Friday, April 24, 2015

Discerning Hearts App Review

I believe in simplicity of living, but I have to admit I am tempted by technology. I have probably downloaded and tried out most Catholic apps. So I have decided to veer from my regular content of book reviews and include a review of one of my favorite Catholic apps on the Android platform. It is called Discerning Hearts and it is available on Google Play. Did I mention it’s also free to download? There is a plethora of audio and video resources on Catholic faith and spirituality within this app. There are, also, a variety of Franciscan, Dominican and Ignatian spiritualities represented. There are a lot of different aspects of this app to explore like scripture study, prayers including the Rosary, Stations of the Cross and the daily examen. There is a Discerning Hearts You tube channel access through the app. There are audio books from St. Theresa of Avila: Interior Castle and Way of Perfection and St. Francis De Sales: Introduction to the Devout life. You can listen to episodic audio for example from Mike Aquilina, Father Timothy Gallagher, Joseph Pierce, Deacon James Keating and many others. As the name implies there is a lot to discover within this app that will help you along your spiritual journey. It is educational, prayerful, entertaining, and there is always something new. There is a link through the app called “What’s New” or you can also sign up for a newsletter to be dropped into your email inbox with what’s newly been uploaded to the app. I connect my phone through the audio system in the car and love listening to this app through my car radio. I also like to listen with my ear buds at home. I would definitely recommend this app to you. It is not often found on recommendation lists for Catholic apps you see on a variety of websites, so it is a good find and a secret treasure I am sharing with you.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again by Mike Aquilina and James L. Papandrea

I have always been intrigued by church history and this is why I wanted to read Seven Revolutions to see the impact the church has had on historical and contemporary culture. Aquilina and Papandrea give a fascinating analysis and description of pre-Christian pagan Roman culture. There are so many constructs we take for granted that did not exist in pre-Christian Rome. The value of human life, the dignity of work, and the taking care of the least among us did not exist before Christ. There are seven revolutions described in the book by the author that changed our world forever. They are person, home, work, religion, community, death, and politics. Aquilina and Papandrea ask hard questions like could we be returning to some of these per-Christian values in our modern era. My favorite part of the book is the last chapter which gives the reader an abundance of ideas of things we can do to continue to change the world in a positive way. I would definitely recommend this book to you. It has opened my eyes and given me perspective on the life and times of Jesus when he was here on earth. It gives background and context when reading the bible. I think we do not realize that some of the things we read in the bible, that Jesus and his disciples were saying were quite revolutionary for their time. Their message was very opposite to the current cultural environment at the age. With our current church message of the new evangelization, Seven Revolutions can give you concrete things you can do to spread our Christian faith today. Aquilina and Papandrea write about universal truth and that this does not change with time because God is truth. There is call to continual conversion and we have a responsibility to continue to help build up God’s church. This book is for all Christians and non Christians to have a better understanding of what is Christianity is all about.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

St. Peter’s Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found…and Then Lost and Found Again by Thomas J. Craughwell

I am curious about religious relics since I have a protestant background and converted to Catholicism twenty plus years ago. What relics would be more prized than our first pope’s St. Peter? This is a mystery woven with history and integrated with archeology and technical advances. St. Peter’s Bones takes the reader on a journey to discover the relics of St. Peter and the difficulties that have arisen over the years in validation of these artifacts. Interwoven in these pages are stories of explorers and Popes as well as skeptics and believers. The story begins with Pope Pius XII in the 1940’s and ends up in 2004 with statements by George Weigel. Within this time period is the announcement in 1968 by Pope Paul VI of the finding of St. Peter’s Bones. Our technology has advanced during this time period to include carbon dating, but this does not turn out to be the answer to the mystery anticipated. Many of the characters in the book are concerned about reverence for burial places and making available the human remains for testing. I have learned more about archeology than I ever thought I would. Craughwell adds very specific details of the archeological search which add to the mystery as the story unfolds. St. Peter’s Bones tells the life story of Peter in real time when he walked the earth in each chapter then the author integrates the modern day archeological search. I would recommend this book to you, the reader. Craughwell expresses his love for his subject as he carries you through the journey and mystery of first century Christians and the importance of Christian relics as they help to form our faith. I have a new found appreciation for veneration of relics and why they are important to our faith history. The growth of Christianity throughout the world has been reliant on this practice and has enhanced the reality of Christian history.

Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial: …And Other Strange Questions from the Inbox at the Vatican Observatory by Guy Consolmagno, SJ and Paul Mueller, SJ

I love science and religion, therefore I thought reading Would you Baptize an Extraterrestrial would be a great extension of these two interests. You often hear in the media how these two do not mix. You even hear about the Catholic Church being at odds with science, but this is a false impression. Consolmagno and Mueller point out that “God wrote both books of Scripture and Nature and God does not disagree with himself. Truth Cannot Contradict Truth.” The title is certainly catching to the imagination and the authors certainly do no let their readers down. What about ET being baptized, you might ask? Consolmagno and Mueller tell us that that would depend on whether ET wants to be part of the Kingdom of God and how he hopes to treat the least of his brothers. It is fascinating to ponder the analysis outlined by the authors regarding faith and extraterrestrials. The authors state that believers usually say evidence of ETs would support their religious faith, while nonbelievers sat this would invalidate religious faith. The format of the book is easy to follow since it is conversational between the two Vatican astronomers. Many topics are covered like Pluto becoming a non planet, the Galileo controversy, the star of Bethlehem theories, and the end of the cosmos as we know it. The book is fun and lighthearted while still being steeped deep in faith and scientific facts. I would recommend this book to all Christians as well as nonbelievers for information to bridge the gap between the two. The science was a little weighty at times but I learned a lot about physics and astronomy. Consolmagno and Mueller interpret these sciences well and open our minds with further questions. We can be steeped in these mysteries and further our faith because as the authors say, “Mystery is where the human capacity for understanding gets swamped-not because we haven’t yet figured things out, not because there is a problem to be solved, but because the proper response to God and to love is not to understand but rather to treasure and to ponder”