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.
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.
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.
The oft-quoted Charles Dickins’s A Tale of Two Cities comes to mind, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
Personally, I think Bishop Athansius Schneider nails it HERE at LifeSiteNews. (Be sure to read it.) He notes that not even the Third Reich dared to do what’s happening to us right now, especially as pertains to the government and the Church. In his latest book, Christus Vincit, he warns of a coming One World Government, which in the article above, he refers to as a “Sanitary Dictatorship.” Frightening, no?
But you know who else was predicting this years ago? Catholic author Michael O’Brien. Have you read any of his literature yet? If not, pick up Father Elijah. You likely have time on your hands, after all. And that book is a page-turner.
What else can we do besides read great literature?
Of course we need not despair, even though I am tempted to. Early last week, right before the Terrible Ban on Everything, our family went to Confession, and alas, I did confess despair. My priest–God save him!–quietly asked me if I was familiar with the Gospel passage about Jesus sleeping in the boat during the storm from Matthew 8?
“Yes,” I responded.
“And when the disciples woke Jesus, what did he say to them?”
“Why are you afraid, O ye of little faith?” I sighed.
My priest continued, “But I don’t want you to dwell on that. Rather, I want you to remember that he was in the boat. He was there all along, in the storm, and he’s here now. I want you to thank Jesus for being in the boat with us. He hasn’t abandoned us.”
I found great comfort in that, and it’s been my prayer lately. Thank you, Jesus, for being in the boat with us.
Besides personal prayer? What else?
Here are a few other thoughts:
While I hate to encourage more screen time, I will say that Dr. Taylor Marshall and John Henry Weston are spot on HERE.
But more importantly, are you saying a daily family rosary?
I know I talked about the difficulties of fasting recently, but are you fasting? Even if it’s something small? Perhaps you could give up creamer in your coffee? Or refrain from adding salt or pepper to your dishes? Or give up ice cubes? Anything is better than nothing! Start small, if you’re new to this.
Get yourself to confession. Today. Who knows where this is going to end? If the governors of California, New York, and Illinois can put everyone on “house arrest,” then your governor can too. Call or email your pastor. If he’s worth his salt, he’ll figure out a way to legally hear your confession.
Encourage your pastor to do 24-hour Adoration, if your state’s not on “house arrest.” Even if no more than 10 people could legally attend, and of course observing “social distancing” laws of 6 feet, this would be a beautiful way to keep Churches open.
And finally, encourage your priest to do processions. I will be eternally thankful to our priest for noticing which way the wind was blowing last week, for we had a lovely procession with prayers against pestilence last Sunday.
But we need more processions.
Daily processions. Perhaps priests could walk the streets with a Cross Bearer and two Acolytes, while reciting the Litany of Saints and Prayers against Pestilence. This could be done daily, at say 3pm. The faithful could park their cars along the way and pray. Or the more bolder of the faithful could follow behind, keeping “social distancing” laws of 6 feet.
No really, processions are so important that I’ll leave you with two examples of exemplary priests from the past. I pulled this information from newadvent.org. It’s an online Catholic Encyclopedia. We really need to get this done.
As the plague still continued unabated, Gregory called upon the people to join in a vast sevenfold procession which was to start from each of the seven regions of the city and meet at the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin, all praying the while for pardon and the withdrawal of the pestilence. This was accordingly done, and the memory of the event is still preserved by the name “Sant’ Angelo” given to the mausoleum of Hadrian from the legend that the Archangel St. Michael was seen upon its summit in the act of sheathing his sword as a sign that the plague was over.
Personal visits were paid by him to the plague-stricken houses. In the hospital of St. Gregory were the worst cases; to this he went, and his presence comforted the sufferers. Though he worked so arduously himself, it was only after many trials that the secular clergy of the town were induced to assist him, but his persuasive words at last won them so that they afterwards aided him in every way. It was at this time that, wishing to do penance for his people, he walked in procession, barefooted, with a rope round his neck, at one time bearing in his hand the relic of the Holy Nail.
If you’ve ever read any of Michael O’Brien’s books, chances are you’ve wondered, just who in the blazes is this man who writes so well? As soon as I discovered that his biography, On the Edge of Infinity, was for sale, I bought it and was not disappointed.
I couldn’t put it down.
Not only do I consider Michael O’Brien the greatest Catholic novelist since J.R.R. Tolkien, but I also wonder about this man’s sainthood. He’s got an amazing conversion story, going from such things as Ouija boards and seances to being attacked by malevolent spirits and spontaneously reciting Psalm 23.
This book is not boring. And the neat thing is, as one suspects from reading O’Brien’s fiction, many of his stories come straight from his own life. For example, has anyone ever read O’Brien’sA Cry of Stone? This book features the story of Tchibi, a boy who experiences abuse from his headmaster at his private school. O’Brien modeled this boy on his own experience of abuse at Grollier Hall in Canada. It’s excruciating to read.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to On the Edge of Infinity. Clemens Cavallin begins this biography of Michael O’Brien (born in 1948) with stories from Michael’s parents and grandparents. Then Cavallin moves into detailing O’Brien’s childhood in the Canadian arctic and then chronicles the turbulent years following the Second Vatican Council wherein suddenly altars were stripped and destroyed, statues of saints disappeared, and families were discouraged from praying the rosary. O’Brien’s family was deeply affected by these radical changes.
Naturally the book goes on to relate Michael’s conversion, his meeting of Sheila, their marriage, and his momentous decision in 1976 to devote himself wholly to God and to art – specifically icon painting. (Writing fiction would come later.)
Probably what fascinated me the most in reading Cavallin’s biography, however, was Michael and his wife Sheila’s utter trust in God, to the point of downright poverty. Seriously, at one point, Michael and his eldest son had to push the wheelbarrow to the local convent, because they didn’t have a working vehicle, to get the leftover vegetables from the sisters, just to eat for the week.
The other thing that I greatly appreciated about this book was its focus on art and beauty. I’ll never get tired of this subject, because in our culture it is of extreme importance that we get it. Art ought to be beautiful because it’s a reflection of the Divine. Beauty matters!
Finally, if any of you have children and homeschool them, you will probably enjoy hearing about the trials and experiences of the O’Brien family. Michael and Sheila homeschooled their 6 children. And it wasn’t easy.
The Novelties of Summer
I hope you’re all enjoying summer. We are. Normally the children start a little Summer School by now, but we haven’t yet. For we’ve had this to contend with:
2. We have had time for ice cream, however.
3. And we did just recently make a little pilgrimage to a beautiful rural church in Strasburg, North Dakota, named Sts. Peter and Paul.
Even though this church is in the middle of nowhere, people still go to see it. Why? Because beauty is attractive. The following is what one sees when walking in. I apologize for the lack of lighting. We didn’t know how to turn all the lights on.
Of course you can see the high altar behind that newly inserted wooden table altar from the 1970s. Here’s a closer look of both altars:
And an even closer look of the high altar:
Question of the day: Which altar speaks to the greatness of God?
Many of you sharp readers are aware of my admiration for Michael O’Brien. It is no secret that I consider him one of the most talented and brilliant fiction authors of the last 100 years. I’ve read most of his work, and I can’t praise it enough. Seriously, you need to read him. I recently highlighted his book Strangers and Sojourners, but if you’ve never read him before, you might also consider the widely popular Father Elijah. You won’t regret it.
The Apocalypse: Warning, Hope & Consolation
Today, however, I’m going to highlight a lesser known work, a nonfiction piece, which was recently published by Wiseblood Books. It’s The Apocalypse: Warning, Hope & Consolation. (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)
This book is a collection of talks, short essays, and selected readings all pertaining to the End Times – the Great Apostasy, the confusion in the Church, the Antichrist, Jesus’ warnings, etc. And for O’Brien, this thing is short. It’s only 161 pages long.
So, why read it? I’ll offer you two reasons:
The End of the World will happen. Jesus says so in the Bible. No, it’s not for us to know when, but it’ll happen. O’Brien’s book explores that. Many in the Church would have you ignore the Sign of the Times. Of course (do I need to say this?) O’Brien in not a sensationalist, but rather a realist. Just what is going on, on a Supernatural level? He has a few provoking thoughts.
Have you noticed the mass exodus of Catholics leaving the Church? (This problem isn’t just a Catholic one, by the way, it goes for all Christian denominations.) O’Brien’s best chapter is The Great Apostasy. Here he tackles the difference between apostasies in the past and the Great Apostasy that is now taking place. For example, O’Brien writes,
“A civilization that has known Christianity (and is now largely ignorant about how dark paganism can be) is choosing to go back down into the swamp…”
This chapter is so awesome. O’Brien quotes G. K. Chesterton and Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman and Christopher Dawson and Joseph Pieper and St. Paul and Jesus. You need to read it.
Lastly, I Came Across This the Other Day
Here’s the latest Gallup Poll on Mass attendance for Catholics. Yikes.
As a reflection, just think of what has happened in the Church since 1955… We’ve had the complete stripping away of our once beautiful churches. Latin has been thrown out. High altars have been ripped out. Gregorian chant is almost nowhere to be found. Religious Sisters shunned their habits. Ember Days are gone. And Catholics know more about their favorite sporting teams than their own faith.
You can’t tell me something isn’t going on. Michael O’Brien thinks so, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Wake-up, people! And go read his book.
For those of you wanting to start the year off with a good read, I thought I’d look back on all the books I read in 2018 and pick my favorite. It is Michael O’ Brien’s Strangers and Sojourners, which I reviewed HERE. It’s actually the first book in a series 7. Click HERE for a look at all 7. (And yes, you should read them all!)
Some of you may be wondering what I’m reading right now. Well, I’ve got a few books in the hopper and hope to do a some reviews in the coming weeks. So you’ll have to wait.
And now, it’s my birthday, and so to honor my loving parents, I offer my Birthday Post from last year. (Be sure to note that I am now 37, not 36!)
It’s My Birthday; My Mother’s Birth Story of Me
Today I turn 36.
I’m sure of this because I asked my husband, and he’s good at math. I remembered I was born in 1982; he commented it was 2018; I said I couldn’t do the math, and he said, “You’re 36.”
Well, and here I was thinking that I was older.
Because birthing stories are never boring, I decided to call my parents to find out about mine, and my dad answered. I asked him what he remembered about my birth. The first thing out of his mouth was, “Well, there were five deer standing on the north side of the driveway. It was snowy.” And that was it.
So I asked my mother how it went. You see, I am the Firstborn, which is always exciting because as you know, mothers and fathers have absolutely no clue what’s going on with Baby Number One. And apparently I also offered some excitement for the little, rural hospital where I was born too. For nobody else was having babies at the time, and those nurses were all bored and probably standing around the front desk smoking cigs. In fact, I was the first baby of the year born there, and I had my photo taken for the newspaper. This is my special Claim to Fame.
My mother said that she and my dad went to a New Year’s Eve party a few days before I was born, where everyone kept asking her, “When are you gonna have that baby?” Her response was, “Tonight!” Well, that didn’t happen, but on the morning of the 2nd she awoke with a pain. So, at 8am she waddled out to the car and off they drove, apparently right by five deer in the snow.
Now as my mother was saying this, I could hear my dad in the background adding, “That car was a 1980 AMC Eagle. Silver, and quite a fancy one.” Then my mother added, “Well, and we neededthatcar like we needed another hole in our heads.” And he responded with, “It was one of thefirst four-wheel-drive cars made. And was agoodone.”
Anyway, I was born at 6:28pm, and my mother was happy because I was normal. Evidently she was pretty worried about that because I wouldn’t come out at the end of all that labor, so the doctor had to use some scary-looking tool – a forceps – to yank me out, which left a scrape alongside my upper right cheekbone. (Look very closely at the above picture for the scab.) So, besides my head being cone-shaped, which took her a little by surprise, she was thankful and happy to learn that scrapes do heal.
And so here I am, 36 years later, mostly normal, even though I was bottle fed and diapered with cloth and safety pins, which my mother said was “crappy.” (They couldn’t afford the fancy disposable diapers.)
Happy Birthday to me. And Happy Birthday to St. Therese the Little Flower; she was also born on January 2, but in 1873.
Anyone still following the latest in the Church Crisis?
I came across this article from LifeSite News, wherein Fr. Fessio of Ignatius Press speaks out about Pope Francis’ silence. It caught my attention for a number of reasons:
I’ve always admired Fr. Fessio.
I love Ignatius Press.
Apparently Vigano reads Michael O’Brien, as he mentioned Father Elijah.*
Anyone who has read anything of O’Brien’s finds his writing eerily prophetic.
And finally, Fr. Fessio takes the words right out of my mouth, “Be a man. Stand up and answer the questions.”
Here’s an excerpt from the article. If you’re interested, click HERE for the whole thing.
“He’s attacking Viganò and everyone who is asking for answers,” Fessio told CNN. “I just find that deplorable.”
“Be a man. Stand up and answer the questions,” he added.
The publisher-priest told LifeSiteNews that he meant no disrespect for the Pope by saying this. Fessio observed that words said in conversation look “worse” in print but defended his opinions.
“I think the idea that I’m expressing there is a valid idea, and even if I tempered it somewhat, I think it should be said. And maybe … it will help the Pope to have some straight-talking. He seems to want to have openness, doesn’t he? He talks about frankness and openness and don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind.”
“So I said what was on my mind–and not just my mind; it’s on a lot of people’s minds.”
Thank you, Fr. Fessio.
*Haven’t read Father Elijah? Pick yourself up a copy today and be prepared to stay up all night, because it’s that good. You won’t be able to put it down.
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. *
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.
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.
* 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
My Book Club is reading one of Michael O’Brien’s novels for January – Strangers and Sojourners. It’s excellent, and you should read it too.
Just check out this dialogue below, which happens between a woman named Turid and her husband, Camille. Turid is helping her friend, Anne, give birth, while Camille tramps in and drags off Anne’s husband, to spare him the whole birthing experience.
“Birthin’s fer wimmen!” called back Camille.
“Birthin’s not fer cowards, that’s fer damsure!” she yelled at the back of their heads.
All I can say is, that’s insightful. But why should you read it?
Because it’s a love story. Anne Ashton, an Englishwoman, is teaching in the Bush in Canada and stumbles upon Steve Delaney, an Irishman lying fatally ill in his cabin. She must care for him, or he’ll die. And he hates the English.
This book is about pain and suffering, which we can all relate to. And it’s beautiful because beauty comes from pain and suffering. We need only to look at a crucifix to realize this.
And we can all relate to Turid L. O’Raison too. (She’s the speaker of that above quotation.) Well she might be a hard, crude woman, but she’s capable of making the most profound statements. And she’s funny, and she gets it. Giving birth is certainly not for cowards, as most of us know.
This novel is mostly set in twentieth-century Canada, where it’s even colder and darker than here. Man, do I feel sorry for those Northerners. Just reading about them makes winter here seem like a Tropical Paradise.
And finally, you should read it because it’s edifying. Every time I read one of O’Brien’s novels, I am more human.
Therefore, my suggestion is to get this book, pour yourself a big glass of wine, and if your house is anything like mine, lock yourself in the bathroom, so that you may read away undisturbed by the children. You won’t regret it.