Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: One of the Few



One of the Few
by Jason B. Ladd
Wasilla, AK: Boone Shepherd, LLC, 2015

“What do you believe about God? Your answer will lead to a worldview that shapes your thinking about humanity, the world, and what exists beyond.”

Jason B. Ladd is a Marine Fighter Pilot, married with children. In “One of the Few,” he shares his own journey to the Christian faith, comparing spiritual discipline to that required for military service. He also contrasts the secular and Christian worldview, explaining why the Christian is superior to the secular.

Ladd offers a reasoned look at faith. He has a logical mind and needed an understanding of faith that would make sense to his intellect. He shares, “I once thought you had to check your brain at the door to believe in Christianity. On the contrary, Christians seeking to understand their faith are using its full potential.”

“One of the Few” will appeal to men and anyone interested in the military. It is written from a broad Christian perspective. The only statement Catholic will disagree with is that communion is described as a symbol. Other than that, the author demonstrates a great respect for the Catholic faith and, in fact, even quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Many people, especially young people, are lost today, searching for meaning in a secular world. “One of the Few” is an interesting spiritual memoir and a practical guide to the Christian life which has the potential to answer their questions and lead them to a life rooted in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Praying with Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa will be canonized by Pope Francis on September 4, 2016.



In 1986, 21-year-old Susan Conroy traveled to Calcutta to work with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. She and the holy woman developed a friendship that would last until Mother Teresa’s death in 1997. In Praying with Mother Teresa, Conroy offers her own reflections along with quotes and letters from Mother Teresa, prayers from Mother Teresa’s own prayer collection, as well as photos of the saint, her sisters, and the people they serve. 

Conroy writes, “I hope that sharing the prayers and inspirations which nourished Mother Teresa’s intense spiritual life can help us to advance on our own journey of love to perfect union with God and everlasting life.”

Praying with Mother Teresa is arranged in three parts. The first, “Lessons& Prayers from Mother Teresa,” includes reflections about and inspiration from Mother Teresa on prayer, love, suffering, joy, humility, poverty, peace, holiness, Our Lady, and Our Lord Jesus, the Holy Eucharist and Adoration. The second section features Mother Teresa’s favorite prayers with prayers for many occasions. Part three focuses on The Dark Night of the Soul and trusting in God’s presence even when He seems far away and there are no consolations to be had. 

Mother Teresa said that prayer was the secret to all the remarkable things she did. She lived a life rooted wholly in God. As Conroy states, “Prayer fortifies and prepares us to love and serve and sacrifice ourselves, because prayer unites us with the Strong One, the One Who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many, in order to save us.” 

One story that touched me deeply was about Mother Teresa’s own mother. As Teresa approached her eighteenth birthday, she felt deeply called to serve as a missionary in Calcutta. She prayerfully discerned this called and applied to join the Loreto Sisters, but her mother knew if her daughter accepted this call, she would never see her again. “Her mother went into her room, closed the door, and remained there for 24 hours. She came forth from her silence and solitude with the inner strength and grace to accept this decision and support her young daughter in following God’s will.” What a hard sacrifice to make. Mother Teresa’s mother was no doubt a prayer-filled woman herself and a role model for parents who must let go of their children so that they can do what God has called them to do. 

This book invites us to reflect more deeply on the life and example of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Praying with Mother Teresa is a beautiful collection that offers encouragement and inspiration as we strive to live a more Christ-centered life. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion

My contributing author's copies of The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion came in the mail today. I am honored to be included among the authors who wrote reflections for this lovely book. Each month has a theme with each day having a topic within that theme (unless there is a feast day to talk about). For example, January's topic is Resolution, June's is Family Fun, and December's is Giftedness

Each day has a quote related to the topic, a practical reflection Mom's can relate to, and a question to ponder. I didn't get a chance to read the whole book yet (I think I will actually read it on a day by day basis the way it was intended), but flipping through the pages today I found many beautiful reflections and things to think about. Just in case you were curious, my reflections can be found on March 31, September 19, and November 20.

The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion would be a lovely gift for yourself or for any of the Catholic Mom's in your lives.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Take part in a Novena for the Nation starting August 15th

Over on Facebook, I was invited to take part in the Novena for the Nation. I think it is such a great idea, I'm sharing it here.

Regardless of your political leanings, I think we all can agree our country is in a rough spot. The Rosary can work miracles. The idea is that we all pray a 54 day Rosary novena (3 sets of 9 nine days of petition and 3 sets of 9 days of thanksgiving) from Monday, August 15th, until October 7th - the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

I've been a believer in the power of rosary novenas since I was a teenager. The small book that I own relates the history of the rosary novena:

It has it's roots in a visit by Our Lady of Pompeii, which occurred in 1884 at Naples, in the house of Commander Agrelli. The Commander's daughter, Fortuna, had been very sick for 13 months and the doctors had no idea how to help her. On Feb. 16, 1884, the girl and her family began a novena of Rosaries.

Our Blessed Mother appeared to her on March 3rd and Fortuna begged her to be healed, calling her "Queen of the Holy Rosary."

Mary replied, "Now, since thou hast called me by that title so pleasing to me, 'Queen of the Holy Rosary,' I can no longer refuse the favor thou dost petition . . . . "

"Once more the Queen of the Holy Rosary appeared to her and said, 'Whoever desires to obtain favors from me should make three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary, and three novenas in thanksgiving."

Please consider taking part. Let's storm heaven for the future of our country.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Book Review: Champions of the Rosary



In the early 18th century, St. Louis de Montfort wrote The Secret of the Rosary “to teach people about the history and power of the rosary.” With that book as inspiration, Fr. Donald Calloway, a Marian Father, has endeavored to rewrite “the story of the rosary . . . for the people of our times.”

Champions of theRosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon has three parts: a detailed history of the rosary, profiles of twenty-six champions of the rosary, and information on praying the rosary.

Fr. Calloway traces the history of the use of prayer beads and the development of the prayers used in the rosary. He describes how our Blessed Mother instructed St. Dominic to preach her psalter. “He was to combine the fertilizing rain of the Ave Maria with his preaching on the saving mysteries of Christ.” She gave St. Dominic the fifteen original mysteries “focused on the Incarnation, Passion, and Glorious Triumph of her divine Son.” The book then traces the continuing development of the rosary through the centuries. 

While much of this is fascinating, the more modern history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is most relevant for today’s readers. It underscores how much Our Lady wants us to pray the rosary and how much our world desperately needs it. The rosary can help “conquer spiritual threats of abortion, homosexual marriage, contraception, divorce, pornography, euthanasia, suicide, the occult, lukewarm Catholics, and Radical Islam.” We need to pray the rosary to bring peace to our world.

The section on Champions of the Rosary offers a short description of why he or she has earned that distinction, followed by quotes called “Rosary Gems” either by or about the person. While Fr. Calloway mentions these individuals during his historical narrative, this section allows each person and his or her contributions to be highlighted. The Rosary Gems also make for inspirational reading. 

Champions profiled include such notables as St. Dominic, St. Louis de Montfort, Servant of God Lucia dos Santos, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed (soon to be St.) Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI. There are also several less well-known personages who have played a role in the development and promotion of the rosary.

The third section of the book explains why and how to pray the rosary. An appendix includes a selection of art works in which the rosary is depicted, presented in the chronological order of their creation. 

Champions of the Rosary is an impressive and ambitious book, yet there are parts that are difficult to read and accept. Fr. Calloway paints Muslims in a very bad light. He refers to Muhammad as a false prophet and emphasizes how the rosary has been used to win battles against Muslims, especially the Battle of Lepanto in 1511. This battle is a historical fact and we remember it each year on October 7th with the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. However, this was a very different place and time. Instead of acknowledging that the world has changed, Fr. Calloway states, “Unlike the politically correct leaders of our time, St. Pope Pius V knew that the long-standing tension between Christianity and Islam involved a very real spiritual battle and a clash of creeds.” 

Such a statement is not in keeping with the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate which notes the common elements of the two faiths and encourages mutual respect. In addition, in a pluralistic society such as the United States, we need to live in peace with others who believe differently from us. While Radical Islam is certainly a threat, the vast majority of Muslims simply want to be free to practice their faith and not live in fear. Fatima and other recent Marian apparitions have been calls to pray the rosary for peace, not to encourage military action.

Also, Fr. Calloway emphasizes the need to pray the rosary well – to pray slowly and meditate. This is no doubt the ideal, but those of us who are mothers may have a hard time ever achieving that ideal. If we pray alone, we might not have much time. If we pray a family rosary, there are many distractions. Yet, I would maintain that both are still valuable practices and should be encouraged even in their less-than-ideal forms.  Judging by Fr. Calloway’s standard, I have most likely never prayed a true rosary in my life, yet I know that I have received answers to prayers through them. While there is always room for improvement, I think our Blessed Mother appreciates our efforts and intent. 

The vast majority of these Champions of the Rosary were members of religious orders. There are only two women on the list and neither one was a mother in a traditional sense. These champions are very important, yes, but I would add to the list all the anonymous mothers who have taught their children how to pray this beautiful prayer. 

All this being said, Champions of the Rosary is an important book. It’s message matters, perhaps now more than ever. If we all prayed the rosary daily and encouraged others to do so, we could change the world.



Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I came late to the Harry Potter party. By the time I read them to my boys, all seven books were out so we never had the experience of eagerly awaiting a new book wondering what would happen next. Since that initial reading, I read the entire series to the kids two more times and they have read it several times independently. Son #2 has also read a great deal of Harry Potter fan fiction.

Therefore, it was exciting to pre-order Harry Potter and the Cursed Child from our local bookstore and to look forward to its release on July 31st. No, we didn't stand in line at midnight, preferring to spend that time sleeping, but we did pick it up later that first day.

So, does the book live up to the hype?

First of all this is play. I knew that going in. With children involved in acting, I have my fair share of experience reading scripts as I help them run lines. Still, it took some getting used to. Gone is J.K. Rowling's finely crafted prose. What is left is dialogue and a few brief descriptions. It requires much more use of imagination.

I honestly would love to see it performed. I could easily imagine it as a movie with a great deal of special effects. I have no idea how they could handle all of them on the stage (even given the huge budget they must be working with.) It's also hard to imagine anyone but Daniel Radcliffe in the role of Harry Potter. As I read the book, I pictured the actors from the original set of movies.

The story is not up to the standard of the first seven - it would have been a miracle if it could have been- but it was enjoyable. It picks up where Book 7 left off. In fact the first scene is actually the last scene of that book, with Harry and Ginny and their children at Platform 9 3/4 sending Albus off to Hogwarts.

One major story line focuses on the strained relationship between Harry and Albus. There is a great deal of time-turning going back to scenes from the original books and changing history in the process. It also allows now-deceased characters such as Cedric Diggory, Severus Snape, and even Voldemort to play a role.

Overall, this is an enjoyable story as long as you don't go into it thinking you are going to get a repeat of the magic of the first seven books. Some of the die-hard Harry Potter fans have really ripped it apart in Amazon reviews, and I can understand their point although I don't think their venom and one star reviews were necessary. There are some definite plot holes in the story and much of it is a reworking of things that already happened. But still, it was fun to reenter the world of Harry Potter and see what the future held for the characters.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: "10 Steps to Girlfriend Status"



10 Steps to Girlfriend Status
by Cynthia T. Toney
Write Integrity Press, 2015

In 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, Cynthia Toney continues the first-person narrative of Wendy Robichaud that she began in 8 Notes to aNobody. Like the first book in the Bird Face Series, the sequel is issue-driven fiction for teens. This time around, Wendy is struggling to cope with a blended family after her mom remarries. Wendy’s best friend Alice is now her sister and she has gained a six-year old brother. The whole family needs to adjust. In addition, her former next-door neighbor and adopted grandmother, Mrs. V., is suffering from Alzheimer’s. And, to make life more emotionally complex, Wendy is starting to date.

Thrown into the fictional mix is a mystery Wendy is trying to solve about a great uncle that disappeared many years earlier after falling in love with a girl his family didn’t approve of. 

10 Steps to Girlfriend Status is an enjoyable read. Those who read the first two books in the Bird Face series will be eager for Toney to pen more stories about Wendy and her life.