Links to other good places

I’m going to consolidate this blog into Riparians.  (Long story behind how I ended up with two blogs in the first place.  Like most of the best things in my life, it just sorta happened.)    In time I will get my links moved over and all that, but I’m going to go ahead and start posting only there.  Same amount (chuckle chuckle) of  Homeschooling, Castle News, Catholic Topics, etc., just over at the other place.

Happy New Year.



Annual Reminder:  The on-line Catholic Writer’s Conference is coming up again, Feb 26-Mar 10.

To review:  It is free, it is helpful, it is open to any catholic writer, aspiring or accomplished.  You can participate as much or as little as you want.

Great event, highly recommended.  Go register.

I’m a new reader to Eric Sammon’s blog, The Divine Life.  He recently compiled a list of his top-ten posts for the past year, and I thought this one was mighty enjoyable:  Really Catholic and Uber Catholic. Too true, too true.    Naturally I have to like any quiz that accurately paints me for the moderate that I am.  Don’t mind the combox.

Enjoy.  Happy New Year!

Mary, Mother of the Son, by Mark Shea – Three Volume Set

So I’ve been telling you since, oh, Labor Day, to go buy these books.  It’s not just because I’m a Mark Shea groupie, though I’ll admit there is certain evidence of that.  Here’s what I found, and what I liked:

Book 1, Modern Myths and Ancient Truth, opens with a hilarious and painfully-accurate portrayal of the usual misunderstandings between Catholics and Evangelicals concerning Mary.  Shea then moves into a exploration of the “facts” behind The Da Vinci Code, as a study in how pseudo-history can be used to make bogus claims about hot topics.    It’s a detour that lays out some principles for how to evaluate other historical claims.  Nicely done, and gives you some bonus knowledge.  The remainder of the book then turns to the common accusations against Mary — she is a pagan myth warmed-over, a medieval invention, catholics worship her as a goddess, etc etc.

–> I think Mark Shea convincingly makes his case, though of course, I am catholic, so that might have some bearing on my opinion.   For  a catholic reader, therefore,volume 1 presents some basic apologetics you really need to master.  For an evangelical, here is your work laid out for you: the argument is moved to a new level.

Book 2, First Guardian of the Faith, examines how four essential doctrines about Mary relate to doctrine about Christ.  Far from being a set of “extras” Christians can take or leave as they prefer, Mark Shea shows our beliefs about Mary are intimately tied to the reality of Christ.   Certain truths about Christ cannot be properly understood unless we accept related truths about Mary.

For catholics, again, this reading will shore up your faith and help you better explain your beliefs to others.  (If you are a catechist, it may influence your multiple-choice test questions, too.)  For protestants, here is where Mark gets into the big hurdles — not just Perpetual Viginity and Mother of God (“Theotokos”), but the real doozies of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.  If you haven’t accepted the arguments in book 1, you aren’t ready to be convinced by book 2; but regardless, it will help you understand the catholic point of view.   Once again, the protestant-catholic debate is advanced another step.

Book 3, Miracles, Devotion, and Motherhood, leaves the halls of church history and apologetics, and tackles the thorny issue of what catholics actually do in their devotional life.  Again, you need to have at least accepted the possibility that the arguments in book 1 are true.  Mark Shea devotes the opening chapter to probing the sheer uncomfortableness of marian devotion for evangelical converts and would-be converts.  Don’t skip this, even if you are already quite fond of Mary.

He then moves into a chapter on the Rosary, and if it weren’t for this book review program, he would have undeservedly lost me.  The truth is, sometimes I haven’t got much patience for other people’s prayerful medidations on this or that mystery of the rosary.  But free books were at stake, so I made myself go back and read.   Book-lust rewarded: Shea’s reflections are as sturdy as the rest of his work, taking surprising turns through humor, history, apologetics, and inspiration that actually inspires.

After this is a short chapter on private revelation and Marian apparitions.  Shea covers essential points such as the basics of how private revelations are investigated, the bit about how you don’t have to actually believe in them, and what role they might or might not play in your life.  He then gives a very moving personal account of his own private encounter with Mary.  There is an overview of the major approved Marian apparitions in the appendix.

The book closes the series with a final chapter on how Mary might belong in both the catholic and evangelical words.  My favorite line: “the simple fact is, I’m just not one of those people who usually has strong feelings about Mary.”  Written by a man who just wrote three books about her — that’s classic Mark Shea in a nutshell.


So I may have mentioned once or twice that these are excellent books.  The type is not the big fluffy stuff you see in entry-level popular evangelical books — I think there is something in the sacrament of confirmation that confers a maximum type-size on all catholic literature — but the prose is fast, readable, and entertaining.   You do need to be able to follow arguments that build over chapters and that pull together many strands of evidence.   Not difficult arguments, but ones that are treated in depth, rather than with pat one-line, or one-chapter dismissals.

Each book has a generous bibliography, as well as footnotes for controversial claims.  Many of the footnotes are to websites, which are uncomfortably emphemeral-feeling, but in reality make it more likely you’ll actually try to find the source.  So I’m not sure which I’d prefer.  Regardless, for someone wishing to engage in debate on the topics, the resources are provided to keep you moving in your work.

The target audience is both catholic and evangelical readers, and in my opinion Mark Shea effectively writes for each.   I came away edified, informed, and inspired, and would willingly lend my copy to both catholic and protestant friends, and really think both types were getting something good out of it.    (I’m not sure whether non-Christian readers would enjoy the books or not, though I’d hate to discourage anyone from giving them a try.)

I received my copy as part of the Catholic Company review program, which you might consider joining.  New applicants are still being accepted, and I can say after a year’s experience that the program is well-run, and has always been stocked with top-notch titles.  I’ve never reviewed something I would not have gone out and bought myself, mostly because when I go through the product list, there is always something there that I’ve been meaning to read.  Highly recommended.

Also, FYI, the Catholic Company is offering free shipping this week, though of course you will patronize your local catholic bookstore if you are lucky enough to be able to visit one.  But it’s a good week for mail-order for all of you who are not so fortunate.


I was just joking with that title.  Things are most definitely *not* settled down since my last post.   Just re-read, things are about the same — GI virus and all.  Aah.  Finished In Soft Garments, excellent.  Started on Characters of the Reformation by Hillaire Belloc.  Chosen not because I was interested in the topic, but because I was interested to read something, anything, by Belloc, and that was what my parish library had stocked.  Interesting reading — I would recommend it.

Still need to make myself go back and finish book III of Mary, Mother of the Son. I’ll be honest, a lot of times I’m not in the mood to read other people’s reflections on the mysteries of the Rosary.  I don’t know why — inspiration fatigue, I guess.   But I know I’ll be glad when I do it, and ’tis the season.

Meanwhile, wanted to post a link to the Catholic Writer’s Conference.  Registration is now open.  Highly recommended: Helpful and Free.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  If you like to write, this is your friend.

So I kinda put off picking another book to review for the Catholic Company, on account of having taking six million years to get my Angels review up.  Procrastination pays.  Went to check the available-books list early last week, and there was the 3-Book Set of Mark Shea’s Mary , Mother of the Son.

Clicked hopefully, not quite believing this could be real.  Books arrived just minutes before I headed out for Labor Day weekend.  Happy Birthday to me!

Sailed through the first two books while out camping, and skimmed the third.  Verdict: Excellent.  Highly recommended.  (Which you didn’t need to hear from me– I *knew* they were good because A: I’m a Mark Shea dittohead and B: The books have been getting very favorable reviews by people much smarter than myself.)

Official book review coming soon.

Meanwhile, I’ll say that if you have a blog and like reading top-quality, newly-released catholic books, the Catholic Company’s reviewer program is very well run.  It does, of course, mean that you can’t get autographed copies like you could if you purchased directly from the author, but then again, you can afford to buy a *second* autographed set after you’ve confirmed how awesome the books actually are.  Since you know you’ll need to have a set of spares for loan anyway.


[Hey, and if anyone has had success making the Tiber River review program work, please let me know how.   They sent me an e-mail asking me to sign up, so I did, because how can you refuse more book-reviewing fun, even if you do have a history of being an unpredictably-paced reader??  But in my efforts so far, I have only managed to get mighty confused.  Haven’t, of course, employed any adult problem-solving skills such as, say, e-mailing the guy in charge of the program.  But you could save me that display of maturity by telling me what the scoop is. Thanks!]

PS, weather was great camping this weekend, and it was kinda nice to skip out on school for a few days.  It sure pays to start homeschooling before Labor Day, so that you get that first vacation weekend right off the bat.  Otherwise it could be weeks and weeks before you get some good excuse to cut class.

And let me add: Putting six growing people in a 26′ Airstream for long weekend is an excellent way to make your previously-cramped house seem just enormous.  I mean, wow, there is *so much* space here!  We have, you know, bedrooms and stuff.  I love it.

Madly in Love: With Ronald Knox.  Just re-read The Theology of Martyrdom.  Man I love this guy.   If you are a Chesterton and Lewis fan, he’s the next step after.  The dry humor, the precision, the willingness to talk touchy subjects.  Love it.  (Note for non-catholic friends: Definitely a catholic writer.  Which is not to say you won’t love him, but his business is teaching and defending the *catholic* faith, just so ya know.)

Gonna go scour the parish library and maybe my local catholic bookstore to see what else I can find.   (Already have The Hidden Stream.)  And speaking of which, if you are, by any chance, the person who is holding my copy of If Your Mind Wanders at Mass by Thomas Howard, now would be the time to speak up.   I can’t find it, so I assume it’s out on loan to somebody.

Crazy Person Ideas: Some very kind, perhaps slightly sneaky, people persuaded me to sew my own fencing tunic.  And, the real madness: I decided to do it.  Let us clarify: I am nobody’s seamstress.  I have successfully sewn 1 toddler tunic (single layer!) and a handful of dishcloths into rectangular pouches.   Made up the pattern for the muslin mock-up yesterday, and I’m supposed to finish cutting fabric today, but there’s too much craziness in the house, I don’t see it happening this afternoon.

But I will do it.  Because I own the fabric.  And because it’s the only way to get what I actually want.  Which is not to say that I *will* get what I want, only that I will try.

And finally, Catechetical Madness:  Trying to explain the principals of Double Effect and Means-Don’t-Justify-Ends to a 4th grader.  In broad strokes, yes, sure.  But honestly, I’m not sure most of us adults really have a knack for the fine line where the one ends and the other begins.  But, as with the tunic, the only way to hope to get it done, is to try it.

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