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<<November 2014>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: catholic, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 35
1. Seven Saints for Seven Virtues

Seven Saints for Seven Virtues
Author: Jean M. Heimann
Publisher: Servant Books
Genre: Christian / Catholic
ISBN: 978-1-61636-845-6
Pages: 144
Price: $13.99

Author’s website
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Most of us are familiar with the seven deadly sins, but are we also aware of the seven virtues? These are charity, chastity, diligence, humility, kindness, patience and temperance. The fastest way to defeat the deadly sins in our own lives is to work on developing these virtues in their place.

Seven saints provide wonderful examples of these virtues in action. In Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, these saints are presented for us to emulate. Their lives and struggles may have been difficult, but each overcame weakness and developed strong character. In addition to the saints, modern-day people who embody these virtues are introduced, so we can learn how to model them in today’s world. Prayers, suggested Bible reading, and action steps are also provided for developing each virtue.

We are all called to be saints. The lives of the virtuous men and women in this book will guide us as we attempt to follow that calling. All those who try to live holy lives will benefit from reading Seven Saints for Seven Virtues.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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2. Heaven is Real But So is Hell

Heaven is Real But So is Hell
Author: Vassula Rydén
Publisher: Alexian
Genre: Christian / Spirituality
ISBN: 978-0-9830093-0-6
Pages: 224
Price: $24.95

Author’s website
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Vassula Rydén was not living a particularly religious life when her guardian angel first appeared to her. And when God spoke to her, soon after, she was completely unprepared to face her many sins and atone for them. Once she was cleansed, she willingly took on her new role in communicating God’s Messages to the people, as He commanded.

Heaven is Real But So is Hell is Rydén’s story of her ministry. It shares some of the visions God has allowed her to see, as well as many of the Messages she received. Organized loosely by topic, this book touches on all the important ideas God has commanded her to tell us.

Originally, the Vatican disapproved of Rydén’s Messages, issuing a warning against them. However, over time, these Messages have gotten support from priests, bishops, and even Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became Pope. Rydén also claims that many who have seen her speak or have read the Messages have come back to the Church as a result.

I admit, I approached this book with healthy skepticism. But as I’ve also read the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, I realized there are interesting similarities. Both women issued dire warnings that come with potential blessings if we turn from our sinful ways, and both have been ridiculed and scorned by an unbelieving public. I have not read True Life in God, which is Rydén’s official publication of these Messages, but from what I’ve read in Heaven is Real But So is Hell, I see nothing that would be contradictory to my Catholic faith.

Prophets are often misunderstood in the era they’re living in, and their messages are only understood much later. If these Messages are truly from God, they will stand up to the test of time.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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3. Catechetical session comparisons [infographic]

In his study, sociologist David Yamane found an interesting correlation between the type of catechetical sessions used in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process (which an adult who wants to enter the Catholic Church undergoes) and the socioeconomic standing (SES). He found that the lower the SES of the parish, the more they rely on hierarchical and passive pedagogies such as question and answer and lecturing. The higher the SES, the more diversity in their teachings, with more focus on participatory and engaging pedagogies such as liturgy and prayer and discussion.

Yamane.Becoming Catholic.Infographic

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David Yamane teaches sociology at Wake Forest University. His primary scholarly interest is the sociology of organized religion, particularly Roman Catholicism in the postwar United States. His publications include The Catholic Church in State Politics: Negotiating Prophetic Demands and Political Realities (2005), Real Stories of Christian Initiation: Lessons for and from the RCIA (2006), and Religion in Sociological Perspective (2011). He is author of Becoming Catholic: Finding Rome in the American Religious Landscape.

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4. Emerging adult Catholic types [infographic]

In their National Study of Youth and Religion, Christian Smith, Kyle Longest, Jonathan Hill, and Kari Christoffersen studied a sample of young people for five years, starting when they were 13 to 17 years old and completing the study when they were 18 to 23, a stage called “emerging adulthood.” As illustrated in this infographic, part of the focus was on Catholic emerging adults. As illustrated, the authors found discouraging numbers for young Catholics staying in the faith as they grew up.

Smith.Young Catholic America.Infographic

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Christian Smith is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, Director of the Notre Dame Center for Social Research, Principal Investigator of the National Study of Youth and Religion, and Principal Investigator of the Science of Generosity Initiative. Kyle Longest is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Furman University. Jonathan Hill is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Calvin College. Kari Christoffersen is a PhD candidate at the University of Notre Dame. They are co-authors of Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church.

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5. Chosen to Heal

Chosen to Heal
Author: Laura Wright
Publisher: Immaculate Heart Press
Genre: Christian / Catholic
ISBN: 9780991086405
Pages: 130
Price: $11.99

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Many incredible stories of healing are recorded in the Bible, but one may wonder if God is still working miracles among us now. In Chosen to Heal: Gifted Catholics Share Stories of God’s Miraculous Healing Power, Laura Wright presents six healers who are active in the world today.

These six individuals – Domingo Setien, Tom Naemi, Father Jose Maniyangat, Stella Davis, Father Richard McAlear, and Father Dan Leary – did not ask to be given the gift of healing. In fact, they were all surprised when they discovered that they had received this gift. But after the miracles started to occur, they opened themselves to being a channel for God’s healing work. Just as Jesus used healing miracles to draw people closer to him, these individuals also use their healing ministry to the glory of God and the opportunity for evangelization.

Chosen to Heal offers a glimpse into the life and ministry of each of these gifted people. Each chapter focuses on one healer’s story, with numerous examples of people healed at their touch or command. Information on how to reach them is also provided, for those in search of their own miracle.

It’s easy to look around at our broken and hurting society and doubt that God is still active among his people, but seeing miracles such as the ones presented in this book reminds us he’s still very involved in our lives. Not only is he with us, but he cares enough about us to continue to provide us with many much-needed miracles. I highly recommend Chosen to Heal as a source of inspiration for God’s people today.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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6. Thomas Gray and Horace Walpole on the grand tour to spread news of a papal election, 1739/1740

By Dr. Robert V. McNamee

On Sunday, 29 March 1739, two young men, aspiring authors and student friends from Eton College and Cambridge, departed Dover for the Continent. The twenty-two year old Horace Walpole, 4th earl of Orford (1717–1797), was setting out on his turn at the Grand Tour. Accompanying him on the journey, which would take them through France to Italy, was Thomas Gray (1716–1771), future author of the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. The pair stayed abroad until September 1741, when an argument saw Gray return to England alone.

Travelling through Catholic domains, they would witness at arms-length one of the longest transfers of papal power in history, only four days shorter than the Interregnum, later imposed by the Napoleonic French, between the expulsion from the Papal States of Pius VI (who died 1799) and the election of Pius VII (14 March 1800). The on-going power struggle between the papacy and Catholic rulers of Europe, particularly with France, Spain and Portugal, had reached new levels of intensity — the latter two objecting in particular to unwelcome Jesuit interference in their treatment (read, “mistreatment”) of native populations in their overseas empires. The issue was still critical twenty years later, when Voltaire, under the pseudonym M. Demand, wrote to the Journal encyclopédique (1 April 1759), in the guise of identifying the real author of Candide, offering in partial evidence reports from the confrontations between Jesuits and colonial officials over their dealings with native populations in Paraguay.

The correspondence and journals of Gray and Walpole chart their travels, visits and discoveries across France and into Italy. The two young English travellers arrived in Florence on 16 December 1739, after a two days’ journey from Bologna across the Apennines. It was only two months before the ancient drama of papal passing and election would attract the attention of the world. Gray reported this news, when it came, to his friend Dr Thomas Wharton, writing on Saturday, 12 March 1740:

I conclude you will write to me; won’t you? oh! yes, when you know, that in a week I set out for Rome, & that the Pope is dead, & that I shall be (I should say, God willing; & if nothing extraordinary intervene; & if I’m alive, & well; & in all human probability) at the Coronation of a new one.

Clement XII (Papa Clemens duodecimus, born Lorenzo Corsini) had been pope from his election on 12 July 1730. He was the oldest person to become pope until Benedict XVI was elected in 2005. Clement died on 6 February 1740, and was eventually succeeded by Benedict XIV (Papa Benedictus quartus decimus, born Pròspero Lorenzo Lambertini), who was elected six months later on 17 August 1740. In a well-known anecdote of the election, Benedict is reported to have said to the cardinals: “If you wish to elect a saint, choose Gotti; a statesman, Aldrovandi; an honest man, me” (M. J. Walsh, Pocket Dictionary of Popes, London: Burns & Oates, 2006) — though as we will see from a contemporary report below, this is a rather colourless translation of the original.

A week later, Gray wrote to his mother Dorothy (Saturday, 19 March 1740):

The Pope is at last dead, and we are to set out for Rome on Monday next. The Conclave is still sitting there, and likely to continue so some time longer, as the two French Cardinals are but just arrived, and the German ones are still expected. It agrees mighty ill with those that remain inclosed: Ottoboni is already dead of an apoplexy; Altieri and several others are said to be dying, or very bad: Yet it is not expected to break up till after Easter. We shall lie at Sienna the first night, spend a day there, and in two more get to Rome. One begins to see in this country the first promises of an Italian spring, clear unclouded skies, and warm suns, such as are not often felt in England; yet, for your sake, I hope at present you have your proportion of them, and that all your frosts, and snows, and short-breaths are, by this time, utterly vanished. I have nothing new or particular to inform you of; and, if you see things at home go on much in their old course, you must not imagine them more various abroad. The diversions of a Florentine Lent are composed of a sermon in the morning, full of hell and the devil; a dinner at noon, full of fish and meager diet; and, in the evening, what is called a Conversazione, a sort of aſsembly at the principal people’s houses, full of I cannot tell what: Besides this, there is twice a week a very grand concert.

Two weeks later, after their arrival in Rome, Gray wrote another Saturday letter to his mother (2 April 1740):

St. Peter’s I saw the day after we arrived, and was struck dumb with wonder. I there saw the Cardinal d’Auvergne, one of the French ones, who, upon coming off his journey, immediately repaired hither to offer up his vows at the high altar, and went directly into the Conclave; the doors of which we saw opened to him, and all the other immured Cardinals came thither to receive him. Upon his entrance they were closed again directly. It is supposed they will not come to an agreement about a Pope till after Easter, though the confinement is very disagreeable.”

The conflict between catholic rulers, their national churches and the papacy led to prolonged disagreements and manoeuvrings in the Conclave, as evidenced by this letter from Walpole and Gray to their schoolboy friend, then fellow of King’s College Cambridge (Rome, 14 May 1740):

Boileau’s Discord dwelt in a College of Monks. At present the Lady is in the Conclave. Cardinal Corsini has been interrogated about certain Millions of Crowns that are absent from the Apostolic Chamber; He refuses giving Account, but to a Pope: However he has set several Arithmeticians to work, to compose Summs, & flourish out Expenses, which probably never existed. Cardinal Cibo pretends to have a Banker at Genoa, who will prove that he has received three Millions on the Part of the Eminent Corsini. This Cibo is a madman, but set on by others. He had formerly some great office in the government, from whence they are generally rais’d to the Cardinalate. After a time, not being promoted as he expected, he resign’d his Post, and retir’d to a Mountain where He built a most magnificient Hermitage. There He inhabited for two years, grew tir’d, came back and received the Hat.

Other feuds have been between Card. Portia and the Faction of Benedict the Thirteenth, by whom He was made Cardinal. About a month ago, he was within three Votes of being Pope. he did not apply to any Party, but went gleaning privately from all & of a sudden burst out with a Number; but too soon, & that threw Him quite out. Having been since left out of their Meetings, he ask’d one of the Benedictine Cardinals the reason; who replied, that he never had been their Friend, & never should be of their assemblies; & did not even hesitate to call him Apostate. This flung Portia into such a Rage that He spit blood, & instantly left the Conclave with all his Baggage. But the great Cause of their Antipathy to Him, was His having been one of the Four, that voted for putting Coscia to Death; Who now regains his Interest, & may prove somewhat disagreable to his Enemies; Whose Honesty is not abundantly heavier than His Own. He met Corsini t’other Day, & told Him, He heard His Eminence had a mind to his Cell: Corsini answer’d He was very well contented with that He had. Oh, says Coscia, I don’t mean here in the Conclave; but in the Castle St. Angelo.

With all these Animosities, One is near having a Pope. Card. Gotti, an Old, inoffensive Dominican, without any Relations, wanted yesterday but two voices; & is still most likely to succeed. Card. Altieri has been sent for from Albano, whither he was retir’d upon account of his Brother’s Death, & his own Illness; & where He was to stay till the Election drew nigh. There! there’s a sufficient Competency of Conclave News, I think. We have miserable Weather for the Season; Coud You think I was writing to You by my fireside at Rome in the middle of May? the Common People say tis occasion’d by the Pope’s Soul, which cannot find Rest.

As the bickering and accusations continued, Gray returned to Florence, where he reported to his father Philip (10 July 1740):

The Conclave we left in greater uncertainty than ever; the more than ordinary liberty they enjoy there, and the unusual coolneſs of the season, makes the confinement leſs disagreeable to them than common, and, consequently, maintains them in their irresolution. There have been very high words, one or two (it is said) have come even to blows; two more are dead within this last month, Cenci and Portia; the latter died distracted; and we left another (Altieri) at the extremity: Yet nobody dreams of an election till the latter end of September. All this gives great scandal to all good catholics, and everybody talks very freely on the subject.

Pope Benedict XIVFinally, on Sunday, 21 August 1740, Gray wrote again to his mother with the news of the new pope’s election:

The day before yesterday arrived the news of a Pope; and I have the mortification of being within four days journey of Rome, and not seeing his coronation, the heats being violent, and the infectious air now at its height. We had an instance, the other day, that it is not only fancy. Two country fellows, strong men, and used to the country about Rome, having occasion to come from thence hither, and travelling on foot, as common with them, one died suddenly on the road; the other got hither, but extremely weak, and in a manner stupid; he was carried to the hospital, but died in two days. So, between fear and lazineſs, we remain here, and must be satisfied with the accounts other people give us of the matter. The new Pope is called Benedict XIV. being created Cardinal by Benedict XIII. the last Pope but one. His name is Lambertini, a noble Bolognese, and Archbishop of that city. When I was first there, I remember to have seen him two or three times; he is a short, fat man, about sixty-five years of age, of a hearty, merry countenance, and likely to live some years. He bears a good character for generosity, affability, and other virtues; and, they say, wants neither knowledge nor capacity. The worst side of him is, that he has a nephew or two; besides a certain young favourite, called Melara, who is said to have had, for some time, the arbitrary disposal of his purse and family. He is reported to have made a little speech to the Cardinals in the Conclave, while they were undetermined about an election, as follows: ‘Most eminent Lords, here are three Bolognese of different characters, but all equally proper for the Popedom. If it be your pleasures, to pitch upon a Saint, there is Cardinal Gotti; if upon a Politician, there is Aldrovandi; if upon a Booby, here am I.’ The Italian is much more expreſsive, and, indeed, not to be translated; wherefore, if you meet with any body that understands it, you may show them what he said in the language he spoke it. ‘Eminſsimi. Sigri. Ci siamo tré, diversi sì, mà tutti idonei al Papato. Si vi piace un Santo, c’ è l’Gotti; se volete una testa scaltra, e Politica, c’ è l’Aldrovandé;c se un Coglione, eccomi!’ Cardinal Coscia is restored to his liberty, and, it is said, will be to all his benefices. Corsini (the late Pope’s nephew) as he has had no hand in this election, it is hoped, will be called to account for all his villanous practices.”

Dr. Robert V. McNamee is the Director of the Electronic Enlightenment Project, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

Electronic Enlightenment is a scholarly research project of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, and is available exclusively from Oxford University Press. It is the most wide-ranging online collection of edited correspondence of the early modern period, linking people across Europe, the Americas, and Asia from the early 17th to the mid-19th century — reconstructing one of the world’s great historical “conversations”.

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Image Credit: (1) Print Collection portrait file, Thomas Gray, Portraits. Source NYPL Digital Gallery
(2) Print Collection portrait file, B, Pope Benedict XIV. Source NYPL Digital Gallery

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7. The abdication of Pope Benedict XVI


By Gerald O’Collins, SJ

“Pope Benedict is 78 years of age. Father O’Collins, do you think he’ll resign at 80?” “Brian,” I said, “give him a chance. He hasn’t even started yet.” It was the afternoon of 19 April 2005, and I was high above St Peter’s Square standing on the BBC World TV platform with Brian Hanrahan. The senior cardinal deacon had just announced from the balcony of St Peter’s to a hundred thousand people gathered in the square: “Habemus Papam.” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been elected pope.

Less than an hour earlier, white smoke pouring from a chimney poking up from the Sistine Chapel let the world know that the cardinal electors had chosen a successor to Pope John Paul II. The bells of Rome were supposed to ring out the news at once. But it took a quarter of an hour for them to chime in. When Hanrahan asked me why the bells hadn’t come in on cue, I pointed the finger at local inefficiency: “We’re in Italy, Brian.”

I was wrong. The keys to the telephone that should have let someone contact the bellringers were in the pocket of the dean of the college of cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger. He had gone into a change room to put on his white papal attire, and didn’t hand over the keys until he came out dressed as pope.

One of the oldest cardinals ever to be elected pope, after less than eight years in office Benedict XVI has now bravely decided to retire or, to use the “correct” word, abdicate. His declining health has made him surrender his role as Bishop of Rome, successor of St Peter, and visible head of the Catholic Christendom. He no longer has the stamina to give the Church the leadership it deserves and needs.

Years ago an Irish lady, after watching Benedict’s predecessor in action, said to me: “He popes well.” You didn’t need to be a specialized Vatican watcher to notice how John Paul II and Benedict “poped” very differently.

A charismatic, photogenic, and media-savvy leader, John Paul II proved a global, political figure who did as much as anyone to end European Communism. He more or less died on camera, with thousands of young people holding candles as they prayed and wept for their papal friend dying in his dimly lit apartment above St Peter’s Square.

Now Benedict’s papacy ends very differently. He will not be laid out for several million people to file past his open coffin. His fisherman’s ring will not be ceremoniously broken. There will be no official nine days of mourning or funeral service attended by world leaders and followed on television or radio by several billion people. He will not be lifted high above the crowd like a Viking king, as his coffin is carried for burial into the Basilica of St Peter’s. The first pope to use a pacemaker will quietly walk off the world stage.

In my latest book, an introduction to Catholicism, I naturally included a (smiling) picture of Pope Benedict. But he pales in comparison with the photos of John Paul II anointing and blessing the sick on a 1982 visit to the UK; meeting the Dalai Lama before going to pray for world peace in Assisi; in a prison cell visiting Mehmet Ali Agca, who had tried to assassinate him in May 1981; and hugging Mother Teresa of Calcutta after visiting one of her homes for the destitute and dying.

Yet the bibliography of that introduction contains no book written by John Paul II either before or after he became pope. But it does contain the enduring classic by Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (originally published 1967). Both as pope and earlier, it was through the force of his ideas rather than the force of his personality that Benedict XVI exercised his leadership.

The public relations record of Pope Benedict was far from perfect. He will be remembered for quoting some dismissive remarks about Islam made by a Byzantine emperor. That 2006  speech in Regensburg led to riots and worse in the Muslim world. Many have forgotten his visit later that year to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul when he turned towards Mecca and joined his hosts in silent prayer.

Catholics and other Christians around the world hope now for a forward-looking pope who can offer fresh leadership and deal quickly with some crying needs like the ordination of married men and the return to the local churches of the decision-making that some Vatican offices have arrogated to themselves.

When he speaks at midday from his apartment to the people gathered in St Peter’s Square on 24 February, the last Sunday before his resignation kicks in, Pope Benedict will be making his final public appearance before the people of Rome. A vast crowd will have streamed in from the city and suburbs to thank him with their thunderous applause. They cherished the clear, straightforward language of his sermons and homilies, and admire him for what will prove the defining moment of his papacy—his courageous decision to resign and pass the baton to a much younger person.

Gerald O’Collins received his Ph.D. in 1968 at the University of Cambridge, where he was a research fellow at Pembroke College. From 1973-2006, he taught at the Gregorian University (Rome) where he was also dean of the theology faculty (1985-91). Alone or with others, he has published fifty books, including Catholicism: A Very Short Introduction and The Second Vatican Council on Other Religions. As well as receiving over the years numerous honorary doctorates and other awards, in 2006 he was created a Companion of the General Division of the Order of Australia (AC), the highest civil honour granted through the Australian government. Currently he is a research professor of theology at St Mary’s University College,Twickenham (UK).

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday!

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Image Credits: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition By Tadeusz Górny, public domain via Wikimedia Commons; Church of the Carmine, Martina Franca, Apulia, Italy. Statues of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II By Tango7174, creative commons licence via Wikimedia Commons

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8. The Catholics have won. (Or so it seems.)

By Thomas A. Tweed Whose country is this? It's ours. That's been the recurring answer to that persistent question. Of course, in religiously and ethnically plural America that means many groups have claimed the nation as their own. As Reverend Josiah Strong did in his 1885 book Our Country, some have proposed that this is an Anglo-Saxon Protestant nation. But others have proclaimed primacy too. There was already a grid of tribal nations here when Europeans started planting flags and raising crosses.

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9. So what do we think? The Wild West: 365 days


 The Wild West: 365 days


 Wallis, Michael. (2011) The Wild West: 365 days. New York, NY: Abrams Press. ISBN 978-0810996892 All ages.

 Publisher’s description: The Wild West: 365 Days is a day-by-day adventure that tells the stories of pioneers and cowboys, gold rushes and saloon shoot-outs in America’s frontier. The lure of land rich in minerals, fertile for farming, and plentiful with buffalo bred an all-out obsession with heading westward. The Wild West: 365 Days takes the reader back to these booming frontier towns that became the stuff of American legend, breeding characters such as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Author Michael Wallis spins a colorful narrative, separating myth from fact, in 365 vignettes. The reader will learn the stories of Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley; travel to the O.K. Corral and Dodge City; ride with the Pony Express; and witness the invention of the Colt revolver. The images are drawn from Robert G. McCubbin’s extensive collection of Western memorabilia, encompassing rare books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, including Billy the Kid’s knife.

 Our thoughts:

 This is one of the neatest books I’ve seen in a long time. The entire family will love it. Keep it on the coffee table but don’t let it gather dust!

 Every page is a look back into history with a well-known cowboy, pioneer, outlaw, native American or other adventurer tale complete with numerous authentic art and photo reproductions. The book is worth owning just for the original pictures.  But there is more…an index of its contents for easy reference too! Not only is this fun for the family, it is excellent for the school or home classroom use too. A really fun way to study the 19th century too and also well received as a gift.  I highly recommend this captivating collection! See for yourself at the Litland.com Bookstore.

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10. So what do we think? Abe’s Lucky Day

Abe’s Lucky Day


 Warren, Jill. (2011) Abe’s Lucky Day. Outskirts Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-4327-7305-2. Age 8 and under.

 Publisher’s description:  Any day can be a lucky day.  Abe is a homeless man who lives in the alley behind a bakery and winter is coming. What will happen on his lucky day that will change his life? 

Our thoughts:

 Introducing us to the varied faces of distress and homelessness, Abe’s Lucky Day reminds us that , while food, warm clothes and dry beds feel great, helping others feels even better. Illustrations permit the child to imagine themselves in the story, and so can feel the heartwarming rewards of selflessness…definitely good for your Litland.com family book club or a preschool classroom. Part luck and lots of kindness, Abe’s Lucky Day infuses a desire for kindness and generosity into its reader’s mind and heart, and is sure to strengthen bonds within the family reading it as well :>) Great for gift-giving, pick up your copy in our Litland.com Bookstore!

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11. So what do we think? The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (Flavia de Luce)

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

 Bradley, Alan. (2010) The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. (The Flavia de Luce Series) Bantam, division of Random House. ISBN 978-0385343459. Litland recommends ages 14-100!

 Publisher’s description:  Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head? (Bantam Books)

 Our thoughts:

 Flavia De Luce is back and in full force! Still precocious. Still brilliant. Still holding an unfortunate fascination with poisons…

 As with the first book of the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we begin with a seemingly urgent, if not sheer emergency, situation that once again turns out to be Flavia’s form of play.  We also see the depth of her sister’s cruelty as they emotionally badger their little sister, and Flavia’s immediate plan for the most cruel of poisoned deaths as revenge. Readers will find themselves chuckling throughout the book!

 And while the family does not present the best of role models (smile), our little heroine does demonstrate good character here and there as she progresses through this adventure. As explained in my first review on this series, the protagonist may be 11 but that doesn’t mean the book was written for 11-year olds :>) For readers who are parents, however (myself included), we shudder to wonder what might have happened if we had bought that chemistry kit for our own kids!

 Alas, the story has much more to it than mere chemistry. The author’s writing style is incredibly rich and entertaining, with too many amusing moments to even give example of here. From page 1 the reader is engaged and intrigued, and our imagination is easily transported into  the 1950’s Post WWII England village. In this edition of the series, we have more perspective of Flavia as filled in by what the neighbors know and think of her. Quite the manipulative character as she flits  around Bishop’s Lacy on her mother’s old bike, Flavia may think she goes unnoticed but begins to learn not all are fooled…

 The interesting treatment of perceptions around German prisoners of war from WWII add historical perspective, and Flavia’s critical view of villagers, such as the Vicar’s mean wife and their sad relationship, fill in character profiles with deep colors. Coupled with her attention to detail that helps her unveil the little white lies told by antagonists, not a word is wasted in this story.

 I admit to being enviou

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12. Augustine of Hippo born

This Day in World History

November 13, 354

Augustine of Hippo born

On November 13, 354, in a small town named Tagaste in Roman Numidia (modern Algeria) near the port of Hippo (now Annaba), Augustine—one of the preeminent early Christian thinkers—was born. Though his mother was a devout Christian, he was not baptized as an infant.

As a child and young teen, Augustine proved a ready scholar. While his family owned land, they could not afford further studies. However, a wealthy man from Tagaste paid Augustine’s expenses for more advanced study in Carthage. Three years later, the young man returned to Tagaste and opened his own school; soon after, he moved to Carthage to teach rhetoric. He gained some success, had a son with the young woman he lived with, and became attracted to the dualistic religion of Manichaeism. In 384, he moved to Italy and gained a teaching post in Milan. By this time, he had lost interest in Manichaeism but was in the midst of a period of intense spiritual turmoil. After two years of professional success and this inner tumult, he resigned his position and prepared himself to adopt Christianity. Baptized by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, in 387, he soon suffered the death of his mother and his son. (The son’s mother he seems to have cast aside.) Back in Africa, Augustine became a priest in 391 and was named bishop of Hippo just five years later.

For the next 35 years, he became one of the leading thinkers of the Church. His Confessions, written around 400, recounts his own spiritual journey and celebrates God’s glory. He played significant roles breaking the Donatist and Pelagian heresies, thereby helping shape orthodox Roman Catholic beliefs. His masterwork, The City of God—written in the wake of the sack of Rome by Visigoths led by Alaric—is an extensive argument against paganism and offers a vision of the true destiny of the world as the unfolding of God’s will. Ironically, he died not long before invading Vandals captured Hippo and Carthage, putting his homeland into non-Roman—and non-orthodox Christian—hands.

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13. Where have all the Catholic writers gone?

I strongly disagree with the idea that “the Christian faith [has] been in full cultural retreat since the 1960s,” but still recommend Robert Fay’s essay about the dearth of Catholic novels after the translation of the Latin Mass.

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14. BOOK OF THE DAY: February 2012 List


No need to wait until the end of February for the complete list. Here it is–plan ahead! Click on the link above, and also follows us on Facebook at Litland Reviews http://facebook.com/Litlandreviews

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15. BOOK OF THE DAY: The January list!


Here it is! The book of the day challenge, to recommend a new book or related media every day in 2012. January is complete, and attached for handy download–just click on the above link. February is on the way! “Friend” Litland Reviews on Facebook to see daily recommendations as they post. http://facebook.com/Litlandreviews

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16. Brainless As Beetles

It’s easy to understand misogynist Republican men if you view them in the context of the animal kingdom. Males, from fruit flies to men, have an anatomical limitation. They cannot produce eggs, and if they’re mammals like us, they cannot get pregnant or give birth. Their only contribution to reproduction is sperm. And sperm must leave a male’s body in order to fertilize an egg. This means that in the act of mating, males lose control of their most precious biological possession, their sperm. Once sperm leave a male’s body, they are under the control of the female. She can eject them, kill them, block them or allow them to fertilize her eggs. Females are scary creatures!

Among waterfowl, where rape is common, females have evolved vaginas with dead-end sacs, a kind of internal burial ground for an unwanted male’s sperm.
The only way males can try to control their sperm investment is by controlling the recipients—females! And males—insects to humans—do anything and everything they can to exert control and subvert female choice. (Of course there are many wonderful liberated men who think with their brains instead of the instrument below their belt, but those who want to make women’s bodies property of the state are not among them.)

Subversion tactics are seen most clearly in insects. Female insects mate with several males and store sperm in their sperm-storage chamber. Scientists have discovered that female choice goes on internally in the female’s reproductive tract. It is within the changing climate of this internal environment that hidden or “cryptic” female choice takes place, perhaps at the level of the ovum itself, in determining which sperm of which male, if any, will be allowed to penetrate the egg’s membrane to achieve fertilization. Such internal female choice may be going on in women, too!

So males across species engage in sperm competition and mate guarding to ensure that only their sperm fertilize their mate’s eggs and sire her offspring. Among insects, some bizarre tactics for ensuring confidence of paternity have evolved.

One tactic is the copulatory plug, a gluey substance secreted by the male to block the female’s genital opening, preventing a rival’s sperm from getting inside. The male damselfly has a kind of scooper on the end of his penis that he uses to scoop out previously deposited sperm before mating with a female. Some male fruit flies inject toxic semen, which thwarts rivals but also hastens the female’s death.

Men don’t use genital glue or sperm scoopers but they do use religion, laws and politics to achieve the same end – controlling women’s reproductive biology. The use of mutilating genital surgery in some 28 countries of Africa and the Middle East wounds about three million young girls every year. The current profusion of ultrasound and “personhood” bills being passed by Republican male legislators across the U.S. are the human equivalent of insects’ copulatory plugs. These men are probably no more aware they are acting out such a primitive biological scenario than are insect males. They are caught up in a form of mass hysteria reminiscent of medieval witch hunts and persecution of women. Indeed, the attempt to vilify Planned Parenthood is similar to medieval persecution of women who gave advice on preventing births.

If the current misogynist movement led by Republican men were not so dangerous and harmful to women and our entire society, it would make an interesting anthropological field study. It’s unprecedented in U.S. history, to see males, primarily in one major political party, using the legal process and available medical technology to turn back the clock, prevent access to, and even ban medical advances that benefit men as well as women. Yes, many women accept their subjugation and support these efforts. But would they if they understood that from a biological perspective, these men are acting as brainless as beetles? With this difference: Male insects are ou

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17. Book of the day: April


The full April list is here. Get a sneak peak at the 2nd half of the month and stock up for summer vacation too!

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18. BOOK OF THE DAY: The June 2012 List!


Plan in advance for father’s day! The month of June is dedicated to books for dads and boys…don’t worry, a few dads & daughter books thrown in too! Good list for reluctant readers as well as summer vacation. Enjoy!

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19. BOOK OF THE DAY: The May 2012 List


In celebration of Mother’s day, moms, women and daughters, recommendations span ages and areas of interest. Great for summer vacation reading too!

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20. So what do we think? Heaven in her Arms

Hickem, Catherine. (2012). Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What It Means for You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-1-4002-0036-8.

What do we know of Mary?

 What we know of Mary’s family is that she is of the house of David; it is from her lineage Jesus fulfilled the prophecy. Given the archeological ruins of the various places thought to have been living quarters for their family, it is likely the home was a room out from which sleeping quarters (cells) branched. As Mary and her mother Anne would be busy maintaining the household, with young Mary working at her mother’s command, it is likely Anne would be nearby or in the same room during the Annunciation. Thus Mary would not have had a scandalous secret to later share with her parents but, rather, a miraculous supernatural experience, the salvific meaning of which her Holy parents would understand and possibly even witnessed.

 Mary and Joseph were betrothed, not engaged. They were already married, likely in the form of a marriage contract, but the marriage had not yet been “consummated”. This is why he was going to divorce her when he learned of the pregnancy. If it were a mere engagement, he would have broken it off without too much scandal.

 Married but not yet joined with her husband, her mother would prepare her by teaching her all that she needed to know. This is further reason to assume that Mary would be working diligently under her mother’s eye when the Annunciation took place.

 We know that her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy was kept in secret for five months, and not made known until the sixth month when the Angel Gabriel proclaimed it to Mary. We know Mary then rushed to be at her elderly cousin’s side for three months (the remaining duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), and that this rushing appeared to be in response to Elizabeth’s pregnancy (to congratulate her), not an attempt to hide Mary’s pregnancy. Note how all of this is connected to Elizabeth’s pregnancy rather than Mary’s circumstances. As Mary was married to Joseph, he likely would have been informed of the trip. Had the intent been to hide Mary, she would have remained with Elizabeth until Jesus was born, not returned to her family after the first trimester, which is just about the time that her pregnancy was visible and obvious.

 So we these misconceptions clarified, we can put Mary’s example within an even deeper context and more fully relate to her experience. We can imagine living in a faith-filled family who raises their child in strict accordance of God’s word. The extended family members may not understand, and certainly their community will not, so Mary, Anne and Joachim, and Joseph face extreme scandal as well as possible action from Jewish authorities. But they faced this together steep in conversation with God, providing a model for today’s family.

 Although sometimes scriptural interpretations are flavored with modern-day eye, overall this book will be more than just a quick read for a young mother (or new bride, or teen aspiring to overcome the challenges of American culture, or single parent losing her mind). It is a heartwarming reflection with many examples that open up conversation with God. As an experienced psychotherapist, the author’s examples are spot on and easy to relate to. We do not need to have had the same experiences to empathize, reflect, and pursue meaning; we see it around us in everyday life. As such, a reflective look upon these examples can help one overcome an impasse in their own relationship with God and also open the reader up to self-knowledge as Hi

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I received an early Christmas present today with the publication of my seasonal story, THE LOST SHEPHERD BOY, in My Light magazine. I wanted to share the story with you as well. Jack Foster, an amazing illustrator who I know through Guardian Angel Publishing, has created a wonderful illustration for the story. He captures perfectly the excited face of young Tomas discovering an unexpected Christmas treat, while his mischievous kitty, Neto, looks on.

I wish you a joyous Christmas too!

Feliz Navidad!

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22. Infinite Space, Infinite God II: Frankie Phones Home

  12 Days of Sci-Fi, Day 11:

 Having stories centered either in outer space or on earth, we now have both. Frankie in space returning to earth…

 Frankie Phones Home by Karina Fabian


  Editor’s comment: “God’s calling or no, she should have honored her parents by telling them personally what was going on…”

Rather than a story, this is more of an amusing intermission. Carrying on from the story first presented in ISIG volume I, we are to imagine its main character, Frankie, finally returning home. Imagine, after a two year absence in outer space, what it would be like to call mom and try to explain it all to her…well, I’ll let you read for yourself in Infinite Space, Infinite God II http://ow.ly/4F48e .

 (Karina Fabian writes a wide variety of fiction involving characters with faith. Her first anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite God I, won the EPPIE award for best sci-fi. Her humorous fantasy involving a dragon and nun detective team, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, won the 2010 INDIE for best fantasy. She’s also written a small devotional with her father, Deacon Steve Lumbert, Why God Matters. Visit her website at http://www.fabianspace.com .)

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23. The Catonsville Nine

The United States was plagued by social unrest throughout the 1960’s. 1968 stands out as the most militant and contentious year of the decade with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. In that same year, the Selective Service office announced that its December quota for the draft would be the highest thus far, leading countless Americans to engage in acts of civil disobedience. American Catholics, who were led to accept mainstream cultural values and unhesitatingly support foreign policy faced a changing identity brought on by a remarkable act known as the Catonsville Nine. Led by two priests, the Catonsville Nine would set off a wave of other Catholic protests against the Vietnam War. The following excerpt from Mark Massa’s The American Catholic Revolution describes this transformative moment in American Catholic history.

At 12:30 on the afternoon of May 17, 1968, an unlikely crew of seven men and two women arrived at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Catonsville, Maryland, a tidy suburb of Baltimore. Their appearance at 1010 Frederick Road, however, was only tangentially related to the Knights. The target of their pilgrimage was Selective Service Board 33, housed on the second floor of the K. of C. Hall. The nondescript parcel they carried with them contained ten pounds of homemade napalm, whipped up several evenings before by Dean Pappas, a local physics teacher who had discovered the recipe in a booklet published by the U.S. Special Forces (two parts gasoline, one part Ivory Flakes). On entering the office, one of them explained calmly to the three surprised women typing and filing what was going to happen next. But either out of shock or because they hadn’t heard the announcement clearly the women continued about their business until the strangers began snatching up 1-A files, records of young men whose draft lottery numbers made them most likely to be drafted to fight in Vietnam. At that point one of the women working in the office began to scream.

The raiders began stuffing the 1-A files (and as many 2-As and 1-Ys as they could grab) into wire trash baskets they had brought for the purpose. When one of the office workers tried dialing the police, Mary Moylan, one of the nine intruders, put her finger on the receiver button, calmly advising the distraught worker to wait until the visitors were finished. The burning of the draft records was intended to be entirely nonviolent, although one of the office workers had to be physically restrained from stopping the protesters, in the course of which she suffered some scratches on her leg. With that one exception, the raid went according to plan. Indeed, as Daniel Berrigan, S.J. one of the leaders of the event, later remembered it.

We took the A-1 [sic] files, which of course were the most endangered of those being shipped off. And we got about 150 of those in our arms and went down the staircase to the parking lot. And they burned very smartly, having been doused in this horrible material. And it was all over in 10 or 15 minutes.

Once Berrigan and the others left the office, Moylan said to the office worker with the phone, “Now you can call whoever you wish.” But instead of calling the police she hurled it through the window, hoping to get attention of workmen outside the building, which she did: one of the workmen quickly rushed up to the office to see what the ruckus was. But his arrival on the scene came too late to interrupt the protest. A small group of reporters and photographers, as well as a TV crew, had already gathered, having been tipped off by a memb

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24. Infinite Space, Infinite God II: Dyads

  12 days of sci-fi: The end!

 Our final story is a bit of a mind-bender from the view of physical existence as well as spiritual beliefs…

 Dyads by Ken Pick and Alan Loewen


 Editor’s note: “The Church has not yet spoken definitively on whether or not the Christian faith applies to aliens… The current thinking is that God will manifest Himself to intelligent species in a specific manner that makes sense to them. In the case of the Thalendri–fox-like sentients who mate for life–God has revealed his sacred Trinity as Husband, Wife, and Eternal Dance. They also make it very clear that what is holy and right for Thalendri is not necessarily holy and right for humans…”

 It is a time of post Vatican VI; post Islamic wars which desecrated all physical signs of the original Christian church including the Vatican. A post-apocalyptic religion story that portrays those of a sincere faith contrasted to self-possessed fanatics. Bucky Bible refers to himself as Christian but clearly acts contrary to the foundations of his faith; extreme Muslims who cause the Islamic wars, exterminating even their Muslim brethren; and fuzzy aliens who take revenge in the name of their fuzzy religion. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from Fr. Heidler’s travelogue, the insights of which set the tone. Read the various litanies of saints closely too, to see which are real and which are of a time not yet seen!

 As indicated in the editor’s notes, this story purports that God manifests himself to aliens in a way that they understand. However, the attempt to demonstrate the alien religion is unacceptable for humans is based upon physical differences of the two species, and not theological error of the alien religion. This leaves the reader open to considering God’s relationship with his creation in a manner that differs from God’s revelation to us through scripture and tradition. As such, some readers may be offended.  Given the general belief today that people do not develop solid judgment and decision making abilities until after age 20, this story might have been better placed in an adult anthology rather than one aimed towards teens. Therefore, parents are advised to consider this within their own family values.

 (Alan Loewen lives near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with his wife, three children, a Sheltie, a homicidal parrot and way too many cats. A pastor for two small country churches and a writer, he is working with fellow author Ken Pick on a trilogy that will further expand the adventures of Father Eric Heidler and Jill Noir, a character that appeared in Mask of the Ferret in Infinite Space, Infinite God I. His blog documenting his writing adventures can be found at http://literary-equine.livejournal.com/ .

 Ken Pick (“Dyads”): Ken Pick is a computer programmer and moderately-practicing Catholic layman from Southern California. Cursed with a hyperactive imagination, he writes (among many-many other things) in an attempt to stay sane. He is currently working with co-author Alan Loewen expanding “Mask of the Ferret” (Infinite Space, Infinite God I) and “Dyads” into a braided novel, the first book in a projected trilogy. An additional story in the same arc, “Down to Cathuria”, appeared in the small-press anthology Different Worlds, Diff

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25. So what do we think? Waking Rose: a fairy tale retold


 Doman, Regina. (2007) Waking Rose: a fairy tale retold. Front Royal, VA: Chesterton Press. ISBN #978-0-981-93184-5. Author recommended age: 16 +. Litland.com also recommends 16+.  See author explanation for parents at http://www.fairytalenovels.com/page.cfm/cat/116//

Publisher’s description: Ever since he rescued her from Certain Death, Rose Brier has had a crush on Ben Denniston, otherwise known as Fish. But Fish, struggling with problems of his own, thinks that Rose should go looking elsewhere for a knight in shining armor. Trying to forget him, Rose goes to college, takes up with a sword-wielding band of brothers, and starts an investigation into her family’s past that proves increasingly mysterious. Then a tragic accident occurs, and Fish, assisted by Rose’s new friends, finds himself drawn into a search through a tangle of revenge and corruption that might be threatening Rose’s very life. The climax is a crucible of fear, fight, and fire that Fish must pass through to reach Rose and conquer his dragons.

Our thoughts:

It is difficult to capture the essence of this story coherently because it touches upon so many aspects of life. There is the mystery, of course, and continuing depth of family loyalty amongst the Briers. The craziness of those first years experienced when young adults leave their nest and venture into the outer world of college life, whether as newbie freshmen or advanced graduate students. Unlikely friendships as the strong nurture the weak with Kateri mentoring Donna in her mental illness, and Rose guiding Fish through abuse recovery. Fish’s loyalty to Rose, taken to the extreme, becomes unforgiving. But then self-denigration turns into enlightenment and hope.

And after all of that is said, we are left with the relationship of Fish and Rose finally reaching a neat and tidy conclusion :>)

The girls have progressed in the series to young adults. Blanche just married Bear and Rose is off to college. Fish continues in his college program too. Doman shows us the challenges young adults face when they first enter the world on their own, particularly in making friends and exploring crushes. We can imagine ourselves engaged in the chit chat and horseplay typical in budding relationships. Important also is the picture implanted in our mind of courtship.

Throughout the story, we can see the existence of three pillars: faith, family and friends. Whenever one of these pillars is weakened, internal conflict and unsafe situations arise. Maintaining the balance, we see Rose’s keen ability for discernment that has been honed as a result of consistency in faith life, family home “culture, and choice of friends. Her discernment is key to good decisions, keeping safe, etc.

Going beyond stereotypes, the dialogue paints a clear picture of the perceptions held by non-Christians against Christians, countered with a realistic portrayal of the passionate young Christian student. Previous books portrayed ac

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