On my bookshelf, Holy Week 2020 and beyond

This is my long overdue post on what I’ve been reading and what I’ve got in the queue, some of it Lenten some of it not (except, of course, that everything is Lenten).

For my top picks of family-friendly Holy Week videos, look here.

Simcha’s Lenten Family Film Festival is here, and Julie Davis has a starter pack of Lenten viewing here, but her whole blog is a treasure trove of reading and viewing suggestions.

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My Good Friday go-to is Thomas à Kempis’s On the Passion of Christ.  I read a little bit more of it every year.

On the Passion of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

So no, I wasn’t kidding when I recommend partial-book reading as a Lenten strategy.  It’s a thing. Sometimes a very spiritually fruitful thing.  This is definitely a book for which a single meditation — even just a few paragraphs — can go a long, long ways.

Not recommended for those prone to scrupulosity.  Ideal for those prone to laxity.  Great example of using one’s imagination to immerse oneself in Scripture as a method of prayer, btw.

And hence: Not for the scrupulous. Just no.  NO!

If you are prone to scruples, for goodness sakes do like my kid did today, unbidden, and grab a few of Pauline Media’s Encounter the Saints books.  Good for kids, ideal for busy adults who need a quick inspiring read that will challenge your faith.  Can’t have too many of these.

Just finished: All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Ballard — Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy by Phil Keith and Tom Clavin.  I give it . . . I dunno.  A lot of stars.  Also, I demand a mini-series.  Talk about non-stop fodder for period drama . . . the adventures just. never. quit.

Of Catholic interest: Somewhere along the way, Eugene Ballard managed to become a Catholic, often a lousy but also compulsively-heroic Catholic, and he died reconciled to the Church.  The biography doesn’t treat his faith very extensively, which is probably just as well; when THEY MAKE THE MINI-SERIES, which I demand, they’d better not screw up the Catholic part.

All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard-Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy

Did I mention I demand a mini-series?  This is a great story.

Currently reading: 

I apologize if you thought I was reading Lentier-stuff.  Well, these are Lenty each in their way.  Everything is Lenty.

Okay but I have another one open that is properly Lent-themed:

Just Sayeth the Lord: A Fresh Take on the Prophets by Julie Davis.

Thus Sayeth the Lord by Julie Davis

I’m a few chapters in, and so far so good.  Down-to-earth recaps, explanations, and meditations on the stories of various prophets.  Based on the what I’ve read, I’d definitely consider this one as a choice for a parish book club or Bible study, ages teen and up.

Readable, does not assume a particular level of background knowledge, does provide spiritual insights useful to those who are already well-studied.

It is of course no secret I’m a Julie Davis fan.  Her other two books are quite different and heartily recommended:

(Head’s up: At this writing I am not active on Goodreads, so please don’t try to message me there and then wonder why I’m ignoring you.)

Next Up:

Living Memento Mori: My Journey Through the Stations of the Cross by Emily DeArdo.  I’ve actually kinda sorta already read this book? But not exactly.

Living Momento Mori by Emily DeArdo

Emily is one of my favorite internet writer-friends, and she let me take a look at the original manuscript for this book back when we were trying to figure out who would be the ideal publisher.

Ave Maria was the winner, and their request was that she organize her memoir around the Stations of the Cross — if you didn’t know this already, one of the things publishers do with book proposals and manuscript drafts is come back to the author with requests for how to modify the book to better serve their readers.  It’s up to the author, of course, to decide which suggested changes fit with the goals of the book and when it’s time to stand firm (even at the cost of walking, if it comes to it); Emily obviously decided that the stations theme worked with her story, and I trust her instincts on that one.

I haven’t read the Stations of the Cross version, and no, I don’t feel, for a moment, that somehow that framework will become obsolete come Easter.  I have a sneaking suspicion, sorry to say, that Momento Mori is going to remain a pertinent theme for many months to come.

In the future I am going to recommend that Emily write something like My Memoir of Everything Being Awesome and Life is a Cakewalk, and maybe world events will take a hint?

And finally, you knew it was coming, I’m eager to finally be able to crack open The Contagious Catholic: The Art of Practical Evangelization by Marcel LeJeune.

The Contagious Catholic by Marcel LeJeune

Call it Providence or coincidence, but I assure you Catholic publishers don’t get six months advance notice on upcoming world events and tailor their book titles accordingly.

In what is definitely Providence, here’s the story of how we ended up writing overlapping books coming out within just months of each other: I had a brief online conversation with Marcel about the same time I was pitching my book proposal to OSV.  He mentioned in conversation that he had a book (he didn’t elaborate on the specific topic) in mind but had no idea when he’d get around to writing it or finding a publisher for it.

So I figure: Okay, he’s the guy to write about a book about this, but he’s not writing the book.

Makes sense. He’s a really busy guy running a major ministry teaching people how to evangelize, and his priority is to do the thing.  So someone needs to write the book on how to do the thing.  We get lots and lots of people who are excited about evangelization but are seriously wondering, “Okay, how do we do this?” because they’ve never been in a parish where evangelization and discipleship happen for serious.

I’m a writer.  I’m not running a major ministry that is sucking up all my time.  He can do the thing and I can write about the thing.  I guess I’ll do that.

There is no way — let me repeat: NO WAY — I would have even proposed my book if I’d known Marcel was writing his.  So it’s a good thing I did not know that he was going to end up finding time to get his manuscript together, because he has read my book now, and here’s his verdict in his email feedback to me:

You hit a lot of areas that I did not, and it seems the most  important ones were covered in our own ways by both of us.

That sounds about right.  You can check out the Catholic Missionary Disciples blog here to get a feel for Marcel’s writing style and the topics that interest him, how he and I overlap each other, and how is depth of experience is going to bring a different perspective than mine.

Anyway, now that I’m finally done with edits (other than a final look after the copy-editor has finished cleaning up the no-good, horrible, very-bad typos I’ve already identified from my “final” draft after pushing the send button), I’m free to read Marcel’s book with no risk of accidental plagiarizing, and so that’s what I am itching to do.*

Girl with preztels covering her eyes, in front of bookshelf.

For today’s photo penance, let’s do a fresh young face from the camera roll: A child of mine in attendance at a Family Honor parent workshop SuperHusband and I were giving last year.  This is what happens when you let her borrow your laptop.

*If you’re wondering: I’m pretty strict with myself about not reading other people’s blog posts or books on a topic I’m actively writing on, except if I’m explicitly researching a response to that literature. So I spent many months not clicking through on Marcel’s blog links because I didn’t want his voice getting confused with my own while I was actively writing.

Could I recommend you read, memorize, and internalize every single thing he writes on his blog?  Yes.  I recommend that.

And then go do the thing. DO. THE. THING.  Thank you.

 

Why Black History Month Can Make Your Life Better

Last day of February, and because it’s a leap year we get one extra day of Black History Month.  This year I’ve been enjoying @Menny_Thoughts daily posts on Black Catholic history. (He blogs here.) The bulk of the mini-biographies he shared were familiar names to me, but not over-familiar by any stretch, and there were quite a few new-to-me stories, at least one of which made me briefly jealous I hadn’t included it in my array of saints for the book.

The thing that bugs me every year, though, is the implicit question when you set aside a specia- month-for-special-people: What about the other 11/12ths of the year?  Goes for womens’ history too, and don’t get me started on that one.

It’s a question I asked myself at the start of the month, and now that I’ve had twenty-nine days to think about it, here are three reasons I think Black History Month is important.

#1 Sooner or later you discover there’s more to Black History than MLK and Harriet Tubman.

Start there by all means.  Those are need-to-know stories.  But if enough years of enough days go by, eventually you start digging into lesser-known luminaries.  This is important because of something a friend of mine said way back in high school.

The topic was a television show neither of us watched much.  I found the characters one-dimensional, the plots predictable, and the dialog stilted.  His complaint: “There’s that character who is supposed to be the spoiled rich girl from the elite family, but there’s no such thing as black people like that.”

I instinctively knew he was wrong?  But I had no evidence with which to make my case.

My friend was not alone. What we learned about African-American history in school consisted of slave, slave, slave, slave, emancipation, Jim Crow, MLK, and then somehow magically you are surrounded by all these black professionals you encounter in daily life, but actually black people are mostly poor and helpless and need social workers to save them? (Always them.)  And also there’s that guy who made the pottery.

Mmmn . . . not so much.

Thus even though it’s fantastically dumb that we need such a thing, it’s good that we eventually get so bored of the same half-dozen African-American figures getting shared around every February that we start to uncover, bit by bit, that there’s a whole lot more to know.  And it’s interesting.

#2 African-American history is American history.

Let’s talk about white people.

White people can get uncomfortable admitting to an interest in Black History.  It’s like if you’re white you are contractually obligated to either have an Official Reason to study such a thing, or else you must use the word “vibrant” to gush about those special special people who are just as good as you — honest! even better! — because of course they are so vibrant.

Me with a copy of All Blood Runs Red, a biography of Eugene Ballard by Phil Keith and Tom Clavin

Actually we know this is true, because look at our daily penitential photo.  That’s me posing with the cover of All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard — Boxer, Pilot, Solider, Spy. You’ll notice that Eugene Ballard looks a little skeptical on his cover photo.  He’s totally thinking: Why do I have to pose with this white lady I don’t even know?

Or maybe he’s thinking: Why yes, I am a World War I flying ace, thank you very much.

(I can’t promise you the book’s any good, but the dogfight sequence in the prologue made it well worth the trouble of grabbing it off the new books shelf at the library today. Looks promising.)

You don’t need an official reason to study this or that type of history.  If you feel like you have to explain yourself because you take an interest in the actions or language or heritage of people who aren’t part of your officially-designated special-interest group? Then you need to give yourself some desensitization therapy.

#3 You deserve to be well-educated.

By way of example: If you are a teacher in any capacity, you owe it to yourself to read Up from Slavery.

Yes indeed, it is a massive fundraising letter (missionaries take note, if you need ideas).  Yes it’s also one of those things you need to read in order to claim to be knowledgeable of African-American history (I make no such claim — I’m strictly an amateur). But if you are a teacher?  Booker T. Washington happens to have written a practical philosophy of education that is far more useful than the bulk of the pedagogical blather that gets shoved at education majors.

If you want to learn the art of rhetoric from a master of the English language, read Martin Luther King, Jr.  If you want to learn how to be a saint during an epidemic in a city with neighborhoods under quarantine, read the life of Venerable Pierre Toussaint.

Black History is human history.  You might show up for some other reason, but you stay because you found something of enduring value.

French Culture – Marriage, Family Life, and Sexuality – Interesting Links

My latest at the National Catholic Register touches on some interesting bits of French culture where marriage is concerned.   I didn’t have room in a short essay to create an annotated bibliography, and anyway I stumbled on more interesting stuff than I’ll ever write about.  Here’s a list of assorted links of potential interest to select readers, with a few comments at the bottom related to my essay topic.

In talking about cultural contrasts, here’s an article on France’s military-run brothel system, dating from World War I.  Here’s a short history of the United States’ approach to the problem of venereal diseases during the same period.  The differences are striking.

This Google preview of Fathers, Families, and the State in France, 1914-1945  has some history of the role of paternity during that time period.

 

All kinds of interesting parental-rights cases from the European Court of Human Rights are summarized here (in English).

On the question of legitmacy: Children Born Outside Marriage in France and their Parents. Recognitions and Legitimations since 1965.  Text is in English, and loaded with statistics concerning changes in practice over time.

Here’s a research paper exploring the range of issues in how biological versus social paternity is handled across Europe.  It is useful as an introduction to the kinds of issues that are in play, and how different countries have dealt with them.

Some Wikimedia articles that highlight the way French law handles questions of maternity and paternity:

A more academic discussion of the question of genetic testing legislation in Europe is here.  The European Journal of Human Genetics discusses the legal situation in Western Europe here.

Wikimedia’s English-language summary of the history of posthumous marriage is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posthumous_marriage. Note there is a slight error, it is Article 171 that gives us the pertinent law.  The related topic of proxy-marriage is discussed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxy_marriage.

There’s a bit on the case law concerning posthumous marriage in Europe if you scroll down to paragragh 247 of Le Couple et la Convention Européenne des Droits de l’Homme .  Google translate struggles a bit on this one.  The French Code Civil (in French) is here.

On the topic of posthumous marriage, the only Church document, at all, which I could find was this: http://www.radiovaticana.va/Afr_bulletin/14_05_14.html.  The relevant part is here, boldface mine:

D. AUX CHEFS DE FAMILLE
24 – Chers chefs de famille, votre place n’est plus à démontrer, et votre responsabilité est capitale. L’impact de votre action peut être positif ou négatif, selon que vous agissez conformément ou non à la volonté de Dieu. Il vous donne de prendre soin des personnes qu’il vous confie. Votre mission est à la fois honorable et complexe. C’est sur vous que repose la cohésion de la famille, en matière de dot, de gestion d’héritage et de conflits, de traitement des veuves, des veufs et des orphelins. Dans cet ordre d’idées, à la lumière de la tradition et de l’Evangile, nous dénonçons la pratique illégale qui consiste à demander une dot trop élevée. Respectez ce que prévoit le code de la famille (art. 140). Nous condamnons la pratique du mariage posthume (versement de la dot lors du décès de la conjointe). Appliquez-vous avec courage, avec toute votre force, à accomplir dignement votre mission de chef de famille.

Nous vous assurons, de notre soutien, de notre proximité, de notre prière et de notre bénédiction.

The context is not (at all whatsoever) the French civil law on posthumous marriage.  Rather, the bishops are condemning the practice of asking too high of a dowry, and therefore also the practice of “posthumous marriage” as a vehicle for receiving the payment of the dowry when the bride has died.

By way of comparison on the topic of the French civil code’s practice of posthumous marriage, here’s the Code of Canon Law on the topic of “radical sanation,” which is something completely different.  It’s of interest because it shares the concept of “going back in time and fixing things” where marriage is concerned.  And that’s it — no other connection between the two.

 

File:Zingende boerenfamilie Rijksmuseum SK-A-376.jpeg "Singing Peasant Family"

I searched on “French Family” and the results came up Dutch.  Thanks Wikimedia!

Busy not blogging. And blogging.

What I’ve been up to so far this Advent:

1. Acquired a cold just strong enough to plant me in front of the PC and get some writing done for a change.  I’d complain, except it’s really not that bad. For me.  My family wishes I’d start making dinner again.  I think.

2. Posted my book review of the Didache series of textbooks up at AmazingCatechists.com.  These are awesome books, and the new parish editions bring serious theology to high school and adult faith formation.  Long-needed.  Don’t cry to me you don’t have priests, but refuse to teach theology.  How exactly is a boy supposed to fall in love with a something he’s never met?

3. Guessed at my login information for the Happy Catholic Bookshelf enough times that I finally broke in.  And put up my review of Walking Dickens LondonVerdict: I still don’t like Dickens all that much, but the guide book is awesome.  Of course I had to put a reference to Rerum Novarum in the review.  Only logical.

4. I cleaned out my inbox.  If I still owe you an e-mail about something, you’d better tell me.  Because I’m under the mistaken impression I’m all caught up.

5. Planted the potatoes that were sprouting in the cardboard box in the living room.  Ditto for some garlic in the bottom of the fridge.

6.  I’ve written about 5,000 words on the homeschooling manuscript. Also pre-wrote my January CatholicMom.com homeschooling column, because once you get school on the brain, and a cup of coffee, these things just pop out.

7.  I got all vice-presidential over at the Catholic Writers Guild.  Being VP is almost exactly like being the blog manager, except that instead of plaguing the officers all month long with bad ideas and unhelpful suggestions, you also get to do it during the monthly officer’s conference call.  I think someone nominated me because the existing officers were already practiced at telling me, “No!  Quiet! Sit!  No Biscuit!” so it makes their job easier.  So mostly as VP I amuse people with my ridiculous ideas, and about 1 time in 10, I think one up that someone makes me go do.  And then I regret it, and don’t think up any more ideas for at least 10 minutes.

Also, I goofed off on the internet more than I had planned.   It happens.  I was sick.

7 Takes: From My Feed Reader to Yours

7 Takes at ConversionDiary.com

 

This week, after you pray for Allie & congratulate our hostess, I send you elsewhere.  I scrolled through all my recent +1’s in Google, and picked a few:

1.  People come here when they search on “Kolbe Academy”, and presumably when they do that, they also find Kolbe’s blog, Servant of Truth.  But in case you had a google-failure, here’s an answer to a question that gets asked a lot:  How to Change Pace in a Structured Curriculum.

2.  Brad Warthen is aggravated, here, about a homeschooling bumper sticker that he sees as a flagrant rejection of a whole community.  (He’s a Mr. Community kind of guy.  A Rotarian, no less.)  I concede in the combox that he is correct, it is indeed impossible to know what part of “the village” the hostile-homeschooler wants no part of.  But I’m going to guess it’s something like this.

3. FTR, I homeschool for the library books.  The village never even entered into it.  I just want to read.  A lot.  There aren’t many jobs let you do that.  (Also I like teaching my kids, like being with them, like playing outside, like traveling during the school year, and it’s the only Catholic school I’ll ever talk my husband into paying for . . . but it’s mostly for the books.)

4. NFP Apps.  I like a pen and a free-in-the-mail calendar myself.  (Helps if you don’t particularly need a graph or white baby stickers.  About once a year I break out the graph paper to make sure I’m seeing what I think I’m seeing.  But most of the time, 4/10 of degree shows up real nice just looking at the numbers.)  But all you smart-device people can do NFP the Smart Way.

5. Can’t have too many religious education curricula.  Read about Healing the Culture’s new high school curriculum, and, completely separately, Loyola Press’s new adaptive sacramental prep program for students with special needs.

Also a Bleg: Anyone have an RCIA text you really love?  I’m dumb enough to try to make up an answer to that question, but someone who knows the field would be better suited to give the real scoop.

6. At Public Discourse: the obituary of an honest historian.  Beautiful story.  Especially if you’re the kind of person who reads a history book, and then rants towards your children about all the dumb ideas the book promotes without presenting any evidence whatsoever.

My kids say I complain a lot.  I reply that easily 10-if-not-15% of the time, it’s because there’s something worth complaining about.  The rest of the time, yeah, I’m just grumpy.  Probably the nicest grumpy person you know.

7. The reason bloggers blog is because we have something to say.  Abby Johnson doesn’t play around: If you want to be pro-life, get your act together and show up for work.

Have a great weekend!

(PS: The tiny tiger has persuaded SuperHusband not to haul her to the pet shelter just yet.  Cuteness is a powerful survival strategy.)

My vote for Most Important Book of 2012

I just spent 3 days in the largest Catholic bookstore in the world.  I bought one book.  This is it:

Then I was stuck in an airport for five hours.  Perfect timing.

What it is:  Tiến Dương is a real guy about your age (born 1963) who is now a priest in the diocese of Charlotte, NC.  Deanna Klingel persuaded him to let her tell his story, and she worked with him over I-don’t-know-how-long to get it right.  Fr. Tien is a bit embarrassed to be singled out this way, because his story is no different from that of thousands upon thousands of his countryman.  But as Deanna pointed out, if you write, “X,000 people endured blah blah blah . . .” it’s boring.  Tell one story well, and you see by extension the story of 10,000 others.

The book is told like historical fiction, except that it’s non-fiction verified by the subject — unlike posthumous saints’ biographies, there’s no conjecture here.  It’s what happened.  The reading level is middle-grades and up, though some of the topics may be too mature for your middle-schooler.  (Among others, there is a passing reference to a rape/suicide.)  The drama is riveting, but the violence is told with just enough distance that you won’t have nightmares, but you will understand what happened — Deanna has a real talent for telling a bigger story by honing in on powerful but less-disturbing details.  Like, say, nearly drowning, twice; or crawling out of a refugee camp, and up the hill to the medical clinic.

–>  I’m going to talk about the writing style once, right now: There are about seven to ten paragraphs interspersed through the book that I think are not the strongest style the author could have chosen.  If I were the editor, I would have used a different expository method for those few.  Otherwise, the writing gets my 100% stamp of approval — clear, solid prose, page-turning action sequences, deft handling of a zillion difficult or personal topics.

Why “Most Important Book?”

This is a story that needs to be known.  It is the story of people in your town and in your parish, living with you, today.  And of course I’m an easy sell, because the books touches on some of my favorite topics, including but not limited to:

  • Economics
  • Politics
  • Diplomacy
  • Poverty
  • Immigration
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Freedom, Period
  • Refugee Camps
  • Cultural Clashes
  • Corruption
  • Goodness and Virtue
  • Faith
  • Priestly Vocations
  • Religious Vocations
  • Marriage and Family Life as a Vocation
  • Lying
  • Rape
  • Suicide
  • Generosity
  • Orphans
  • Welfare
  • Stinky Mud
  • Used Cars
  • Huggy vs. Not-Huggy

You get the idea.  There’s more.  Without a single moment of preaching.  Just an action-packed, readable story, well told.

Buy Bread Upon the Water by Deanna K. Klingel, published by St. Rafka press.

Book Review: Benedict of Bavaria

I picked Benedict of Bavaria for my latest Catholic Company review book because I had a feeling I should.  I didn’t want to.  I’ve developed this gut-reaction to all things Pope-Book, thinking that surely it will be a major effort, I’d rather be reading an American Girls mystery . . . you know the fear.  But I reasoned that a little work would be good for me, so I took the plunge.

I love being wrong.

This was a fun and interesting read, and not difficult at all.   Very enjoyable way to learn more about the Holy Father.

What it is:  The book tells the story of Pope Benedict’s life from his birth in Germany through about 2007.  The focus is on his German heritage — the villages he lived in, life during World War II and conflict within the Church over how to respond to the Nazi regime, and his career as a theologian and cleric in postwar-Germany.   His family life, including the role of his sister Maria in supporting him throughout his life, is a steady theme.

In all it’s a fascinating look at the personal life, career, and heritage of the man who now leads the Church.  An appendix detailing “A Day in the Life of the Holy Father” is particularly interesting in light of the Vatican-Leaks scandal this summer.

Included are excerpts from and analysis of his writings over the years, showing his development as a scholar, and providing inspiration and encouragement to the reader.  The author writes from a Catholic, faithful-to-the-Church point of view, but without glossing over or excusing problems in the Church.

Reading Level: I’d recommend this for adults who have some basic background knowledge of the Catholic faith, and of recent history. The writing is clear and easy to follow for those who read on a true high-school or early-college reading level, but you do need to be the kind of reader who knows words like “Jesuit” “postmodernism” “celebrant” “ora et labora”  and so forth.    A map of Germany is handy to have on hand as well — Google Earth would work fine — because there are so many German place-names mentioned.

Excellent choice for someone who knows the faith, but doesn’t know much about the life of the Holy Father. Also recommended for young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood — great glimpse into the kinds of different challenges our clergy face, from seminary on up through the ranks of the hierarchy.

Summary: Very nicely done.  This one’s a keeper.  Deserves to be better known and more widely read.

 

***

I’m grateful once again to The Catholic Company for letting me participate in their reviewer program, in which bloggers like myself get great books for free, in exchange for an honest review — though they seem to mostly stock good stuff, so that makes my job a whole lot easier.

They remind me to remind you that The Catholic Company is also a great online store for all your Catholic gift needs, such as baby baptism and christening gifts. You can also find a wide selection of Catholic Bible Studies for both parish groups and individuals, as well as a variety of other Catholic Bible study resources.

Books for the Plane Ride

Flying with me on the plane with me today:

Sarah Reinhard gamely sent me a review e-copy of her forthcoming book, and if you blog you can have one too.  The snippets I’ve read seem to up the usual Sarah R. excellent standard, though I’ll admit I went straight to the special-feature paragraphs written by Jane Lebak (tear-jerking do-not-miss-lives-will-be-saved), Dorian Speed (encouragement-for-the-discouraged-disillusioned-and-cut-wide-open), and myself (you be the judge).

Heaven’s Fury, Heaven’s Grace is not my usual genre, but I asked Mrs. Peshek if I could borrow a copy to read on the plane.  She was fresh out.  But as I was on my way out the door after a lovely afternoon of mom-talk, UPS arrived with the new stash!  So I’ve got a loaner, and can’t wait to see what it’s like.

[UPS also brought Mrs. P. a big box of school books from Rainbow Resource — which happens to be the best deal going for getting a teacher’s manual for the Oxford Latin Course.  And boring  things like Saxon Math and other stuff normal homeschoolers use.]

I picked up Land of the Morning at the homeschool used-book fair the other week — great piece of history.  It is the memoir of an American missionary-kid to the Philippines who was captured by the Japanese and spent her teen years in the internment camp for expats near Manila.  It is written as a historical document, not as a heart-thumping fact-based-novel.  There’s a good overview of life as a missionary before the war that sets the stage for the details of prison life, and then freedom after.

The McAnlis family was Protestant, but the treatment of Catholicism (limited to times when it came up — just a few anecdotes here and there) is 100% respectful.  The nun stories from the internment years make it fun and inspiring reading for the Catholic reader.

My copy is headed out on loan to my dad and stepmother (who hails from the Philippines), with the hope that it will come back to me in the fall for a tour around the inferno-area, then reside in my library for future homeschool use.

Not Going Anywhere:

I finished reading The Bible Tells Me So, and yes, it really is as good as Lisa Mladnich says it is.  Review coming soon, but probably not until I return from vacation, since my review notes are written on the inside cover of the book.

Lest you think I overstate the case when I say you should save time and just buy one now before Christian comes to his senses and raises the price . . . my husband is reading this book.  Do you understand what that means?  The man is not like me.  He doesn’t just “read books” for a hobby. Basically he reads the Bible and not much else, except Fine Woodworking and a few photoblogs and archery catalogs.

But we’re ramping up for another family-sized read through the Bible over this year and the next, and Mr. Bible Guy (the one I married) is working through the other Mr. Bible Guy’s book as a warm-up for that.  Great book.

7 Quick Takes: Mother’s Day. Liquor Store Edition.

1.

In my family growing up we had a set of Mother’s Day rituals — taking Mom out to breakfast, going to the garden center to buy flowers to plant for her, sometimes even exchanging of gifts and cards.  When the Boy was born, I expected SuperHusband to just know what to do.  After all, my family’s traditions were hardly secret — you see that kind of stuff on TV.  I assumed everyone just knew.

Except that he didn’t.  Tears ensued.  Until I discovered one year that actually, there is a much, much better way:

2.

Making my own breakfast.  Why not have a day a year devoted to eating exactly what I want, prepared the way I like it, and you other people please just stay in bed and give the mother an hour of quiet to enjoy it?  It really is better.

3.

But I did tell the poor man what I wanted this year:  For him to please get repaired the watch he gave me a different year.  It needs a new battery and a new clasp, and yes I could take it to be repaired myself, but you know, he’s a mechanical engineer.  What a great way to show his love, driving to the store himself to oversee the repair of a tiny metal mechanical device?

Luckily there’s no deadline, except that I’d really love for it to be fixed by the end of August, when I go to the Catholic Blogger Foretaste of Heaven Conference.  Where our lovely 7-takes hostess will be speaking, no less.  I am wildly excited.

4.

Last year for Mother’s day, SuperHusband gave me a reprint of this book:


Which taught me how to make my own vinegar.  Seriously easy and you feel so crunchy-granola, and also it uses up wine ends.  And it is better than anything you can buy.

Small hitch: The cloth-covered Famous Grouse bottle serving as miniature vinegar barrel reminded the SuperHusband he wanted to resume homebrewing.  He’d been on a long toddler-rearing hiatus.  So he did.  Causing us to stop buying wine.  But I did the calculation, and it is cheaper to buy a bottle of Aldi wine and make vinegar out of it, than it is to buy Publix-brand red wine vinegar.  So that’s what I do.

5.

Speaking of famous grice: The SuperHusband was in the doghouse the other week, and to demonstrate the sincerity of his love, he came home with a bottle of Laphroaig for me.  Which was a tiny bit strange, because I had not been grousing about a lack of single-malt.  And the stuff is expensive.  But in a moment of virtually Therese-like holiness, I figured: Hey, this is good!  Might as well enjoy it!

He really does love me, you know.

6.

A prayer for Allie Hathaway is prayer for her mom, too.  You can’t go wrong.

7.

The American Frugal Housewife was not the first historic housekeeping title on my shelves.  The previous Christmas the SuperMother-In-Law, who knows me well, gave me this one:

Mrs. Beeton’s is much heftier than the Frugal Housewife, and addressed more towards homes with servants, and our servants are mostly the electric type anymore.  But I came across this eminently reassuring and useful* bit of advice about the rigors of breastfeeding and the avoidance of colic:

The nine or twelve months a woman usually suckles must be, to some extent, to most mothers, a period of privation and penance, and unless she is deaf to the cries of her baby, and insensible to its kicks and plunges, and will not see in such muscular evidences the griping pains that rack her child, she will avoid every article that can remotely affect the little being who draws its sustenance from her.  She will see that the babe is acutely affected by all that in any way influences her, and willingly curtail her own enjoyments, rather than see her infant rendered feverish, irritable, and uncomfortable.  As the best tonic, then, and the most efficacious indirect stimulant that a mother can take at such times, there is no potation equal to porter and stout, or what is better still, and equal part of porter and stout.

And with that, I bid you a Happy Mother’s Day.

*Do not use this advice. Or if you do and then need sue someone, sue Mrs. Beeton.  Her idea not mine.

Book Review: Doctors of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI

The Doctors of the Church is my latest review book for The Catholic Company, and I’ll tell you up front why it’s taken me so long to get through it: Because it requires peace and quiet.

I don’t mean like holed-up-in-a-monastery-for-three-weeks peace ‘n quiet.  More like, “two to three paragraphs without interruption, and ideally as much as a page or more, all at once, before someone asks you how to spell a word, or where is the milk, or . . .” you know what I mean*.  I say this not to discourage the other housewives out there, but rather to encourage you to not give up just because it’s taking you a little longer than a Hardy Boys mystery, or whatever it is you other people read.

What it is: Pope Benedict did a series of talks at his weekly general audiences on each of the Doctors of the Church, and the text of those talks was put into book form.  (St. Peter Chrytologus is missing — there was no talk as yet at the time the book went to print.  But you get all the others.)  Each person gets his or her own chapter, and certain heavy-hitters have double- or triple-sized chapters if it took two or three sessions to cover the topic.

The focus of the talks is on the development of doctrine.  Sorry, no fun stories about St. Thomas Aquinas’s family’s colorful attempts to dissuade him from his vocation, or St. Therese’s heroic willingness to eat the peas and fake it that she liked them.  You get to be a Doctor of the Church due to your contribution to our understanding of the faith.  So that’s where the book focuses: What did this person contribute to our understanding of Christ and of salvation?  How did this person respond to the needs of his or her time, and re-present the faith in a way that was needed then, and that continues to be valuable today?

–> A brief biography opens each chapter, and there is enough information to give you a clear picture of the life and times of the individual.  There is relatively more biography for lesser-known saints.  If you don’t know the general St. Thomas Aquinas story, you aren’t ready for this book yet; but if you never can keep straight all your St. Cyrils and Gregories, the Holy Father has you covered, no worries.

What are the prerequisites?

Before reading this book, you need to:

  • Know the broad outline of Church history, and of course that means having a decent grasp of world history as well.
  • Be familiar with the who’s who of major saints.
  • Have a clear understanding of Church teaching.
  • Be comfortable with technical language at about the level of The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  This one:

If that’s not you, be patient.  Come back to The Doctors later. Because the focus of the book is specifically on doctrine, and on the development of doctrine, this is a little harder of a book than some of the other collections by the Holy Father.

 

Who is this book for, and what good is it, anyway?  I recommend this book if you . . .

. . . Want an introduction to the topic of Development of Doctrine.  When read cover to cover, in sequence, this is an excellent first look at how the faith has blossomed over the centuries.

or

. . . Need a reference book on hand for all your Doctors of the Church needs. Great resource for catechists and others who need to quick know something intelligent about obscure-but-essential saints.  Each chapter stands on its own, and I found this to be very useful in preparing for class.

or

. . . You want a devotional that is built around reflections on theology and the lives of saints.  (Don’t laugh you Prayer of Jabez people, some of us like this stuff.)  You could either work through it a chapter at a time, or just have it on hand to browse at random when you need a little retreat into that happy place where you get to think about this stuff.

Verdict:  Well of course, it’s excellent.  If you are the target audience, there’s nothing else like it.  Worth the effort to work through it, not because then you’ll get to sit with the cool kids (though you will), but because even if the distractions of your vocation mean you can’t read through it quickly, it’s very meaty and satisfying.  A sure preventative against brain rot, and not so bad for your soul, either.  Great book.

***

Thanks again to the kind people at the Catholic Company, who would like me to tell you that not only do they do a work of mercy providing good books for bloggers in exchange for nothing other than an honest review,  they are also a great source for a baptism gifts or first communion gifts.

*No family members were injured in the writing of this post.