Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent Book Giveaway #2: Mother Teresa and Me

Second in my Advent book giveaway is Donna Marie Cooper O'Boyle's Mother Teresa and Me.  I reviewed this book in my October Post column, and enjoyed so many things about it, chief among them the concept Mother Teresa actually used of "express novenas," in which she would pray a Memorare 9 times in a row for a specific intention.    I've actually put the Memorare up on a bathroom mirror in our house just to help me remember this great little prayer idea.

This book would make a great gift.  It's a nice light read.

As I mentioned when I started the Advent book giveaways, the rules are simple:  to be entered in this giveaway, just leave a comment on any post giving away a specific book.  So for winning a copy of Mother Teresa and Me, just leave a comment here.  If I don't have a way to reach you, I will notify you via the comments, but if you don't respond in a timely way (two days), I will pull another name.  Easy!

This giveaway opportunity ends at 7 p.m. central time Thursday, December 1.  Good luck to all the readers out there.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Advent Book Giveaway Bonanza--Just in Time for Christmas Gift-Giving

Yes, it's Black Friday, and no, I'm not shopping today, not being a big fan of shopping in general, and especially when stores are crowded.

But I do love books, as everyone knows by now.  And so I'm kicking off the Christmas shopping season by an Advent Book Giveaway.  Most of the I have been given specifically for giveaways, and books that came as doubles from publishers, so I've decided to give away the extra copy.

I'll have the giveaways for just the next two weeks, every couple of days, so that winners have the chance to get the books before Christmas gift-giving (even to yourself, if you are a winner).  I'll have two more books to give away in January, as well.

First up is my November's reviewed book,  A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms by Lisa Hendey.  I realize I had not yet shared the wonderful book trailer for Lisa's great new book, so here it is:

Here are the rules for this giveaway and all the books in the giveaway.  You must comment on the blog post or posts giving away the book.  So, if you are interested in The Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, leave a comment here on this post.

In addition, if you are the winner, I will let you know via comment if I do not have an e-mail or a way to reach you.  If you do not respond in a few days, I'll pull another name.  That's it!  Couldn't be easier.

Deadline for this first giveaway is Monday, November 28 at 7 p.m. Central Time.

What are you doing this Black Friday? Our family has a tradition of either a hike or going to the nation's longest-running holiday parade, where this year we will be meeting another family, then getting some lunch together, nowhere near a mall, I hope.  Sometimes we see a movie, and Hugo looks good this year, as most of the family has read The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thomas Friedman Agrees With Me

As I've said many times here, I'm a firm believer in reading books with and to kids, even once kids can read themselves.  In our family, we particularly love having family books--books that we all read and remember and become part of our family "story."  

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman had a great column over the weekend essentially agreeing with me. (Not that Friedman reads me often, but you know what I mean).    My husband helpfully shared the column with me, and our discussion helped shaped my thoughts here.  I sometimes forget what a great source of both information and analysis he is, so allow me to give him a quick and well-deserved shout-out here.

Friedman refers to an international study that (every 3 years) tests 15-year-olds, and finds that young people whose parents read to them when they were young do much better on reading comprehension and problem-solving than those who do not have that benefit.  The study also shows the more parents are involved in their children's lives, asking about schoolwork, talking with them about politics and news, in addition to the reading, also raised scores.

Now, I don't continue to read to our children (all strong readers by now), and we don't have family favorite "books," just so that our kids will out-perform their peers when they take tests.  But I do love that giving kids this heritage of great books makes them better able to comprehend the world and be better at problem-solving.  Essentially, Friedman is affirming the Catholic view that parents are the "primary and principal educators" of their children.

I'm beginning work on my December Catholic Post column, about books that would make good Christmas gifts.  As it stands now,  I'm recommending more kids' books than grown-up books.  I was starting to feel a little concerned about this until I read Friedman's column.  

What do you think about the study and what it means for parents and kids?  You can read the full results of the international study here

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Q&A with "A Book of Saints" author Lisa Hendey

I'm re-publishing my Q&A with Lisa Hendey this month since I usually try to focus on a book throughout the month I review it.  You can read my review of Lisa's new book, A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, in my Post column here.

Longtime readers of The Catholic Post Book Group will remember that the second book I reviewed for the Catholic Post was Lisa's first book, The Handbook for Catholic Moms.  Lisa was also my first author interview, and author interviews have become among my favorite aspects of writing about books.  I really enjoyed my visit with Lisa, a friend to moms everywhere.  I hope you enjoy it.

A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms is such a great companion and natural “sort-of sequel” to The Handbook for Catholic Moms.  Did you know you wanted to write it when The Handbook for Catholic Moms released?

Thank you for your kindness and welcome Nancy. Honestly, I must give a great deal of the credit for the concept of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms to my amazing editor at Ave Maria Press, Eileen Ponder.  Only a few weeks after The Handbook for Catholic Moms was released in February 2010, Eileen proposed several ideas for future projects, including the concept of a book devoted to exploring the lives of the saints. Because the Handbook was so fresh on my mind, and because I so enjoyed exploring the themes of that project so much, A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms became a natural extension of the work that had begun with my first book.

I appreciate how handsomely the book is designed and “feels.”  I especially loved the illustrations/icons for “heart, mind, body and soul,” (such a great theme in The Handbook for Catholic Moms) and how you assign a different one to each saint.  Tell me more about how you connected those two themes.

I, too, love the design for the book and want to give a great deal of credit to designer Katherine Robinson Coleman of Ave Maria Press, who gave such a beautiful “face” to the ideas I wanted to convey in this book.  The “heart, mind, body and soul” themes were explored in my first book The Handbook for Catholic Moms.  In that book, I encouraged moms to care for themselves in these aspects of their lives so that they would be better equipped to serve their families, our Church and the world around us.

I’ve long had a devotion to the lives of the saints, turning to them as spiritual companions, role models and intercessors. Early in the planning for this project, I decided that I wanted to revisit the four themes, choosing saints in each of those areas and writing about their lives, but also about how the saints exemplified sanctity and excellence in these areas.

There are 52 great saints, some well-known, others not so much.  How did you select the range of saints?

Choosing the 52 saints was one of the most fun, but also the most challenging aspects of the project. I knew immediately that some saints would be included because their importance to mothers and their “fit” for the topics being explored made them immediately come to mind. But I also had a wonderful time pondering my “picks” and reveling in research at our local university library. The formula of 52 saints and four “themes” (heart, mind, body and soul) meant coming up with 13 saints in each of those categories. Honestly, many of the saints I selected could have been introduced in several ways, but conceiving of them in this way and watching the project grow and take flesh really brought them to life in this writer’s heart of mine.

Do you have a favorite saint among the less well-known saints?

I have several! I must admit a tremendously soft spot in my heart for Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux who is one of my personal patrons. It makes sense to me that they would have had a tremendous impact upon her and I’ve fallen in love with Blessed Zelie through reading her personal correspondence. I also have a strong devotion to St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a modern working mother, a physician and a valiant pro-life champion. Finally as an Indiana born daughter of two Hoosier parents educated by the Sisters of Providence, I absolutely love and frequently pray through the intercession of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin who has taught me a great deal about trusting in God’s providence in my life.

You’re such a busy writer and new media specialist.  What’s your next project?

Busy, but very blessed! I have several “next projects” in the work, including an Advent book for Catholic families, several new concepts for CatholicMom.com, an active speaking schedule for the Spring and some “secret projects” that will be unveiled soon.

Is there anything else you would like to add or wish I would have asked?

Nancy, I thank you for your amazing support and I truly encourage your readers to pick up A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and to share it with their friends and loved ones. The book is designed to be of support for moms, but also to be used with the entire family. It includes daily scriptures and prayers, activities for a mother to enjoy with her children, and a family prayer to be recited together. The saints – these holy men and women – lived their lives in the same challenging circumstances we often face today. It’s such a treasure of our faith that we can turn to them for support and encouragement, in intercessory prayer. I hope families will find a renewed relationship with the communion of saints through this book – both the formally canonized saints, and those we have each known and loved in our own lives. I pray the book will be a blessing to moms in their vocation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Catholic App Spotlight Update: Confession

 I first wrote about the Confession App earlier this year, at that time getting a lot of press.  I did download it and check it out, but wondered at the time if I would find myself using the App during actual confession.

Let me “confess” that I’ve become very fond of the Confession App, developed by Little iApps.  So much so, that last month when the App told me it had been two months since my last confession, I felt compelled to share with our parish priest, “While my iPhone says it’s been two months since my last confession, I know I’ve been here twice without my phone.”  He laughed.  And then when I got home I tweeted about doing that.  Am I geeky enough to have a Confession App?  Oh, yes I am.

Many months ago, the very first time I used it in confession, I showed my phone to the priest at a Franciscan parish in Peoria.  Somehow it seemed wrong that he not be aware that I was reading from the examination of conscience the App prompts.  He laughed and said he had heard about it, but it was the first time he heard an App-aided confession to his knowledge. 

Joking aside, I find the Confession App very spiritually helpful in a few key ways:

*the examination of conscience  is keyed to your state in life.  When I first set up my password-protected account, it asked if I were married, etc.  And the examination of conscience relates to that.

*a neat feature that follows the sacramental nature of Confession and what it does for your soul: after you go to confession, your sins, like in actual Confession, are literally wiped away—there’s no way to go back and look through what you confessed previously.  Each time you prepare for confession, the Examination of Conscience is fresh and unchecked.

*the prayer after finishing Confession changes each time you go, and they are lovely.  I wish there were a way to capture them for future reading—I remember particularly good ones from St. Gregory the Great and one from St. Josemaria Escriva, but I can’t find a way to go back and read them again.

I had thought I might use the Confession App for a nightly examination of conscience, but instead, I use my all-time favorite App, Universalis, for saying night prayer.  

Little iApps, the developer of Confession, have a great line-up of Apps.  I’ve downloaded all of them, and especially love the eVotions Apps on different saints.  Our family especially likes the photos on the St. Gianna Molla App.

In recent days, my 8-year-old son and I have taken to saying the novena to Blessed John Paul II in his “App,” as his before-bed prayers, and there’s nothing sweeter than hearing his little voice read through the prayer at the end of the novena. 

Have you used the Confession App?  Or do you have any Catholic Apps you’d like to share?  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meet a Reader: Andrew Bland, MD, MBA

I'm delighted to feature this month a local physician-leader and very busy person, Dr. Andrew Bland.   Thanks, Andy, for agreeing to share your love of books with Catholic Post readers!

How you know me:

Until August, I was a partner at Illinois Kidney and Hypertension; in August, I became the Chief Medical Officer at Proctor Healthcare.  My wife Melissa and I have three daughters; we attend St. Anthony’s Parish in Bartonville.  I also have the honor of serving on the Board of Trustees for Limestone Fire Protection District.

Why I love reading:

 Reading gives you a chance to look into the author’s mind and gain a different perspective on the world.  Reading relaxes me.  I love reading multiple books at the same time; it is like having ongoing e-mail conversations with different friends.

What I’m reading now:

Great By Choice by Jim Collins- How great companies and people survive in chaotic times.    Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell:  a fictional history of the live and conversion of St. Luke.  The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton: a witty and paradoxical book that examines the history of man and Christ from a Christian perspective in rebuttal to H.G. Wells Outline of History.  This was the book that converted my favorite author, C.S. Lewis, to Christianity.

My favorite book:

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  This one title systematically disarmed every single concern I had about being a Christian.  Until I read this book, I was lukewarm about my faith.  The quote below literally scared the hell out of me (I don’t enjoy visiting dentists):

“Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of (like masturbation or physical cowardice) or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.”

I was not sure I wanted the “full treatment;” just an increased sense of peace, so I put the book aside for a time.  The compelling logical explanation of what it means to be a Christian brought me back to start the “full treatment”.    

And this quote from Mere Christianity is likely my favorite quote from any book: 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms Encourages and Uplifts

“Every time a Catholic mother asks me what author she should read, I have a ready answer: Lisa Hendey,” says noted author Fr. James Martin, S.J.

Amen, Father Martin.  Lisa Hendey is a seemingly omnipresent champion to Catholic women everywhere.  Hendey has a big presence online, where she runs her encouraging and informative website CatholicMom.com.  She also is a featured blogger at the popular Faith & Family Live! web community,, and she speaks and writes on new media as a way to spread the Catholic faith. 

A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms is such a great companion and natural “sort-of sequel” to The Handbook for Catholic Moms, Hendey’s first book. (Incidentally,  that was the second book I ever reviewed here at the Catholic Post.  Lisa was also my first author interview, since Fulton Sheen, author of first book review Treasure in Clay, was unavailable for an interview). 

I appreciate how handsomely the book is designed and “feels.”  Especially lovely are the illustrations/icons for “heart, mind, body and soul,” such a great theme in The Handbook for Catholic Moms and continued here.  Each saint has an icon of either heart, mind, body or soul based on the saint’s particular charism—for instance, a heart for St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, and a body for martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe.

There are 52 great saints, some well-known, others not so much.  I enjoyed discovering newish-to-me saints like St. Rose Venerini (mind) , a 17th century lay educator, and St. Theodore Guerin, who helped bring the Sisters of Providence to the US.   There are also fresh reflections on saints like St. Jerome (soul) and  St. Jane Frances de Chantal (heart).

Each saint/chapter is divided into five sections:  lessons (an essay/reflection on the saint; traditions (charming familiar and obscure observances associated with the saint); saintly wisdom (a quote from or about the saint); scripture for each day of the week; and saint-inspired activities for mom alone or with kids.

I read through The Book of Saints cover to cover, but it would be a great resource to have at hand throughout the year.  A reader could choose to use this book as a bedside devotional to “keep up with the saints” all year, or get even more practical by planning some of the activities for the family.  Any way it is utilized, The Book of Saints for Catholic Moms is an enduring treasury for heart, mind, body and soul.

This is my monthly column in the print Catholic Post.  Check back all month long on the blog for discussions, giveaways and more about this book and many more.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

First, What are You Reading? Volume 15, November 2011

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 to read? 

As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?  

Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith.    Esquith teaches in a troubled Los Angeles school with few success stories, and yet manages to transform the lives of his 5th grade students year after year.

The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles is by Padraic Colum, and illustrated by Willy Pogany.  My 8-year-old son and I are reading this to each other, with other family members listening in from time to time.

What do you like best about them?

Here’s what I loved about Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire:  Esquith writes all about making a great classroom culture and holding kids to a high standard.  He teaches them problem-solving as a key skill, and challenges the students to act right at the highest level of behavior.  He and his students perform an acclaimed Shakespeare play every year.  He takes his students on trips to broaden their horizons and shows them classic movies to foster a sense of media literacy—I could go on and on.  He’s a powerhouse, and his many awards are well-deserved.  This would be a great book for any teacher, or really any parent, to get great ideas (or be confirmed in your own) for enriching the lives of children.

Padraid Colum was an Irish writer.  I’m not sure where I picked up the handsome Aladdin paperback of The Children’s Homer, but once I started reading it with my 8-year-old son, we were hooked.  Other than various adaptations over the years, I’ve never been good at reading The Odyssey and other classic Greek literature.  I downloaded an Odyssey App once, but found the language less than friendly to my style.  Colum’s language, while a little old-fashioned, hooked us quickly and we love the amazingly great stories.  After we finished The Children's Homer, we started on The Golden Fleece.  Colum won the Newberry award for The Children’s Homer, The Golden Fleece and The Children of Odin.

What do you like least about them?

A big deficit of Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire is the amount of stuff Esquith is able to accomplish with his kids, and how someone reading it might feel inadequate.  It reminds me of when we used to educate our children at home—a danger could be visiting the blogs of other moms who seemed to be able to “do it all,” and how that kind of information was depressing instead of challenging.

Esquith is an amazing teacher, but in a way it’s more of a vocation.  It doesn’t appear he has children; his wife is very involved in helping his classroom succeed.  His kind of dedication and single-minded pursuit of great teaching isn’t realistic for most people, with families and other responsibilities.

I don’t necessarily think that a teacher, whether in public, private or homeschooling, should attempt to replicate, even over the course of a lifetime, Esquith’s successes.  However, there are so many great take-away points that it’s a very helpful read.

I don’t really care for the Willy Pogany illustrations in The Golden Fleece and other Colum books.  They are not terrible, just not my style.  Otherwise, these Colum/Pogany books are all good.

What’s next on your list to read?

I am reading many, many books that would be good as gifts for my December column.

So, what are you reading these days?  Any books you would like to share?