Category: Review

Book Review: In This House of Brede ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

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Rumer Godden
Loyola Press
1969 by The Viking Press, Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-0-8294-2128-6
Introduction by Phyllis Tickle © 2005 Loyola Press

A strange peace settled over me as I began to read Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede. From the first page to the last, amid all the turmoil and joy to be found in this cloistered community, this peace settled down and never left me. And more than that, it took me by surprise, I who subsist mostly on exciting and adventuresome literature.

I admire contemplatives. I loved, and continue to love, reading Thomas Merton; and about our saints and blesseds. But for myself, I have this nagging voice that tells me to get up and get going, and any time spent reading and relaxing is stolen from the important works and days of my life. And then the bell rings for nones and I am settled as a mist in the quiet valley.

Philippa Talbot, successful, professional, talented, approaching middle age, is the protagonist of In This House of Brede. She has risen up the ranks of England’s civil service to be one of the first and most influential women in her department. Well-educated, well-traveled, and well-heeled, Philippa has settled in to a life that many aspire to but few achieve. She is widowed (he died in the Second World War), and while she has a platonic and satisfying friendship with a sympathetic and charming married man, they were once lovers. All this is hers, and then she gives it up to live the life of a cloistered nun in a Benedictine abbey.

While it may seem sudden, her entrance to this new life is a long, inexorable progress to fulfillment through loss, and gain through abnegation.

Those of us who have never visited an abbey may imagine this life as serene, ordered, and deliberate…maybe what we have read about or seen in films. But I should have known that we may leave the world, but the world doesn’t leave us. All the human frailties can be found at Brede…even so can all the human perfections be found there as well. The running of an abbey of 90 nuns is as complicated as any corporation, and so it is with Brede: kitchen, bakery, sewing rooms, fields, orchards, buildings, living quarters, offices. And accomplished with what a corporation might have for petty cash.

Then Godden interweaves the story of a seeker just entering, showing all the fears and expectations she experiences. Then Godden throws real-life personalities into the mix and what a story it becomes! Jealousy, envy, love, admiration, skill, failure, success, tragedy, bliss…and woven through all of that, the love of God and God’s love for us, and how it can frighten or embolden us. While this may be a novel about religious life, the “religious” part is not a shield from the “life” part. But it is a guiding part and a goal as well.

I still find it hard to describe, this “strange peace” that permeates this book and which settles me down every time I pick it up. But part of what came to me is that religious life, contemplative and cloistered life is not “entered in to.” It’s more like the tide. There is a slow and progressive rising, sudden incursions of waves and their retreat, rising to the spring tide level and then just as deliberately falling away until the disorder of the ocean’s floor is visible…and back again. So while there may be joy, there will also be pain. Here, the fulfillment of Ecclesiastes is fully present, and its inevitability is part of what I see as comforting. So the only way to escape is to run full speed into the life.

For a Dominican, there is no more apt description. To be a Dominican means to voyage full speed into life, with God as the wind in your sails.

In This House of Brede is a sea voyage like Melville’s or Dana’s with shoals and deep water, wind and rain, sun and breeze. Its depiction of monastic life is inspiring. Its foundation in the changes within the Roman Catholic Church is brilliant. Its characterization is encyclopedic.

Rumer Godden has given us a book that will certainly prove a beacon in everyone’s quest within their own order, religious or lay or secular. As many reviewers have said, it is one of the few books they go back to time after time. It should be required reading for all monastic orders.

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Book Review: Sacred Space for Lent ~ The Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

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Sacred Space for Lent was written by the Irish Jesuits, and was the basis for my Lenten Studies.

This book was an excellent resource for this Lenten season that we have just journeyed through. As well as the Gospel reading for each day throughout the season, it also had daily reflections on the readings, so it was easy to picture the scene and to place yourself within the scriptures. It also focused on our failings and offered prayers for the appropriate Gospel sections.

Each week there was a deeper reflection and guidance for several topics on which we could think and pray for that particular week of Lent.

I found these very good to help me to keep focused on the true meaning of Lent and to journey through the Lenten season in a way that made me feel even closer to our Lord.

The book was very descriptive, well written and was very easy to follow on a daily basis.

I would score it 4 stars for the content that was obviously well thought through. The reason for me that it doesn’t get a 5 star score is because I like to see illustrations of what is being said as well as the writing as for me the two together give a fuller picture. This book was well worth reading but I would have also added the illustrations that were not presented within the book.

Movie Review: RISEN ~ The Rev L.S.T. Sherwood & The Rt. Rev. M.R. Beckett

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Risen is a 2016 American biblical drama film directed by Kevin Reynolds, and written by Reynolds and Paul Aiello. The film stars Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth, and Cliff Curtis, and was released by  Columbia Pictures  on February 19, 2016.

This is an excellent movie telling the Easter story from the sideways perspective not usually seen in movies and as such gives it a fresh and interesting perspective:  through the faith journey of a Roman Officer, the Tribune, Clavius.  The movie begins at an inn where the innkeeper, noticing Clavius` ring, brings Clavius to recount this story to him.  Clavius starts the moving story at the crucifixion scene with Jesus accompanied on either side by the thieves who are already on the crosses being crucified with Jesus.

Jesus`s mother, Mary was there among the large gathered crowd which consisted mostly of women. Clavius ordered the Roman Centurion at the scene to break the legs of the thieves but upon seeing Mary, Clavius decides to pierce Jesus through his side piercing his heart and lungs by himself instead. After Jesus and the thieves had succumbed to death, the bodies of the thieves were taken down and dragged to a pit where they were left to rot. In the film, I could almost imagine being stood there as the effects of the swarms of flies etc. made it appear very realistic.

Joseph of Arimathea, who was a secret disciple of Jesus, had sought and received permission from Pilate to take down Jesus` body and to place his body in a new family tomb he had. He took the letter of permission to Clavius and the body was given to Joseph.  The scribes however, were still very concerned about the stories going around told by Jesus` followers, namely that Jesus would rise again in three days.  They took it the Sanhedrin where they managed to get the Roman seal placed on the stone of Jesus` tomb and two Roman Guards were placed there to keep watch.

The Roman Guards had not slept in two days and had some wine with them which they drank and fell asleep, to be awakened by the noise of the ropes of the tomb blasting apart and the stone of the tomb rolling open. The guards saw Jesus in the body and panicked due to the fact that they, having fallen asleep, meant death by Roman law.  They fled to the sanctuary of the Jewish leaders who paid the only one who would speak to tell Clavius that the disciples of Jesus had stolen the body.  Clavius was ordered to search for the body of Jesus, and if necessary to find a body that could be identified as Jesus, so as to quash the rumors of Jesus’ resurrection.  All the recently executed dead were scrutinised to see if any could Jesus. None of the bodies that were looked would do.

Desperate to solve this riddle, Clavius hunted down first Mary Magdalen who had been seen near the tomb, then the other disciples. Clavius finally found the disciples all gathered together and Jesus was there amongst them. This part brought a smile to my heart, as this is where Clavius finally comes to believe and follows the disciples to Galilee where Jesus had stated they would see him again. The total change of heart and new found faith of Clavius was very realistically captured and was an extremely moving experience.

The disciples, together with Clavius, travelled to Galilee where they decided to do some fishing whilst waiting for Jesus but not one fish was caught. Then first thing in the morning, Peter saw someone walking along the beach and heard him tell them to try the right side, so out of faith Peter and the other disciples lowered the net as Jesus had instructed and the nets were over full with fish. When they came to the shore, they sat with Jesus and then watched as Jesus performed a miracle of healing on a man who was being kicked by others because he was a leper. After this, Jesus went to prepare a place for his disciples in his Fathers kingdom and he left the disciples the message that we still are told today, ”Go and tell tbe Gospel to all the world and to all nations”.

This film captured our hearts with the sheer beauty of the Lord’s love for us and what we should be doing today in his name for others. We are the disciples of today and are charged to do his works until his glorious return.  An inspiring story of faith, a fantastic movie, with the message given in a fresh and interesting perspective, we consider Risen to be a very moving and definiately worth watching film.  We give it 5 stars!!!!

 

 

 

Book Review:The All-Inclusive Christ by Witness Lee ~ The Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

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The All Inclusive Christ, by Witness Lee,  is a must read for anyone who truly wishes to have a fuller relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ.  This book is both very eye- opening and thought provoking.

It takes us on a wonderfully descriptive journey through the New Testament in the style of the good land and links it with the Gospels and the writings of Paul and shows us in depth of the many parts of Christ, and that to truly have a fuller and true relationship with him, we must live and relate to him and all these wonderful parts in every aspect of our lives. Jesus is the very valleys, hills and mountains of our lives. He is our constant refreshment through being the streams,  fountains and deep waters of our lives.  He is our food upon which we continually feed in him and t+e the food with which we feed all those that we serve.  This book gives plenty of examples of the All inclusive Christ in action in every stage of our lives. There is no situation however bad it may be, that cannot be lived with joy if we apply the All inclusive Christ to each and every single part of our lives.

Living the Call to Greatness – 25th Sunday of Kingdomtide ~ Br. Michael Marshall, Novice

8531186_origWisdom 2:12, 17-20

The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

James 3:16-4:3

Beloved:
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions
that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive,
because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Mark 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Donald Trump… Bill Gates… They are probably the most well-known extremely wealthy people in the world. They are where they are because they worked hard and possibly made extremely risky decisions, yet both are necessarily the most popular people with some socio-economic classes of folks. Donald Trump has been thought to have trampled upon others to acquire more and more of his wealth, and his arrogance shows he is not concerned for anybody but himself. On the other hand, Bill Gates is a little different. He has taken a computer software company from infancy to becoming the only real competitor to Apple; to the point that a PC not only runs Windows but other programs are so integrated into Windows, where Microsoft essentially has a monopoly within the computer world. In light of the success of Bill Gates, he has given to charity. He has been part of community service, helping those in need. Both individuals possess success because of what they have accomplished, yet what sets them apart is what they have done with that success.

We read in the Gospel that Jesus has been listening into the conversation between his Apostles; a conversation about who is the greatest, yet Jesus does not scold them for having the conversation. He does not tell his Apostles that it is wrong to strive for greatness and success, wanting to excel. He says it is only human nature to possess those desires, but it is what they do, or how they carry out actions, that truly determine greatness. He explains that following what God has instructed is what greatness is all about. One is to make a positive difference in the world by being a witness of God’s love, to give of oneself rather than focusing on the material and stature greatness.

How many times have we dreamt about wanting a little more money, wanting a better job with distinction, thinking that we would be happier in life? It is human nature to have those thoughts, and it is not wrong or sinful to have those things. It is just what we do in life with what resources we DO have that truly brings happiness, happiness to us AND God. Is it our purpose to be like Donald Trump, to acquire more and more, and to push others around? Or should we help our neighbor in need, using part of what we have for others? God commanded us to love one another, and that living that way is where greatness lies.

So… How can we go about doing this???  Here are some examples… Volunteer to read to home-bound folks, buy lunch for the next person in line at McDonald’s, be the ear for someone who needs to talk about tough issues in their life, but even better yet, it can be a smile and a hello as you walk past someone one on the sidewalk.  We are called to greatness through actions such as these!

The Desert of the Soul ~ Fr. Ken Nelan, Novice

9 March, 2014 – 1st Sunday of Lent
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19(20-21)
Matthew 4:1-11

We live a simple life of a simple love of a God who gives all good things.

Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Lent – a time of purification and introspection in preparation for not only our own renewal, but also that of the world around us. The sleep of winter is giving way to new life and we are again emerging from our cocoons and deep hibernation. It is during this time we often call out to our God to help us transition from old to new; from death to life – transformation in its truest sense.

Since the earliest moments in Church history we have prayed, fasted and given alms as a way of entering into the spirit of the Lenten season. It is no mistake that the Gospel text for Ash Wednesday every single year is Jesus’ advice on prayer, fasting and alms-giving (Matt 6:1-6, 16-18). During Lent that’s just what we do and we do it out of habit and because “we should”. But Lent is not just about helping others or about doing something because we must. It is about doing something which calls us to a higher form of renewal and healing.

Our first reading today reminds us not only that we owe our lives to the Creator, but that we are connected to everything around us in some way. “God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life…” We are formed from everything that surrounds us and as such deeply connected to one another and the world. But how often do we take time out of our busy schedules to recognize those/our connections? How often do we think about how my bad mood is going to affect those around me, or how my smile might impact the life of another person? How often do we pause to take notice that what we think, say and do affect the world around us? And so it was with Adam and Eve, what affected one affected them both and eventually the entire ecosystem of the Garden of Eden.

The Responsorial this week invites us into deep introspection. Yeah, it is easy to get caught up in the “Mea Culpa” and I’m a sinner, but even here we are invited to renewal and transformation: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” We’re not beating ourselves up here folks – we’re giving up old ways and committing ourselves to greatness. We are overcoming and moving beyond our infirmity through healing. It is easy to be sorry, but another thing altogether to work on ourselves so we do not keep committing the same grievous behavior time after time. It’s great to be sorry, don’t get me wrong, but during Lent we should instead try to discover why we do what we do so that we can transform.

I have a problem with the second reading – no surprise there really as I’m not one for browbeating or bacon-strips type theology, but if you get beyond initial impression of the reading you can see there is again the concept of connectedness coming from Paul’s assertion that through the Christ we are given a gift of rebirth and renewal – “…just as a single offense brought condemnation to all men, a single righteous act brought all men acquittal and life.” Yes, we do sin, but through the Christ we are born again. We’re again talking transformation here folks. Through Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection we are reborn.

But… the Gospel today shows us we’re in for it deep. Man oh man, when we pray we attach strings and try to connive our way into grace. We spread the banquet before the God and BEG for an equitable exchange much like the “Tempter” did with our Christ in the desert. “Turn these stones into bread and we’ll have a feast.” But Jesus knew exactly what was going on. In a way, and I know it’s a bit of a stretch here; we are looking at a mirror of our lives when we read Matthew’s account of the Temptation in the Desert. During our moments of crisis we do exactly the same thing. “oh God… Just this one hangover God… If you get rid of this hangover I’ll do ANYTHING! I’ll even go back to Church!” “God, please, let me get out of this ticket and I promise to be good for the rest of my life.” “Oh My God, please don’t let my child die… I’ll do anything… Please God – take me instead.” The more serious the things about which we pray the more we seem willing to give up in exchange.

We are not devils and we don’t really tempt the Christ, but it can be easy to make deals in exchange for good things. Such prayers can become manipulative if there isn’t real substantive change behind the prayers. Remember the old saying, “God helps those who help themselves”? If we ask God to do all the work and don’t lift a finger ourselves, then are we really willing to commit to change or do we want God to do all the work for us?

When we pray, rather than asking favors in exchange for something else, let our Prayer reflect a thirst for the ability to overcome – “Dear Lord, help me discover why I do what I do, so that I don’t do it again.” “Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of life. Help me to renew and change the lives of others around me.” Our Christ gave us the greatest example of prayer – “Father, I love you and I feel Your love for me. I will strive to be like the angels and saints. I will work hard for what you give me and share with those around me. Please forgive me of any wrong doing. I will forgive those who wrong me too. Protect me. Amen+”

When we Fast, instead of giving up the usual sugar and candy we should give up those things which are not in our best interest: greed, anxiety, gossip, hate, and so on. Give up the negative things so that we may be filled with love.

And in Alms giving, let us remember that even a smile can change the world of those we encounter. Alms isn’t so much about giving to the poor as it is about changing the lives of others, and ourselves, for the better.

Lent – a time of purification and introspection, a desert time in our spirituality where we can either wither away and dry up, or transform through relieving of ourselves those things which no longer serve our greatest good.

R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

In the name of the +Father, the +Son, and the +Holy Spirit, Amen.

God’s Tattoos ~ Br. Igor Kalinski, Novice

 

Isaiah 49: 14-18  Zion   said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the   Lord has forgotten me.”15 “Can a   mother forget the baby at her breast
and   have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I   will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of   my hands;
your   walls are ever before me.
17 Your children hasten back,
and   those who laid you waste depart from you.
18 Lift up your eyes and look around;
all   your children gather and come to you.
As surely as I live,” declares the Lord,
“you   will wear them all as ornaments;
you   will put them on, like a bride.

Israel was in trouble.  Again.  It seems that “God’s people” would never learn that they were, indeed, God’s people.  Like many people today who ignore God, pretend God doesn’t exist, or simply don’t care whether God is around or not until something goes terribly wrong and then they start praying and asking for prayer, the Israelites had come to their senses and had started asking God for help……and this time they were truly concerned that God had given up on them.  Forgot about them.  Isaiah speaks to the people and assures them that God will deliver his people.

Isaiah assures the people that the Redeemer of Israel will come in the day of salvation for his people.   He reminds them that in times of captivity, in times of terror by kings and princes, if they but worship God, who is faithful, a very powerful word will be placed in their hearts.  He reminds them that God is faithful, and that in the past they escaped from one place to another.   When the nation is faced with devastation , occupation, and deportation by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and his army, the people of Israel thought “Has God has forgot us?” but God says through the prophet Isaiah ‘me forget you?”

Have you ever seen someone with a loved one’s name tattooed on their arm?  What about the guy with his children’s picture tattooed on his shoulder?  Verses 15 and 16 of today’s passage tell us that God has US tattooed in the palms of His hands.  We are ever with God and he cannot forget about us.

Any storm shows us God’s voice and demonstrates His power.   We might ask, “Lord, have you forgot?”  We wonder how He can be present in the middle of your trials and in the midst of the intensity of the storm.  You, however, remain first in God’s thoughts.  He thinks of you, maintains you, gives comfort, and gives you strength.  When you are going through the worst that can you can go through, know that God has not forgotten you, and will never forget you.