An interesting fact about this book: I got this because of a tweet from one of the Twitter accounts I follow that tweets...moreOriginal post at One More Page
An interesting fact about this book: I got this because of a tweet from one of the Twitter accounts I follow that tweets first lines of books from Amazon. I got this purely because it was a Catholic book and it seemed interesting. I was also trying to learn more about my Catholic faith, and so I thought this book would be a good place to start. I read this first during Holy Week of 2008, and that time I wasn't exactly at the best place of my faith. I remember loving this book because it made me appreciate being Catholic, although that didn't necessarily mean that I really got what it means to be one.
Fast forward to three years later, I got to attend my first World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. Now if there was any way for a young Catholic to celebrate and appreciate their faith, the World Youth Day is that event. Seeing people -- Catholics -- all over the world coming together in one place to celebrate and learn about their faith (and meet the Pope) is an event that every Catholic should experience, regardless of age. Suffice to say that it was that event that pretty much defined a lot of my searching in the past years since I first read this book. When Lent came around this year, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this book again.
I thought of writing a review for this book with 50 things about the book, but I realized that 50 is a bit of a big number. So instead, let me just write five:
1. I like that it is Catholic. Maybe I just kind of suck with looking for books written by Catholics, but I remember being very thrilled when I discovered this because I felt that it was written for me. I know it's not, but it just felt like that. :P
2. I like that it's very personal. Liz Kelly wrote the entries in the book with enough personal anecdotes to make it feel like she's just sharing the stories over coffee, or she's a speaker for a community event. She gives enough reference to the Bible, related books, history and to the Catechism of the Catholic Church so readers know that she isn't just pulling things from thin air, but not so much that it overshadows her personality.
3. I like that it covers the ones we Catholics are asked the most about: the rosary, Mary, the Communion of Saints, Confession, the Eucharist. In a way, it's almost like an Apologetics session because readers would understand why we do what we do but with less of the feeling that it is one.
4. I liked discovering new things about Catholicism that I never knew before. May favorite is the Rosary of the Holy Wounds, which I didn't even know existed before. I only knew of the rosary, but this one is new to me and seems like a good devotion to start. Another example is the chapter on the Hour of Divine Mercy, which has been a staple in the household since I was a kid because of the 3 o'clock prayer shown on TV everyday. I never really understood much of it until it was explained in the simplest form in Liz Kelly's book.
5. There were some entries that didn't feel like I could really and truly relate, perhaps because of our differences in culture. Liz Kelly talks about her reasons to love being Catholic as an American. I'm not one, obviously, so there were some things that she wrote that I couldn't really relate to and some that I was looking for but didn't find because they were aspects of Catholicsm that is unique to the Filipinos. However, though, I think the book isn't really meant to be a guide on what constitutes being a Catholic anyway, but a book that helps us appreciate what we have in this beautiful Universal Church. :)
I think new and old Catholics alike would enjoy May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, and maybe even some non-Catholics who are simply curious about it. It's far from preachy, and like I said, it's very personal so it's up to you if you'd research more on the subjects Liz Kelly wrote about or if you would just leave it be. Suffice to say that I really liked it still even after the second read. As proof: I ended up marking even more pages now than when I first read it:
To end this review, I thought I'd share my own ten reasons why I love being Catholic (just ten because I don't think I can get to 50 yet -- maybe when I get a little bit older :D). Some may have already appeared in the book, while others are my additions. In no particular order, and no more explanations because it would take a bit of time to write -- I'll post about them soon (promise!) in my personal blog if you are interested. :)
1. Universal Church. 2. The Mass. 3. Mary. 4. The Rosary. 5. Pope (Blessed) John Paul II. 6. The Eucharist. 7. Ash Wednesday and Holy Week. 8. Simbang Gabi (Dawn Mass/Advent novena mass) 9. Confession. 10. The saints.
I am glad I reread this book and I'm glad I reread it at this time. Still a favorite for sure. :) (less)
This is months overdue and at one point I wonder if I should still write one for this book because I am not sure if I st...moreOriginal post at One More Page
This is months overdue and at one point I wonder if I should still write one for this book because I am not sure if I still remember the important points I have noted and underlined (Yes, I underlined parts of this book -- the only time I have underlined a book again since school). But then a few friends are discussing The Screwtape Letters online and for a moment there, I thought I already wrote a review for this. Turns out I haven't yet. Suddenly, I felt like writing one again.
But I don't think this will be really a review, but more of a reflection of sorts on the book. I've wanted to have a copy of Mere Christianity since college, back when I was still very active in my Catholic community, CFC Youth for Christ, and back when I was just discovering The Chronicles of Narnia (I'm a late bloomer). I finally received a copy of this for my birthday from my brother, I think but it languished on my TBR for several reasons: I wanted to read it but I admit that I fell asleep several times when I started it, and then later, I didn't feel that I was ready for it just yet. I did read some parts of the book back when I was in a low moment when I started working, and this quote remains a favorite until now:
We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity — like perfect charity — will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You can ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, we need not despair even in our worst for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.
The book buddy thread for Mere Christianity was the perfect opportunity to read it again, but alas, I lagged behind terribly for many, many reasons. Sorry, book buddies! ^^; I still finished the book, of course, albeit very, very late, and then I took my own sweet time thinking about how to write about it because I really had no idea where to start -- not because I didn't like it or I liked it too much. It's just...different.
Here's what I think about Mere Christianity (and C.S. Lewis' other non-fiction books, for that matter): they're not for quick reading. The C.S. Lewis books I've read in the past year were always the kind of books that pack a punch and would make you pause several times to reflect on what he said. Another thing is it's not easy reading, because more often than not, Lewis' words tend to poke at those parts of us that we hide. That's one of the reasons why the quote above hit me a lot, because it's the truth, and based on experience, the truth is never really comfortable at first. On the other hand, books like Mere Christianityoffer a lot of wisdom, although I think I wouldn't have understood if I read it earlier in my faith walk. Perhaps this is why I read this at this time instead of when I got it?
To cut the long story short -- I liked Mere Christianitya lot. I expected it from when I first asked for this book. It wasn't difficult to read as far as writing is concerned, because Lewis approached the topics in a very human manner and I didn't really sense self-righteousness in any of the chapters. What he said isn't easy to follow, but they're actually quite practical and some of them turned out to be things that I already knew, but somehow forgot, or just denied until it was brought out into the light. Like what the introduction in my copy said:
The Christianity Lewis espouses is humane, but not easy; it asks us to recognize that the great religious struggle is not fought on a spectacular battleground, but within the ordinary human heart, when every morning we awake and feel the pressures of the day crowding in on us, and we must decide what sort of immortals we wish to be.
In the end, this mere Christianity that Lewis wrote about is still a choice, the free will given to us by God in His infinite love and mercy. It's a lot to think about. Mere Christianityis book that is meant to be read not just once, just like The Screwtape Letters, because this is the kind of book that hits you differently with every reading, depending on your current situation.
As much as I liked this, though, and as much as I think this offers a lot of practical advice in how to live as a Christian, I must remember that this is still nothing compared to the Bible. This is the kind of book that could easily take over the Bible because it's really easier to read, and I think it may even end up being some sort of how-to in being a Christian. It's not. Funny that I would have to quote another book to enforce that point, butThe Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning sums this final thought up accurately:
The Word we study has to be the Word we pray. My personal experience of the relentless tenderness of God came not from exegetes, theologians, and spiritual writers, but from sitting still in the presence of the living Word and beseeching Him to help me understand with my head and heart His written Word. Sheer scholarship alone cannot reveal to us the gospel of grace. We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly. When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited.
Last: I have to admit, one of the perks I got from reading this was finally reading the source of Brooke Fraser's C.S. Lewis Song, one of my favorite songs ever. :)
Just yesterday, I was chatting with one of my best friends who is also my old household head in Youth for Christ (YFC)....moreOriginal post at One More Page
Just yesterday, I was chatting with one of my best friends who is also my old household head in Youth for Christ (YFC). She was telling me about her latest Kindle purchase (if you're curious, it's Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel). I told her about how I was reading A Grief Observed in my Kindle, and added that I wanted to buy other C.S. Lewis books there, too, because I realized that his books are a bit too expensive if I buy it here in full price, and I don't really have the patience to dig for them in bargain bookstores. My friend laughed (as much as you can online, anyway) and she said she's not ready for C.S. Lewis, at least not yet now. This is coming from my friend who would spend her spare time watching Hillsong United worship videos, mind you.
Today I realized that I've read so many Christian books but I've never really read any of C.S. Lewis. It's not that I don't have his books, too. I have Mere Christianity and the boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia but I haven't finished any of them. Strange? In a way, yes. But thinking about that and my conversation with my friend yesterday, I think it may not be that strange, because I realize that I may have not been ready to read C.S. Lewis' books back when I first got them.
Truth be told, I wouldn't have gotten A Grief Observed if it wasn't one of the books for discussion in our Goodreads group. It's been a long time since I actually cracked open a non-fiction book, and whenever I do, I never finish them. Another reason why I would not have gotten this by myself is because I can't relate to grief, at least, not yet.
I am a stranger to grief. Sure, I know some people who have passed away and I have shed tears for them, but I have never really felt the same kind of grief that I know other people have felt. The last closest relative I know who passed away was my maternal grandmother, and that's ten years ago, and all the other deaths I've heard about is not close enough to me for me to actually grieve the way other people do.
But I'm not taking this one lightly. I still feel afraid, because I know that as I grow older, the closer I am and everyone I know and love and care for is to death. It's a fact of life. And then I remember: it's not a matter of growing older. Everyone is close to death, myself included. No one can escape it, and the only question we can ask (and will probably never get the answer until we are right there at that moment) is When?
A Grief Observed doesn't have an answer to any of what I said, unfortunately. I knew C.S. Lewis was a great writer, but this book is not like any book I've read before. I can't empathize because like I said, I haven't lost anyone very close to me to death just yet (and I'm very grateful for that of course), so I read this as if I was a spectator. It almost feels like I was intruding into something very private, as if I wasn't supposed to be reading them. These are the thoughts of a man who has lost the love of his life to something he can't fight. These are the ramblings of a man who has a solid foundation for his faith yet he couldn't find foothold now that he experienced this big blow. This is a man who is grieving, period.
I don't think anyone can ever explain how it is to grieve. I believe, like falling in love (yes, I have to connect it to that), everyone has their own process of grieving. Crying, writing, hiding yourself -- what works for you. Like death, no one is exempt from grief, but I think we do have a choice on what to believe while we grieve. Do we believe that the other person is already in a better place? Do we believe that he/she is at peace? Do we believe that God has them? Do we believe that death actually exists? What would you believe in?
I've written so much, but I think this is one of the hardest reviews I've ever written. There's so much in A Grief Observed that can be said, that can be quoted, that can be criticized, even, but not so much words to write on what it is really about. It's unlike any other non-fiction book I read, and maybe this is because it's raw, and it really comes from the author's heart. This is probably the first book that I couldn't really relate to, yet I also could at the same time. Perhaps C.S. Lewis wasn't just grieving about his wife, but maybe he is also grieving about his faith, and his primitive notions of how he sees God and His love? I'm just speculating. But if that is right, then I also grieve with him for the same reasons.
Two years ago, on this day, I woke up and found it was raining hard. It was a normal occurrence, of course, since it was the rainy season at that time...moreTwo years ago, on this day, I woke up and found it was raining hard. It was a normal occurrence, of course, since it was the rainy season at that time. I was all ready to snuggle down into bed and enjoy a rainy bed weather, thanking that I was safe and sound with my family, at home.
Then this happened:
It was two years ago today that Typhoon Ketsana, locally own as Ondoy, hit our country, submerging Metro Manila underwater. It should have been a normal day, especially for us since it has never flooded in the 20 years that I lived where I lived. But that day changed everything, and in a span of hours, we found ourselves trying to secure all the important things we own away from the rising waters of a flood that got into our house, and eventually evacuating to our neighbor's house where we stayed the next two nights.
So that's why I felt that this collection of essays edited by Elbert Or, After the Storm, is pretty much a required reading for me. When you survive a disaster like this, it's either you completely turn away and try to forget about it, or move on and remember it every now and then, using it to make you a little bit stronger. I choose the latter.
After the Storm is filled with essays from different people sharing their various experiences that happened before, during and after the typhoon. These essays range from a creative piece told from the point of view of a floating hardbound book, to a senator's reflections on the effects of the typhoon and the resiliency of the Filipino spirit, to a person's thoughts on volunteering and even a firsthand account of a survivor from Provident Village in Marikina, one of the hardest hits of the flood. Needless to say, this was one of the books that I should not have read in public, because I found my eyes filling with tears every now and then. It's hard to forget the fear, the disbelief, the wondering if things will ever be the same again after this, and if we will ever even recover from this.
To be honest, I wasn't really feeling the first part of the book. It felt like some of the entries were written just to impress people, or to pat their egos about volunteering. I couldn't relate, and I felt like it lacked the proper empathy that victims survivors would look for. I felt exasperated at the truth that shows just how unprepared we are, and how much the government lacked, and how some people pointed fingers at that. Some talked so much about volunteering that it almost didn't sound sincere. On the other side of the spectrum, there was one essay that talked about how it is better not to volunteer and instead go back to work and donate money because it would be more helpful. As much as it made sense, I was kind of miffed. Are you just trying to comfort yourself with the fact that you didn't take time off from work to help out? Come on. Tell that to the people who's on the receiving end of the help.
But then somewhere in the end, I realized that maybe, just like grieving, there is never really a single way in moving on from calamities such as this. Maybe people cope differently. Maybe some people get so moved that they have to move physically, that they have to do something about it, such as organize a sandwich drive or volunteer for various relief efforts. Maybe some people get so shocked that they can't do anything, except maybe find a way to spread the word. Maybe some people get moved to write. Maybe, some victims start off with shock, sadness, disbelief until they find the strength in themselves and in other people to help them become survivors instead.
There are people who suffered much more than I did, but it wouldn't change the fact that Typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy changed my life. I think and I hope it changed everyone's lives, with it has tested us. Anthologies such as this may not be perfect, it may not contain a very accurate account of everything that happened in those dark and stormy days, but I must agree that it's a way of reminding us that it happened. And while we must move on, we must not forget.
Two years ago today, Ondoy surprised all of us.
We were there.
Yes, we are still here.
And yes, we are still standing.
And maybe, that's really the point of this book.(less)
I got this book a year ago during the book launch, not because I knew the author or I was even really remotely intereste...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I got this book a year ago during the book launch, not because I knew the author or I was even really remotely interested -- I got this simply because I wanted to support local authors and their work. Of course, with the not-so-high interest level, I pushed this down my TBR until I finally pulled it out so I can finally read it. Paper Cutsis a collection of stories from journalist/writer Pam Pastor based on her adventures in her "crazy life". I liked the idea, given that I'm a blogger myself, although I doubt that my life is as crazy as hers.
I enjoyed Paper Cuts for the most part, especially the ones where the author shared anecdotes about her family. There's nothing like crazy family stories to set the tone of a non-fiction book. I also liked her crazy commuting/cab stories because I share the same things too. However...my enjoyment kind of stopped there. After some time, I just couldn't relate much to the other parts of the book. It feels like maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I wanted to have the same adventures as she did -- meet different celebrities, go around the world for her job and party when there's time -- but I'm actually quite happy with my own life. These stories were good to read, but it's not something that I would probably gush about, unless they were my own experiences, that is. But knowing (boring) old me, I don't think I'll even reach as many crazy experiences like that.
It's not a bad book, per se. The writing was very witty and again, there were several stories that made me chuckle, but I was a bit apathetic for the rest of the stories. It's just one of those books that I am not a part of the intended audience. But you know what, maybe that's why I haven't heard of the author until her book came out -- maybe it's because we're just in entirely different circles. Overall, it's an okay book.(less)
I've only heard about Lourd De Veyra through friends, because most of my friends are big fans of him. I've seen him ever...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've only heard about Lourd De Veyra through friends, because most of my friends are big fans of him. I've seen him every now and then on his TV5 segment, Word of the Lourd, and I have read some of his articles in his Spot.ph blog. But I was never really one who followed his stuff regularly. I wasn't really 100% excited to attend his book launch when I was invited, except that I can't really say no to a free, local book. Unfortunately, the launch happened on the night that tropical storm Falcon made an ocean of Manila.
I was glad when the publisher still sent me a book for review because despite my being a not-so-much-of-a-fan, I was curious about the book. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how nice the book looked. Okay, it wasn't just nice, it was quite beautiful for a local publication. My fellow bloggers and I often complain about the print quality of the local books here, but The Best of This is a Crazy Planets is far superior than the others. The paper quality is nice, the cover design is pretty and illustrations/artwork were there for every article. I am delighted to see that it was affordable for its quality, too - P195 (less than 4 USD) is a pretty good price to pay for a book that looks this pretty.
That price is even more justified once you read what's inside. Like I said, I've only read a few of Lourd's articles online, so I was pretty new to his writing. Lourd De Veyra offers a funny, oftentimes sarcastic but very real commentaries on Philippine current events, people, culture and even showbiz. I found myself giggling and having to hold it back whenever I'm reading this in a public place. Some of them, I can't really relate to, some of them, I agree with, some of them, I just find really, really funny. Underneath its wit and sarcasm, Lourd's articles show a lot of truth in the current state of our country. It's not always pretty, and sometimes I feel bad when I realize that it is the ugly truth about the Philippines. But even so, Lourd never ever showed a hint of not liking his home country despite this truth (at least, that's the impression on me). It's like he writes it all out, shrugs and then says, "This is a crazy planet." Or planets.
Why buy this book when you can read it online? Well, if you're not enticed by the beautiful quality of this book and its relatively cheap price, think of it this way: you can read his articles even without Internet, even if you're in the remotest areas in this crazy planet we live in. And I think that's pretty much worth it, right?
The Best of This is a Crazy Planets is now available for Php195 in local bookstores nationwide.(less)
When the new year rolled around, I was more than ready to start a new book, eager to start filling my 2012 shelf. Howeve...moreOriginal post at One More Page
When the new year rolled around, I was more than ready to start a new book, eager to start filling my 2012 shelf. However, it felt like the books I was starting weren't really making the cut. I couldn't really get into it. It may have been just some kind of New Year blues or something -- I don't know. I received Astigirl as a review copy from Flipside on the first day of work and was all set to read it later in the month. Until decided to take a peek at it after work...and I could not put it down.
Astigirl: A Grown Girl Living On Her Own Terms is Tweet Sering's account of how she turned into her own kind of tough girl. Tweet talks about a range of things: from a fan letter to Angelina Jolie, to a family discussion on whether Manny Pacquiao's politics, to how she let go of her finances, to how she decided to drop everything to follow her dream. She talks about serious things about a man she loves and her art, and how she was asked to write her grandmother's biography to seemingly not-so-serious things such as how she wants to strangle Bella and kick Edward as she read New Moon. With a warm, personal tone akin to a friend sharing her experiences to another, Tweet Sering makes her readers feel that if she can do it, then we can, too.
Ah. That almost slump I had was instantly gone after I read the first entry in this book. Astigirl is the perfect book to read for the new year. It's got all this freshness and honesty that no other fiction book can offer. I thought it would be all about the kind of toughness that I wouldn't be able to appreciate or relate to, but I was wrong. Think of this as sort of a Filipino version of Eat Pray Love, but less of the annoying over-privileged "I have money to travel all over the world" feel. In fact, Tweet talked about how she didn't really feel a strong attachment to money, something I know I had to learn.
I was kind of glad I read this on my Kindle because it makes it easy to highlight quotes. Believe me, when I got to the middle, I realized I was highlighting almost every other page. Maybe it was because of the new year, or maybe it was because Tweet Sering talks about things that every young Filipino woman is thinking but is too confused or too afraid to set out for: to do something meaningful. I would share with you my favorite quotes but they're too many of them, so you'll just have to read it for yourself. :)
Being nonfiction meant not everyone will agree with this, but it also means that it can be read again and deliver a different message altogether. Astigirl is a great book to start the year with, and I think it would also make the perfect gift for girlfriends and girl friends. I don't necessarily agree with everything and I thought some of the entries were a bit long, but I really enjoyed the book and I would definitely browse through it again.
So, if you're a Filipino woman in your 20's or 30's and if you're feeling a little beat from life or you need a little inspiration, get Astigirl by Tweet Sering. It will do you a lot of good, and hopefully, it will also give you that push you need to go after what you need to do to be your own Astigirl.(less)
I had no idea who Lino Rulli was until I heard him on Lifeteen's Holy Week podcast, which was actually his show with Mark Hart the Bible Geek as guest. I listen to a few Catholic podcasts, but I have never heard of him until then, so I admit that I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started listening to the episode that Good Friday. But a few minutes in, I was already charmed by this funny Catholic guy, which led me to downloading other episodes of The Catholic Guy Show from iTunes. He plugged his book, Sinner, several times in the other episodes, but I wasn't really sure if I want to buy it because I'm picky with books like that. A few more laugh out loud episodes, however (he and his co-host Fr. Rob kept me awake during my night shift work days!), I knew I wanted his book. Then came my friend Monique, bearing good news and new books, and she sent me the ebook version of Sinner as a gift.
That is divine providence, IMHO.
But I digress. I wasn't planning to read this too soon, but when I loaded the book on my Kindle, I found myself starting the book. And reading. Two days later, I am done.
What just happened there, oy?
Sinner by Lino Rulli is exactly what the subtitle says it is: The Catholic Guy's Funny, Feeble Attempts to be a Faithful Catholic. This book had me from the introduction, particularly this line:
I want to be more faithful, but I'm scared. Scared that I'll try and fail. And in some ways, even more scared that I'll succeed.
Lino Rulli is not a reformed Catholic. He's not one who had a bad past and found the light and then turned and had a holy life afterwards. Sinner is not that kind of book where the author talks about the dark days and then the conversion and the days in the light. Sinner is about a guy who was born and raised Catholic, and still had doubts and mishaps while knowing God. It's basically the story of every human who's a part of the Catholic church and is trying (but often failing) to live the way God called them to be.
I can't remember laughing so much while I was reading a book, and a non-fiction Catholic book at that. Lino is as witty and funny on paper as he is on radio/podcast, and I can imagine him really saying these stories on his show. These are confessions that I think some traditional and strictly religious Catholics would shake their heads at, but would touch the hearts of the everyday struggling Catholic and make them smile and be comforted that they aren't alone in their struggles and their journey. Lino's stories range from his dad being an organ grinder to meeting the Pope, to confession (several times), to his mother and his single life woes. I'd like to believe that there's something for every Catholic in this book, but I will let you be the judge of that (which is my not-so-subtle way of saying, Guys, you should really read this book!).
The only thing I wanted after I finished reading this was that there was more, because I really and truly enjoyed this one. Oh, and possibly a story about Fr. Rob. :P This book reminds me of Flashbang by Mark Steele, but possibly a bit better, because hey, it's Catholic! And it's not often I read books about the faith I grew up in. There's nothing like feeling a sense of community while reading about confession (and how hard it is to do) or confirmation or (Blessed) Pope John Paul II in one book. If you're ever the one who tried reading Catholic books but got bored or felt that you can't relate, then I suggest you try this book. It's funny, refreshing, borderline irreverent but definitely easy to relate to, because when it all comes down to it, we are all sinners, period.
Sinner by Lino Rulli may just be one of the most honest books I've read this year, and I think based on this honesty alone, it deserves all the stars I can give. And a spot on my favorites shelf. :)
I wanted to be as honest as possible about my faith, my doubts, and my sins. To let people see my pride, my jealousy, my wrath, my lust. But also see someone who's still trying to fight the good fight of faith. (p.141)