Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Journey with Mary and Joseph this Advent

 


Advent is right around the corner (this year it begins November 28th), which means it is time to choose an Advent reflection book to help deepen your prayer life and help you prepare spiritually for Christmas. Adore: A Guided Advent Journal for Prayer and Meditation by Fr. John Burns with illustrations by Valerie Delgado is a wonderful guide to the season.

Fr. Burns offers reflections based on the scripture readings and collects (opening prayers) of the Mass. In addition, he devotes Wednesdays to St. Joseph, Thursdays to the Eucharist, Fridays to penance and the Cross, Saturdays to our Blessed Mother, and Sunday to the Resurrection in accordance with the custom of the Church. Each of the four weeks has a theme. In order, they are Watchfulness, Preparation, Nearness, and Emmanuel. Each day’s entry features a quotation, a meditation, and opportunity to reflect and journal, and a closing prayer. There is space provided in the book to journal, but if you are using the Kindle version, sharing this book in a family, or plan to use it for more than one Advent season, you can certainly use a separate journal or notebook to write in. A nice feature of this book is that it isn’t tied to a particular year, so that it can be used more than once.

One of the entries that spoke most to be was the prayer for Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent. As we end this year of St. Joseph, it seems most appropriate:

St. Joseph, help me imitate your patience when God’s plan for my life diverges from my desires. Intercede for me and ask that God would strengthen me today in virtue, in preparation to receive Jesus, and in the resilience to persevere in whatever task lies before me.

Making use of  Adore: A Guided Advent Journal for Prayer and Meditation will help you to keep focused on the spiritual aspects of the Advent season.

 

The paperback version seems to be out of stock on Amazon, but you can download the Kindle version. You can also order the paperback directly from the Ave Maria Press website.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Open Book - November 2021

This is my first time trying this. Carolyn Astfalk hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on CatholicMom.com. I've never been quite sure how it works, but I'm giving it a shot. (I still am working on "What I've Read in 2021" post, scheduled to run on December 31, 2021.) Here's what I've been reading this past month. The dates indicate when I finished the book.

 


10/3/21 Emily's House - Amy Belding Brown - Back in my teens, I was quite the Emily Dickinson fan. She appealed to my young angsty poetry-writing self. As an adult, I visited her home in nearby Amherst, MA which is now a museum and found it very interesting. I really enjoyed this novel that focuses on Emily's Irish Catholic maid Margaret Maher who did the world a service by not burning all of Dickinson's poems despite that being Emily's dying wish. 

10/3/21 Foundation of Love - Amy Clipston - Clipston is best known for her Amish romances. It had been a while since I read one, and this one is a delight featuring a romance between an unmarried 33 year old woman who cares for her brother's large family but longs for a family of her own and a 47 year old widower. (Read for a book review publication)


 

10/6/21 The Interior Castle: A Boy's Journey into the Riches of Prayer - Judith Bouilloc & Eric Puybaret - This is a valiant attempt to introduce children to the spiritual riches of St. Teresa of Avila's masterpiece The Interior Castle. (Read for Catholic Library World)


 

10/7/21 Behold the Handmaid of the Lord - Fr. Edward Looney - This book is designed as a ten-day retreat, with each day bearing a title of Mary. Each day (chapter) includes a few-page reflection, prayer, and a traditional Marian hymn or prayer. Through the ten days, one is invited to make “a journey to Jesus through the heart of Mary, with St. Louis de Montfort as our guide.” I reviewed it here

10/10/21 Two-Way Mirror: The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Fiona Sampson - I knew nothing about Elizabeth Barrett Browning before reading this book other than that she was married to Robert Browning. I now know considerably more, but I feel like this book was intended for someone who was already familiar with her work. I also found it really drawn out in spots (I skimmed over those sections). 

10/17/21 The Wish - Nicholas Sparks - It was time for my annual Nicholas Sparks book. I've been a fan of his ever since The Notebook (which was 25 years ago!). Some of his books have been better than others, but this new one was so, so good. It tells the story of a 39 year-old woman who is dying of cancer looking back at the year she was 16, pregnant (due to a one-night relationship), and sent away to live with her aunt (a former nun). While she is there, she falls in love with a homeschooled young man who plans to enter the military. Catholicism is presented in a positive light as is homeschooling. Truly, I loved it! 

 10/18/21 Marry Me, Millie - Amy Lillard - This is the first book in a new series about the Paradise Springs Widows Group (aka known as the Whoopie Pie Widows Club). Millie is a young pregnant widow. Her aunt wants to pair her up with Henry (whose fiancee left him to go to Belize) but both Henry and Millie are determined to not marry again. The two become friends and agree to play along with her aunt's attempts to put them together. When real feelings get involved, however, things get complicated in a hurry. (Read for a book review publication)


 

10/24/21 Forgiving Paris - Karen Kingsbury - I've read lots of Kingsbury's fiction over the years and was excited to get this book in at the library even before its release date on Amazon! It focuses on Ashley Baxter, an artist who is getting a one-woman show in Paris, but must face the bad choices she made there as a young woman. It is a story about redemption and how God can use all things for good (even our mistakes) for those who trust in Him. I enjoyed it a great deal! Plus, I love the striking cover image!
 

10/24/21 Physics - Aristotle - For the past two-and-a-half years, I have been making my way through the Great Books Curriculum of Thomas Aquinas College (I'm currently working on the readings for sophomore year). It took me just about a month to make my way through this one. Needless to say, it was not a page turner. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher who lived from 384-322 BC. I've read other things by him and I do admire his efforts to compile all the knowledge known in the world. In this book, he discussed causes, motion, place, the void, time, and change. One thing I found interesting is that he stated the first mover must be something that is both one and eternal. I might not be right about this, but I think this is the beginning of the idea of God as Prime Mover that shows up in later Christian philosophy. 


 

10/29/21 Seriously, God? Making Sense of Life Not Making Sense - Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran - Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran tackle the tough questions of life, such as why God sometimes says no to perfectly good prayers, why we face unexpected storms in life, why bad people are sometimes in charge, why God sometimes seems to be stopping us from doing good things, why we suffer, and why people die in unexpected and painful ways. To answer these questions, they offer examples from the Bible as well as what they have learned through their own lived experience. The combination of a priest and a married layman speaking is profound as they are each able to bring their own unique perspective to the questions. 


 

10/31/21 The Weight of Memory - Shawn Smucker - It was totally coincidental that my leisure read for Halloween ended up being a somewhat mysterious story that included ghosts, but I enjoyed this story about a dying grandfather who has custody of his granddaughter and his trip back to his childhood home to find someone who might be able to care for her once he is gone.  

 

My ten-year-old daughter has been enjoying a series of books about dogs by W. Bruce Campbell. This month, she and I have read  Ellie's Story, Molly's Story, and Shelby's Story. I enjoy these stories as much as she does!


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Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Seriously, God? Answers to Tough Questions



Unfortunately, we all go through times in life when things just don’t make sense to us. Bad things happen for seemingly no reason. To make matters worse, in those dark days of life, we often feel like God is among the missing. How could these horrible things happen? Why doesn’t God care? How can we believe God loves us? If there is such evil in the world, is there even a God at all? Is everything we’ve believed all a lie?

Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran, both from the Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland, tackle the hard questions of life in Seriously, God? Making Sense of Life Not Making Sense. As they are quick to point out, “God’s choices and decisions don’t always make sense to us,” but that might not actually be a problem. There are reasons why God’s ways are not our ways. God is smarter than us. After all, God created the whole world. God also has a much wider vantage point than we do. He can see all of creation and all of time in one eternal now. God simply thinks differently than we do. We can, however, get an inkling of God’s understanding of things through the revelation of the Bible and in the person of Jesus Christ. God wants to have a relationship with us. He wants us, at least to some extent, to understand.

Some of the challenging questions White and Corcoran take on are why God sometimes says no to perfectly good prayers, why we face unexpected storms in life, why bad people are sometimes in charge, why God sometimes seems to be stopping us from doing good things, why we suffer, and why people die in unexpected and painful ways. To answer these questions, they offer examples from the Bible as well as what they have learned through their own lived experience. The combination of a priest and a married layman speaking is profound as they are each able to bring their own unique perspective to the questions.

As much as White and Corcoran contribute to our understanding of why there is pain and heartache in the world and how God can bring good out of it, they certainly don’t have all the answers. They do, however, have faith. They believe (as all Christians should) that all will be made well in the next world. Our stories “will end well; everything will be brought to resolution if we follow the Lord and seek always to grow in understanding how he acts in our lives and our stories.” That faith is sometimes hard to hold on to in the midst of trial. If you or someone you love is struggling with how God is acting, or failing to act, in life, Seriously, God? may help provide some understanding and strengthen a weakened faith.   

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Deepen Your Relationship with Mary

 

Fr. Edward Looney has a great love for Mary. He even hosts a podcast in her honor, How They Love Mary, which I had the pleasure of being a guest on a couple of years ago (I discussed Our Lady of La Salette). That love shines through in his new book, Behold the Handmaid of the Lord: A 10-Day Personal Retreat with St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary.

St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary is designed to lead one in thirty-three days of preparation for total consecration to Mary. In doing so, our goal is to love Mary the way Jesus loves Mary. In turn, Mary leads us in a special way to her Son. However, St. Louis de Montfort wrote in the 1700s and his book, while a classic, can be intimidating and hard to understand in our modern world. In Behold the Handmaid of the Lord, Fr. Looney, attempts to “break open the relics of de Montfort’s writings and discover the beauty of total devotion to Our Lady.” It is designed as an intermediary step between having a basic interest and devotion to Mary and going all in, as one does with a full Marian consecration.

It is designed as a ten-day retreat, with each day bearing a title of Mary. Those titles are Queen of All Saints, Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, The New Eve, Mother of the Interior Life, Mother of Disciples, Star of the Sea, Queen of All Hearts, Mediatrix of Grace, The Mold of God, and My Mother and My Queen. Each day (chapter) includes a few-page reflection, prayer, and a traditional Marian hymn or prayer. Through the ten days, one is invited to make “a journey to Jesus through the heart of Mary, with St. Louis de Montfort as our guide.”

While the purpose of this book is to lead people to want to make the full Marian consecration in which “we do everything by Mary, with Mary, in Mary, and for Mary,” Fr. Looney is quick to encourage people to live Marian devotion to whatever degree they feel comfortable with at the moment. Mary continues to reach out to us, to call us into a deeper relationship with her and her Son.

As a personal aside, I’ve had a deep devotion to Mary for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t feel comfortable with making a Marian consecration until I was in my forties. Also, Fr. Looney maintains (and I have seen others testify to this as well) that making a Marian consecration will lead to a huge shift in your life. As Fr. Looney states that “God is going to rock your world.” Perhaps that is true for many people, but for me, that wasn’t the case. There was no huge transformation. It was simply the next step in my relationship with Mary and Jesus. However, I do encourage anyone who is even remotely interested to pursue making a Marian consecration. I personally found Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory to better a more user-friendly way to make this consecration than St. Louis de Montfort’s original.

Behold the Handmaid of the Lord offers a meaningful exploration of Marian devotion. It is ideal for anyone looking to make an at-home retreat or who is interested in learning more about Marian consecration.

 

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Journey with Mary and Joseph this Advent

  Advent is right around the corner (this year it begins November 28 th ), which means it is time to choose an Advent reflection book to h...