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.

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How to deepen your devotion to Mary: tips on praying the Rosary, recommended books

This is the first day of May, the month of Mary. How appropriate it is that all the spring flowers are blossoming, the trees are full of fresh green leaves, and the days are getting longer. Joy, light, warmth and spiritual renewal are all attributes of Our Lady, the Queen of Heaven. How can we deepen our devotion to the  Mother of God?

The Rosary

The first thing I did when I came back to the Church was to pray the Rosary. I began by praying one set of mysteries (5 decades) everyday, and a few months ago, I started praying all three sets of mysteries (15 decades) daily. I have never missed a day since March 2017. Pope Leo XIII says:

“The rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.”

I recommend The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis de Montfort for those who want to get serious about praying the Rosary or those who have been praying it lukewarmly.

Don’t listen to the idiots who disparage praying the Rosary as meaningless mumbling. It is the single most effective way to meditate at home, on a long flight, waiting outside a doctor’s office, in an airline lounge, on trains and buses.

I often pray the Rosary when I go running or hiking. This is my form of walking or running meditation. But I only do this when running along a path that has absolutely no car traffic (e.g. along a river bank) or hiking in the mountains (again no cars) because I get completely focused and immersed in a meditative state. I picture in my mind each mystery, reflect upon what it is saying to me (each time the mystery tells me something else), ask Our Lady to obtain for me the fruits of each mystery. I also pray for other people and for the souls of my relatives and friends in purgatory. On a 45-minute run, I pray two sets of mysteries. I don’t carry my Rosary on my hikes or runs. I use my fingers.

Devotion to Mary

To get started with Marian devotion, read True Devotion to Mary: With Preparation For Total Consecration by Saint Louis de Montfort.

Meditate during each day in May with Month of Mary according to the spirit of Saint Francis de Sales by Don Gaspar Gilli.

St. Alphonsus Liguori’s The Glories of Mary is also a great book for those who want to bring themselves closer to Our Lady and to know her better.

Friday after Ash Wednesday, St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations and Readings for Lent

Friday after Ash Wednesday

THE CROWN OF THORNS

Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see king Solomon in the diadem, wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the joy of his heart.–Cant. iii. n.

This is the voice of the Church inviting the souls of the faithful to behold the marvellous beauty of her spouse. For the daughters of Sion, who are they but the daughters of Jerusalem, holy souls, the citizens of that city which is above,
who with the angels enjoy the peace that knows no end, and, in consequence, look upon the glory of the Lord?

I. Go forth , shake off the disturbing commerce of this world so that, with minds set free, you may be able to contemplate him whom you love. And see king Solomon, the true peacemaker, that is to say, Christ Our Lord.

In the diadem wherewith his mother crowned him, as though the Church said, “Look on Christ garbed with flesh for us, the flesh He took from the flesh of his mother.” For it is his flesh that is here called a diadem, the flesh which Christ assumed for us, the flesh in which he died and destroyed the reign of death, the flesh in which, rising once again, he brought to us the hope of resurrection.

This is the diadem of which St. Paul speaks, “We see Jesus for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. ii. 9). His mother is spoken of as crowning him because Mary the Virgin it was who from from her own flesh gave him flesh.

In the day of his espousals, that is, in the hour of his Incarnation, when he took to himself the Church not having spot or wrinkle (Eph. v. 27), the hour again when God was joined with man. And in the day of the joy of his heart. For the joy and the gaiety of Christ is for the human race salvation and redemption. And coming home, he calls together his friends and neighbours saying to them, Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost (Luke xv. 6).

2. We can however refer the whole of this text simply and literally to the Passion of Christ. For Solomon, foreseeing through the centuries the Passion of Christ, was uttering a warning for the daughters of Sion, that is, for the Jewish people.

Go forth and see king Solomon, that is, Christ, in his diadem, that is to say, the crown of thorns with which his mother the Synagogue has crowned him; in the day of his espousals, the day when he joined to himself the Church ; and in the day of the joy of his heart, the day in which he rejoiced that by his Passion he was delivering the world from the power of the devil. Go forth, therefore, and leave behind the darkness of unbelief, and see, under stand with your minds that he who suffers as man is really God.

Go forth, beyond the gates of your city, that you may see him, on Mount Calvary, crucified. (In Cant. 3 .)

Meditations and Readings for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas, Translated by Father Philip Hughes (London, Sheed and Ward, 1937)

Get these two books on Lent meditations

Today is Septuagesima Sunday. Between today and Ash Wednesday, the Roman Catholic Church observes a short period of transition between the joys of the Epiphany and the penitential period of Lent.

Catholics should use this time to identify what they need to do during Lent to deepen their spiritual life, to root out sinful tendencies that occur over and over again, to cultivate a daily practice of mental prayer, and get deadly serious about going to heaven. Don’t wake up on Ash Wednesday without a plan.

If you don’t believe in Hell and the Last Judgement, or treat them as distant imaginary places that illiterate peasants in the 12th century believed in, you’re in big trouble. If you are barely spending 15 minutes a day praying, you are also in deep trouble.

Here are two books which contain daily Lent meditations. Reading each one takes little time. What takes time is meditating on what you have read. Plan on meditating for at least 15 minutes.

Meditations for Lent by Bishop Jacques-Bénigne 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.

Meditations for Lent from Saint Thomas Aquinas

You can’t go wrong meditating on the writings of the great Doctor of the Church. The book starts with Septuagesima, so you can get started today.

***

I urge you to pray at least 5 decades of the Rosary in addition to your daily meditation. If you manage to pray all 15 decades of the Rosary everyday devoutly, meditating on each mystery with great concentration, you’ll come out of the Lenten season a totally different person. Go to Confession regularly. Fast every Friday, and perform corporal and spiritual acts of mercy (alms giving, praying for your relatives, friends and enemies, and praying for the souls in Purgatory).

Ghost stories at Christmas

The British have traditionally told ghost stories at Christmas. That is why Charles Dickens wrote his famous story, “A Christmas Carol”. However, the most famous and best ghost stories were written by Montague Rhodes James, better known as M.R. James, a medievalist and provost of King’s College, Cambridge.

His stories were filmed by the BBC in the 1970s. You can find some of them on YouTube.

You can download M.R. James’s short stories for free here. They are best read aloud in a small cozy room, preferably with a fire going, glasses of port or sherry or wine at hand, and candlelight, on a cold, snowy night. Each person in the room should take a turn reading the stories.

Book Review: Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas

If you are curious about the customs and feast days of Advent and Christmas, and you want to prepare yourself and your family for a truly fruitful (and fun) Advent and Christmas, this book by Father William Saunders is exactly what you need. It isn’t a long book. I finished it in a couple of days.

Some of the topics covered:

  • Origins of Advent
  • Symbolism of the Advent wreath (holly, ivy, and the four candles)
  • Suggestions for a good Advent preparation
  • Special Role of St. Joseph
  • Christmas greenery and plants
  • Octave before Christmas (the O Antiphons, Vespers)
  • Origins of the Christmas creche
  • Christmas tree
  • St. Nicholas (Santa Claus)

If you have children, I think it would be great to read parts of the book to them. Many of our traditions go back several centuries and the stories behind them are fascinating. Father Saunders also offers spiritual reflections that will make this Advent and Christmas more meaningful. Moreover, he doesn’t stop at the Nativity, but also devotes several chapters to the Feast of the Holy Family, The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, The Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord and Candlemas Day (the feast of the Presentation).

Get the book now:

celebrating a merry catholic christmas

Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas: A Guide to the Customs and Feast Days of Advent and Christmas by Father William Saunders

New Roman Missal by F.X. Lasance: a detailed review

This is a review of The New Roman Missal in Latin and English by Rev. Francis Xavier Lasance and Rev. Francis Augustine Walsh, O.S.B. (with an illustrated study plan “Read Mass with the Priest” by the Very Rev. Msgr. William R. Kelly, Ph.D.) reprinted by the Christian Book Club of America. Imprimatur: Francis J. Spellman, D.D. – 1945. Softcover; 1800 pages with gold coloured page edges. Original 1945 reprint without revisions; additions were made according to Papal decrees dating from 1945 to the end of Pope Pius XII’s reign.

I bought The New Roman Missal by Father Lasance because I was looking for a pre-Vatican II missal with Latin and English side-by-side. I purchased this book from Daughters of Mary press for US$65. It arrived in excellent condition.

The New Roman Missal contains the Tridentine Mass with complete Latin and English  text for the Ordinary and Propers of the Mass plus:

  • Liturgical calendar
  • General devotions (a vast number of traditional prayers)
  • Notes on the Ecclesiastical Year and the Sacred Liturgy
  • Accounts of feasts and lives of the saints

Pros:

  • Douay-Rheims versions of the Epistles and Gospels
  • Many prayers for every occasion and purpose (I often say the Morning prayers and prayers after Communion from the Missal)
  • Very clear pictures of the priest’s movements during the Mass
  • Explanations of the requisites and prayers of holy mass, furniture and articles on the altar and in the sanctuary; sacred vestments
  • Accounts of the lives of the saints
  • Untouched by the “spirit of Vatican II” and Bugnini

Cons:

  • Because the missal fits in the palm of your hand, the publisher had to make the text very small, so it is difficult to read in low lighting. If your eyes are not good, either get reading glasses or don’t buy this missal.
  • Pages are very thin (to reduce the weight of the missal) so they can tear easily and you need to be careful when moving the coloured ribbons.

Here are photos to give you an idea of what it looks like:

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Here is the PDF version of The New Roman Missal (handy for when you are traveling only with carry-on bags to a place without a Catholic mass).

Further reading:

Comparing Catholic Missals