Our Lady of Fatima: A Book Review

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This was simply a lovely, thorough book. I went into it knowing very little about Our Lady of Fatima besides some of the whack-job end of the world theories based on it. (By the way, plenty of well-meaning Catholics think the world is gonna end this year because it’s the 100th anniversary. Consider yourself warned.)

Our Lady of Fatima: 100 years of stories, prayers, and devotions tells in great detail the story of the apparitions, the life stories of the three visionary peasant children, and the aftermath of the event. It gave me a lot of appreciation for this apparition. If you have been turned away in the past because these visions have been adopted by people predicting the end, I encourage you to give them a second look. There is much more to these visions.

Without knowing it, you may already been engaging in practices started by this apparition, such as the prayer ending each decade of the rosary:

“Oh my Jesus,                                                                                                                                 forgive us our sins,                                                                                                                           save us from the fires of Hell,                                                                                                           lead all souls to Heaven,                                                                                                       especially those in most need of thy mercy.”

Honestly, I didn’t know that prayer was from Fatima.You may have heard of the First Saturday devotion. It predates Fatima, but Our Lady really encouraged it at Fatima. You may have heard of the “secrets” of Fatima. They really aren’t that mysterious once you really look at them, but they are a great encouragement to work towards holiness.

And that’s really what this book and the whole of the apparition is all about: Holiness. All baptized Christians have been called to holiness in whatever vocation or state of life they find themselves in. Everyday we are called to follow our Lord more closely and many, many saints testify that the best way to do that is to follow our Lady.

I got the opportunity to read this book through my membership in NetGalley. Thank you Franciscan Media for this book! It will be available through your favorite bookseller on March 31. It is a bestselling pre-order on Amazon now!

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.

Why John Paul II Loved Mary?

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Mooched off this travel blog. Best picture I’ve seen of this awesome statue!

This filial relationship, this self-entrusting of a child to its mother, not only has its beginning in Christ, but can also be said to be definitively directed toward him. Mary is said to continue to say to each individual the words she spoke at Cana in Galilee: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). For he, Christ, is the one mediator between God and mankind; he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6); It is he whom the Father has given the world, so that man “should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Virgin of Nazareth became the first “witness” of this saving love of the Father, and she also wishes to remain its humble handmaid always and everywhere. For every Christian, for every human being, Mary is the one who first “believed” and precisely with her faith as spouse and mother she wishes to act upon all those who entrust themselves to her as her children. And it is well known that the more her children persevere and progress in this attitude, the nearer Mary leads them to the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). And to the same degree they recognize more and more clearly the dignity of man in all its fullness and the definitive meaning of his vocation, for (as is stated in Gaudium et Spes) “Christ…fully reveals man to man himself.”

– St. John Paul II, Encylical Redeptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer), March 25, 1987

Walk In Her Sandals: A Book Review

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I know it isn’t Advent yet, but plan now to get some of your favorite girlfriends together this Lent to read this book!

Walk in Her Sandals is a deep and unique look at Christ’s Passion and the events after His death from a woman’s perspective. Each chapter contains numerous reflections on various aspects of Holy Week and beyond. There is something for everyone in this book. There is a fictional retelling of the events of the Passion told from the perspective of a woman who watched it all unfold. There are reflections connecting these foundational events to aspects of our feminine genius. There is a guide to pray through important scripture passages using the ancient practice of lectio divina. There are good reflection questions to discuss as a group. The book features authors that most Catholic nerds are familiar with like Teresa Tomeo, Lisa Hendey and Pat Gohn as well as many more authors that you will want to learn more about.

I was a little surprised to see that one of my favorite parts was the fictional retelling of the Passion. I’m usually not a fan of that kind of thing (funny, because I do enjoy writing it, but that’s another story). Stephanie Landsem clearly did her research bringing stories such as the Last Supper and Pentecost alive. You could really sense that these women could have actually been there, were actually the kind of people you would have expected to see there. I had never heard of her before and I’ll have to look her up and try some of her other books.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to pick this book up again as part of a book club. That would be awesome! I’ll have to tell you about it when I do. Not to say that the book isn’t good to read on your own. I certainly enjoyed it.

I got the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in NetGalley. Thank you Ave Maria Press! This book just came out yesterday and is available from your favorite bookseller now.

NOTE: I have been informed by the wonderful people at Ave Maria Press that there will be at least two online book clubs this Spring (just in time for Lent!). One will be held at CatholicMom.com and the other will be at WomenInTheNewEvangelization.com. Join me there!

A Review of Benedict XVI’s Shortest Book

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Yesterday I finished the first book I’ve ever read by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. I’m quite proud of myself. This isn’t the first one I’ve started. One of the Lay Dominicans in my chapter has made the argument that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will one day be declared a Doctor of the Church. To be declared a Doctor of the Church, you have to be someone that people generally agree wrote or spoke in such a way as to clarify or develop Christian doctrine. Many commentators have pointed out that Benedict XVI was much more of a scholar and professor compared to his more charismatic predecessor St. John Paul II or successor Francis. This is very apparent in all of his writings, this book being no exception.

Even for someone like me with a Master’s degree in church stuff, I could only take this book in small chunks with long breaks. I highly recommend reading until it doesn’t make sense anymore then put it down. When you pick it back up with a fresh mind, it’ll all make perfect sense again.

It’s dense. As he explains in the introduction, it’s basically three college lectures elaborated, revised and edited into book form. It’s only 90 pages, the last 10 or so of which are end-notes.

It does, however, look deeply and thoroughly into our Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption. He actually digs into the Old Testament for proof and explanation. He shows how Mary is truly a daughter of Israel found in the Old Testament writings and prophets just as much as her Son. As an old hymn states:

O Mary of all women,
You are the chosen one,
Who, ancient prophets promised,
Would bear God’s only Son;
All Hebrew generations
Prepared the way to thee,
That in your womb the God-man
Might come to set us free.

O Mary, you embody
all God taught to our race,
For you are first and foremost
In fullness of His grace;
We praise this wondrous honor
That you gave birth to Him
Who from you took humanity
And saved us from our sin.

It was a very appropriate book to work on last week during the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.

If you would like to better understand how the Catholic faith fits into the Old Testament, give this book a chance. If you’d like to understand the role of Our Lady better especially in light of her identity as a Jewish woman, give this book a chance. If you wish you could brag to all your intellectual friends that you’ve read something by Benedict XVI, give this book a chance.

I’m glad I did for all of those reasons.

Daughter Zion is hard to find unless you look online. It is available in e-book  and paperback format from several sources. You just need to let your fingers do the walking.

A Call To Mercy from Mother Teresa

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This lovely book published just in time for the Year of Mercy and Mother Teresa’s canonization contains many previously unpublished stories and quotes by and about the world famous saint. When I read it this weekend, I honestly didn’t know much about her aside from the basic outline of her life and a very short book of quotes from her I read in college. I feel I know her much better now and have some practical tools for how to imitate her in my everyday life.

That might sound strange coming from a stay-at-home mom in New York, but bear with me. This book refers to Mother Teresa as nothing other than “Mother.” Seeing how she interacted with everyone, from the sisters in her order to the poorest person on the streets, there is actually a lot that a biological mother can relate to in this book.

Her example of patience and love can teach a biological mom just as much as it can a spiritual mom. Her struggles are much like our own. For example, several of the stories in the book feature Mother Teresa being up late at night to care for one of the sisters or for one of the poor or sick in their homes. Every biological mother can relate to that!

For everyone, the author, one of her spiritual children Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, breaks down the 7 corporal and the 7 spiritual works of mercy and shares insights from Mother Teresa and about Mother Teresa on how best to live out the calling of Christ.

This would be a great book to take a couple weeks and really meditate on each chapter. Since I did not have that luxury this time around, I can also say that reading it more quickly is also not without merit. I hope to return to this book sometime later, but this time was not a waste.

I got the opportunity to read this book through my membership in Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I would honestly recommend this book to anyone. And perhaps buy a copy for your mom or mom-friends as well.

Wholly Mary, a review: CNY has Chris Padgett and you don’t :P

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This book demonstrates why you should all be jealous that we in the Syracuse area has Chris Padgett now and you don’t.

Read in less than a week, this book is an excellent introduction to everything Mary. If you have any questions about Mary, pick this book up. If you have Protestant friends or family who really don’t understand your obsession with Mary, buy it for them. It’s a shame this book is $13 bucks (the Kindle is a little better at $10), but that’s really my only complaint about this book.

A couple weeks ago, we had a packed crowd for our Ladies Night Out Food and Faith. Chris spoke about the Bible story where Peter comes out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus. He was a very engaging, very funny speaker and I believe we all got a lot out of it. I bought two books, Wholly Mary and Holy Marriage, Happy Marriage. As soon as I had an opening in my reading schedule, I went straight to Wholly Mary.

As previously stated, it serves as a great introduction to Mary. It looks at her from both the Bible and Tradition to make sense out of all the wonderful and strange things the Catholic Church teaches about Mary. He goes further than that, however, in applying these teachings to reality and your personal life. I think he’d like me to say that above all, this book is meant to serve as an invitation to a deeper relationship with Our Lady and therefore with Our Lord.

Wholly Mary is available at your favorite booksellers. Chris Padgett now lives in the central New York area. We at John Paul II Center for Women intend to give him a lot of business, but if you need a speaker for your group, I’m sure we can fit you in.