Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Open Book - December 2021 #OpenBook

 

I'm joining up with Carolyn Astfalk who hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on CatholicMom.com. (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. 


 11/7/21 The Musical Child: Using the Power of Music to Raise Children who are Happy, Healthy, and Whole - Joan Koenig - This was an interesting exploration of how music impacts children's brains. It focuses on birth - age 6. It combines neuroscience, psychology, anecdotes, and practical suggestions for incorporating more music in children's lives. If you have young children or work in educating young children, this book is definitely worth reading. 


 

11/9/21 Where the Last Rose Blooms - Ashley Clark - Alice's mother disappeared during Hurricane Katrina and Alice has spent the last 16 years trying to find out what happened to her. Meanwhile, back in 1861 Charleston, Rose is a slave searching for her daughter Ashley (with the help of her abolitionist leaning owner Clara) after they are both sold and separated. This dual-timeline Christian inspirational includes suspense, romance, and mystery with a lesson of God being with us even in our darkest hours (a little bit of everything!). (Read for a book review publication)

 


11/15/21 Adore: A Guided Advent Journal for Prayer and Meditation - Fr. John Burns - This is a lovely journal to help prepare for Christmas featuring reflections on the scripture readings and collects (opening prayers) of the Mass. A nice feature is that this isn't tied to any particular year, so it can be used over and over again. I reviewed it here 


 

11/17/21 St. Dymphna's Playbook: A Catholic Guide to Finding Mental and Emotional Well-Being - Tommy Tighe - As someone who has struggled with mental health most of my life, I was eager to read this book. St. Dymphna is the patron saint of those who suffer from mental illness (she hears a lot from me as I pray for others who struggle with their mental and emotional health as well as for myself). What was wonderful about this book is that Tighe, a licensed marriage and family therapist, also knows what it is like to suffer from mental illness. Not that I would wish that on anyone, but having experienced it himself gives Tighe much more understanding than someone who has only studied about mental illness. This book is a great resource for anyone who might be struggling.


 

11/25/21 - Emily Writes - Jane Yolen - This is a children's book written by fellow Western Mass native Jane Yolen. It imagines Emily Dickinson as a young girl just learning how to read and write and make rhymes. It features sweet illustrations by Christine Davenier and would be a lovely way to introduce children to Dickinson. I also enjoyed the author's note (written for adults) at the end of the book.  


 

11/25/21 - The Stranger in the Lifeboat - Mitch Albom - I always make a point of reading Albom's books when they come out. For one thing, they are relatively short and I can read them in a sitting or two. Second, I find them interesting. This one is about a group of people on a raft who have escaped from a sinking ship. A stranger comes to them in the water and says that he is the Lord. They let him on the boat, but it raises the question of would we recognize the Lord if he came back in human form. Albom frequently ponders questions of faith and God and heaven in his work and this one is no exception.


 

11/26/21 The Bookseller's Promise - Beth Wiseman - This Amish romance features Yvonne, a book buyer from Texas, who is on a mission to purchase a rare book from Jake Yantz, an Amish bookseller in Indiana. The problem? Jake promised his grandfather he would never sell the book, which is rumored to have the power to help save souls. Meanwhile, the romance portion involves Jake and his employee Eva. He realizes he's in love with her, but another young man in the community has made his feelings for Eva public knowledge and Jake believes he needs to do the honorable thing and step aside. This is the first in a series based in Amish bookstores and it was an enjoyable beginning.  (Read for a book review publication)


 

 11/28/21 A Piece of the World - Christina Baker Kline - This one was recommended on Franciscan Mom's Open Book post last month and I am so glad that I requested it from the library! It is a novel based on the life of Christina Olsen of Cushing, Maine, the woman in the famous painting "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth. It was a lovely and painful story about an independent spirit who happened to be in a disabled body. 

 

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).

11/5/21 De Anima - Aristotle - I enjoyed reading this much more than Physics. This one is Aristotle's attempt to understand the soul. He defines the soul as being "the essential 'whatness' of a body" and states that the soul is inseparable from the body. There are also different abilities that a soul possesses with the most basic level belonging to plants and simple animals (the nutritive and reproductive qualities) with higher-order functions belonging to more complex animals. Those who have the ability to calculate are of the highest order. This was my last book in the philosophy section for sophomore year. I am now moving on to natural science. 

11/13/21 On Generation and Corruption - Aristotle - This was Aristotle's attempt to explain how things grow and decay. I have to give him points for trying. Given the fact that the basic elements were understood at his time to be earth, fire, air, and water, it is very hard to explain how things grow. He certainly made a valiant (if inaccurate) attempt. 

11/19/21 On the Principles of Nature - St. Thomas Aquinas - Aquinas is never an easy read. This was definitely a read only three pages a day kind of document with a lot of rereading of sentences involved. He was discussing different types of being, generation, corruption, principles of nature, and causes.  

11/23/21 On the Combination of Elements - St. Thomas Aquinas - I wasn't able to find the full document of this one, but I read some excerpts. As the name suggests, Aquinas was pondering how elements combine to form new things.

 

 

My ten-year-old daughter has been enjoying a series of books about dogs by W. Bruce Campbell. This month, she and I read Bailey's Story. I enjoy these stories as much as she does! She also asked for a "scary" book, so we read School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari. I found it odd, but she enjoyed it!


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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.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking on a link help support this site.

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!


This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking a link help support this site. Thank you!


 

 

 

 



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.   

Open Book - December 2021 #OpenBook

  I'm joining up with Carolyn Astfalk who hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on CatholicMom.com . (I still am working on "What I've Re...