Book Review

What Are We Reading?

Today I’ll give a brief overview of what everyone in my family is reading. This might give you some book ideas, if you’re stuck in a rut.

Speaking of ruts…are you stuck in one? I mean, when’s the last time you picked up a book instead of your phone to read something?

For those of you who are addicted to technology and treat your phone like a god, put it down! Take a break. See if you can not touch that Thing for a whole day. (After you’ve finished reading this blog post, of course.)

Books, Books, Books

Shall we start with the youngest?

The two Little Wreckers aren’t actually able to read, so they just drop in wherever anyone else is reading a book. They are not deterred if that person is silently reading. They just plop themselves down and look on.

For example, yesterday, I wondered upstairs to find this:

As you can see, the Older Sister was finishing up Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Littlest Wrecker undeterred, hopped in her chair, threw a doll down, and worked at dressing another doll. The Other Wrecker less obtrusively looked on. Eventually they did beg the Older Sister to read aloud, which she happily did.

I noticed last night, however, that the Older Sister started a new book from the Fairchild Family Series by Rebecca Caudill. Now she’s reading Happy Little Family.

How about the boys?

At this moment, the boys are all deep into the Redwall Series by Jacques Brian, again. There are some twenty or more books in this series, and we only own the first eight or nine. So every now and then the boys beg me to pick up a few from the library, which I did earlier this week. They’re currently reading Long Patrol, Marlfox, and Legend of Luke, I think.

The boys also have a few audio books going. At lunchtime, we’re listening to The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. This is the original book–not a modern, edited version–and it’s difficult, but beautiful and definitely worthwhile.

We do own a hardcover Illustrated Classics version of The Pilgrim’s Progress and another edited version that my boys read when they were little, but I wanted them to hear the original language and be very familiar with it. This book is so important. I can’t tell you how many times The Pilgrim’s Progress is mentioned in other books.

The other audio book we’re listening to during Art and History Time is from Tan Publishing. It’s volume 4, The Story of Civilization: The History of the United States. This whole series is great and worth owning in both print and audio versions.

The Eldest

The Eldest is reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe for her Literature class and Honey From the Rock by Roy Schoeman, which she picked up off of our bookshelves for fun.

Honey From the Rock is a fascinating read as it chronicles the conversion stories of 16 mostly well known Jews. I can particularly remember Alphonse Ratisbonne, who dramatically converted while in Rome after taking a dare to wear the Miraculous Metal. He eventually became a priest.

There is also the story of Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, which some of you may know from Catholic Answers and LifeSiteNews.

My Husband

My husband is currently reading a Ham Radio manual and Nothing Superfluous by Rev. James Jackson, FSSP. It must be a good book because my husband enjoys pausing and telling anyone in the room all the biblical and historical reasonings behind every gesture, item, and action during the Traditional Latin Mass.

Me?

I just finished rereading two books: The Quiet Light by Louis De Wohl and In This House of Brede by Rumor Godden. Both are excellent reads. The Quiet Light is a delightful romp through history with spiritually edifying insights. It also features a sacrificial love story of a knight, thwarted by his lady.

In This House of Brede is just downright good. If you’ve read it, you know. My favorite sister is Dame Agnes because she’s so cranky and always right. Dame Veronica, the book’s Drama Queen, gets a close second, though, because I love it when her chin quivers. She’s hysterical.

And what am I going to read next?

I think I’ll read Robert Hugh Benson’s The Queen’s Tragedy, which chronicles the reign of Mary Tudor in England. I’ve never been disappointed with Benson’s historical novels.

How about you?

Have you read anything good lately?

Life is Worth Living

Christmas Shopping!

Yes, we’re talking Christmas here, and it’s about the material side of things, too. Yikes! I intend to dedicate this post to Christmas shopping and Christmas gifts intentionally for two reasons:

  1. It is always a good idea to look closely at one’s finances well ahead of any purchases, especially in a season oftentimes fraught with expense. So for prudential budgeting purposes, our family actually does the bulk of our Christmas shopping in October.
  2. We also like to have our Christmas shopping done well in advance of Advent so that we can do precisely that: Advent. Who likes to rush around frantically shopping at the last minute? Not me, anyway. We prefer to attempt a slower, more prayerful awareness of the liturgical season.
Here are a couple of the little girls in their new dresses we gave them last year for Christmas.

That said, let’s look at a few things our family does for gifts.

Ah, but perhaps I should mention that we don’t do Santa Claus? On second thought, let’s not mention it and move on. Feel free to ask me to explain later, if you’re curious, and I will.

So on Christmas morning, after praying Lauds and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, our children open a few gifts from us. Our goal is to keep it simple, and so here’s what we typically give:

  1. A book
  2. An article of clothing
  3. And something else fun or useful

Now we have 7 children, and those three items add up and can be expensive, so we buy used things, if possible. For example, almost all the books are used, or I will purchase them months in advance from, say, Bethlehem Books when they have their half-off sales. Most of the clothing I purchase used too, at second-hand stores. The last “fun” gift, however, does get to be tricky and most often is not used.

Let me give you some examples of what our children will actually receive this very Christmas. (Should you happen to see the children, don’t tell them!)

The Youngest:

Second-hand dress from Once Upon a Child, used Jan Brett book purchased online, and a play skirt from Hobby Lobby

Next Girl Up:

Same as above.

The Third Youngest Girl will also receive much the same, except that instead of a play skirt, she will be getting some colorful notecards that I found on sale at Hobby Lobby. (She likes to do crafty things.)

The boys will also be receiving second-hand clothing from my cousin, the following books, which I purchased earlier this year at a Bethlehem Book sale, and one pellet gun, which they will all share.

The Eldest is getting a new dress–not used–and this book:

The Eldest loves everything Jane Austen.

Christmas Stockings and a Family Gift

Yes, we do Christmas stockings. Typically we put Christmas candy in the children’s Christmas stocking. This year I also purchased some Christmas-themed socks to stick in too.

And lastly, I purchased a Christmas puzzle as a family gift.

And what about me and my husband? Do we exchange gifts? Yes, and while I do have his gift purchased already, I cannot tell you what it is, for fear that he might actually look at this blog post.

Do You Have Any Christmas Gift Ideas?

Do any of you have any Christmas Gift ideas? If so, I’d love to hear about them. I suspect that some of you are very crafty and handy and might even be able to make Christmas gifts.

Book Review

O’Brien’s Latest Novel: The Lighthouse

Michael O’ Brien, Catholic Author Extraordinaire, has recently published a new novel, The Lighthouse, through Ignatius Press.

Here it is.

My copy came in the mail last Monday. I finished reading it Tuesday night. Yes, it was that good, and yes, it was rather short for him–only 199 pages. In truth, that was my one disappointment. I was hoping for a whale of an epic, something along the lines of Voyage to Alpha Centauri or A Father’s Tale. Alas, his last three novels have been on the shorter side–Elijah in Jerusalem, The Fool of New York City, and this one, The Lighthouse.

Length aside, The Lighthouse is a moving tale of the life of Ethan McQuarry, a young lighthouse keeper with a wounded past. Just like his other novels, we get a good dose of sin, evil, loneliness, holiness, and redemption. Unlike most of his other novels, the evil is not expressly tangible, as say in Sophia House or Island of the World. You Michael O’Brien readers out there will know what I’m talking about. One is not made to read through truly horrific evil acts. And because of that, The Lighthouse seems, well, lighter, even with its tragic but redemptive ending.

Those of you who have never picked up an O’Brien novel, this might be a good place to start. Those of you who can’t seem to put O’Brien novels down, this book won’t disappoint you.

Happy Reading!

Book Review

Book Review: Dorothy Sayers’s Strong Poison

First of all, a business note:  I’ll be on vacation for a few days.  Deo gratias.

Secondly, with sigh, the area around Paul’s spinal catheter is beginning to swell again.  If you think of it, remember him in your prayers.  It would appear to be only a matter of time before he’s in surgery once again.   Fiat mihi secundum verbum.

And now for delightful Summer Reads…

After finishing Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night and loving it, of course I would immediately want to read Strong Poison (and Busman’s Honeymoon.)

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Gaudy Night could be my favorite book of the year.

Now, if you haven’t read Gaudy Night, quit reading this blog post right now and go read that.  Then come back to this post to see if Strong Poison is for you, because I have One Big Qualm with it.

Strong Poison

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This book is naturally going to be interesting to those who have read Gaudy Night, as it’s the backstory of Harriet Vane’s infamous trial, as she’s accused of poisoning and killing her then live-in boyfriend, Philip Boyes.  This trial and Vane’s immoral history are alluded to several times in Gaudy Night.  It was rather informative, therefore, to actually read about it.

Perhaps I should have mentioned that Sayers wrote Strong Poison first, then Gaudy Night?  But I’m not sure reading them in that order would be captivating, for I think Strong Poison isn’t as good.  Certainly I love Sayers’s wit, and the glimpses of immature Lord Peter Wimsey falling hard for Vane are so enduring, but as I mentioned above, I have One Big Qualm with this book.

My problem is that Miss Climpson, an undercover employee of Wimsey’s, decides to play the part of a soothsayer or a spiritualist in order to obtain information to free the innocent Vane from prison and the death sentence.  By doing this, Climpson leads multiple false seances, pretending to invoke the dead, while also manipulating an Ouija Board.

Now this is a Bad Idea; it’s downright dangerous.  This is the world of the demonic–just ask any exorcist.  In fact, these kinds of behaviors open one to demonic oppression or possession.  One would want to stay as far away from such things as possible.

To be fair, Miss Climpson does voice her concerns, and it would appear that her conscience does bother her, but in the end, she goes through with it.  One could maybe conclude that while Sayers doesn’t like the practice of deception to reach into this evil world of spirits, she too, however, would be willing to go through with it?  I don’t know.

But I do know that that chapter alone is the reason why I couldn’t recommend this book to anybody who does not understand the seriousness of the matter.  Let me repeat myself–only a mature reader ought to read this book.

Strong Poison otherwise was a delightful read.  One gets a clearer picture of Vane’s transformation from a girl willing to practice “free love” to a woman beginning to realize the foolishness and shallowness of such behavior.  In the end, Vane wants something more, but needs time to heal, which Lord Peter Wimsey just doesn’t understand until Gaudy Night.  

So, what am I bringing on vacation to read?

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Busman’s Honeymoon, naturally, as it follows Gaudy Night.  I’ve started it already and have had to force myself to put it down, or I won’t have anything worthy to read on the beach.  I hope to write a few words on it later next week or so.

Call Me Catholic

What to do with Confirmation $$ ??

Many of you readers know that our five oldest children were recently confirmed by Raymond Cardinal Burke.  O glorious day!

I’ll post a few pictures below for a brief recap…

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The Eldest, just confirmed, making her way back to the pew at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Hard to see anything here, I know.

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Cardinal Burke giving The Youngest a blessing afterwards.

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Our whole family after receiving a blessing from His Eminence.

As the dust settles from last week and indelible marks remain on the children’s souls for all of eternity, there was only one item yet to be taken care of…

What to do with all that cash their relatives so graciously bestowed upon them?

Hmmm…what would you do, if you were given some cash as a child?

Without parental intervention, our children would likely have done one of two things:

  1. Shoved the cash into their piggy banks.  (Not a bad idea.)
  2. Biked over to the local grocery store and purchased ridiculous amounts of Mike and Ikes, Cherry Nibs, and Peanut Butter M&Ms.  (Fun.  But a bit of a waste.)

Fortunately, we had a plan, should any cash find their way into those Confirmation cards.  All the children–except The Eldest as she already owned one–purchased Latin Mass Missals, and they’ve arrived in the mail!

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Here they all are.

Their names are written on the front of them, and we keep them on this bookshelf in the living room for easy access.

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We’re very thankful that the older children can have their own missals, as we feel it’s important to begin familiarity with it as soon as possible.  There are wonderful things to learn about the Mass in these books too.  (For those of you who may be unfamiliar, the books have Latin on one side and English on the other with explanatory notes.)

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Here’s a shot of the pages directly preceding the prayers of the Mass.

But what about The Eldest, you might ask?  What did she purchase with her extra cash, since she already owned a missal?

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The Eldest’s 3 volume purchase, which sits on her bookshelf in her room.

She purchased the Roman Breviary, which was certainly more expensive.  Fortunately for her, she had saved up her piano money from the spring and summer.  Now she will be able to pray the responses during Lauds, which begins around 6:25am in our household.

Hopefully in a year or two the boys will be able to purchase their own breviaries too.  These books are very beautiful.  We find it edifying and inspiring to pray the ancient psalms of the Church day in and day out, and we look forward to the boys praying them aloud.  As it is now, they sit quietly with us and are either silently praying in their hearts or dozing in the candle light…

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Thank you to all the grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncle who contributed to the children’s Holy Book Fund!

And most especially, thank you to everyone who prayed for the children on that most memorable day!

Book Review

Read a Print Book!

The other day I attended a talk given by the founder of the Well-Read Mom Book Club, Marcie Stokman.  The most inspiring point I took away was simple and went something like this:

You really do have time to read!

Now, she’s right.  There are many moments throughout the day that I waste.  For example, what did I choose to do during those fifteen minutes of free time after the boys’ Morning School, but before I had to get lunch ready?  Nothing.  I really can’t account for them.  Then, what about that half hour in the afternoon when nobody was hanging on me?  I checked my email and scrolled through a favorite blog.  Or, how about last night when everyone was in bed?  Hmmm….

Usually I’m pretty good about not wasting time, but I know I do it.  Yesterday, however, I was inspired to sneak in a few extra minutes of reading, and it was worth it.  I actually read about 75 pages.  Got that?  75 pages that I normally wouldn’t read.

Today, I just want to challenge you to pick up a print book and read it, if only for ten minutes.  Just do it.

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P.S.  Need a book recommendation?  I would suggest anything by Michael O’Brien or Jane Austen.

P.P.S.  Already read all of O’Brien and Austen?  Read Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

Book Review

Books in Brief: Willa Cather, Miguel Pro, & Agatha Christie

I’ve read a few books recently.  If you’re interested, my thoughts are below.

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Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

Willa Cather is one of my favorite authors.  The way she writes about the land–the prairie in particular–is deeply moving.  I suppose it’s because I grew up on a farm, and I have vivid memories of climbing grain bins only to watch the sun set on acres and acres of corn.

But it’s not just the way in which Cather writes about land, though, that is admirable.  No, it’s the way in which she writes about people, especially those early settlers.  Her stories remind me of my ancestors and their stories.

Cather knew these farmers and immigrants–for she was one of them–and she was able to give them an unforgettable voice–a dolorous voice, for their lives were full of suffering, which brings me around to Song of the Lark.  In this novel, my favorite characters were just those who couldn’t seem to pull it together–Professor Wunsch especially, but also Fritz Kohler and perhaps Mrs. Tellamantez.

This novel, though, was my least favorite Willa Cather novel.  I didn’t like Thea Kronborg, and I didn’t like Fred Ottenburg.  In the end, Thea puts her career, wealth, and fame over her mother’s dying wish to see her one last time, and Fred wants to justify lying to Thea in order to further Thea’s career.  (Do you know, Fred reminded me of Mr. Rochester from that excellent novel Jane Eyre?  You’ll recall both men had secret wives and both thought that the means could justify the end, which is stupid and wrong.)

In short, however, I was disappointed in Song of the Lark.  While I enjoyed her descriptions of Moonstone and the surrounding Colorado territory, I just couldn’t muster up enough sympathy or compassion for Thea.

But for those of you unfamiliar with Cather, take heart!  Read her other works, especially Death Comes For the Archbishop.  Now that’s an exceptional book.

Father Miguel Pro by Gerald Muller

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Our family’s Saint of the Year is Miguel Pro.  Naturally I thought it a good idea to read up on him, and so I bought this Ignatius Press book at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has a side altar dedicated to him.

I really enjoyed reading this book and so did the rest of my family.  In fact, we had to make a rule: No One Takes That Book Out of the Living Room Until Mom is Done Reading It!

Well, I finished it, and I have a much deeper appreciation for this priest who survived a few years of the terrible Mexican Revolution in the 1920s wherein churches were desecrated, nuns were raped, and priests were murdered.  Fr. Miguel Pro was eventually hunted down too and shot.

I highly recommend this short book for your whole family.

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It has great pictures too.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

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My daughter is taking a British Literature class this summer wherein all the novels are murder mysteries.  Yikes.  She’ll be reading the likes of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and G. K. Chesterton.

Now I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel.  Up until this week, the only thing I knew about Christie was the fact that she signed the infamous 1971 “Agatha Christie Indult,” wherein Pope Paul VI granted England and Wales permission to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.

Apparently Christie, who was not even a Catholic, objected to the promulgation of the Novus Ordo due to cultural and aesthetic reasons.  She signed with the likes of Graham Greene.  Supposedly Paul VI saw her name and exclaimed, “Ah, Agatha Christie!”

So as I was saying, I was motivated to snatch up The Murder of Roger Ackroyd before The Eldest got to it.  Just what is all this fuss about Agatha Christie in the twentieth-century anyway? Apparently she’s the most widely published author of all time, excluding the Bible and Shakespeare.

And how was it?  Reading a murder-mystery novel?

I can’t say it’s my cup of tea, as the British saying goes.  Even though The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was entertaining, I felt like I was supposed to use my brain and try to solve the thing while reading it.  Now I’m feeling old, and there were just too many parlourmaids and butlers to keep track of and too many open windows and missing objects and murder motives and such too.  Goodness.

I can handle playing the board-game Clue, but that’s the extent of my ability to solve a murder.  So, I’ll have to leave it to sharper blades in the drawer to tackle these books.

Life is Worth Living

Severed Fingers, Audio Books, & Skirts

Severed Fingers: Warning!  It’s Gross.

I’ve had an interesting week.  My 4-year-old daughter was holding a folding chair by its hinges and running.  She tripped and fell on top of the chair, which immediately sliced her two fingers–one on each hand.  The lefthand fingertip was dangling; the right was only cut through the bone.

Yuck.  It gives me the willies just thinking about it, for I had to put the one fingertip back in place.  Ew.

I debated on whether or not I should post a few pictures of her cut-up fingers. I decided to go for it, but with a warning that the following pictures are just plain gross.  If you’re queasy about such things, you had better skim past ’em!  For the rest of you curious folk…

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This was in the ER, right after the doctor cleaned up all the blood, but before he sewed the one on and stitched up the other.

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Back on!

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Much needed drinks for Mom and Dad the following night.  On the right: 1/2 a lemon, vodka, & dry vermouth.  On the left: 1/2 a lime, vodka, & triple sec.

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Poor Thing.  All her brothers and sisters were outside playing with water the next day.  She sat inside, but with her swimsuit on and a forlorn face.

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A few days later…bandages finally off!  Her finger “took!”  (Notice how the tip is pink.)  Time will tell if her fingernails grow back…

Audio Books

After my last post on Summer School, I had a few of you ask some great questions:

  1. How does your “Art & Tea Time” work exactly?
    Around 3pm, I yell, “Art & Tea Time!”  Everyone makes a mad dash for their cursive books, extra paper, drawing books, and colored pencils.  The Eldest puts on the audio book, and I either fold laundry or do some dinner prep.  During this hour, 4 of the children are required to do 2 pages of cursive, which I never check.  I also give them a snack.  In the colder months, we had tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.  Now I tend to give them anything that will keep the 2-year-old and the 4-year-old quiet–so, like animal crackers or gold fish.  When Art & Tea Time is finished, the children put everything away and also set the table for supper.  Then they quickly disappear, usually outside, so that they can’t receive any more chores from Mom.
  2. What audio books are good for a variety of ages?
    My age range is 2-13.  Generally the youngest two never listen, but just eat a snack and roam around a bit.  I’ve found that if the volume is loud enough, they won’t cause any problems.  In any case, our favorite books that have satisfied everyone are the following:
    a.)  The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    b.)  The Little Britches series–books 1-4–by Ralph Moody
    c.)  The Mitchells series by Hilda van Stockum
    d.)  The Cottage at Bantry series by Hilda van Stockum
    There are others, but that should get you started.  If you have any questions about these books or need more recommendations, drop me a line!
  3. What if your children complain about the audio selection?
    Then they can go sit on their bed in Black Out until Art & Tea Time is over.

Summer Skirts

It’s no secret that I love wearing skirts.  (There’s a whole post on it HERE.)  This summer I added two more.  And yes, that means I got rid of two.  You do remember The Rule, right?  One in, one out.

So anyway, I was in dire need of two new skirts.  Where to find them?  I checked out a few secondhand stores, and while I did find something for my daughter, alas, there was nothing for me.

And oh!  What to do on a budget?

I had to shop online at the Power-Hungry-Giant, otherwise known as Amazon.  Sigh.  But truly, these were about the cheapest skirts I could find that met my length requirement. (I prefer to cover my knees.)

And so, if you’re curious, I’ll link below the two I bought.  They’re great, if you don’t mind a skirt sitting at your natural waistline.

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Skirt #1.  Light material.  Twirls too, which is a bonus.  There’s another more “summery” color available.  I might consider purchasing it.

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Skirt #2.  Also light and twirl-able and available in lots of colors.

 

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…”

 

Monthly Picks

March Picks

What have you found enjoyable this month?  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1.  Grandma sent the little girls dresses for Easter.  Who doesn’t love Easter dresses?  Of course they won’t be able to wear them to Mass for a few weeks, but here are two of them trying them on:

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Do I need to say that these two cried when I took the dresses off?

2.  Favorite March book?  Antonio Socci’s, The Fourth Secret of Fatima.  It’s been awhile since I haven’t been able to put a book down.  If you’re interested in the doings of the popes in the 20th century, as concerns Sr. Lucia and Fatima, then you won’t be disappointed.  Socci, an Italian journalist and author, gives a thorough and fascinating and horrifying account of that mysterious 3rd Secret.  Warning: he assumes you are already familiar with Fatima.  (This is not a book for those reading about Fatima for the first time.)

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Drop me a line if you decide to read this book.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

3.  Kids’ favorite book?  Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family.  My children–all of them–greatly enjoyed listening to this book on Audible.  I, too, not only enjoyed it, but learned a bit about Jewish families living in New York City in the early 1900s.  Very sweet.

4.  Favorite fruit?  While my children will eat any fruit, I’ve been finding those cheap pineapples very convenient.  I’ve been buying them for $2.98.  I’ve been restricting myself to one pineapple a week, because I don’t want the children to get sick of them.  But really, I should up it to at least 2, as we eat the whole thing in one sitting.

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Another reason why I love pineapples (and bananas)?  They don’t take up any room in the refrigerator.

5.  Favorite Bread?  Hands down, Renaissance Bread from Galesville, WI.  Fortunately for us, this little bakery, owned and operated by 2 sisters, is not only organic, but delivers once a week to a grocery store in La Crosse.  As I was buying them out every week, I decided to call them and ask if they’d put together a standing, weekly order of 6 loaves for me?  Oh yes, of course!  God bless those sisters!

6.  And…what about wine?  We’ve been enjoying J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was on sale this month at Sam’s Club for $9.71, so I bought 6 bottles.

7.  Lastly, Favorite YouTube Video?  Aw, you knew it was going to be Dr. Taylor Marshall.  He’s got some great ones this month.  My kids really enjoyed watching this one on communion rails.  Me?  I found his interview with Timothy Flanders on Corona Virus very interesting.

8.  My Husband’s Favorite Thing About March?  His birthday.  He turns 38 on the 16th.

Book Review

Their Eyes Were Watching God: Book Review

I recently finished reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, and I was asked by someone if I thought this was a good book?

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The short answer is no.  I don’t think it’s a good book.

And here’s why: Hurston sends conflicting messages about the meaning of love, marriage, and sacrifice.  She gets it all wrong, and I’ll do my best to briefly explain it below.

It might be helpful to begin with a simple definition of love, for love is not an emotion, as Hurston would have one believe.  Emotional “love” is flitting; it is changeable and passing.  Oh the agony one will find in marriage if one doesn’t understand this!  Rather, to love is to will the good of another.  It is to die to oneself.  It is selflessness.  Likely, most of you readers already know this.

Janie Crawford, the main character in Hurston’s 1937 novel, does not think of love in this way.  Rather, she wants to feel love, which is why her first marriage fails.  In fact, she simply walks away from that marriage, literally with another man, whom she then marries a day later.

In other words, Janie has become a polygamist, and not a word is said about it.  Apparently this doesn’t bother her as she steadily marches onward with this new man.  The interesting thing is, however, that she also begins to detest this new husband very quickly.  A good portion of the novel details her reluctance to help him and her lamenting the fact that he doesn’t understand her.  She doesn’t want to help him; she wants to do her own thing, and fortunately for her, he dies after a few years, leaving her with a lot of money.

What to do then?  All the men in the town are eager to marry her, as she’s beautiful and rich, but Janie senses the shallowness of this.  Within a year of her husband’s death, however, she runs off with another man, whom she marries.  This man, she claims to love deeply, even though he steals money from her, lies to her, beats her, and cheats on her.

Now, I get that Hurston may simply want to paint an accurate picture of this time period–this culture.  In fact, that would be the merit of this book.  For those who are looking to understand the conflict, thoughts, and feelings of turn-of-the-century black Americans, perhaps this would indeed be a good book.

But I can’t recommend it because there’s a blending of good and bad.  Sometimes good things are seen as bad.  For example, it would be good to help one’s spouse out regardless of one’s feelings, but Janies does not think so.  Furthermore, sometimes bad things are seen as good, such as when Janie breaks her marriage covenant.

Any book that celebrates bad things as good or good things as bad, without any redemption in the end, I can’t recommend.

Language and Beauty

Lastly, I want to address the issue of language.  This novel is written almost exclusively in a rough dialect coming from the south, which can be difficult to read.  Indeed, writing in such a manner can be a risky thing for an author, as you may limit your audience to only those who are willing to slog through it.  (If I hadn’t wanted to read this novel for a local book club, I never would have forced myself to finish it.  It wasn’t worth it.)

Then secondly, poor language becomes dangerous to those readers who may be immersed in such a culture.  It drags one down, and after hours of reading in such a way, one finds oneself thinking in these words–even speaking aloud in that language, and that language is not beautiful.  It is far from uplifting.  And there’s something to be said for beautiful, uplifting, and intelligent language.  Truly an author who has mastered the English language is a pleasure to read.  I’m thinking of Charlotte Bronte.  Each time I read something of hers, I can’t help but to marvel at her vocabulary and her ability to express so well the human heart.

Let me illustrate this with an example of a different nature.  Many modern churches are built in a “low” way, lacking what St. Thomas Aquinas requires for beauty–namely, clarity, proportion, and integrity.  Without getting into details and going directly to my point, there is a difference between worshipping in a pole barn and worshipping in a magnificent gothic cathedral.  Any child could tell you so.  One is inspiring, and one is not.

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Pole Barn, from Wikimedia Commons.

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Chartres Cathedral, from Wikimedia Commons.  Anybody see a difference between the two?

Books can be the same way.  This is why I would be very wary of a novel done completely in the style of a pole barn–rough, ugly, and utilitarian.  What message are you conveying?  It had better be clear.  Truth had better be Truth.  If one wants to show a picture of something ugly, it had better have a clear purpose.  There had better be redemption in the end.  Indeed, there are authors who have mastered writing in slang or local dialects–I’m thinking of Charles Dickens–so I know it can be done well.  But given Hurston’s confused manner of addressing such things as love, marriage, and sacrifice, I think she fails in her endeavor.

Book Review

Tobit’s Dog: Book Review

I recently finished Tobit’s Dog by Michael Nicholas Richard. I had great hopes for this historical fiction, as one always sees it pasted in the Ignatius Press catalogue near the likes of Sigrid Unset and Michael O’Brien–both both excellent authors.

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Essentially this novel is a retelling of the biblical book of Tobit, but with an American, racial spin, being set in North Carolina during the Depression.  Now, I love the biblical book of Tobit, so as I said, I had great hopes for this modern twist.

Alas, I was disappointed–not disappointed enough to quit reading it, mind you, but just disappointed.  It’s like getting all psyched up for a run in the wintertime.  You know, when you commence putting on layer upon layer of clothing, pull that face mask on, and then realize the wind’s whipping at 30mph with the thermometer hovering at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.  What to do?  Suck it up and get going, of course.  Realizing that you’re in for a doozy and that things might not end well.

So as I say, I was disappointed in Tobit’s Dog, and here’s why.

Firstly, the characters were all limp and toneless.  I mean, there was no real depth to Tobit, Tobias, Anna, Sarah, Gaston Walker, Judge Oliver, Mason Newberry, Del Gaines, Ben Cobb, Crafy Forgeron, Doc Mack…well, all of them.  There were too many characters in this book.  It was distracting.  Like on page 9, not kidding, I had to start writing them down.  When I got to 20 names, by the first third of the book, I just quit with it.  And let me tell you, there were many more to come.

Secondly, I was dissatisfied with the plot.  I didn’t mind it when Richard downplayed the great fish miracle or lowered the number of husbands killed by the demon, or used blessed water from Lourdes to cure Tobit’s blindness, but throwing in that disturbing suicide scene and adding the sodomy bit was…too much.  Not too much as in I can’t handle grotesque situations, no.  Too much, as in it was too hasty, barely scratching the surface of human nature, and corny and hackneyed.  In fact, the whole book had a deplorable element of triteness.

That said, would I recommend it?  Maybe, if you’re desperate for a read that won’t assault your Christian morals.  Richard does get that right, and I commend him for it.  You know, the good is good, and the bad is bad.  And good wins.  Thanks be to God.

A Note on Moving

Lastly, we’re in the final stages of packing a household of 9 and about to sail across 600 miles of prairie to disembark in a forest.  It’s rather exciting around here, and I’m a bit distracted.

In other words, it’ll probably be a few weeks before I can offer another post.