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.

Book Review

G. K. Chesterton and St. Francis: Book Review

St. Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton

The other day I picked up a G. K. Chesterton book that I hadn’t thought of in ten years: St. Francis of Assisi.  I remember enjoying it then, if only understanding a 1/3 of it.  Now, that I’ve reread it, I understand more.  I love books that one can return to, because there’s such great depth.

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G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936).  Intellectual Powerhouse.  Catholic Convert.  Terror of Heretics.

My problem ten years ago was that I had little understanding of the history of the Church, and that’s the great strength of this book.  Chesterton doesn’t just start by saying Francis Bernardone was born on a rainy day in Assisi in 1181.  Nope.  He devotes the first couple of  chapters to describing the world in which St. Francis was born.  He answers such questions as, what was going on in the Church?  Or, why was there a great need for a man like St. Francis anyway?

St. Francis of Assisi is just as relevant today as when it was published in 1923.  In fact, it is probably more relevant as our culture has completely forgotten its roots, and if it remembers St. Francis at all, it remembers flowers and birds.  Nothing really of the man Francis – of his uncompromising holiness.  He didn’t just preach to birds and admire the flowers.  No.  This was the man who willingly embraced a leper because he wanted to overcome his cowardice.  This was the man who walked straight into the heart of the Crusades and demanded to speak to the notorious Sultan to tell him about Jesus Christ.  This was the man who bore the Stigmata and asked to be moved to the bare ground to die upon, in nothing but his hair-shirt.

Chesterton does an excellent job of startling our drowsy senses into wakefulness with this book.  He clears up our dull and hazy vision to reveal a truly great saint.

If you’re in need of a good nonfiction book, get this one.  But be warned, even though it is meant only to be an introduction to St. Francis, I found it helpful to be somewhat familiar with a basic outline of St. Francis’s life, as Chesterton seems to take that for granted.

Chesterton for Kids

If you’d like to introduce Chesterton to your children, check out these excellent readers put together by Nancy Carpentier Brown.  My children love them.

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Nancy Carpentier Brown takes G.K.C.’s Father Brown series and adapts it for children.

Want More For Yourself?

There is an excellent magazine that my husband and I have been enjoying for years.  It’s called Gilbert!  Perhaps some of you may be familiar with Dale Ahlquist?  He’s the publisher and editor.  Subscription to the magazine comes with membership to the American Chesterton Society.  I strongly recommend it.

This magazine features various essays from Chesterton and other current writers such as  Dale Ahlquist, James V. Schall, and my favorite, David Beresford.

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Here’s our latest issue.  This magazine is truly a gem.  I look forward to it every month.  (Even though I think there are only 8 issues a year…)

If you’ve never read Chesterton before, begin now.  And don’t be intimidated by him.  Many start with Orthodoxy or his Father Brown series.  Both are excellent.  If you love fiction, go with Father Brown.  If you’re a lover of nonfiction, go for the former.

4 Parting Smidgeons

  1. Since I’ve recently mentioned Evelyn Waugh on these pages…Chesterton wrote a scorching review of one of Waugh’s early books, Decline and Fall.  (Waugh wrote that book prior to his conversion.)  At the time, Waugh thought it was hilarious and put Chesterton’s condemnatory remarks on his 1929 Christmas card.
  2. After Waugh’s conversion, he became great friends with Hilaire Belloc, who happened to be best buds with Chesterton.  I’m not sure, however, if Waugh and Chesterton ever met.  (If anyone knows the answer to that, drop me a line.)
  3. In England, the Church is investigating Chesterton’s life with a view for opening his case for canonization.  This is only the very beginning stage of a long, long process.  Read about it HERE.
  4. What’s my favorite Chesterton book?  Everlasting Man.  And I recommend THIS copy because it contains Everlasting Man, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Thomas Aquinas – three of my favorite Chesterton books.
Book Review

Humility Rules: Book Review

Anyone need a good book for teenage boys?  That’s inspiring, short, and hilarious?

You’re in luck.  Ignatius Press has just the thing:

Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem

This is the title of Brother J. Augustine Wetta’s book.  Click HERE for it at Ignatius Press.

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Notice the monk carrying a skateboard?   This book is full of funny pictures.

A friend of mine gave this book to me, and I read it in a day or two.  It’s set up in 12 “steps” and offers practical advice after the fashion of St. Benedict’s Rule.  It’s good for anyone to read, but the reason why I emphasize teenage boys is because Wetta is a monk, a high school teacher, and a rugby coach.  Furthermore, he’s got a great sense of humor, used to professionally juggle, and loves surfing.  He’s a manly man–perfect for teenage boys.

Wetta even has a little chapter on dating wherein he addresses the infamous question, “How far is too far?”  He ends his rant on the wrongness of this kind of thinking with, “Feel free to do anything you could brag about to your mom.”

Then there’s a chapter on impure thoughts.  He describes his own struggle with this.  “While reading a biography of Saint Benedict, I learned that when he was tempted, he threw himself into a rose bush; so I said to myself, if Saint Benedict can do it, so can I. I went out into the garden behind the monastery and jumped right in.”  You can imagine what happened next…getting stuck for an hour and half, and then having to explain himself to a brother monk…poor guy.  It’s a great story for teenagers.

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I couldn’t resist showing one picture of his monks.  I love that they’re lifting weights.

But he’s got great advice for all walks of life, not just teenagers.  For example, he was once asked to preach at his best friend’s wedding, so he sought the advice of the wisest monk in his abbey, Brother Luke, who happened to be napping.  Brother Luke opened his  eyes and calmly told him, “Tell him [the young married man] that there will come a day when he will want the window open and she will want the window closed.”  Then Brother Luke went back to sleep.  Wetta was taken aback.  What simple, but profound advice!

As a mother, I too found this book inspiring and funny.  For example, let me quote a passage that I could relate to:

When I [Wetta] was seventeen, I burned a hole in the living room carpet.  I didn’t do it on purpose, but let’s just say I wasn’t thinking when I set the hot kettle of popcorn on the rug in front of the TV.  A few minutes later, my mother was standing before me with tears in her eyes, saying, “How much of this house to you plan to destroy before you finally leave for college?  Just let me know so I won’t get too attached.”  That was a few weeks after I had decided to juggle bowling balls in my bedroom, and several months after I had backed the family car into the garage door.

Any mother who has boys will understand what Wetta’s mother was feeling.  How often have I lamented the destruction of my house?  From holes in the walls to broken toilet seats, my husband and I joke about how we can’t have anything nice.

Wetta’s Homework

Each chapter concludes with Wetta’s homework for the reader.  This may be the best part of the book – this simple, practical advice.  Let me give you a few examples of his homework:

  1. Clean a toilet.
  2. Drive somewhere with the radio and the cell phone turned off.
  3. Clean up someone else’s mess.  Bonus points if it’s on the floor.
  4. Spend an entire day without looking at a screen.

Now who wouldn’t want their teenage boy (or girl) to read this awesome book?

Book Review

A Tempestuous Evelyn: Book Review

Some of you may be wondering what I’ve been reading lately?

Christopher Sykes’s Evelyn Waugh: A Biography.

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This is a thick book – 450 big pages.  Totally worth it.

Before reading this  book, I had a good idea who Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) was, but now I’ve got a lovely, full, and ferocious picture him.  He was no sweet pastel painting of flowers either.  No.  I’d compare him to a Jackson Polluck, which he’d probably hate, as he detested modern art, but maybe I could say he was like Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire?

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The old and famous Téméraire is solemnly being towed to its death.  The scrapyard.  Waugh was like that old ship – magnificent, famous in his day, and not afraid of a good storm.

Now I’ve always liked Waugh, as I was introduced to him in grad school with Brideshead Revisited and some of his short stories.  I knew that he had a fiery personality and was a bit eccentric, but wow did I underestimate him.

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He’s in the middle, looking good.  He thought it deplorable to not dress well.

Prior to converting to Catholicism, he was a rowdy, drunken homosexual.  After his conversion, he was a rowdy, drunken Intellectual.

Let me quote a passage from the book:

‘Do let me’, he [Waugh] wrote to his young friend, ‘most seriously advise you to take to drink.  There is nothing like the aesthetic pleasure of being drunk, and if you do it in the right way you can avoid being ill the next day.  That is the greatest thing Oxford has to teach.’

Not only did Waugh drink excessively and raucously in Oxford and beyond, he was also a melancholic insomniac.  In fact, it was likely the drugs he was taking for insomnia that killed him at the fairly young age of 63.  For you see, these medications were not to be mixed with alcohol, and he just couldn’t not drink.

And then, can you imagine how cranky he was after not sleeping?  (I know how cranky I am after nights of insomnia.)  His friends remember him saying repeatedly,  “You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic.  Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.”

But for all his raw and rough behavior, he really was a good man.  He fought in WWII, traveled all over the world, spoke multiple languages, and did a lot of good.  For example, he would go out of his way to help fallen-away Catholic friends recover their faith.  He also quietly, and unknown to anyone at the time, gave all the profits from his book on Edmund Campion to Oxford specifically for the building of Campion Hall.

Waugh was also funny and witty.  When he was courting his wife, he wrote the following in an attempt to convince her to marry him:

I can’t advise you in my favor because I think it would be beastly for you but think how nice it would be for me.  I am restless & moody & misanthropic & lazy & have no money except what I earn and if I got ill you would starve.  In fact its a lousy proposition.  On the other hand I think I could do a Grant and reform & become quite strict about not getting drunk and I am pretty sure I shall be faithful…

In the end, she did marry him, and they had seven children, with one dying in infancy.  But this biography doesn’t get into a whole lot of family life; rather, this biography focuses more on his literary life.

Conclusion

If you’d like a good picture of what kind of man produced such famous novels as Brideshead Revisited or A Handful of Dust, check out Sykes’s book.  But be warned.  Most of the novel discusses Waugh’s literary endeavors.

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Here’s a few more Waugh books.  Read ’em all.  Especially Brideshead Revisited, Edmund Campion, and Helena.  Now I want to get my hands on his War Trilogy, as Sykes insists that it’s his best.  (But Waugh considered Helena his best.)

 

Book Review

Book Review: Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly

A while back a friend of mine gave me Matthew Kelly’s latest book Perfectly Yourself, so I read it over Lent.  It was exactly what I needed.

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Let me begin by quoting a funny, but insightful passage from the book:

I have seven brothers, and as you can imagine, as children we could be quite a handful from time to time.  When we went altogether too far, my mother would send us all to the laundry room.  That meant we were going to get a spanking, usually with a wooden spoon.  We couldn’t all fit into the laundry room , so some of us would sit around outside.  Nobody wanted to be first, because everybody knew she would be tired by the time she got to the end, but sometimes she started with those inside the laundry room and sometimes with those outside.
Having sent us to the laundry room, my mother would then go and make herself a cup of coffee and sit at the kitchen table and drink it slowly before coming to spank us.  I asked her several years later why she used to do this, and she told me that she used to get so angry at times and that she never wanted to beat us out of anger, but she needed to spank us out of love.

This passage really struck me.  How many times do I discipline my children out of anger and frustration?  (Click HERE for my post on Yelling.)  All the time.  Sigh.  I’m always confessing it and always vowing to improve, but am I really working on this?  Nope.  Kelly convinced me that I need an action plan.

Thumbing Noses

Now I know that in some circles Kelly is scoffed at.  I’ve personally come across it, and I’m not really sure why.  Perhaps for some he’s not “Catholic” enough in his approach to writing and speaking?  For it is true; he appeals to all kinds of people – Christians and nonChristians alike.  I guess I would argue that it’s not his mission to explain or defend Catholic doctrine and theology, but rather, his mission is to inspire everyone to live better lives, which is appealing to all people, at all times.

And I need to hear his message from time to time.  And I need his practical advice, which this book gives.  If you find yourself in a similar position, I strongly recommend reading Perfectly Yourself.  This is not a book to thumb your nose at.  Rather, put your nose in it, and read it.

By the way this book isn’t all about discipling your children either.  It’s set up as nine chapters or lessons that help you take a good, hard look at your habits and lifestyle.  Kelly encourages you to do the next right thing.  He wants you to grow in virtue.  He tells you to simplify your life and quit with all the worrying.  And all along there are practical suggestions and interesting stories.  It’s truly inspiring.

Like Matthew Kelly?

My brother, Rodney,  is a avid Matthew Kelly fan.  In fact he’s an ambassador for Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic program.  (Click HERE for the Dynamic Catholic website.)  Rodney insists that it was Kelly’s website, daily videos, and books that saved him from the cesspools of our culture.

I asked him what he thought of Kelly’s work.  He said, “Nobody teaches you anything any more.  You go to Mass, which is of course a good thing, but it’s meaningless unless you know what’s going on.  And I was sick and tired of not knowing anything.  Then I came across Kelly’s books and website, and they are the best thing ever.  And he’s not boring.  It’s all engaging.”  And Rodney went on and on and on…  This all coming from a young man with a rocky past – a marriage, two children, a divorce, and an annulment – all by the age of 27.

My point is that Kelly’s writing appeals to all walks of life.

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I also recommend all three of these Kelly books, especially The Seven Levels of Intimacy.  My husband and I read that one together.  It was excellent.  It inspired us to have regular Date Nights.

 

Book Review

Cranford: One Big Yawn

Some of you may be wondering what I’ve been reading lately?

The answer is Cranford.

I’ve been trying to read this book for years.  I’ve started and stopped three times.  So, as part of my Lenten penance, I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and just do it.

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Cranford was originally published as a series for a periodical in 1853.  I wonder if small doses wouldn’t be a better way to read this thing?

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Now I really enjoy reading Elizabeth Gaskell.  I’ve read three of her other books, and they’re excellent.  I couldn’t put them down.  A friend of mine introduced me to her a few years ago because she knew of my obsession with Jane Austen.  (I like Austen so much that I’m almost always rereading one of her six novels.)  And apparently most people know that if you like Austen, you’ll also like Gaskell.

But that statement needs clarification.  Let me rephrase it as follows:  If you like Austen, you’ll like Gaskell’s North and South and Wives and Daughters, but not Cranford.  You might also enjoy Gaskell’s biography, The Life of Charlotte Bronte, but again, not Cranford.

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Need a good book?  Read these instead of Cranford.

Cranford is just one big yawn.  The whole book details the lives of a few of old spinsters sitting around in nineteenth-century parlors, knitting and mending caps and shawls, and gossiping.  Only a most devoted lover of Gaskell could ever find this interesting.

However, it may be that the deficiency lies with me, instead of Gaskell.  Likely I don’t appreciate the niceties of nineteenth-century etiquette and culture as much as I should.  Or, if only I had a better understanding of this time period, perhaps I could enter more fully into the book?

I’m not sure.  There were a few passages that I did find moving and interesting.  I’m thinking of the sad story of Miss Matty passing up marriage to Mr. Holbrook and a part wherein Mrs. Brown details her desperate flight from India to save her only remaining child.  And of course the faithfulness and generosity of Miss Matty’s friends to help her when she loses all her money is endearing, but overall, I cannot recommend this book.

I am sorry for the poor book review.

For those of you, however, who enjoy watching some of these books played out on television, I can recommend the 2007 version of Cranford, starring Judi Dench.  I remember watching it a few years ago and being entertained by it, but I warn you, it doesn’t follow the book very closely.

Book Review, Call Me Catholic

Peter Kwasniewski: An Amateurish Book Review

My husband is a bit of a nerd when it comes to reading things about the old Mass.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  The Traditional Latin Mass, the Extraordinary Form, the Usus Antiquior, the Tridentine Mass, the Mass of Pius V…it’s got so many names, I can’t keep it straight.

He’s always yakking about people I don’t know too, like Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.  Except that no one can pronounce this guy’s last name, so Peter is affectionately referred to as “Peter K” in our household, which is confusing to others, because then most people think we mean Peter Kreeft.

As an aside, I actually had the nerve to ask Dr. Kwasniewski how to pronounce his last name, and he graciously, phonically spelled it out for me as follows: “Kwash-nee-ev-ski.”

 

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Dr. Kwasniewski: Professor, Author, Choirmaster, & Composer.  He’s also a founding faculty member of Wyoming Catholic College.  (Click HERE for their website.)  He and his wife also homeschool their children.

In any case, since I can’t help but to eventually be interested in things that my husband chatters on about, I decided to read Kwasniewski’s book, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness.  After all, I had come across this man many times, as he writes for the New Liturgical Movement, a blog that I enjoy perusing, even if I don’t understand half of what I read.  (New Liturgical Movement is linked on my sidebar, if you’re curious.)

Well, let me tell you, I just finished reading this book, and it’s a gem.  A breath of fresh air.  Chock-full of stuff I never thought about before.  For example, have you ever thought of having a Marian receptivity to the Mass?  I haven’t, and there’s a whole chapter on this, and it’s excellent.

So, if you’d like a challenge and are interested in things that our culture considers backwards and foolish, I recommend this book.  It’s really worth it.  And furthermore, to give you a sample of just what’s in this book, I’ll mention a few things that I learned below.

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Beautiful cover, even better read.  Click HERE for it on Amazon.

What did I Learn From Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness?

So, the name thing.  What to call this old Mass, that is foreign to most of us and has twenty different names?  This is downright confusing to us amateurs, just trying to figure things out.  Well, Kwasniewski advises us not to get caught up in terminology wars.  He states, “The official documents of the Church use multiple names…each name conveys something important that the other names do not convey.”

In my words, maybe all these names for the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) are like all the names we have for the Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Advocate, Counselor, Holy Ghost.  They are all important and serve to reveal something about the third Person of the Trinity.  We use different names for different occasions.  It must be the same for the TLM too, and I’m relieved that I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

The second thing I learned from reading Kwasniewski’s book is that I’m really not as backwards and foolish as I thought for preferring the TLM over the New Mass.  Kwasniewski states, “Pope Benedict XVI established equal canonical rights for the two “forms” of the Roman Rite.”  It’s perfectly legitimate to have a preference.

When I read that, I was reminded of Pope Benedict’s somewhat well known quotation about the TLM, which Kwasniewski explains in his book, and states as follows:

“What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.  It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”  Pope Benedict XVI.

In other words, it’s a good thing to want to know what it was like for the vast majority of people in the history of the Church the pray the Mass.  Just how did St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, and my favorite, St. Therese the Little Flower, experience the Mass?  It was the TLM that formed these great saints after all.

But in the end, however, it has not easy for me to learn about the TLM, as I’m fairly new to it and this stuff takes time–indeed a lifetime–to learn about, especially if one lives in area where the TLM is not readily available.  I was comforted, in fact, when Kwasniewski compares it all to the call of Abram out of Ur to Canaan.  “It prompts the development of new faculties of seeing and hearing; it requires an exodus from our surroundings of pop culture and intellectual fashion; it calls us to a strange land, like Abram being summoned from Ur to Canaan.”

Yes, I can understand that.  It’s unsettling to walk into a strange land–the strange land of the Traditional Latin Mass.  But for me, anyway, it’s been worth it.  And Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness has been a great blessing and a help.

Want More?

Would you like to experience this Mass of Ages?  Come and see.

In the Bismarck area, Fr. Nick Schneider offers the TLM once a month at Christ the King Catholic Church in Mandan at 11:30am.  The next one will be Sunday, February 25th.

There is also a Facebook page for the Latin Mass community.  Click HERE for that.

And in the meantime, pick up Dr. Kwasniewski’s book, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness.