Thursday, 21 November 2019

Under the Watchful Sky - Roger Thomas - Watchful Sky Series Book 1

Under the Watchful Sky
Watchful Sky Series Book 1
Roger Thomas
Tumblar House
ISBN 9781944339104

I read a lot of books, in fact since I started keeping track, I average will over 100 books a year. And the last few years have been over 300 books a year. This book completely amazed me. I fear it may be prophetic in nature. And with changes in legislation changes the last few years in the European Union, and in Canada that events like those portrayed in this book might be sooner than we think if they are not under way already. In Canada there have been a few cases lately of patients revealing they were offered assisted suicide rather than end of life care. In some ways this book is apocalyptic, and also dystopian. But because of the core believes of a group it also eludes those categorizations. But no matter how you label the story it is an amazing read. And to be honest an important one in this day and age.

In some ways the story reminds me of Noah’s Castle by John Rowe Townsend. Things in this story are not as bad, yet, as Castle. But there is a group working to change society and, in my opinion, not for the better. In an age of perceived Absolute Relativism, and with the rise of secular humanist. Life ceases to have value and worth. I went to university with a friend who was an existentialist. He took it to a logical conclusion, if what we do here does not matter, and there is nothing here after, why continue to be here. And attempted suicide. In this volume a group running a secret pilot project for the government of the United States is slowly weeding out undesirables. The old, the wealthy, the infirmed. And that group is recruiting and working at all levels of the government. On the other side is a group of Christians, many Catholics, who are for the most part now living off the grid. They have formed a community. And they are working to rescue people who have been targeted, and they are working against the XCV and they call themselves The Walker Street Irregulars.

The story begins with a murder. But a murder that is disguised as a suicide. Assistant Medical Director Derek Stevens is the man on the ground, but there are several factors that seem irregular to him. When his boss blows him off, he retaliates by helping out a friend of the deceased. And unbeknownst to him, helps provide the information, to allow a Catholic Burial. Soon he is spending time with this group of people and feels more alive there than he ever has. However, his friend Janice Bond is drawn into the mysterious organization, and through flattery, manipulation, and bribery. They have a lethal plan. And Janice is in their clutches. 

This novel is wonderfully written. It keeps you turning the pages. And in my case much later than I should have stayed up. I just kept saying to myself one more page, one more page. The story also left me desperate for the second volume, and even peeking ahead at the third. This is one of the best speculative Christian stories I have read in years. Other than some young adult series I cannot recall the last time a series grabbed me so completely, and I was hooked within the first chapters. It is a great read that I highly recommend!

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

Books by Roger Thomas:
The Accidental Marriage
From Afar
The Last Ugly Person: And Other Stories

Watchful Sky Series:
Under the Watchful Sky
Rising Darkness
The Wounded Land

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Amazon Basics Adjustable Weighted Vest 40 lbs - Product Review

40 Pounds

I have wanted a weighted vest for a few years now. But for one with more weight they were always out of my price range. I had a different one on my wish list that was 50lbs. And I would check every now and again to see if it was available for a better price. One of those times this showed up underneath that one as a recommended alternative. It is 1/5 less weight but was almost 50% cheaper. I bought it at this point for a couple of reasons. 

At the time of writing this review I have been working out again with Team Body Project videos and at the time of writing this review have worked out over 125 days in a row. Many of those videos are body weight exercises. This will allow me to amp those up. When it arrived, I put it on and wore it around the house for a few hours with the full 40lbs in it. It is easy to remove up to half the weight while wearing the vest. This model has roughly 1.93lb inserts and there 10 on the front and 10 on the back. I am 5 foot 9 and 240 lbs and a little rotund at the moment and it fits me with still some space. 

The second reason I got the vest is my son has scoliosis and will soon be in a body cast for up to four months at a time. I have told him if he is struggling with the cast I will put on the best and wear it to be in support of him and his struggles. 

The vest is easy to put on and easy to remove. Adding and removing weights is very simple as well. It is easy to clean and the construction is excellent. I expect this product to last for years to come. Very satisfied with the purchase. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Be Strong in the Lord Spirituality for Men - Harold Burke-Sivers

Be Strong in the Lord: Spirituality for Men
Harold Burke-Sivers
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784692018
eISBN 9781784694586
CTS Booklet PA45

Over the last two years I have read nearly 100 books and booklets from the catholic truth Society. I have yet to read a book that I did not learn from, or that did not benefit my spiritual life. There are many great books and many great series. This booklet is an abridged version of Behold the Man: A Catholic Vision of Male Spirituality. A book I read a few years ago and thoroughly loved. But I also loved this booklet. Having read the book it was drawn from; this book serves as a great reminder. It is a small volume that can be read easily in an afternoon over a big cup of tea or coffee. For those who have not read the longer work, it can serve as an excellent introduction.

There are many out there who say that most men do not read, and even more so for men in the church. This is the type of resource that can put put in a reluctant readers hand and they will devour it. And hopefully continue learning and growing in their faith.

The Chapters in this booklet are:

Biblical Manhood
Covenant Relationship
Sin and Forgiveness
Truth and Freedom
Theology of the Body
Further Reading

In the introduction Deacon Harold states:

“We choose spiritual sloth and laziness over witnessing to the truth of our faith with passion and conviction. We’ve become timid. We’ve stopped leading. We no longer desire holiness. We’ve compromised our values and abdicated our responsibility. Catholic men were created for greatness but instead choose to be purveyors of immorality and mediocrity.”

He also declares:

“How did we get here? In a nutshell, by abdicating our responsibility to live as godly men we have turned our backs on the authentic moral teachings of the Church, especially in the area of human sexuality.”

He goes on to tell us that:

“The Catholic contribution to male spirituality was relatively sparse until the 1990s, when, largely sparked by the success of the Protestant Promise Keepers movement, interest began to rise. Much Catholic literature has focused on fatherhood, but recent works have embraced a more holistic approach (see the Further Reading section for some examples).”

The introduction then concludes with these words:

“There is no Resurrection without Crucifixion. We must learn to take hold of the cross in our lives. The cross is the hermeneutic of male spirituality. Only when we begin to understand the gift of vulnerability lived from the cross will we know what it means to be a man of God. God will imbue us with the courage to live as the person he created us to be: made in his image and likeness.”

The rest of the book fleshes out those ideas within the contexts of biblical manhood, Fatherhood, work, truth and more. It is an excellent little volume. It is a booklet That I will read again and again. For the topics and concepts it covers I believe we will always be striving to improve. And this book is a resource that will help us be better husbands, better fathers, better employees. I believe it could help us just be better men!

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

Books by Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers:
Behold the Man: A Catholic Vision of Male Spirituality
The Mass in Sacred Scripture
Father Augustus Tolton: The Slave Who Became the First African-American Priest
Be Strong in the Lord: Spirituality for Men
Ignite: Pray the Bible Like Never Before with Sonja Corbitt

Contributed to:
Man Up! Becoming the New Catholic Renaissance Man
Your Marriage: Leader Guide
From Slave to Priest

Monday, 18 November 2019

Inseparable Five Perspectives on Sex, Life, and Love in Defense of Humanae Vitae - Todd Aglialoro and Stephen Phelan

Inseparable: Five Perspectives on Sex, Life, and Love in Defense of Humanae Vitae 
Todd Aglialoro (Editor)
Stephen Phelan (Editor)
Raymond Cardinal Burke (Forward)
Catholic Answers Press
ISBN 9781683570912
eISBN 9781683570936

I read a lot of books, averaging well over 100 a year. Many books that I read are good, some are great, and a few are exceptional. This book was exceptional. In fact, it was so good that as soon as I finished it I started reading it again. I wish I had been forced to read a book like this when attending a Catholic High School. Or that I had come across a book like this during my 20 years in post secondary education. Reading a book like this would have saved myself, and others a lot of heart ache and hurt. Even as I approach my 50th year this book has had a massive impact on my thinking and understanding. It is transforming how I think about and see my wife, and how I am praying for my children. I have only read books by one of the contributors prior to reading this but will be looking for more from each of them.

The contributors are:

Joseph Atkinson
Paul Gondreau
Mark Latkovic
Allan Carlson
Shaun and Jessica McAfee

And the chapters are:

Introduction: The Truth Is One
1. “Let Man Not Separate”
2. The Meaning and Purpose of Human Sexuality
3. An Integral Vision of Sex and the Person
4. Body, Mind, and Soul: A Couple’s Conversion
5. A Prophetic Witness to Creation

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke states in the introduction that:

“In 1962, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council were presented with drafts of the constitutions and decrees they were to discuss and vote upon. Most of these, with the exception of the document on the sacred liturgy, were famously eliminated from consideration during the first session of the council. 

One of those eliminated from discussion was a dogmatic constitution entitled, “On Chastity, Matrimony, the Family, and Virginity.” This document is barely mentioned in subsequent histories of the council, but today it bears close scrutiny. The hardy theologians of the Roman School, whom some of the prelates and periti from Northern Europe mocked and marginalized as out of touch with modern conditions, had produced a document that would have been of tremendous assistance to pastors of souls and Catholic thinkers, and one that in retrospect was prophetic and almost preternaturally precise about current challenges regarding human life and its cradle, the family. The discussion and approval of the document might have spared the Church so many trials!”

He also states:

“What had they foreseen and addressed in the abandoned dogmatic constitution? Well, just about everything we take as normally controverted and discussed today. For example, already in 1962, they addressed sexual dysphoria and mutilation and the nature of sexual identity, sex education, same-sex attraction, the indissolubility of marriage, feminism, genetic manipulation, overpopulation and demographic shifts, and they dealt as well with contraception. Regarding which last, this would have been in the text of a proposed dogmatic constitution Christifideles Universi:”

And this sets us up for this volume which is an expansion upon the teachings of Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, and Saint John Paul II’s theology of the body. The book is very well researched and written. It could easily be used in an academic setting but is also so well written and engaging that any lay person can read it and benefit from that reading.

Each of the essays in this book is powerful in its own right, as is the introduction. But combined as they are in this collection, they provide a broad overview and cohesive approach to the Church’s teachings, the worlds believe, and the impact on believers and the world at large. It is a phenomenal read and she be in every Catholic High School, and every Catholic University. Honestly, every Catholic home would benefit from having and reading this book.

If you only read one Catholic book over the next year, I highly recommend that you read this one! 

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

Books by Shaun McAfee:
Reform Yourself! How to Pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation
Filling Our Father's House: What Converts Can Teach Us About Evangelization
St. Robert Bellarmine

Social Media Magisterium: A No-Nonsense Guide to the Proper Use of Media
I'm Catholic. Now What?
20 Answers Conversion - Catholic Answers

Contributed to:
Surprised By Life: 10 Converts Explain How Catholic Teachings On Life Led Them To The Church

Inseparable: Five Perspectives on Sex, Life, and Love in Defense of Humanae Vitae 

Other reviews of books from Catholic Answers.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Catholic Hipster The Next Level - Tommy Tighe - How Some Awesomely Obscure Stuff Helps Us Live Our Faith with Passion

Catholic Hipster The Next Level
How to Catholic Family: Nurturing Faith in the Messiness of Everyday Life
Tommy Tighe
Ave Maria Press
eISBN 9781594719202

This book was not exactly what I was expecting. And that was a surprise, because I began my review of, The Catholic Hipster Handbook the exact same way.  I really enjoyed volume one. And did not expect a follow-up. And according to the author neither was he. And yet he has delivered another great read.  I had seen it mentioned by so many people that I was certain it would be something I would like and purchased it without realizing that it is an anthology with 13 contributors when you included Tommy. Sort of a modern-day group of apostles plus a Paul. But there are 39 articles in the volume compared to 27 books in the new testament. Some contributed as few as 2 pieces and Tommy contributed 6.

The contributors are:

Fr. Damian Ference
Haley Stewart
Holly Vaughan
Jackie Francois Angel
Julie Lai
Kaitlyn Facista
Katie Prejean McGrady
Matthew Sewell
Patrick Neve
Samantha Povlock
Sr. Brittany Harrison, F.M.A.
Theresa Zoe Williams
Tommy Tighe

And only one of the contributors other than Tommy repeat from the first volume.

And the sections in this book are:

Part 1: Living with Faith
Part 2: Living with Hope
Part 3: Living with Love
About the Contributors

Each chapter follows the same format, the main article, cool saint, forgotten prayer, and a Living the Faith activity. When I started reading book 1 I could not tell if it was satire, sarcastic, or real devotion. My wife often comments that sarcasm is lost on me, so it took me a few chapters to figure it out. This time I knew going in it was written from a place of deep faith, deep devotion, and desire to grow in living that faith. 

I found I really enjoyed the book, even more so than volume 1. I take the authors and the articles at face value. I give it a solid 4/5 stars. With book one I waffled between 3 and 4 stars. This time I wavered between 4 and 5, and finally settled on a solid 4, and would give it 4.5 if it was possible. I read fairly widely, and I read a lot, but again with this volume I was unfamiliar with most of the contributors prior to reading this book. In fact, other than Tommy and Sr. Brittany Harrison from volume 1 I only knew one of the other contributors. Like the last time I have started following a few of the contributors on social media because of their contributions to this book.

I have known a few Catholic Hipsters, going back to a college and Careers group at Saint Mary's Cathedral in Kingston Ontario in the late 80's and early 90's. Hipsters before being a hipster was cool. What I loved most about this book was that it comments on several trends in the Catholic community today, some that are growing and others with longer standing. I really appreciated the section 'Forgotten Prayer' and also 'Cool Saint' the activity sections are good also.

I really appreciate that this book is called the next level and not just Volume 2. For that is my feel. This book goes further up and deeper into living the faith. 

The articles in the order they appear are:

Honor the Sabbath: Learning to Pause the Noise in Our Lives to Hear God
Healing the Sick and Raising the Dead: Just Your Average Catholic Hipster
Jesus, I Trust in You (Easier Said than Done)
Observing Ember Days
First Mass, Last Mass, Only Mass
Third Orders: Extreme Hipster Catholicism
There’s More than One Way to Pray a Rosary
The Song of Songs: The Mass in the Old Testament
J. R. R. Tolkien: Catholic Hipster
Guitars and Organs
Deck the Halls with Weird Old Testament Ornaments, Fa La La La La, La La La La
Lectio Divina: The Art of Sacred Reading
Fasting: Not Just for Diets
They Don’t Call Us a Universal Church for Nothing!
Bringing Catholic Twitter into the Real World
Punk Rock Catholicism (aka Tattoos)
Becoming Inklings
Human Formation for Every Catholic
I’ve Got That Grief, Grief, Grief, Grief Down in My Heart
Catholic Feminism (aka Things Popes Said That No One Talks About)
The Early Church Was the Catholic Church
You Must Wait Three Days to See the Pope
Chalk on the Door: House Blessings
Social Justice in Every Sip
Getting into the Spirit of Michaelmas
Servant Royalty
Hipster Mom: Working Catholic Mom of Nine
The Art of Accompaniment: Journeying with Others in Faith
The Catholic Worker Ethic
I’m Not a Regular Catholic; I’m a Cool (and Prideful) Catholic
The Catholic Idea That’s Key to Gender Equality
How to Make a Flannery O’Connor Pilgrimage
Catholic Bees
NFP, Yeah You Know Me
Co-Creating with God
Making All Things New
St. Andrew, an Apostle before It Was Cool
Attraction: Hormones Meet Theology
Heroic Friendship 

This is an excellent read. But be warned, if you read it you will be challenged and changed. I doubt many could read this book and not be impacted by several if not many of the articles. And I will likely circle back and reread it in a few years, at a different point in my life and benefit from it in a different way. 

This is an easy read and very accessible. I would say it is even accessible for teens and tweens. So, could be a good study for a youth group. What I loved most were the prayers and saints presented. Overall a very refreshing read, but I must state again it will challenge you. So give it a read and take your hipster-ness to the next level.

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

Books by Tommy Tighe:
The Catholic Hipster Handbook

Catholic Hipster: The Next Level
How to Catholic Family: Nurturing Faith in the Messiness of Everyday Life

#blessedmother: How to Follow, Share, and Defend Mary in the World of Social Media