Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Book Review: Arriving at Amen

Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer

by Leah Libresco
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2015

It is evident from the very first pages of "Arriving at Amen" that Leah Libresco is a highly intelligent woman. A former atheist, she came to believe in God through a logical process, a proof by contradiction.

She describes seven types of prayer: petition, confession, the examen, the rosary, the divine office, lectio divina, and the Mass, and shares how she came to understand and utilize these forms of prayer in her own life.

Unlike many of us who have embraced the Catholic faith since birth, Libresco has a constant spirit of questioning. She comes to these prayers from a radically different perspective. As an example, she attempts to explain transubstantiation via algebraic formulas. While such an explanation was beyond the intellectual capabilities of this reader, one has to give Libresco credit for originality and a fresh look at traditional prayers and rituals.

Libresco holds St. Peter in high esteem, describing him as having "a loud faith" - always bold, always questioning, always trusting in God, and always moving forward. It is this faith that she wishes to emulate and she invites her readers to go along for the journey.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Recommendations: Cobbled Court Quilts Novels

I read about the Cobbled Court Quilts Novels by Marie Bostwick on another blog and was eager to try them out. As someone who loves quilting and good fiction, I'm always on the lookout for leisure reading that combines the two. I started the series at book three. That wasn't intentional - it just happened to be the one that came in first on the library holds. I was able to pick up the series with no problem. While the books do go in chronological order, each one is a self-contained story with the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop and quilting as part of the story and can be picked up without having read the others.

The first two books in the series are A Single Thread and A Thread of Truth - Once again, I haven't read these two, but judging by the rest of the series, I have no reason to not think they would be great.



In A Thread So Thin , Liza is an adult orphan, whose Aunt Abigail has taken on the role of her guardian. is very rich and very used to getting her own way. Liza is a senior in college who has become engaged to Garrett, but she has also been given a once-in-a-lifetime job offer. Meanwhile, Abigail has taken over her wedding, planning every detail. Liza's always been a strong woman, but now she doesn't have a clue what she wants out of life. Can she figure it out before it's too late?

Tessa and Madelyn were best friends as children, but they had a huge fight and their lives went in radically different directions. Four decades later, they are both back in their hometown trying to start new businesses and new lives. Can they repair the damage from all the years before and find a way to move forward? Threading the Needle is all about the power of female friendship.


Ties That Bind centers on Margot, a forty year old woman who has been searching for a man to complete her for as long as she can remember with no luck. Now, she has made the decision that she doesn't need one. Plus, there are much bigger matters for her to contend with. Her estranged sister died in a car accident and left her six-year old daughter Olivia to Margot. Olivia's grandparents are contesting the last minute will, but Margot is determined to carry out her sister's wishes, even if an angry Olivia isn't talking to her.



In addition, there are two newcomers to town. Phillippa is the new minister who isn't at all what the board of the Church expected and Paul is a single father all the unmarried ladies now have their eyes on. This book is all about letting go of one's plans and accepting God's.

(Please note: this book does feature artificial insemination)

In Apart at the Seams (Cobbled Court Quilts), Gayla accidentally finds a memo on her husband's computer saying that he had an affair and wants to divorce her after 26 years of marriage. She flees their New York home and heads to New Bern, CT where they have a much-neglected vacation home. There she encounters the Cobbled Court women and starts to rebuild her life. Meanwhile, her husband, who assures her that he is incredibly sorry for the short-lived affair and that he had deleted the memo, sets out to win her back.



 The other major story line features Ivy who is facing the bad news that her abusive ex-husband is getting out of prison and wants to have visits with their children. She also has a new love interest and is trying to figure out what to do about her education, or lack thereof. This book's theme is forgiveness.

Between Heaven and Texas (Cobbled Court Quilts)
 is a prequel to the Cobbled Court Quilt Series. Fans of the books will recognize Mary Dell as a big-time quilt instructor from Texas who is friends with Evelyn, owner of Cobbled Court Quilts, but you don't need to know that or to have read any of those books to enjoy this one. It follows Mary Dell as she grows up in Texas on a huge ranch in a town called Too Much.  She faces her share of adversity, but she is a woman with pluck, personality and fashion sense as big as the state she calls home. You can't help but want her to succeed. This is a great book to read when you feel like life is giving you too much to handle. It's theme is making the best of what you got and the importance of sisterhood.






Thursday, June 25, 2015

Being Happy for Others Can Be Hard to Do

This is an excerpt from the reflection for today in Living Faith:

That I may . . . rejoice in the joy of your people . . . Psalm 106:5

Sometimes it's hard to be happy for another person. If we have longed for something for ourselves but fail to receive it, our heart can struggle with feeling envy or resentment when we find that in another person's life. . . It takes a generous heart to let joy for someone else enter in when that joy has been denied to oneself. To genuinely wish another well without self-pity or sorrow takes a big heart, one that leans strongly on the One Great Love who understands our pain. - Sr. Joyce Rupp

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review: Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children

by Sharon Lovejoy
New York: Workman Books, 1999

The first thing one notices about Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots by Sharon Lovejoy is how beautiful it is. Lovejoy's watercolor illustrations add so much to this book, making it inviting and a joy to peruse. It's a book about gardening with children and even those too young to read the words will love to look at the pictures.

Lovejoy offers a list of easy-to-grow plants for children and suggests theme gardens, such as the pizza patch, a sunflower house, and the flowery maze. There are also ideas for interesting containers to grow plants in. She also provides many practical, organic tips on helping your plants to grow.

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots will be enjoyed by anyone who loves to garden, but especially by those hoping to instill a love of gardening in their children. 


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Review: Images of America: Baystate Medical Center

Baystate Medical Center (Images of America Series)

by Thomas Higgins, MD and Linda S. Baillargeon
Charlestown, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2015

I've always been a local history buff and so I was excited to see this new edition from Images of America focusing on Baystate Medical Center, the largest medical facility in the Springfield, MA area. The roots of the medical center go back to Springfield City Hospital which opened its doors in 1870 in a farmhouse. It is interesting to read the historical text and view the images of the various institutions, buildings, and charitable donations would ultimately lead to the medical center we know today, which is still always in a state of change, evolving to better care for patients. The number of transformations also explains the various wings and configurations of the hospital, a building I get lost in every time I visit!

The medical center also has a storied history as a center for nursing and medical education. Images of the students and their dorms are also very interesting. One might be surprised to find that many of the doctors and nurses are photographed with a cigarette in hand - a sign of very different times!

This book would be of value to anyone who enjoys learning about Massachusetts history as well as to those who are interested in the evolution of medical care.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review: Inside the O'Briens

Inside the O'Briens: A Novel

by Lisa Genova
New York: Gallery Books, 2015

Inside the O'Briens is not the type of book I usually review. Focusing on an Irish Catholic Boston family, there are passages in this book that are so anti-Catholic they made my blood boil. In addition, the f-word is used so often, it almost becomes part of the background of the novel. There is also lots of premarital sex going on (although only one semi-graphic depiction). So, why am I recommending it? Because at the end of the day, this is an incredibly powerful pro-life novel about the value of life at all its stages and in all its circumstances, even the ones that are most painful to imagine.

Lisa Genova is a Harvard educated neuroscientist best known for her novel, Still Alice, about a woman suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's. In "Inside the O'Briens," she paints a portrait of a Boston cop suffering from another disease, this one much less well-known, but no less devastating. Huntington's Disease, which I admit I had never heard of before reading this book, is a way of life for 37,000 people in the United States. It is a genetic disease which means that children of someone who have it have a 50% chance of developing the disease.

Inside the O'Briens focuses on the cop himself as he faces life with this disease, and on his youngest daughter who struggles with making the decision of whether to find out if she carries the gene. There are also three other children who play less of a role in the story, and the mother, a devout Catholic, who has her own struggles facing this new way of life.

This is a well-woven story that educates and makes you think at the same time. It would be a great book club choice that would foster much discussion. Genova is hoping to raise awareness and money for Huntington's research through this book.






Tuesday, June 16, 2015

For Those Who Struggle with Fear

I was going through my pile of things to be read and came across an issue of Guideposts magazine from May 2014. In it, I came across an article about actress Sarah Drew (Grey's Anatomy, Mom's Night Out) whose father is a minister. He offered this advice to her about struggling with fear and anxiety and it seems like good advice for all of us (if not always easy to put into practice all the time):

While it is good from time to time to imagine the loss of things that are precious to you, it is not good to dwell there. God will give you want you need when you need it, not before. Practice aggressive thanksgiving for what you actually have now. The losses you fear may never come, so what's the point in thinking about them. Rather than letting fears about a future you cannot control fill your find, aggressively fill it with thanksgiving and good things.