Tag Archives: religious books

Buy It, Borrow It or Bag It: Dear Pope Francis by Pope Francis

Pope FrancisJesus once said “Suffer the little children who come unto me” and it is a directive that the Pope clearly takes to heart. Dear Pope Francis is, in my opinion, THE book of the religious season and makes a wonderful First Communion/Confirmation/Easter gift and good news…adults will like it too!

In this book, his Holiness, Pope Francis tackles the issues that are on the minds of 30 children throughout the world. Each child was asked to write a question and draw an accompanying picture (which are included.) They were collected by Fr. Antonio Spadaro S.J. (Director of La Civiltia Cattolica) and delivered to the Pope by hand in the Vatican. The pontiff told the editor that these children asked some very tough questions, but all of them are direct and to the point. Some are about Jesus, some about Catholicism and some about the Pope himself. While in Philadelphia, Pope Francis referred to one of the questions included in the book when he talked about the kid who asked, “What was God doing before he created the world?” He said he had to think quickly and provide an answer that was truthful, easy-to-understand and satisfactory to a child who really wanted to know. (BTW, the answer is a good one!) The Pope also takes into consideration the drawings of the kids, which he wisely discerned are often the key to understanding the question. This said to me that Pope Francis is a learned man who really knows how to “read between the lines.” Seriously, could we have a better leader than him?

It’s not uncommon for the Pope to speak to children, but it’s always nice when it happens and I feel books like these help restore our child-like faith. As I watched the coverage of the Pope’s visit to the US last year, it was obvious how much he loved being around kids. Although he was on a bit of a whirlwind tour, he absolutely LIT UP when he got to visit a grade school, see the kids’ projects, and talk to young people about soccer. This is a great book for young and old alike and I highly encourage you to buy it. It will be a treasure for your library and the perfect way to celebrate the Easter Season.

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Buy It, Borrow It or Bag It: Judas by Peter Stanford

Judas   I have never made it a secret that I have a great deal of empathy for this haunted apostle who was either the biggest traitor of all time or possibly a key figure in God’s overall plan, but I usually avoid reading a lot of books about him. My reason for this is simple…You can lay out every conspiracy theory out there, find a bunch of ancient writings, but in the end, we’ll still never know the truth.

This book was a little different though. Instead of offering up DaVinci Code level thoughts on the subject of Judas Iscariot, it instead offers up a history of how Judas has been portrayed in history, art and popular cultural. Stanford gives us a WONDERFUL look at this individual, what we know, what we don’t and the conclusions that have been drawn over time.

Although I chose this book because it didn’t purport to be a “be all and end all” account of Judas, I actually learned something. Stanford said commented that if you start looking at Judas based on the accounts of the gospels, you are starting from the wrong place. In actuality, the first writings that mention the events surrounding Jesus’ arrest are Paul’s letters, so that is where you have to begin and Paul never actually names names. Only the gospel writers do, but the story grows as the books are written. Though all four gospel writers name the same person as Jesus’ betrayer, who is he? Where did he come from? What was his function in the movement? Why does he get the equivalent of a last name? These are the questions that can’t be answered, yet historians, writers and artists have been willing to fill in the gaps which form our overall opinion of this guy and what ultimately happened to him.

When it comes to a religious history book, I think Stanford hit the nail on the head with this one by simply reporting the facts without offering extraneous opinions. You will learn that Judas’ reputation has evolved and changed with the times, is based somewhat on non-sacred writings such as The Divine Comedy and includes some of the most recent references to Judas in pop culture such as Lady Gaga’s single, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Last Temptation of Christ.

I highly recommend this book not for what it doesn’t say, but what it does. This was incredibly well written, non-exploitive and I look forward to reading more of Stanford’s work in the future. Buy it or Borrow It.

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Buy It, Borrow it, or Bag It: More than Happy The Wisdom of Amish Parenting by Serena Miller and Paul Stutzman

morethanhappy21715     I checked this book out of my library on a lark to have something to read while on my treadmill and I have to say…I LOVED it!!! Written in the same vein as Bringing Up Bebe this book spotlights the child rearing practices of the “plain” and what we can learn from them. Miller is someone who lives in Ohio and who has befriended a number of Amish families that agreed to be interviewed for the book. I have to say, I learned a lot.

I know very little about the Amish and I am smart enough to know that what I “think” I know about the Amish may not be correct. After all, like most Christian denominations, the Amish are subdivided so some of what I read in this book may apply to this one community while some of it may apply across the board. Understanding that what I learned may not apply to every Amish family (Lord knows I’ve heard my share of horror stories), I have to say I am impressed by the family focused attitude the Amish have.

Yes, they have a lot of children. Yes, those children finish school by the 8th grade, but these children never stop learning and they have a sense of responsibility that is enviable. Each child knows that they are an integral part of the family unit. It would never occur to them to sit back and let someone else do the job. They know that their contribution is just as important as the next person and the family will not function as well without it.

Although the Amish seem to be a patriarchal society, there is a lot of equality between the genders. Miller asked one woman if she felt that her place was lower than her husband’s in the family. The gal seemed genuinely surprised by the question and assured her that she felt she was her husband’s partner. Although he worked outside and she managed the house, she said it took both of them doing an equal amount of work to make the household function. The woman was then asked if she would want to work outside the home and she was quick to answer that sometimes she does when she is in the fields with her husband. (Keep in mind farming is often the family business so that would be the “outside job.” The author then asked about the fact that Amish women are forbidden to preach in the church…surely this was proof that women are considered to be second class citizens? The interviewee said she wouldn’t want to preach. She said church was the only time she really had to rest all week…why would she give that precious time up to do more work?

I was very impressed by the simple practicality that these people seem to live by. Family time is critical. They want their children to socialize and have fun. They do not put emphasis on material things and their focus seems to be in the right place. And if their children are any indicator…they must be doing something right.

If you see it…check it out. Borrow.






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Buy It, Borrow It or Bag It: The Shepherds of Fatima by M. Fernado Silva

The shepherds of Fatima         This is the story of the three shepherd children who were visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary near Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Ever since I was a young girl and had to study this story for religion class, I have been fascinated by it. Imagine, the mother of God coming to talk to you and performing a miracle that 70,000 people witnessed!
Assuming you have never heard of this, the basic version of the story is this: One day while tending the flocks, three children are visited by a beautiful woman who asks them to come back to this spot in the 13th day of each month. She says that if they do this, in October, she will tell them who she is and what she wants from them. Being good children (and suspecting that it is Mary who has made an appearance) the kids tell their family about the experience. They are met with skepticism, but as the months go on, they draw quite a crowd of the curious who ascend the mountains to watch the children go into a trance-like state as they talk to someone who no one else can see. Eventually, the local officials get involved and they lock the children up so that they can’t meet with Mary on the appointed day. When they are released, Mary meets them on the road and promises that in October, she will perform a miracle so that everyone will believe in the kids.
On a rainy October 13, the kids go to the appointed place (along with 70,000 onlookers) and the woman confirms that she is in fact the mother of Jesus…then something strange happened. According to newspaper reports, the clouds parted and the sun “danced” in the sky. People said it looked as though it spun around and then fell to earth before returning to its place in the heavens. The ground was immediately dried and there was no evidence of strange meteorological activity that day anywhere else in the world. Mary also told the children certain prophecies (one of which was kept secret until the pontificate of Pope Saint John Paul II) and made them promise to pray the rosary every day. Two of the children died within a few years of this event.
This book is the story behind the miracles. It uses material from Sr. Lucia’s writings (she was the only shepherd child to survive) and weaves together a novel-like narrative to tell this amazing story, some of which I believe and some of which I find suspicious. Over time, I can’t help wondering if some memories were embellished or if a bishop encouraged such embellishments to add drama and flair, but I really don’t know. I will say that this book was well-written and even though it is more spiritual in nature, I had no trouble reading it and getting a lot out of it. Worth the price. Buy It if you are into this sort of thing. Bag It if you aren’t.

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