Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell

I was immediately drawn to this book because of the saints that were reviewed. But maybe even more than that was the life of a woman that parallels the lives of the saints. The saints she discussed were Teresa of Avilla, Therese of Liseux, Mother Teresa, Edith Stein, Faustina of Poland and Mary of Nazareth. The truth is I am fascinated about studying how the saint's lived their lives. I connected with the author not so much in the details of a father with Alzheimer’s or bouts with infertility but with a woman searching for more. I am in the general demographic the book was intended being a middle class woman in my 40's. The book was easier to read because I identified with the main character. I didn't see a big change in the main character of the author beyond normal college shallowness and a woman in her thirties having a baby. There was a natural sense of maturity through the decade and half of living. The author did glean some similarities between herself and the saints she discusses. There was a self identified reawakening of her Catholic faith. I admired the patience of her spouse and I questioned her personal priorities at times. The author seemed overly dismissive of adoption but I haven't been in the position of infertility so it hard to judge how I would feel in this position. I would recommend this book to learn more about these saints since she gives a good biographical history of each. It gives a good example of how we as readers can draw parallels with the saints even if not at first an obvious one. The author maintains her faith ideals through personal trials as she questions her roles as daughter, wife and mother. Overall I enjoyed this book and I think you will too.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People by Brian Burch and Emily Stimpson

My eyes have been opened to the rich history and beauty of American Catholicism. The subtitle of this book is “A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary people". This subtitle gives a glimpse into a history punctuated with many different spiritual paths of specific Americans. In this book, there are famous people you have heard of, like Fulton Sheen, Michael McGivney and many not so famous like Theodora Guerin, Rene Goupil. All of the stories are interesting histories of real Americans. There are stories of establishments of dioceses and designations of minor basilicas in America. There are also fun stories like the one of Al Capone. I like the one story a day format, so you can break it up to once a day reading. You could incorporate this into your daily prayer time or ponder their stories throughout your day. You could also look up a special day like your birthday to see what happened in American Catholic history on that day. It does need lend itself to reading straight through like a novel because this is not the intended format. There is a jumping around of timelines which is a bit confusing but probably not as much if not reading straight through. It is hard to sum up someone's life in one page but the authors do a good job of giving you the essence of what contribution this person has made to American Catholic history. I would recommend this book to expand your historical knowledge of American Catholicism and to give you a sense of being part of a rich Christian heritage in America. Even those who are not Catholic will enjoy these stories of American Christians who helped shape the religious landscape of American history.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Feasts by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina

The book “Feasts” by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina is about the rhythm of the church. The very life of the church and seasons are a catechism. Even before there were books written down, the days and seasons told the story of Christ’s life. I loved the history of our holidays which coincides with the history of the church. I wanted to read this book to give me a sense of being part of the church, part of the body of Christ. I was surprised at the detail of feasts, fasts and saints. As Catholics we are incarnational people, always looking to the resurrection. The book takes us through Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter which you would expect. It also takes a broad view of the seasons and the year while also providing specifics that would intrigue the more seasoned Catholic reader. I would describe the book as bringing the beauty of the church closer for the reader to examine while welcoming all to take a closer look. I read the book straight through but I will also use it as a devotional during each season to remind me of our Catholic heritage. I recommend this book for understanding how the liturgical year makes us who we are as Catholics.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Believing in Jesus: A Popular Overview of the Catholic Faith 5th edition

This book was a pleasant surprise. The use of the word “Overview” made me think of the words basic, beginner, or just too easy. On the contrary this book goes very deep into the meaning of our Catholic faith. I found myself rereading some lines over and over, not because it was hard to understand but just beautifully stated by the author. It touches on topics such as why Jesus had to die for us and there was no other way for salvation, dying to self and choosing God everyday and continual conversion. From Appendix A, you read “Ours is a lifetime journey, always a “becoming” as we reflect, pray, learn, search, and ever deepening our insights.” There are many great references at the end of the book. You can spend a long time delving into all the book has to offer. In the Postscript, you read “Being saved is being cleansed, liberated, and raised up to the life of Jesus daily. You can use this book for groups or individual study with questions for contemplation at the end of each chapter. These questions are open ended and great for discussion. This book has cleared up some of my questions and re-enlivened my sense of the beauty of our Catholic faith. I definitely recommend this book in our time of the “New Evangelization”. It is for those new to the Catholic faith and those re-opened to the faith. The better you know your faith, the better you can love, live and share your faith.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God’s Holy Ones

I enjoyed this book about the “Communion of Saints”. We are connected to the saints and angels in this large Christian family in heaven and on earth. Scott Hahn never disappoints in stories of his ongoing conversion. This book traces his recent family pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy. A near tragedy involving his son opens up a new spirituality to him. After some introductory chapters we get to know the saints better with a short biography of each followed by a quote from the saint in something they wrote. From Moses to Maximilian Kolbe, we travel through church history, learning from the saints and hopefully developing a relationship with them. Ultimately, Christianity is all about relationships, ones with each other and our heavenly brother and sisters. We grow as we open ourselves up to what the saints have to tell us in the examples of their lives. This can make our overall communion more real and add depth to our spiritual lives. I highly recommend this book for light reading and an introduction to the saints. The book is short and easy to read in a conversational tone. It can entice you to want to learn about the saints in this book and the stories of numerous others. You may even find a patron saint to inspire you or learn about a new saint you have never heard of before.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Journal of a Soul: Autobiography of Pope John XXIII

After the recent canonization of Pope John XXII, it is interesting to see into the mind of a saint. This book helps you to hear the inner thoughts of a pope. It starts with the early days in seminary and goes through 1962, the year of the Second Vatican Council. We hear often of the humbleness of Pope Francis, but he is not the first pope to be a humble servant of God. During Angelo Roncalli’s seminary days his writings are consumed with self discipline, often calling himself a sinner and pointing to where he falls short of becoming a saint. This is ironic now knowing him as St. John XXIII. His writing shows a growing maturity from his seminary days as he becomes, priest, bishop, cardinal and pope. It culminates in the beauty of his rosary meditations and prayers included at the end of the book. It follows a diary format that would lend itself to devotional time in prayer. It is harder to read straight through because you find yourself wanting to stop and contemplate his reflections. The writings of Pope John XXIII are beautiful and insightful. I would like to know more about the Second Vatican Council. This book gives very little information about the historical event and more of the thoughts of the pope in the background. I definitely recommend this book. One part that was striking was Angelo’s following of the “Little Rules” of the ascetic life as described in appendix two. This will help anyone trying to deepen their spiritual and devotional life. This gives the average layperson an idea of the devout life of a consecrated religious. I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review."

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate by Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson

Having been raised Protestant and converted to Catholicism, I was curious about the topic in debate about Mary. I dove into this debate discussion in an effort to deepen my devotion to Mary. I am very much for Christian unity and I know it is important to have a polite dialogue. Marian theology has always been a point of contention for our Evangelical brothers and sisters about the Catholic Faith. The debate is between two friends that went to Bob Jones University and then one became a married minister in the Church of England who converted to be a Catholic Priest and the other is an Evangelical lawyer with the Justice department of the government. The debate covers Catholic doctrine on Mary such as Mary’s perpetual virginity, Immaculate Conception, and Assumption. Prayers such as the Rosary and titles such as Co-redeemer and God’s mother are also discussed. This book has strengthened my faith and devotion to Mary. It will also help me to be able to evangelize and speak up for my faith and for Mary in a polite, intelligent way. I definitely recommend this book for all Christians to be able to take a more critical intellectual, reasoned approach to how Mary always leads us to her son Jesus.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Leaves are Falling By Lucy Beckett

This book is a beautiful work of historical fiction with descriptive detail. It is not my usual genre I read but has challenged me to investigate the real history behind the story. It is as if you are sitting at the feet of your grandfather as he tells you a gripping personal account of his life. The geopolitical background was at times hard to follow for a novice like myself in World War II history. It did make me want to learn more about post World War II Europe. I read more about the true story of the Katyn massacre and the 25,000 Polish soldiers who were murdered in Russia in 1940. The author has done well at putting herself into the story and making you feel like you were there. Most interesting, in the story of the Dad (Jacob Halpern) was a religious conversation with a Rabbi in a Russian prison. Jacob had met God in his time of need, when pushed up against the wall of denial by Russian interrogators. He allowed himself to witness to the truth of God. It brought him peace in a greater truth during a time of confusion about what is right and wrong and what are allegiances and deceit. There was a great truth that no political leader or ideology could drown out that of God himself. Jacob tells us that “God is to be met not discussed”. We are called to know God not just about God and it is through extreme challenges that we understand this best. The major theme of the book without spoiling the end is from a quote “If we were to live as good Christians and good Jewish people there would not have been these horrors down through the centuries.” I recommend this book as a beautiful way to enter into this interesting time period in history and what binds us all together even with different backgrounds of religion and nationalities.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Rising by Robert Ovies

Life, death and our lack of control of these issues is the theme of the book. It takes a realistic look at what would happen if a miracle of the magnitude of resurrection were to happen today in modern times. Amidst the skepticism, angling for personal gain and ambition of the adults is set our main character of C.J. He is a nine year old boy like any average child, not particularly spiritual. His childlike trust and naïveté is what makes the story believable. C.J. is able to resurrect the dead and heal people. You can imagine how this modern day retelling of “Lazarus” unfolds. Everyone wants a piece of the action either for themselves like the Dad or for the world like the Cardinal. Amongst the media hype and frenzy, stands C. J.’s mother, like a “Mary” figure, who is willing to risk everything to protect her son but always obedient to God’s will as she seeks this out. Also, she seeks council in her local priest, Father Mark. He is a faithful priest with deep felt doubts that give insight and thoughtfulness to the story as it unfolds. I highly recommend this book. It is hard to put down. There is a surprise ending that makes me feel hopeful. This book is about beginnings and endings and it may change what you currently think about the definitions of these for yourself.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Called out of darkness by Anne Rice

This book was a unexpected delight. Anne Rice spells out her Catholic reconversion in a moving way. The detail of her early Catholic life is beautiful. I admit I have not read many of her other works but after reading this book I want to read them. She outlines how she was lured away from her faith under a false intellectualism. She describes a love of her faith and her deep felt physical reaction to mass. Ann Rice explains how her Vampire novels were her way of working through her own spiritual demons. This book is a wonderful journey of her life as she reconnects with her Catholic faith of her youth and realizes she never really left. A definite must read especially if you didn't know how deeply Catholic Anne Rice has been. She has also authored many Catholic novels as well. I definitely recommend this book.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What's in your library...

What books are in your library? I am an avid reader of all things Catholic. Many of my family and friends ask me what books am I reading and what books I recommend. So I have started this blog to review the latest books I am reading. Some books are nonfiction Catholic doctrine and some are Catholic fiction. I look forward to sharing my Catholic bookshelves with you.

The One Thing is Three by Father Michael Gaitley

This is one of my favorite books. The book helps to summarize our Catholic faith and yet gives details that enhance your understanding of hard topics like the holy trinity. The author Father Michael Gaitley does a wonderful job with his illustration of the "Circle of Being". His conversational tone is meant to be like a retreat and it makes it fun and puts the audience at ease. He puts the trinity at the center of understanding our faith. My understanding of the word "communion" has greatly expanded with his description of the trinity's exchange of love. I loved the example of "picturing the pagoda". I highly recommend this book.