Archive for the ‘ Readers Den ’ Category

Finding Sanctuary

Finding Sanctuary by Abbot Christopher Jamison was written in response to the BBC television series in which five men spent forty days at Worth Monastery. Abbot Christopher addresses this book to anyone who would like to find sanctuary in his or her daily life. He walks us through the following steps: Wanting to Live a Good Life, Silence, Prayer, Obedience (and Humility), Commitment to the Community. Abbot Jamison’s final step for someone who wishes to find sanctuary is to participate in a religion: “A key task is for people to engage thoughtfully with their religious tradition and, from that base, to work with other religions to build peace.”

Seasons of Grace

Seasons of Grace: Wisdom from the Cloister by Mother Gail Fitzpatrick, OCSO, Abbess of Mississippi Abbey
This book is a series of “chapter talks” that Mother Gail gave to her community on Sundays and feast days throughout the year. She saw these talks as a way in which to encourage her community. My favorite talk is “Made for Love.” In this talk, Mother Gail says, “Saint Bernard labored to show that the inequality between the love of the creature and that of the Creator does not make any difference. Where love is concerned, there is no measuring. ‘For, although, being a creature, he or she loves less, because he or she is less; nevertheless, if he or she loves with his or her whole self, nothing is wanting where all is given.’ Again he wrote, ‘Love is the only one of all the movements, feelings and affections of the soul in which the creature is able to respond to its Creator, to repay like with like.’ We need from time to time to stretch beyond our little selves–or at least be open to being stretched–and realize that God is calling us to an actual union in love. This union is real, and it is for all of us–not just for the so-called saints. We need to be aware of our potential for this union. We need to be so grateful for it that we let our love pour out to others. This is the way love returns to its source.”

Strangers to the City

Strangers to the City: Reflections on the Beliefs and Values of the Rule of Saint Benedict by Michael Casey, OCSO, Cistercian monk of Terrawarra Abbey
This book is an insightful discussion of living according to the Rule of Saint Benedict. Michael Casey’s chapter on Christ includes a section on The Qualities of Love for Christ. In the section on “Personal love for Jesus goes hand in hand with the actualization of our deeper self,” he says, “When Jesus begins to emerge from the pages of the Gospel as a real person who engages us, then something begins to stir in our hearts that leads us in directions previously unconsidered. In the presence of Jesus the deeper, inner self comes to the surface and has a chance to refashion our lives.” This book takes on a path of what the refashioning might look like once we commit ourselves to seeking only God.

The Magician’s Nephew

Just finished reading The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. Aslan’s words to the new king and queen of Narnia are simple but significant:  “Be just and merciful and brave.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas

I just read a collection of essays on St. Thomas Aquinas. My favorite one is “The Theology of St. Thomas” by Aelred Whitacre, O.P., S.T., Praes.  In the Epilogue, Rt. Rev. Monsignor Gonne states,  “Daily his voice is raised in teaching, and his voice the Church has made her own, calming and satisfying the curious mind of youth with arguments and proofs justly conceived, powerfully reasoned, and nobly expressed.”

St. Thomas Aquinas: Being Papers Read at the Celebrations of the Sixth Centenary of the Canonization of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Held at Manchester. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1925.

Matthew Kelly’s four signs of a dynamic Catholic are prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization.

He is asking all Catholics to make small commitments in each of these areas to energize Catholicism for the people of our times.

Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain

I just finished reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain. This is the story of Merton’s conversion to Catholicism and his discernment of his vocation.

When Lax, one of his friends, asks Merton what he wants to be, Merton says, “A good Catholic.”

Lax answers, “What you should say is that you want to be a saint.”

Merton asks,”How do you expect me to become a saint?”

Lax says, “By wanting to.”

As someone who has found the many gifts of regular Lectio Divina, I appreciated the following:

“God often talks to us directly in Scripture. That is, He plants the words full of actual graces as we read them and sudden undiscovered meanings are sown in our hearts, if we attend to them, reading with minds that are at prayer.”

Reflecting on the cross, Merton says, “Learn from Him how to love God and how to love men! Learn of this Cross, this Love, how to give your life away to Him.”

While on retreat at a Cistercian monastery, Merton attends Mass: “The eloquence of this liturgy was even more tremendous. . . . These men, hidden in the anonymity of their choir and their white cowls, are doing for their land what no army, no congress, no president could ever do as such: they are winning for it the grace and the protection and the friendship of God.”

These are just a few of the enlightening insights found throughout the text.


Fahrenheit 451

I read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 on vacation.

“Classics . . . cut again to fill a two-minute book column. . . . Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline! Then, in midair, all vanishes!  Whirl man’s mind around so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!”

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies. a child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at the tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.  It doesn’t matter what you do . . . so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching. . . . The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

The Death of Ivan Ilych

Just finished Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych.  I think I should have read this book once every ten years from the age of 18 until today and that I should probably read it every ten years from now on.

As he is dying, Ivan experiences the following:  Suddenly some force struck him in the chest and side, making it still harder to breathe, and he fell through the hole and there at the bottom was a light  What happened to him was like the sensation one sometimes experiences in a  railway carriage when one thinks one is going backwards while one is really going forwards and suddenly becomes aware of the real direction

“Yes, it was all not the right thing,’ he said to himself, “but that’s no matter.  It can be done. But what is the right thing?” he asked himself and suddenly grew quiet.

All Quiet on the Western Front

On the 100th Anniversary of World War I, several of us at Maryville are reading All Quiet on the Western Front.

Here’s the introduction to the novel:  ‘This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it.  It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”