Monday, May 08, 2006

Believe it or not...

It's funny how you have plans to read one book and end up with another.

I had no intentions of reading it but for some reason I picked up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (a great small size copy that's kind of like a prayerbook or missal...printed in Australia and I found it in Italy...but it's in English, in case you're wondering!) I used it once before for meditation a few years ago and decided to read through it again. This time with a hi-lighter. Just for your happy's marvellous. Like classic can never exhaust it and you never get tired of going back to it again and again. I get the same feeling when I'm reading the Gospels - how did I miss that? Was that always there?

Read #260 . The prayer by Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity is beyond beautiful.

The CCC is not just a textbook or a reference deserves to be meditated!

What's your favorite number??

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Anything good for Easter?

I was asking the same thing myself! I read Pope Benedict's On the Way to Jesus Christ, which has some wonderful chapters, but it's a collection of essays he gave at different times and not the same thing as a book he actually sat down and wrote (as he did with Spirit of the Liturgy). Chapter two is "Wounded by the Arrow of Beauty" and is worth reading even if you don't read the whole book. This part was great: "I have often said that I am convinced that the true apologetics for the Christian message, the most persuasive proof of its truth, offsetting everything that may appear negative, are the saints, on the one hand, and the beauty that the faith has generated, on the other. For faith to grow today, we must lead ourselves and the presons we meet to encounter the saints and to come in contact with the beautiful."

And if you haven't read Spirit of the Liturgy, I can't recommend it highly enough. I thought it was a book I would read and then pass on (which I a very good friend!), but turned out to be a book that I want to keep and re-read more than once. If the Mass was celebrated the way he describes in this book, our churches wouldn't be large enough to hold the people! But anyhow, since I did loan out the book, I was caught without an "Easter" book for meditation, so I found an older title on my book shelf that I'm enjoying all over again. Fully Human, Fully Divine, is one of those titles you rarely come across. The kind that you like so much, you're willing to buy it and give it away to others. (Trust me, on my limited budget, that's saying something!). It's written by an Australian Benedictine, Michael Casey, and is an incredibly well-written and practical book on Christology. It's the only book I have ever read three consecutive times. My copy is underlined, highlighted, tons of notations....and I still find something new every time I read it.

If you're looking for something shorter, but still spiritually "meaty", I'd suggest Nearer the Heart of God. I got a copy for Christmas and I'm using it every morning. It's a book of Daily Readings with the Christian Mystics. If you don't have more than ten or fifteen minutes, you should have a copy of this book. I usually start out my morning meditation with this.

True Confessions

After telling you all about my favorite book for Lent....I changed my mind. It's still one of the top on my list, but for some reason I needed something different this year. In the end I pulled a title I had read a few years ago, but was just what I needed. (It's good for the Easter sason, too!) Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John by Jean Vanier. Big long title, but the book is not an academic challenge. I love the simplicity of Jean Vanier's writing, kind of like the simplicity of the Gospel itself. Gets right to the point and you think you've got it after a quick read....but it's deceptively simple and has a richness and depth to it that makes it great for meditation in the morning. I have to go to morning prayer, but I'll be back with the rest of my list.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

my favorite Lent book

Ok. If I had to pick one, just one...which would it be?

Bread and Wine. I use it every single Lent. It's a book of short readings for the whole season, Lent and Easter (72 readings in all), but it's different from all the others because of the great authors it has in this one book. Kathleen Norris, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Thomas Merton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Romano Guardini, Christina Rosetti, Blaise Pascal, Peter Kreeft, Dag Hammarskjold, G.K.Chesterton, Edith Stein, Mother Teresa, St. Augustine, Simone Weil, C.S.Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Walter Cisek, Dorothy Day, Leo Tolstoy.... and I'm not listing all of them! No matter how much time you're able to devote to lenten reading, these are short enough - only a page or two - as well as substantial! It's a keeper! it's your turn to share. What's your favorite?

The thing with blogging...

Because I like to talk, most of my sisters and friends are under the mistaken impression that I'm able to write, or that I like to "give" talks (as in official public speaking). I can't and I don't, so why in the world would I bother with blogging, when it kind of involves both? I don't know. Honestly, I don't know. Maybe because I love a good conversation?

Anyhow, today being Ash Wednesday, it got me thinking about the on-going conversation that blogging essentially is, a kind of spillway, a place where I can put the overflow, and if others are listening in...maybe they'll find it helpful, and maybe they'll share something helpful with me! So I'm sitting in chapel this morning and it came to me that the first blogsite I should be maintaining is the one with Jesus, where in the truest sense, I can pour the overflow of my heart into his, where the conversation is ongoing, and whether through words or silences, he is able to pour the overflow of his heart into mine.

Whether with blogging or with prayer, seems to be a discipline and a commitment to being present to the other. So my resolution this Lent is to spend more time "blogging" with Jesus and to keep in mind the beautiful words he addressed to a mystic, "Talk to me....for me there is no sweeter prayer."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Love in the Ruins

One of Walker Percy's best. And in post-Katrina New Orleans where I'm now living, one of the most appropriate, believe me! The story takes place in New Orleans, in a time facing the apocalypse. For those who haven't read it, please do. And read it together with Benedict's new Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (which can be printed from the Vatican website, or , if you prefer it in book form, you can click on the Daughters of St. Paul link. )

I went to a talk this past week, which still has me thinking and going back to these two sources for more. It was given by Christopher Baglow, and he did a fascinating job of interweaving Walker Percy's novel with Benedict's encyclical....and the post-Katrina situation in which we find oursleves. Giving a summary of it really wouldn't do it justice, so as soon as he e-mails the text to me, I'll pass it on to you. It's worth reading, and will have you picking up Love in the Ruins and God is Love. Just by the way, for those intimidated by papal encyclicals, dont be. You'll love it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Watcha reading?

Right now? A book by Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans. I was putting away books in from a new shipment and was ready to shelve this one, when something caught my eye. According to Kreeft, his book is an "edited, outlined, and explained" version of Pascal's Pensees. Truth be told, I only have a very casusal acquaintance with Blaise Pascal and haven't read his Pensees completely....just some very good quotes here and I thought Peter Kreeft's book was worth a second look. More than just a look- actually, I found it so engaging that I'm half way through it and really enjoying it. Since I took a very helpful suggestion and got myself a copy of Sophie's World, these two titles go hand in hand. Anyhow, an interesting point from the introduction mentions that Pascal had a huge personal library but at the end of his very short life (he died in his thirties) the only two books he possessed were the Bible and the Confessions of St. Augustine. I love when I find books inside of books! Like Blaise Pascal reading Augustine, or C.S. Lewis reading Charles Williams, or Dorothy Day reading Dostoyevsky. Know of any others?

Friday, February 10, 2006

"I found these nuns!"

Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time. Once we made the connection between the "saints" of our books and the saints-in-Sacred-Heart-Church, it didn't take us long to figure out the rest. We admired these saints, these larger-than-life people, but the main reason we felt such an attraction to them was they were all our age! It might have been coincidence, but more likely Providence, that every one so far had been in the 12-15 age bracket. Bernadette, Maria Goretti, Joan of Arc, Agnes, Cecilia, (the one exception being Mary Magdalene). It's hard to describe what kind of impact this discovery had for us at that age. Explosive, definitely. Because the next obvious step for us was to want what they had and to be part of the Church they belonged to.
For Christine, it proved much easier than she expected. When she announced her intention to take instructions at Sacred Heart Church, her mother confessed that technically, she already was Catholic, having been baptized as an infant. Her mother had "fallen away" from the Church soon after and just never went back. As far as Christine remembered, they had always been Protestant, so this was great news. Me, on the other hand! Well, let's just say it was equivalent to saying I wanted to be Buddhist. Didn't go over well at all.
But I'm getting ahead of the story.

One day, Chris tells me that she was looking through some old issues of Catholic Digest and she found this postage-size ad for a Catholic bookstore in Philly and would I like to go? And on top of that, the book store was run by nuns (another of our new interests!). She assured me that I didn't need money, since after all, it was a nun's bookstore...and she was sooooo lucky her Mom came with us and loaned me the money I didn't bring along! It was a treasure house of all the books we were looking for. And the nuns were as interesting as the books. They looked at two 13 year olds asking for books on saints and asked the question that probably every nun would ask in those circumstances, "Did you ever think of being a sister?" Christine said sure. I did a double-take because even though I was her best friend, this was news to me! But not wanting to leave me out, the sister asked me the same question. "So, have you ever thought about being a sister?" "I haven't really given it much thought, but it sounds good. But I'm not Catholic...does that matter?" Have to give her credit. She didn't skip a beat, just handed me a catechism and said she would write to me. The rest is history!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

No more good books!

I admit, this is an unreasonable fear, but it is one I felt strongly when I was 13.

Here's how it happened. Christine and I (both of us Protestant, by the way) made a huge discovery the summer of seventh grade.

I told her I had found this terrific book in the Junior High library, The Scarlet Lily ( a novel about St. Mary Magdalene), and she shared her great find at the public library, The Song of Bernadette. We swapped books and then went to hunt for more. After scouring the dewey decimal system for anything with "St." the only books we came up with were The Penitent (the story of Maria Goretti), a life of Joan of Arc, and an old title by Frances Parkinson Keyes called The Three Ways of Love. That was it! We were both convinced we had exhausted all the good books in the world. Couldn't figure out exactly who these people were with St. prefix, but our local libraries had no more to offer and we were dying for more!

Because of this we made a second discovery. While we were church-hopping (a summer pastime, visiting churches open during the day and looking around) we found that Sacred Heart Church across the street from where I lived had the most interesting things to look at, but the really surprising thing was they had stained-glass windows of the people we had read about in the books. There was a huge Maria Goretti up by the choir loft, Mary Magdalene over by the confessionals, and Bernadette in all her glory in the Madonna chapel. Somehow, all these fascinating people belonged to Sacred Heart Church. Made sense to us.

More later. We did find other books, by the way, and we hadn't exhausted all the good books in the world. Thank God.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

my fiction list

this list is by no means exhaustive, so I could use some help. what titles are missing that you feel reflect a Catholic worldview?

Death Comes for the Archbishop (Cather)
The Man Who Was Thursday (Chesterton)
Father Brown - The Essential Tales (Chesterton)
Mr. Blue (Connolly)
Keys of the Kingdom (Cronin)
The Divine Comedy (Dante)
The Spear (novel of the Crucifixion) (de Wohl)
Restless Flame (St. Augustine) (de Wohl)
Citadel of God (St. Benedict) (de Wohl)
Lay Seige to Heaven (St. Catherine of Siena) (de Wohl)
Joyful Beggar (St. Francis of Assisi) (de Wohl)
Set All Afire (St. Francis Xavier) (de Wohl)
Quiet Light (St. Thomas Aquinas) (de Wohl)
Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky)
The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoyevsky)
Murder in the Cathedral (Eliot)
Brother Cadfael Mysteries (Ellis)
In this House of Brede (Godden)
End of the Affair (Greene)
The Power and the Glory (Greene)
The Heart of the Matter (Greene)
Les Miserables (Hugo)
Till We Have Faces (Lewis)
Scewtape Letteres (Lewis)
Great Divorce (Lewis)
Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis)
Space Triology (Lewis)
Pilgrims Regress (Lewis)
Lilith (Macdonald)
The Betrothed (Manzoni)
A Canticle of Leibowitz (Miller)
Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor (O'Connor)
The Edge of Sadness (O'Connor, Edwin)
Lancelot (Percy)
The Moviegoer (Percy)
The Last Gentleman (Percy)
Lost in the Cosmos (Percy)
Love in the Ruins (Percy)
Message in the Bottle (Percy)
Second Coming (Percy)
Signposts in a Strange Land (Percy)
Thanatos Syndrome (Percy)
Our Lady of the Lost and Found (Schoemperlen)
Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
Joan of Arc (Twain)
Kristin Lavransdatter (Undset)
Master of Hestviken (Undset)
Grace Will Lead Me Home (Valentine)
A Miracle for St. Cecilia's (Valentine)
A Gathering of Angels (Valentine)
Ben Hur (Wallace)
Helena (Waugh)
Brideshead Revisited (Waugh)
Shoes of the Fisherman (West)
War in Heaven (Williams)
Descent into Hell (Williams)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

1969: my memorable year

I've always loved books, and just yesterday I was thinking about it how it all started.

When I was growing up I spent most of my Saturdays in the public library (the most entertaining thing to do where I lived) , but I think I really, really got my interest in books thanks to my 6th grade teacher, Mrs McQuate. Oh, and the reason I could never forget the year of 6th grade was her habit of banging a huge glass paperweight on the file cabinet next to her desk, loudly proclaiming to us that "this is not the stone-age, people...this is 1969!" Her wild hair reminded you of a feminine Beethoven...funny what you remember.

Well, anyway, 6th grade started out with the announcement that we would be making weekly trips to the library on the 2nd floor of the school and we would also have to give weekly book reports. Since I already spent most of my free time in the library, I thought I would really enjoy this. Then she took us to the hall closet where we hang our coats and boots. It was long and skinny and way in the back she had shelves of books (her books) which she then proceeded to pass out to each of the students. For keeps.

My new best friend, Christine, was handed Uncle Tom's Cabin (or something equally chubby and challenging), and a few of the other girls were given copies of Little Women, Jane Eyre, Don Quixote (you get the picture, right?) So she finally gets to me and she hands me a book called Manuela's First Birthday. Maybe it was a children's classic or something, but my 6th grade self looked at it in shock. The inside of it reminded me of a first grade reader. And to add insult to injury, I had to give a book report on it!

So for our first trip to the library, I wasn't even looking for a specific title, I just made a bee-line for the fattest book on the shelf and it turned out to be the life of Beethoven. My mother just turned 70 this year and she still remembers the day I brought that book home. Every week for the rest of the school year we made our library trips and book reports, and although it was instigated by humiliation and hurt pride, I'm still grateful to Mrs. McQuate and Manuela's First Birthday for getting me started in my life-long love of reading.

So what's your "breakthrough" book experience?

Monday, January 30, 2006


I'm looking forward to sharing book reviews with you! Get ready for MY "lifetime reading list" of Catholic books, all personally vouched for by my discriminating taste.