Inspiring books about Saint Mary Magdalene

Today, July 22, is the feast of my patron saint, Mary Magdalene. No other person in the New Testament was defended so many times by Our Lord than this penitent woman. Jesus defended her against the proud Pharisee and her own sister, Martha, and against the deceitful, virtue-signaling thief, Judas. Not only that, Our Lord told us that she would always be remembered wherever the Gospels are preached.

Here are two of the best books I’ve read about Saint Mary Magdalene: one is of recent publication and the other was published in the 1800s.

Saint Mary Magdalene: Prophetess of Eucharistic Love by Father Sean Davidson (inspiring book about Saint Mary Magdalene, beautifully written, very inspiring)

The Life of Saint Mary Magdalene by the Reverend Thomas Preston (here is a link to the free scanned PDF format of the book on Archive.org). If you wish to get the physical book, you have to search for it on Amazon. I downloaded the PDF to my iPad and uploaded it to the iBooks app.)

I have read the book by Fr. Sean Davidson twice and I obtained even more spiritual treasures on the second reading. I am rereading the Reverend Preston’s book at this moment.

Early summer reading list

Here is my recommended reading list for the first half of the summer. I have read the books on this list, except for Theology for Beginners.

Expand your mind. Don’t become a zombie. Summer is a great time to sit quietly in a room or on the verandah) and read. Turn off the TV, the phone and the computer.

The Diary of a Country Priest by George Bernanos

Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset

Theology for Beginners by F.J. Sheed

The Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gasset

Murder at the Vicarage (a Miss Marple mystery) by Agatha Christie

I would recommend especially these two classics by Tolstoy. I read them a few years ago and I am re-reading War & Peace.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

A people without the Church

I have been reading The Diary of a Country Priest by George Bernanos, an excellent novel written in the form of a diary of a fictitious young country priest who has been assigned to a poor parish in the French-Flemish countryside. The most colourful character in the novel is the Cure de Torcy, an old priest in whom the narrator often confides. During one of the young priest’s visits, the Curé de Torcy makes an observation about the lack of faith in France and it applies to this day to us.

A people without the Church will always be a nation of bastards, foundlings. Of course, they can still cherish the hope of getting the devil to acknowledge them. And what a hope! Let ’em wait for their little black Christmas! Let ’em hang up their stockings! The devil’s tired of filling ’em with stacks of mechanical toys that are out of date as soon as they’re invented. These days he just leaves a tiny pinch of morphia or “snow” behind him — or any filthy powder that won’t cost him too much. Poor blokes! They’ve worn everything threadbare — even sin. You can’t have a ‘good time’ just because you want to. The shabbiest tuppence doll will rejoice a baby’s heart for half a year, but your mature gentleman will go yawning his head off at a five-hundred-franc gadget. And why? Because he has lost the soul of childhood.”

I read “The Diary of a Country Priest” in a couple of days. It is difficult to put down. Such a well-written book is almost impossible to find among contemporary authors.

What is it about? There isn’t much of a plot. It is the diary of a young rural priest who comes from a very poor family. He is ashamed of his poverty. He is assigned to a poor parish. He has to deal with hostile inhabitants who gossip incessantly, the snobbish count who lords it over the village, his own struggle with his faith and with fulfilling his onerous duties while battling a painful illness. The poor priest’s heroic struggle is a testament to Bernanos’s own deep faith in the Catholic Church.

Why do we suffer?

From “In the Likeness of Christ” by Fr. Edward Leen:

“When, at our being broken on the Cross, all the false idols which we worshipped in our hearts tumble into dust before our eyes, we must not allow ourselves to be still and motionless in the tomb of our dead selves. We must, laying hold on Christ, rise to a new life by setting up God Himself exclusively as a new object of love and worship in our hearts.”

“God permits us to suffer, not because He takes pleasure in our suffering, but because He sees that as things now are, it is only by suffering that are burned away in our souls the obstacles to the free operations of grace . . . The fruits of sin effects the destruction of sin in our souls.”

“Not all sufferings are salutary; it is only those that are endured in union with Christ.”

“If we look upon the pains of this life as an evil thing only, we . . . intensify the bitterness of life. If, on the other hand, we look upon sufferings as the necessary instrument in the purification of our souls . . . and if we draw from Christ’s passion the strength to bear them in humble submission to God’s providence, we, through them, free our souls from the contagion of mortality . . . “

“When nature is dead in us and its rebellious stirrings are quieted, we walk in the newness of life and in the peace of the Resurrection. If we consent to die with Christ, then we also shall rise from the tomb of our dead selves to live with Christ.”

(Note: The quotations above come from the chapter “The Resurrection” in the book “In the Likeness of Christ” by Fr. Edward Leen (access for free online at Internet Archive or order from Angelus Press)

Life on earth is not a satisfaction but a purification

The title of this post will shock most people because we live in a post-Christian age. Even those who call themselves Catholic (the spirit of Vatican II variety) will recoil at this statement. It’s not mine. It comes from the book, “In the Likeness of Christ” by the Fr. Edward Leen, published in 1936. Let me provide the full quote:

In language of stark and compelling simplicity, the cross expresses the christian theory of life on earth, namely, that life here below is not a satisfaction but a purification. Every instinct of fallen human nature revolts against this theory. To it, the world seems made for the enjoyment of such a being as man, and man is put into it. He has the capacity for enjoyment and the world supplies the means. This is the philosophy of natural man; it is utterly different from the philosophy of the cross.

In the Likeness of Christ, pp. 270-271.

Trials given to us by God are designed to purify us, to make us die to the things of this world, so that we are born into a new life, right here on earth, in God and for God. Pain and sorrow are the instruments which detach us from our sinful desires and our concupiscences.

When governments around the world ease the restrictions on work, leisure and travel, will we simply go back to business as usual?

I recommend reading “In the Likeness of Christ” especially the chapter on the Resurrection. Unfortunately the book is difficult to find. You can buy the book from Angelus Press or access it online for free on Internet Archive (difficult to read though). I will post more about this book later.

I discovered this book via a terrific podcast series called “The Spiritual Life” from Novus Ordo Watch. The series and the books by Fr. Leen (referred to in the series) have greatly benefited my spiritual life and given me a deeper understanding of the passion of Our Lord, the Resurrection, and the purpose of life.

Two highly recommended books for Advent and Christmas

Last year, I read two books for Advent and Christmas which I heartily recommend and which I will be reading again. Get these books now and start reading them during the Thanksgiving holiday so you will be prepared.

Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas by Father William Saunders (book review)

Meditations for Advent by Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet (Bishop Bossuet was a great orator in the 17th century. His works were favored by saints and Popes (such as Pope Pius XII). Because of his great piety and eloquence, he was considered the greatest preacher of his time)

Recommended reading for October (Holy Rosary Month)

Here are books I urge you to read this month. I’ve read them all and find them immensely helpful to my spiritual life.

The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis de Montfort

True Devotion to Mary: With Preparation For Total Consecration by Saint Louis de Montfort

Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon by Father Donald Calloway (meticulously researched book about the Rosary)

No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy by Father Donald Calloway (Surfer/ex-hooligan converts to Catholicism and becomes a priest!) – One of the best “conversion” stories I have read. Father Calloway was a wastrel and a petty criminal in his youth, but was converted by a miracle of the Virgin Mary, and has become the most vocal and well-known promoter of the Rosary.

My Prayer-Book (Happiness in Goodness) by Father Lasance: detailed review

This is a review of My Prayer-Book: Happiness in Goodness (Reflections, Counsels, Prayers and Devotions) by Rev. F.X. Lasance, first published in 1908. According to the description on Fraternity Publications website, this is a classic book of prayers and devotions, many with side-by-side Latin and English. It includes the Ordinary of the Mass, Reflections, Prayers & Devotions, Litanies, the Seven Penitential Psalms, Prayers for the Dead and much more.

But it is much more than a prayer book. The first 200 pages are devoted to reflections and counsels on how to be happy in the truly Christian sense of the word. They are useful particularly for meditation.

In the Introduction, Father Lasance says:

“In thought and tendency, My Prayer-Book purposes to be the embodiment of Christian optimism and altruism; the exponent of all that is helpful and invigorating in the Christian life — of whatever is calculated to promote man’s temporal and eternal welfare; it lays stress upon the fact that while the short cut to happiness is by way of self-renunciation, self-denial, self-conquest, self-control, in the following of Christ, nevertheless good cheer, heartfelt joy, and genuine happiness, far from being incompatible with the practice ofreligion, and of the Catholic faith in particular, are really the concomitant or rather the outgrowth and efflorescence of a virtuous Christian life.”

“My Prayer-Book aims to emphasize the fact that while being good we can enjoy in many ways this beautiful world which God has made for us, and which is truly a mirror of His own beauty and perfections; it aims to inculcate the lessons of nature; how all its beauties reflect the greatness and loving kindness of the Creator and should draw us to love our good God with a grateful heart.”

I bought My Prayer-Book because it is much lighter and less bulky than the New Roman Missal (which I have reviewed). My Prayer-Book contains many of the prayers in the New Roman Missal, as well as devotions. I travel frequently to many countries with only carry-on bags, therefore every gram counts.

If you already have the Roman Missal and want something more portable to take along with you in your daily life, then this is the book for you.

Pros:

  • Published in 1908, it is untouched by the “spirit of Vatican II” and Bugnini.
  • A vast number of prayers, devotions and litanies; 200 pages of reflections and counsels (useful for mental prayer/meditation).
  • Lightweight (291 grams or 10.26 ounces) despite having 730 pages.
  • Fits in a small purse and in your hand (10.5 cm x 16 cm x 2.25 cm) (4.13 in  x 6.3 in x 0.9 in).
  • Hardcover leatherette protects against the cover being bent during my travels.

Cons:

  • The paper is very thin and can tear easily, and the print on the other side of the page does show through.
  • The book is a fairly inexpensive reprint, not an original printed edition.

Here are photos of My Prayer-Book:

(1) It is more compact than The New Roman Missal and fits in the palm of my hand.

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(2) Screenshots of the first pages

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Note how thin the pages are!

If you want to examine the book in detail before buying it, you can download a scanned book version of My Prayer Book (PDF Format) from archive.org.

Taking a summer break plus summer reading list 2019

Dear readers, I am enjoying a summer break in the Mediterranean. That means swimming, swimming and more swimming. Daily sustenance: salads, grilled fish and vegetables, and wine (for lunch and/or dinner).

I may not post until September. Here is my summer reading list:

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, translated my Neville Coghill

The Spiritual Life and Prayer by Cecile de Bruyere

The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

The Summer of the Danes (Cadfael series) by Ellis Peters

Medieval Europe by Chris Wickham

Enjoy your summer! Don’t let the b*****ds grind you down. You know who I mean.