Monday, September 27, 2010

I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You

Today's first reading is from Job 1, about all the misfortunes that happened to Job.  Servant after servant came to tell Job of losing everything, and their "line" is, "I alone have escaped to tell you."  And Job responds with,

"Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I shall return.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back.
Blessed be the name of the Lord."

I am reminded of several random thoughts here that I hope will be somewhat cohesive.

*the lector for daily Mass, coincidentally, happened to be the October featured "Meet a Reader" that will appear in this weekend's Catholic Post.  You'll just have to check back later this week to see who it is, but suffice to say she is an excellent lector.  I always think when she is the lector, "Word on Fire," because she reads in a very deep way(for lack of a better word, not "drahmatic" but moving and heartfelt--it's hard to let your mind wander during her reading).  You know you are hearing the Word of the Lord.    I had arrived a bit late for Mass (not that that ever happens to me! hmm), so the reading has just started, but I was instantly drawn into the narrative.

*Job, scripture tells us, "committed no sin nor offered any insult to God."  I think that is more difficult than anything when bad things happen.  Who can say they never complain to God?  I know I am extremely prone to this, for small things and big things.

*A suggestion for your Ipod: (and it happens to be on my running playlist), Blessed Be Your Name is a great song by the CCM band Tree 63, a meditation of sorts on this passage from Job.

*I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You is the title of the excellent memoir by Ralph McInerny, who died last year.  He was a personal hero of mine and I wrote about him several times in my blogging life, so I've mined one of those old posts to share:

I met him once many years ago, when my husband and I were first married.  McInerny gave a speech at Bradley University, and one of the hosting professors invited us to the after-speech gathering at his house.  I brought along a super chocolate cake (it was good, if I do say so myself, with a chocolate--sour cream ganache icing--where's that recipe?).

McInerny praised it by saying it was the "most chocolatey chocolate cake" he had ever tasted.  My husband, the philosopher in the family (by trade, degree and temperament), said this was the highest compliment given by a philosopher.  Mcinerney agreed and we all had a good laugh.

Several years ago my dh attended (and presented a paper) at a conference at Notre Dame. I would tag along with the one and then two children we had at the time.   McInerny was one of the organizers, and even though I saw him walking around the conference, I was always too shy to re-introduce myself and tell him how much I admired him.  Usually I am pretty bold about introducing myself to people.  Now I wish I had.

How he discusses writing in I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You is brilliant.    He takes the craft of writing seriously but not too seriously.  He speaks of it being a discipline and work, and the luck/serendipity involved in his success.  He has referred to Anthony Trollope, one of my favorite authors, at least three times in the few chapters I have read.  He and/or his family regularly spent several years, and weeks of others, in Europe.  He is a faithful Catholic family man with a large family.  What's not to love?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Prayer of Blessed John Henry Newman

I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by name.

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which he not committed to another.  I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.  Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his…I have a part in this great wor; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons.  He has not created me for naught.  I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.  My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us.  He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it.  He knows what He is about.  He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me-still He knows what He is about . . .

I ask not to see-ask not to know-I ask simply to be used.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cardinal Newman, Patron Saint of Catholic Novelists...and Readers, too?

I didn't realize until I stumbled upon this Catholic Fiction website that Blessed John Henry Newman was considered the patron saint of Catholic novelists. I love this!  Perhaps he could also be the patron saint of Catholic fiction readers.  The site is run by a publishing house I had not encountered before--Idyllis Press, "publishing the catholic imagination."

Newman is adopted as patron of Catholic novelists because he himself wrote two novels.  I have not read either of them, but I have seen in various places that they are well-done.

Incidentally, this site is chock full of interesting information and a book list of "Catholic fiction."  Here is an explanation of "what constitutes Catholic fiction."  I note the list includes all of my favorite author Jane Austen's full-length novels, and the site includes tons of reviews of Catholic fiction and commentary.

Check it out!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Great Read: New Feature at the Catholic Post Book Group

I've been wanting for some time to highlight great reads, of all types of books.  Initially, I had intended to do this to highlight great fiction, especially those that are more family-friendly, but may have been missed by busy families.  I know that both for the voracious readers and the reluctant readers, there's a need for fiction that will delight and inspire and just be great fun.  So primarily we'll be highlighting fiction, especially those intended for kids, but enjoyed by all.  I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that any book worth reading when you are 10 is worth reading as an adult.  I heartily endorse that!

I would love to feature students from the diocese of Peoria who can even write about their favorite books, and I've started reaching out to solicit some of these reviews.  So plan to look for guest reviewers in the coming months.  And if you would like to contribute a review, please contact me through the comments or by sending an email to nmpiccione at me dot com.

Even though I plan to feature classic and great fiction, I also keep learning of terrific books that are new, and I want to highlight these.

One new book I read almost immediately upon receiving was How to Get to "I Do": A Dating Guide for Catholic Women,  by Amy Bonaccorso.    Wow, what a great book!  I'm preparing a review and I hope to do an author Q&A in the near future.  Watch for it.

My dear husband has not commented on seeing this provocatively titled book around the my laptop, on the living room coffee table, and elsewhere in the house, either showing he is not paying attention or feels extremely secure--ha!  Actually, I am happily married for many years, but I found this book a fascinating and mature look at Catholic dating in these days.   Can't wait to talk about it here and more with the author.

Thoughts on the Beatification of Cardinal Newman

I didn't have much chance to be online over the last few days, and little time to write, but I was a bit overwhelmed by all the live blogging and tons of people able to comment and post about the Holy Father's visit to England and Scotland.  At our house, it was very hectic, though we did have a chance to watch (during meals, of course, breaking a "food rule" as we discussed last month) some of the events.

Here are some of my thoughts on the visit:

*We set our DVR to tape all the events airing live on EWTN.  I am so grateful for the network and all its programming, especially here, because we could watch them when we were able, instead of when they were aired live on the Internet.  Much as I love EWTN, I wasn't thrilled with a lot of the political nature of the commentary, and was so glad when the focus was on the actual events.  We were watching with kids, and purposely avoiding a lot of the secular media coverage because it was so negative.  I much preferred when the commentary did focus on the "back story" of what we were seeing.  Fr. Roderick Strange shared with me that he was a commentator on the BBC for the events, and I would have enjoyed seeing his commentary.

*Did anyone else think that the welcome Benedict XVI received after the Mass at Westminster Cathedral was really cool?  You could just feel the emotion from the young people gathered outside.  I've been trying to find a clip online of the engaging young man from the East London parish who greeted him so enthusiastically on behalf of the youth, and his short speech.  What I did find is a  nice, if short, video clip of the Holy Father being given a "rockstar" welcome outside Westminster Cathedral.

*I guess this might be politically incorrect or culturally insensitive (wink), but who does music as well as the English?  I really don't have a singing voice, but I found myself wanting to sing along to all the songs (wishing for a songbook, and having my family grateful I didn't have one), and just being swept away by the beauty of it.  Much of the music was based on prayers or poems written by Newman.  The prayer vigil in Hyde Park was especially beautiful. One highlight was a 14-year-old boy who sang parts of "The Dream of Gerontius," a poem by Newman famously set to music by Edward Elgar.  Benedict XVI came out again after the prayer service, almost for a curtain call, to thank the conductor of the music for the prayer vigil, and my husband remarked he was glad he could do so.

*I managed, just in the course of a busy weekend, to avoid virtually all mass media coverage of the Pope's visit.  It wasn't really by design, even though one of my sisters had emailed me last week to warn of how annoying and mean the coverage was.  I just didn't get a chance to watch the news or listen to the radio.

Any thoughts on the beatification of Cardinal Newman?  Highlights or lowlights in your view?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Newman on Converting the Heart More than the Mind

"I say plainly I do not want to be converted by a smart syllogism; if I am asked to convert others by it, I say plainly I do not care to overcome their reason without touching their hearts."  -Blessed John Henry Newman.

As I mentioned before, Newman 101 author Roderick Strange shared a few great quotes from Newman tht are so interesting and cause for discussion that I took them out of my interview with him to highlight individually.

Recently, I've had conversations with friends about the nature and goal of apologetics and its role in conversion.  The quote that keeps coming up is the one from St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach the Gospel at all times; use words if necessary."  But I think this quote from Newman is also appropriate.

Some weeks back (a lifetime ago in the blogosphere)  there has been a lot of chatter/discussion about the author Anne Rice, a recent re-vert to the Catholic faith, who announced she was leaving the Catholic Church.  I found out about it when a friend posted on his Facebook, "Now that's  a shock."  But I had to say that I was shocked to see her leave.   Several years ago, I had read her spiritual autobiography, Called Out of Darkness and found her spiritual journey fascinating as well as beautifully written.

At one point in her story--I think she was in college--Rice went to a priest for counsel about her doubts, and when he discovered that she had been raised in a very Catholic family (daily Mass-going, etc.) he told her, "Anne, you won't ever be truly happy outside the Catholic Church." And she left the encounter "no longer Catholic" if I remember correctly. And yet, I wonder if she would say that in a sense, the priest was right, but the words were given too harshly or at the wrong time for her to hear it.  It took many decades for her to re-commit herself to her Catholic faith.  And it was clear from the book that she was, as the priest predicted, only happiest and most fulfilled in the Catholic Church.  She writes in Called Out of Darkness of reading theologians from Benedict XVI to Thomas Aquinas to many others, and growing in her knowledge and in the spiritual life.

So that's why I found her announcement that she was leaving the Catholic faith so sad.  What I found even more shocking all the blog posts and people trying to, essentially "talk her" back into the faith, to convert her with a "smart syllogism."   It seems so obvious to me that those kinds of approaches would not help.  Newman now blessed, himself a great arguer and intellectual, perhaps could be called upon to help touch the heart of Anne Rice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Live Streaming of Pope Benedict XVI's Visit to England

I've got EWTN set up to tape when the Holy Father says Mass and has other official visits in the UK this week for the beatification of Cardinal Newman.

I found that the official site for the visit has live streaming of the Holy Father's visit.  Check it out!

I think this link is the best way to get to the live streaming.  As I am writing this they are showing crowd shots of people gathering for the Mass to be held shortly in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland.   I'm not sure if it's me or the video, but it's either preternaturally quiet with all those people, or they don't have the sound turned up.  I do hear a lot of nature noise, though, so I wonder...

Are you watching any of the events or planning to?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another "Quotable Quote" from John Cardinal Newman

"The planting of Christ's cross in the heart is sharp and trying; but the stately tree rears itself aloft, and has fair branches and rich fruit, and is good to look upon."  

--John Cardinal Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons (quoted at end of “Witness to Holiness” in Newman 101.

When I interviewed Roderick Strange about Newman 101,  (and if you haven't read the interview yet, take a moment to visit this link--it's a great interview)I asked him to share a favorite quote or prayer of Cardinal Newman, and he graciously shared quite a few.  So I plan to share some over the next few blog posts.

The above quote is from Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermons and quoted in Newman 101 in the chapter, "Witness to Holiness," about the death of Newman.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

EWTN to air live coverage of the Holy Father's Visit to England

I was pleased to discover recently that EWTN will be airing live quite a few of the events when Pope Benedict XVI travels to England next week for the beatification of John Cardinal Newman.

Here's a link to the TV page on EWTN, with a listing about halfway down of the papal events in England that will be televised.

We're planning to watch some of this at our house; we're fortunate to have EWTN on our satellite television service.  But I imagine it will also be streamed live on the Internet.

Are you planning to watch any of the events related to the beatification of Cardinal Newman?  Have you seen any other television or internet outlets planning to air the events related to the beatification?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Prayer for September 11

Lord, take me where
You want me to go;
Let me meet who
You want me to meet;
Tell me what
You want me to say, and
Keep me out of your way.

--a prayer by Father Mychal Judge, first official fatality on 9/11/2001

Exclusive Q&A with Newman 101 author Father Roderick Strange

I am so grateful for Father Roderick Strange's willingness to do an e-interview with me about the book Newman 101 and Newman's upcoming canonization.

Fr. Strange also shared a few favorite quotes and prayers of Cardinal Newman that I plan to share in upcoming posts.

Tell me a little about your background and why you wrote the book, Newman 101.
I was born into a Catholic family in 1945. The idea of becoming a priest occurred to me while I was still at school and so in 1963, on leaving school, I went to explore that idea. I had been accepted as a student by the Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury in England and was sent to Rome to discern the vocation and prepare for ordination. To be that young - I was till only 17 - may seem odd now, but wasn't in those days. And at that time we did not go home each summer. Those long summer vacations at the English College villa to the south of Rome were precious times and in 1964, during the first of those vacations, prompted by a friend, I read a new two volume biography of Newman by Meriol Trevor and was so fascinated that I then began reading Newman himself.
 That early interest in Newman continued so that after being ordained in December 1969 and finishing my priestly studies in 1970, I was sent to Oxford University to do some doctoral research. I worked on Newman's understanding of Christ, which became my first book, Newman and the Gospel of Christ. That research over the years led to me writing a variety of articles on Newman and also giving various talks and lectures.

Fast-forward to 2005, when I was, as I am still, Rector of the Pontifical Beda College in Rome. I had finished a book on priesthood the previous year, called The Risk of Discipleship, and I thought then about these various Newman pieces and wondered whether I might not edit some of the articles, write up some of the notes, and fill in some gaps with fresh material and see what kind of a book that became. I didn't have Newman's beatification in view. I wrote for fun, a kind of labor of love, but it seemed to work and was published in England in 2008 as John Henry Newman: A Mind Alive, and in the States as Newman 101.

2.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is from Newman: 
"The best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.”
How do you think that Newman viewed friendship, and how did this inform his faith?
Newman combined qualities that can sometimes be in tension in others. So, for example, he was a champion of dogma, but also a keen advocate of theology. He was also said to be "never less alone than when alone", a man who prized solitude, while he was at the same time blessed with a gift for friendship. His life was studded with friends, people like John Bowden, Hurrell Froude, Edward Pusey, and Ambrose St John, and a wide circle of women friends as well. His letters bear witness to the way he kept these friendships in good repair.
His friends were important to him and, as the quotation you give illustrates, he recognized that if we are to fulfil the great commandment to love God and our neighbour, we will not do that by a vague, broad, general philanthropy. We have to love particular people. Through these particular loves we make the great commandment a reality in our lives. These loves have a sacramental quality. They are outward signs of something profound and interior. And we need to keep in mind that Newman's society was neither as secularized nor as sexualized as ours. We make the great commandment real by the way we love particular people.

I write in my review that I consider Newman a “blessed for our times,” because he just has such a sensible, intelligent approach that avoids extremes of too strident or too relaxed when addressing various issues. Do you agree?  Who do you think in the modern Church would have Newman’s sensible approach?
As an Anglican, Newman proposed an understanding of the Church of England as a middle way - a via media - between Protestant error and Roman excess. In time, as we know, he lost confidence in that view of Anglicanism. But he retained an instinct for and sympathy with the moderation it expressed. As a Catholic, however, he charted that middle path, obviously not between Protestantism and Rome, but between non-Catholic misunderstandings of Catholic teaching and the mistakes that entailed, on the one hand, and Roman Catholic extravagance and extremism, on the other, exaggerated devotion to Our Lady, for example, or extremist interpretations of Papal infallibility.

You speak of Newman as a 'blessed for our times', and that seems to me exactly right, not because we need simply to find Newman's answer to everything and, heigh-ho, all problems are solved; life is never so simple; but more because of his attitude which can guide us between right-wing stridency and left-wing wackiness, whether inside or outside the Church. Between those two extremes there is a fair space where varying emphases can be found and championed and where intelligent conversation can take place. In that Newman can serve as our model and guide.

Newman was a famous convert.   Can you think of other, recent converts who followed a similar path?
Various crises in the Anglican communion over the years, especially more recently with regard to the ordination of women and approaches to homosexuality, have led some Anglicans to lose confidence in the Catholicity of their Church and move to Rome. In that sense - by losing confidence in Anglicanism's Catholic nature - they could be said to have followed Newman's path. At the same time, such paths are also unique. And Newman was also outstandingly original, so I find it hard to bracket anyone else with him. I say that, not because of my admiration for him, but because of his originality that, I believe, has still to be explored much further.

Do you plan to be in the UK for the beatification of Cardinal Newman?  Thoughts on the beatification?

Yes, I will be in the UK for Newman's beatification and have been invited for the occasion to be part of the commmentary team in the BBC studio. That will be a novel experience for me.

My primary thought about the beatification is to stress that, although Newman is renowned for his intellectual brilliance and the contribution he has made to Catholic thinking, it is the man who is being beatified, not the ideas. He was a man of deep faith in God whose life was often demanding, but throughout his trials he remained utterly faithful. We have to recognize that we will be acknowledging a man of faith and fidelity.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Quote from John Cardinal Newman

The best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.”—Newman, Parochial and plain sermons

I've been amazed at how many "quotable quotes" I have found in reading Newman 101 and other books about John Cardinal Newman.  This one is probably my favorite.  

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Meet A Reader: Monsignor Richard Soseman

Following is the feature "Meet a Reader" that appears on the monthly book page in the print Catholic Post.  This month we feature Monsignor Richard Soseman.  He's been a friend of our family for many, many years, and I'm so glad to learn more about his favorite books and why he's a reader.  I think after reading his take on it, I'm ready to tackle Don Quioxote.  Anyone else with me?

Meet a Reader:  Monsignor Richard Soseman

How you know me:
 I’ve been a priest of the Diocese of Peoria since 1992; I was a Judicial Vicar for 12 years and Pastor of  St. Mary of the Woods Princeville for 10 years.  I’m now at Congregation for the Clergy, Vatican City.
I also serve as the Episcopal Delegate for the Cause of Beatification of the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Why I love reading:
When we were kids, bedtime was at 8, but we could read until 8:30. We also went to the Library Club Summers at the East Moline Public Library.
Sylvia Standaert, at St. Anne School, East Moline, (now Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy) was a real inspiration, and guided us in selecting books in First through Third Grades, so we could appreciate and understand the books we were ready to read. I remember being judged ready to read “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder and being very excited.
I come from a family of readers, from my Father, who loved Zane Grey as a teenager, and read often in his spare time, to my Mom who still enjoys a good novel, amidst quilting and visiting with her great grandchildren. My eldest brother read a lot of non-fiction, my older sisters preferred novels. My brother Gary’s favorite author was Homer. He reads a lot of novels, but there is almost always a volume of Plato or nonfiction on his reading table. So, I suppose I come by reading naturally.

What I’m reading now:
Nathaniel Hawthorne: The House of the Seven Gables. We have to rediscover old classics, and I really enjoy 19th century novels.
Pope Benedict XVI: St. Paul the Apostle
Fulton J. Sheen: Old Errors and New Labels
Luigi Pirandello: Enrico IV (Play) I find fascinating Pirandello’s interest in examining the interplay between reality and fiction.
I also enjoy the mystery novels of Lawrence Block, whose flawed and sometimes criminal characters nonetheless follow a rigid moral code.

My favorite books:
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. A beautiful and exciting epic trilogy of medieval and Catholic Norway, Kristin Lavransdatter is the life of the heroine from youthful indiscretion to elderly reflection.

Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales is possibly the best guide for development in the spiritual life ever written.   It’s so practical and full of examples. We say we love God. Don’t we want to learn all we can about Him through growth in the spiritual life?

El Quijote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.  The first modern novel, Don Quixote is so chock full of fun, adventure, and literary technique that it is hard to put down. I first read parts of the novel at Alleman, and for a semester while studying my Masters at Marquette. It is said that a person should read this novel at least three times, as a youth, in middle age, and when elderly. Because of this, for years I gave Don Quixote to students at the High School Graduation. I hope they read it.

Book of Ruth from the Bible
Since I’m part of a large family, I have always enjoyed this story of family loyalty despite great difficulties. Beautiful, especially when Ruth says to Naomi: “whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” It’s such a great reminder of human loyalty and of God’s great love for His people.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

John Cardinal Newman: A Blessed for Our Times

Here is my review of Newman 101 and other Newman books.  This will appear in this weekend's print Catholic Post.  I invite your comments, and check back all month for lots of Newman links and other discussion, including an exclusive Q&A with Newman 101 author Roderick Strange.

John Cardinal Newman is truly a blessed for our times.  The more I learn about him, the more impressed how his writing and his life were groundbreaking in his time and much needed in ours.

Newman, who will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham, England on September 19, is famous for many things:  his prolific writings & sermons; his prayers & poems; his founding with others of the Oxford Movement to reconcile the Anglican Church with Rome; and for simply being one of the most famous English converts to Catholicism.

I had always considered Newman to be read mostly by theologians and intellectuals, but not very accessible to the rest of us average lay Catholics:  in other words, not my kind of reading.

Newman 101:  An Introduction to the Life and Philosophy of John Cardinal Newman, by Newman scholar Fr. Roderick Strange, changed all of that.  Fr. Strange has distilled down Newman’s thought and life into a very readable and engaging story.

The book runs roughly chronologically through Newman’s life, with chapters on areas that intersect Newman’s life & writing, such as Mary, the Mother of Jesus; Seeking Church Unity; and Witness to Holiness.

 Fr. Strange quotes freely from Newman, so the reader can “hear” Newman’s voice.  At the same time, Fr. Strange details how much he has been influenced by Newman in his writing and in his ministry as an Oxford chaplain, among other roles.

What Newman 101 makes clear is that Cardinal Newman is so relevant today because he has an incredibly sensible, intelligent approach that avoids a variety of extremes when it comes to theology and devotion.  Reading this book makes me wonder what gifts and guidance Newman could provide for the 21st Century Catholic Church at a time of great change and conflict.

Newman 101 is full  of “quotable quotes” from Newman (some of these will be featured and discussed on the Catholic Post Book Group blog).   Here’s one of Newman outlining his belief in an active laity:

“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.”

Newman’s belief in a strong, active laity was virtually unheard of in his time, and brought him the censure of bishops and others.  Reading it today, we can see both his courage and the challenge he sets out for us.

By studying the life of holy people like Cardinal Newman that we can learn more about the ways to have this active, charitable faith.  I am grateful to Fr. Strange for presenting the life of Newman in such an engaging way that the Catholic layperson is not put off by the challenge, but wants to take it up in the 21st century.

Some other books about and by Newman:

*John Henry Newman by Avery Cardinal Dulles, himself a great convert and great theologian, was written in 2002.  This slim volume gives a quick biographical sketch, then covers Newman’s thought on various issues, i.e. redemption, justification and sanctification; the proof of Christianity; the role of the laity; the church.  Dulles interestingly compares Newman’s view of the role of the university (primarily as an  intellectual formation) with John Paul II’s view (the university should fully form the human person).

*Apologia pro Vita Sua, probably Newman’s most famous book.  The title means in Latin, “A defense of one’s life”.  The book was written about 20 years after his entry into the Catholic Church;  it began as a refutation of an Anglican clergyman’s attack on Newman, but ended up a beautifully written spiritual autobiography.

*I know Meriol Trevor from her children’s chapter books like Sun Slower, Sun Faster and The Letzenstein Chronicles, but her acclaimed two-volume biography of Newman, The Pillar of the Cloud and Light In Winter are exhaustive and extremely well-written.

Join the discussion!  Visit the Catholic Post Book Group at throughout this month for quotable quotes from Cardinal Newman, an exclusive interview with Newman 101 author Fr. Roderick Strange, and Newman links and clips around the beatification of Newman on September 19.  Visit the blog to share your own impressions of Newman, his works and books about him.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

First, What are You Reading? Volume 2, September 2010

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list/pile to read?

I hope you'll consider sharing yours on your blog (and linking back here through the Mr. Linky at the bottom of the post) or sharing yours in the comments

First, What are you reading?

The Hunger Games  and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins weaves a fascinating tale of Panem, a futuristic land in what used to be North America, led by a cruel Capital district that forces the other districts to sacrific two teenagers each to battle to the death, for sport and for entertainment.  The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are the first two in her series.  Wow.

I was not aware until earlier this summer that this YA (young adult) series of books are apparently wildly popular.   Now I know why, and I am hooked.  I wrote last month that this was on my "list/pile" to read, and I had no idea I would be so gripped by the series it would be the book I'd share.  I wasn't planning to purchase the books in hardback, but since I've had Mockingjay (third in the series) on hold at the library since it came out last Tuesday, and since the book hasn't arrived yet, I  might give in and head over to my nearest book retailer for a hardback copy.

What do you like best about it?

Both books I've read so far in the series--The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, invite lots of "what-ifs" and comparisons to our modern culture.  Most interesting for me is a pernicious cult of celebrity described.  In the books, before the teenagers are sent out to kill each other in "the arena" they are pampered and "made-over" by teams of stylists, so they look their best for pre-games interviews and parade.  Lots to think about related to the American celebrity culture and how it often depersonalizes people even as it makes them beautiful; really the opposite of a Christian personalism.

Also, the writing is top-rate, and I had trouble putting the books down when I was reading them.  I would keep saying to myself, "At the end of this chapter, I will put the book down and (make dinner/turn off the light/whatever I needed to be doing)" but I wasn't often successful at that, and when I did it took superhuman effort.  That to me is one mark of a good read.

What do you like least about it?

The violence is fairly graphic, making this “young adult novel” only appropriate for the adults in our house.  I'm not sure what age I would let a teenager read the books; every family is different.  I find some of the very realistic descriptions of people dying it truly horrible ways to be haunting.  I know it needs in some way to be part of the story, but I wish it were less intense and it is definitely my least favorite part.

What is next on your list to read?

I’ve got semi-big list of books about a Catholic approach to mental health issues, as in October the Catholic Post Book Group will be featuring Beyond Blue, Therese Borchard’s candid account of her struggle with mental illness.

Also, at the suggestion of a fellow mom, I’ve been reading two books about parenting; one about girls:  Five Conversations you Must Have With Your Daughter by Vickie Courtney, and Wild Things:  The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas.  From what I’ve read so far, both books have definite strengths, and some small weaknesses.  I’m gleaning lots of good information about both boys and girls, especially about that other, foreign land of male people.

I look forward to hearing about your reads!  Leave a comment here or link to your blog, or comment on the Catholic Post Facebook page.