7 Quick Takes: Lent-o-matic Reading List

This time next week, we’ll be all penitential, right?  In anticipation,  I’ve  slidden my Lent Links to the top of the page in the sidebar.  As you find more Lent-o-rama goodness around the internet, please let me know and I will add your links to the list.

Meanwhile, I present to you 10,000 offline reading choices for your Lenten edification, most of which I’ve reviewed or mentioned previously, and loved enough to remember even now.

–> If you’re sick of hearing me go on and on about these same great books over and over and over, might I suggest you offer it up?  (It is Friday, a day of penance even in ordinary time, ya know.) Or click the post-it notes and find something new to read.

For everyone else, here’s my list:

1.  Pure Lenten Fiction Poke-n-the-soul:

The Gargoyle Code. I love this book.  Readable, fun, insightful.  It is designed to be read an episode a day through Lent, but that would take more Lenten discipline than I could ever muster.  Every time Fr. L. asks people about this or that new idea of his, I tell him, “Write more fiction.”  One day either he’ll cave and give us more, or maybe just ban me from his combox.

–> To see a few samples of the genre — not from the book, but written as bonus material, check out the Slubgrip Instructs Series on Patheos.  Suitable for teens and adults.

2.  If you only buy one devotional, this is the one:

For G-rated daily Lenten reflections that will kick your sorry slothful rear, you can’t go wrong with my friend Sarah’s booklet Welcome Risen Jesus.  It is like its author – cute out on the outside, farm-woman practical realism on the inside.  Good for elementary-age and up, independently readable from about 3rd grade.  Very inexpensive, probably the best Lenten value going this year.  My original review is here, and you can see my slightly less self-centered Amazon review here.

3. Sex, Money, and Everything Else:

Who am I?  What are my priorities?  How do I make my actions match my values?  You don’t think of it as a “Lenten”, but the Theology of the Body for Teens series will get your head on straight.  Strong PG-13 warning.  If your brain has been warped by the wider culture, this is the antidote.  Not just for teens.

If you struggle with money problems, this book will not teach you how to budget, choose good investments, or pay off your house and credit card debt in ten easy steps.  It will teach you how to put money into it’s proper place spiritually — how to live your vocation fully, and not let money get in the way of becoming the person God wants you to be.

–> If you don’t struggle with money, this the perfect book, because it uses the example of something you do understand (cash!), to help you then see how to address the vices and stumbling blocks that plague you in other areas of your life.

My original review of Why Enough is Never Enough is right here.  I say the same thing only in more detail.

4.  Proof that some people can watch TV without rotting their brains:

We’re not supposed to be gloomy when we fast and pray, right?  Good spiritual reading, not how you’d expect it.  Highly recommended.  My Amazon review of Happy Catholic is here.

5.  If you have a crush on Ronald Knox:

Msgr. Knox is who you read after you’ve sailed your way through Chesterton and CS Lewis, and are still hungry for more.  He’s readable, and hilarious, but listen if you don’t say the same think about Lewis and GKC, forget it.   If you are new to these authors, you can see a ton of GK Chesterton for free at the Christian Classics Etheral Library.  [You do not need to love Chesterton’s longer fiction.  Skip that.  Skip skip skip.]

I can vouch for The Hidden Stream because I’ve read it and loved it.   Currently in my reading pile is A Retreat for Lay People, which promises to be more of the same, but I’ve only just cracked the book.  Also in my personal backlog is A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Edward Sri, which comes very well-recommended but I can’t make any promises yet.

6. Because you aren’t dumb, and you don’t need big words to prove it:

I suspect Eric Sammons is smarter than almost anybody.  But his book is written for normal people, and to prove it I tested my copy on the parish secretary, my ten-year-old, and the owner of my local Catholic bookstore.  Who fell in love and next thing she knew it was the book club book for her shop, again attended by regular Catholics who just want to know more about God.  Interesting, readable, well-written, can’t-go-wrong Lenten pick.  It won’t feel penitential, it will help you grow closer to Christ.  Great book.  My original review of Who is Jesus Christ? is here.

7.  Pure Popery Goodness for Everybody.

For normal people, I am told the book you want is Come Meet Jesus by Amy Welborn.

If you run to the geeky end of the spectrum, here are my reviews of The Apostles, Illustrated Edition and of The Fathers, either of which would make good Lenten reading if you are the right type.

For about seven people I know, The Doctors of the Church, which I’ve almost finished, would be just the thing.   But don’t even think about touching Doctors until you are 100% at home with The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and have a firm grasp on the broad outline of Church history and the lives of the more well-known saints.

Normal people wanting a decent, approachable Catechism, don’t let the goofy name fool you, The Youcat is a great book. 


That’s my list.  What did I miss?

HSLDA Supports Religious Freedom

From HSLDA’s website:

Urgent calls are needed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) and your two U.S. senators to urge them to support Amendment No. 1520 by Senator Roy Blunt (MO). This amendment would halt the Obama Administration’s new mandate requiring all employers—including religious employers—to violate their consciences and provide free birth control and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. . . .

 . . .  HSLDA and a host of organizations across the religious and political spectrum continue to strongly oppose the Obama Administration’s mandate. If the president can force religious employers to violate their religious views and own conscience, the president can threaten any of our liberties.

While this is not a homeschool issue, many families homeschool because of their faith. This attack against religious freedom, if not stopped, could mean the beginning of the end for the free exercise of religion for all.

I knew I liked HSLDA ages ago.  Good bunch of people doing a good work.

7 Quick Takes: PSA’s

Many thanks to our hostess Hallie Lord, who is not taking attendance while Jen Fulwiler is on writing-leave, so hopefully I won’t be demoted for participating late.


Funnix is running the free-download program again.  I don’t see the deadline, but I’m going to guess it is only during February.  (They did this last year.  Thank you kind phonics people.  Also thank you to my internet acquaintance Cynthia for pointing me and other moms to the link.)  I have no particularly opinion on the program other than that some people like it and, look! free!


I’ve entered this new special time in my life as an internet person, when I receive not just spam, but Catholic Spam.  It’s sorta weird.  But here’s the unsettling part:  Sometimes I really cannot tell if I’ve gotten a Catholic-Spam Troll Form Letter, or if there’s a human who knows me (if only via a blog) and is trying to communicate useful information, but has accidentally written an e-mail that has the look-n-feel of Spamalot.

So anyway, the PSA is this:  If you are a real live person who wanted to share a link or tell me about your great works, and the first time you e-mailed me it got lost in cyberspace and you never ever heard anything . . . just e-mail me again?  Okay?  With some extra words this time that maybe tell me how you know me (this blog, or the CWG, or you’re a friend of my friend’s cousin’s uncle-in-law, or whatever) and anything else that would help establish yourself as a sentient creature who knows my name.



What kind of dog is this?

A stray dog.  Possibly a lucky dog.  Well, lucky whether he ends up here or moves to the local no-kill, where I’m sure he’ll find a home because he is both cute and nice.  If energetic.  My facebook friends are voting Jack Russell, with maybe some Fox Terrier or Bull Terrier.  Any other votes?


A few months ago I subscribed to the Jimmy Akin Secret Info Club.  Yes, yes, of course it exists to help the man sell books.  He writes good books.  And no, the information is not truly secret . . . in the sense that comes from sources that people treat as classified documents but actually you are allowed to read them, such as the Bible, or the Catechism, or the writings of the Church fathers.

But hey, it’s a handy little newsletter.  About once a month I get a short e-mail that is a refresher on some topic related to the faith — for example this month’s was on private vs. public revelation.  Nothing earth-shattering, but sort of a continuing-ed workshop delivered straight your inbox.  Worth checking out.


It’s that time again. Allie Hathaway.  Pray.


If you like to write, go register for the Catholic Writers Conference Online.  No, really.  Even if you aren’t Catholic*.  It is free, open to the public, and you can participate as much or as little as you like.  Which means if you discover you hate it or you’d rather be learning something else that week, nothing lost.  Because remember, free?

Registration closes . . . I’m not sure when.  I thought March 1, but I don’t see the date, so I can’t be 100% sure.  But look if you obey your local blogger and just sign up right now, it won’t matter when registration closes.

So what’s the catch?

You would be, in your own small way, cooperating with the mission of the Catholic Writers Guild.  Which is to fill the world with more better writers.


*It is like attending any Catholic school, you have to be polite and not say mean things in class.  But whereas the specific mission of the CWG is to promote Catholic writing and publishing, the online conference includes topics of interest to any writer.  If you read here, you totally have what it takes to attend the online conference and enjoy it.


3.5 Time Outs: Eye Candy

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy.  It was time for a new theme picture, and I thought it should fit the reality of Larry’s attempts at Internet Conquest:

There is no escaping the girl power, Larry.


St. Barbara:

This is a close-up of my friend Sandra’s Icon of St. Barbara that she painted for a fundraising auction.  You can see the whole thing at her art page.  FYI, this is a pic of the almost-completed icon, I think she still had some details to work on when this was shot.


By the same artist:


And something completely different:

The tulips he bought because he loves me.  The photo he took because he needed it for his presentation this Friday.


It was because a certain child threatened a sibling with, “I’m going to put a bag full of dirt in a pillowcase in your bed for a pillow.”

Of course.

For the record: I am so grateful the threat was never fully carried out.  After about 7pm, I don’t do drama.  Just no.  No.

Icon and manuscript copyright Sandra Lagnese, used with permission.

3.5 Time Outs: Paying Attention

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who is proof dark lords must have many skills.

It's still the New Year. I know because I keep writing the wrong date on my checks.


There’s a short list of things I can only do with 100% concentration:

  • Clean my desk.
  • Order a new toner cartridge.
  • Read Pope Benedict.

I’m sure there are others, but those are the one’s I’ve noticed.


Which is why it is taking me 10,000 years to get my review done for this book:

So I’ll just tell you it’s a good book.  At least, the first half is.

–> But last week, St. Alphonsus Liguori was our saint for the chapter for religious ed, and of course I knew he was going to rock, but I secretly thought he might be a boring saint, but look, he’s a Doctor of the Church, and hey I have this partly-read book and maybe he’s in it.   Sure enough, yes, Liguori rocks.  Seriously cool saint.  Definite patron-to-catechists action going on.

Funny story though: I always research our saints because usually kids prefer a good re-telling with lots of dramatic (but censored) details, and I didn’t want to show up at class and just read from the textbook.  But I told the kids to flip to the page in their book with the big picture so they’d have something to look at . . . and they just wanted to read aloud.  So I let them.


Today I discovered one thing I can do with a steady flow of distraction and interruption: Work on the homeschooling book.  Indeed, sitting on the couch staring at the backs of two children who have to be watched constantly in order to get their homework done?  It practically inspires.

I think I can knock out a 1,000 words a day just between 11am and noon, after littles have been sent to recess, and I’m sitting there playing overseer to the big people.


The other thing I do to keep from going barking mad while kids are doing school homework and can’t really be left alone but also don’t need help the whole time?  Mindless cleaning jobs.

Which is how I finally got around to asking what I’d started to ask last time I attempted to clean the porch: “Why do we have a bread bag full of dirt stuffed in a pillowcase?”

7 Quick Takes: Things That I Like

This makes two weeks in a row.  Bizarre internet writing goals.  Feels like the time I almost starting wearing lip gloss every day as a Lenten penance.


I got all intellectual and selected a Pope Book for my new Catholic Company review item.   Checked the mailbox every day.  It took FOUR DAYS.  I learn perseverance and patience this way.

So far so good.  It is much easier to read a B16 talk written for normal people, than to read what he writes when left to sit down alone in some quiet place for a very long time.   I think as a general rule, theologians should not be left unsupervised.


I can’t wait to get to say “Consubstantial” on Sunday.  I know, I already blogged about that the other day.  I am so excited it’s silly.  And look, Pope Quote from new book, just in time for the head-scratching during the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. [As apparently it is called? I guess “Nicene” Creed is just a nickname?]:

In this fundamental text — which expresses the faith of the undivided Church and which we also recite today, every Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration — the Greek term homoousios is featured, in Latin consubstantialis: it means that the Son, the Logos, is “of the same substance” as the Father, he is God of God, he is his substance.  Thus, the full divinity of the Son, which was denied by the Arians, was brought into the limelight.

[Italics in the original, typos all mine.  The one thing I don’t like about this new look here on the blog is that all the italicized words are bumped up a font size.  I may need to re-decorate.  But it is teaching me not to italicize like a crazy person*.]


I keep being surprised by how much I like to write.  I am always thinking I ought to swear it off and do something useful for a change.  And then I end up back at it again.


I re-wrote the catechist booklet proposal this week.  Marked it up with the pen of death.  I need to put in the last couple changes, re-proof, and stupid-check it with a friend or two.  Hopefully get the green light from People Who Want Me Not To Embarrass Myself That Much, and submit to publisher #1.  It’s a great booklet that test readers are impatient to see on the market, but that doesn’t guarantee it will fit anyone’s publishing plans for the year ahead.  We’ll see.


Dear Man Whom I Love,

I am the person who has been cooking that food you find waiting for you at 6pm when you get home from work.   All by myself with no help.  It is not necessary to spend your holiday weekend hovering near the stove and running to me nervously every time you hear a beeping sound.


The Person Who Arranges All Those Other Hobbies For You.


Our Advent Countdown Schedule:

Friday: Clean out the house.  Including Deskavation.

Saturday: Advent Decorating and Other Things We Want To Do.

Sunday: Consubstantial!  Under My Roof!  And With Your Spirit!

I can’t wait.


I managed to think up 20% more quick takes than last week.  Unless you disqualify the double-posting on consubstantial, in which case I’m holding steady with a solid C- / D+, depending on your grading scale.

*Long ago while working in state goverment, my department used to get letters from real live crazy people.  The kind who make up fake legal documents and genuinely believe they are real.  We pretended to file them as requested.  Crazy people italicize.  Very much.

Thanksgiving, Franciscans, and All Things In Moderation

Last night we took the kids to burgers then Target to quick buy our Giving Tree gift items before the shopping season began.  Stopped at the liquor store on the way; SuperHusband dashed inside, and then sloowed down . . . they were giving out free samples. [I had no idea that was legal.]  Fortunately most of it was weird trendy froofy stuff he doesn’t drink.

Kids and I sat in the car rehearsing Christmas Carols, though eventually I had to make the boy stand out in the cold next to the car, because he was being so, er, impatient, about our singing.  Then had to pre-emptively save him from injury or death, when I saw he got the bright idea to ambush his father coming out of the store.  That’s a lovely practical joke in the front hallway, dear, but not in a parking lot after dark.  He understood as soon as I explained.

Thanksgiving Eve with the Catholic Family.  Yes.  (And Target was so peaceful.  Amen.)


My favorite Thanksgiving book is Squanto’s Journey.  Goodness you can now get in paperback for $7.  I might have to add it to my wish list.

Something cool I didn’t mention in my first review, and that the Amazon Preview doesn’t snow you: The Friars get their credit.


We went to Mass this morning, chatted on the playground, then came home and the young cooks put together a batch of shortbread (per the Joy but with whole wheat flour) to bring to dinner later today. Meanwhile, SuperHusband kept showing me ads from the Sobieski website.  I can’t spell it or pronounce it, but if you google “inexpensive Polish Vodka” the ad pops up on top.  If you have utterly failed in your uber-franciscan aspirations, and have resolved just to drink affordably, it’s the one.   Tito’s is a smidge better, and is therefore my second-choice recommendation, but costs a lot more.


And all this to tell you a true story, which might be of help to about six people on the internet: You know they say that if you have an irregular heartbeat you should give up alcohol and caffeine?

One Lent the SuperHusband and I, who drink laughably moderately if you were wondering, gave up alcohol as a penance.  I gave it no thought. (Other than: Gosh I like beer.)  Looking back, hey, wait a minute, that was the year I developed a weird skipped-beat heart thing.  Previously had only had it during pregnancy.  (When — get this — I don’t drink.)

So the first thing to do is keep not drinking, and plus give up coffee as well.  Skipping only gets worse. Long drawn out medical investigation confirms it is a benign condition (PVC’s), hurray, go home and don’t worry about it.  Yay!

No sense living the penitential life purely for spiritual reasons, if there’s not gonna be a health kickback, right?  (Bad catechist!  No biscuit.)  Resume life of all-vices-in-moderation, decide to see what happens.

Heart goes back to the ol’ normal, all-beats-per-minute self.

Try not to feel too sorry for me.


This Thanksgiving, may you be blessed with problems that can only be solved by doing something you wanted to do anyway.




Bleg: Which Calendar?

I need a new calendar.

The current one has these features, which must stay:

  • Week-at-glance
  • 6.5″ x 9.5”, and not fat.  Fits in a purse.  I could go as large as a spiral bound notebook, depending.
  • A place to stuff odd papers.  I guess I could duct tape one of these on, if I find the almost-perfect calendar.
  • Punch-dot corner thingie so it’s easy to find where you are (some other equivalent technology is acceptable in theory).
  • Not silly expensive.

I don’t need to impress anyone. I don’t need it to inspire or entertain.   Ideally it would not have goofy cartoon characters on it.  It can be academic year or calendar year or tax year or whatever.  But here’s what I do need:


The multi-tasking around here has exceeded the capacity of the current calendar.  I need a place I can stick a grocery list and about ten different independent-of-each-other to-do lists.  They are not the ready-made lists that come with “Family Organizers”, unless your family organizer has pre-made tabs for “Manuscripts to Edit” “Notes – Book A” “Notes – Book B” . . . “Catechism Prep” “Creatures Needing Medical Attention” “Figure Out Why The Tomatoes All Rotted” etc.

The all-purpose running to-do list isn’t covering it any more.  So I guess I’m looking for one of those binder-ish calendars, that lets you can add in your own tabs and sections and stuff?

(Curiously, my mother had one of those by the time she was my age.  Go figure.)

So:  What do you, or your spouse, or your secretary, or that other sort-of-pulled-together person you know (but not the super-organized neat-n-tidy one) like to use?  Recommend away.



PS: I do not care about your digital device.  I will be very patient and kind if you must tell me about your little electronic love.  But I’m a paper person.  Tried digital several times, no luck. My brain is not made for that.  Paper.  Paper.


Think eternally, shop locally

Sarah R. on Reasons to Support Your Local Catholic Bookstore.

Yes.  Yes.

If there is not a local store you are able to shop at, mail order is the next best thing. For that reason, I’m 100% behind all catholic retailers.  But you’ve got to support your local shop, because they do a work the mail-order folks can’t do.  Mine:

  • Provides real live friendly clerks to answer questions about the faith from passersby.
  • Opens a whole world of catholic thought to people who just stopped in a for a first-communion card.
  • Lets you look at the books!  It’s way easier to size up a book in person than on the pc.
  • Supports local catholic events with a bookshop presence.
  • Turns out for parish sales, allowing Catholics who would never even know great Catholic books exist to browse at their leisure.
  • Provides a venue for authors to sell books and meet readers.
  • Offers free book study courses — authentic, faithfully Catholic religious ed that reaches an audience your parish may not be equipped to teach.

This is not a profit-making venture.  No one is getting rich stocking GKC and nun-of-the-month calendars. Book stores have miserable margins, small dealers face higher costs than the big guys, and the Catholic niche is tiny.  These shops are run as a ministry.

If you knew your parish religious education program was evangelizing hundreds of non-Catholics and fallen-away Catholics, wouldn’t you put a few bucks into the special collection for that ministry?

If your parish had a full-time staff person whose only job was to answer questions about the faith from people too shy to darken the door of a church, don’t you think a little contribution towards that person’s puny salary would be in order?

Support your local Catholic bookstore.


Here are the ones I know about in my corner of the universe:

St. Anthony’s in Greenville and Spartanburg

St. Francis Shop in Columbia

Pauline Books and Media in Charleston

UPDATED to add:

Queen of Peace Bookstore in Vancouver, WA

If you know of others, please add them in the combox.  Or write a post with your own links.