Tiber River Review: Something Other Than God

As a cradle Catholic, I’ve grown up accepting many things about the Faith without doing a lot of questioning. While my faith has deepened through the years, it never occurred to me to think about proving or exploring the truths behind what we believe.

something-other-than-god-95799lgJennifer Fulwiler, by contrast, came to the Church after growing up atheist. Her memoir Something Other Than God chronicles her intense journey of faith. She used resources that are readily available to us in this technological age, printing out pages of blogs and other religious websites, purchasing a vast library of Catholic books, and participating in online discussions. Fulwiler’s memoir shows–sometimes in very humorous ways–the great lengths she went to in order to satisfy her own intellectual and spiritual curiosity.

Fulwiler does not divorce her quest for faith from the rest of her life. This quest affected, and was affected by, her professional pursuits, her marriage, and even where she and her family chose to live. So many of the experiences she describes are easy for the reader to relate to, and her use of humor in the book does not serve to cut down the Church or the Faith in any way, but instead draws the reader in. The reader does not have to grow up atheist to “get” what Fulwiler is feeling, and her depiction of her health crises and others’ responses to those crises spark a geniune concern for the author. Fulwiler’s tone is that of a friend talking to a friend. It is not meant to convince the reader of the truth that Fulwiler has accepted. Instead, this book challenges the reader, whether a cradle Catholic, a new convert, or someone thinking about the Faith, to go deeper in their exploration–both on an intellectual and spiritual level.

Highly recommended.

The fine print:  I wrote this review of Something Other Than God for the Tiber River Book Review program, created by Aquinas & More Catholic Goods. I receive free product samples but no other compensation for my honest review. All opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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Tiber River Review: Style, Sex and Substance

Don’t let your pride get in the way of your reading this encouraging book. I’ll admit that mine did, for a while; I’m pretty sure that most of the 10 contributors are a good bit younger than I am. But after reading several excerpts of Style, Sex and Substance online, I was convinced that while the women whose essays are featured in this book may be younger than me, they’ve got plenty of wisdom to share. The writing is honest and real, and by the end of each chapter you’ll feel that its author is a new, trusted friend.

Don’t let the title fool you; I found that this book is a whole lot more about “substance” than sex. Yes, there are humorous, real-life stories (and I loved those!) There are also reflection questions at the end of each chapter that would work as well for small-group study as they do for individual reflection and journaling. A small sampling of these include:

  • sins vs. quirks
  • nurturing yourself
  • putting your schedule in order
  • fostering intimacy in marriage
  • personal holiness for single women
  • making rash judgements
  • healthy friendship
  • building your marriage
  • goals for motherhood
  • the Christian life and popular culture
Not all chapters are for every woman at every time, but this book doesn’t need to be read start-to-finish to be appreciated. Start with the introduction and chapter 1, then pick and choose as the Spirit moves you. You’ll be hooked, and you’ll want to keep this book around for encouragement in the various seasons of your life as a Catholic woman.
Style, Sex and Substance would be a great gift for a young woman just starting out on her own, a bride-to-be, a new mom or even a “woman of a certain age” like myself who’s in need of a new perspective.
After all, there’s always something new to be learned–even from women who are younger than you.

My compliments to editor Hallie Lord and all the contributors to this excellent book.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of Style, Sex and Substance for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

Tiber River Review: The Truth About Therese

A saint who died when she was only about half my age? Who spent 1/3 of her life behind convent walls? How could such a saint possibly inspire anyone whose path in life had taken a very different turn?

While the title and subtitle of this book, The Truth about Therese: An Unflinching Look at Lisieux, the Little Flower, and the Little Way suggest a more “unauthorized biography” feel, that’s not what author Henri Gheon achieves in this short biography of St. Therese of Lisieux. Instead, he writes of the many difficulties she endured, even after she achieved her dream of becoming a Carmelite at a very young age.

My favorite chapter of this book was the first one, “My Initial Resistance to St. Therese,” because I have felt the same resistance. I was more captivated by this saint as a teenager; the older I have become, the more distant I have felt from her. But this book, especially in the later chapters, does much to bring out the spiritual battles that St. Therese fought throughout her life. While my battles are surely different, there is much that I can learn from St. Therese’s actions and attitudes about how to endure such spiritual warfare.
Through this book, I learned that St. Therese was more than a spoiled child, more than a goody-goody; I learned of her Little Way and how it can be put into practice. Most importantly, I learned that sainthood doesn’t come easy to anyone–but that’s no reason to stop striving for it.
The foreward by Philippe Maxence is short but not to be missed.
Perhaps because it was translated from the French, and surely because it was originally written in 1934, this book is not an easy read. Vocabulary, sentence structure and turn of phrase are challenging to the reader.

The fine print:  I wrote this review of The Truth About Therese for the free Catholic book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Aquinas and More is the largest on-line Catholic bookstore.
I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River. 

For All the Saints, For All the Moms

In a month that begins with the celebration of All Saints, what better time to begin learning about the Saints of our Church?  And what better place to start than A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms by Lisa Hendey?

Subtitled “52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul,” this book is packed full of encouragement, challenges, and reflections about saints who can be especially inspiring to moms.

As soon as I received this book, I immediately opened it to the table of contents to see who’s in there!  I had to check for my favorites, of course, and they were there in abundance:  Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, Saint Martha of Bethany, Saint Anthony of Padua, and more.  But there were plenty of other saints with whom I’m much less familiar, such as Saint Sebastian, Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, and Saint Josephine Bakhita.

This book is bigger than I expected, with each chapter composed of a short biography of the saint, lessons from the saint’s life and/or writings, traditions of the saint’s feast day celebration, a quote from the saint, Scripture passages and reflections–one for each day for a week, activities for moms to complete on their own and with their children, a family prayer and thoughts to ponder.  That’s a lot of inspiration packed into just over 300 pages!

This is not a book that you have to begin at chapter 1 and work your way through.  You can choose to read and reflect on the life of a saint that relates to a particular challenge you’re having at the time.  That’s easy to do, because the table of contents shows not only the saint’s name, but a virtue for which the saint is well-known.

A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms isn’t going to lose its place on my bedside table anytime soon; it’s a devotional that will serve as inspiration for a long time to come.

I wrote this review of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

Tiber River Review: The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins

Don’t be misled by the title of this book.  The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins is not written for people who want to get around the teachings of the Church.   It’s funny, but not irreverent.  This book does not mock the Church in any way, but inspires and instructs the readers through hilarious anecdotes and examples from history.
You’ll find some of the world’s greatest saints and sinners featured in this book by John Zmirak.  But this is not a light read.  It’s definitely a challenge to the reader.  Even the “Cosmo-style quizzes” on ethical problems are more Philosophy 102 than Trashy Magazine.  Each set of two chapters ends with hints on how to turn a vice into a virtue:

  • Lust can be turned toward Chastity
  • Wrath can be turned toward Patience
  • Gluttony can be turned toward Temperance
  • Greed can be turned toward Generosity
  • Sloth can be turned toward Diligence
  • Vainglory can be turned toward Humility
  • Envy can be turned toward Magnanimity
Learn through the mistakes and successes of such people as Francis of Assisi, Betty Friedan, Aristotle, Margaret Sanger, Catherine of Aragon, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Josef Stalin, Solzhenitsyn, Mitterrand, Chesterton, St. Benedict, Julia Child, Sarah Palin, Tolkien, Andy Warhol and Mao-Tse Tung.

If you’re a fan of literature, references to Dante, 1984, Oscar Wilde, C.S. Lewis, Dr. Faustus, and Flannery O’Connor abound.  Movie buffs will find everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, including The Godfather, The Third Man and Nighmare on Elm Street 4!  Even Harry Chapin gets a mention.

And don’t miss the hilarious illustrations.  You’ll learn plenty just by looking at the pictures.

The Fine Print:
I wrote this review of The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.