Book Review- Dear Communion of Saints by The Ironic Catholic

This book was flippin’ hilarious.  I caught wind of it a few weeks ago after discovering the Ironic Catholic (a.k.a. Susan Windley-Daoust) and her blog.  This piece of work is exactly that, a piece of work.  It takes common (and not so common) questions from the Church Militant and taps the shoulder of the Church Triumphant to field them.  For every question, one or two canonized Saints responds with a soft shell taco filled with the guacamole of humor, the lettuce of common sense and the meat of undeniable truth.  The result is a delicious literary snack for Orthodox Catholics to munch on at any moment of the day.

In one of the questions, the Ironic Catholic herself questions why mothers are unable to bilocate.  She argues that such a grace would be very helpful for a mother whose son is dipping his hand in the cookie jar while she bathes her youngest.  She interrogates the Communion of Saints as to why this particular grace has only been given to consecrated religious nuns and priests up until this point.

The responder is none other than famed bilocator, St. Padre Pio.  He tells her in short discourse that she knows not what she asks, that it is greater to seek Christ first and allow the graces to flow from that love, not the other way around.  To keep the mood light, he finishes saying that the mother should put brussel sprouts in the cookie jar.  Problem solved.

This book is a quick read for Orthodox Catholics looking for a lighthearted giggle as well as “casual” Catholics who are looking to awkwardly laugh with everyone else around them even though they don’t quite get the jokes.  In either case, I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions as I read it, mainly because the Communion of Saints were laughing right along with me.

If you like this book, you might want to try Saint Watching by Phyllis McGinley.

Book Review- The Church and New Media by Brandon Vogt

For the past 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has survived numerous attacks, slanders, conspiracies and persecutions.  It is considered to be “the Bride of Christ”, “the communion of God’s people” and “the pillar and foundation of truth”.  Besides having celestial protection, one of the aspects that makes this Church so great is that it is constantly evolving to better serve its people.

Brandon Vogt’s book, The Church and New Media, is a perfect example of how the Church evolves in its capacity to spread the Gospel message in the new age of communication.  Social media has become the foundation of the current generation, and Vogt’s book introduces readers not only to the new technologies, but to the the main players of those technologies.

For example, when introducing blog technology, he passes the baton to Mark Shea, famed Catholic apologist and writer, to better describe the do’s and don’ts of blogging.  When mentioning the online community, contributor Lisa Hendey goes into great detail as to how to foster them.  In each aspect of social media, Vogt consults with the masters of each domain to paint the best picture of the Christian’s role in online evangelization.

From social media beginners to tech savvy sages, this book is a must have for all Catholics who find themselves online on a regular basis.

The World’s First Love by Fulton J. Sheen


Front CoverVery few books have the ability to envelope one’s mind and soul as much as Fulton J. Sheen’s, The World’s First Love.  I must admit that for the past few months, the majority of my time has not been dedicated to the Guardian Angels of Education.  Rather, it has been dedicated to savoring the spiritual food that this book presents.  On every page it seemed like there is something delectable to chew on, to ponder, and to fall more in love with in regard to Our blessed Mother.  
It has been a month since I finished this book, and as I write this post, I am still enamored with the vibrations of Sheen’s words.  His sheer love for our Spiritual Mother is painted in the eloquence of his words that so beautifully describe her. In this book, he describes Our Lady’s role our tireless spiritual companion and he calls us to recognize her importance amongst the backdrop of modern society.  
One of the arguments he makes is that the roles of both men and women have changed  since the promotion of a equality amongst genders.  He claims that since men and women are becoming more and more “equal” in the economic and social senses, the rearing of “real men” and “real women” has been affected to a point that little honor is given to either of the sexes.  He argues that women and their innate nurturing dispositions are the foundation of functional society.  Like Mary, their ability to foster boys and girls into “real men” and “real women” is pivotal to the survival of our race.  Without strong women, both men and children lack direction and love.
As I stated before, this book is filled with so much spiritual “meat” that every page requires the reader to ponder in their hearts the meaning of Mary’s role in their lives as well as her importance to Christ’s plan of salvation.  It is the best book I have read in many years and I recommend it to anyone who has questions about Mary or the Catholic Church in general.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

The Educator’s Life Journey By: Antonio Botana, fsc

In all of the articles I have read throughout my brief, yet very involved Educational career, none have made more of an impact on my Educational beliefs than “The Educator’s Life Journey” by Brother Antonio Botana. This masterpiece draws out a framework for educational success that combines the logical with the spiritual. Through St. De La Salle’s charism, Botana gets straight to the root of what every Christian Teacher’s motivation should be as they go about their daily vocations.

Whether you are serving the poor, the rich, public schools or private, Brother Antonio outlines your mission and allows the Holy Spirit to fill in the lines with your talents.

Please, take the time to read this invaluable and free Lasallian resource. It will certainly help you understand God’s will for the schools in which you serve.

Click here to view the The Educator’s Life Journey in its PDF entirety.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

Summer Reading- Enrique’s Journey

We are a nation of Immigrants. Some of us are generations removed from our immigrant relatives while others arrive daily by risking their lives to cross the imaginary borderline that separates them from poverty and hopelessness in the native countries. Their story, and those of our immigrant ancestors is depicted in Sonia Nazario ‘s masterpiece, Enrique’s Journey.

While the story of immigration may be universal for all Americans, the specifics vary in detail. Most of our relatives came by boat from the Eastern Hemisphere while others, like Enrique, have traveled in a more contemporary, but equally dangerous route- atop the ever-curving train cars underneath the blistering Mexican sun.

From the beginning of this book, the reader is enticed by the sheer grit that Enrique must face to travel by himself to the united States from Honduras. While in his middle teens, he embarks on his journey not for economic stability, not for pride, and not for adventure- he does it for love. His mother left him to go al norte when he was just five. He misses her, and he wishes with all of his heart to be with her again.

The author tells Enrique’s story against the backdrop of factual information. She spent years traveling the route that most Central Americans take to enter into the country illegally. Using recent statistics, she paints a vivid picture that encompasses the ideological motives of those who seek a better life for themselves. She joins these ideologies with real life testimonies from those who have lived, and continue to live, through the struggle of globalized poverty.

This book does a fantastic job of joining the pros and cons of illegal immigration into a gut-wrenching love story of Enrique’s life. It is a must read for all teachers, especially those who serve migrant, children of migrants, and impoverished students with problems at home.

For more information on Enrique’s Journey, including pruchasing information, click here.

Live Jesus in our hearts, forever!

Those Silly Saints

We Catholics put our Saints on top of a pillar of holiness. But did you know that St. Simeon Stylite lived on top of a pillar to achieve holiness… for 37 years!

The Saints were so human.  They’re also funny and quite entertaining. The book Saint-Watching by Phylis McGinley is a compilation of stories that range from the hysterical to the downright weird of those canonized brothers and sisters of ours.

Here are a few sneak peeks:

St. Christina the Astonishing hated the smell of unwashed flesh. So, when the poor and needy came to honor her during her funeral, her coffin rose to the ceiling to get away from their dirty stench. Being the obedient Nun that she was, she (and her coffin) came back down at the scoffing of the priest doing the service.

St. Bridget could make hens lay eggs on command for visitors. She could also make trees shake their fruit to the ground.

St. Ignatius (who apparently was quite the pool shark) was robbed (not playing pool). Two weeks later, he had heard that his thief had gotten sick. So, he traveled 100 miles on foot to take care of him.

St. Mary Mazzarello, after receiving her last rights, said, “Well that’s my passport. I expect I can leave now!?”

St. Charles Borromeo was apparently a chess whiz. So much that he was once quoted saying, “If the end of the world came, I’d keep playing chess.”

Last but not least, St. John Bosco was commonly thought to be crazy by his co-clergy. When they came to take him to the asylum, he cordially allowed these fellow priests to enter the carriage first. Once they were in, he slapped the horse and yelled “To the asylum!” Since the men at the asylum were awaiting a “crazy man,” they were not surprised to see two that claimed they weren’t John Bosco.

Want more? By the book at ebay or Amazon for a buck and enjoy the softer side of the Saints.

Phyllis McGinley
Hardcover: 243 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult; Second printing before publication. edition (August 18, 1969)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0670167754
ISBN-13: 978-0670167753

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

Lost Sheep, Smart Answers and Bad Jokes

I came across a book last year that was filed with knowledge and humor. It is called “Smart Answers and bad jokes, from a priest who proves God has a sense of humor, by Fr. Joe Krupp of the diocese of Lansing, Michigan. The book is a collection of apologetic responses to questions given to Fr. Joe by curious Catholics. They would write in to him and he would respond (with a unique touch of Christian humor, I might add) through his column in FAITH Magazine. This book is a collection of these columns that help explain the misconceptions of the Catholic faith and it is also the inspiration for today’s reflection. Click here to find the purchase details of the publication, I would highly recommend it.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself as “The Good Shepherd” (John 10: 1-21). In making this metaphor, He eludes to the fact that we are His sheep that are more often than not lost. He guides us towards His glorious “pasture,” another metaphor that represents our constant communion with Him and with all of His creation.

In order for us to enter this pasture, however, there is a requirement on our part to be obedient to our Shepherd.

Take the following picture for example.

At first glance, we see Jesus leading His sheep along the pasture. We also notice the lamb that He is carrying on His shoulders. We could infer that this was one of the lost sheep that Jesus found wondering away from the flock (Matthew 18: 10-14). To this we might think “how great is our God to have found us so that we can follow him closer as opposed to being lost and away from Him and His flock.”
Although that might be our first impression, not a bit of it is true to reality. The truth is that the sheep that Jesus carries on His shoulders is wounded with a broken leg.
At this point, I will allow Fr. Joe Krupp to explain why this is so important:

“The lamb’s leg is broken because the shepherd broke it. …[I]f a shepherd has a sheep that will not stay with the group and tends to wonder around, he’ll break its leg and carry it around until the leg heals. This is for two reasons. First, because “a sheep that wanders is a sheep that is dead…” Second, once the lamb’s leg heals, it will not leave the shepherd’s side- ever.” (p.108)

Really makes our interpretation of this picture much different, doesn’t it?

So, how is your obedience to the Good Shepherd?
Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

Summer Reading- “Meditations for the Time of Retreat”

Summer is upon us which means teachers everywhere will be taking advantage of Summer break. I am hoping that many of us will pick up a good book to help us with our spirituality. The book I am recommending in this entry will do just that. It is called “Meditations for the Time of Retreat” by St. John Baptist De La Salle.

As many of you have seen, I have added a couple of pictures to the bottom of the blog. The first is of St. John Baptist De La Salle (1651-1719), Patron of Christian Schools in the Catholic Church. This man was a pioneer for spirituality in the classroom and established many of the common practices we follow today.

La Salle’s vision went deep enough to establish a religious congregation made up of men who were willing to serve as life-long teachers. These men, today known as “Christian Brothers,” have dedicated their lives to the construction of God’s children inside the classrooms of Christian schools. Their community is a worldwide fraternity that has vowed life to teaching, obedience, poverty, and communal life. In the past 300 years, their ministry has been blessed to cover over 85 countries in which Lasallian schools offer Christian education to over 700,000 children and young adults.

Now that you know the history of the author, I must implore that you read his book, “Meditations for the Time of Retreat.” From the Introduction by Brother Miguel Campos F.S.C. to the direct and logical style of La Salle, this book is a must read for anyone who has been called to the vocation of Teaching. In all truth, there is so much wisdom in this book that it is hard to pick out one quote or phrase that would touch upon the profundity of La Salle’s words. It is simply a necessity for any Christian teacher because it touches on several themes that we practice everyday in our classrooms.  Some of these topics include how to live our Christianity as Teachers, how to discipline our poorly beaving students with dignity, and how to keep all of our pupils away from the sins.

The best part about this book is that it is free. You can download the PDF file at any time. Start on page 412 to read “Meditations for the Time of Retreat.”

If you have trouble, click here to go to the Lasallian website where La Salle’s complete works can be downloaded in English. Then, search for “Meditations for the Time of Retreat,” place yourself in the presence of God and read the words of this great Saint.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

Books for Students- A Wrinkle In Time

Many classic and contemporary books that demonstrate Christian virtues and themes have found their way into our public and private school curriculums. While the majority hinge on the triumph of Good over Evil, there are others that go even deeper into the Christian faith without necessarily revealing the Gospel messages in the literal sense. Like all faith, there dwell within these books the mysteries of truth that can only be found when we dig deeper and practice the grace of inferring from the text a richer and deeper meaning.

The first book dedicated to this section labeled “Books for Students” is the 1962 classic, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
Title: A Wrinkle In Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Genre: Science/ Fantasy Fiction

Grade Level: 5th grade and higher

Academic Themes: Inference (Reading), Profundity (Reading) ,Communism (Social Studies)

Christian Themes: Talents, Effects of Sin, Guardian Angels, Vanity, Uniqueness, Empathy, Faith in others, Power of love.

Review: It begins on Earth when three children, Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Cal meet. For being different, they have become outcasts in their community and the fact that Meg and Charles Wallace’s father has been missing for a year makes the beginning of this story even more saddening. As they struggle about their lives, they encounter three women who swift them off into a different galaxy in order to help them find, and save Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, Mr. Murry. Mr. Murry is being held against His will on a planet called Camozotz, where everyone is controlled by “the dark thing,” which is defined by the author as “evil itself.” On this planet, a demonic being known as IT moderates the population by brainwashing them to become similar in every way. If anyone is different, sick, or rebellious, they are done away with on this planet. The reasoning behind this is the same as communism, if everyone is the same, there should be no problems.

Eventually, the children find their father but not until after Charles Wallace is succumbs to IT and becomes evil. Meg and Cal escape before they are overcome by IT to another planet occupied by “Beasts.” During the travel, Meg is infected with the darkness but it eventually nursed to health by the empathetic Beasts who have the power of supreme understanding patience and forgiveness, much like the God of Christianity. After arguments and struggles of realizing the truth from the blind and patient beasts, Meg is nursed to health and sent back to Camozotz to rescue her brother. In the end, Meg saves Charles Wallace through love, which overcomes all evil all darkness and places superior the communication in the hands of people who understand that actions speak louder than words.

This book was written after WWII when communist Russia and China were establishing themselves as world powers. Camozotz is a symbolic representation of communism and the evils it produces.

There is so much Christian symbolism in the book. The only recommendation is that our students first know how to infer and dig deeper into the intellectual symbols before reading this sometimes difficult-to-understand piece.

Basic Details
Paperback: 269 pages
Publisher: Thorndike Press; 1 edition (March 14, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0786273356