St. John Chrysostom: What is true beauty?

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“That He might sanctify it having cleaned it,” he continues, “by washing of water with the word; that He might present the Church to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:26-27)

“By the washing or later,” He washes away her impurities. “By the word,” says he. What word? “In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) And He has not simply honored her, but He has made her “glorious, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Let us also, then, strive to attain this beauty ourselves, and we shall be able to create it.

Do not look in your wife for those things which she is unable to possess. Do you see that the Church had all things at her Lord’s hands? By Him she was made glorious, by Him she was made pure, by Him she was made without blemish. Do not turn your back on your wife because of her defects. Listen to what the Scripture says, that ” The bee is little among such as fly, but her fruit is the chief of sweet things.” (Eccl. 11:3) She is made by God. You are not condemning her, but rather the One who made her; what can the a woman do? Do not praise her for her beauty. Praise and hatred and love based on personal beauty come from impure souls. Search after the beauty of the soul. Imitate the Bridegroom of the Church.

Outward beauty is full of conceit and licentiousness, and makes men jealous, and it often makes you imagine monstrous things. But does it give any pleasure? For the first or second month, perhaps, or at most for the year: but then no longer. The admiration fades away through familiarity. Meanwhile the ills which arose from the exterior beauty still remain; the pride, the foolishness, the contemptuousness. However, in one who is not beautiful, none of this is to be found. The love that began on honest grounds still continues ardently, since its object is beauty of the soul and not the body.

What better, tell me, is there than heaven? What better is there than the stars? Describe any body you choose, yet there is none so fair. Tell me of any eyes you want, yet there is none so sparkling. When these were created, the very angels gazed in amazement, and we gaze with wonder now; but not with the same amazement as we did at first. Such familiarity; things do not strike us in the same degree. How much more in the case of the wife! And if by some chance disease comes, too, all is immediately lost.

Look for affection, humility, and gentleness in a wife; these are the signs of beauty. But loveliness of physical features let us not seek, not chastise her for lack of these points over which she has no control. No, rather let us not chastise her at all nor be impatient, nor morose. Don’t you see how many men, often living with beautiful wives, have ended their lives despicably, and how many, who have lived with those of no great beauty, have lived on to extreme old age with great enjoyment? Let us wipe off the “spot” that is written, let us smooth the “wrinkles” that are within, let us do away with the “blemishes” that are on the soul. Such is the beauty God requires. Let us make her fair in God’s sight not in our own.

– St. John Chrysostom

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Strangers at the Manger: Children’s Book Review

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Last week, you got to jump ahead to Lent. Now, let’s reel back a little, back to Advent and Christmas with Lisa Hendey’s book, The Strangers in the Manger.

I guess I didn’t read the description of this book too closely as I got it hoping to read it to my son. He’s only 4-years-old and after only a couple sentences, he was asking for his Curious George book instead. Even the fact I was reading it to him from the Kindle Fire didn’t keep his interest (I hardly ever read to him from the Kindle). Well, it’s his loss.

Even as an adult reading this on my own, I got a kick out of it! Such an adorable little chapter book chock full of facts about the Church, the Bible, and the Nativity story. Anyone reading it couldn’t help but learn something, but it doesn’t read like a text book. It reads like a fun adventure of a pair of twins traveling back in time.

As another reviewer commented on some other site (it’s really hard for a mom brain to keep track), these twins are relatable kids who are good role models you’d want your kid to read. They are, nonetheless, full of personality and very three-dimensional. In this adventure, the fifth of the series, they travel back in time to the Nativity of our Lord and help the Holy Family in this momentous occasion. They play soccer with the shepherds. They marvel at the wise men. They are fascinated at the sight of seeing the Lord and Savior they hear about so much at Church being a little baby. As an adult reading this, I could feel their child-like wonder and fascination. It was great!

As in all the Chime Traveler books, they go back in time to learn an important lesson. Before they travel, we are introduced to a refugee family that has just moved into the parish. As you can imagine, this relates very well to the impoverished Holy Family being unable to find a room in Bethlehem only to later have to run off to Egypt. I’d love to share the moral of the story with you, but you’ll have to discover it for yourself. It’s a beautiful little one-liner that will stick with you long after the book is put down.

My husband has a cousin who’s just the right age for chapter books, maybe I can get her a copy for Christmas. Maybe she’ll even let me read it with her.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in NetGalley. Thank you Franciscan Media for the opportunity. This book is available now through your favorite bookseller.

Love, Henri: A Wonderful Collection of Letters from Henri Nouwen

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When I first opened Love, Henri, it annoyed the heck out of me. I don’t know what I was thinking when I requested this book. I’m not a big fan of this genre (collected letters). All I knew was that one of my professors at Aquinas Institute obsessed with this man. She frequently assigned passages of his writing and I dutifully read the assignments even if I didn’t get much personally out of them. She was, and undoubtedly still is, a sweet, loving woman and her obsession with Henri Nouwen was seen as just one of her quirks.

Reading books like this is a little like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but in this case, it is a good and fulfilling half. It helps that most of the letters are to the same handful of close friends so the letters lend context to one another. The topics covered in the letters are easily to relate to. While the first few pages were hard for me to get through, the book did eventually grow on me and I did reach a point where I couldn’t put it down.

Henri Nouwen wrote to people of all walks of life: gay, straight, young, old, single, married, people in the religious life, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, atheist… He had a wide variety of friends. He loved to write letters and he took his friendships very, very, very seriously.

This book would be excellent for anyone doing research into Henri Nouwen as it gives tons of background information and context for many of his life’s events. It certainly added to my reading list as I was intrigued by what he had to say about several of his books, particularly Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World.

I came away from this book with one intriguing question that could take a whole book to cover: Why isn’t there a open cause of canonization for Henri Nouwen and could he ever be canonized? I am very interested in what you have to say about that. On one side, his responses to questions in the letters were mostly quite orthodox. It is generally accepted by scholars that he did deal with same-sex attraction. He referred to it much like St. Paul refers to his own thorn in his side (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). He was a faithful priest who used his own suffering to effectively minister to others. He was very into ecumenism. On that front, he didn’t always follow Church teaching to the letter. What do you think? Should he be canonized? Could he be canonized?

I was given the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in Blogging for Books. Thank you Convergent Books for the opportunity.

Beyond Me, My Selfie, and I: A Review of Teresa Tomeo’s Latest Book

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In this technology-saturated world, Teresa Tomeo speaks from personal experience and candid observation on what we all need to do to be better followers of Christ.

It all stems from a trip to Italy. While seeing the sights, she couldn’t help but notice a couple of young people absorbed into their phones. What real reality were they missing while being stuck in the virtual reality of their phones?

The Church constantly preaches that while technology is not in itself morally good or bad, it’s use and misuse can certainly veer either way. In this book, Mrs. Tomeo tackles specifically social media and the ubiquitous selfie. She challenges us all to put our phones down for real face-time with those we love and with He who loves us.

She breaks down this huge issue into 10 manageable chunks. Each chapter starts with an introduction of a specific angle followed by a mini-quiz to help you think about how it applies to you. Then, she explains what the Church in her wisdom says about it and some pointers with how to take it to prayer.

When read with an open and prayerful heart, this book could make real changes to how you use and view technology. It certainly serves as a wake up call to the dangers of social media.

Beyond Me, My Selfie and I is available at your favorite bookseller now. I was given the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in Netgalley. Thank you Franciscan Media for the privilege.

The Catholic Catalogue: A Review

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Yes, I read it and yes, I intend to keep it as a reference. It is often a drudgery to read from cover to cover a book that’s really meant to be more of a reference book for Catholic living. This was not such a burden. It is very well-written and reads like a conversation over coffee at your table.

The Catholic Catalogue does a lot of what it is intended to do, bring to light old Catholic traditions from our grandparents and great-grandparents and help us to make those traditions our own. Catholics are so engrained in secular culture, it’s hard to tell us apart anymore. We do practically everything like our neighbors. And then moralists wonder why we don’t follow church teaching in areas like the bedroom. If Catholics don’t stand out in the neighborhood, why would we bother standing out in our personal lives? This book dusts off many of those traditions of old.

Mixed in with the confirmation gift suggestions and recipes for traditional dishes and drinks is a bit of an unofficial catechism of sorts. It demonstrates how all of these little peculiarities of Catholic life are part and parcel with the teachings of the Church and the Catholic imagination.

I don’t really have any major complaints about this book. I highly recommend it for all Catholics, especially families. The authors did try to include single people in its directions and suggestions, but, unfortunately, they often seem to be tacked on as an afterthought. They are still included, however, and I do think the book still has value for those who are not married with children.

I did get this book through my membership in Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Image Books, for the opportunity. This book is available now at your favorite bookseller.

 

Blogging Through Amoris Laetitia: The Dignity of Work

 

POPE-FRANCIS-familyOn Friday, Pope Francis released his latest Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love. I’m still working on it. It’s over 250 pages! But I’d like to comment on it as I go. Here is the first of what I predict will be 12 reflections.

Amoris-1-256x300Of course someone with the religious name of Dorothy Day would highlight first the importance stressed on the dignity of work.

“It is clear from the very first pages of the Bible that work is an essential part of human dignity…”

– 23, Amoris Laetitia

What, you may ask, does this have to do with family? Frankly, everything! It is through work that the family is provided for. Everyone in the family works in one way or another toward the good of the family.

When paid work is hard to come by, the family suffers.

When work becomes inordinately important, the family suffers.

When unpaid work is disparaged, the family suffers.

When work is given the dignity it is due regardless of whether the work is well-paid or flashy, the family prospers.

When work is held in balance with leisure and family time, the family prospers.

When the unemployed get the jobs they need, the family prospers.

Work is a very important topic to discuss when discussing the current state of the family and I’m glad to see it in this Apostolic Exhortation.

I love the fact that the exhortation itself warns against speed-reading:

“Consequently, I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text.”- 7, Amoris Laetitia

So, please take with a grain of salt anything you’ve read about this document over the weekend, especially by the secular press on the hunt for clicks and sensationalism.

blogging through AL