Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Halloween, but...

don't forget about the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1 and All Souls' Day November 2.

We all know about Halloween: it's the day when you get to knock on neighbors' doors and vaguely threaten them with "tricks" if they don't fork over the "treats". Although it has yet to be proven, I firmly believe that Halloween is sponsored by either wiccans or dentists, or wiccan dentists...

The Feast of All Saints, or the Solemnity of All Saints. Want to know what a Saint is, and why we dedicate a whole day to them? Kathy Coffey's post The Feast of All Saints: God's Glorious Nobodies explains: In case you don't get a chance to read it, here is a summary of her insightful essay:

Perhaps we should celebrate this feast by looking more appreciatively at those around us: saints in disguise or in progress. There we’ll find proof of Thomas Merton’s saying, "To be a saint means to be myself."

So, what do we (I can only speak for myself as a Catholic) do on the Solemnity of All Saints? I plan on attending morning mass, to start the day off. And later, as I recite my Divine Office prayers, I'll be thinking especially of all the saintly people in my life. Those are the people who inspire me to be a better person every day, and for which I'm thankful to have in my life. I'll also be thanking all the martyrs of the Catholic Church. For, without them shedding their blood for the faith, there might not be a Church today for me to partake in.

And on November 2, All Souls' Day, we dedicate the day to the souls of our departed loved ones. My wife and I filled out two envelopes with some of the names of our departed loved ones. These names will be read at church over the next few weeks along with other congregants' names. It is yet another opportunity to remember those who have mattered to us and who are gone from our lives. The whole congregation will pray for their souls. What will this achieve, you ask.

To answer, both of the following quotes are from

Whether or not one should pray for the dead is one of the great arguments which divide Christians. Appalled by the abuse of indulgences in the Church of his day, Martin Luther rejected the concept of purgatory. Yet prayer for a loved one is, for the believer, a way of erasing any distance, even death. In prayer we stand in God's presence in the company of someone we love, even if that person has gone before us into death.

* * * 

“We must not make purgatory into a flaming concentration camp on the brink of hell—or even a ‘hell for a short time.’ It is blasphemous to think of it as a place where a petty God exacts the last pound—or ounce—of flesh.... St. Catherine of Genoa, a mystic of the 15th century, wrote that the ‘fire’ of purgatory is God’s love ‘burning’ the soul so that, at last, the soul is wholly aflame. It is the pain of wanting to be made totally worthy of One who is seen as infinitely lovable, the pain of desire for union that is now absolutely assured, but not yet fully tasted” (Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Believing in Jesus).

So, on November 2, I will be thinking of my departed family and friends, including my parents, both gone now for nine years, and I'll be praying for their souls, that they may get to heaven, and that they may look after me and my family.

Have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone. And if you can, take a moment on November 1 and 2, and give a thought to your departed loved ones.

~ JT ~

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: Burning Embers

Burning Embers
Burning Embers by Hannah Fielding

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've just returned from a most wonderful trip where I visited beautiful and exotic 1970s Kenya!

No, I didn't really time travel, but I did the next best thing: I read Hannah Fielding's sizzling novel: Burning Embers. The historical romance pits Coral, a headstrong, jealous English photographer, against Rafe, a well-known French womanizer and suspected scoundrel with a nefarious past. There's an immediate physical attraction between the two, but their current circumstances, and troubled personal histories, threaten to keep them apart forever.

Ms Fielding has expertly wielded her plotting and descriptive skills in bringing to life this sub-Saharan love story. And by rendering the exotic scenery and setting with careful and convincing detail, the author puts the reader right on the African continent and involves us in Coral and Rafe's tense romantic adventures.

I thoroughly enjoyed this nostalgic trip on a foreign continent, and I would recommend it to any romance reader experiencing a serious case of wanderlust.

Readers can connect with Hannah Fielding at:

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Story of a Soul (l'Histoire d'une Ame): The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux

Story of a Soul (l'Histoire d'une Ame): The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux
Story of a Soul (l'Histoire d'une Ame): The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux by Thérèse de Lisieux

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Story of a Soul is a most edifying book! If one wishes to learn how a saint truly lived her life, there is no better source or textbook to use as reference than to read her autobiography. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, shows us how easy, and yet so difficult, it is to live the humble life; more importantly, she offers compelling reasons why we should wish to focus on this virtue.

St. Thérèse claims to be a simple soul who hones her devotion by entering a Carmelite convent. Her life is guided by two principles: 1) to adhere to Jesus' claim that one must be like a child to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and 2) to follow Jesus' example and to humble herself. Towards that end, no task at the convent is too menial for her to perform and offer to God. She wishes to earnestly live her life in childish simplicity, yet she combines that simple outlook with a faith worthy of, well... a saint.

Story of a Soul, besides offering an insight into the life of a saint, is strewn with references from the three texts St. Thérèse relied on to keep her humble: The Bible, writings of St. John of the Cross, and Thomas A Kempis' Imitation of Christ.

This version of St. Thérèse's Story of a Soul can be found here for free:

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Eternal

Eternal, by Jennie Orbell

This is a wonderful, well-written collection of short stories that reminded me, with their surprise endings, of the stories in the television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Most of the stories have a macabre hook to them, and I enjoyed how the author did not shy away from the graphic blood and guts descriptions that contrasted her clean, crisp writing. Ms Orbell's style combines the realism of an accomplished author with the disorienting feeling one gets in those really good nightmares.

To read these stories is to oftentimes embark on a tour of the darkest corners of the human soul - and to be returned safe and sound to one's bed at the end of (most) tales.

I truly enjoyed this collection, and I look forward to reading more fiction by Jennie Orbell.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Review: Astray

Astray by Emma Donoghue

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Emma Donoghue's short story collection Astray. And I found the Afterward to be as entertaining as the stories themselves.

One of the common themes of the stories in Astray is that they are all based on a true event/real people. They are also all quirky, and they explore humanity from a variety of perspectives: female sculptors, gold prospecting in the Yukon, women cowpokes, cross-dressing, domesticated prostitution, emigration dreams... Ms Donoghue explores it all. The fact that these are all based on true historical events makes the characters that much more intriguing.

Ms Donoghue brings her finely-crafted prose and research skills to each story, breathing life into dry newspaper reporting.

Well worth the time to read, and when you are done with Astray you must read Room, Ms Donoghue's amazing novel.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Review: Lives of the Saints:

Lives of the Saints:
Lives of the Saints: by Alban Butler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Father Butler's Lives of the Saints is an amazing book of devotion, arranged to follow the Catholic Church's calendar of feast days, and so is relevant every day of the year. I enjoyed reading and learning about the daily saints, Doctors, and martyrs of the Church in concise, well-written, prose.

I highly recommend using Lives of the Saints as part of a daily regimen to deepen one's faith by way of being introduced to inspiring examples of faith.

The book, first published in the nineteenth century, also serves as a valuable introduction the early history of the Catholic Church and the fundamental (and sacrificial) roles some of the founders of the church played to ensure the continuation and development of the Church into modern times.

Having read through the book once, I now look forward to being reacquainted with each new day's Saint.

Caveat: I now see that there are different editions of Butler's Lives of the Saints. I must admit that my review is based on the on-line version, so I cannot vouch for this particular edition.

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