Saturday, September 20, 2014

This is a link to my daughter, CatholicGinger's, blog.

Enjoy.  Catholic Ginger

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Te Deum laudamus!: Outrage Addiction: Its harm on the spiritual life ...

I borrowed this from the Te Deum Blog.  There seems to be so much outrage these days...

Te Deum laudamus!: Outrage Addiction: Its harm on the spiritual life ...: Our main goal in this life should be to get to Heaven and take as many souls with us as possible.  We not only have to learn our faith a...

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Book Review: Island of the World by Michael O'Brien

Island of the World is set initially in the Balkans in the period during the second World War, just before the rise of Tito.  It tells the story of a man growing up in the turbulance of this time and his triumph over horror and loss that would have broken many.

The books starts out with the story of the main character, Josip Lasta's, idyllic childhood and its abrupt end.  It is a story of love, loyalty and endurance.  It is also a story of faith and miracles. God's hand protects and guides the Josip into a manhood that would stress the psychological and physical fortitude of any.

This might not be a book for very sensitive readers.  There are portrayals of extreme violence and degradation; at the same time, this is not gratuitous.  It sets the scenes for the book.

The portrayal of Catholicism in this book is very gentle.  It is like a beacon for the main character which is at times more visible and less visible.  Ultimately, Josip finds his way home.

The history of the beautiful Balkans is complicated and in many cases excruciating.  Mr. O'Brien seems to have done his research and portrays history with less bias that is often the case.  This writer has the strong sense that there were personal stories involved in the writing of this novel.

Given the size of this book and the period of time it covers, I found the compendium of characters at the back of the book very helpful.

As with so many of Mr. O'Brien's works, this is a meaty book.  The vocabulary is well chosen to craft a story that is captivating and sustained.  Mr. O'Brien's ability with the paintbrush (he also designs the cover art of his own books and is a painter of some note) carries through into his writing.  He illustrates his books with words.


I wrote this review of The Island of the World for the free Catholic Book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. Aquinas and More is the largest on-line Catholic bookstore. I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Book Review: Tobit's Dog

Tobit’s Dog, written by Michael Nicholas Richard, and published by Ignatius Press is a fascinating book.  It is a re-telling of the Book of Tobit from the Old Testament.  This time, the story of Tobit is set in the southern United States between the two World Wars.

The book deals deftly with difficult issues such as racism.  At the same time, its well-developed characters illustrate human nature: good, bad and sometimes in-between.  Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, humor pops up from time-to-time and always seems natural to the characters involved.

The Book of Tobit is absent from many bibles.  Its use as the basis of this novel identifies it as a “Catholic” novel.  One of the story’s very compelling qualities is that when a Catholic teaching appears, it has no feeling of being superimposed; the Catholicism is integral to the story.

That said, I do feel that this book could have been edited a bit more carefully.  There was more than one instance of a quotation mark left open.  Chapter Eight had what appeared to me to be a word placement (“Almost he…”) error.

This book deals with some dark subject matter: racism, murder and rape, which might make it unsuitable reading for young teenagers.  These topics are discussed in a manner that is unlikely to upset sensitive adult readers. 

This is a book which might well raise awareness of the Book of Tobit in scripture.  Even if it does not do that, it serves as an enjoyable piece of summer reading. 

Disclaimer:  This book was supplied to me for review by Ignatius Press

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: Abbess of Andalusia

  The Abbess of Andalusia was the first book I've read about Miss O'Connor and it has not been the last.

  Flannery O'Connor's style is jarring to many.  It was when she was alive, and it remains so.  To understand why she wrote as she did, it is important to find out about her,as a person.  Ms. Murray's work is among the books that seeks to help with this.

  Lorraine V. Murray makes her observations as a Catholic.  This is very important in reading Miss O'Connor, who was unabashedly Catholic in an environment that was not always sympathetic to that.  I did find that at times, there was a stridency to Ms. Murray's statements about O'Connor's beliefs that was off-putting.  It is possible that I felt this way because I was already seeing what was being pointed out. 

  What I gained from this book was a greater ability to see O'Connor's incorporation of Catholicism into her writing.  Her writing is anything but subtle, generally speaking, but in writing for a general market, she had to be subtle in incorporating her spirituality. 

  There is room for editing in this little book.  There were a couple of sentences which did not make sense, and a sentence that was repeated twice on the same page. I hope that future editions tidy that up. 

  I would recommend this book as a companion to anyone interested in Miss O'Connor's writing, particularly to those who are puzzled in trying to think of her as a Catholic writer.  It will help the reader to gain a valuable insight into Miss O'Connor's fascinating personality and noted intellect.  She faced a number of challenges which helped to shape her as a writer.

 I wrote this review of The Abbess of Andalusia for the free Catholic Book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.  I receive free books for writings the reviews.

Book Review: Father Elijah

   Father Elijah is the only book I reread on an almost annual basis, and I do not often read fiction. 

  I still hold this book to be the best among the books of Michael D. O'brien's which I have read.  Despite its size, it is hard to put down.  The story is captivating.  It is sub-titled "An Apocalypse", but it is hopeful, not frightening.

  The story contains several stories in various settings; wartime Europe, post-war Israel, and Rome as well as some minor settings are present.  The areas are beautifully and accurately described.

  Characters are many and very well-developed.  One was hard-pressed at times to recall that this is, in fact, fiction and not a work of prophecy, especially given event that have actually happened since the writing of this book.  Despite the number of characters, there is no difficulty in keeping the stories straight.

  Roman Catholicism is the thread that ties all of the characters and locations together. The Church is presented accurately and with love.  The Vatican itself is described accurately and in some detail.  

  This is a book of substance.  It is sumptuous in its vocabulary and in the mental images that are developed.  Its discussion of history and the Church confront both the light and the darkness that can be encountered in either. Good and Evil are both on display and treated with the mind of the Church.

  A friend to whom I'd lent this book said it was the first book he'd ever finished and then immediately turned over to start it again.

  On a practical note, the hardcover edition which I own has lasted well through the repeated readings and lending.  
The end of the book is satisfying, but with an unfinished feel.  I eagerly await a sequel.

  I wrote this review of Father Elijah for the free Catholic Book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

   Aquinas and More is the largest on-line Catholic bookstore.  I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Abortion and Iconoclasm

Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy.  As a medical term, this can cover both deliberate miscarriage and natural miscarriage.  For the sake of this post, I will be using the term to mean a deliberate or induced miscarriage.

Iconoclasm is the destruction of icons or religious images.

It occurred to me earlier today that abortion is a sort of iconoclasm.

Christians believe that humanity is created in the image and likeness of God.  The Church, science and common sense tell us that a baby (child, fetus...) is a human regardless of which stage of development it exists in.  The DNA is all the same.  Saying a fetus is less human than a newborn is something like saying a 5 year old is less human than a teenager.

An abortion destroys the image and likeness of God.  To me, that sounds like iconoclasm.

The Catholic Church is, along with the Orthodox Church, about the only institution which has consistently condemned abortion.  Interestingly, it has been a notable victim of iconoclasm at various periods.  During the "Reformation" religious artwork and statuary was destroyed.  In the era following the Second Vatican Council, many Catholic churches were stripped of their religious artwork and statuary by "progressive" Catholics.  It is interesting to me that followers of both movements tend to be quite liberal in their views on abortion.

Religious artwork can lift the soul and remind those earth-bound of heavenly things, but even so does not possess anything like the value of a human being.

Where in the World...?

Imagine this scenario.  A priest, during Mass steps back to permit a lay-person who has been sitting beside him all during Mass, to address the congregation.

The lay-person proceeds enthusiastically to  invite the congregation to attend a Liturgy of the Word with Communion service the following Sunday, during the regular Mass time.  This lay-person, employed by the government as a "chaplain" proceeds to tell a series of partial truths about Liturgies of the Word.  We are told that they have been happening for a long time (which is true), and that they have been used by missionaries where priests are unavailable (which is also true).  We are told that they have been blessed by the Second Vatican Council and the Pope.  Almost true.

Liturgies of the Word happen all the time.  They are a legitimate way for lay-people to pray without the presence of  a priest.  The hitch is "without the presence of a priest".  They do not fulfill the obligation Catholics have to attend Mass on Sunday.

If a priest is truly unavailable for Mass, people should be directed to other parishes.  Our chapel has another parish only a few minutes away.

We were not so directed.

There was someone else attending Mass with us that day.  She is not Catholic.  She, too, is a government employee and the head chaplain for our chapel.

She was there, it seemed, to make sure the announcement was made regarding the Liturgy of the Word with Communion service.  She knew the priest did not support it.  She made the decision that funds would not be made available for another priest to fill-in.  There are priests who would have made the trip.

A few weeks later, this governmental chaplain is again in the back of the Church.  We have a guest priest, along with our regular priest.  The guest has been a government chaplain for a long time.  Today he is giving the homily.

He admired all the children in the congregation.  We do have a surprising number compared to other parishes.  I thought when he started talking about the shortage of priests, we might get some encouragement to rear our children to be priests and religious.  No.  Instead, we get crowing about how impressive this government chaplaincy is to allow lay-people to do all this neat stuff.  He said that when he spoke to priests in other countries and places about what lay-people do in our chaplaincy, it was like trying to explain a frozen river to someone at the Equator (or something like that).  They looked at him like he was odd.

I wonder if it occurred to him that they looked at him that way because they thought he was very misguided.

We were told on no uncertain terms that the lay-"chaplains" would be preaching on Sundays, even during Mass.

Catholic teaching does not support this innovation.  I am very familiar with the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.  And Redemptionis Sacramentum.  They actually speak expressly against lay-people...any lay-people...from giving a 'homily' during the time reserved for a homily.

I find it very scary that the government feels it can tell the Church what to do, even in a chapel.  This is exactly the type of situation which the separation of Church and state was supposed to address.  Oh, wait.  We're not Americans.

Oh, Canada...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blessed Salt. Don't Be Home Without It

Blessed salt is a sacramental in the Catholic Church.  It is treated much the same way that holy water is.  I like to tell people that it reminds the devil who is really the boss over our lives...and that it isn't him!

The first time I heard of blessed salt, I rolled my eyes and probably said something to myself about superstitious practices. It was definitely not something I'd been exposed to.

I had had the mixed fortune of spending three of my high-school years taught by a rather liberal order of nuns.  As a child, my family attended a very 'hip' and fully Vatican II-impacted  (and beyond, I later learned) parish.   I didn't learn to pray the rosary until I was an adult, and never did learn to recite the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Popular piety was just so much ancient history.

I was already beginning my impromptu crash course in authentic liturgy when I heard about blessed salt.  It just seemed weird.

But the Holy Spirit tends not to just let these things go.  More and more I heard about people keeping blessed salt at home and using it to 'chase' apparent evil from their homes.  At the same time, I was becoming more immersed in volunteer work at our parish.  Smokey (the Devil) often doesn't take kindly to others working to teach the Catholic faith.

At this point, our family was living in military housing.  It was old.  My father came to visit.  He complained one morning that the overhead light in the bedroom he slept in had switched on in the middle of the night.  I thought I'd noticed the hall light doing the same thing...or maybe I just forgot to turn it off?

It got worse.  Electrical outlets stopped working intermittently.  The electrical breakers never seemed to trip, but I was getting really tired of having to reset the clocks because of the power shutting off.  I was particularly bothered when my bedside light wasn't working.  I prayed before bed, and not having a light made it hard to follow my Liturgy of the Hours.

I asked the housing office to send an electrician, which they did.  He replaced the light switch in the bedroom, but could find no other reason for the electrical trouble.  Everything was fine for a couple of days, then the outlets started cutting out again.  My aggravation was palpable.

In my parish work, I had become good friends with our priest.  One day I mustered up the courage to ask him about blessed salt.  His eyebrows shot up when I asked, and he said "You're the second person in twenty-four hours who has asked me about this."  He invited me to bring in some salt to be blessed.  He looked up the blessing.  It is no longer common thing.  Father told me simply to 'use it in faith' and I would not be acting superstitiously.

In the meantime, I had called again about our electrical troubles.  Again a frustrated electrician replaced a token receptacle, and again, the electric trouble began within a couple of days.

Armed with my blessed salt, I decided to bless our home.  I waited until no one else was home, and feeling a bit silly, I walked around the house sprinkling salt.

Much to my amazement, as I had not yet made the connection, the electrical trouble stopped dead after I sprinkled the salt.  To make it even more astounding, I discovered the the electrical circuit that had been plague with the problems was the same circuit which powered the computer.  The computer had never turned off.

Since that time, the only hint of trouble we ever had was a flicker in the electricity.  Not enough to reset the clocks.  When this happened, I said the Saint Michael Prayer and it stopped for good.

I am a firm believer in blessed salt to keep a home (or office or wherever) free of evil.  I do not use it a lot, but sprinkling it in a home where tensions are high, or where sin is entrenched seems like a powerful way to remind evil who is boss in that area.  The 1962 Missal has prayers for blessing salt, water and a great many other very common things such as food, animal feed, crops and machinery!

We need to be aware of the presence of evil and our susceptibility to it, particularly if we are working for God in whatever capacity.  We can become targets.  In a way, this is a good thing, as it means we are doing something good.  It can make life stressful and can affect those around us.  We need to re-discover the resources our Church has for us and use them.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Don't Leave it to the Experts

My husband and I were talking this afternoon about doing stuff.  He's recently earned his commercial trucking licence and is meeting a different group of people than his office and computer-related work generally exposes him to.

These people do stuff.  One fellow created a fairly complicated machine completely on his own.  He designed it, welded what needed welding and cut what needed cutting.

I mentioned how, not so long ago, people where we live were not encouraged to take up trades.  The powers-that-were seemed to think that only university educations were really worth having.  Things have not changed much.  Of course this has left us a legacy of highly educated unemployed, while highly-paid trades jobs go unfilled for lack of qualified workers.

My husband and I were both in the university stream.  He says he wishes he was more fearless.  I laughed a little at this because of the two of us, I think I would qualify more as the fearful one.  At any rate, I am not good at getting my hands dirty.

We should really know better.

I think it started early.  About the time women stopped being able to deliver babies without "medical" intervention.  Doctors became the experts in birth and child-rearing.  Suddenly, mother no longer knew what was best.

On it went.  We became convinced that healthy baby milk came from cans and bottles.  Scientifically designed food came from a store.

Entertainment came from radios and televisions and movie theatres.  People stopped going to dances and having sing-alongs around the parlour piano.  Education came from school...and only from school.  My mother was told not to help me read at home (I was starting to do it on my own), because she'd do it incorrectly.  When I first proposed home-schooling as an educational option to my college-aged peers, the skepticism was palpable.

We have become a society of one-trick ponies.  And if you are of the urban, college and university crowd, you could starve to death if someone turned off the power grid.

I've seen evidence of that.  When neighbours found out we were taking walks along a path and picking berries, they expressed concern that we might poison ourselves.  When power was lost a few years back for the period of a couple of days, huge insurance claims were placed for food lost from deep-freezers.  That was odd because the cause of the power outage was an ice-storm.  It was wintertime.  Ice...winter...and people didn't figure out how to keep their food from thawing.  It's happened again this winter, too.

In the time that this has all come about, religious observance shrank to be a Sunday-only occurrence for a great many people, if it happened at all.  Devotions to practices like the rosary shrank too.  Why pray at home when the expert will guide us on Sunday?

We have lost integrity.  Many places have lost the right to raise food...even vegetables.

The latest (November, 2013) issue of Catholic Insight magazine has an article on raising rabbits.  For food.  I can imagine the letters they'll get.  I would love to have chickens, but they're not permitted where I a city.  We could probably get away with rabbits though.  Hmmm.

People need to understand the necessity of being able to care for their own needs.  I am no exception to this. Grow vegetables.  Demand the right to have a hen (they don't crow like roosters do...and they're much smaller and less dangerous that the ubiquitous dogs) or two for eggs.  Learn how to work a drill, a saw and a screwdriver.

Do math.  Sing, even badly.  Dance.  Cook.

Pray.  I don't think you CAN pray badly.  Do it often.  We lay-people cannot give homilies or confect sacraments, but we can pray without supervision.  And we should.

Happy Epiphany.  May the light which the wise men followed be one which we, too, can follow.