Book Review

Books in Brief: Van Stockum, Speare, Undset, & de Trevino

You’d think that during this Communist Lock-Down, I’d have lots of time to write blog posts.  Alas, if it were only so!  As it is, I find it very difficult to actually sit down at the computer and remain undisturbed for even 2 minutes to write.

Just now, typing that above paragraph, I had three different girls wanting my attention.  “Mom, can we have crackers for our Dolly Picnic?”  And, “Mom, it’s wet outside.”  And finally, the third girl just came in and stared at me.

This is why, back in the good old days, I used to pack up my laptop, drive to a coffeeshop, and peck away with a hot cappuccino and no children in sight.  (Bless their souls; they are so cute.)

But I digress.  Today’s topic is books, and I intend to offer a few lovely ones that we’ve enjoyed lately.  My apologies if my descriptions and explanations are a bit brief–please refer back to the beginning of this essay.

The Bantry Bay Series by Hilda van Stockum

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Lately I’ve been reading Hilda van Stockum’s Bantry Bay Series as our afternoon read aloud.  These books are published through Bethlehem Books.

As I’m only halfway into the second book of three, I suppose I can only speak from what I’ve read, but they’re excellent.  They’re set in Ireland around the turn of the 20th century and follow the story of a rural family.

All of our children are enjoying this series.  Even our eldest, age 13, leaves her homework and slips into the living room to listen to my terrible Irish accent.  (If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly, right?)

I especially appreciate the glorious innocence of the time period.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

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We listened to this book via Audible during our lunchtime.  We also own it, however, so that once we began, the older children clamored for the hard copy.

This book is set around Jerusalem at the time of Christ and follows the life of Daniel bar Jamin.  He’s an eighteen-year-old boy caught up in revenge and plotting and spying and truth-seeking.  He’s full of anger and impetuous.  My boys love him.  I enjoy seeing the Gospels in a new light.

My little girls, however, are somewhat lost listening to it.  They could care less about a bunch of teenage boys ambushing Romans and all that.

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

This book is a Masterpiece.  It’s my second time reading it, and I’m especially enjoying all those little things I missed before.  (And forgot about.)

That is the test of a good novel, by the way.  If you’re willing to reread a book, then it must be a good one, and you should own it.

I wish I had more time to write about this novel, but alas, I’ve already spent several minutes writing this, and the clock is ticking.  It’s only a matter of time before someone comes crying into this room.

My Heart Lies South: The Story of My Mexican Marriage by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino

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Now, if you need lighter fare, this is your book.  I’ve got the “Young People’s Edition,” whatever that means.  I’m actually reading it to see how suitable it would be for my 13-year-old.  I’m not finished with it yet, but I’m enjoying all the quaint references to a world now long gone.  It’s set in Monterrey and follows the life of a young journalist in the 1930s who finds herself married to Mexican.

It’s fun, so far.

And Lastly…

If you’re looking for a good homily, I can’t recommend my priest enough.  He’s a warrior for the faith.  Last Saturday he delivered yet another dynamite homily.  Click HERE for it and scroll ahead to 30:03.

I was very glad to be present at this private Mass with all the children.  (My husband was acting as MC and serving.)  It’s important for them to see clearly what’s happening in the Church.

In this particular homily our priest examines Ratzinger’s 1969 prophecy that the Church would become small.  I’ll post a couple paragraphs from Ratzinger–later Pope Benedict XVI–below.  The whole thing can be purchased in book form from Amazon or Ignatius Press.  It’s chilling, it’s true, and we’re living this now.

1969 Prophecy of Fr. Ratzinger

“What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but the priest who is no specialist, who does not stand on the [sidelines], watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of man, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.
Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.
The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century…”

 

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.