On Barb’s Bookshelf: McCracken and the Lost Lady

Engineer, solver of mysteries, faithful Catholic and owner of a zeppelin: “Mac” McCracken is an intriguing character even before he ventures into the Russian wilderness in search of a lost icon.

Fourth in Mark Adderley’s adventure series for readers 10 and up, McCracken and the Lost Lady can be read as a standalone story due to the author’s careful inclusion of just enough backstory to inform the reader of what came before–without quenching the reader’s desire to read the rest of the novels.

Lost Lady Front Cover

In the spring of 1917, the world is embroiled in an ugly war and on the brink of change as revolutionaries are poised to take over the government in Russia. McCracken and his team overhear a conversation that leads them straight to Lenin, then receive a surprise commission to seek out the missing icon of the Blessed Mother: the lost Lady of Kazan. Restoration of this icon to its proper place is key to bringing peace to the world.

As we celebrate the centennial of the Fatima apparitions this year, McCracken and the Lost Lady is the perfect historical fiction to accompany a discussion of the historical context of the Blessed Mother’s message at Fatima.

Readers will enjoy the suspense and adventure that follows McCracken as he travels the world with his wife and toddler plus a fascinating crew from all over the world–in a zeppelin complete with its own library, chef’s kitchen, and a wealth of scientific equipment.

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Winning Reads for Kids and Teens

It’s always fun to learn that books you’ve enjoyed have won awards! It’s even better when you’ve met an author or have a local connection. That’s the case with two books for kids and teens from Pauline Books and Media, both of which won Excellence in Publishing Awards from the Association of Catholic Publishers this week.

If you’re looking for books for your children and teens this summer, I highly recommend these two!

A Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman

Stephanie Engelman, whom I met last summer at the Catholic Marketing Network tradeshow and Catholic Writers Guild Conference, proves that a story doesn’t have to be edgy to be compelling. In her YA novel, A Single Bead (Pauline Teen, 2016) teenage Kate finds faith in an unlikely way: through the stories of others who have been touched by the prayers of her grandmother, killed in a plane crash a year ago.

From my review: The novel opens with Kate’s extended family gathered around the plane-crash site for a memorial service. Needing a moment to get away from the tension and grief, Kate stumbles toward a wooded area where she finds a shiny bead–one from her grandmother’s custom-made rosary that had silver beads with the initials of her loves ones engraved on each. Kate doesn’t find just any bead. She finds the one with her own initials on it.

Kate and her cousins go on to discover that other beads have been found, and that the people who received them have experienced physical or emotional healing. Could it be that her grandmother’s prayers have such a deep effect?

Thus begins a journey of faith for Kate, whose extended family is deeply Catholic but whose own immediate family is less engaged in the faith. But faith is exactly what’s needed, because Kate’s mom has fallen into a deep depression after the plane crash a year ago. Kate hopes that finding other pieces of the rosary will help heal her mom.

This compelling novel is appropriate for students in grades 5 and up and challenges the reader to lay aside the idea that a prayer or a sacramental can be a “magical” thing. It is refreshing to read about an extended family whose life is centered on faith.

 

32 days

Author Ellen Lucey Prozeller writes from my diocese (Trenton, NJ). Her book, 32 Days: A Story of Faith and Courage, is a historical fiction account of the life of a little girl in China who, with her family, was forced to practice her Catholic faith in secret.

From my review: After her church was desecrated by Communist soldiers, Pei makes the risky decision to sneak into the church at night to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. The story is told from Pei’s point of view. Readers in grades 3 through 5 will learn about a child their own age who lives her faith in a time of oppression: a young, unknown Catholic hero.

Winning Reads for Kids and Teens

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

 

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Happy Jar

I’m always happy to review children’s books. I may not be reading them along with (or ahead of) my kids anymore, but since I volunteer in the school library, I spend a few hours each week surrounded by children’s books and children asking for book recommendations.

happy jar

Jake Frost’s new picture book, The Happy Jar, is one I’ll definitely recommend to young readers, but I think it’s most effective as a read-aloud.

That’s because The Happy Jar, as the back-cover blurb indicates, is “about life’s little moments and the love that transforms them into memories for a lifetime.” Jake’s inspiration for this book was an idea his oldest child came up with when she was only four years old. In the book, the little girl explains,

“Every night when we say our prayers, we also say something from the day that goes in our Happy Jar, and we thank Jesus for it.”

What a wonderful bedtime-prayer ritual, and what a great story of the daddy-daughter bond. Then again, the bond between father and child is the signature topic for Jake Frost, and one he explores with great humor and tenderness.

The illustrations in this book stand apart from many of the children’s books that are published today. While these illustrations are brightly-colored, they’re not garish or glaring. They’re simple and engaging, just right for a bedtime-story book.

When you read The Happy Jar with your young child, you’ll be reminded that the best memories don’t have to cost a lot of money. Many of the best memories don’t cost any money: they’re just based on time spent together, having fun, letting children use their imaginations and enjoying the world around you.

After you read The Happy Jar with your young child, ask what they would like to add to their “happy jar” that day.

I know it’s early to be thinking about Father’s Day already, but this book is a perfect gift for a small child to give to Daddy on Father’s Day.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

#WorthRevisit: Library Fun

"It's All About the Wardrobe" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom)

Yesterday I was the Substitute Librarian, and substitute teaching is always an adventure, especially when you’ll be dealing with little kids.

After my stint in Morning Car Line I headed upstairs to discover that the librarian had filled the bookmark basket with an assortment of holy cards mixed with publishers’ postcards advertising children’s books. The overwhelming majority of the kids chose holy cards for their bookmarks, and there was much comparing of the pictures on those cards.

One first-grader displayed the Pope Benedict card he’d chosen and asked me to pronounce the name under the picture. Since these kids are only 6 or 7 and wouldn’t remember any pope besides Pope Francis, I explained that Pope Benedict was the pope before Pope Francis.

“I have a Pope Francis card!” another little boy bragged, waving a picture of Pope Benedict in the air.

“No, that’s Pope Benedict. Both of these pictures are Pope Benedict.”

“But this one is wearing red! He’s not the same one!”

Image sources: Fabio Pozzebom/ABr – Agência Brasil [1], CC BY 3.0 br, Link and [1]Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

It’s all about the random when you’re teaching. A few years ago, during Catholic Schools Week, I received a lovely packet of homemade cards thanking me for volunteering in the library.  Sentiments included:

“We are all very grateful for you donating your time for the school. You’re a very thoughtful person. As they say in Spanish, gracias!”

“It is a massive responsibility for you to go to the library every single Friday.”

“Every time you come on a Friday it makes me feel happy inside.”

“When you are supporting us we are supporting you.”

“I hope you are proud of yourself!”

“I am thankful because you could be doing something other than helping.”

“You are the greatest book stamper ever!”

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Broken Brain, Fortified Faith

Virginia Pillars’ memoir of a mother navigating the world of parenting a young adult with a brand-new diagnosis schizophrenia is at once heart-wrenching, informative and inspiring. In Broken Brain, Fortified Faith, Pillars honestly describes her day-by-day experience with her daughter’s illness and recovery, with a view toward helping other families whose lives are touched by a frustrating disease.

While this book chronicles several very difficult years for Virginia Pillars’ entire family, the author never loses hope. The book’s subtitle, “Lessons of Hope through a Child’s Mental Illness,” proclaims loud and clear that while this story contains plenty of tears, the trials this family endured did not break them. God did not abandon them. Yes, there were times when the author questioned her ability to trust God, but again and again she was reminded to rely on her faith. Some of my favorite parts of this book were Pillars’ reflections on the devotionals she was reading during the time the events of this book took place.

The author of the day’s devotional . . . reminded me of life’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows. But most importantly, I held on to the idea: God will not abandon me in any circumstance.
The idea brought comfort to me as I thought about how recently it felt like I had trudged through one crisis after another; I felt like the proverbial boat, drifting away from my shore of faith.
I closed my book and pondered what I had just read. Is this what you want me to know, God? Keep my eyes on You? The thought “When things get hard, depend on Me; draw close to Me” remained in my soul as I went about my day. (206-7)

The author’s conversational style make a book with challenging subject matter easy to read. Pillars takes a day-by-day approach through the difficult months of diagnosis and a search for appropriate treatment, bringing the reader along for the ride to hospitals, waiting rooms, and therapists’ offices. Her first impulse, when hearing of any kind of setback, is to place her daughter in God’s hands, asking Him to be with her in that time of crisis.

And yes, setbacks happened. Schizophrenia is not an easy illness to treat, so there were definitely “one step forward, two steps back” moments–and difficult times for other family members as well. Pillars’ other children and grandchildren went through some of their own health crises during this time (I’ll tell you right now, you’re going to want tissues handy once you reach chapter 24).

It’s not a spoiler to mention that Virginia Pillars is very dedicated to mental-health advocacy now. She reaches out to others through her website, support groups, and her book. At the end of the book you’ll find a list of books, websites and other resources to help families affected by mental illness.

broken brain fortified faith

About the author: Virginia Pillars lives on a farm, along with her husband of forty-two years, where she also operates an embroidery business. Virginia is the mother of four, one of whom suffered from a mental illness, and a grandmother of four with a passion for reaching out to families who are also affected. She volunteers both as an educator and support group leader for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and speaks to organizations on the effects of mental illness on families. Virginia became certified in First Aid for Mental Health in 2014. She has also been a frequent speaker on her faith journey to both youth and adults for over twenty-five years. Virginia is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild. She details her journey through mental illness with her child in her memoir, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith: Lessons of Hope Through a Child’s Mental Illness. Published in September, 2016, it is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all independent book stores. Find Virginia’s blog at VirginiaPillars.com; follower her on Twitter @VirginiaPillars.

Barb's Book shelf blog title
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

First Communion: Save It for Sunday

"First Communion: Save it for Sunday" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (Franciscanmom.com)

Disclaimer: The following is my own opinion based on my own observations over many years of being a parent, a musician, and a parishioner. I am not a member of the clergy, a catechist, or the holder of a degree in theology.

This past weekend, it was my privilege to be one of the musicians at our parish’s First Holy Communion celebration. This is the first time in several years that First Holy Communion was held on a Saturday.

I’m not a fan.

I can think of only four reasons to schedule First Holy Communion as a separate event for only the children in the Communion class and their families:

  1. Hairdressers are open on Saturdays.
  2. It’s easier to schedule the afterparty.
  3. Sunday Mass won’t take 5 extra minutes because there are a few children receiving First Holy Communion, and it takes a little longer to have them (and their parents) receive before the entire assembly.
  4. There’s a good deal of extra running around involved for the DRE.

None of these are good reasons. All of these (except reason 4) pander to people who are either more concerned about the externals of the celebration than the sacrament itself or likely to complain because Mass is a little longer than usual. We need to challenge the assembly, including the families of children receiving sacraments, to be better than this.

I can think of one compelling reason to (as my parish has done for the past few years) designate a Sunday (or two) as First Communion Sunday and invite families to sign up for the Mass they usually attend and receive First Communion:

Reception of the Eucharist is not a private event.

The celebration of First Holy Communion should not be divorced from the rest of the parish.

I used to love when First Communion Sundays rolled around. There would be several families arriving in the vestibule as I got there. The other musicians and I would make sure to congratulate the children. The First Communicants and their families would sit in the first few rows of pews, and there would be special mention of First Communion during the homily and the Prayer of the Faithful. The rest of the people at Mass were the people who are also usually at that Mass, and seeing children receive First Communion at Sunday Mass strengthens that community bond within the parish.

Three years ago, when my friends’ sons received First Holy Communion, I wrote:

I love that at this parish, First Communion is celebrated during Sunday Masses, so that the whole community gets to be there to celebrate along with the children who have been waiting in the pews for seven or eight years to join the rest of the assembly in the sacrament.

Those boys are altar servers now. There’s a commitment to the Church that is affirmed when a family faithfully attends Mass together.

And then there are the other reasons that Sunday is the proper day for First Communion:

  • The pastor will not be tempted to tell parents of First Communicants, “If you’re not going to bring them on Sunday, don’t bother bringing them on Saturday.” (Yes, this happened when my oldest received his First Communion in 2000.)
  • The pastor and/or deacon will not need to provide verbal directions such as “Please kneel” (after the Holy, Holy, Holy) because even if there are visitors among the families of the First Communicants, the vast majority of the assembly will know what to do and will lead by example.
  • There won’t be a low hum of conversation throughout the entire Mass. (Yes, this happened at the class Mass on Saturday.)
  • Catechists won’t need to scold First Communicants for talking and fidgeting while they wait for the rest of the assembly to receive Communion, because the First Communicants will be sitting with their parents, who should be monitoring and modeling church behavior. (Yes, this happened at the class Mass on Saturday.)
  • Family members and friends of the First Communicants will be less tempted to treat the occasion as a photo opportunity (even after instructions to the contrary are given) and won’t jump out into the aisle to wave at their First Communicant during the entrance procession. (Yes, this happened (several times) at the class Mass on Saturday.)

There should be nothing in the religious education program at a parish that sends the message (intentionally or not) that sacraments of initiation are private events, to be enjoyed only by those receiving those sacraments and their families and friends.

By Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP via Flickr (2009), CC BY-NC 2.0

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Fatima, the Apparition that Changed the World

As the Church marks the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, it seems that everyone is reading about Fatima. Jean Heimann, longtime Catholic blogger and author of two books on the saints, offers a historical view of the Blessed Mother’s apparitions to three young children in Portugal in her new book, Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World, coming May 22 from TAN Books.

Besides a careful chronology of the six apparitions of 1917, this book provides a fascinating chapter titled “The Popes and Fatima.” This chapter explores the significance of the Fatima apparitions in Catholic life and in world history. I was surprised to learn that there were no papal visits to Fatima before 1967, although it is clear from the information in this chapter that the popes before that time all found the apparitions and the Fatima message compelling.

fatima book cover

This book leaves the reader wondering: how will the world continue to change as a result of the Fatima message? Heimann makes it clear what ordinary Catholics can do to effect change in the world, explaining,

Our Lady’s message was not only relevant for the time period during which it occurred. It is a message that remains relevant for us today. In fact, Pope John Paul II has told us that the message of Fatima is even more relevant for us today than it was when it was first given to the visionaries by Our Lady in 1917.

Today, we are facing the greatest spiritual battle of our time. Radical secularism has become the new communism in our Western civilization. . . . Secularism seeks to remove religion from the public square, to steal our religious freedoms, and to weaken the sanctity of human life by promoting abortion and attacking the basic tenets of Christian morality, particularly in regards to marriage and family life. (118-19)

Heimann concludes that we must follow Our Lady’s call to live the message of Fatima in our daily life.

Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World is available in both hardcover and Kindle formats; because the book is packed with compelling historical photos, I recommend the print edition so you’ll be able to enjoy the full-size pictures.

author Jean HeimannAbout the author: Jean M. Heimann is a Catholic author and a freelance writer with an M.A. in Theology, a parish minister and speaker, a psychologist and educator, and an Oblate with the Community of St. John. She is a member of the Blue Army and founder of Our Lady of Fatima Rosary and Study group. Jean is the author of Seven Saints for Seven Virtues (Servant, 2014) and Learning to Love with the Saints, A Spiritual Memoir (Mercy, 2016). Visit Jean at her website through which you can access her award-wining blog, Catholic Fire.

Visit the other stops on Jean Heimann’s Fatima Blog Tour:

May 1 – Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart

May 2 – Ellen Gable, Plot, Line, and Sinker

May 3 – Virginia Lieto, VirginiaLieto.com

May 4 – AnneMarie Miller, Sacrifice of Love

May 6 – Steven R. McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

May 7 – Lisa Hendey, CatholicMom.com

May 8 – Jeannie Ewing, Love Alone Creates

May 9 – Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists

May 10 – AnneMarie Miller, Sacrifice of Love

May 11 – Barb Szyszkiewicz, CatholicMom.com

May 12 – Allison Gingas, Reconciled to You

May 12 – Marge Fenelon, MargeFenelon.com

May 13 – Esther Gefroh, A Catholic Mom in Hawaii
Barb's Book shelf blog title

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#OpenBook: April 2017 Reads

"An Open Book" linkup hosted at CarolynAstfalk.com and CatholicMom.com

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

cherishCherish by A.J. Avila. Candice is a powerful DA who seems to have it all–but when she has a heart attack just before beginning the closing argument in the case that will make her career, she finds herself in a courtroom of a different sort. Now she must decide whether to repair a long-broken friendship with a former classmate, now dead; her eternal salvation depends on it. I couldn’t put this one down and will look for more from this author.

promise girlsThe Promise Girls by Marie Bostwick. A family of 3 “test-tube-baby” daughters, now adults, stays far away from their narcissistic, fame-seeking mother until an indie filmmaker decides to uncover the truth about their ancestry. I found the ending less than satisfying.

sandcastle sisterThe Sandcastle Sister by Lisa Wingate. I wish this story had been longer! It’s a return to a locale featured in previous Wingate novels. Editor Jen is torn between staying in Paris with author Evan…and suspects he might want to get married. But back at home, her sister is digging into family secrets and Jen needs to do some damage control. Enjoyable read.

sweet lakeSweet Lake by Christine Nolfi. A dutiful daughter takes on her fly-by-night brother in this fun novel, the first in a new series by Christine Nolfi. Linnie, struggling to keep afloat the inn that’s been her family’s business for several generations, has put her own dreams and her love life on hold while her brother (who was supposed to run the inn when he came of age but instead stole from the inn’s bank account and skipped town) enjoys life as a globetrotting filmmaker. It seemed to me that the novel was missing some back story; I felt that we were thrust into the middle of a drama without knowing the beginning.

idea of youThe Idea of You by Amanda Prowse. The pace and length of this novel was its biggest obstacle. The story of Lucy’s long-buried (and surprising) secret and how it affects all of her relationships was intriguing, but the telling of this story took too long. (Netgalley review)

Nonfiction

broken brain fortified faithBroken Brain, Fortified Faith by Virginia Pillars. Virginia Pillars’ memoir of a mother navigating the world of parenting a young adult with a brand-new diagnosis schizophrenia is at once heart-wrenching, informative and inspiring. Pillars honestly describes her day-by-day experience with her daughter’s illness and recovery, with a view toward helping other families whose lives are touched by a frustrating disease.
(ARC provided by author; full review coming soon!)

a gathering of larks by abigail carroll back (1)A Gathering of Larks: Letters to St. Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll. A contemporary poet writes to St. Francis of Assisi as she explores his life with a focus on his choices, mistakes and faith. Abigail Carroll refuses to fall into the trap of stereotyping St. Francis–and that was a great relief. This book is highly recommended for anyone with a devotion to St. Francis of Assisi. Read my full review.

God is not fairGod is Not Fair, and Other Reasons for Gratitude by Dan Horan, OFM. A collection of essays exploring how “the very core of Christianity appears foolish in the world.” (p. 3) This makes it Franciscan to the core: St. Francis of Assisi spent his life as a “fool for Christ” in his quest to fully live the Gospel. Read my full review.

YA/Children’s Books

32 days32 Days: A Story of Faith and Courage by Ellen Lucey Prozeller. Historical fiction account of the life of a little girl in China who, with her family, was forced to practice her Catholic faith in secret. After her church was desecrated by Communist soldiers, Pei makes the risky decision to sneak into the church at night to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. The story is told from Pei’s point of view. Readers in grades 3 through 5 will learn about a child their own age who lives her faith in a time of oppression: a young, unknown Catholic hero.

con academyCon Academy by Joe Schreiber. Will has conned his way into an elite New England prep school, but discovers he’s not the only con artist there. Wagers abound as Will tries to avoid returning to a rundown Trenton, NJ neighborhood in disgrace. This mystery novel for middle-school and high-school readers was clever and entertaining, but the pace of the story was inconsistent.

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

open book new logo

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

#MondayBlogs: Abundance: Trust vs. Hoarding

"Abundance: Trust vs. Hoarding" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (Franciscanmom.com)

I have a pantry in my basement. This is an old photo, taken when all the kids still lived here full-time and we went through several boxes of cereal each week. My pantry is less crowded now, because there are only three of us here full-time. I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of shopping for only three (or four, when my daughter’s home from college). This means that I wind up buying too much, and some of it gets wasted because it goes bad before I can use it.

But I feel the need to keep that pantry (and my upright freezer) full.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

There’s this threshold in my mind — this imaginary line I must not cross. I was down to less than a quart of milk on Wednesday, and I knew I wouldn’t get to the store before Friday. Never mind that I live 1/4 mile from the nearest gallon of milk; I was expending a lot of mental energy over the lack of “enough” milk in my house. It’s not like anyone around here (except me) even regularly uses milk. But that milk level was below my threshold of comfort, and it bothered me until Saturday morning when I finally made it to the store. We still had some milk in the jug. We had not run out. And as I said already, my neighborhood is not food-insecure.

Thinking about this gets me a little anxious — even now that I have almost a full gallon of milk in the fridge.

Where do I draw the line between having too much stuff that I “might need someday” and having enough to use for what I need right now, as well as something to share?

Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? (Luke 12: 25-26)

I’ve run into this issue before with medical supplies, but that’s different. VERY different. Medical supplies are non-negotiable, and I do need to be very aware of what we have, what we need, and whether there is enough.

As for the other things, how do I stop feeling that I must fill that available pantry space and instead be grateful for what is there? How do I dial back my threshold of “enough” when there is obviously plenty there? How do I trust enough to share from that abundance?

Because I really want to stop the worrying that kicks in when there’s only a quart of milk in the house.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: A Gathering of Larks

A contemporary poet writes to St. Francis of Assisi as she explores his life with a focus on his choices, mistakes and faith. A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2017) isn’t exactly a biography, but author Abigail Carroll covers the important events in St. Francis’ life while she tries to make sense of the inexplicable in current events.

a gathering of larks by abigail carroll back (1)

Abigail Carroll refuses to fall into the trap of stereotyping St. Francis–and that was a great relief, as I relate to this statement:

For most of my life, the St. Francis I have encountered has been as garden statuary, prayer card images, children’s book illustrations, and stained-glass windows. . . . I attempt to bridge the gap between who Francesco Bernardone really was and who we have made him to be. (viii)

The book begins with a short biography of St. Francis that does not gloss over the tough-to-think-about parts or romanticize anything. The poem I enjoyed most is a prose-poem titled “Dear Reluctant Saint” that describes modern-day Assisi, explaining how commercialized it’s become without exactly saying how much he’d hate something like that.

Don’t skip the Conversation with the Author at the end of the book, in which she discusses faith, poetry, and what most intrigues her about St. Francis.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the various titles Carroll uses to address St. Francis. Reminiscent of the stock epithets in Greek poetry, these titles help to define St. Francis and are thematically related to the issue explored in each particular poem.

This book is highly recommended for anyone with a devotion to St. Francis of Assisi.

Barb's Book shelf blog title
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS