Monday, November 24, 2014

Autumn Reading

I have the good fortune to be able to enjoy a couple of good books per month. Wuthering Heights is somewhat dark due to the bitterness of mismatched love. Emily Bronte is the author and is one of  three sisters who wrote novels that became enduring classics. I love to read about the English countryside. No doubt, it is almost as pretty as our own dear surroundings!
I decided to read Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, after hearing it referred to it all of my life. The chaos wasn't as bad as I had expected, but (spoiler alert!), that is because the boys are rescued from the island that their plane had crashed on before things got any worse. It is a story about Human Nature, and the kinds of ways that different people deal with adversity and the styles of  leadership that comes out as a result of that.
The String in the Harp, by Nancy Bond has been on my bookshelves for at least ten years without having being read. it is very unique and takes place in Wales. It is set in  modern times with flashbacks to a thousand years ago. Old Welsh Myths and Legends are featured which I don't have much experience with. The story takes place in a family with three children during the year after their mother died. Their Dad is so preoccupied and the young people have to work together to solve the mystery of the harp tuning key found on the beach near their home in Wales. I really enjoyed this novel for young adults.
Mary Barton was written by Elizabeth Gaskell, and takes place in England during 1849. The story pits the rich factory owners against the workers who live hand to mouth. The poverty featured is so severe that children are actually starving to death. The money they make in one day goes to buy their bread the next. The disparity in circumstances between the common folk who are suffering so badly in cold and hunger and the rich fancy folks who seem to have it all causes one man to loose it and murder the factory owner's son. The murderer then sees the true suffering that each human being experiences and the factory owner sees the extent of the desperation facing his workers. Meanwhile there is the story of the womenfolk involved, their loves, hopes and hardships as they make homes for their families.
The Porter of Saint Bonaventure's, The Life of Father Solanus Casey, was written by James Patrick Derum. This was a fantastic biography of a very humble priest and the countless miracles that occurred for other people as the result of his prayer and complete trust in the Lord. This fellow was literally the "door opener" at the different monasteries where he lived.  Word of his holiness spread and folks came from everywhere to seek his counsel and to ask for his prayers in the difficult situations of their lives. He enrolled his visitors in the Seraphic Mass Association ( Masses celebrated by Capuchin Priests throughout the world) and he attributed all the miracles that occurred to the power of the Mass but never to himself. This was such an inspiring book because Fr. Casey truly accepted his humble job and had no personal ambitions except to do the Will of God only, and amazing things happened as the result of that.
Rediscover Catholicism, by Matthew Kelly was a very truthful analysis of the fact that the Catholic Church is at a bit of a crossroads. Something is not working, in that "Former Catholic" is now one of the largest denominations out there! This young man claims that the purpose of religion is to help each one of us become "the best-version-of ourselves".  He discussed Catholic Spirituality and how it can be relevant in dealing with the problems of our modern lives. He basically asserts that if we want the Church to change for the better, then we have to be  the change we want to see, by living and loving well. This book isn't about controversial issues, but about being authentic carriers of Christ's love into the world. Prayer, Fasting, the Rosary, The Eucharist, good Spiritual reading, studying the life of Christ in the Gospels, Journaling, and the discipline of forming better, more effective daily Habits are some of the methods he suggests.

For myself, I am not as concerned about which brand of Christianity one chooses to help one love and serve the Lord, as I once was. The scandals and corruption of recent memory may take a hundred years to recover from. For me, I love being Catholic. I have found the Church's teachings to be correct in helping me to be really happy. Many of those lessons were learned the hard way. Someway, somehow, we have to be able to transmit the love of God to a world that is hurting.
Holy Spirit, Breathe your Life into us as a Church and help us to bring your love and compassion into our world.
I treated myself to a rereading of Persuasion by the amazing Jane Austen. Such a character study of a very fine woman who at the age of 19, is persuaded out of marrying a handsome dashing fellow of uncertain prospects. She remains single and is unappreciated by her shallow father and older sister who are vain and pretentious. She serves her relatives by caring for their sick child and by keeping them company on extended visits. The gentleman who has distinguished himself, as she knew he would, comes back and the couple finds themselves as much in love as ever. They regret the eight years they have been apart, although during that time their individual characters continued to improve, not decline! They are well suited for matrimony!  It is always a pleasure to read an Austen novel. Indulge yourself!