journey of faith and action—a deliberate step towards encountering the divine.”

“I am a pilgrim. You are a pilgrim. We are all pilgrims on earth journeying to the Kingdom of Heaven. The notion of pilgrimage is quite ancient in Christianity as early believers visited places of importance in the life of Jesus in the Holy Land.”

“I’ve been blessed to travel throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe and pray at graves, shrines, and chapels. When I have visited those holy places, I have at times prayed for a very specific grace, sometimes making the pilgrimage for that intention. Other times, I have paused in prayer thinking of what is most pressing in my life and imploring heavenly intercession and assistance. I have prayed for graces for myself or thought of people in my life who were desperately in need of prayer.”

“I have had profound experiences at these shrines and have received many graces. The purpose of this book is to share places that have been significant in my spiritual life and places of pilgrimage.”

“The Madonna appeared in a similar fashion as Our Lady of Lourdes and a fountain of water was involved. The shrine and apparition gave off vibes of Lourdes. I loved that the rosary has been prayed daily at the Banneux shrine in unbroken succession since the first apparitions. Yet, my heart and soul loved Beauraing. I loved its simple messages and invitation to prayer. I was aware of my need for conversion and how I wanted Our Lady to convert me as one of those sinners. That same clergyman remarked that is why people didn’t feel close to Beauraing because it was more challenging. I considered it a simple challenge.”

“To me a Lourdes grotto replicates the reality of the grotto of Lourdes. Not everyone has the means or ability to board a plane and fly to Lourdes, France and spend days in prayer at this holy sanctuary. An ordinary parishioner can feel connected to Lourdes by praying at a grotto.”

“A Lourdes-style grotto is a reminder of Mary’s apparition, her message, and maternal love for all of us. Seeing a grotto can draw us into spending a few moments with our heavenly mother who prays for us. And when we stop for a few moments of prayer or to pray a rosary, we participate and remember the grace of Lourdes, France.”

“Our Lady, who was given insight into the life of the apostles by God, bilocated while still alive and appeared atop a pillar in Zaragoza to converse with St. James and encourage him in his missionary works. Many consider this bilocation the first Marian apparition.”

“Another part of the story about Juan and Our Lady that I marvel at is that Juan Diego tried to avoid Our Lady. He knew that if he went the same way, he would see her. He did not want to be delayed, so he went a different way. His reason was noble. He wanted to visit his uncle Juan Bernadino who was ill and dying. You can’t avoid Our Lady. She appeared to him and told him that his uncle was already healed. The presence of Mary was real and powerful.”

“Silence was the grace of Knock. To be silent and behold the mystery. To be silent with Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John, and the lamb. To be silent and imagine what it was like to be one of those witnesses of the apparition. And in the silence, is the grace to listen and respond to what the Lord asks and to go where the Lord leads.”

“You can ask Our Lady of La Leche and Our Lady of Good Delivery to pray for them, even if you cannot pray before the image of the breastfeeding Madonna. When you are able though, praying at these shrines where pilgrims have prayed before you can be powerful. Truly they are a place of grace; a place where prayers have been answered. The La Leche Shrine instilled within me the grace to intercede for other people, and if you happen to be in that area of Florida, that grace to pray for others can be yours too.”

“Did praying the rosary in front of the statuary of the mystery enhance my meditation? Most definitely. That is the grace of a visit. As we grace a place with our visit, we are graced in return by God who is the giver of all good gifts.”

“While I may have been disappointed about my visit to the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, I think that’s a valuable lesson to learn in the spiritual life. There are going to be disappointments. Things are not always going to be as I want or would expect. In the spiritual life there are ups and downs, peaks and valleys, consolation and desolation. The shrine didn’t live up to the hype of my childhood imagination, but it was a holy place, built for a holy purpose, where God was doing amazing things though the intercession of Mary. I was able to participate in that. Receiving grace and being open to it, is never a disappointment.”

“With every Mass celebrated at a parish, God is pouring out his grace to all who attend. I have heard bishops remark that when a parish ceases to exist in a community, the quality of life decreases and there is more violence, crime, and sin. The Mass is efficacious. Each week, a parish offers a Mass intention for the living and deceased members of its community. It is a constant prayer for the local church, past and present.”

“I prayed for my priesthood, asking that in times of persecution I would remain faithful to the end like Blessed Miguel Pro. We do not know what will become of the Christian faith in years to come. The message preached by Christianity is antithetical to the world. The world is threatened by the message and teaching of Jesus, and as in the past, could seek to obliterate it. We must be prepared and ready should that ever happen.”

“In his life, St. Cloud had three saintly role models who formed him and cared for him. Reading his biography made me realize that we all need saintly people in our lives. Holy people attract other holy people.”

“If I want to become a saint, then I need saintly influencers around me. I have St. Cloud to thank for this grace.”

“Walking and praying on those grounds, and other monastic ruins in Ireland, made me realize that as Catholic Christians, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us in the faith. Their life was a witness to belief in God, lived out through prayer and vocation. The grace of ruins reminds us of our past and to appreciate what once was. As one happens upon ruins of monasteries in Ireland, in the United States we come across closed churches and suppressed religious communities. We are reminded of history and people’s contributions to Catholicism, all of which should move us to thank God for what has been and to pray for what will be.”

“Shrines and chapels, monasteries, and graves, have taught me a lot about pursuing God, and have helped me feel connected to Our Lady, the saints, and the Church. I receive God’s grace every day in the parish church in which I serve, pray, and celebrate Mass, and also at the holy sites I visit when I travel. They are places where I have received much grace, helping me on my pilgrimage to my Heavenly home. Until I arrive at those pearly gates, I remain here on earth with open hands, ready to receive the graces God gives me on the path to my heavenly destination.”

Father Looney is open and transparent in this volume. He shares hopes, dreams, successes, failures and struggles. But he also open’s to us holy p[laces, and people. I few years ago I worked through a series from the Catholic Truth Society called Christian Shrines the series contained two types of books, the first were pilgrim companions sort of a tour book for visits and the other on understanding the meaning and devotion. I have read 18 of the booklets in that series, and this volume reminds me greatly of them. Though in this one we experience both types of guidance. 

The first thing I do when I look at a book on Marian apparitions, or shrines is look up Knock and Walsingham. Both of which I have specific devotion to. When I read this volume I read those two sections first and then went back and reread the whole book in order. This is one of those volumes you could easily return to again and again. Either flipping through and reading specific sections, or looking for associated graces. It is a little treasure trove of places and people mainly in the United States, then Canada and a few in Europe. Father Looney towards the end of the volume indicates they may be a second volume I for one would pick it up right away.

This volume is well written, and easy to engage with. It is a wonderful little volume that will spark curiosity and it will foster engagement and growth. It is a book that will benefit any Catholic readers. I can easily recommend this volume.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2024 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Fr. Edward Looney:
A Heart Like Mary's: 31 Daily Meditations to Help You Live and Love as She Does
Our Lady of Good Help Mary's Message and Mission for Adele Brise and the World
A Rosary Litany
Our Lady of Good Help Prayer Book For Pilgrims

Lenten Journey with Mother Mary
Behold the Handmaid of the Lord: A 10-Day Personal Retreat with St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary
Praying with the Church Through Advent
Praying with the Church Through Lent

Children’s Books:
Little Chapels, Grateful Hearts
The Story of Sister Adele and Our Lady of Champion
Breakfast in Bethlehem
Fr. Looney's Christmas Stories

Saturday 27 April 2024

Lightsinger - N.R. LaPoint

Mistcreek Publishing
ISBN 9798416039530
ISBN 9781979880336

Lightsinger - N.R. LaPoint

This was the tenth offering from the pen of LaPoint that I have read. I have now read nine novels, and a short story. I have read about a book a week and now have read all novels in print. LaPoint has contributions to 4 anthologies I have not read yet, but I will get to them in good order. The first of his works I read was a short story, Azrael, in the anthology Swords and Maidens he edited; the second was, Christmas Evil: A Heavy Metal Holiday Novella. I have just finished alternating titles in this series his Raven Mistcreek series the Dinosaur Warfare series. The stories I have read by LaPoint are vastly different, and each book or series has given me a greater appreciation for his skill and talent as an author. LaPoint came from a recommendation by Declan Finn, 2 years ago I read everything Finn had in print reading about a book a week, I now have one completed that same task with LaPoint and eagerly await the two announced novels. .

The description of this volume is:

“Teenage bookworm Mina Violet always dreamed of another world.
She never imagined that she would get stuck in one.

After finding a sword in an old fallout shelter, Mina and
her friends are teleported to a land where they are
hunted by monsters, thugs, and a power-hungry fanatic.
As they struggle to stay ahead of the threats,
they realize there is much more at stake than just their lives.

Join Mina as she gathers help to save a world being
plunged into a war that could strip the universe of magic.
But will a mysterious hermit, a militaristic elf with an airship,
and a talking vulture be enough to stop an ancient evil?”

The older description of the book is:

“For one thousand years something evil has been trapped between worlds. It now has the means to escape. When a bookworm finds a sword in an old fallout shelter she is transported to another world where a megalomaniac seeks to bring two kingdoms to war. With her friends, a militaristic elf with an airship, a mysterious hermit, and a talking vulture, she must find a way to prevent a war and get back to Earth... if an ancient monster doesn’t devour both worlds first.”

I admit it took me a while to get around to reading this one. I have had it for a while but kept skipping over it, in part because of the cover. There are 4 variations of the cover over time. And LaPoint has confirmed he is going to sync them up to the current hardcover one at some point. Years ago I wrote a column called Confessions of a Bibliophile, and one of the pieces was ‘Judge a Book By It’s Cover’, my mistake this time was letting the older eBook cover hold me back for giving it a go. I picked it up based on strong recommendations I should have just read it right away. This book was originally published in 2017 and rereleased in 2022. 

In some ways this story reminds me of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, but it is darker. And in other ways it reminds me of the Kayan Kronicles by Derya Little. But the story LaPoint has written also feels like a grand epic adventure. 

Again I find that LaPoint has masterfully written The plot ebbs and flows as an epic adventure should. Moments of great intensity, time of preparation, and travel on the quest intermix along the way. The story was terribly difficult to put down. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a major project at work and dealing with an injury, so it took me a few days to work through the novel. Every time I put it down, I really wished I could just keep reading. 

This is a stand-alone story but the ending is such that LaPoint could return to this world with further stories in the future. It was such a great read, it was fun, it was at times extremely intense, it was greatly entertaining. This is a story that as soon as I finished it I recommended it to both my 16 year old and my 13 year old. 

This is an amazing read. I can easily recommend this novel. Great for fans of epic fantasy or grand adventure stories or really anyone who just loves a great action story. A great read, that leaves you hoping for further instalments!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews 2024 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by N.R. LaPoint:
Dead by Dawn: The Files of Virgil Everness

Raven Mistcreek Series:

Dinosaur Warfare Series:

Contributed to:
Fantastic Middle Schools 4
Fantastic Middle Schools 6
Shoot the Devil
Shoot The Devil 2 Dark Matter

Lightsinger - N.R. LaPoint

Lightsinger - N.R. LaPoint first edition Kindle

Lightsinger - N.R. LaPoint - First edition paperback

Lightsinger - N.R. LaPoint Hardcover edition 2022

N.R. LaPoint Novels

Friday 26 April 2024

Martyrs of Vietnam Saints Andrew DungLac, Jean Theophane Venard and Their Companions - Bob Bloomfield - CTS Books

Martyrs of Vietnam
Saints Andrew DungLac, Jean Theophane Venard and Their Companions
Bob Bloomfield
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9780851839684
CTS Booklet B647

Martyrs of Vietnam Saints Andrew DungLac, Jean Theophane Venard and Their Companions - Bob Bloomfield - CTS Books

Several years ago I discovered the books and booklets of the Catholic Truth Society, I have since found them to be a treasure trove. They are excellent for growing in the faith, learning our history, and finding out about saints and Martyrs. Most of the booklets I have read today have a B in the booklet number indicating that it is part of the biography series. I stumbled across the name of this volume when doing research for Martyrs of Korea by Richard Rutt. I discovered this list of books about Martyrs from the Catholic Truth Society:

Martyrs of Nagasaki - Lucian Hunt 
Martyrs of Uganda - Joanna Bogle   
Martyrs of Vietnam - Bob Bloomfield  
Martyrs of Korea - Richard Rutt
The Southwark Martyrs – M. Clifton

There is also a separate series called 20th Century Martyrs that includes:


But have had a hard time tracking them down. I am thankful I was finally found a copy of this volume at a reasonable price. The description on the back of the booklet is:

“The twenty-fourth of November is dedicated in the Calendar of the Universal Church to St Andrew Dung Lac and companions. Who they are and what they did is little known by English speakers, so Bob Bloomfield has searched the sources and here presents his results.”

The chapters in this small volume are:

Death or Denial?
St Andrew Dung Lac
     Under Arrest
     Corporal Torture
St Jean-Theophane Venard
     Mandarin Power
     Day of Execution
     Therese's Admiration
     Man's Inhumanity to Man
     Still Unsettled
Selected Bibliography
List of Martyrs from Vietnam Canonized 19 June 1988

The list of martyrs is broken into the following sections:

Missions Etrangeres (Paris)
Vietnamese Priests
Vietnamese laity

The list contains the name and date of Martyrdom. The volume begins with this quote:

“The age of martyrs, as of miracles, never ceases. Martyrdom is a perpetual note upon the mystical body, which has the stigmata of Jesus ever fresh upon it.”
Cardinal Wiseman (1802- 1865)

This was a very moving and powerful volume. It is not an easy read. Some of the descriptions of the tortures and methods of execution that were used are hard to read about. But it is also inspiring to read about the deep faith and devotion of these fellow Catholics. And how they lived and died for their faith. I highlighted numerous passages while reading this volume, some of them are:

“On 19 June 1988 Pope John Paul II canonised 117 people, collectively known as the martyrs of Vietnam. They were of different nationalities and had died at different times. There were 96 Vietnamese, 10 French and 11 Spanish. All had been condemned by Vietnamese tribunals for having declared their Christian faith. They were a small part of that great band of 130,000 martyrs who were tortured and murdered in Vietnam during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are remembered throughout the Catholic Church each year on 24 November.”

“Not for the squeamish is the catalogue of tortures systematically employed by the captors of the martyrs. Of all the 117 saints, 75 were decapitated, 22 were garotted, six were burned alive, nine were tortured and died in prison, and five were slowly dismembered and cut to little pieces. Before merciful death brought final relief the saints were subjected to hideous indignities, horrific tortures, ingenious and obscene to the point of disbelief.”

“Later, we shall see in more detail how two of the 117 martyrs conducted themselves throughout their torments. They are Andrew Dung Lac, a native-born Vietnamese Catholic priest, and Jean-Theophane Venard, a French priest sent to Vietnam by the Foreign Missionaries organisation in Paris.”

“The trouble with missionaries is that they are not afraid of death. Nor are they afraid of torture. If you kill one, another comes along to take his or her place in the field. You cannot scare off a missionary who believes that martyrdom is a vocation,
culminating in death as the supreme victory.”

“This is not, however, a treatise concerning itself with the detail of economic and political matters; but a report on what happened to a very large number of Christians in Vietnam, then called Tonkin, in the 1800s. It makes painful reading. The more recent tragedies in that suffering country are not for discussion here; but the scars from all that agony are still plainly visible to anyone who cares to look.”

“Not everyone approves of missionaries. There were, and are, those who feel that if a priest or nun or lay Catholic working m an overseas mission is killed or tortured they should not have been there in the first place.”

“In spite of all the difficulties Father Andrew remained calm and dignified. He was very tidy in his appearance, neat and modest. He was soft spoken and set a good example in his respect for his fellow man. He gave a lead in his stringent approach to fasting - on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week without fail, all the year round. He regarded the sacrament of confession as vitally important and he exhorted his parishioners to take full advantage of its benefits.”

“In spite of these exhortations Father Andrew refused to be moved. He referred to the Acts of the Apostles and said. 'Dear brothers and sisters, look at St Peter who was twice saved from execution, thanks to his church's prayers. Then on the third arrest St Peter decided to pray for God's will to happen. The same thing seems to be happening to me now. You have prayed for me and used all means to bail me out from prison twice. I am now arrested and persecuted for the third time in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I think this is our Lord's will for me to share with him the passion and the cross.'”

“On the day of execution the condemned priests were dressed in long, black cassocks as if preparing for the celebration of Mass. They prayed all the way to the place where they were to meet their deaths. Father Thi, 76-years old, had become weak and ill and had to be carried by a soldier. Rather pointlessly they were offered food and water. Father Thi could not manage to consume anything; but Father
Andrew accepted some small pieces of sugar cane.”

“Well, one day, when Theophane was about eight and a voracious reader he saw in a magazine titled Annals of the Propagation of the Faith a report of the death of the missionary Father Jean –Charles Cornay, who had been beheaded in Tonkin (Vietnam) on 20 September 1837. Apparently his body had been dismembered as well. Theophane was so moved by this story that he told his family, ‘And I too, I want to go to Tonkin. And I too, I want to be a martyr.'”

“Eventually, in February l 854, Father Theophane Venard received his orders to proceed to his ultimate destination, the western di strict of Tonkin. He knew this was a dangerous area for priests, 'where persecution is most alive'. He knew there was a price on the head of every missionary and when one was found he could end up beaten, tortured and dead.”

“One of the mandarins dealing with the case was unhappy about the situation. He realised that this prisoner was someone special. Theophane, who was still allowed to write and to receive letters, told his family about this mandarin. He said, 'This man, like Pilate, protested loudly against taking innocent blood and declared that this sin and the odium of it  would fall on the heads of the captors.' This same mandarin claimed that he kept the prisoners only because he did not dare to let them go for fear of the reaction of his colleagues.”

“If there is any such thing as a popular prisoner it was Theophane. His dark good looks, his cheerful manner, his courage, were all greatly admired by guards, officials and the populace at large. Someone said, 'He doesn't look afraid. It's as if he was going to a feast.' Another said, 'He is so young to die.' He was thirty-two years of age.”

“The news of Theophane's death did not reach France until the end of December 1861. The Bishop of Poitiers held a Feast in his honour which was not a sad occasion; but a celebration of Theophane's martyrdom. But the fervour of the
Bishop's sermon had the congregation in tears.”

“Apart from the ill-treatment of individuals there were occasional mass murders in nineteenth century Vietnam. In 1885 there was a fearful attack covering the whole of Vietnam. In the Tonkin mission 163 churches were burned, 4,799 Catholics were killed and 1, 182 died of 'hunger and misery'.”

“What is interesting is that although the Vietnamese authorities relied so strongly on torture to get their own way, they never tortured Theophane Venard. Him, they tried to persuade with words. Words too, from the highest in the land. But apart from being caged and chained Father Venard stayed in one piece until the sword blows fell. What did his captors see in him?”

“According to the latest information received there are today ten dioceses in the North and fifteen in the South, with a total of some six million Catholics in Vietnam. This is despite the fact that there have been continuing attempts to suppress Christianity.”

I hope those quotes give you a feel for this volume. It was a very powerful read and one I was immensely happy to have finally tracked down. It was inspiring to read of these stories about these martyrs and their witness. At the end of the volume after the bibliography is this statement:

“Lady Herbert of Lea, who translated the first biography of Theophane Venard (see above), helped to found the Catholic Truth Society, with funds and accommodation for meetings. The first meeting of the CTS was held at her home in Belgravia on Guy Fawkes Day, 5 November 1884. The second Bishop of Salford, Herbert Vaughan, took the chair. He was later to become Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.”

This little snippet about the founding of the Catholic Truth Society was an interesting titbit in this volume. This was an excellent little read. It is a small volume so it gives a quick and concise overview. It does leave the reader wanting more, about these saints and the time they lived in. It is well written and easily accessible. It would be a great introduction for any Catholic. Another great and valuable read from the CTS, one I can easily recommend if you can lay your hands on it.

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.

Martyrs of Vietnam Saints Andrew DungLac, Jean Theophane Venard and Their Companions - Bob Bloomfield - CTS Books List of Martyrs 1

Martyrs of Vietnam Saints Andrew DungLac, Jean Theophane Venard and Their Companions - Bob Bloomfield - CTS Books List of Martyrs 2

Martyrs of Vietnam Saints Andrew DungLac, Jean Theophane Venard and Their Companions - Bob Bloomfield - CTS Books List of Martyrs 3

Books in the 20th Century Martyrs Series:
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Maximilian Kolbe, F. Jagerstatter, K. Leisner, R. Mayer: Victims of the Nazis - Franz Jagerstatter
Edith Stein, Marcel Callo, Titus Brandsma: Victims of the Nazis – Matthew Monk
Saint Maria Goretti: Teenage Martyr for Chastity - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
The Atlas Martyrs – Jean Olwen Maynard

Jerzy Popieluszko Victim of Communism - Grazyna Sikorski
Isidore Bankanja - Jean Maynard

Gianna Molla - Jean Olwen Maynard