Friday, February 28, 2014

The Blue Fairy Book (Hesperus Press)

With the introduction of Common Core, lack of God in public schools, and growing safety concerns, the homeschooling movement is growing stronger in the United States. I for one am thrilled as children are once again being taught Latin and Greek. It is also great because publishers are starting to re-print some classic works. However, they will only continue to print these works if we support them and buy their titles. Hesperus Press was generous enough to send me two works, The Blue Fairy Book and The Red Fairy Book to review.

If you're like me, you probably grew up on fairy tales. We live in a Disney society of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, etc. But have you ever taken the time to read the actual fairy tales? The Brothers Grimm? Hans Christian Andersen? There are some similarities between Disney and Grimm, but the differences is where the beauty is. In this reprint of a classic, Andrew Lang gathered fairy tales from around the world, edited, and compiled them into different fairy books.

For those who have not read these fairy tale books before, I will reference "Beauty and the Beast." Mr. Lang draws this tale from Mme de Villenvue, and it is quite different than the Disney version. For starters, Beast wasn't a bratty and spoiled prince, but cursed by an evil fairy. Beauty (not called Belle in this version) is not an only child, but has many brothers and sisters. She is the son of a merchant, who had Job-like misfortunes and lost everything. Ultimately Beauty and the Beast end up together (like Disney), but the story read better than Disney could have imagined.

For those familiar with Andrew Lang's work, you already know about the quality of the writing and probably want to know about the quality of the physical book. In a word, the book is superb. It's hardcover, with a vibrant blue dust jacket. The pages are of a nice thickness, and it contains original artwork from the original works. I've seen other editions of this work from other publishers, and I would pick the Hesperus Press one every time. It is built to stand the test of time and wear and will look beautiful on your shelf! I just hope they continue to print the rest of the series, but they can only do that if we buy the two that are already out. So if you are looking for a wonderful, quality book on fairy tales to read to your children, grab both The Blue Fairy Book and The Red Fairy Book from Hesperus Press.

I received this book for free from Hesperus Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Over Hill and Under Hill (The Hobbit Chapter 4)

There hasn't been much activity on these posts lately. So I'm debating keeping this going, or replacing it with an occasional review of a children's book. Let me know what you think.

Chapter 4 again focuses on the difficult journey and Bilbo reminiscing about his home and the Shire. How far on our journey/adventure with God must we travel before we stop looking back to the past? Will we always be looking back to the past? I've read/heard somewhere that there are no plateaus on the path to Heaven. You are either making progress towards Heaven, or your slipping down to Hell. As my readers are well aware, it takes a lot more effort and time to climb upwards than it does to slip downwards. All the progress you have made for months or years could be wiped away in a day with the wrong decisions. So let us aim to always be vigilant, trust in the Lord for guidance, and constantly strive to be moving upwards.

I could not find anything Catholic or spiritual in the description of the thunderstorm. I just found it fascinating on a mythological level. The description of the stone-giants playing a game of hurling rocks truly made my imagination come to life.

In order to escape the thunderstorm, our adventurers send out a 2 man scout party of Fili and Kili to find them a drier place. They come back, a little too quickly, and find an absolutely wonderful dry cave with enough room for them and their horses. This reminds me of when Moses sent scout teams into the land of Canaan. Joshua and Caleb were the only two who returned with good news. Unfortunately, Fili and Kili did not investigate their cave well, and it turned out to be the front porch for goblin headquarters and led to our adventurers capture.

The description of the goblins spoke to me the most. "They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones...Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get other people to make to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air and light." I believe the goblins at Tolkien's time represented Nazi Germany, but you could argue they represent the darkest part of all of us. Is this a cause of our original sin?

I would lastly like to talk about the two swords, "Orcrist" and "Glamdring the Foe-hammer." They are simply known to the goblins as Biter and Beater. I would compare these to the Bible and the Rosary. I think I would refer to the Bible as Beater, because the Goblin's hated it worse than Biter, and because of the term Bible-beaters. It is important to note that when Gandalf and Thorin were being chased by goblins and turned to fight, the goblins were afraid of Biter and Beater not Gandalf and Thorin. This is how the demons feel about the Bible and the Rosary. They are not afraid of the people who use these tools, but the tools themselves, as they are the tools God has given us to fend off demons!

So what did you think of Chapter Four in The Hobbit? Read along with me, and comment at the bottom. Also, tune in two weeks for my reflections on Chapter Five, unless y'all tell me y'all are done reading about The Hobbit!

A special thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who was generous enough to provide me with the 75th Anniversary Pocket Edition of The Hobbit.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Witnesses to Mystery (Ignatius Press)

Every year, about a dozen major Catholic publishers in the United States publish approximately 200-300 books total. I am privileged enough to review 1/4 to 1/3 of them. Most of the books are solid in the faith, easy to read, and spiritually edifying. Some of the books are merely average, and unfortunately, some of the books are by authors we don't need to read (like Richard Rohr or Ron Rolheiser). However, there are about 5-10 that come out each year that blow you away with their exceptionalness, and are "must-owns." The book I am reviewing today, Witnesses to Mystery, falls into the exceptional category.

This book is the product of journalist, Grzegorz Górny, two year investigative study on the authenticity of the relics of Christ's Passion. The primary relics investigated and covered include the Shroud of Turin, the True Cross, the Holy Nails, the Sudarium of Oviedo, the Tunic of Argenteuil, the Holy Coat of Trier, the Veil of Manoppello (Veronica's Veil), the Pillar where Jesus was Scourged, and the Crown of Thorns. Also covered in a smaller chapter are items like the Spear of Longinus (the one that pierced Jesus' side) and sandals that supposedly were worn by Jesus.

As to be expected, larger chapters are focused on more well-known relics. The Shroud of Turin received over 50 pages (roughly 15% of the book) devoted to it. Though I have watched several documentaries on the Shroud, the photographs of Janusz Rosikon and the drawings mapping the images and blood stains on the Shroud were breathtaking. My favorite chapter, however, dealt with the True Cross. I know the legend and tradition associated with St. Helen (Constantine's mother) finding the True Cross. What I didn't know and learned from this book was all the information about the titulus (sign hung on the Cross). I also learned a great deal about the many fragments of the True Cross. It made me sad to read how only half of the titulus remains and also that some of the larger fragments of the True Cross were stolen, lost, or destroyed.

This book is absolutely gorgeous in terms of the pictures, illustrations, and the overall presentation. If this book were nothing but those images, it would be worth every penny. Thankfully, the writing was equally beneficial. One could say that this could be considered a textbook on relics. However, textbook has a negative connotation associated with it. This book is scholarly, but not dry; steeped in details and facts, but not boring. Grzegorz Górny really makes the subject come alive, and he did an A+ job with the numerous trips and interviews conducted to obtain all the information presented in this book. I admit that I sometimes struggle with the authenticity of relics of Christ, but after reading this book, my doubts have dissipated. So if you're a doubter like I was, or someone who believes but just wants more information, I would highly recommend this book.

This book was provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Meditations for Lent (Sophia Institute Press)

When it comes to Church seasons, Lent is my 2nd least favorite season of the year, with Ordinary Time being the first. Sadly, there is no rhyme or reason for my dislike. Sometimes, I feel like I try and give up too much. Other times, I feel like I don't give up enough. Sometimes, I feel like the season is dragging on forever. Other times, I can't believe how quickly Easter approaches. I'm going to try and do better this Lent though and not dislike it so much. In order to do that though, I'll need to get my thoughts right. One of the best ways for me to do that is through reading. So this Lent, I'll be reading Meditations for Lent.

Meditations for Lent by Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet is the companion book to Meditations for Advent. I was not familiar with this author's name, so I did some research and found out that he was a French bishop who lived from 1627 to 1704. He was known for his sermons, and some say that he was a better orator than St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom. Reading that statement blew my mind. These are two of the most well-known and influential saints of Western and Eastern Christendom, respectively, and some people think he was a better orator than him. WOW!

In this book, you will find a daily meditation starting with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter. At the end of the book, you will also find two extra meditations, one for the Solemnity of the Annunciation and one for the Solemnity of St. Joseph. I appreciate that as these are two very important Feast Days in the Church, which should be Holy Days of Obligation. I admit that I did not read every meditation in this book before writing this review. I didn't want to rush through the meditations, and I also wanted them to be fresh for Lent this year. The ones I did read though were very thought-provoking, and it made me anxious for Lent to start so I could read them all.

I would like to provide you with a sample from one day, so you can see how great these meditations are. Here is a quote from Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent, which won't be read this year as St. Joseph's Solemnity has a higher rank in feast day hierarchy. Referring to James and John's mother asking for her sons to sit next to Jesus in Heaven, Jesus rebukes them and says, "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" Bishop Bossuet elaborates, "You speak of glory, and you are not thinking about what must be suffered to gain it. Then he explains these sufferings to them by two metaphors, by that of the bitter cup that must be drunk and by the bloody baptism that must be accepted. To swallow every sort of bitterness, to be suffering to the point of having one's body submerged, as in baptism: this is the price of glory." This really made me stop, think, and reflect on my spiritual life. How willing am I to suffer?

For other thought-provoking meditations like this, you must pick up Meditations for Lent. It will definitely help provide you with a deeper and more-fruitful Lenten season. I can't wait to finish the whole book! This book was provided to me for free by Sophia Institute Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Luke Bible Study - On Hold

I regret to inform you that at this time, the Luke Bible Study is on hold. My Bible Study group has a serious illness in the group with one of their little girls. Instead of moving forward with Luke, my group will meet for prayer and fellowship and view or re-view some DVD series we have previously done, either Catholicism, Catholicism: The New Evangelization, or an excellent study from Ascension Press. Be on the lookout for new studies this year from Ascension Press including Momnipotent and one I am giddy over, Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother.

Please send prayers of healing for Madison to God, Our Lady of Lourdes, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, and any saint you're close with. Thanks to you all!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meditations on the Divine Liturgy (Holy Trinity Publications)

For the first 5 years of my life, when I was growing up Baptist, there was a Greek Orthodox Church literally on the other side of the road. I didn't even know that it was there, let alone who the Orthodox were and what they believed. Our Baptist church eventually "upgraded" facilities, and I didn't see that Orthodox Church again for another 10 years, despite living less than a mile from it. So lately it seems that I find myself leaping at every chance I get to learn about Eastern Orthodoxy. This does not mean that I am converting. It just means that I would like to understand my Eastern brethren more fully, in the hopes of one day being reunited. So today, I get the joy of reviewing a new edition of the book

Meditations on the Divine Liturgy is divided into three sections - "The Office of Preparation," "The Liturgy of the Catechumens," and "The Liturgy of the Faithful." Each section contains description and commentary of all that is taking place leading up to the Divine Liturgy and during the Divine Liturgy. It also contains, in bold typeface, the words spoken by the priest, deacon, and lay faithful in attendance. I found these parts especially helpful, as the book also contained the secret prayers the priest says and that the laity doesn't get a chance to hear.

The section I enjoyed the most was "The Office of Preparation." I never realized how much went preparation went into the Divine Liturgy. The prayers made you pause and reflect, and the great detail on how the bread is cut; what each piece of bread symbolizes; and the how and why of the way the bread is arranged on the diskos or paten. There is so much rich and beautiful symbology in this office that I never knew existed. I also appreciated how the book started. It begins, "The priest who intends to celebrate the Liturgy should be abstinent in body and spirit from the previous evening, should be at peace with all, and should avoid holding a grudge towards anyone." This is excellent advice for laity as well.

Most of the time religious books of this nature are written by the clergy or those with advanced degrees in theology. What is refreshing about this book is that it was written by a layman, Nikolai Gogol, who was one of the great Russian authors of the 19th Century. He understood the importance of the Russian Orthodox Church and used his talents to serve the Church. To read more about him, check out the publisher's page on this book or by clicking here for a PDF. If you're looking for an excellent introduction and thorough guide to the Divine Liturgy check out this book. In fact, I'd pair it with the book Journey to the Kingdom.

This book was provided to me for free by Holy Trinity Publications in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Saint Bernadette and Saint Joan of Arc (Pauline Books and Media)

Back in October, I had the pleasure of reviewing two graphic novels from Pauline Books and Media called Saint Francis of Assisi: Messenger of Peace and Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Leading the Way. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them, but noticed that these were geared toward boys, not that there is anything wrong with that. So I investigated their site and found two graphic novels geared toward girls called Saint Bernadette: The Miracle of Lourdes and Saint Joan of Arc: Quest for Peace. and Both of them are written by Bruno Mar and illustrated by Dominque Bar.

Saint Bernadette: The Miracle of Lourdes begins with doubt. The first apparition has already occurred at Lourdes, and Commissioner Jacomet doesn't believe any part of the story. Also among the doubters is Father Peyramale and perhaps worst of all young Bernadette's friends and family. This lack of faith of others, however, does nothing to shake her faith. She knows what she has seen, and she knows that she must keep her word to continue to visit the grotto despite being told by the police to stop. Eventually, Bernadette is able to confirm that the lady in white is indeed the Virgin Mary when she asks her name. Mary replies, "I am the Immaculate Conception."

I really wish that this book would have given more information about St. Bernadette's life before and after the Lourdes apparition. However, I did appreciate the final page of the book, which gave a paragraph summary of what happened to the major people in this event. We are also presented with key statistics on Lourdes, such as the number of yearly pilgrims and number of healings that have occurred.  information surrounding the Lourdes apparition, but very little about Bernadette. With great illustrations and a compelling story, your kids will love to learn about Our Lady of Lourdes in this graphic novel!

Saint Joan of Arc: Quest for Peace begins in the midst of the Hundred Years' War. England and France are deep in a war that has affected several generations of people. What is the motivation for this war? England is trying to gain control of France and make all their future kings, king of both England and France. France is in desperate need of a hero, a military force who will help end this war and secure victory. Little did they know that this hero would come in the form of a teenage girl named Joan.

The rest of this book then goes on and shows both battles and politics. With all her victories, people begin to wonder if Joan is actually a witch. However, it is clear that she has a close relationship with God and is a saint in the making. The politics were the saddest part of the book to me. Corrupt clergy and people in France were conspiring against Joan and France all for the love of money. The book then tragically ends with Joan being burnt at the stake. I falsely assumed that because this graphic novel was about a female saint that it would only appeal to girls. I was SORELY wrong, and I can see how it would appeal to boys and girls alike. It would also be an excellent supplement for a European or World History class to make the story of the Hundred Years' War come alive. I highly recommend this book.

Both of these books are worthy of the 5-star rating. Modern day graphic novels are full of questionable and unrealistic "superheroes," who live in a world of moral grays. These two graphic novels give us heroes of the Faith. They were ridiculed, persecuted, and endured many adversities. With God's help and guidance, they persevered and won the ultimate prize salvation and sainthood. May these books inspire us and our children to persevere in the faith and race toward the ultimate goal, our heavenly home!

If you found these reviews helpful click here and here, and hit Yes!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Short Rest (The Hobbit Chapter 3)

Chapter 3 is entitled "A Short Rest." I'd like to name it a "A Short Chapter" as there wasn't much in this chapter. It felt like one of those chapters that was there to progress the plot and nothing more. The chapter begins with our adventurers in a bit of somber spirits. Even though the weather had improved (which can definitely change your attitude when traveling), "they did not sing or tell stories that day...nor the next day, nor the day after that." Reality has set in for them, and they now realize this adventure will not be as easy as they once thought. This happens in our Christian life as well. We start off on fire and full of zeal, but eventually Satan comes along, and we get scared. The road starts to look dark, and longer than we thought it would be. We must remember though that we have the True Light as our guide!

"O!" said Bilbo, and just at that moment he felt more fared than he ever remembered feeling before. He was thinking once again of his comfortable chair before the fire in his favourite sitting-room in his hobbit-hole, and of the kettle singing. Not for the last time!" I'm not sure how y'all are but every now and then I think about my old life before my conversion. I think about how much "simpler" things were and about how it was so much "easier" to live in sin than follow God. This is a lie from the father of lies, Satan! You might think your life is "simpler" or "easier," but you will always be empty and hollow until you find rest in the One your heart was made for, God!

I particularly liked the path imagery. The description of how small it is, makes me think of Jesus speaking in Matthew 7:13. Enter through the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction. Gandalf appears almost saintly here as their guide. If not a saint, he could certainly be likened to an elder, who guides Christians on their way to Heaven. It makes me think of the saying, "No one gets to Heaven on their own." We all need some guidance and a helping hand. If we could get to Heaven on our own, we wouldn't need the Church. We could just all be spiritual but not religious and worship God in our backyard.

I must admit the silliness of the elves just aggravated me. Did anyone else feel this way or did I miss something? Maybe it's supposed to symbolize their innocence, but it just annoyed me. The last part that was interesting to me was Elrond's viewing of the map. He knew that this would not turn out well when gold, dwarves, and dragons were involved. This, not surprisingly, reminds me of 1 Timothy 6:10 where St. Paul talks about the love of money being the root of all evil. If your eyes are strictly on gold and nothing else, then your mind and heart become poisoned. Unfortunately, the poison is not contained only to you but can destroy others around you as well.

So what did you think of Chapter Three in The Hobbit? Read along with me, and comment at the bottom. Also, tune in two weeks for my reflections on Chapter Four!

A special thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who was generous enough to provide me with the 75th Anniversary Pocket Edition of The Hobbit.

Monday, February 10, 2014

And Then Nicholas Sang & Sweet Song (Ancient Faith Publishing)

I receive over 100 books to review a year. Some are high theology; some are practical books on living a holy life. However, with all the books I'm sent to review, I find the greatest joy in the children's books. Is that weird? Maybe it's the simple, yet beautiful way the faith is portrayed. Maybe, I love the fact that there are so many Catholic and Orthodox options for my son to read and have read to him. Whatever it is, I love these books. So this week, the Children's Corner of my blog is getting TWO days dedicated to it. Not only that, I'm featuring TWO books per day! Today, I'll be reviewing books from Ancient Faith Publishing.

And then Nicholas Sang tell the story of the Trisagion (Thrice Holy) hymn. For those unfamiliar with this hymn, it goes "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us." Tradition says that Constantinople used to suffer from terrible earthquakes. One day while the people were praying for God's mercy, a boy was lifted into heaven, learned the Trisagion, and came back down and taught the people. Then, the earthquakes stopped. Though the boy is not named in tradition, this book names him Nicholas.

In addition to your children reading about this story, they can also read about the original tradition, which I stated above. At the end a glossary is included, which lists a few key terms and tells a brief history of Constantinople and a short biography about the Emperor Theodosius II. The watercolor illustrations will captivate children of all ages, and the story is masterfully told. It's also hardcover, so it will stand up to some abuse that younger kids might put on it. Five stars!

Sweet Song tell the story of a lesser known saint in the West, Saint Romanos the Melodist. For those of you unfamiliar with this saint, he was a young, humble boy who dearly loved the Lord and worshiping the Lord. Unfortunately, he was a terrible singer. (I can relate, as I'm sure many can.) He tried his hardest every time he was called upon to sing in Church, but he was never any good, and the other singers made fun of him. One Christmas Eve, a miracle occurred, and he was able to sing gloriously at the Christmas Vigil. What happened? Buy the book and find out!

The illustrations in this book are darker than one would expect from a children's book. However, that darkness helps create a nice contrast when young Romanos finally is able to sing like he always dreamed. At the end of this book, a whole page is dedicated to more information about St. Romanos including his feast day, October 1st, and interesting facts. For example, some sources say he composed over one thousand hymns. Unfortunately, only 80 are still in existence. If your child loves music, this is the book for them. It's a beautiful story of our faith, so they will learn while reading and not even know it. Pair it with And then Nicholas Sang and build up their library of faith! Five stars.

These books were provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing. If you found these review helpful, click here and here and hit Yes!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Open Mind, Faithful Heart (Crossroad Publishing)

Before I even read Open Mind, Faithful Heart, I was reading endorsements about this book.  Some billed it as a book that would reveal the secrets and future of the papacy under Pope Francis. However, after reading the book, I would say that is not the case at all. Instead, you will find Ignatian-inspired spiritual reflections, which hopefully help the reader learn how to grow nearer to Jesus.

Part One is appropriately titled "Encountering Jesus." In this section, we see various passages of the Gospels in which Jesus was speaking directly to people. In addition to passages where he addresses his disciples, there are also passages where he addresses Pharisees and Sadducees. I was glad he included those latter passages, as I was able to see how sometimes I too can act like a Pharisee. Part Two's focus is divine revelation and the history of salvation. In this part, we see reflections that deal with Christ coming to save us, man's rejection of Him, and the role of the Church after Christ's Resurrection and Ascension.

Part Three was easily my favorite part as it discussed the Book of Revelation, primarily the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches found in Revelation 2 and 3. Though these letters were written by St. John to seven specific churches in his time, they also contain relevant messages to the Church in our time. Part Four is the longest section in this book as it touches on human prayer. In this section, we are provided with glimpses of Biblical figures, like Moses and Job, as it relates to prayer. Lastly, we are provided with the ultimate example of prayer in Jesus.

This book is an enlightening and refreshing read. Not all passages are easily read by your average laymen. Some are very theological and geared specifically at priests. However, each one is beautiful and shows us the thoughts of a man who loves Jesus and His Church. Though it does not contain any biographical information on our current pope, it does give us a personal glimpse into his brilliant mind and loving heart. If you love Jesus and want to follow Him more closely, this book is for you.

This book was provided to me for free by Crossroad Publishing. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Gospel of Luke: Chapter Two

Luke Chapter 2
2:1-14 – The Nativity of Jesus
2:15-20 – The Visit of the Shepherds
2:21 – The Circumcision of Jesus
2:22-38 – The Presentation in the Temple
2:39-40 – The Return to Nazareth
2:41-52 – The Finding in the Temple

Answer as many questions as you can. Write down other questions you might have, or interesting things you learned and read that are not covered in the questions.

Questions for Interpretation
1. Verse 4 – What does the name Bethlehem mean? Where else do we find Bethlehem mentioned in the Bible?

2. Verse 7 – What are the swaddling clothes a prefigurement for? What is significant about laying Jesus in a manger?

Interesting note: Nativity sets get it all wrong when they put Jesus in a stable. Jesus was in fact born in a cave, which would have been an extension of the inn or lodging house. There is now a church built over this very spot!

3. Verses 8-14 – Why does St. Luke make note about it being nighttime when Jesus was born? See John 1:1-5.

4. Verse 8 – Why do you think God chose to reveal the birth of Jesus to shepherds first? Can you think of other Biblical shepherds?

5. Verses 21-24 – Read Leviticus 12:1-8. What does their sacrifice say of their financial situation?

Interesting note: According to Numbers 18:16, the firstborn son belongs to God unless his parents pay a ransom price of five shekels. There is no mention of Joseph and Mary paying a ransom for Jesus, so St. Luke either omitted this detail, or Jesus always belonged to God, and this is foreshadowing of His eventual death.

6. Verse 34 – What does Simeon's prophecy of the "fall and rise of many in Israel" mean?

7. Verse 35 – What does "and you yourself a sword will pierce" mean?

8. Verse 46a – What is significant about the amount of time it took before they found Jesus in the Temple?

9. Verse 46b – What is significant about Jesus being "in the midst of the teachers?"

Questions for Reflection
1. Verse 11 – What do I have in mind when I acknowledge Jesus as Lord?
2. Verses 13-14 – How have I experienced God’s favor and peace?
3. Verses 15-16 – How quickly have I responded to God’s invitations and instructions?
4. Verses 17-19 – How often do I meditate on Scripture? On what God is doing for and through me?
5. Verses 21-23 – What is my idea of holiness? How am I striving to be holy?
6. Verse 24 – What example do Joseph and Mary set for me?
7. Verses 28-29 – What is the chief service God has assigned me?
8. Verse 30 – Where am I most in need of Jesus’ rescue?
9. Verses 31-33 – How have I grown in my understanding of Jesus? What about Him most amazes me?
10. Verses 49-51 – What about Jesus is most a mystery for me?
11. Verse 51a – Have I ever adjusted my behavior when I realized the grief I was causing others? What changes did I make?
12. Verse 51b – What do I imagine Mary’s thoughts and ponderings to be at this point in Jesus’ life?

The reflection questions were taken from Bringing the Gospel of Luke to Life by George Martin and used with permission from Our Sunday Visitor. For commentary and more reflection questions, purchase the book. It's great!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Three Gifts of Thérèse Lisieux (Image)

Today, I am reviewing the book Three Gifts of Thérèse Lisieux. I generally try to make my reviews comprehensive and rich with detail, but that seems a bit counterintuitive given the book and, more importantly, the saint. So please enjoy my brief review, and if you have Twitter be sure to find out about and participate in the Day of the Little Way by reading here!

Three Gifts of Thérèse Lisieux is a brief book written by Bishop Patrick Ahern in which he shares the impact St. Thérèse had on his life and the lives of others through her "three gifts." These gifts are her universal appeal; her conviction; and most importantly, her Little Way. At the beginning of each of his three sections, Bishop Ahern gives a brief description of his life and how each of St. Thérèse's gifts shaped him and his vocation. Using St. Thérèse's personal correspondence and quotations from her Little Way, Bishop Ahern then uses the subsequent chapters in each section to describe the impact of her gifts on the people in her life, mainly family members and members of her religious community.

The most meaningful section for me was "The Gift of Thérèse's Little Way." I know only the very basics of the Little Way, and this section helped to shed a little more light on the discipline for me. I, like many, will never be able to live a strict life of asceticism. However, reading about the Little Way, I now know that such asceticism is not necessary in order to obtain holiness and closer union with God. Reading this book has made me want to adopt her Little Way, as well as read other books about her life, such as Maurice and Thérèse (also by Bishop Ahern) and her autobiography The Story of a Soul. If you are looking for a good introduction to St. Thérèse and her spirituality, pick up this 5 star book!

This book was provided to me for free by Image Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!