Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Gifts Recommendations

It's probably a little late for this post, but with Amazon and 2-Day shipping, you can still pick up some good gifts for your family and friends before Christmas. I'm going to keep this short and sweet:

Book(s) For Men
Manual for Conquering Deadly Sin and/or Manual for Spiritual Warfare. Both of these are solid books that are a benefit for men and women, but I feel like they are geared toward a man and specifically a father, leading his family.

Books for Women
100 Holy Hours for Women is a book that was written for religious sisters, but great for women of any walk of life. A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms is a 52 week guide by a brilliant author I consider a friend.
Books for Kids
For the younger readers, Angel Stories from the Bible is a beautiful hardback your kids will love and the Tinyville books have books that will progress your child from infant board books to readers. For the older kids, any of the Pauline Books graphic novels are great, but there's a new one called The Life of Jesus worth checking out!

Games with a Catholic Feel to Them
Sagrada is a fun game of dice drafting and placement that has you building stained glass windows. It's between printings now, but you might find one at a local Barnes and Noble if you're lucky. Fresco is a worker-placement game that has you restoring the roof of a chapel. This comes in regular and big box version. Regular is about all you need, unless you are a seasoned gamer. Unfortunately, it looks like this is temporarily off sale, so you'd get a better deal buying the Big Box than the regular version.

Secular Games
King of Tokyo is a Yahtzee-like game of monsters battling for control of Japan. Smash some monsters and destroy your friends and family. Castle Panic is a cooperative game with 3-D element that have you defending your castle against wave after wave of monsters. Base game is great for beginners, but there are three expansions which can ramp up the difficulty quickly. Both can play up to six, so they're great for a crowd!

That's all I've got for y'all. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

New Ignatius Press Children's Books

Saint Bernadette and the Miracles of Lourdes is a children's book written and illustrated by Demi. The book begins by speaking of a miller and his wife, named Francois and Louise Soubirous. Their first child was a girl named Bernadette. Louise had an accident shortly thereafter and another woman had to care for Bernadette. Soon she had a sister named Toinette. When Bernadette was ten, her family lost their mill and Bernadette had to go live and work with the woman who cared for her. Bernadette was a shepherdess for this woman. It was this profession that would eventually change her life, as it was during this time that her devotion to the Rosary grew. One day Our Lady appeared to her in an apparition. No one believed her for the longest time despite the miracles. Bernadette was even threatened with jail time if she kept going back to the grotto where she saw Mary, but Bernadette's faith was strong. Today, Bernadette is a saint and that grotto, Lourdes, is a Catholic shrine that greets six million visitors annually. The book tells the story beautifully, making sure not to miss a single detail, and this story is vividly captured in a unique illustration style that keeps drawing your eye from page-to-page. This is an excellent book to introduce your children to St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes.

Angel Stories from the Bible is a children's illustrated hardcover book that contains five Biblical stories with a focus on angels. The stories included involve Jacob, Raphael, Zechariah and Mary, Joseph, and Mary Magdalene. In each of these stories, at least one angel (sometimes more in Jacob's case) appears to God's people. The people are stunned and afraid and the angel has to reassure them to not be afraid. (Understandably so, because I'm sure if I ever saw an angel, I'd be scared too!) With each story, God's messengers provide messages of hope, protection, and a path to God. The book has one of those squishy padded covers that feels good in yours or your child's hands while holding it. This pairs well with a rich and warm illustration style that will give your children a peaceful feeling while reading the words, and hopefully encourage them to rely on God and give thanks for the angels that watch over them every day.

These books were provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Acts of the Apostles (Holy Trinity Seminary Press)

Archbishop Averky was born in 1906 to a noble family and had a deep desire for monasticism at an early age. In 1931, he was tonsured a monk and ordained a deacon. The following year he was ordained a hieromonk. In 1951, he began teaching at Holy Trinity Seminary, and in 1960 he was elected the fourth abbot of the Holy Trinity Monastery. Two years ago, I read and reviewed a book of his titled The Four Gospels. Now, two years later, I again have a chance to review one of his works, which is a follow-up volume called The Acts of the Apostles.

The book begins by explaining that the second part of the New Testament is composed of books united under their liturgical usage of "Apostolos," which means messenger. The contents of these books are The Acts of the Apostles (historical), twenty-one Epistles (instructional in nature), and Revelation (prophecy). The next chapter gives us an overview of The Acts of the Apostles, which includes the authorship, time and place of composition, content, and significance. We then get to the meat of Archbishop Averky's work which divides the book into two parts - The Church of Christ Among the Jews and The Church of Christ Among the Gentiles. The Jewish chapters are the first twelve chapters in Acts and the Gentile chapters are the final sixteen chapters of Acts.

With each chapter in Acts, Archbishop Averky presents what could be best described as a chapter-by-chapter commentary. With each section, he looks for the natural breaks in Scripture and opens up these passages to us by referencing Old and New Testament and explaining the meaning and significance of each passage. This book, like its predecessor, proved to be an interesting and fruitful read. It was interesting reading Acts in two parts (Peter's and Paul's) and seeing how the early Church not only survived, but thrived despite the persecution they faced from all sides. I look forward to seeing the third volume of this series and reading Archbishop Averky's commentary on the Epistles.

This book was provided to me for free by Holy Trinity Seminary Press in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 1, 2017

From Star Wars to Superman (Sophia Institute Press)

Within Hollywood, there are so many movies that flood the big screens every year. Most of them are trash if we're being honest, and that's no surprise seeing that most of Hollywood has become a land of filth and sleaze. However, if you look at some movies close enough, you can see Christ symbology in them. Yes, you can re-read that sentence and let it sink in. It's hard to believe, but even some of the most questionable of directors, producers, actors, and actresses have done moves with this type of symbology in them. Whether or not it was intentional is not my place to say, but I do know that every man and woman has a Christ-shaped hole in their soul and only He can fill it. Recently, James Papandrea wrote called From Star Wars to Superman: Christ Figures in Science Fiction and Superhero Films.

The book is divided into the following four sections:

1. Aliens Incarnate
2. Alternate Universes
3. Time Travel as Incarnation
4. Jesus Christ, Superhero

These sections are then divided further into chapters with each chapter devoted to a specific movie or television series. Such movies/TV shows covered are Star Trek, Star Wars, Tron, Lost, The Matrix, Planet of the Apes, and a big chapter devoted to all the DC and Marvel films. The chapter on The Matrix was interesting to me, as I admit I watched the series once and was a bit confused by it. Not only did Papandrea explain that Neo is a gnostic version of Christ and talk about the theme of free will in the movies, he also explains several confusing scenes in the movie. Much appreciated! The chapters I enjoyed reading the most were on Star Wars and The Planet of the Apes. These are two series I thoroughly enjoy, and, as he pointed out, while you can see elements of a "Savior" in these movies, none of them are orthodox representations of Christ.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting book. Some of the chapters didn't speak to me, because they were series I never bothered watching (Tron, Lost, and Pleasantville), but I was enthralled by most of the other chapters. What I found most telling was the brief summary in the end. "Of the 19 characters surveyed in this book, only five (counting Superman and Wonder Woman) come out looking like reasonably orthodox analogies for Christ. The rest look more like heretical versions, with seven leaning toward the adoptionist/Arian and six leaning toward the gnostic." This is to be expected, as it is Hollywood after all, but it is disappointing. I'm glad to have read this book and would recommend it to all Christian fans of these types of movies/shows, so they don't misinterpret them and think that these figures are orthodox representations of Christ.

This book was provided to me for free by Sophia Institute Press in exchange for an honest review.