I'm reading the notes and enjoying the many illustrations as I enjoy listening to Derek Jacobi's narration of the separate books which are gathered wi...moreI'm reading the notes and enjoying the many illustrations as I enjoy listening to Derek Jacobi's narration of the separate books which are gathered within this collection. This book is beautiful and made to last with a lot of fascinating information within. For example, I now know more than I ever thought I would about the history of the graphite pencil.
The one thing I dislike is the editor's choice to include commentary and opinions of those who enjoy pretending that Holmes and Watson are real people. This can lead to very tiresome discussions about timing of events, who did what "really," and so forth. Luckily, one learns how to identify those parts fairly quickly and can just skip over them.(less)
The Church's calendar is an intricate, complex, and beautiful technology. It is the work of many human hands and human minds trained to deal with holy things. The seasons turn and the feasts interplay like the gears in a priceless clock. They regulate our religious life and enrich our spiritual life.
They seem to happen automatically, but only because the Church oversees the apparatus, averts temporal collisions, and finely tunes all the components to make the year as festive as it can be.
I am not sure exactly why but one of the things I have always loved about the Church is the liturgical year. The idea that there are a steady series of seasons and feast days linked with our calendar year enhances the richness of my life. Perhaps it is because my mother taught us to love nature and the turn of seasons simply because she herself loves them so much. Perhaps it is because, long before I was a Christian, I read and reread Rumer Godden's masterpiece In This House of Brede where the liturgical year is a continual background to the story.
“Don’t you see, it’s like a pageant. Our Cardinal has said the liturgy entertains as well as feeds us ... Yes, we’re not angels but humans," said Dame Clare, "and human nature is made so that it needs variety. The Church is like a wise mother and has given us this great cycle of the liturgical year with its different words and colours. You’ll see how you will learn to welcome the feast days and the saints’ days as they come round, each with a different story and, as it were, a different aspect; they grow very dear, though still exacting.”
Having unknowingly absorbed all that I suppose it is only fitting that I really enjoyed The Feasts. It covers the background and reasons for feast days, the liturgical calendar (and our calendar in general), and how these enrich our Christian lives. Even those of us who are well informed on the subject will find new information as well as good reminders of things we may have forgotten. For example this is supremely logical but just never occurred to me:
Sunday did not become simply a Christian version of the Sabbath. Christians were wary of enforcing a day of rest, as such enforcement had been turned on Jesus during his earthly ministry (see, for example, Mark 2:23-27). In any event, most Christians could not refrain from labor on Sunday because it was an ordinary workday in the Greco-Roman world.
Christian observance centered on the Mass, which was in most places offered very early in the morning (before work), but sometimes also in the evening (after work). ...
Certainly The Feasts is a worthy accompaniment to Cardinal Wuerl's and Mike Aquilina's previous two books, The Church and The Mass. Taken all together they provide a thorough, accessible, and much needed look at aspects of the Roman Catholic faith which seem very mysterious to outside eyes.(less)
This will be my fourth time reading WWZ, though I think it will probably be more like a high-level skimming since I just finished listening to the aud...moreThis will be my fourth time reading WWZ, though I think it will probably be more like a high-level skimming since I just finished listening to the audio book a few months ago (which was my 3rd time through the book). I'm really looking forward to it and to the resultant discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. This is Scott's choice.
My review is below. ============
It goes by many names: “The Crisis,” “The Dark Years,” “The WalkingPlague,” as well as newer and more “hip” titles such as “World War Z” or “Z War One.” I personally dislike this last moniker as it implies an inevitable “Z War Two.” For me, it will always be “The Zombie War,” and while many may protest the scientific accuracy of the word zombie, they will be hard-pressed to discover a more globally accepted term for the creatures that almost caused our extinction. Zombie remains a devastating word, unrivaled in its power to conjure up so many memories or emotions, and it is these memories, and emotions, that are the subject of this book.
This record of the greatest conflict in human history owes its genesis to a much smaller, much more personal conflict between me and the chairperson of the United Nation’s Postwar Commission Report. My initialwork for the Commission could be described as nothing short of a labor of love. My travel stipend, my security access, my battery of translators, both human and electronic, as well as my small, but nearly priceless voice-activated transcription “pal” (the greatest gift the world’s slowest typist could ask for), all spoke to the respect and value my work was afforded on this project. So, needless to say, it came as a shock when I found almost half of that work deleted from the report’s final edition. ...
World War Z (WWZ) is the book that began the zombie invasion of publishing. You may thank or curse Max Brooks, depending on your feeling about the genre. Actually, WWZ is the follow-up to Brooks' 2003 book, The Zombie Survival Guide. Where that book was a twist on more practical manuals, however, WWZ is a much more serious novel than one might expect.
In this "future history" a reporter travels the world to interview key individuals who fought in the zombie wars after a virus surfaces that sweeps over populations in an epidemic, leaving huge numbers of zombies roaming the earth. The clever premise provides much food for thought about how individuals and governments respond to unexpected emergencies ... or fail to respond. Brooks uses this vehicle not only to tell an excellent story but to skewer governmental policies and lambast the powerful who take advantage of any situation for their own gain. This is a real page turner that resulted in many late nights as I watched civilization collapse and wondered what was found that allowed victory over the zombie hordes
UPDATE: May 2013
This is my 3rd reading of World War Z, this time via the new unabridged audiobook version (review copy from SFFaudio, God bless 'em!). I had the previous audio version but never could make myself listen to it because I knew it was abridged.
I wondered how the documentary-style story would hold up with so many different voices taking up the tale in turn. The answer is that I now admire even more Max Brooks' talent in weaving these voices together to make a suspenseful story. I didn't think I could admire the book more, actually. But I am happy to be proven wrong. It is tailor-made for audio and, although I now feel as though I went through the war myself, I also feel a quiet optimism for the future. So, there you go ...
I've heard that Max Brooks' answer when asked to comment on the upcoming World War Z movie is something like, "Well, they have the same name." I, for one, am grateful for the movie since it prompted this unabridged version. And I hold out hope for the movie since I was among the few who enjoyed I, Robot the movie, just as much as I, Robot the book. They are just different animals. Fingers crossed, that WWZ is the same.(less)
Although I am pleased that the time with the Dursleys has been cut drastically short in the later books, it seems to have been replaced by Harry's bad...moreAlthough I am pleased that the time with the Dursleys has been cut drastically short in the later books, it seems to have been replaced by Harry's bad-temper at being misunderstood and insistence on investigating problems that no one else agrees is a problem. That is not to say that he might not be right, but the persistence of the bad-temper and "misunderstood" attitude puts me distinctly in sympathy with Sirus Black's ancestor's portrait in the last book when he acidly pointed out how those attitudes are common and boring in the young.
That aside, I'm enjoying this book just as much as the others ... at about chapter 10. As always, I'm still amazed at how little I remember of the plot, whether small points or large ...
UPDATE Ok, seriously. I'm on chapter 26, on the trail of the horucrux with Harry and Dumbledore. How can I NOT remember one thing about this? On the other hand, I can testify that it is a very suspenseful book, well written ... and one I can't stop listening to...
FINAL - SPOILERS INCLUDED *sniffle* Ok, I have finished. I did remember that Dumbledore died. I did remember that somehow the book ended with all fans violently arguing about whether Snape was good or evil ... and that I adamantly maintained that Dumbledore was asking Snape to kill him, which Snape didn't want to do. I think the reason I tended to forget the end of this book was that I got this battle confused with the bigger battle at the end of The Deathly Hallows.
Well only time will tell that, as I have requested the audio version of Deathly Hallows but am waiting in line. The last movie must have made many more people than me revisit the audio versions.
What a wonderful, satisfying book. Very dark, of course, but it would have to be because Harry must be left with nothing between him and Voldemort for the final reckoning. And that can't happen without losing loved ones along the way. At least not in classic stories it can't.(less)
The Sacrament of Penance heals our souls when we hurt it by sinning. When we confess our sins to a priest, it is God who hears us and forgives our sins.18 God always forgives us if we are sorry, no matter how big or how many our sins are.
The Bible tells us the story of how Jesus treated a woman who had committed a big sin.19 She had been arrested, and the people were going to throw rocks at her.
Jesus came and told the people, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." One by one the people put down their rocks and left.
When only Jesus and the woman were left he told her, "Go, and do not sin again."
God always forgives us when we ask, but he also asks us to change our behavior. The Sacrament of Penance helps us with this.20
18. CCC. 1461 19. John 8:3-11 20. CCC 1468
This is a really terrific little book that I think might help parents as much as the children they read it with. For one thing, Kendra Tierney strips matters down to basics, as you can see from the excerpt above, to help everyone see the basis for all the ins and outs of the sacrament.
It begins with a brief glossary and then moves through a series of simple questions and answers. This is followed up with a brief look at a few saints who have links to confession, a simple examination of conscience, and a quick review of what actually happens during the sacrament. A really nice feature is that the cover has a quick reference on the front and back flaps containing the steps of the sacrament, the Act of Contrition, and an extremely brief examination of conscience. Personally, I found the examination of conscience really nice as a way to get back to basics in my own life. That may say more about me than it does about the book but, again, I think adults will find this touches them when they are reading through it.
I'm not crazy about the illustrations since they all look as if children drew them. Skilled children, to be sure, but children nonetheless. Maybe some children enjoy looking at pictures their peers could have drawn. I never found them appealing no matter what age I was. Of course, this is purely a matter of personal taste so don't let that stop you from picking up this gem of a book.(less)
This book is structured around a half dozen particular questions we've been asked time and again—questions that are interesting in themselves but that tend also to presuppose a conflict of some sort between religion and science.
This intent leads to rich, interesting dialogues. I use the word dialogues intentionally because the book is structured as a conversation between the two authors who are astronomers for the Vatican. Each is a highly accredited scientist and a Jesuit. The broad topics they discuss:
Biblical Genesis or the Big Bang? (how science and religion can have different but complementary ways of viewing the same subject)
What Happened to Poor Pluto? (how scientific theories and ideas change over time)
What Really Happened to Galileo? (how religion can or should respond when science changes)
What Was the Star of Bethlehem? (how can God be active in a universe governed by scientific laws)
What's Going to Happen When the World Ends? (How can humans be important to God in a universe that will come to an end)
Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (what could the message of Christ mean in an endless univers with countless planets and possibly countless other intelligent races)
The list above doesn't properly convey the riches contained within. Each chapter careens from science to faith to history and then back again. It is really like following an actual conversation where you can never tell exactly what sorts of ideas will flow from the give-and-take.
Also, each chapter asks you to image a different setting which helps to illustrate the points they are making. One is in the Chicago Art Institute, another at Antarctica, yet another at the Restaurant at the End of the World. If that last one makes you think of Douglas Adams books you are correct. These fellows have active senses of humor and a love of science fiction to boot.
As an example, the Star of Bethlehem chapter was set in the Papal Summer Palace with the Vatican Observatory telescopes. It went something like this:
-Scientific possibilities for unusual events in the sky around the time Jesus was born, including conjunctions of planets -Possible interpretations of scripture (Matthew) about the event including how standards in interpretation have shifted over the ages -Who were the Magi, why did they come from the East and what part could astrology play -Ancient cosmology of the spheres -Comets -God's actions in human history and the true nature of a miracle -Old versus new ways of thinking about the physical world -What is a mystery: scientific versus religious mysteries -How do men of science and faith see this event as opportunities for encounters with the divine
Every chapter was like a roller coaster ride of new ideas, melding of concepts, and considerations of different opinions ... exactly like following a lively conversation with a couple of friends.
The authors are really good at talking about both science and faith in ways that are eminently reasonable and understandable. I was wary of the dialogue format but wound up enjoying it a lot because they could use it to show a variety of points of view, including the points where they disagreed with each other. I think this would be an excellent book to share with all sorts of folks, whether Catholic or not.
This seems like the perfect book for someone who is interested in both faith and science. And if you are interested in one and wary of the other, I think it could be very fruitful if for no other reason than to understand how the other side thinks. If you keep an open mind, you may be surprised at how well faith and science go together. Like a couple of folded hands, in fact.
One day Howard and his sister Awful (you soon discover just how "awful" Anthea is and the reason for her nickname becomes evident)come home from schoo...moreOne day Howard and his sister Awful (you soon discover just how "awful" Anthea is and the reason for her nickname becomes evident)come home from school to find a huge goon in their kitchen. He says he was sent by Archer because Howard's dad hasn't turned in his quarterly payment of 2000 words. Just who Archer is and how 2000 words can be payment for anything turn are the beginning of a quest that take Howard and Awful on an adventure that truly is indescribable. It is a mystery that constantly shifts. Just when you think it's figured out, an entirely new dimension is revealed. It is fantasy where every detail matters. Every detail. Perhaps this preface will show just how indefinable the plot is:
This book will prove the following ten facts: 1. A Goon is a being who melts into the foreground and sticks there. 2. Pigs have wings, making them hard to catch. 3. All power corrupts, but we need electricity. 4. When an irresistible force meets an immovable object, the result is a family fight. 5. Music does not always sooth the troubled beast. 6. An Englishman's home is his castle. 7. The female of the species is more deadly than the male. 8. One black eye deserves another. 9. Space is the final frontier, and so is the sewage farm. 10. It pays to increase your word power.
And it does. Just read it.
I must add that I read this book in one day. One day. I was astounded by the fact that three-fourths of the way through, Jones did a "reveal" about a character I loved which completely ruined my previous love. I hated that betrayal. THEN, she did it again with a different character. Again, I felt betrayed.
THEN, by the end of the book, she had flipped those reveals so that I loved those characters as much as before. Simply amazing.(less)
If the book just was published can I still call it a classic?
If I just got it, can I really know it is 5 stars?
Let's just say that I have every confid...moreIf the book just was published can I still call it a classic?
If I just got it, can I really know it is 5 stars?
Let's just say that I have every confidence in Nigel Slater's Ripe being just as fantastic as Tender (his vegetable garden and cookery book) was last year.
It has the same gorgeous photography in a stunningly produced book. It has Nigel Slater's same quirky honesty. The only difference here is that the focus is on fruit.
As I'm at the beginning, I can't say much more. Except to confide that just reading the first page of the introduction made me look at the back yard and think, "blueberry bushes?" (Right. From the person who finds container gardening a chore. But still, it made me consider it.)(less)
This will be my umpteenth time reading this classic ghost story. Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors and this is my choice for October's dis...moreThis will be my umpteenth time reading this classic ghost story. Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors and this is my choice for October's discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find.
I've read the book so many times that I thought I'd see what it is like to listen to the audio version. I am delighted to find is it read Bernadette Dunne who is a favorite of mine ever since listening to her narration of The Hiding Place.
UPDATE The problem with knowing a book so well is that if the narrator isn't adding something new, then they are (inadvertently) detracting from the book for me. Sadly this is the case. It isn't Dunne's fault, but in this instance there is nothing like my Penguin copy for the "real" book ... which is still terrifying me, by the way.
FINAL -- UPDATED The ending of this book hits me hard every time. This time I was actually struck by agreement with Mrs. Montague (which is a real first). But she was the only one at the end who had a sensible suggestion and it should have been taken ... in fact the doctor's rejection of it is the only weak place in the plot, to my mind.
[UPDATE: a conversation with my daughter, Hannah, brought up another possibility for what I saw as a plot flaw. Wow. Stephen King WISHES The Shining had a house as sly and crafty as this one.]
Truly excellent, terrifying, and yet ... in a way that is foreign to much of the blunt force and violence that passes for horror fiction these days.(less)
Julie can't sleep because of the incessant pounding while Scott won't let Mrs. Dudley clear the table. Both are terrified while they discuss The Haunt...moreJulie can't sleep because of the incessant pounding while Scott won't let Mrs. Dudley clear the table. Both are terrified while they discuss The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.(less)
This book was a chance recommendation by an acquaintance when I was at our church's St. Jude library. I'm really grateful as I never would have picked...moreThis book was a chance recommendation by an acquaintance when I was at our church's St. Jude library. I'm really grateful as I never would have picked up this page-turner otherwise.
Workmen lowering a floor led to the discovery of tombs beneath the basilica. This began an archaeological search for the fabled bones of the apostle St. Peter which tradition held lay beneath the altar. Pope Pius XII had a natural interest in "modern science" and gave the four Vatican archaeologists permission to search as long as the altar itself wasn't disturbed and they said nothing to anyone about it. Once the grave was discovered the mystery continues with the search for St. Peter's bones. The series of circumstances that occur to hide them and then uncover them are like something fictional. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
The author has a real talent for communicating archaeological information in laymen's terms. It read like a first class detective story and I often found myself staying up way too late at night to see what was discovered next. Also fascinating was the wealth of information about Christian worship in Rome during the early centuries. This book may be difficult to find as the person who recommended it told me it is no longer being published in this country. That may account for the high price of used books I saw at the Amazon listing. Nevertheless, it is well worth seeking out.
UPDATE I see that the book is available on the Kindle, although some reviewers mention errors which indicate a lack of correction to the scans used to import the book. Those may have been corrected by now. The sample I downloaded had no errors.(less)
SHORT VERSION: I can think of an awful lot of people who I'd give this book to:
Christians trying to understand atheists (like a pal of mine who said,...moreSHORT VERSION: I can think of an awful lot of people who I'd give this book to:
Christians trying to understand atheists (like a pal of mine who said, "I just don't know how those people don't believe in God." I almost shoved my copy into her hands. Almost.)
Atheists trying to understand Christians.
Protestants trying to understand Catholic teachings.
Catholics trying to understand Church teachings.
Catholics understand but struggle with following Church teachings.
Anyone wanting an inspirational story of change and redemption.
Yes, that really is an awful lot of people ...
LONG VERSION Jennifer Fulwiler was raised by loving parents who didn't push their atheism on her or do more than tell her to think for herself. However, that in itself was enough to produce a dedicated atheist, especially when told to an intelligent youngster who applied herself with the passion that only youth can muster to facts and logical conclusions.
I looked at the ammonite settled in between my soggy sneakers and I understood for the first time that my fate was no different than its own.
I had always thought of these creatures as being fundamentally different from me. They were the dead things, I was the alive thing, and that's how it would be forever. Now I wondered what had kept me from understanding that to look at these long-dead life-forms was to look at a crystal ball of what lay in store for me—except that, unless I happened to die by falling into some soft mud, I wouldn't end up a fossil. Ten million years from now, there would be nothing left of me.
There was no solution to my problem, because it wasn't even a problem; it was just a new awareness of reality. But as I took one last glance at the pickup before it disappeared from view. I felt like there was some answer in that brief flash of happiness I'd experienced while driving the truck. The grim truth I'd uncovered hadn't gone away, but it was somehow rendered less significant when I'd been immersed in the distraction of having fun.
Her only encounters with Christians were, frankly, off-putting and tended to be with friends who were not at all equipped to discuss faith versus scientific truth and logic. So Fulwiler spent many years losing herself in fun to distract herself from the awareness of mortality.
When Fulwiler became a wife and mother, the life-altering love she experienced tipped the scale against atheism. It defied logic. It defied scientific explanations. With this realization, she began searching for the truth. That truth led her to a place she'd never have expected, conversion to Catholicism.
On the surface, this is Fulwiler's story of her conversion. However, because she required so much reflection, connection, and research before relinquishing her old beliefs, it is also a primer on logical investigation and thought. Finally, it is a exploration of Catholic teachings and how they apply to modern life. Because Fulwiler had to thoroughly understand what she was learning, she takes care to make sure the reader also understands what she's objecting to or accepting.
This isn't done in a dry or preachy way. Au contraire, I often found myself laughing, especially at the time she sat in a bathroom stall for hours, reading a Bible furiously searching for answers and just as furiously spinning the toilet paper roll to send away people who knocked on the door. And there are moving and insightful moments such as when she is reading C. S. Lewis, listening to Tupak Shakur, and melding her thoughts about both into realizations about hell, heaven, and purgatory.
I recently read St. Augustine's Confessions, the first autobiography ever written. It is a moving and completely honest book about one man's search for ultimate truth. On many levels Fulwiler conveys the same passionate desire to know what is true, what can be trusted, as that young African seeker did 1,600 years ago.
Augustine's book is a classic because it spoke so directly to the people of his time and yet resounds its message through the ages. Other Christian classics do the same. Francis de Sales with his Introduction to the Devout Life, Teresa of Avila with her Interior Castle, and Thérèse of Lisieux with The Story of a Soul all addressed problems of their time with advice that is still applicable and invaluable today. They reach us now because the human soul always struggles with the same problems and they speak in a way that transcends their own particular eras.
Why do I bring them up? Only time will tell if this book is a classic that transcends our time. I think it is nuanced, well written, and relatable enough that it could.
What I do know is that, like those classics, this book was written for our time. Right here, right now, our country and the Western world are crying out for a way to make the world make sense. Jennifer Fulwiler's book spells it out in a way that cannot be ignored by any honest truth seeker. She tells of the truth that transcends mere facts while speaking the language that our modern, science loving, atheistic world understands.
McDermott really does take the pain and fussiness out of producing authentic tasting ethnic foods, in this case Thai cuisine. Leafing through this I d...moreMcDermott really does take the pain and fussiness out of producing authentic tasting ethnic foods, in this case Thai cuisine. Leafing through this I discovered that I had already read it once because her grilled chicken with garlic recipe is a staple of my kitchen. (less)
The phrases "social justice" and "solidarity" could hardly have been more unwisely coined or adapted by the Catholic Church in my opinion. From the mo...moreThe phrases "social justice" and "solidarity" could hardly have been more unwisely coined or adapted by the Catholic Church in my opinion. From the moment I heard them, they turned me off. I always thought they sounded like some lame department name you'd read about in a spy novel set in communist Russia. I mean really - solidarity? What does that even mean to the average person? Nothing.
However, if one digs deeper beneath the stiff, offputting phrases, one finds the heart of Christianity. They mean treating each person as if they belong, going out of one's way to find Christ in each individual, and following God's will (with Christ's help) to help each person one encounters. In other words, fully living your Christian life, whether as an individual or as part of the larger community.
“It’s good that you exist” — carries great power. To someone struggling with alcohol, who drinks away his loneliness, we say, “It’s good that you exist.” To someone who loathes her body and thinks she’s too fat, too skinny, too short, or not good enough, we say, “It’s good that you exist.” To the addict, the slave, the homeless man, even the murderer, we say, “It’s good that you exist.”
This phrase reminds people that they have intrinsic value, regardless of what they produce, or how they look, or if they have it all together. It echoes what God said immediately after creating the first man: “[He] looked at everything he had made, and found it very good” (Gn 1:31).
Next time you want to uplift someone’s dignity, remind them of that wonderful truth: “It’s good that you exist.”
This is ably illustrated by Brandon Vogt's book, which highlights 14 different saints whose lives were spent giving dignity and aid to the less fortunate. Ranging from housewives to priests, in all sorts of different life situations, these people were open enough to God's wishes to do extraordinary things. Vogt also does a great job of helping us relate by contrasting each saint with another one or two who lived out similar "missions" in different ways. He ends each section by relating these saints' larger missions to our own lives, so we can see where we might do more or act in ways that hadn't occurred to us previously.
He ends each section by relating these saints' larger missions to our own lives, so we can see where we might do more or act in ways that hadn't occurred to us previously. This is important because these saints achieved so much that we might feel any small drops of help we can achieve are not going to make a difference. Vogt's gentle questions and examples helps us see that our drops matter because all of them together add up to a large ocean.
And this, no matter what stupid phrase is used to describe it, is something dear to my heart, a lesson I've been learning a little better every day in my 14 years as a Catholic. Each time I've followed that internal prompting, despite my fears of not knowing enough or being rejected or looking stupid, I have been rewarded. My efforts have had effects, in their own small way, which I never could have imagined. And I have grown and changed for the better myself along the way.
I found this book really inspiring. I especially enjoyed the amount of detail Vogt gave for each saint. Even the ones I knew about, like Peter Claver, Frances of Rome, or Dorothy Day, took on unexpected meaning for me because I hadn't realized there was so much I didn't know about them. Of course, there were some who were brand new to me and I really enjoyed learning about their lives.
This is a well written and inspiring book and one that should help us understand that "social justice" and "solidarity" mean "living as a Christian" no matter what your condition in life.
Please Mr. Vogt, may I have another? Perhaps one about the martyrs? You pick the subject. I'll read it.(less)
Paul Thigpen is a favorite author of mine from way back in the days when his books inThe Saints Speak Today series were my favorites (St. Thomas More...morePaul Thigpen is a favorite author of mine from way back in the days when his books in The Saints Speak Today series were my favorites (St. Thomas More and St. Augustine). In fact, I still grab copies of those to give to new converts since they were key to my own experience.
All of which is beside the point, I guess, except to help explain that I've been eagerly awaiting this book ever since I first saw it mentioned.
Like the other books in Tan Book's "A Year With ..." series, it has 365 one-page meditations. As is obvious from the name, it takes you through a year with the saints as your spiritual guides.
Each reading begins with a brief summary from Thigpen to orient the reader to the subject. Then an excerpt from a saint's writings brings a topic to light. This is followed by a question or two which help readers relate fully to what was just read. A brief prayer ends the session. In case you want to know a bit more about a particular saint, there is a brief biography of each in the back of the book.
Tan Books has done this book proud, as with all those in the series. Even if you prefer e-books, this is one you want to hold in your hands, just trust me on this. The cover may not be actual leather but it certainly feels like it. Pages are gilt-edged and the ribbon marker is sturdy. Moreover, the book design is elegant and decorative in an understated but classic way. A Year with the Saints is not only useful but a book that could become an heirloom in your family. Readers will know that I do not give this praise lightly.
I've been reading an entry a day since I received the book, which means I'm up to the 7th or 8th one. So far I've been reminded of the marvel that Scripture achieves in having simple meanings and complex meanings in the same passages, perfect for whichever need you have. I've been reminded of the fact that the reason God can work miracles is because he made nature ... and so he has power over it.
And, I've been reminded that faith and reason go hand in hand. I'll be honest. I didn't need reminding of this particular concept, but I like how St. Thomas More says it so much that this is the one I'm going to share. For one thing, look at his commonplace examples of the handmaid and of eating. They get the point across perfectly and also make me laugh just thinking of them.
Faith and reason
Faith and reason should not be opposed, St. Thomas More reminds us; they should go hand in hand. The use of reason is necessary in matters of faith, but it must always be in service to faith.
Whoever would grasp what he must believe must use reason. Yet reason must not resist faith, but rather walk with her, waiting on her as her handmaid. And even though at times reason seems contrary to faith, yet in truth faith never gets along without her.
The handmaid who loses all restraint, or gets drunk, or grows too proud, will then chatter too much and argue with her mistress, and act sometimes as if she were insane. In the same way, reason--if it's allowed to run riot and lift up its heart in pride--won't fail to rebel against her mistress, faith. On the other hand, if she's brought up well, and guided well, and kept in good temper, she'll never disobey faith because she'll be in her right mind. So let your powers of reason be well trained, for surely faith never gets along without her.
The study of Scripture involves deciphering its meaning, considering what you read, pondering the purpose of various commentaries, and comparing various texts that seem contradictory, even when they aren't. Now in doing all this, I don't deny that the most important thing is to have grace and God's special help. But at the same time, in our Scripture study he uses our human reason as an instrument as well. After all: God also helps us to eat--but not without our mouth!
-St. Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, I, 23; Letter to William Gonell
In God's Presence Consider... Do I consider my reason a gift from God to be used in support of my faith? Do I make the best of my reasoning skills when interpreting Scripture by using helpful commentaries and other study resources?
Closing Prayer Lord, let the reasoning powers you've given me always be employed in the lively service of the faith that's also your gift.
Simply brilliant and sheds light (ha!) on the faith. It might be a good read for those who wonder about the faithful. It explains...moreThank you Internet!.
Simply brilliant and sheds light (ha!) on the faith. It might be a good read for those who wonder about the faithful. It explains how they themselves see it ... in a way.
Since it was mostly written by Pope Benedict XVI and then finished/polished/tweaked by Pope Francis, I have seen speculation as to which parts are from whom. That is sheer silliness and completely missing the point.
If two such seemingly different men both embrace what this encyclical brilliantly conveys, then it means that it tells us universal Catholic (and catholic) truths. It also means that these two very different men merely are showing us different facets of God. So there is really no point in comparing them except as part of a larger whole which is the Body of Christ.(less)
======== I am a fan of Father James Martin's books, especially A Jesuit Off-Broadway. When Scott chose this book for our next religious book discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, I was excited, having been interested since I first saw it mentioned at Amazon.
This is a much thicker and more substantive book than I expected. The bibliography alone makes one step back and realize there is more hard-core scholarship than in any of his previous books. Yet it is written in Father Martin's trademark style, interspersing personal experience with the main book text. It is accessible and interesting. It isn't dumbed down and isn't too scholarly. It's juuuuust right.
Martin's goal is to help us consider our answer to Christ's question to his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"
This means we must consider what it means to be "fully human and fully divine." Martin does a very good job of presenting a lot of contextual information for understanding Jesus' life and ministry through this lens. As we travel through the gospels, so to speak, he intertwines the various stops (recruiting the disciples, healing demoniacs, etc.) with his own pilgrimage to Israel. He then stops to place everything in the context of our own lives and is extremely generous in sharing his own life changing experiences, whether flattering or not. I especially appreciate Martin's openness in sharing the spiritual experiences he had, most notably that in the Church of the Resurrection.
I especially appreciate the way that Father Martin approaches questions from all angles. For example, when considering Christ's healings of "demoniacs," Martin isn't afraid to discuss the idea of psychological or physiological illness as a cause. This will be welcome to those who like to get down to examining facts. However, he always does this in a thoughtful, thorough, Christian way that leaves no doubt we are reading about the Messiah and that miracles can (and do) happen.
Each chapter ends with Martin's deeper thoughts on how our own lives can be enriched with the aid of what Christ has shown us about this part of his life. This is where the rubber meets the road for most of us and Martin brings great sensitivity and understanding to these pages. In fact, I was enduring great inner turmoil about something when I read Martin's thoughts of what it means to take up your cross daily. The whole section spoke to me strongly, but nothing more than "wait for the resurrection" which I sorely needed to hear that very day.
This is the sort of book that used to be much more common. To Know Christ Jesus by Francis Sheed and Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen are just a couple of the older books I've read like this. We have been sorely in need of a new one and I'm so pleased that James Martin wrote this book which is truly a treasure for reading and rereading. I'm beginning to feel that this book might be a "must have" for Christians who want a more rounded, personal experience of Christ. Or for those who don't understand the "Christian thing" and would like some general context of their own.
I also have a feeling that a lot of readers are going to come away wanting to visit the Holy Land. Not me, but I appreciate Father Martin's descriptions as it helps me "feel" the place a bit better. And, to be fair, I've never especially felt the need to go to Rome or anywhere else on pilgrimage, for that matter.
However, what it did was help me feel a deeper familiarity, connection, friendship dare I say, with Jesus when I encounter Him in the gospels. It made me think of Father Martin's story about his spiritual director showing him a green tree and reminding him it would be red in autumn, without anyone ever seeing the gradual change. That's what happened to me. A step closer. All to the credit of this book, which is doing it without "wows" or "aha" moments. Truly that is a credit to this work.
NOTE I also received the audiobook for review. I was eagerly anticipating this but was surprised to find that Father Martin's reading was extremely plain and without nuance or subtlety. In a sense, it was like a father reading to his children who is unused to reading aloud. I'm used to authors reading their work who are extremely good at it, such as Father Robert Barron or Neil Gaiman (yes, I know that is an unusual pair to put together but both are excellent at reading aloud).
That said, once I adjusted to Martin's style, or lack thereof, it actually worked fine for this book. In a sense, it took out any of his own personality and allowed the text to speak for itself. Which is actually just as it should be for a book like this. With that in mind, I can recommend the audiobook.(less)
I miss Roger Ebert. Even when I disagreed with his online personal journal entries, which happened fairly frequently, I still loved reading him.
Most i...moreI miss Roger Ebert. Even when I disagreed with his online personal journal entries, which happened fairly frequently, I still loved reading him.
Most importantly, of course, I miss reading his movie reviews every Friday. They were the anchor against which I measured all other critical opinions of a film. Again, I might disagree with him because his range and experience and desires when watching a film were often different from mine. Again, it didn't matter. I loved his way with words, the way he made you understand that his point of view was very valid even if you did disagree, and the way he was unafraid to champion movies others despised. He began this with early support of 2001: A Space Odyssey and later won my heart with his embrace of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. This is something few movie critics achieve.
The Great Movies collects a series of Ebert's of critical appreciations of movies which deserved a deeper look than a simple review. It ranges across time and genres to choose the best of the best, movies which make you want to grab your friends and force them to watch.
This is one of those books not to read from beginning to end but to flip open and see what catches your eye. Or to pick and choose from the table of contents, either the films you love or the films you never heard of. No matter your method, you will come away both missing Roger Ebert and grateful that his "voice" is still with us in print.
This book makes me appreciate the movies I love even more, makes me realize some movies that I never want to watch, and ... yet ... also makes me appreciate that both sorts can be connected in a way that makes my own viewing richer. This just happened in reading Ebert's comparison between the noir masterpiece Sunset Boulevard (much loved by me) and the Japanese existentialist film The Woman in the Dune (in which simply reading the description was enough, thank you very much).
There are some reviews which I won't read now because those movies, such as Jean Renoir's The Grand Illusion, are on my list to watch. Ebert can't fully discuss these as "great movies" without giving spoilers, so I will deny myself the pleasure of knowing his reasons for recommendation. It is enough to know that I can come back to his discussion when I am ready.
Above all it makes me want to watch some of these great movies again ... or for the first time. Surely that was Ebert's goal and he hits the target with sureness and grace. If you love movies, if you love intelligent and insightful writing, and, above all, if you miss Roger Ebert, then you owe it to yourself to read this collection.(less)