Category Archives: what do I have on my Kindle?

Book review; Lay Siege to Heaven Louis de Wohl

lay-siege-to-heaven2248lgI think Lay Siege to Heaven is the best of de Wohl’s books. He has always done his homework on the historical context for any of his books and there’s a great deal of history here, but in this book he seems to have a strong understanding of Catherine Benincasa and her mother which gives a strong, three dimensional figure to both women. The books isn’t really about Mona Lapa Benincasa but she is there and you can’t help getting to know her.

Louis de Wohl does not give us a sloppy plaster saint, but rather a woman of fire and energy driven by her love of God and His demands on her.  He treats her relationship with God well and seems to have a good grip on the miraculous happenings from her intersession. I particularly love the way she seems to tell the hospital doctor off for being lazy lying dead in bed. Up he gets – plague free and alive again – and sets about his work with the same gusto she had with her care of the plague victims crowding the hospital and town of Sienna.

De Wohl does not shy away from the terrible mess the Church was in, with weak, comfort loving Popes keeping the Bride in her Babylonian Captivity in Avignon. The greed, simony and vice of the whole Avignon set up is made clear by de Wohl who has his information from history, the writings of St. Catherine’s friend Fra Raymond Capua and from Catherine’s amazing and at times rather shocking letters.

For the last ten years of her life (she died at the age of 33) Catherine ate nothing but the Eucharist. She is not the only saint who has been a living proof of the life of the Bread of Life. There’s a touching scene in the book in which the Pope, to test Catherine’s obedience, asks her if she would eat something should he command her.

She says she would obey him and eat whatever he commanded, but she could not obey him if he asked her to keep it down. She had eaten less and less over the years as food immediately came back until she stopped eating altogether.

There is a great deal of historical and biographical information on St. Catherine of Siena as well as the historical record of the years of her life. De Whol has been faithful to this giving the book it’s authenticity.

He touches briefly on her relationship with St. Bridget of Sweden and her daughter St. Katrin of Vadstena (aka St Catherine of Sweden). There’s a moment when she had asked Katrin to negotiate with the awful Queen Joanna of Naples and Katrin still smarting from what had happened to her older brother Karl, refused.

The Church has produced a few very great saints and St. Catherine of Siena is one of the greatest.

A chapel built on a rock in the grounds of the St. Malo retreat centre is named for her and was visited by Bl. Pope John Paul II. Recently a massive flood and mudslide destroyed a lot in the area although the floods came right up to the rock the chapel remained untouched. Catherine weathered the storms that hit the Church in her era, and those storms were great as the Popes were so weak. But she prevailed and at last the pope returned to Rome where he belonged and the beginning of the renewal could take place. There are many times over the 2000 years since Christ established His Church on Peter -Kephas- the rock and the apostles that the storms and flood waters looked to destroy her; but His promise stands firm.

Book review: A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett

imagesHoliday reading time and I’ve just finished A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett. It tells the story of a young Prussian Count Max von Hofmannswaldau as he grows up and reaches adulthood through two world wars. Max makes friends with a Polish aristocrat and the story is woven around their different paths towards truth and the wholesale madness that takes over Germany as the country slides with ever increasing speed into the horror of Nazism.

Beckett’s knowledge of history is deep and profound. She has been criticized by some reviewers for using her characters to explain the history and philosophy that ended Prussia and brought poor Germany to such a terrible place. But I liked the way the characters argued with each other over what had happened and how the wise Classical Tutor kept his boys thinking right up to the point where all minds were closed and made Nazi.

Rather alarmingly there are far too many parallels with today’s media and Government approach. New laws in America in particular (as well as less obvious laws here in the UK) are very similar to those that came out in Germany before the Second World War in which people could be arrested and detained without trial or hope of justice.  As Pro-life and pro-family people around the First World are targeted by police today, so pro-life and pro-Jewish people were targeted then.

The history of the world wars is a vital part of our human history in that it really can teach us and warn us. It is with sadness that so much of what Beckett writes in her rich truthfully historical novel is still happening and repeating today.

Some of the men are offered scientific research posts in which they are to prove the Aryan race is superior and the Jews are less human. Just as today scientists are rewarded for “science” that helps the Government and Insurance industry wash it’s hands of sick people, so it was then.

Three wise men hold Max’s life together as he negotiates the pitfalls of growing up and learning love. His tutor at home Dr. Mendel is wise but too saddened and perhaps too influenced by the pagan Roman culture he teaches. Max’s grandfather Dr. Meyer who builds a harpsichord showing that in good music there is still hope and in Bach there is still a soul for Germany.

I am sure I read or heard once that someone had said that the music of Bach was a proof for the existence of God. Bach does shine gently throughout the story, an old portrait of the great musician and composer being a sort of presence in Max’s life, along with the violin that Max plays.

Finally there is the very wise Dr Fischer who is the tutor at the Gymnasium Max attends.

Breslau is a city full of a mix of people, Jews, Germans from all over old Prussia, Austrians and Poles and more. It could have been a wonderful cultural sharing space for music and art and learning.  The people are like people everywhere, good, bad, saintly and evil.

One thing that interested me was the realization (I hadn’t known this) that the economy of Germany was already on the mend when Hitler came to power. The people didn’t need to blame the Jews or the Poles or the Catholics. They were on the way up already. But something was already “rotten in the state of Denmark” as Max’s friend Zapolski who plays Hamlet while they are at University notes.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a backdrop to the thought that runs through the book. Playing the role has a profound effect on the Nietzsche loving Zapolski for Shakespeare’s worldview is diametrically different from Neitzsche’s.

While there’s a lot in the book that points to how a good culture based on fine thought like Goethe, Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson and of course the wonderful Bach can steer a person around the banality of evil, there’s some points that are missing in the story.

Beckett talks about the beliefs of the local parish priest, one a true Christian, another a Nationalist and anti-Semite, but she never mentions the Vatican Document Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Zeal) which was and is the only Vatican document to be written and promulgated in German. All documents are usually made in Latin and then translated. This document was given out on Passion Sunday (Mar 14th) 1937 and spoke strongly and clearly against the rise in Hitler’s National Socialism. I think it’s a strange thing to leave out when she was clear about the Concordat, which of course Hitler signed but reneged on. I personally don’t have an issue with the Concordat that some people have. The Holy Father saw what was coming, he’d warned the Bavarian people against voting for Hitler and in very large part they didn’t. He was trying to save his people as best he could. That seems a good thing to me.

Becket traces the culture of evil that in some ways made Hitler inevitable from Nietzsche through social Darwinism, runaway materialism and all this built on fear and loss for Germany. Luther is condemned but Darwin let off the hook somewhat.  I am not sure what I make of that.

If you want to get to understand how those wars came about, reading this book straight after the Head of the House of Coombe and Robin is a really good way to learn. They are very different books, written with a different style but they both show facets of the culture and thought that made the 20th century into such a century of slaughter.

I wish we would learn. But we don’t.

Book Review: Shadows and Images by Meriol Trevor.

shadows-images-novel-meriol-trevor-paperback-cover-artI get the sense that Meriol Trevor is making a come back and I am glad she is. Many, if not all, of her books were out of print but thanks to some good American publishers they are making it back into both print and ebook format.

Shadows and Images is a gentle novel based around the fictional characters of Clem and Augustine and their families; while the over riding character is the very real John Henry Cardinal Newman of the Birmingham Oratory (now Blessed). Trevor’s knowledge of the life and times of Newman is deep and broad so although the book is “historical fiction” it’s very factual historical fiction.

Trevor touches on the industrialism of the Midlands, particularly around Birmingham and the Black Country; Bilston even gets a mention! There is the underlying issue of bad practice and unjust wages for the workers. But she spends a little more time on the surge of anti-Catholic feeling since Emancipation, including some of the violence.

She doesn’t mention this, but here’s a bit of my history to add. I was baptised in one of the first Catholic Churches to be built and opened after Emancipation was finally granted in 1829. SS Mary and John’s in Wolverhampton was opened in 1850, but just beforehand as the Church was completed a baptist minister from somewhere else (nowhere near Wolverhampton – can’t remember where) gathered a load of people to cause a riot against the church. Their attempt failed, partly because local protestants wouldn’t support him (good for them).

The church was opened on 1st May 1855 by Newman’s friend Cardinal Wiseman (who was pretty saintly himself). Wiseman is in Trevors book and his work during the dreadful cholera outbreak is noted.

Clem follows her friend Newman through his conversion, his difficulties over the Idea of a University, his uncomfortable relationships with Ward and Manning and the bizarre trial and attack on him by Charles Kingsley.

I found Kinglsey’s slander sad, especially in light of the good he had done to raise the issue of child labour.  Surely a good Christian should not have stooped to telling great big porkies about a fellow Christian, or anyone. But Newman took it in style and quietly forgave.

Trevor brings her story to an end as the elderly Clem continues her friendship with the even older Newman and those who worked with him such as the great Cardinal Ullathorne. She sees the end of an era that brought some little light to England before the great darkness of the First World War descended.

The children have read and loved Meriol Trevors Letzenstein Chronicles; The Crystal SnowstormFollowing the Phoenix, Angel and Dragon and The Rose Crown

Ramsay’s Disease – ME as it was before the CDC’s politically motivated CFS dragnet was thrown.

I have a dx of ME, but I don’t really know if I have ME. The doctor who dx me did so by accident when I went to see him about the worsening symptoms of my already dx Fibromyalgia. I was getting sicker and sicker and wanted to know how to stop it. He was a truly nasty piece of work. and I came away, not only with no answers, but no hope. Thankfully I’m a tough ol’cow and I bounced back. But I am still left with the question; do I have ME? And this is coupled with the question, “What is ME anyway?” Ramsay’s Disease – Myalgic Encephelomyelitis and the Unfortunate Creation of CFS by Simpson and Blake is a good insight into the research Dr Melvin Ramsay  and Dr Simpson had carried out in England up to and beyond the Royal Free ME cluster outbreak of 1950. His work of blood 000-3d-model-1rheology showed very clear signs of a good biomarker test for ME even back then. His work, however, was sidelined as the psychiatric lobby, linked to the American Insurance Industry and British Government’s welfare cuts took over. A brief but accurate timeline of events shows some of the bizarre and unprofessional behaviours from members of the CDC in the 1980s but also notes a strange attack on people with ME by a couple of pyschs in 1970 (McEvedy and Beard) who tried to insist the Royal Free Hospital cluster and other cluster outbreaks of ME was “mass hysteria.”

♠ ♠ ♠

Nancy: Appropriate treatmet for ME should include a prescription for rest immediately upon becoming ill…” (Kindle loc. 3454 60%)

The understanding that patients with ME did(do) better with enforced rest at the beginning of the illness has been repeated over the years, most notably by Dr Nancy Kilimas (an HIV/AIDS specialist who has done lots of work on ME, especially when she noted that her patients with ME were as sick from the start as her end stage Aids patients). Even anecdotally I can see people with ME who have gone into remission after having gone to bed when they became ill. Research into patients who have gone into remission is sadly lacking; but then research into people with ME is sadly lacking altogether.

Studies suggest that those who get ME younger have a better chance of getting good remissions. Sadly this simply isn’t the case for many children and teens with ME and some of the deaths from ME are in those young ones.

The central theme of this book seems to be the blood rheology results showing that people with Ramsey’s criteria for ME have misformed erythrocytes (red cells) which in turn leads to poor profusion, especially in the brain. The problems with blood flow offered a good explanation for a lot of the memory, language and other neurological symptoms of Ramsey’s ME. Strangely (or not) Simpson a researcher in this area had problems getting his blood rheology papers published despite the slides showing the cup shaped cells. He found that editors of medical publications couldn’t accept red cells could change shape (leaving me wondering what they made of Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia).There have been some papers published on this subject not related to ME Considering the appalling quality of much of the so-called research into CFS and/or ME that is published, it’s a bit odd that Simpson’s papers weren’t published.

More recent findings back up Ramsay and Simpson’s blood findings and this coupled with studies showing small capillary problems points right back to their work again.

Having reached the part in the book where patients climbing three flights of stairs to reach the doctors office and then having very cold hands and blurred vision, I am reminded that all ME patients are not the same. There’s no way I could make it up three flights of stairs!  He goes on to say

Although much was written about “autonomic manifestations”, in the terms of Ramsay’s criteria dysautonomia would have excluded a diagnosis of ME – but if there were a systemic problem of blood flow it could anticipated that capillary blood flow in the nerves of the autonomic nervous system would be impaired.”

I am not sure whether the author is saying that those of us who have a dysautonomic dx can’t have ME or whether the blood flow problems found in Ramsay criteria dx ME patients lead to ANS problems anyway so ME and dysautonomia go hand in hand. There’s a lot of us with dual diagnosis – and getting diagnosed with any dysatonomia is difficult because most doctors haven’t a clue it exists or what it is.

Recent findings in research into women with fibromyalgia seem to back up the blood flow findings of Simpson et al (this report in Medical Daily on the research is clear – you can mute the annoying advert in the sidebar. You might also want to skip the ridiculous cliche “patients aren’t lying after all-shock” introduction.)

I’ll write more later. It’s time for a cuppa.

Further reading:

Erythrocyte Rheology article in BMJ (opens Pdf)

The Fish-Dish (my daughter’s observations of my aphasic moments) (Nb. Please go to the toilet before reading this).

F.Hodgson Burnett’s Lord Coombe, and my grandma.

burnettfetext04hdhcm10Frances Hodgson Burnett is perhaps better known for her children’s stories such as The Secret Garden  and Little Lord Fauntleroy, but her last novel is a fascinating insight into a world on a the cusp of war. Published in 1922 The Head of the House of Coombe follows the story of a neglected child Robin and her strangely enigmatic benefactor Lord Coombe. Robin’s mother is a selfish airhead while Coombe finds friendship with a chronically ill Duchess who has wisdom.

Coombe travels and observes, coming home to England to sit with the Duchess and discuss his observations. He is concerned, “…The very babes are born and bred and taught only that one thought may become an integral part of their being…that the world has but one reason for existence — that it may be conquered and ravaged by the country that gave them birth.”

The Duchess concurs as her own observations have been the same.

“In little schools — in large ones — in little churches and in imposing ones, their Faith is taught and preached….There exists for them no God who is not the modest henchman of their emperor…”

These words brought back memories of my gran. She was a good Irish woman of Limerick stock who was born in the 1881 and died in 1978. She spoke of the Potato Famine (1845 to 52) with such feeling I thought at first she was alive when it happened. But it was her parents and grandparents who saw it first hand. She married an Englishman who lost his arm in the First World War. She lost her little brother, aged 16, illegally out at the front. By the end of that war the age limitations were being ignored in the desperate bid to replace the dead as the war went on. Jack was killed on the last day of the war.

Gran had three sons, one of whom died of twisted bowel when he was six. Her oldest son grew up and was old enough to join the Engineering Corps in WWII. I was told he was part of the crew that entered Dachau and buried the piles and piles of bodies.

Gran never went to Mass. Her sister, whose fiance had been killed in WWI and had never married, came with us each week, but not Gran. I asked her why she didn’t come with us.

She told me she would never forgive the Church for it’s support of the wars. I was only a child and gran couldn’t explain things to me. I was much older before I began to get a sense of her pain. She died when I was 14. I was also too young and not educated enough to understand her sense of betrayal as Britain was so deeply culpable in the potato famine

Lord Coombes observations from the mind of FHB just brought it all back. He speaks of a culture in which churches and education are all soaked in an arrogance of nationalism that, from Coombe’s thinking, was inevitably leading to a terrible war. Hodgson Burnett is probably writing this with hindsight as the book was published in 1922, but I can’t help thinking there probably were some real life Coombe like people who saw where the culture was heading and may even have been Cassandra’s at court.

World War I was the war to end all wars. It was the war that was to teach mankind that something like that must never happen again. I am sure gran thought that in losing her little brother, her prospective brother-in-law and having a husband come home with one arm missing (he lost it in a canon wheel) that the price had been paid. More than paid.

She just couldn’t deal with the next war.

We have forgotten so much – my generation and our children. We don’t teach them what they could really do with knowing. But truth has a habit of finding a way. As more and more books are available in the public domain and people get to read those forgotten classics like Hodgson Burnett, Dorothy Sayers, among others as well as the non-fiction writings of people like Chesterton, Sheed, and Belloc,  we are beginning to clear our memories. I think something good must happen from that.

Book Basket; kids kindle and hardcopy reading.

books basketRonan got a Kindle for his birthday and he loves it. I love the fact that both he and Avila will spend quiet time reading, (Avila has my old Kindle) often with Profiterole and Cecily on their laps (Prof and Ces are the guinea pigs).

I had bought some books for the kids Kindles and a friend gave Ronan some money towards more books.

He has read the first two books in Meriol Trevors Letzenstein Chronicles. With the money from J N P I’ve  bought the third and fourth books in the series as he has requested.

He’s reading The Mitchells at the moment and says it’s good. I think I got it as a freebie some time ago.

Avila has been reading Alvin’s Secret Code and would like some more of those books. She’s reading aloud (to me) Children of the New Forest which is certainly stretching her vocabulary.

She’s also read Five Children and It

We don’t have a book basket this week but Ronan was reading St Francis of Assisi which is a book I bought for Alex for his Confirmation as he took that name.

Also they’ve been reading Marguerite Makes a Book

I do love the fact that both Ronan and Avila love to read. I hope I can encourage them to read good stuff and so grow with their reading. I don’t buy into the idea that all books are good and all screens are bad. That simply isn’t true. Neither do I believe that all old books are good and modern ones are bad. If that were the case Charlotte Mason would not have needed to warn parents against exposing their children to “twaddle”. It is sad that perhaps we can say the newer versions of twaddle are more poisonous than the old versions, but I think as parents we have to be cautious in all the stuff we expose our children to.

There’s plenty of really good books out there, especially once the children have hit a stage where they can read fluently.

Heleyna is reading some of the Oxford Owl books as part of her reading.

She loves it when Avila reads Winnie the Pooh and from me she always chooses Sheepford and Oxley (bk 1)  As Classical Academic Press are  promising bilingual versions I will hang on before buying more.

The other books she’s had out a few times is Our Lady of Guadalupe pop up book. She and her friends seem to love it.

Ronan has been reading the beautifully illustrated Gregor Mendel; the Friar Who Grew Peas

I like the way the children are able to mix happily between ebooks and hardcopy.

Meanwhile I am a Kindle only reader these days. I’ve just finished re-reading Marcus Grodi’s first novel How Firm and Foundation and I’m on to his next one Pillar and Bulwark I have the first one in hard copy but I’ve rebought it for Kindle and don’t mind as I know a lot of Marcus’ work is supporting those who in coming Home to the Catholic Church have lost everything; job home and sometimes a big chunk of their family and friends.

And for lighter reading I’m reading the Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz

I am also slowly pre-reading The Mystery of the Periodic Table with a view to planning some lessons around it.

Also reading A Father’s Tale by Michael O’Brien

Iona is reading some Raffles books (in hardcopy) but the link is for the free ebooks

The Deacon brought me Holy Communion yesterday, and we gor talking about the joy of books

Lent Reading; trying to be inspired.

It’s Lent and so I thought I would put out a list of books for good Lentern reading.

I’m still working through the Dairies of St. Faustina which I converted to a mobi file for my Kindle using CALIBRE, which is a free and easy to use e-book converter and manager.

I found a text file of the Catechism and I’ve made that into a pdf using PRIMO PDF. I’ve been using Primo for a long time to make the free lesson packs Kalei has been putting up on That Resource Site. Do go and take a look at what she’s got on offer for Lentern resources.

If you want to read a book on your ereader then having Primo and Calibre is a great help. I’ve transferred books to Word then to pdf and Calibre with convert them to mobi.

So I am hoping to read a lot of the Catechism throughout Lent.

I am also reading the Life of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi . I love this woman, but the book is a true penance to read. I can’t stand purple passage and this book is awash with sentimentality, flouncy, purple and elaborate extrapolations. It’s so bad, it can be difficult to find the story of Anna Maria in there – but it is there.

If you are wondering why I would deliberately read a book as astonishingly badly written as this, well, I really find her inspiring and there are hardly any books in English out there about her. I have the one by TAN publishers (can’t remember the author just now) on order – but that’s a hard copy so I will only be able to read it when eyesight allows.

I love Anna Maria because she was so ordinary in her extraordinariness. She was married, had seven children and lived a tough life. She cared for her parents when they grew old and poor. Her mother, who was a little difficult apparently, lived with them and then her daughter Sophia moved back home with her six children when her husband died.

Obviously the “big” part of Anna Maria’s story was her gift of prophecy and the “sun” she saw in which God revealed to her the things He needed her to tell others.

Anyway, apart from the penance of reading a badly written book, I’m hoping her life will inspire me to better behaviour over being ill. She had many of the same symptoms as your average FMS/ME cum dysautonomia patient, including severe migraines, black outs, pain, absolute exhaustion and the rest. She handled all this as you’d expect a holy saint to handle it – that is, not like me! So I am hoping for inspiration. (stop laughing!)

When my poor husband says he can tell how much pain I’m in, even when I, in saint-mode do not mention it – because I’m irratible and snappy that’s an epic fail!

So, hopefully Bl. Anna Maria will help me out, without me requiring yet another holy 2×4 across the soul. (So I’m a slow learner).

I am still slowly working through Les Miserables which I love. Even so, dear old Vic likes to pontificate rather pompously and go off on long pontifical-tandems to the point where you almost feel like yelling “Get back to the story!” But when he’s in the story; it’s brilliant.

As a straight forward book I’m reading a The Emperor of North America the second book in the Young Chesterton Chronicales by John McNichol. I actually bought it along with The Tripods Attack for Ronan but as you can have it on more than one Kindle at a time I’m getting to read it too.

So I have something to read for all brain states from flurble to relatively sensible.

Book Basket

P1010995This weeks book basket has the following books:

Frog and Toad books. There’s a great story about frog and toad going sledging in the snow. Just right for all the snow we have here at the moment.

Diary of a Wombat This is a simple and funny little tale for the younger ones. Heleyna loves it and Avila often reads it to her.

Charlie Needs a Cloak. Another good winter story for Heleyna. It’s by the children’s favourite author Tomie DePaola.

Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery Just a lovely story with beautiful illustrations about a monk who has a bakery to help make the monastery make ends meet. Rona loves this story as he wants to be a baker.

Paintings First Discovery/Art

The 5000 Year old Puzzle

feature-prime._V386282737_I have given Avila my old Kindle, and have a Paperwhite for me now which is brilliant in all sorts of light from dark to bright sunlight. It’s a touch screen which I was unsure about at first because of my peripheral neuropathy. I wasn’t sure the screen would recognise my fingers but it’s been fine most of the time.

Keeping secrets in our house is nigh on impossible – (which I suppose is ok really because I don’t approve of secrets; they always end with biting someone) – but anyway, dear old Ronan has found out that he is getting a Kindle for his birthday.

At the moment he and Avila are sharing my old one.

She is reading E.Nesbit’s(opens list)  The Phoenix and the Carpet which I read to them as a read aloud some time ago. She also has Tom’s Midnight Garden for quick reading. She read it to me ages ago now.

Ronan is reading L. Frank Baum (opens list)  The Tin Woodman of Oz

What the adults are reading:

I am reading Les Miserables  which I read years ago and can’t remember well. Iona has seen the film and thinks we should go too.

I am also reading The Silmarillion which, like Les Mis I haven’t read for many years. Nice to go back to these things.

Al is reading Dorothy Sayers Strong Poison on the train as he goes to and from work.

Iona is reading Daphne du Maurier’s The King’s General. She’s a big Daphne Du Maurier fan.

Book Basket

P1010955I think the book basket this week might only be slightly changed next week. I am not pushing too hard on “personal reading” time but they do seem to just pick a book from the basket and sit with it for a quiet time.

The Usborne See Inside Your Body has been a long time favourite.  As they got Mr. Guts for Christmas it’s been revived as an interest.

Sir Cumference and Knights of the Round Table. A fun way to learn a few maths facts. Avila has taken to these books. I think they are a nice complement to the Life of Fred books they love so much.

The King’s Equal is short and easy to read. Nice relaxing book with some depth of story.

The Glorious Flight of Louis Bleriot across the English channel.

Uncle Chestnut Lovely whimsical stories based around our beloved G.K Chesterton. The book is a very slim paperback for the price. I must admit being taken about by how small the book was for such a price- but it is very well written. (perhaps it’s cheaper in the USA)

At night they are reading something different. The Roman Mysteries that they love so much have a set of mini stories and Ronan has just finished The Trumpeter of Krakow which he really enjoyed.

For read alouds Avila has just finised Kateri Tekakwitha and will read  Mates of the Kurlalong which her aunt has lent to her.

Ronan is reading Swallows and Amazons

I am finding that many books are available as ebooks from Bethlehem, Sophia and Ignatius press and are cheaper in dollars than in sterling. They are certainly cheaper in ebook than hard copy.

So, don’t tell him, but I’ve bought Ronan a kindle for his birthday (24th Feb). Between now and then I will get him a couple of books and I’ve already started loading it with free books. Amazon let you put together a wishlist so I’m building one for him as I go along.

I did spend quite some time looking at other ereaders before I caved to the Kindle again. But the advantage is that we can have the same book on up to five kindles which is brilliant for group reading times. I’ve decided to upgrade to a paperwhite and give Avila my kindle. She’s been asking for one almost more than Ronan.

Reading for the Year of Faith: Kindle and hard copy.

Bible: Why not treat yourself to a good translation such as the RSV-CE, (Ignatius or Navarre.) or a Knox if you can get hold of one. Commit to doing just a little Bible study each day. Ignatius Press publish a whole lot of good Bibles commentaries and stuff

I’ve got the Dairies of St. Faustina and although I’ve read them before I’m going through them again. Her understanding of the signs of the times, of suffering and of service are wonderful: like little lights along the road.

I’m also reading St. John of the Cross The Dark Night of the Soul. For me at least, this takes long slow reading. It’s so packed that reading it in bleurgh times doesn’t cut it.

The End of the Present World And the Mysteries of the Future Life by Fr. Charles Arminjin now in English. This was a book that St. Therese the Little Flower recommended.

The Father’s Know Best by Jimmy Akin. Understanding what the early Fathers of the Church wrote and taught is a great insight into the development of doctrine, and how She handled persecution.

At a time when America is facing a wholesale onslaught  over religious freedom, which is an intrinsic human right,  I think it would be worth reading the stories of St. Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) companions. (She’s one of our family saints so obviously I love her a lot.) If you have the brain power (which sadly I don’t) you could try reading her philosophical work, or get hold of some wonderful Alice von Hildebrand books and lectures. EWTN audio archives still hold the series she did about the life and work of her husband Deitrich. His escape from the Nazi’s and his writings are all amazing.

For children the Vision Books are great and for religious freedom and persecution the stories of St. Edmund Campion and St. Thomas More. Also the story of St Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal given in the time when France was persecuting Catholics viciously.

How’s that for starters? Don’t spend the next year reading twaddle. Life’s too short for that. Fill up your heart, soul and mind with something worthwhile- even in fiction.

Montessori moment: perfect teachers and dunce children.

The teacher who poses as perfect and does not recognise that she makes errors, is not a good teacher.”

absorbent Mind

Dr Montessori’s deep respect for the personhood of the child is expressed in her insistence that insulting and humiliating children who have made mistakes in their work, in no way helped them to correct those errors. “Experience and exercise alone correct errors..” she says.

In her method the child is allowed to see and adjust their work to correct for errors themselves.  I think, from watching my children over the last few weeks (and remember that’s all the time we’ve been attempting this method) they seem able to better see mistakes far better when they are working with items in space, than when it is just on paper.

Montessori teachers (and parents) need to have good self awareness but also need to be rooted firmly in reality, accepting that we all make mistakes. If the teacher’s role and position is somehow based on the idea that s/he can’t get it wrong, that’s a very wobbly position to be in. In may explain why some glaring errors in homework my older children came home with were not allowed to be corrected.

Part of a child’s maturing relationship with his parents, it seems to me, is the recognition that the grown ups don’t know everything and can get it wrong. Perhaps this process is easier for parents and children as we live together, so even if a parent did want to pretend to some kind of universal infallibility, it wouldn’t hold up for long under the all seeing eye of children!

Montessori goes on to show that children need to be able to see error and to find their way to correcting them. This not only grounds them in reality, but begins to build the tools they need for mathematics and scientific principles.

How far from freedom! If I do not have the ability of controlling my error, I have to go to someone else who may know no better than I.”

Perhaps it is this vital flaw in modern education that has caused so many scientists to publish papers that not only do not control for error, but in which the scientist insists there are no errors – even when they are glaringly obvious. This self assurance and “high self esteem” does not lead to better understanding, but merely to bigger egos.

In order to see errors and correct them there needs to be a guide of “control” that the child can use to see what they are doing. With the control the child is free to work out what they need to do.

There’s something very neat about the Montessori philosophy: simple and kind.

Book Review, Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy.

I have just finished The Cross, the last of the Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy by the award winning author Sigrid Undset. I think the kudos for a beautifully rendered translation goes to Tina Nunnally.  When I blogged about books that are true and therefore speak to us in harmony with natural law,  I was still reading Unset. She shows a profound grasp of human life, love and struggle. She writes from the viewpoint and soul of Kristen as a child, young girl in love, wife and mother of seven sons and mistress of a great house to her old age and the final realisation of her life and struggle, brought about by a sudden opportunity to make an astonishing act of mercy.

Undset’s deep understanding of human nature and the consequences of choices and actions make all the characters of the book very real and believable.

Kristen’s relationship with her saintly father Lavrans and the more difficult relationship with her mother is drawn sympathetically while avoiding  saccharine and vinegar in her description of Kristin’s parents.

Undset’s deep knowledge of history also shines in this story. There are no glaring historical errors to irritate the reader. In fact, there are some details that ring so true that they left me saying “Ah so that’s it!”

While the story is placed in fourteenth century Norway, it has a timeless quality to it, most probably because of the depth of the characters and the fact that human nature has changed little, if at all. I love the complexity of Kristin’s life, love and faith. She commits some truly awful sins, and has to wrestle with her conscience, pride and guilt over them.

Life is way too short to spend reading what Miss Charlotte would call “twaddle” and too short indeed to read trash, so why not make every moment count by reading something good for the heart, mind and soul. This trilogy is it.

A more eloquent review is here: Under Her Heart: Motherhood in Kristen Lavransdatter.

This set of books will be read again (I hope) by me.

 

Montessori free resources, lessons, cards, books and more.

As I embark on the great Montessori Experiment with my all too willing children I have searched for the information I need. A friend has already assured me that mixing a Montessori approach with a Charlotte Mason one works well. The more I read of Maria Montessori, the more I see how she and Charlotte Mason were on the same page. It’s a shame they never met, as I am sure they would have understood one another even with the language barrier. The very foundation of both their philosophies was the child as person.

Getting Started with Montessori – links of interest and usefulness

Cultivating Dharma – the most amazing array of free lessons and resources you can imagine. Thank God for people willing to do this sort of work and provide it for those of us embarking on the steep learning curve of a new approach to our children’s education.

Free Montessori Resources – a site that does what it says. There’s a lot here too. I haven’t explored it all yet.

Moteacho offers a range of albums that cover ages from 3 to 9 – just right for me. I love the story work offered from Dr. Montessori’s son Mario; God who has no hands.

The Great Lessons from Barabra Dubinsky look like quite a find too.

Now for your kindle or other reader: Beginning with books by Dr. Maria Montessori herself: NB: free books from Internet Archive are not often formatted and therefore you’ll get more weird and wonderful typos. Some books are better than others.

Dr. Montessori’s own handbook

Spontaneous Activity in Education

The Advanced Montessori Method

The Absorbent Mind

The Montessori Elementary Material

The Erdkinder and Functions of the University

Peace and Education

Books by other authors about Montessori and her methods.

A Montessori Mother (1913). The account of an American mother who went to Rome and met Dr Montessori and visited the Casa Bambini.

Montessori Children.

The Montessori System examined

A Guide to the Montessori Method.

Got a bit of money left over after buying the equipment? Or perhaps the overdraft isn’t close enough to the wire?

Montessori on a Shoestring offers good ideas for home made resources for younger children.

I would love to get Montessori; the Science Behind the Genius at some point.

This book Montessori Learning in the 21st Century is one I’d like to borrow and read, should our library ever have such books.

My free Montessori resources curtesy of Kalei at That ResourceSite.

While I’m here, I would like to draw your attention to the eStore at That ResourceSite where the DVD set is now for sale. I know that both Kalei and her husband has put a huge amount of work and dedication into this package. It’s well worth you having a look at it.

my little freebies;

Montessori pink, blue and green boxes and train template

Montessori grammar shapes

Math rods (red and blue) 1oo square, inch squares and tower templates. These are a good stop-gap while you’re saving up for the real deal. I am not that convinced they are good enough a full time replacements – but you can give them a go.

100s Board

The Sun, it’s parts, state and gases involved

Random freebies:

Science Jim videos

Study Jams

Not a bad little collection I’m sure there’ll be more.

The Rite by Matt Baglio. Book review (and some thoughts)

Matt Baglio follows the training and formation of American priest Fr. Gary Thomas who has been sent to Rome to learn the art of exorcism. It comes across as a very straight forward non-sensationalist account of the events and in that, some reviewers have been disappointed. For me this was rather refreshing. The subject matter is difficult enough and must be very difficult for those who suffer from oppression or possession and those who know and love them.

Fr. Gary begins his training with no interpreter and struggling to find his feet in the college and with senior exorcists when he had so little Italian. Any Catholic who has been part of the Church and her workings will smile at the usual chaos. Apparently there’s a bumper sticker which says “I hate organised religion” to which the only reply must be “so be a Catholic.”

ehem. I digress

Finally, Fr. Gary gets to apprentice with a very hard working priest, who has much God given stamina and who is the local exorcist with just enough English to communicate and Fr. Gary picks up just enough Italian that they can work in some middle pigeon ground.

The book is somewhat let down by its skirting over some aspects of possession, such as the different types and differences between hauntings, oppression and possession. He also says far too little on how people get into this pickle in the first place although the usual suspects are mentioned; dabbling in the occult and getting into superstitious practices.

He does mention curses, but doesn’t go unto detail about how these work and how they might fit into God’s permissive will.

Baglio describes some of the mental illnesses that must be assessed first before a consideration of possession can take place. This is a good solid overview but again is let down by Baglio’s own obvious lack of knowledge of psychiatry. He talks about somatisation as though this can be a valid diagnoses. There is no scientific or medical evidence that somatisation or as some call it conversion disorder actually exists. It falls under the same shadowy made-up dx as Munchausen and borderline personality disorder. There’s not real evidence for any of these labels. I think when trying to seek the truth about a person who presents with serious health problems it is important to seek the truth, about what is happening. Sadly I was left wondering how many people with spiritual problems were left with pseudo-diagnosis to palm them off.

After observing some exorcisms Fr. Gary recalls his own lack of personal experience of serious pain until he fell off a mountain and was severely injured. He remembered that it was the depression that came as a result of his injuries that was far more painful that the physical pain he felt. This reminiscence came shortly after the heart rending exorcism of a nun called Sr. Janica.

If you ever thought exoricism was just about being scary and weird and that you would never feel deep sorrow for a possessed person, her short story of longstanding suffering will change your mind.

In Fr Gary’s on painful experience he remembers how the Sacraments of the Sick and healing Masses helped him so much. This is something I truly wish the Church in the UK and elsewhere would take seriously. Far too many sick people are left without the healing ministry of the Church because it is simply not made available to us. It is hardly surprising in those situations that so many Catholics and other Christians turn to more dodgy ministries that in themselves have lead some people to require an exorsist when there is so little at parish level.

There are a number of questions that must be asked, and answered, which I think the book skips over too lightly. Why does God allow a person to be cursed so that they end up with some form of demonic possession having done nothing themselves to invite it?  I assume there’s some answer along the same lines as why God allows innocent people to be harmed or even killed by evil people.

The other question I had was on why some exorcisms took so long and why some people couldn’t be healed at all?

Overall the book is a good insight into one man’s training and how exorcists can and do work. It’s clear on many points and approaches it all very sensibly.Not all my questions were answered, but it was a good solid introduction to the subject.

Osler’s Web by Hillary Johnson Review

Osler’s Web; Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic. (My copy has a plain cover rather than the rather disturbing -but accurate one shown here)

Here is a book that shines a light on what medicine is playing at with people severely sick with ME, called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome just to laugh at “tired women”. If you want an insight into how 21st Century medicine can make medieval hedge witches look like well trained professionals, this is the book. Ms Johnson spent a long ten years researching and writing this thick tome of evidence with little commentary from herself, as she lets the facts speak for themselves.

From 1984 to 1994 Johnson follows the unfolding stories of the doctors and scientists who tried to get answers for the patients whose lives were being devastated by this disease.

The inside of the Centre’s for Disease Control is not that surprising. There’s a lot of status quo pen pushers and people who do not want interesting times to happen to them. They will ignore, shift responsibility and generally muck about rather than do anything worthwhile. The CDC is well known for being very late to every disease and having little control on anything. So the fact that the CDC were so out to lunch over the outbreaks of ME across America isn’t surprising. The fact that the NIH are not better is also not surprising (I worked for the NHS remember).

What was shocking was the utter maliciousness of staff there, especially Stephen Straus whose vindictiveness was irrational. (He died in 2007, Kyrie Eleison) This man’s single-minded misogyny and total lack of integrity caused so much damage to the research and care of patients and shockingly because he was a “big gun” his lack of scientific rigour or basic honesty leaves patients without care still.

Walter Gunn who had worked hard retired from the corrupt CDC before his time, “his resignation testament to the agency’s continued negligence in the the realm of the disease as well as Congress’s failure to regulate the agency.” (p 556)

A 1992 survey conducted by clinical psychologist Leonard Jason of DePaul University suggested that close to 40% of CFS patients eventually dropped out of mainstream medicine altogether. Brutalised by their reception in doctors’ examining rooms, they ceased consulting doctors, preferring instead to wait out their disease away from the medical profession’s unhelpful counsel. (p584)

The fact that this survey is so accurate and still true today is an indictment of the medical profession. As an ex-nurse I am utterly ashamed that seriously ill people can be treated like this and nothing is done to stop it. Another psychiatrist named Goodrich was married to a wife, also a psychiatrist,  with serious ME.  He was troubled by the callous responses doctors gave his wife. I know what she has gone through because I have received those responses from arrogant self serving medics who see the dx “Fibromyalgia and ME” and immediately act like I’m a non-person, disposable.

Goodrich was angry enough and realistic and courageous enough to stand up for patients with ME. He pointed out that AIDS patients had suffered the same pompous refusal to accept their situation – especially children with AIDs – as ME sufferers at that time. While AIDs had to be faced as it killed it’s patients fairly quickly and fairly often, he thought ME wasn’t killing enough people even though the suicide rate was so high, so the medics were too thick to see it’s devastation. Goodrich added,

A case can be made that CFS is a worse disease than AIDs at least for the 50% of cases that are severe, since the patients’ lives are totally disrupted by pain, mental confusion, physical weakness and other[symptoms)…Such patients often envy AIDS patients who can anticipate eventual relief of symptoms through death.” (p.585).

Johnson compares the shoddy standards of the CDC over ME/cfs and the doors shut in the faces of service veterans struggling with what came to be known as Gulf War Syndrome.

Apart from the rare cancers like Burkitt’s and some others, deaths from ME were mainly due to suicide in those first years. Johnson notes that it was the deaths, especially high profile deaths with AIDS that finally forced the CDC to take note.

More than 20 years down the line we are more aware that people are dying of ME and it’s related symptoms, especially heart failure and stroke. But still the professionals are not catching up.

When the book Emerging Infections was published, Johnson notes, it was made clear by its scientist authors that the CDC was nowhere near ready (and some might add or willing) to face emerging new or renewed infections. Surveillance measures even for listed diseases were pretty poor.

The heroes of this story are real doctors like Dan Peterson and Paul Cheney who were on the front lines of the Tahoe outbreak. Dr David Bell who watched young children and teens have their health and lives ripped away from them. Elaine deFreitas who discovered the virus clues and whose protocol the CDC utterly refused to follow, so that her work was not replicated and proved.

This Review is worth reading

Book Review: Unbridled Grace – the astonishing dangers of being a chiropractor.

Qualifying as a chiropractor should be a straightforward way to get to earn a living and take care of  your family. Dr. Norman answered a tiny little ad. in a newspaper looking for a part time chiropractor at a little Spanish speaking medical practice and he applied. He got the interview and he got the job. Wonderful.

Or not.

Unbridled Grace is the “you couldn’t make it up” story of an ordinary person finding themselves working for the Russian Mafia.  If that isn’t bad enough, he soon finds his family life under attack, his daughter’s well-being threatened and his life about to be seriously penned in, not because of the Mafia, who barely seem to be bothered with him, but because of the police and the FBI. It’s the Government agents with no soul who come out of this looking truly evil. Fabricated evidence and social-climbing with emotional manipulations and threats make up their action against Dr. Norman.

The most astounding part of the story, where surely the agent should have received some sort of serious disciplinary action, but didn’t, was the over dramatic arrest of the doctor in front of his then 5 year old daughter. It took her many years before she could hear the doorbell ring and not run for cover.

In the midst of this 8 year battle to get back to the life he had worked so hard for and to prove his innocence (so much for innocent until proven guilty) Dr. Norman finds God in his foxhole and of course God (who has a great sense of humour) produced some quiet, but moving, miracles.

For those of us feeling a bit like victims, or footballs, being kicked around a system of uncaring but powerful “professionals” and I use that word loosely, this is a book of hope and promise. It’s a quick and easy read and I recommend it.

I don’t recommend working for the Mafia … or the FBI…

Home Education Literature plans for grades k to 4

Here is a list of some of the books we have read or intend to read. I’ve marked the ones I read to them as read alouds. Many of those will be personal reading books for the children in the future. Audio is marked as audio. Read alouds and audio are for a mixed age audience. I’ll undoubtedly be writing more about what we read as the next academic year goes on.

KINDERGARTEN (year 1)

All these books are read aloud books as most K aged children can’t read at this level yet. They are important for teaching listening skills and building vocabulary and reasoning skills. All the more reason for avoiding the disneyfied versions of things like Winnie the Pooh

Trawl second hand bookshops and charity shops, unless you are lucky enough to have easy acess to Wigtown. Get the old Postman Pat books. The new ones are so badly written, that they could make your eyes bleed! Children are nowhere near as dim as some of the “new” adapted versions would have us believe. Charlotte Mason warned against twaddle and I’ve come across some really sugary stuff form her day, but even those don’t quite plumb the depths of grammatical horribleness as the new versions of Postman Pat and Winnie the Pooh.

Winnie The Pooh The real ones by A A Milne.

Alfie and Annie Rose Shirley Hughes is a wonderful writer and illustrator.

The Dairy of a Wombat (activities)

Little Pear (I don’t have this yet, but intend to get it)

The Blue Fairy Book Andrew Lang audio Lit2Go

All things Amy Steedman here as well

Aesop’s fables and audio Lit2Go

Brother William’s Year A beautiful little book on the life of a monastary.

Granfather’s Journey

All things Tomie DePaola.

For Heleyna to read herself we will be using the printed up and online version of the Starfall books, the Oxford Reading Tree books (not as phonic based as the newer ones I believe) and Step Into Reading Books I’ve accumulated over the years as well as the free online Oxford Owl books.

(Ignore the grades for these books. Even Avila who has some mild dyslexic tenancies was reading Step into Reading level 5 books like the Trojan Horse by grade 1.  And the ORT years and ages are not very useful as guides either). Having said that the grades I have put books into are just a basic guide. Your children will be different and their interests may be different.

GRADE 1 (yr 2)

26 Fairmount Ave series by T DePaola (self read)

The Secret Garden  (read aloud) (free ebook)

The Pheonix and the Carpet   (read aloud) (free ebook)

Stranger Moon  audio

The Chronicles of Narnia read along with audio

The Happy Prince and other Stories which includes my favourite The Selfish Giant. We have a hardcopy of this. (self read)

Martin’s Mice and the Hodgeheg by Dick King Smith (self read)

the Little Ships; A story of the Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk.

GRADE 2 (yr 3)

Wise Guy; the Life and Philosophy of Socrates Good intro for children.

The Arabian Nights Andrew Lang

Little House in the Big Wood Laura Ingalls Wilder (copywrite free if you live in  Canada)

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (no we wont be watching the movie which I hear is nothing like the book). (self read)

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis. and sharing with her brother the other Narnia stories following them from Readings From Under the Grapevine.

The Little Duke Charlotte Yonge (free ebook)

Mary Poppins

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz

GRADE 3 (yr 4)

Emil and the Detectives

St Ignatius and the Company of Jesus

Tom’s Midnight Garden

The Sword in the Stone

Francis of the Seven Seas (I know Seton has it down as G 6 but Ronan wanted to read it now so he is)

Gregor Mendel, The Friar who grew peas Good science picture book with the story of Fr Mendel and his genetic discovery and experiementation with peas.

Usborne Classics (adaption) Don Quixote

Adolphus Tips Michael Morpurgo (An Iona find in a charity shop)

GRADE 4 (yr 5)

Captain’s Courageous Rudyard Kipling

Around the World in 80 Days Jules Verne audio from Lit2Go

The Call of the Wild Jack London audio from Lit2Go

The Children of the New Forest Frederick Marryat

Famous Men of Greece Charles Haaren (I have the mobi version as I bought the Yesterday’s Classics set a last year)

The Cat of Bubastes G. A. Henty

On Henty – I-ve read he should be treated with caution. He wrote fiction more than he wrote “historical” apparently, and the place I found the info did a short overview of his book on the fall of Jerusalem showing the problems. He is also well known as writing some anti-Catholic anhistorical stuff too – so I am going to either pre-read (God give me a 28 hr day) or avoid. There’s plenty of other stuff out there.

The Lost World Arthur Conan Doyle

Swallows and Amazons (which I bought in Wigtown the Book Town of Scotland)

Mystery of the Roman Ransom

The Children’s Homer (I picked up a lovely hardcopy of this in Wigtown).

The Canterville Ghost Oscar Wilde

More Narnia books.

MIXED BAG

Frog and Toad

The Ink Garden of Br Theophane along with Magic in the Margins and Marguerite Makes a Book are beautiful ways to get children interested in manuscript and book making before printing. There are basic recipes for the inks and the books themselves are so well illustrated you’ll have plenty of inspiration. Activity sheet (opens pdf)

What’s Your Angle Pythagoras?

I love just about all the Picture books I’ve ever bought and have a lot that I hope to buy eventually. They are books for relaxing with and suit all three of them pretty well. Avila is lovely at sitting with younger children and reading to them and these books are ideal for that.

Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery

Other books I might think of getting for free reading>

Inkheart                                                                   The Hundred and One Dalmations

The Borrowers

READ ALOUDS (if I have voice – audio if not)

The Secret Garden (I’ve read this to them before but Avila has requested it again) Also by Frances Hodgeson Burnett Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess

E.Nesbit books

Home Education Book Basket

It’s half term and so the children are doing their own thing and reading whatever they like.

Ronan (age 9) is still reading The Sword in the Stone. He loves it.

He and Avila (age 7) together are reading along to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. They have just finished listening to Stranger Moon which they loved and have requested I buy the book at some point.

Heleyna (age 5) has been following along to the Usborne Pinocchio and CD set and Avila has read her The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

For herself Avila is reading Martin’s Mice which was one of the first books I got Alex to read after I’d re-taught him to read.

Note: For those of you who have very reluctant readers or a child with dyslexia a book like Martin’s Mice is a good way to get them back into reading without using very childish books.

I am reading:

Osler’s Web. Yes I’m still reading it and I am still learning from it. I’ve read more on the astonishing Ampligen trial wherein the FDA refused to accept the findings because too many egos were at stake.  Now the only way to get onto the newer trails is if you happen to be very very wealthy indeed. However at least the fact that the FDA turned it down back then has not taken the drug that had such solid results first time around off the table. 

Even when you take into account the usual corruption and self serving bureaucracy of those who work in big organisations like the NIH and CDC, I am still stunned by the sheer maliciousness that was aimed at very sick people whom most of the doctors and research had never even bothered to meet. During a conference a research doctor from Glasgow walked out on a presentation because there was a video showing a patient obviously extremely ill. His lack of professional behaviour and basic good manners is staggering and made more so by the knowledge that the patient he was so dismissive of died two years later.

I am also having a Sigrid Undset time reading Catherine of Siena (Kindle)which is brilliant and The Bridal Wreath which is the first book of the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. (kindle)

Undset is a fairly recent find for me but she writes with extraordinary skill, and I have to say the translater is to be praised also.

I have Jenny to read later. I think it’s the only public domain English translation out there, unless anyone knows of another? As she seems to be one of those writers who have a genuine gift throughout all she writes I hope to read all of the books I can find.

Book Review: The Boy Who Met Jesus by Immaculee Ilibagiza.

 Immaculee Ilibagiza has written a short book about her personal favourite seer from the days when Our Blessed Mother came on urgent business to try and prevent the Rwandan genocide. If you have not read Immaculee’s other books Led By Faith and Left to Tell I recommend them highly. Before reading this book about Emmanual Segatashya is would be worth reading her other books on her survival of the Rwandan Genocide and Our Lady’s visit to Kibeho in the 1980’s.

Now, first I need to say something about private revelation. We know that all public revelation of the Faith ended with the death of the last apostle (presumably St. John). After that no new revelation has or can be given. While doctrine can mature and organically develop it cannot change. Private revelation can only reiterate what we should already know from Scripture and Tradition.

The Faithful are not bound to believe in any particular private revelation, although obviously some sensible discernment would mean accepting some as truthful. For example, I am writing this on Divine Mercy Sunday, which is based on the private revelations of St. Faustina who conversed with both Jesus and Our Blessed Mother and received the message that we need to be seeking God’s mercy, rather than His judgement.

The Church can take an awful long time before She gives her approval or disapproval of a revelation. Sometimes the decision is made quickly, especually where there are obvious problems, and on rare occasions a decision can be made quickly where it seems the message is clear and urgent. In Rwanda the bishop was on the ball and gave initial approval for some of the visions fairly quickly. The urgency of Our Lady’s message was so important that the bishop wisely approved the prayers and conversion that she was asking for.

A commission was set up to investigate all those who claimed to receive visions at the time and by this point the final decisions on many of them are still not in.

The decision about the visions received by Segatashya has not been made and therefore his visions at this moment remain unapproved – that is no decision has been made. Immaculee begins her book by saying those on the commission believed him and believe the young man will eventually receive approval, but she does make it clear that it has not yet happened and she adds that some of the interviews and tapes done with him were lost in the Genocide. Very sadly Segatashya along with some of the other visionaries were murdered in that all out demonic slaughter.

Immaculee then goes on to tell us about Segatashya. He was a pagan, born to a pagan family in the substance farming land of Rwanda. He grew up in a grass hut, helping with the bean crop every year. If the crop failed they would starve. He was fairly old when his mother decided she wanted him to get some sort of education and his dad walked him the long miles to the nearest school. Segatashya however thought there were better things to do than be stuck in a hot hut classroom all day and so avoided school. In the end he simply never received an education. When Jesus first approached Segatashya the boy had no idea who He was, but He felt sure He was important and immediately attempted to do as he had been asked.

Whether you accept that the visions happened or not, something happened to that pagan child, which lead to him and his entire family being baptised. Jesus sent his teenaged son away from the bean field and out to Burundi and the Congo to preach the Gospel. He received the gift of tongues when needed so he could preach in the local languages (having only learned his own kinyarwanda).

Immaculee gives some of the edited highlights from the massive interviews of the commission, which show us Segatashya knew he would die young and knew that God was warning people to stop the hatred before full scale evil and violence erupted. Of course we know that neither Segatashya nor the other visionaries were taken seriously enough and ten years later all hell quite literally broke loose in Rwanda and has continued in the Congo neighbouring regions.

One area where I think the editing was a little off was in letting some of the interviews go without some proper explanation. This has caused a couple of reviewers to misunderstand some of what happened. At one point Segatashya wants to know what Jesus suffered in His Passion. As with many saints who have received the immense consolation of face to face time with Jesus and His Mother, Segatashya was asked to partake of some of the Passion. As a result he received a terrible spiritual beating. It does not come across plainly enough in the book that this was part of the seer participating in Christ’s Passion. Only by knowing the immensity of the pain and suffering of saints like St. Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Padre Pio and seers like Bl Maria Taigi do we grasp what was asked of Segatashya here. It was asked in part because he was a witness for the people who were rejecting God and about to embark on a blood bath that still shocks the world today.

Another point in the book that I think has or will raise hackles is where Segatashya tells a protestant minister that Jesus wants all men to be the best they can be in whatever faith they are in. This could come across as syncretism or indifference. I don’t think that is what was happening here, but the lack of explanation could leave Segatashya’s words (on what he claimed Jesus said) open to this interpretation. But there are subtle additions in the text in which Jesus says that those who have more of the faith will have more expected of them. So we see that as Catholics who have the fullness of the Faith being part of the Church Christ Himself founded, we must be better, follow more closely and probably suffer more, than can be expected of good people seeking God who have yet to find the fulness of truth. Essentially it seemed to me that Jesus had told Segatashya that so long as men sought the Truth, whether they had found it fully or not at death, He would show them mercy.

Immaculee met Segatashya only once and spent a few short hours talking with him. He was a simple man who worked as a handy man once the visions stopped. Despite his gift of tongues he never learned to read. Soon after the meeting the lives of both were convulsed by the outbreak of genocide. Emmanuel Segatashya was murdered . His sister Christine managed to survive and she and Immaculee eventually met up.

This is a moving story, in light of the back story. It’s short, perhaps too short, but in light of the other books it is a great little addition to the story.

I hope one day Emmanuel Segatashya will stand alongside Alphonsine Mumureke, Nathalie Mukamazimpaka and Marie-Claire Mukangango as an approved visionary of Our Lady of Kibeho.

The message of repentance, prayer and truly loving our neighbour and especially the sanctity of marriage is still vital today. If we don’t turn around soon, how are we to avoid what happened in Rwanda?

 

Introduce the Tsujisoi and the NHS will improve.

I have finished reading A Song for Nagasaki and recommend the book very highly. There’s lots to write about in the story of Dr Takashi Nagai but here is one idea I thought would be very good for the NHS and other hospitals.

There is a Japanese custom in which a person called a Tsujisoi goes to the hospital with the patient and sits with them, feeding them, keeping them comfortable and bringing water or whatever they need. The Tsujisoi was usually a family member, but if this wasn’t possible a neighbour or elder would take on the role. So when the young Dr. Nagai became very ill and needed hospital treatment an elderly lady came to sit with him as his own family lived a very long way away. When the doctor’s future wife Midori became seriously ill, her mother went with her to the hospital to be her Tsujisoi.

Japanese culture back then was very family oriented. It interested me to see that as Dr Nagai moved from Shinto with it’s elements of Buddhism and Confucian philosophy, through to material scientism and atheism, and finally to Catholicism, the one part of his life that remained solid was the traditional love and respect of family.

If we were to introduce something like this into the British health service we would have to actually train people to treat the sick with kindness and patience. We would have to teach people how to feed a sick person, see to their comfort and ensure they are properly hydrated. Perhaps we could teach these Tsujisoi the Tea Ceremony as well. Then they would learn the importance of a good cuppa, which both the Chinese and Japanese understood to have medicinal uses (Green tea especially). A cup of tea has a relaxing and companionable aspect which must be helpful to the healing process surely.

There is something in the way Fr. Glynn writes that shows his love for the culture of the people he spent more than twenty years living among. His description of their treatment of one another exemplifies a deep understanding of the inherent dignity of the person. This coupled with a deep respect and even worship of ancestors, in Shinto, made their love and care of family deep rooted.

How astonishingly tragic that the militaristic take over of Japan led some of her people to behave in direct contradiction of the deep respect that was rooted in their culture.  We too, once had a culture, born out of our Christianity, that had a deep rooted understanding of the importance of family and the inherent dignity of the human person. All that is swept away now as we plunge headlong into a world where strong adults make up rights for themselves and trample the inherent rights of the little ones.

An army of tea making Tsujisoi with their kind words and quick ability to see the needs of their patient, could actually save us all a lot of money as well cared for, properly hydrated and fed people recover much more quickly than those left in distress to starve and dehydrate. We just have to bring back a bit of simple human kindness.

 

My Lent reading – on Dr. Takashi Nagai, A Song for Nagasaki.

Fr Paul Glynn is the author of A Song For Nagasaki which I am reading for Lent.  I have read that the cause for the canonisation of Dr Takashi Nagai is under way. I hope to see the day he is canonised.

Fr Glynn, I believe, spent a lot of time in Japan and certainly seems to know the language, culture and people well. He writes the story of the Doctor around the long history and the tales of Catholics and persecution there.

This might be made into a short film on the 26 martyrs of Nagasaki. I think one of the men crucified was a teenaged boy.

You can see the films progress and offer some support HERE at ALL THAT REMAINS

Home Education Reading Week

It would be half term this week, but as Al is not off until next week I have decided to make this a reading week. I am reading to them from the two Seton History books The Catholic Faith Comes to the Americas (we have an older version) and Our Catholic Legacy. It has proved depressingly difficult to get honestly written history books for the children, so I have decided to use Catholic books to balance and correct some dishonesty, editorial silence and just plain wrong stuff in other history books.

Ronan (grade 3/ year 4) is reading Macbeth from the boxed Shakespeare Stories set we have.His next book with be Tom’s Midnight Garden  , so I’ve made a special Ronan folder on my Kindle.(I am beginning to think I should have bought him a Kindle for his upcoming birthday – but oh well, Christmas …) For his self reading he has just finished The Wizard of Oz and has decided to read Five Children and It which I read to them some time ago. Yes, he has been borrowing my Kindle rather a lot.

Avila (Gr 1/yr 2) is reading Things Will Never Be the Same from T. dePaola’s 26 Fairmount Ave series. For self reading she has been going through some of the picture books and has been reading a little book of Oscar Wilde’s stories for children which I got from a second hand books shop last summer.

If you have a Kindle or your child has a Kindle you might be interested in the Gutenberg Children’s Bookshelf.

Read together Stories From Winnie the Pooh which is the real stories not the awful disneyfied ones.

And me? Well I am reading Have His Carcass by the wonderful Dorothy L. Sayers. I have been lent How Children Fail by John Holt, which is a short, fairly interesting book of Holt’s observations in schools at the end of the ’50s and beginning of the ’60s. I am also slowly but surely reading the absolutely brilliant expose book Osler’s Web by Hillary Johnson. This book is well worth reading and has opened my eyes to why it is I am always hitting walls when it comes to getting answers or care for the fibromyalgia; the politics and vested interest wrapped in egos is the reason.

Christmas traditions and book basket

We have some family traditions for Advent and Christmas. There are traditional stories to read and the traditional things to cook.

Food wise we make marmalade, cranberry sauce, Christmas mincemeat and Iona makes chilli jam. I make rich “boiled” Christmas cake. It isn’t really boiled but that seems to be the name for it. Then Iona makes a chocolate log.

This year I am starting a new tradition of making mulled apple juice. (Last year I made mulled berry juice but we didn’t get the fruit in time this year).

Then there’s the great pre-Christmas clear out. It’s astonishing how many bin bags we can fill in this time.

The children all do a clear out of their toys and make sure there is a big bag of things to give to Santa. This is because Saint Nicholas likes to make sure he has enough toys for poorer families and it’s good for the children to give Santa a hand in his work.

An at first glance rather strange family tradition is having the tree in a play pen. We started this tradition when Ronan was little and had tried to pull the tree down on top of himself. Having it in the pen means it can’t be climbed or pulled over and the pressies are safer under it.

One of the other traditions for the older three is to help Father put the Christmas tree up in Church and build the crib scene.

Story time over Christmas for the children there’s a few favourites:

The Legend of Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola 

Some of the stories from Classic Christmas Stories

Tomie dePaola’s Legend of Old Befana

Also I am still reading them The Phoenix and the Carpet by E Nesbit and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus from Yesterday’s Classics (Kindle edition)

My reading: I am still reading The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers (but can’t remember where I got it).

Also courtesy if Ignatius Press I am reading Theophilis by Michael O’Brien

And None Other Gods by R H Benson

I have also just received Matron Knows Best by Joan Woodcock the true story of a 1960s NHS nurse.

home education: reading week

As there is so much to organise for Christmas, we are spending this week reading and cooking.

The children are continuing their music lessons every day and then there are stories.

Ronan is reading Emil and the Detectives and Avila is reading What a Year from the 26 Fairmount Ave books.

Heleyna is reading Oxford Reading Tree stage 1+ books and the books on more.starfall and Starfall.

I have also just downloaded a free geography – maps and flags game called Seterra which has proved fun.

Read Alouds this week:

The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie de Paola (This book seems really difficult to get hold of these days.)

From my Kindle

The Pheonix and the Carpet

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (bought when Yesterday’s Classics were doing a massive deal). It’s not the real story of Santa Claus, but it’s a fun tale nevertheless.

My personal reading at the moment is Theophilos by Michael O’Brien

and Dorothy L Sayers Unpleasentness at the Bellona Club – but I can’t remember where I found it online.

I am sure there will be more, around all the cooking, prep and stuff and I’ll update if there is.

My Amazon store and Baldwin Project deal

I have made an Amazon store, which I suppose is anything but distributist of me, but then I suppose you could say it’s a bit like a corner store in cyber space.

Go and have a look at LIVING BOOKS, NO TWADDLE (Hopefully) To be honest I am not expecting to make much money from this, but as I am setting it out as a sort o curriculum I hope some one will find it useful. I’m still updating it so keep an eye on it.

I am presently setting up a separate blog with curriculum details that will include freebies and other stuff. It’s not ready to launch, and as things are busy right now, probably wont be for a while – but I’ll let you know when it’s done.

Meanwhile, if you want to spend your hard earned cash usefully, there is this lovely offer at the Baldwin Project where you get 200+ ebooks for under $100.

Enjoy.