Book Review

New Biography of Michael O’Brien and Some Novelties of Summer

If you’ve ever read any of Michael O’Brien’s books, chances are you’ve wondered, just who in the blazes is this man who writes so well?  As soon as I discovered that his biography, On the Edge of Infinity, was for sale, I bought it and was not disappointed.

I couldn’t put it down.

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You need this book written by Clemens Cavallin.

Not only do I consider Michael O’Brien the greatest Catholic novelist since J.R.R. Tolkien, but I also wonder about this man’s sainthood.  He’s got an amazing conversion story, going from such things as Ouija boards and seances to being attacked by malevolent spirits and spontaneously reciting Psalm 23.

This book is not boring.  And the neat thing is, as one suspects from reading O’Brien’s fiction, many of his stories come straight from his own life.  For example, has anyone ever read O’Brien’s A Cry of Stone?  This book features the story of Tchibi, a boy who experiences abuse from his headmaster at his private school.  O’Brien modeled this boy on his own experience of abuse at Grollier Hall in Canada.  It’s excruciating to read.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Back to On the Edge of Infinity.  Clemens Cavallin begins this biography of Michael O’Brien (born in 1948) with stories from Michael’s parents and grandparents.  Then Cavallin moves into detailing O’Brien’s childhood in the Canadian arctic and then chronicles the turbulent years following the Second Vatican Council wherein suddenly altars were stripped and destroyed, statues of saints disappeared, and families were discouraged from praying the rosary.  O’Brien’s family was deeply affected by these radical changes.

Naturally the book goes on to relate Michael’s conversion, his meeting of Sheila, their marriage, and his momentous decision in 1976 to devote himself wholly to God and to art – specifically icon painting.  (Writing fiction would come later.)

Probably what fascinated me the most in reading Cavallin’s biography, however, was Michael and his wife Sheila’s utter trust in God, to the point of downright poverty.  Seriously, at one point, Michael and his eldest son had to push the wheelbarrow to the local convent, because they didn’t have a working vehicle, to get the leftover vegetables from the sisters, just to eat for the week.

The other thing that I greatly appreciated about this book was its focus on art and beauty.  I’ll never get tired of this subject, because in our culture it is of extreme importance that we get it.  Art ought to be beautiful because it’s a reflection of the Divine.  Beauty matters!

Finally, if any of you have children and homeschool them, you will probably enjoy hearing about the trials and experiences of the O’Brien family.  Michael and Sheila homeschooled their 6 children.  And it wasn’t easy.

The Novelties of Summer

  1. I hope you’re all enjoying summer.  We are.  Normally the children start a little Summer School by now, but we haven’t yet.  For we’ve had this to contend with:
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This is our backyard.  We’re in the process of planting grass, trees, bushes, and a garden.  Oh, the work!

2.  We have had time for ice cream, however.

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3.  And we did just recently make a little pilgrimage to a beautiful rural church in Strasburg, North Dakota, named Sts. Peter and Paul.

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Here are the children on the front steps.

Even though this church is in the middle of nowhere, people still go to see it.  Why?  Because beauty is attractive.  The following is what one sees when walking in.  I apologize for the lack of lighting.  We didn’t know how to turn all the lights on.

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Check out those sweet confessionals flanking the sanctuary.

Of course you can see the high altar behind that newly inserted wooden table altar from the 1970s.  Here’s a closer look of both altars:

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And an even closer look of the high altar:

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Just look at that detail.

Question of the day:  Which altar speaks to the greatness of God?

 

Book Review

How Did Ex-Cardinal McCarrick Happen Anyway? Infiltration Book Review

I’ve been wondering, just how in the world did we get such a character as Ex-Cardinal McCarrick serving in the Church anyway?

Furthermore, why do we have a pope that refuses to speak clearly and won’t defend traditional orthodoxy?

For that matter, why do most Catholics not even believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?

About a year ago, my husband and I stumbled upon Dr. Taylor Marshall’s YouTube videos, wherein he and Timothy Gordon began exploring these questions.  It was refreshing.  They were asking all the same questions that my husband and I were asking.  The only difference was, they actually did some research.  In fact, Dr. Taylor Marshall did a lot of research and has recently released a book titled Infiltration.

Infiltration*

I just finished reading this book, and I think you should all buy a copy and get at it.  Click HERE for it on Amazon.

I will warn you, however.  Marshall doesn’t spare the likes of Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict the XVI.  This might upset those of you inclined to think that neither of these men made any mistakes.

Nevertheless…

Top Ten Reasons to Read Infiltration:

  1. This book is essentially a history book.  Now I went to public school, and I didn’t learn a thing in my history classes, so I really appreciated Dr. Marshall outlining the last 150 years of popes, freemasons, the Second Vatican Council, and the Church.
  2. Ever heard of Bella Dodd?  She was a former communist agent who worked tirelessly to to infiltrate the Catholic Church in the 1930s, and boy did she succeed.  She testified before the U.S. House Committee in 1953 that in the U.S. alone, they put   1100 of their men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within.  Four of those men eventually became cardinals.
  3. Incidentally, she later renounced her Communism and was received back into the Church by none other than Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  That whole chapter is unbelievable.
  4. Anyone ever wonder about those individuals responsible for creating the Novus Ordo?  Marshall does great work showing us what these guys were up to.  Annibale Bugnini…not a great man.
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien will always be dear to my heart.  Now I’ve heard of his response to the Novus Ordo before, but any book that highlights it, is a must-read.  For those of you unfamiliar with what Tolkien thought of the New Mass, be sure to read Chapter 23.
  6. Tolkien wasn’t the only famous person not enthusiastic about the changes after the Second Vatican Council.  Novelist Agatha Christie, who wasn’t even a Catholic, lamented the destruction of the liturgy for cultural and literary reasons.  And Pope Paul VI granted an indult to the Cardinal of Westminster because of her.
  7. Most people ignorantly brush off Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of Saint Pius X as a bunch of crazy whackos.  In reality, the real situation is much more complicated.  Marshall does a great job of detailing this movement.
  8. Have you ever wondered about Our Lady of La Salette?  Or the third secret of Fatima?  Mary seems to play an important role in these last 100 years of history.
  9. And how about Communion in the hand?  Where did that come from?  Did you know that the Protestant reformers–Luther, Calvin, Cranmer–all insisted that people receive in the hand because it signified that the Eucharist was just ordinary bread?  Which is why, as Catholics, we say Lex orandi, lex credendi.  Our actions and postures matter.
  10. Finally, you need to buy your husband a Father’s Day gift anyway.  So click HERE for it on Amazon.
*Notice who wrote the forward??  Yep, none other than Bishop Athanasius Schneider.  Now there’s a man!
Book Review

Holocaust Memoirs: Book Review

I recently finished reading Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz.  It’s the real-life story of Rena Kornreich and how she survived 3 years living the Auschwitz Death Camps.  It’s gruesome, shocking, and sad.

It should be required reading for anyone mature enough to handle it.  (Maybe as young as 17.)

In the last year or so, this is the third book that I’ve read pertaining to survivors of World War II.  All three books are worthy of your consideration and your library shelf.  I’ll list them below:

  1. Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Rena Kornreich
  2. The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
  3. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

I’ll also mention that all 3 books are very complimentary.  Rena’s Promise chronicles the life of a young Jewish woman, bereft of faith, but suffering tremendously for it.  She certainly lived an active Jewish life prior to the war, living with her family, but at the death camps, and without blatantly stating it, she loses her faith.

In fact, one wonders if hate hasn’t crept into her heart as she participates in the beating of a superior.  Throughout her time in Auschwitz/Birkenau, she wonders, “Where did God go?”  She’s grappling with the question of a good God allowing evil.  And she has no answer.  She can only rely upon herself to survive, which she does against all odds.

It’s truly miraculous how she and her sister survive such torture.  (Note that I used the word “miraculous.”  She wouldn’t use that word.)

The second book on the list is one that I previously reviewed for these pages last year.  (Click HERE for it.)

The Nazi Officer’s Wife is also the story of how a young Jewish woman, Edith Hahn, survives the war, but her story is dramatically different than Rena’s.  Hahn does end up in labor camps, but then is able to hide and take on the identity of a gentile, thus avoiding the death camps.  Eventually she marries a German officer.

This book is so valuable for not only her personal story, but for a close look at the German Thing from the inside.  It’s so eerily close to what’s happening in our culture that it makes your skin crawl.

Since I am always interested in the question of Faith, I can’t help but compare Rena’s story to Edith’s.  Even though Edith does not practice her Jewish faith, she has more hope.  She notices something is missing.  Rena’s is much darker by contrast.

Lastly, I read a book called The Hiding Place a few months ago.

While I’d rate the previous two books as a 10, this book gets a 10+.

At the outset of World War II, Corrie Ten Boom was a middle-aged spinster, helping her father fix and sell watches in Holland.  They were devout Christians who helped Jews hide and escape, but the Ten Booms were eventually discovered by the Germans.  This book tells about the horrific (and heroic) suffering of Corrie, but more importantly, it shows her immense love of God in a dark, dark place.

This is the stuff of saints.  You need to read it.  In fact, you should read all 3.  Why?  Because if we don’t get it, then history will repeat itself.  This evil and tragic event has eternal consequences.  We cannot in fact understand who we are today, without understanding that horrible war–it’s beginnings and aftermath.  We are still suffering the consequences of those driving ideologies.

Final Question

Has anyone read any other good, first-hand accounts of Holocaust survivors?  I’m especially interested in the men.  What was their experience?

If you’ve read any, drop a line in the comments box.

Of course I have read Fr. Goldmann’s account of his miraculous survival in his book The Shadow of His Wings.  Truly, that book is one of the best books ever written, and by a Catholic priest serving in the SS no less!  I’d review it, but it’s been years since I’ve read it.  Probably many of you are already familiar with it?

 

Book Review

Holy Hacks & The Writing on the Wall

Patti Maguire Armstrong has a new book out called Holy Hacks.  It has some great and practical ideas for living out our faith.

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I love the size of this book.  It’s small and fits easily in my purse/diaper bag.

When I read this book, I was struck again by the importance of Date Nights with my husband.  Seriously, people, when’s the last time you spent some one-on-one time with your husband or wife?

In any case, Armstrong splits this book up into chapters, offering tips for growing in holiness in different areas of our lives: relationships, spiritual protection, evangelizing, against gossip…

If you’re in a rut, get this book and do a few of things she suggests.

There’s also a chapter on Lent with some great ideas for fasting and abstaining.  My two favorites in this section are:

  1. Abstain from something at each meal…St. Francis de Sales advised people never to leave the table without having refused themselves something.
  2. Intentionally wear clothing items you don’t particularly like to reduce your attachment to appearance.  (Ouch, this is a good one!)

In short, I found her little book inspiring.  You may too!

Parting Trifles: The Writing on the Wall

It’s been so cold here lately that my children have taken to some creative playing.

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Here are the little girls playing house with my kitchen stuff.

And then, here is some other creative playing.  My two-year-old had some fun with a pencil on the wall.

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Ugh.

Here’s a closer shot of her “artwork.”

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I was going to erase it, but it was so darkly scribbled on, that I couldn’t.  My husband had to paint over it.  Twice.

In any case, I hope your lent is going well!

 

Book Review

3 Books in Brief: Gaffigan, McCoy, & Verne

I’ve finished a few books recently and thought I’d comment on them.

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Anyone need of a good laugh?  If you have any amount of children, you’ll be able to relate to and appreciate Jim Gaffigan’s hilarious snippets about parenting in this book, which was published back in 2013.  I read it aloud back then to my husband on a road trip, and we laughed uncontrollably at times.  Six years later, it’s still funny.

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Chances are that your library has it.  Ours does.

This book was written when all five of his children were under the age of 8 or 9, which makes for some romping hilarity as he details outings in restaurants, parks, and vacations.  Seriously, we can all relate.  What makes the book even funnier, however, is that he and his wife cram their family into a two-bedroom apartment in the middle of New York City, where they have to navigate five flights of stairs just to get anywhere.  They don’t even own a car.  Imagine that.

In any case, if you’re feeling down about the ridiculously cold weather, go read his book for fun.  (Do know, however, that at times he does throw his family under the bus.  He’s not perfect.  And certainly stay away from his TV shows.  They’re downright terrible.)  Incidentally, his second book, Food: A Love Story, is also good, too.

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

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Lovely cover.  Terrible waste-of-time book.

Now this book is just terrible.  I mean, it’s really bad.  It’s the worst book I’ve read all year.  It’s the worst book I’ve read in the last ten years.  For any fan of Anne of Green Gables, just stay away from it, and here’s why:

  1. McCoy has sexualized it, and that’s downright despicable.  For example, she’s got Marilla at age 13 tripping on her cloak and somehow falling on John Blythe’s chest.  Or staring at his wet lips and bulging arm muscles, etc. etc.  Puke.
  2. McCoy gives Marilla a twentieth-century mindset.  For example, Marilla is concerned about politics and women’s voting rights and reversing male/female courting traditions.  Blah, blah, blah.
  3. In fact, the book is very much concerned about showing what’s going on in Canada politically, which is not what one expects, if one’s used to reading L.M. Montgomery.
  4. She’s got Matthew Cuthbert courting and galavanting around with Johanna Andrews, in spite of what L.M. Montgomery explicitly wrote about him in Anne of Green Gables.  For example, look at the following dialogue between Anne and Matthew below, which you can find on page 140 in Montgomery’s excellent novel.
    “Did you ever go courting, Matthew?”  [From Anne]
    “Well now, no, I dunno’s I ever did,” said Matthew, who had certainly never thought of such a thing in his whole existence.”

    Clearly McCoy didn’t read Anne of Green Gables very closely, or she wouldn’t have him chasing after Johanna Andrews!

All that said, maybe the second half of the book straightens everything out.  For you see, it was so terribly written that I couldn’t, could not, finish it.  So if any of you want to borrow my copy, send me an email.  You can have it.

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Now this is a phenomenal book.  It’s about an Englishman, Mr. Philias Fogg, in the 1870s who decides to take a bet, traveling around the world in 80 days.

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Verne’s book is usually depicted with an hot-air balloon, as seen above.  This is deceiving, as Phileas Fogg never actually took a hot-air balloon.

A friend of mine recommended this book, saying that her children particularly enjoyed listening to it, via audio book.  So, I checked it out from our library’s audio section, and we loved it so much, that I had to buy a written copy too.  Then my husband got hooked, and he added it to his audio collection for his drives to and from work.

I’m telling you, this book is well done.  I love the characters, the plot, everything.  And you know a book is really good if all ages can enjoy it.  I will warn you, though, that the first chapter or two may seem a little dry, but keep going.  You’ll be rewarded.

And if you prefer listening via audio, be sure to get the version with Jim Dale narrating.  His voice changes and accents are truly remarkable.

Book Review

I’d Rather Be Reading: Book Review

The other day I was wandering around the religion section at Barnes and Noble, when I spotted a pretty little book, tucked in between some really humdrum-looking titles.  It caught my eye, as the cover was face out and, like I said, beautiful.

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See?  Beautiful.

I immediately picked it up upon recognizing the author, Anne Bogel.  She’s the creator of Modern Mrs. Darcy, a fun website that I’ve perused for book titles.  I’ve also heard her interviewed on Sarah Mackenzie’s podcasts.

But this particular book caught my eye not only because of it’s pretty cover, but also because of it’s snarky title and quaint size.  (It’s about as long as my hand.  I love small, hardcover books.)

I immediately and randomly flipped it open to Chapter 8 How to Organize Your Bookshelves, and I was hooked.  I love books.  And I love organizing.  But I snapped it shut.  No!  I won’t buy another book for myself.  I’m here to find something for my husband after all.  (Our anniversary was just days away.)

Somehow, though, the book stayed in my hand.

I wandered over to the Beer and Wine section.  Hmmm, maybe he hasn’t gotten me anything yet?  Maybe I should help him out and buy Anne Bogel’s book and then gave it to him, so that he can give it to me?  Yes!  That’s just it.

And that’s just what I did.  I bought the book, gave it to my husband, who gladly accepted it, and then had to wait two days before opening it at dinner on our 13th Anniversary.

Thank you, Honey!

So, I’d Rather Be Reading

I read this book in 24 hours, and this was restraining myself.  You know, like putting the book down to make supper and attending to the baby.  It was such a short, fun read, though, that I didn’t even have to lock myself in the bathroom to finish it.

But man is she crazy!  I’m not sure she sleeps at all, with all those books she’s reading, and I found this a little inspiring.  I really shouldn’t waste time putzing around on my phone or the internet.  Rather, I should just pick up a book.  And this should never be a problem either because I should keep a book on me at all times.  (Another reason that I love small, hardcovers.  They easily fit into my purse/diaper bag.)

Anyway, I thought I’d answer a few of her questions that she poses in her book.

  1. What was the last story you wished would never end?
    Easy.  My kids’ book, Jock’s Island by Elizabeth Coatsworth.  If she was still alive, I’d write her a letter and beg her to write an extended adult version.  Like 10 volumes long.  Who doesn’t like volcanoes and islands and seas and a hopeful, young couple separated by it all?
  2. Which was the last volume you hurled across the room?
    Hmmm…besides Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford?  Maybe Anthony Trollope’s The Warden.  I tried reading that one last week.  Nope.  Not gonna happen.  Boring!
  3. Can every devoted reader point back to the book that hooked them on the story?  …one that made them decide, for themselves, to make reading a part of their life, forever?
    The first book I ever remember reading, on my own, and loving, was L.M. Montomery’s Anne of Green Gables.  I still love that book.

And finally I’ll recommend Bogel’s book for the following kinds of people:

  1. Those of you who max out your library check-outs.
  2. Those of you who like to rearrange your bookshelves for the practical reason that you do not have enough space.
  3. Those of you who think Dust Jackets present a Dilemma.  (I hate them and chuck them, by the way.  If there happens to be any interesting material on them, I will cut it out and tape it to the inside cover of that book, but the rest goes.)
  4. Those of you who have “ever finished a book under the covers with a flashlight when they were supposed to be sleeping.”  (That’s Bogel’s official Book Dedication.)

In the end, I am a bit concerned for myself, however, after reading I’d Rather Be Reading.  You see, she has a chapter titled Book Bossy, and I’m afraid that I fit the bill, and this is not good.  Dear Readers, I sincerely apologize for all my bossiness.  You should pray for me.

P.S.  She’s read all of Evelyn Waugh’s books and loves Brideshead Revisited.  Ergo, she can’t be that crazy because Waugh is awesome.

Book Review, Homeschooling

Poetry & Books

Poetry

Some of you may be wondering what the children have been memorizing as of late?

Every winter there are a few poems that I like to go back to, for I think it is better to repeat poems and truly have them interiorized, rather than to continually introduce new material.

So recently my little children ages 5 and 7 just finished up Robert Louis Stevenson’s Wintertime, which can be found in his A Child’s Garden of Verses.  (This is a book that you must own, by the way, for all the poems in it are gems.)  Now the little children are memorizing Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.  I can’t help liking this poem too because it’s one of the few poems I remember memorizing as a child.

The twins, age 10, have recently revisited the The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson because my husband wanted to learn it.  It also happens to be one of their all-time favorites anyway, so they were more than happy to, “Forward, the Light Brigade!  Charge for the guns!”  Now, however, they’ve moved onto the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, which is Psalm 43 [42].

My Eldest has been working on the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel for her homeschool coop.  She also has another poem for her online Writing and Rhetoric class, but I haven’t seen it, so I can’t tell you what it is at the moment.

Books: Read Alouds and Lunchtime with Audible

Our last two read alouds were excellent.  In fact, you should own them too.  The first was Mary Fabyan Windeatt’s The Children of Fatima.

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This true story blows me away every time I read it.  I mean, 70,000 people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun.  70,000!  And there are real newspaper photos from it.  Just google it.

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Like this one.
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Or this one.

This book is just inspiring too.  If those little children can sacrifice the way they did, then I need to step it up.

The second book we just read was also very good, but too short!  I didn’t want it to end.  It was Elizabeth Coatsworth’s Jock’s Island.  And if you can get the version illustrated by Lilian Obligado, you’ll love it even more.  The pictures are lovely.

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Check out these lovely illustrations.

On Audible we just finished listening to Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes.  This book was entertaining, but a little sad because someone steals the children’s puppy and mistreats him.  However, it ends well.

Currently we’re listening to The Moffats, also by Eleanor Estes because the children can’t get enough of her right now.

And what about me?

I recently read Suzanne Wolfe’s The Confessions of X, which is a historical fiction account of St. Augustine’s concubine.  I was a little worried going in that it would be full of immorality, but that wasn’t the case.  I found the book entertaining, but lacking in something.  Depth, maybe?  I can’t analyze it at the moment because I have three children begging for breakfast, so maybe I’ll come back to it later.

Now I’m reading Robert Hugh Benson’s By What Authority?  It is gripping.  I love it.

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These are the other books on my list.
Book Review

The Apocalypse: Book Review

Many of you sharp readers are aware of my admiration for Michael O’Brien.  It is no secret that I consider him one of the most talented and brilliant fiction authors of the last 100 years.  I’ve read most of his work, and I can’t praise it enough.  Seriously, you need to read him.  I recently highlighted his book Strangers and Sojourners, but if you’ve never read him before, you might also consider the widely popular Father Elijah.  You won’t regret it.

The Apocalypse: Warning, Hope & Consolation

Today, however, I’m going to highlight a lesser known work, a nonfiction piece, which was recently published by Wiseblood Books.  It’s The Apocalypse: Warning, Hope & Consolation.  (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)

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This book is a collection of talks, short essays, and selected readings all pertaining to the End Times – the Great Apostasy, the confusion in the Church, the Antichrist, Jesus’ warnings, etc.  And for O’Brien, this thing is short.  It’s only 161 pages long.

So, why read it?  I’ll offer you two reasons:

  1. The End of the World will happen.  Jesus says so in the Bible.  No, it’s not for us to know when, but it’ll happen.  O’Brien’s book explores that.  Many in the Church would have you ignore the Sign of the Times.  Of course (do I need to say this?) O’Brien in not a sensationalist, but rather a realist.   Just what is going on, on a Supernatural level?  He has a few provoking thoughts.
  2. Have you noticed the mass exodus of Catholics leaving the Church?  (This problem isn’t just a Catholic one, by the way, it goes for all Christian denominations.)  O’Brien’s best chapter is The Great Apostasy.  Here he tackles the difference between apostasies in the past and the Great Apostasy that is now taking place.  For example, O’Brien writes,
    “A civilization that has known Christianity (and is now largely ignorant about how dark paganism can be) is choosing to go back down into the swamp…”

    This chapter is so awesome.  O’Brien quotes G. K. Chesterton and Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman and Christopher Dawson and Joseph Pieper and St. Paul and Jesus.  You need to read it.

Lastly, I Came Across This the Other Day

Here’s the latest Gallup Poll on Mass attendance for Catholics.  Yikes.

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Some 70% of Catholics attended Mass weekly in 1955.  Today?  It’s closer to 39%.  What the hell happened?

As a reflection, just think of what has happened in the Church since 1955…  We’ve had the complete stripping away of our once beautiful churches.  Latin has been thrown out.  High altars have been ripped out.  Gregorian chant is almost nowhere to be found. Religious Sisters shunned their habits.  Ember Days are gone.  And Catholics know more about their favorite sporting teams than their own faith.

You can’t tell me something isn’t going on.  Michael O’Brien thinks so, and I’m inclined to agree with him.  Wake-up, people!  And go read his book.

Book Review

From Dust to Stars – A Small Book of Poetry

Anyone find poetry overwhelming?

Would you like to read a small book of poems without a dictionary on hand or a history professor on the line?  Would you like to sit down with a cup of coffee and finish both within an hour?  Do you like pictures with your poems?  With good photographs, not sentimental slop?

Yes?  Then I found the perfect collection for you.

From Dust to Stars

Jake Frost recently wrote and published a slender volume of poetry called From Dust to Stars.  (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)

He has an interesting little bio that I found online:

Jake Frost is a lawyer in hiatus, having temporarily traded court rooms for kitchens and depositions for diapers to raise his pre-school aged children. He comes from a large family in a small town of the Midwest, and currently lives near the Mississippi River with his wife and children.

From it, I gather that he’s a stay-at-home dad.

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I love the cover, for I’ve always been a lover of the stars.

As I said above, I like this book for its great pictures and short length.  My baby happened to be sleeping, so I was able to read it straight through in one sitting.

This book reads somewhat like a short history book, beginning with biblically themed poems and then moving on to saints and angels.  My favorite of the former is Shiphrah and Puah.  This story comes from Genesis and tells of the two midwives refusing to obey Pharaoh’s command to kill baby boys born from Hebrew women.  This story has always struck me as funny because of those faithful midwives.  For in Frost’s words, the midwives say to Pharaoh,

“There is nothing we can do,
Before we even come
Their labor pains are through
And they hold their new born sons.”

Those robust Hebrew women sure do know how to have babies quickly!

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I’m not sure if you can see the photos here of the burning bush and St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt?  They’re great.

But my favorite poem might be The Ones Who Went Before.  It laments that we often forget the great people and courageous deeds that went before us.  Frost writes:

Then the stones were raised to mark the days
In remembrance evermore
Of the darkness stayed and the price once paid
By the ones who went before
But the sands of time swirl and blind
And weather the graying stone
Till worn away like a passing day
More is lost than known
And tales once told in hall and hold
In time are told no more
Like shadows in shade, memories fade
Of the ones who went before

Maybe it’s the melancholic in me, but I find this poem very true and beautiful, and yet frightening for the times we’re currently living in.  For our tales, our Christian tales, are now forgotten by many people.  Sigh.

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Again, a great photo on the opposite page explaining Saint Bees Dragon Stone.

In the end, this is a good little book.  And it would be good for your children too.  Maybe you’re studying the Old Testament and would like to read poems on Abraham, Joseph, and Jonah?  Or, maybe you would enjoy reading about the terrible English reformation?  (There are poems on such men as St. Richard Gwyn and St. Thomas More.)  Or, maybe you’d like a new poem to read on Christmas morning?

Parting Note: I love that he gets dragons right.  They are always evil and ought to be destroyed.  Deo gratias.

Book Review

Dr. Kwasniewski Announces New Reprints

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It is no secret.  I am a BIG fan of Dr. Kwasniewski.  Click HERE for my review of his book Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness.

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So, when I recently read on New Liturgical Movement about the reprints of five books, put out by Os Justi Press, which is Kwasniewski’s republishing entity, I immediately took notice and clicked over to Amazon and threw one in my cart.

Let me advise you, run over to NLM, read the article, and do yourself a favor and buy one or more, especially if you homeschool, and especially if you happen to be studying the English Reformation, for two of the books are historical novels written by Robert Hugh Benson.

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Here they are: By What Authority? and The King’s Achievement

In an email to a friend of mine Kwasniewski wrote, “These two novels by Benson are simply the best unit studies for the periods of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. We read them aloud in our family and couldn’t put them down. My children have returned to them. They make this crucial piece of Catholic history come alive.”

I need no convincing that these novels are excellent, as I am already a fan of Benson, having devoured Come Rack! Come Rope! a few years ago.  But I’m also excited about the little book on vocation discernment that Kwasniewski is also reprinting.  It’s called Vocations by Fr. William Doyle, and really, you should go read the description of it on NLM.

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What am I reading right now?

In the end, I want to thank Dr. Kwasniewski for his hard work in putting out good material for us to read.  My husband is currently reading Pius Parsch’s The Breviary Explained, also reprinted by Os Justi Press.  It’s excellent, and I’m learning so much, as my husband likes to read passages out loud to me.

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My husband’s book.  If you pray Morning Prayer, or any other Office, you need this book.

And I’m reading Kwasniewski’s Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, and honestly, right now, it’s making me mad.  I feel as if I’ve been cheated out of our rich Catholic heritage.  Maybe I’ll do a book review of it later on.

Book Review

Chris Van Dusen: A Children’s Book Review

Anybody reading children’s books these days?  No?  Then this post isn’t for you.  See you next time.  Yes?  Then read on.

I came across Chris Van Dusen’s work a few years ago with the Mercy Watson pig books.  He was the illustrator for this series, not the the author, who was Kate DiCamillo.  But I don’t like the Mercy Watson books, however.  They’re BORING.  But my kids like them, so I let them read a few.  I tend to agree with C. S. Lewis though, who once said, “If an adult finds a children’s book boring, then it sucks.”  Ok, those weren’t his exact words, but something like that. *

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Note the cute 2-year-old in her favorite blue sparkle skirt.  All girls should have a skirt like that.  I’m told they are a lot of fun to wear every. single. day.

Anyway, I do really like Van Dusen’s two books that he both wrote and illustrated, If I Built a Car and If I Built a House.  They rhyme after all and are fun to read.  These books have great illustrations and articulate every kid’s dream of cars sporting swimming pools and houses featuring no-gravity flying rooms.

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My 2-year-old with If I Built a House.  This is our second copy, as the first was used to shreds, literally.

So, since I liked those two books, I thought I’d check out a few more Van Dusen books.  He has a Mr. Magee series, which is ok and Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit, which is fine.  They’re worth checking out at a library.  But his Hattie & Hudson is bosh.  First of all, it doesn’t rhyme.  Secondly, Hattie is disobedient, sneaking out of her house at night.  And thirdly, I don’t like big sea monsters portrayed as kind and misunderstood creatures.  Nope.  Quit mixing up your symbols, Van Dusen.  Sea monsters and dragons should be evil.  Always.  Don’t agree with me?  Read Michael O’Brien’s Landscape With Dragons and drop me a line.  (Maybe I’ll do a post on that some day.  By the way, if you have children, you should really read that O’Brien book.)

Van Dusen’s  The Circus Ship is entertaining, however, and mostly appropriate.  Once again, the pictures are beautiful, and it rhymes.  There is a really fun page where one must find all 15 animals that are hiding from the terrible circus boss.  It’s great.  The only problem I have with this book is that all the animals are of course friendly.  Even a big, fat snake.  Humph!  Snakes belong in the sea monster and dragon category – just plain evil.  The only reason why I could still recommend this book is that he’s not saying anything at all about the snakes actually being good.  He’s only showing that they can be tamed, which is true.

One final note about The Circus Ship.  I know some of you are sensitive about anything circus related.  I know I am.  This is because shriners are typically associated with circuses and most of us don’t want anything to do with shriners, as they’re in turn connected to the Masons.  Yikes.  If you’re a Catholic, that should really bother you.  That said, I see no such connection between this particular book’s circus and the shriners.

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Now she’s onto The Circus Ship.  It is worth a read.

 

* C. S. Lewis’s real quotation is as follows.  And I couldn’t agree more.

“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”  C. S. Lewis

Book Review

4 Book Reviews in Short

I’ve read a few books recently, which might be of interest to some.  Here are my brief remarks.

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One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler

This is Fulwiler’s second book wherein she details the process of writing her first book and discovering her “blue flame.”  Her first book Something Other Than God was better.

However, I think One Beautiful Dream would interest those mothers who are really struggling and maybe drowning in diapers and Cheetos because she’s hilarious to read.  And let me tell you, her life sounds very chaotic.  The reason why I can’t give it a full, hearty recommendation is that I think it’s lacking something.  It would be a richer book if she had included what her family’s prayer life looked like (or didn’t look like) during those hectic years.

I recommend this book for:  Struggling mothers looking to commiserate or mothers who are feeling guilty about working a little on the side.

The Fields of Home by Ralph Moody

This is the fifth book in Ralph Moody’s Little Britches series.  Our family read and listened to the first four books via Audible, and I cannot tell you how much we enjoyed them.  They are excellent.  If you do not own the first four books in this series, you are missing out.  Yes, it is true that sometimes the language is rough, including such words as hell and damn, but they are always used in a such a way that the reader knows that it’s not the way one should speak.  Let me repeat, Moody’s first four books are awesome.

So, the fifth book, Fields of Home.  I intentionally previewed this book because my older children naturally wanted to read it after devouring the first four, but had held off because I heard that they contained material requiring a more mature audience.  And this is true.  While Ralph comes to live with his cranky grandfather, he notices a beautiful neighbor girl and wants to kiss her.  This gets a little tricky.

In the end, I’d hold off on this book until your children are a bit more mature.  The book  just isn’t as good as the other four books anyway.  I was bored from time-to-time because he waxes technical in his descriptions of farm life around the turn of the twentieth century.  But maybe older boys would like that?

Shaking the Nickel Bush by Ralph Moody

This is the sixth book in Moody’s Little Britches series and also not as good as the first four.  Again, my attention drifted from time-to-time, especially in his detailed descriptions of early 1900 cars.  This book, like the fifth, also requires a more mature audience, but for a different reason.  The main character, Ralph, lies to his mother about what he’s doing so as not to worry her.  This is problematic.  But then he also hooks up with a good-for-nothing mooch who in the end teaches Moody a lesson, which is good.

**The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer**

**Go Get this nonfictional book now and read it!**

I was fascinated and horrified by this book and couldn’t put it down.  Edith Hahn Beer, a young Jewish law student, survived WWII by taking upon a false identity, which eventually gets her married to a German officer.  But that didn’t happen until about halfway through the war, after she was forced into the ghetto and sent to work as a field hand.  She watched in horror as the world around her became a living Hell.

The eery thing is, many of the movements leading up to this war remind me of what’s going on in our culture, and this book exposes it all.

Warning.  There is definitely mature material in this book.  If you’re up for it, however, read it.