Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

Now my siblings are off and gone...

Today we dropped off Katie at college.  That means all five of my elder siblings are off (two at college and three living on their own) and I am the only remaining kid at home.

Image result for empty chairs at empty tables
My house right now

Right now I feel like Marius sitting alone in a house where his friends used to be, but now are gone.  
There are some good things to being alone however, as well as bad aspects.


  • Katie's mound of college stuff will no longer be littering my living room.
  • Things around the house may be cleaner.
  • Stressed-out-Katie (Katie during the school year) will be miles away...she's no fun when stressed.
  • There will be less after school hassle to deal with.
  • I will be home alone more so I can belt Les Mis as loud as I want. 
  • Katie and I won't argue about what to make for dinner as much.
  • I will have the bathroom all to myself in the mornings before schools.
  • Kate and I won't argue which will make my parents less stressed.


  • I will have to do the dishes and make dinner more often.
  • I will have more chores all around probably including (gasp!) mowing the lawn..
  • Katie will be stressed and miles away which will be extra stressful for her.
  • I won't be able to get a ride in an emergency or if my bike tires go flat again.
  • I won't be able to borrow Katie's clothes anymore.
  • I won't be able to get Katie's advice about high school as easily.
  • Katie won't make me cold lunch anymore (although really I should just do that anyway).
  • I will miss Katie.

The good news is that Katie is going to college about a half-hour away so it's not a huge change, but it is still going to be different.

Are you an only child?  Have you ever been through a similar situation?  Do you have any advice for me?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Back to School Book Fashion

Exactly One Week Left!!

I just got some back to school clothes and I thought that every outfit looks better with a book.  So these are my new clothes but with beautiful books.

I present: the book fashion show.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back to School Supplies


I'm not overly concerned about the whole deal especially since I know a lot of people who go to the school and of course all my older siblings have given me loads of advice from their past experience, but there is always a mix of excitement and anxiety when going back to school, especially when moving buildings.

I'm trying to take the whole change in stride and not be overly-perfectionist about it.  I have been extremely angsty about the start of school in years past--picking out my outfit a week before, buying way too much school supplies "just in case" and generally being way to perky and fake the first few days.  I'm hoping to just be myself and based of the attitude of most incoming freshmen I met at orientation, I should fit in fine.

But just because I'm being a bit more laid back this year does not mean I didn't have to get some school supplies!  I personally adore buying new notebooks and binders--it's kind of a treat for me since I usually have to reuse notebooks my sisters picked out and never used.  Don't you just love unwrapping your own pens?  Ah, paradise...

I am reusing my old backpack from last year (though it just occurred to me after looking at this picture that it is sorely in need of a wash).  I am pretty excited because I don't have to lug all my books through the halls anymore, since high schoolers are allowed to carry their backpacks with them (so fancy).  Also it makes me extremely happy that all my pins fit perfectly on the first little flap.  It's a bit hard to read some of the buttons, but they say (from left to right) "Eat Sleep Read", "Will Work for Books", "Peace Coffee", and "Mercy".  The first couple my sister Molly gave me after they were leftovers from her book celebration at the university (it was the commemoration party of William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes' deaths) and the third I found randomly in my basement.  I looked it up and apparently it's a coffee shop, but I've never been there.  The fourth is a button I got from Catholic Camp because the theme was "Extraordinary Mercy".  The fifth button is from The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker and it shows Link sailing in his dragon boat.  The final one is clearly the "Christian Fish" (does it have an official name?).I used to have a ton and I mean a ton of key chains on my backpack--I think there were maybe twenty altogether.  But this was a bother and they often fell off, so this year I'm going a bit more simplistic.  I still have my carribeaners and rubber band bracelets attached to the zipper which are just sort of fun and useful if you need to wrap the chain around the front of the backpack to keep things from falling out.

But everyone knows that it's what inside the backpack that matters!  I have two binders, one for math and one for...Spanish...sort of.  I registered for Spanish at the beginning of the spring but I really want to switch into French.  I want to learn both of course, but considering Molly is a professor of Spanish language at a university, I feel like it would be easier to either get lessons from her or learn Spanish on my own with a bit of her help.  French is just so difficult for an English speaker to learn on their own since the phonetics are so different that I think having a teacher would make it a lot easier.  I emailed my counselor, and fingers are crossed.  I'll let you know how it turns out!

I have three notebooks (both from last year) that have enough paper left in them to reuse.  If you're wondering, the labels were drawn by Katie (she has crazy font writing skills).

As for my pencil pouch, I have my annotating Post-its (not sure if I will need them for English, but I will definitely need them for my own reading!) an eraser, calculator, pens, pencils; the usual.

What do you normally gather together in terms of school supplies?  Are you excited for school to start or dreading it?

coffee, cup, mug

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Power of Costa Rican Coffee

My sister Molly recently got back after a three-month journey through Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatamala...okay I'm not entirely sure where she went, but basically she was all over Central America.  She is a professor of...uh some fancy title I can't remember but that is related to Spanish...and her in-laws also live in Mexico so she and her husband often travel around during their summer vacations.  You know that game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?  It should really be called Where in the World is Molly? because it's hard to keep track of where she is travelling.

She just got back yesterday and brought me this giant bag of coffee from Costa Rica.

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The Costa Rican coffee with Beary the Bear

You can see a tiny little incision on the front where a customs officer had to cut open the bag to make sure my sister wasn't smuggling drugs.  Luckily, it's just really good coffee.

I knew from the moment Molly set this giant bag in my hand that it was going to be fantastic.  I've heard a ton about coffee from Costa Rica and Brazil but I've never been able to have an authentic blend.  Just holding it an arm's distance away you can smell how potent it is and yummy!!

It's Sunday so I've allowed myself an extra special treat.  Whoa.  This coffee is rich.  It's not like water painted black with little powdery pockets floating around.  This is legitimate silk coffee.  You would never wear something over a beautiful silk blouse which is why I refuse to add any cream or sugar to this perfection.  

I don't even want to eat anything while I drink this because it might cover up the powerful taste.  I keep the bag in my room because it makes everything smell amazing.  This needs to be made into a perfume.

What is the best blend of coffee you ever had? 

Black Liquid in White Ceramic Mug

Saturday, August 27, 2016

57 Stories of Saints Review

Mild Spoilers Ahead

Image result for 57 stories of saints
This 544 page book is a beautiful little look at saints from all different backgrounds and from all different ages.  From St. Anne in the first century to St. Edith Stein, this book covers the poorest saints like St. Francis of Assisi, rich saints, like St. Katharine Drexel, male saints, St. Augustine, female saints, St. Joan of Arc, martyrs, St. Lucy, St. Agnes, St. Maria, etc.

I dearly love this book.  It is written in a very simple way which allots only a few pages per saint, but it is a great introduction to some of the heroes of Christianity.  I particularly loved how each story had gorgeous drawings which really helped me to imagine what these real people might have looked like.

If I had to pick one criticism, I would point out that sometimes the negative things about the saints were overlooked and their lives were romanticized a bit more than seems realistic.  For instance, I've read a bit about The Little Flower, and her death and the time leading up to it was certainly less than glamorous, but in this book it was sugarcoated a bit.  Then again, this book is written for kids around eight years old (I would guess) so it makes sense that the details of each saint are simplified a bit.

I truly do feel rather inspired by this book and it is great to read about the strong faith and witness the men and women in this book brought into this world.

I went into this book thinking I knew a lot about many different saints and not expecting much to surprise me in this book, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book is truly special and incendiary.  This book would make a fantastic First Communion gift.

Strongly recommend!

Have you read 57 Stories of Saints?  Who was your favorite saint to read about?

Are you going to read 57 Stories of Saints?  Do you know any of the saints in the book?

The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth Review

Mild Spoilers Ahead
Image result for catholic handbook for youth
Like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this useful handbook for teens focuses on (1) the Creed (2) the Sacraments (3) Morality and (4) Prayer.

Each chapter is full of useful vocabulary words every Catholic should know as well as biographies of saints and practical ways that teens can include their faith in real life.  The book is laid out in a very simple way in opposition to the wacky designs of some contemporary textbooks, which is something I really appreciated about it.

The writing was age appropriate--relevant, but (with only a couple exceptions) not trying too hard to "fit in" or be too desperate to sound "teen-y".  Believe me, it is extremely obstreperous to be talked down to in a textbook and I was thankful this handbook was different.

The final section of the book is full of the central prayers of Christianity as well as lots of vocabulary words, FAQs, etc.  I could definitely see myself turning back to this index when I need to check facts about Catholicism.

Furthermore, there are several reflection questions at the end of each chapter that I think are very useful not only after private reading but also during class sessions as discussion starters.

Overall, everything from the writing style to the art chosen, and the layout was very pleasing about this handbook and I recommend this for any one, but particularly teens and in especial those preparing for Confirmation.

Have you read The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth?  What was your favorite section?

Are you going to read The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth?  Are you going to read it on your own or in a class?

Friday, August 26, 2016

One Week to Go

The Book Marathon is only a week away!!

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Some tips for the marathon:

Set a page number goal--add up all the pages in the books you plan to read and divide by twenty.

Fudge your page number goal; if you're reading The Hobbit, you may get more pages done than if you're reading The Silmarillion, so don't worry if you don't exactly meet your goal one day and if you're in the mood, certainly go over your goal rather than limit yourself.

Find a comfortable spot to read; if you're reading right next to your phone or your computer, chances are you will get distracted by them, so try reading somewhere quiet and secluded.

Woman Wearing Blue Denim Jeans Holding Book Sitting on Gray Concrete at Daytime

Take time to make sure you really comprehend what you're reading.  Most of us have read at least one of the books we are planning on including in the marathon, so there is always the temptation to kind of accept that we know the story and just skim across the actual words.  While this may go a bit faster than actually reading initially, eventually you will lose interest since you're not really getting much out of the actual book.  This will cause you to resent the reading and procrastinate.

Read in every nook and crannie of time you can find!  Don't worry if you can't finish a whole chapter or even a whole page.  If you have a couple minutes, read a little bit because it will add up in the end.

Keep checking in with other book marathoners.  Keeping up with other people doing the same challenge as you will keep you motivated and you will find lots of tips.  I definitely recommend checking back here--daily book marathon posts pending--and also the new Google+ collection of little book marathon moments.

Document your own book marathon experience.  Last year, I would sum up everything I had read that day and it would help me get a handle on where I was and what I needed to get done for the rest of the day.

Woman in White Long Sleeved Shirt Holding a Pen Writing on a Paper

Stay positive!  Don't give up even if you fall a bit behind.  Last year I got pretty sick and fell really behind in The Hobbit.  It was discouraging because I was expecting to finish The Hobbit the fastest and I was worried I wouldn't be able to get back on my feet.  But I kept pushing through and I was able to finish the marathon.

Expect the unexpected.  This relates to the above tip, but you would expect The Hobbit to take the shortest and The Silmarillion or The Lord of the Rings to take up most of the time, right?  Well for me it was the opposite.  First of all, I procrastinated on The Hobbit because I expected to finish it in a day or two and I underestimated it.  Second, The Silmarillion is my favorite book so I wanted to read it more than the others and I got through it way faster than I expected.  You never know what kind of surprises can crop up during the marathon and so make sure to give yourself some cushion time-wise.

Audiobooks are your friend.  I know for sure The Silmarillion and The Hobbit are available in audiobook form on YouTube.  Audiobooks are great because you can listen to them as you fall asleep, clean your kitchen, or do whatever you need to get done and you don't have to carve time out of your schedule.  They're also great because you know exactly how much time they take to run through.

Get into the spirit of the marathon.  Anyone can read some books, but the real fun of the book marathon comes with wearing your book marathon button, using the special bookmark and participating with other marathoners.  

Who else is excited for the marathon?  It's going to be awesome!


Thursday, August 25, 2016

With Burning Hearts

Mild Spoilers Ahead

With Burning Hearts is "a meditation on the Eucharistic Life" written by Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen.  The book focuses on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and how it affects us in our daily lives.

Table of Contents
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  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • The Road to Emmaus
  • I. Mourning Our Losses: "Lord, Have Mercy"
  • II. Discerning the Presence: "This Is the Word of God"
  • III. Inviting the Stranger: "I Believe"
  • IV. Entering into Communion: "Take and Eat"
  • V. Going on a Mission: "Go and Tell"
  • Conclusion
This book was easy to read (lots of pictures and only 127 pages) but it was a beautiful reflection about how, if we truly accept the Real Presence, it should pervade every aspect of our lives.

One of my favorite things about this book was the art by Duccio di Buoninsegna which includes:
  • "The Deposition of the Cross"
  • "Christ Teaching His Disciples"
  • "The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus"
  • "The Last Supper"
  • "Christ's Appearance on Lake Tiberias"
  • "Christ's Appearance on the Mountain"
I strongly recommend this beautiful little reflection to all Catholics looking to improve their view on the Eucharist. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master

Mild Spoilers Ahead

Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master is a pithy book written by Bishop Robert Barron which focuses not only on Thomas' uncanny ability to write about the nature of God, but also on his deep faith and spirituality.

I am a great fan of Bishop Barron's writing and I was greatly looking forward to this book.  I was not disappointed!  It is not very long (about 180 pages) and I finished it in one sitting, but it is truly packed with information and food for thought.

The first part of the book goes through a bit of Thomas' life--his family background, his attempts to join an order, his capture by his brothers, and his journey to Paris.

Then a bit of Thomas' spirituality is discussed.  I found it amazing that Thomas woke up every day and celebrated one Mass and assisted at another before going to dictate his ideas to scribes.  It is legendary that Thomas would dictate up to four different ideas at a time to scribes without losing his train of thought.

The third part goes through a few of Thomas Aquinas' ideas and suppositions, discusses the objections raised to them, and does a great job of making his ideas clear.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the explanation that, while Thomas Aquinas explored God's nature deeply, he understood that if he "completely understood" who God was, he wasn't talking about God anymore.  As the saying goes, "if you see the Buddha on the road, kill him."  Thomas Aquinas recognized that it would be pretentious for a human being to assume he can "figure out" God, and resigned himself to take reason as far as it would go, and then fill in the blanks with faith.

Bishop Barron's writing style is delightful as always, and in addition to this book, he also has done a couple videos and podcasts on Thomas I would recommend:

Word on Fire Show 037: St. Thomas Aquinas, The Theologian
Word on Fire Show 021: How and Why to read Thomas Aquinas 
Bishop Barron on Thomas Aquinas
Bishop Barron on Thomas Aquinas and the Argument from Motion
Bishop Barron on Thomas Aquinas' Writing

Have you read Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master?  What is your opinion on it?

Are you going to read Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master?  What do you already know about Thomas Aquinas?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rediscover Jesus Review

Mild Spoilers Ahead
Rediscover Jesus is a short book (less than 200 pages) written by prominent Catholic writer Matthew Kelly.  It is divided into 40 sections and meant either to be read cover to cover or as a daily reflection throughout Lent.  It focuses on bringing Jesus out of the domestic, mundane, every-day name and putting special emphasis on his radical nature and novel ideas.

I got this book for free after attending a Church mission speech, but I have to admit that I personally probably would not have bought this book on my own.

It's a very simple book and a quick read--I read it all in one sitting--with nothing extremely groundbreaking or powerful.  However, it is nice to be reminded of certain aspects of Jesus' life each day, so I think this book is beneficial in this way.

While I don't think this book really benefited me hugely as I was reading it, I'm sure that to someone else this book would make all the difference.

The best part of the book, in my opinion, was that at the end of each chapter a little box included a "point to ponder", bible verse, and idea for prayer.  I think these little additions could be very helpful, particularly in Lent.

So do I recommend this book?  I would say it sort of depends where you are.  If you're a huge theological nut who is reading Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, this book probably won't rock your world and might be a tad dry.  If, however, you are just starting to get acquainted with the Bible, trying to get into a prayer habit, or are looking for brief reading for every day, I would say this book is right for you.

Have you read Rediscover Jesus?  What was your opinion?

Are you going to read Rediscover Jesus?  Why do you want to read it?

Laer Cu Beleg on The One

Recently my poem, Laer Cu Beleg, was featured on The One in their Hall of Poets!  Laer Cu Beleg is a lament for Beleg Strongbow, an Elf from the First Age whose story is told in the chapter Of Turin Turambar (The Silmarillion) as well as The Children of Hurin.  You can see the poem by clicking the image below:

Devotional Stories for Little Folks (Books 1 and 2) Review

Mild Spoilers Ahead

Devotional Stories for Little Folks is a series of short stories and moral lessons written by Nancy Nicholson.  Most of the stories center around the Peterson family, Mother, Father, Seth, Meg, Greg, and Becca.
The stories are very versatile as they can be used for reading enjoyment, moral teaching, even primary reading practice.

I particularly love the moral lessons and how there are discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

My favorite character is Greg, without a doubt.  He's so charming but he is always getting into trouble.  I can't believe all the frustration he causes!
Two of my favorite stories from these little devotionals are the one where Greg has to go the emergency room because he has a seizure in his sleep, and the one where the kids make poster during Lent.  The first is the most dramatic and the first time I read it I was genuinely scared for Greg (spoiler: he is okay), plus that one has has a lesson that I really relate to.

The second is about how the kids make poster with the crown of thorns on it and throughout Lent, every time they do something nice for someone else, they draw a little flower on the end of the thorn.  I was so struck by this when I read it as a little kid that I actually convinced my family to do that also and it was pretty cool.

All in all, these two books are extremely cute and the perfect little companions for every day life.  I recommend them wholeheartedly.

Have you read Devotional Stories for Little Folks?  Who is your favorite kid to read about?

Are you going to read Devotional Stories for Little Folks?  Why did you decide to read it?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit Review
Severe Spoilers Ahead

I recently finished reading Corey Olsen's Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit', a sort of compendium of analysis relating to The Hobbit.

Corey Olsen may be better known as The Tolkien Professor, and he leads a series of podcasts as well as various courses dedicated to learning about Tolkien's works.

I've listened to The Tolkien Professor podcasts and I always find them very insightful.  Not only is Professor Olsen very knowledgeable about all things Tolkien, but he also seems like a nice guy and isn't your typical dry professor.

There is a series of lectures he posted on The Hobbit, and I would say that this book is basically the written form of those podcasts.  I have listened to all of the lectures, so there was nothing much in this book that I hadn't heard from him before, but if you haven't listened to the podcasts or prefer to read his analyses in book form, I would definitely recommend Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit'.

The main theme throughout the book is Bilbo's change from being a very prim "Baggins" to embracing a bit more of his Took side.  Through each chapter we are granted a look at how Bilbo changes and begins to accept prudent adventure.

Along with extensive writing concerning Bilbo's character, a lot of the book consists of analyses about the Wild, what the Wilderness is like, how it is good and how it is bad.  I find Professor Olsen's writings on Beorn particularly interesting and he picks up on a lot of little things that I had missed.  One area that I really hadn't paid enough attention to that this book shed light on was the many songs and poems of The Hobbit.  I read them of course, but I don't often slow down to really look at what they're saying.  I like how a considerable amount of time was spent on these (apparently important!) aspects of the story.

Now I will admit that The Hobbit is not my favorite of Tolkien's works, but after listening to the podcast/lectures and reading this book, I think I may have been underestimating it all these years.  While it is a children's book, it still has deeper meanings and symbolism that I didn't catch on to.

My reading of this book was fairly slow and dry only because I felt like I was just re-reading the lectures, but like I said earlier, if you don't want to listen to the lectures or you prefer book form, you should definitely read this book.  One way or another (podcast or book) you definitely want to know what Corey Olsen has to say about The Hobbit.

Have you read Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit'?  Did anything in it surprise you?

Are you going to read Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit'?  Have you listened to the lectures before?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Meredith's Guest Post

Meredith of On Stories and Words has responded to the call for guest posts and this is her post all about the soundtrack of the Lord of the Rings.

Thanks so much to Meredith for sending in such a wonderful article!

If you're interested in sending in a guest post, all you have to do is write something LOTR related and send it to me at  I look forward to reading what you have to say!

Without further ado, Meredith's guest post:


Hello to LoverofLembas's readers!

Thank you for taking the time to read a post that isn't hers!

I wanted to talk about the soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings movies. I have loved the soundtrack virtually as long as I have loved the movies, and if you name a prominent character or location, I could probably hum the theme for you.

Thankfully you're not here to test that theory. xD

Basically the way this is going to work is that I'll analyze the soundtracks song-by-song, choosing a few songs from each movie.

Oh and by the way, here's the source of music I used for this--

And many thanks to Howard Shore, though he likely won't read this, because without his music the movies wouldn't be the same.

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Prophecy-

Okay, so according to the aforementioned Youtube video, the music starts out with the vocals and...I dunno?...mysterious(?) feel which befits that scene. This seems an odd way to start off since the book starts on a far lighter note, but I see what Peter Jackson was doing with providing some background before leaping into Hobbiton and the main storyline.

The darker feel foreshadows themes that occur later in the story, especially in Mordor scenes. And the vocals being there gives a nice introduction to the voices that are wont to randomly pop up during the music for the rest of the trilogy. xD 

Concerning Hobbits-

Yay! Something nice and light. So light and happy that it allows for a distinct contrast between Hobbiton and the stories given during the previous song. It also releases much of the tension from "The Prophecy" which is a great way of introducing the mindset and sheltered lifestyle of the hobbits.

Flight to the Ford-

This one starts off real quiet and slow. It also has a feel of leading up to something. But about a minute and a half into it, the music tenses up and grows louder. And cue the dramatic chanting voices that often show up during scenes in connection to Mordor. Then it ends pretty quickly, still giving that feel of something not finished. It's maybe parallel to how the hobbits temporarily escaped the Ringwraiths, but two of them will encounter them, (or their home, leastways) in Mordor, where you can expect a more fulfilling, drawn out music sequence. :) 

Many Meetings-

Rivendell! The music is pretty much perfect. That's all I have to say.


Fast-forward to Lothlórien. In some ways, being inhabited by elves and all, Lothlórien and Rivendell are somewhat similar, but the music draws out the differences well. 

While the Rivendell music is more welcoming and joyful, the Lothlórien music is more mysterious and dark.

And they're both just pretty. 

May it Be-

The end credits song! So much prettiness. <3 

The Two Towers

Foundations of Stone-

Love this so much!! The music doesn't take very long to heat up and get serious, just like the book didn't use much of an introduction, so bonus points for that. 

The Riders of Rohan-

Yup. I like the majestic and slightly hostile touch, since the Riders of Rohan were both. 

King of the Golden Hall-

And boom. You're in Rohan. Just seven seconds into the song there's that gorgeous strings part and then all the Rohan awesomeness.

Rohan is simpler than the more impressive Gondor, but it's also beautiful in its own way and I think the soundtrack portrays the simplicity but majesty of it. Plus Eowyn is there, which makes it automatically amazing. 


So nostalgic and achingly beautiful and gahhh...words. Howard Shore, you are amazing.

Oh, and there is a sense of longing and discontentment which could reflect Arwen's struggle.

Helm's Deep-

I hearts it. The Helm's Deep scenes in the movie had a huge element of suspense and drama because obviously things weren't looking good initially, but we, the audience, also knew it wasn't going to end up too badly (because hey Return of the King is still coming and they won't have many characters left if they all die in Helm's Deep!), so the music had freedom to be epic and almost fun without distracting from the drama. 

Gollum's Song-

I honestly don't remember which part of the movie this was, but the song is really interesting. For one thing it has words...which is really odd considering that Gollum probably couldn't sing very well. xD But it works anyways. And it's so sad.

Gollum and his death are one of the most tragic things I've ever encountered in a book or movie. Within the frame of a couple minutes, Gollum's Song touches his despair, tinged with bitterness.

But then it gets all epic and dramatic again with what I think is Rohan's theme. So yay. The world isn't as dark as it looked. ;) 

Return of the King

Minas Tirith-

Ominious but also energetic. For a couple moments, there's a slight lapse of something indicative of exhaustion, but then it gets all pumped up again, which is maybe suggestive of the way the protagonists had to get over there despair and fatigue?

And more vocals. <3 

The Steward of Gondor-

It starts sort of slow, with a hint of waiting. This matches up nicely with characters like Pippin who didn't have a lot they could really do, except wait and hope.

Then Pippin starts singing, and my goodness!  Billy Boyd is a talented person. According to Pinterest, he wrote that song himself and the very first time he sang it for the cameras is what we have in the film.

Shelob's Lair-

*shudders* We have a lot of sad, somewhat violent, and maybe even disturbing scenes in the trilogy, but this is probably the grossest.

I like how music escalates, but I think the visuals were stunning(and disgusting!) enough that the music didn't need to be particularly powerful.

The End of All Things-

Okay, Sam and Frodo have made it past Ringwraiths, Orcs, the Eye of Sauron, and even Mount Doom. But then of course there's a major plot twist and all of a sudden Frodo decides to keep the ring, Gollum tries to steal it, etc. You know the rest.

But for someone new to the story, there's a lot of tension and the music pretty much captures all of that. And emotion too, which the music manages to incorporate as well.

The Return of the King-

*cue all the feels*

A lot of emotion, mostly happiness, and a bit of reverence and solemnity for those who didn't make it thus far in the story. :(

...and more feels....

...and even more.

It replays some old themes from the previous movies, especially those from the Shire, which is absolutely epic. Time to locate the tissue box, people. ;)

But seriously, this might be the best part of the whole soundtrack.


Let's end on a happy note! By which I mean, let's bypass discussing The Grey Havens because it's emotional too, but in a sadder way, and I think we've unpacked quite enough emotions for one blog post!

Bottom line: Howard Shore, Rohan, Billy Boyd, and the whole Lord of the Rings soundtrack are extremely awesome.

Thank you again so much for reading!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Witness to Hope

Mild Spoilers Ahead
Witness to Hope is a very comprehensive biography of Pope John Paul II written by George Weigel and published by HarperCollins.  It features over 900 pages of information on Karol Wojtyla, his childhood and pontificate.  Also included in some copies are gloss pages with high quality photos of the Pope both before his election to the papacy and during.

Table of Contents:

  • Preface
  • A Brief Note on Pronunciation
  • Prologue (The Disciple)
    • The drama of Karol Wojtyla's life
    • A paradox and a sign of contradiction
    • The more excellent way
    • The broadness of a gauge
    • The subject and the author
  • A Son of Freedom (Poland Semper Fidelis)
    • Karol Wojtyla's national, cultural, religious, and family roots
    • His childhood, his elementary and secondary education, the loss of his mother and brother
    • The influence of his father on his education and piety
    • His interests in Polish Romantic literature and in drama
    • His first undergraduate year at Krakow's Jagielloninan University
  • From the Underground (The Third Reich vs. the Kingdom of Truth)
    • The Nazi occupation of Poland
    • Karol Wojtyla and clandestine cultural resistance
    • His introduction to Carmelite spirituality and manual labor
    • The death of his father and the unfolding of a priestly vocation
    • The underground seminary 
    • An "unbroken prince," Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha
    • Karol Wojtyla's ordination and graduate studies in theology in Rome
  • "Call me Wujek" (To be a Priest)
    • Country curate
    • Father Karol Wojtyla's pioneering student chaplaincy in Krakow
    • His first essays and poems
    • The temptation of revolutionary violence and Woytyla's first mature play
    • An outdoorsman and a model confessor
    • The beauty of human love
  • Seeing Things as they Are (The Making of a Philosopher)
    • A second doctorate, a new philosophical interest, and a new career
    • Karol Wojtyla at the Catholic University of Lublin
    • The Lublin challenge to modern skepticism
    • A book on love and sexuality that raises a few eyebrows
  • A New Pentecost (Vatican II and the Crisis of Humanism)
    • The youngest bishop in Poland
    • The Second Vatican Council
    • Karol Wojtyla is named Archbishop of Krakow
    • Setting Vatican II's defense of freedom on a firm philosophical foundation
  • Successor to St. Stanislaw (Living the Council in Krakow)
    • A cardinal at age forty-seven
    • Wojtyla's quest for religious freedom in Krakow
    • An extensive local implementation of Vatican II
    • The mature essayist, poet, and playwright
    • A distinctive style and a unique set of friends
    • Testing the world stage
  • A Pope from a Far Country (The Election of John Paul II)
    • The Church at the death of Pope Paul VI
    • The "September Papacy" of Pope John Paul I
    • The election of Karol Jozef Wojtyla as the first Slavic Pope in history and the first non-Italian in 455 years, to the surprise of many, but not all, concerned
  • "Be Not Afraid!" (A Pope for the World)
    • An earthquake in the papacy and the Vatican
    • Redefining the public ministry of the Bishop of Rome
    • An alternative theology of liberation
    • Program notes for a pontificate
    • Preventing a war in Latin America
    • Consternation in the Kremlin
  • "How Many Divisions Has the Pope?" (Confronting an Empire of Lies)
    • The cultural power of the politically powerless
    • An epic pilgrimage to Poland
    • Nine days that bent the curve of modern history
    • A revolution of conscience
  • The Ways of Freedom (Truths Personal and Public)
    • Marital intimacy as an icon of the inner life of God
    • Denouncing sectarian violence in Ireland
    • The Pope at the United Nations
    • Religious freedom as the first human right
    • Teenagers in a frenzy at Madison Square Garden
    • Galileo reconsidered
    • An appeal to Orthodoxy
  • Peter Among Us (The Universal Pastor as Apostolic Witness)
    • The pilgrim Pope in Africa, France, Brazil, West Germany, and Asia
    • Collegiality and crisis management
    • In defense of the family
    • A bold appointment in Paris
    • The mysteries of fatherhood and mercy, divine and human
  • In the Eye of the Storm (Months of Violence and Dissent)
    • The birth of Solidarity
    • An unprecedented letter to Leonid Brezhnev
    • The assassination attempt
    • Shock therapy fort he Jesuits
    • The "Gospel of work"
    • Martial law in Poland
    • The Falklands/Malvinas War
  • Liberating Liberations (The Limits of Politics and the Promise of Redemption)
    • Revising Church law
    • Canonizing a martyr of Auschwitz
    • Confrontation in Nicaragua
    • To recognize the saints God has made
    • Restoring hope in Poland
    • A seminar with agnostics and atheists
    • A prison visit to a would-be papal assassin
    • Suffering as a path to love
  • Reliving the Council (Religion and the Renewal of a World Still Young)
    • Securing the legacy of Vatican II
    • The "People Power" revolution in the Philippines
    • Hosting world religious leaders in Assisi
    • The first papal visit to the Synagogue of Rome
    • The irrevocable Catholic commitment to Christian unity
    • Addressing young Muslims in Casablanca
    • A letter to the youth of the world
    • Revamping the Vatican's press office
  • Forward to Basics (Freedom Ordered to the Dignity of Duty)
    • Tear gas and the quest for democracy in Chile
    • The beatification of Edith Stein
    • A preview of communism's demise
    • Hiking in the Dolomites 
    • The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in Rome
    • Opening a dialogue with Mikhail Gorbachev
    • The excommunication of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
    • A distinctive feminism
    • Starting a homeless shelter in the Vatican
    • Counselor to Andrei Sakharov
  • After the Empire of Lies (Miracles and the Mandates of Justice)
    • John Paul II in Scandinavia
    • The communist crack-up
    • A letter to Deng Xiaoping
    • Gorbachev in the Vatican
    • Defining the meaning of the "Revolution of 1989"
    • Challenging democracies to live freedom nobly
    • The Gulf war
    • The Catholic identity of Catholic universities
  • To the Ends of the Earth (Reconciling an Unreconciled World)
    • The Church is a mission
    • A storm of controversy with Orthodoxy
    • The re-evangelization of Europe
    • Priests for a new millennium
    • Colon surgery
    • The Catechism of the Catholic Church
    • Rejecting clericalism in Poland
    • Defending persecuted Christians in Sudan
    • Taking on the Mafia in Sicily
  • The Threshold of Hope (Appealing to Our Better Angels)
    • A surprise in Denver
    • The renewal of moral theology
    • Diplomatic relations with Israel
    • Confronting the U.S. government at the Cairo World Population Converence
    • More health problems
    • A convent for the contemplative nuns in the Vatican
    • The debate on women and the priesthood
    • An international bestseller
  • Only One World (Human Solidarity and the Gospel of Life)
    • The Great Jubilee of 2000
    • The largest crowd in human history
    • Another assassination attempt
    • The "Gospel of Life"
    • The Vatican and the World Conference on Women in Beijing
    • Asking Orthodox and Protestant Christians to help devise a papacy that could serve them
    • A "witness to hope" addresses the United Nations again
    • Singing in New York's Central Park
    • The golden jubilee
  • A Reasonable Faith (beyond a Century of Delusions)
    • Revising the rules for papal elections
    • France and Poland
    • Sarajevo, Lebanon, and Cuba
    • The longest-serving pope of the twentieth century
    • Catholic renewal movements in St. Peter's Square
    • John Paul II's twentieth anniversary
    • The Church in defense of human reason
  • Epilogue - The Third Millennium (To See the Sun Rise)
    • The critiques of John Paul II are evaluated, his accomplishments are assayed, and a suggestion as to the nature of his greatness is offered
  • Afterword - A Church for the New Millennium
    • The Great Jubilee of 2000
    • Notes
    • Bibliography
    • Acknowledgments
    • Index
    • About the Author
    • Praise
    • Also by George Weigel
    • Credits
    • Cover Copyright
    • About the Publisher
Have you ever seen those commercials about "the most interesting man in the world"?

Well I submit to you that John Paul II is "the most interesting man in the world".

He fled the Nazis, got through the deaths of  his mother, father and brother all at a young age, was shot twice, was manipulated by state media, sabotaged by governments, played a powerful role in the downfall of Communism, and oh, did I mention?  He was also the longest serving pope of the twentieth century.

John Paul II was undoubtedly an extremely interesting man, and this biography does a great job of going through his life in a logical way.  

At some points throughout the story I got a bit bored, but I would say 90% of the time it was an engaging read.  The writing style is so concise and authoritative--I particularly like the vocabulary.

I would definitely recommend this book. It's a long read, but a good one.

Have you read Witness to Hope?  What was your favorite chapter?
Are you going to read Witness to Hope?  What made you decide to read it?

Because God is Real

Mild Spoilers Ahead

Sixteen Questions, One Answer

This is the second book I've read by the delightful author Peter Kreeft, who also wrote The Philosophy of Tolkien.  This is the ultimate apologetics book that all Catholics should read.  It was a very quick read, but completely packed with important information.

There are sixteen questions, most of which have ten sub-questions as outlined below:
  • Introduction
  1. Why are questions good?
    1. Which questions are we talking about?
    2. What makes a question important?
    3. Why are questions precious?
    4. Should we question our faith?
    5. There are sixteen questions in this book, and each of them contains ten other questions.  That's 16 x 10 = 160 questions.  Isn't that too many?
    6. What if I'm not an intellectual?  What if I'm not "into" ideas?  Not everybody likes questions as much as philosophers and college professors, you know.
    7. When you speak of questions and answers, do you mean to assume that there's objective truth out there, the same for everybody and that if you disagree with that truth, your opinion is not just different but wrong?  Do you mean to say that religion is like science that way?  That what's true for you also must be true for me, because religion is about what is simply and absolutely true, whether we like it or not?  Are you saying that God is just as objectively real as a rock, even though you can't see Him and even though you can't prove Him by the scientific method?
    8. How can there be one and only one true answer to all sixteen of theses questions?
    9. What do you mean by "real" when you say God is real?
    10. What do you mean by "God"?
  2. Why do I exist?
    1. What is that question doing here, in this book?  "Why do I exist?" --what a strange question!  Not the kind of thing I expected to find in a catechism textbook about the Catholic religion.  It sounds very abstract and vague and speculative.
    2. Why is my existence in question?
    3. How can we know the true answer to this question about the meaning of our life?  What must we know, to know who we are?
    4. When we ask why we exist, what do we seek?
    5. What do we mean when we say that God is our origin?
    6. What do we mean when we say God is our end or destiny?  That sounds very vague and airy and abstract.  Can you make it more concrete and down-to-earth and easier to understand?
    7. How can God fill our hearts?  When we say our destiny is union with God, what does that mean?  How can we be united with God?
    8. So the meaning of life be a saint?
    9. Why doesn't everybody believe that this is our purpose and destiny?
    10. We Christians believe this.  Many people don't.  Can we give them any reason to believe our religion's answer to the question "Why do I exist"?
  3. Why is faith reasonable?
    1. What is "faith" and what is "reason"?
    2. What are the different ways of knowing?  How do we know anything at all?
    3. How do we know God?
    4. If we know God best by the heart, why do we need to prove God's existence with the reason?
    5. What is the very best way of knowing God?
    6. Do faith and reason ever contradict each other?
    7. But you can't prove everything in the Catholic religion, can you?
    8. How do unbelievers try to disprove the basics of Christianity?
    9. But doesn't science contradict religion?
    10. Doesn't evolution disprove creationism?
  4. How can you prove God is real?
    1. The First-Cause Argument
    2. The Argument from Design
    3. The Argument from the Human Brain
    4. The Argument from Desire
    5. The Moral Argument
    6. The Argument from Miracles
    7. The Argument from the Jews
    8. The Argument from the Saints
    9. The Argument from Jesus
    10. Pascal's Wager
  5. Why believe the Bible?
    1. Isn't the whole Christian religion based on some old stories in old books that are myths that modern science has debunked?  How do we know what Jesus really said?  How do w know he performed miracles?  How do we know He rose from the dead?  How do we know He founded a Church?  How do we know Jesus even existed?  Only because we assume that the Bible is true,  But the existence of Jesus is only an idea, an opinion, a belief.  It may be true or it maybe false, but it's only an opinion, not a fact.  And it's also an old idea or opinion, a pre-scientific idea.
    2. But wasn't the Bible written in an old, pre-scientific style, the style of myth?
    3. But the Bible was written by primitive people who didn't know modern science.  How can we trust it?
    4. But the Bible is only a book, after all, not a historical fact.
    5. But the Bible writers were writing to people who were ignorant of the facts of history.  They were gullible: they could believe anything.
    6. The Bible is only words.  Does God speak in words?  Aren't feelings more important?
    7. How could God write the Bible?  He's a spirit.  Men wrote the Bible.  You can see their human personalities in their writing.
    8. Who knows how to interpret the Bible, anyway? Everybody interprets it in his own way.  You get out of it whatever you put into it.
    9. Haven't there been mistakes in translation?  ow do we know the Bible we have today is the same book the authors originally wrote?
    10. What is the proper use of the Bible?  Who are the ones who use it best?  Hasn't the Bible been terribly misused and abused throughout history?
  6. Why is Jesus different?
    1. The different religions of the world were founded by different people: Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu.  How is Jesus different from the others?  Also, the teachings of all the religions of the world agree about many things.  Is there anything totally and radically different in the teachings of Christianity?  Is there anything that all Christians believe but no one else believes?
    2. What makes this belief different from those of other religions?
    3. It seems ridiculous to believe that literally.  How can a man be God?  How can God be a man?  God is the Creator of the universe; man is only a creature within the universe.  God is immortal; man is mortal. (God cannot die; man can die.)  God has no beginning; man has a beginning.  (God is not born; God has no mother.  Man is born; every man has a mother.)  God is a pure spirit; man has a physical body.  (God is invisible; man is visible.)  So it seems like a logical contradiction for Jesus to be both God and man at the same time.
    4. But even if it is possible for God to do this, why do Christians believe he actually did it?  Is there any proof that it happened?  Is there any reason for believing it?  Is there any evidence for it?  How do you know it's true?  It's just a subjective belief in your mind; there is no objective data, or facts, or evidence, are there?
    5. Okay, so Jesus claimed to be God.  But just claiming it doesn't prove it.  It's still not a fact that Jesus is God; the only fact is that he claimed to be God.  But his really being God isn't a fact, it's only a faith.
    6. Maybe the so-called data are all fiction.  Maybe Jesus didn't lie, but the Gospels lie.  Maybe Jesus never even claimed to be God, as the Gospels say He did.  Maybe the story in the Gospels is just a man-made myth, a piece of fantasy.  Maybe the miracle stories and the story of the Resurrection are science fiction.
    7. Maybe Jesus never even existed.  Who knows what really happened way back then?  Anything is possible.
    8. It still doesn't make sense to believe that (a) Jesus is God, and (b) Jesus' Father is God, but (c) Jesus is not the same person as His Father.  There's a logical contradiction there.  And all three of these ideas are part of Christianity and are taught in the New Testament.
    9. But even if the doctrine of the Trinity isn't a logical contradiction, it's not relevant to my life if I'm not a theologian.  It's like Einstein's theory of relativity, it's not relevant to my life if I'm not a scientist.
    10. But all this still seems far away in Heaven, in eternity.  What's the connecting link between God in eternity and my life here on earth Monday morning in my room?
  7. Why be a Catholic?
    1. If I had been brought up as a Hindu, I would have been a Hindu.  If I had been brought up as a Muslim, I would have been a Muslim.  So the only reason I'm Catholic is because I've been brought up as a Catholic.
    2. It seems so narrow-minded to believe that the Catholic religion is the one true religion.  Doesn't every person believe that his religion is the true one?
    3. If Christ is the only Savior, does that mean Christians are the only ones who are saved?  That we won't find any Muslims or Buddhists in Heaven?
    4. Why be a Christian then?  Why believe Christianity if non-Christians can be saved too?
    5. How can there be so much truth and goodness and beauty in other religions if they were not founded by Christ, as Christianity was?
    6. People are different.  Why should there be only one true religion?  There are many roads to God, many paths up the same mountain.
    7. But we shouldn't be judgmental.
    8. But there are other forms of Christianity too.  Why be a Catholic?  What does the Catholic Church have that no Protestant church has?  Isn't it true that there are many very good and holy people in Protestant churches, and many wicked people in the Catholic Church?
    9. So what do Catholics have that other Christians don't have?
    10. Can you summarize the reasons for being a Catholic?
  8. Why go to Church?
    1. Not many people are "turned off" by the idea of God.  But many are "turned off" by the Church.  Most people are not "turned of" by the idea of a church.  Why is that?
    2. What work does the Church do?  Why does she have to exist?  It doesn't seem as practical and necessary as a hospital, or an ark in a flood.
    3. Why do I have to go to Church every Sunday?  It doesn't turn me on.
    4. Can't you be saved without going to Church?
    5. Why do we need the Church's sacraments?
    6. My church is in my heart.  I need no externals, no crutches.  Organized religion is a crutch.
    7. The Church is just an authority figure, like a bossy teacher.  That's what the Church is really all about: power.
    8. The Church is hung up on the past and tradition.  She looks back at a man who died two thousand years ago.  She should be looking at the real world of the present.
    9. I just don't get anything out of it when I go to Church.  What should I do?
    10. That's private devotion, not public liturgy.  Okay, then religion should be private, and inward, and invisible, and purely spiritual, not pubic, external, visible, and material.
  9. Why be moral?
    1. The word "morality" is not a word that turns most people on.  Why should it?
    2. Morality does not turn most people on because morality is a set of rules, and rules restrict our freedom.
    3. So morality comes from God.  That sounds like "I'm God, and I'm the boss, so you have to do what I tell you."  So moral goodness is really based on power.  It's good only because the boss says so.
    4. How does God come into this, then, if morality is just the rules for being human and happy?  do the rules come from human nature of from God?
    5. But morality is still a set of rules, laws.  The Ten Commandments are not "suggestions" or "values" or "ideals".  God didn't give Moses the "ten good ideas".
    6. How does being good make you happy?  Good-goody people who always obey the rules aren't happy.  They're unintelligent and unimaginative and repressed.
    7. Why be good at all?  Why not be evil?  Why not be a stupid, spoiled little brat?  Why not be a snob?  Why not be a selfish pig?  What's so good about being good?
    8. Okay, so love is the heart of morality.  So in the words of the old song, "Love is all you need."  The rest of morality is a set of rules that restrict love.
    9. So how do you bridge the gap between law and love?
    10. Why is Catholic morality unchanging and absolute and universal?  Why doesn't it change with the times, and with different situations, and with different groups of people?  Why is it so rigid?
  10. Why is sex so confusing?
    1. Isn't the Church pretty unrealistic about sex?
    2. But the Church's teaching is all about the ideal, not the real; about what sex is supposed to be, not what it is.  If you want to start with reality, you must start with the brute facts.  Sex is simply a fact of life, like hair and thirst and death.
    3. All right, then, so ex is about love.  But the Church says sex is about babies, that sex is for procreation.
    4. So how does that make sex sacred?  Pig sex makes baby pigs too, but that doesn't make pig sex sacred.
    5. What does that mean, that we are created "in the image of God"?
    6. But sex doesn't always make new people.  It doesn't have to.  You can be sure it doesn't by using birth control.  So sex isn't always holy.
    7. Does that mean that all birth control is wrong?
    8. You say sex is for babies.  But it is also for pleasure.  Sexual pleasure is as natural to sex as babies are.  To suppress its natural pleasure is as unnatural as suppressing its natural fertility.
    9. Why do the rules of sexual morality have to be so complex?
    10. Why does sexual morality have to be so negative?  "Don't do this, don't do that."
  11. Why do we have families?
    1. Why does the Church connect sex with families?
    2. Is the origin of marriage a choice, or is it love?
    3. That all sounds very nice, but that's not what marriage is today.  It's a mess.  The Church tells us what marriage is ideally, but the real is not the same as the ideal.
    4. Why did God invent families?
    5. Why do families exist?  What is the purpose of the family?
    6. How are private families connected to the larger public society?
    7. What is the relation between the family and the state?
    8. How is this all connected with sex?
    9. Is that why the Catholic Church does not recognize divorce?
    10. How can there be divorced Catholics if the Catholic Church does not recognize divorce?
  12. Why are there virtues and vices?
    1. The meaning of virtue and vice
    2. The importance of virtues and vices
    3. The relation between morality and religion
    4. The relation between moral virtue and salvation
    5. The four cardinal virtues and their opposites
    6. The three theological virtues and their opposites
    7. The eight beatitudes and the seven deadly sins
    8. Virtue and society
    9. Virtue and happiness
    10. Proof of the connection between virtue and happiness
  13. Why pray?
    1. Praying doesn't turn me on.  Why do it?
    2. How do we do it?  How do we pray?
    3. What difference does prayer make?
    4. What is the purpose of prayer?
    5. What is the purpose of supplication or petition?
    6. Why did God tell us to pray?  He knows what we need.  If He loves us, why doesn't He just give us the things that He knows we need?  Why does He sometimes wait until we pray for them before He gives them to us?
    7. If we don't always get what we pray for, does that mean that some prayers are not answered?
    8. Is it all right to pray for material things?  Is it all right to pray in emergencies?  Isn't prayer supposed to be just for "spiritual" things?
    9. How often should we pray?
    10. What should we say when we pray?
  14. Why aren't we happy?
    1. The title of this chapter sounds different from all the others.  It doesn't sound like it's about religion.  Why is it here in a book about the Catholic religion?
    2. Happiness is just a feeling, and different people feel differently about different things, so different things make different people happy.  "Different strokes for different folks."  For some people, happiness is a warm puppy; for other people, it is extreme sports.  How can there be one road map for everybody?
    3. Why can't money make you happy?
    4. Why can't fame and glory make you happy?  Everyone wants them.  They make you more Godlike.
    5. Why can't power make you happy?  Now that's Godlike.  "Almighty God--" power is almost His middle name.  And what's worse than losing power, losing control?  It's like being a slave.
    6. Happiness is being loved, then: being respected, being accepted, being honored.
    7. Why can't a strong, healthy, beautiful body make you happy?  That's not in somebody else's mind--that's in you.
    8. Why can't enjoyment and pleasure make you happy?  That's in you, not in other people, and it's in the soul, not just the body, and we seek it as an end, not just as means.  So it's like happiness all three ways of those ways.
    9. Then maybe nothing in the world can make us happy.  Maybe the whole world can't make us wholly happy.
    10. What can make me happy?
  15. Why is there evil?
    1. Why is that problem in this book?
    2. What is the Church's answer to evil?
    3. What is the solution to the problem of evil in thought?
    4. What is evil?
    5. So where did physical evils come from?  Did God make them?  Did he make rattlesnakes and hurricanes?  Did He make diseases and death?
    6. Is that why sin is so bad?  Because it brought suffering into the world?
    7. Isn't it terribly negative, dark, and pessimistic, to take evil so seriously?  Isn't the Church hung up on the negative, on no-nos?  Doesn't this make us unhappy and guilty and take away our smiles?  Isn't Christianity supposed to be the "Gospel" or the "good news" that God loves us?
    8. How does evil fit into the "good news"?
    9. Who is Jesus in this story?
    10. If Jesus is the hero who solves the problem of evil, then what must we do to solve the problem of evil?
  16. Why must we die?
    1. Isn't the question of death, and life after death, impractical for young people?  Isn't it escapism to think about life after death?  Doesn't it take away your attention and care for this world?
    2. How do we know there is life after death at all?  Maybe it's just a myth.  There's no proof of it.  Nobody ever came back to tell us about it.
    3. What is the Last Judgement?  When we die, will we meet God as just Judge or as loving Savior?
    4. Many people believe in reincarnation.  They believe their souls will come back to earth in other bodies.  Is that possible?
    5. Are we really supposed to believe in a literal Heaven, with golden streets and fluffly white clouds and angels playing harps?
    6. What will be in Heaven?  Beer?  Baseball?  Catbirds?  Cats?
    7. Is there really a Hell?  Isn't that belief primitive, crude, and cruel?  Isn't it just a popluar myth?
    8. Is Puragorty a little bit of Hell?
    9. What difference does this all make to life here and now?  How does this Catholic map of the future change to the present?  What difference does eternity make to Monday morning?
    10. How does Jesus fit into all this?
  • Conclusion
I found this book to be written in a very easy to read and down to earth manner.  It is aimed at teens and adults, especially to be used in a Catechism class, so it's great that it is written in such a mild style.  It does, however, really pack a punch.  While the writing may be light, the substance is truly there.  Peter Kreeft walks the fine line between "fluffy" and "over-dramatic" perfectly keeping a great balance of reality and truth throughout the book.

It makes me wish we read this in CCD instead of the Catechism text book we read!  The books we have are mostly fluffy and don't really delve into the questions that teens are really asking today.  

This book obviously covers a huge variety of questions, but the great thing is that since Peter Kreeft starts from the top, first proving that God exists, and then moves down the chain of questions, we as readers are already set up with the same basic understanding.  Once you acknowledge God's existence, his benevolence, his omnipotence, etc. everything else falls in place.

One of my favorite points that Professor Kreeft made was in his "Why is Jesus Different?" Chapter.  He says:
"There are only two possible explanations.  Either 
a. Jesus spoke the truth, or
b. Jesus did not speak the truth. 
In other words, either  
a. Jesus was, and is, God, as he claimed to be, or else
b. Jesus was not God, even though he claimed to be. 
Those are the only two possibilities.  So if we eliminate (b), we are left with (a).  If we prove (b) is false, then we prove that (a) is true...The always say he was a good man, a great man.  But what kind of a man is He if He is not God but claimed to be God?  He is a man who did not tell the truth about Himself.  That is not a good man, certainly not a great man.  There are only two reasons why anyone does not speak the truth: either he knows he is not speaking the truth, or he doesn't know he is not speaking the if Jesus isn't the Lord, then He's either the world's biggest liar or the world's biggest lunatic.  Why would anyone trust either the world's biggest liar or the world's biggest lunatic?...Can anyone read the Gospels and see Jesus as a liar or a lunatic?  Look at His wisdom, His goodness, His love, His power to attract people.  Even non-Christians say He was good and wise..."
If someone ever approaches me with questions about the faith or wants a recommendation for something to read, I will hand them this book in an instant.  It is a fantastic, pithy, and clear representation of the Catholic faith and definitely worth the time to read.  Highly, highly, recommended!

Have you read Because God is Real?  Did anything about it surprise you?
Are you going to read Because God is Real?  Which of the above questions is the most important to you?

The Once and Future King

Severe Spoilers Ahead

The Once and Future King is a take on the story of King Arthur written by T.H. White.

I love this book!  This is my favorite adaptation of the story and is second only to the original, Le Mort d'Arthur.  The characterization was close to flawless, the descriptions were vivid, the writing was melodic and easy to understand.

If I remember correctly, the book was about 700 pages and I read it in 24 hours!  I think that is the fastest I have ever read a book, but it was that good!

We meet Arthur when he is just a child and unaware that he is the king yet.  He and Merlin talk and go on all sorts of adventures which prepare the young boy for kingship.  He then goes to Camelot for a tourney with Sir Kay where he gets the Sword in the Stone.

Throughout the story I feel a lot of sympathy for King Arthur who loves Guinever but has a hard time expressing it, but (and this is very unexpected) I also felt for Lancelot and Guinever.  In this version, Merlin warns Arthur that Guinever will love someone else, but Arthur loves her so much that he marries her anyway.  Merlin's warning makes it seem like Lancelot and Guinever were destined to be together and had little choice.

Lancelot is also unique in this tale because while he remains the strongest and most valiant knight, he is portrayed as being very ugly.  His and Guinever's romance doesn't get off to a flashy start either, but they get into a bit of a tiff in which Lancelot hurts her feelings.  It is then that he feels bad and begins to be nice to her, but obviously it develops further than that.

A strong theme throughout the story is the importance of just war; only going to battle when you or innocents are threatened.  Arthur and Merlin both learn a lot about this and Arthur rules in a merciful and peaceful way.

The very end of the book brought me to absolute full-out tears.  It doesn't end in the traditional way, with an epilogue about Guinever and Lancelot's fate after the battle, but it ends just before King Arthur is to go out on the battle of Camlann where he will die.  There he gives a beautiful speech to his page and quickly knights the young boy before battle.  The speech itself is beautiful and wistful and since I know what happens to Arthur next it truly breaks my heart.  At the very end, Arthur asks the new knight to write down everything about the kingdom and never let anyone forget what can be achieved with compassion and peace.  It is revealed at the very, very end, that this knight's name was Thomas Malory.

Just writing this review has given me an overwhelming urge to go back and read the book again--it was just wonderful.  Isn't the title just perfect?  The feels!

Ah, and some of the wonderful, marvelous, magnificent, superb, glorious, sublime, lovely, delightful quotes:

“The bravest people are the ones who don’t mind looking like cowards.”

“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

“She hardly ever thought of him. He had worn a place for himself in some corner of her heart, as a sea shell, always boring against the rock, might do. The making of the place had been her pain. But now the shell was safely in the rock. It was lodged, and ground no longer.”

“We cannot build the future by avenging the past.”

“If people reach perfection they vanish, you know.”


“The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.”

“Now, in their love, which was stronger, there were the seeds of hatred and fear and confusion growing at the same time: for love can exist with hatred, each preying on the other, and this is what gives it its greatest fury.”

“In war, our elders may give the orders...but it is the young who have to fight.”

“Only fools want to be great.”

“Might does not make right! Right makes right!”

“They made me see that the world was beautiful if you were beautiful, and that you couldn't get unless you gave. And you had to give without wanting to get.”

"Those who lived by the sword were forced to die by it.”

“You could not give up a human heart as you could give up drinking. The drink was yours, and you could give it up: but your lover’s soul was not your own: it was not at your disposal; you had a duty towards it.”

“There is one fairly good reason for fighting - and that is, if the other man starts it. You see, wars are a great wickedness, perhaps the greatest wickedness of a wicked species. They are so wicked that they must not be allowed. When you can be perfectly certain that the other man started them, then is the time when you might have a sort of duty to stop them. ”

“War is like a fire. One man may start it, but it will spread all over. It is not about one thing in particular.”

"There was a moment in which everything stood still. Guinevere, hurt in her heart. Lancelot, sensing her stillness, stood also. The hawk stopped bating and the leaves did not rustle.
The young man knew, in this moment, that he had hurt a real person, of his own age. He saw in her eyes that she thought he was hateful, and that he had surprised her badly. She had been giving kindness, and he had returned it with unkindness. But the main thing was that she was a real person. She was not a minx, not deceitful, not designing and heartless. She was pretty Jenny, who could think and feel."

Have you read The Once and Future King?  Did you love it as much as I did?

Are you going to read The Once and Future King?  Good for you--let me know if you love it!

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Mild Spoilers Ahead

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is a satirical story about chivalry and the medieval times by Mark Twain.  In it, the yankee travels back to the 500s and lives at King Arthur's court, wowing the people with his "magic" which is really just science that he brought back from the future.  Some have said that it's critique of chivalry is similar to Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes.

I really disliked this book.  It was written with the "we're the best" attitude that was so prevalent in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  The yankee is so convinced that he is much better at everything than the stinky medieval unenlightened pigs that he doesn't learn anything or change throughout the entire book.

It is basically just a run through of criticism of the medieval times, which I did not appreciate since I actually find some things of value from that time.

Aside from attacking the time period itself and the system of lords and kings, the story goes shamelessly after the Roman Catholic Church with insult after insult.  My edition had horrible cartoon drawings on pretty much every page mocking the Church.  I understand that the people within the Catholic Church are by no means perfect and have done some horrible things throughout history but it still feels bad to have someone consistently come at your church.

Basically this book was not only very negative and making fun of things I hold dear, but it was boring.  As avid a reader as I am, I find myself spacing out at least every page because I just didn't care.  I didn't get anything out of this book--besides frustration--and I think it is a waste of time to read.

I do not recommend this book at all, in fact I caution against reading it.

Have you gone through the ordeal of reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court?  What did you think of the negativity?

Do you have to read A Connecticut Yankee?  How are you going to make it through?

Comment below :)

The Divine Comedy

Mild Spoilers Ahead

The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri.  It is a story about a middle aged man who encounters Virgil in front of a cave and is launched into an epic journey in which he has to journey through the circles of Hell, Purgatory, and finally reach Paradise.

The story is split up into three sections, starting with Hell.  Dante travels through the different levels:

  • Limbo (non-practicing Christians and unbaptized pagans; notables include Aristotle, Cicero, Hippocrates, Julius Caesar)
  • Lust (punished by being blown roughly by the wind; notables include Cleopatra, Tristan, Helen of Troy, etc.)
  • Gluttony (punished by being forced to lie in sludge)
  • Greed (punished by having weights and boulders on their shoulders)
  • Anger (the angry fight each other eternally here)
  • Heresy (punished in flaming tombs forever)
  • Violence (some are turned into trees which are eaten by harpies; others are chased and torn by dogs)
  • Fraud (panderers, seducers, flatterers, simony, sorcerers, false prophets, corrupt politicians, hypocrites, thieves, evil counselors, advisers, divisive individuals, false-tellers, alchemists, perjurers, counterfeits
  • Treachery (Satan chews three betrayers in his mouths--he has three--Brutus, Cassius, and Judas)
Then he goes to Purgatory where he sees how each of the sins are cleansed from people.  He finally reaches Paradise where he is reunited with his friend Beatrice.  

I don't want to spoil too much of this story because I think it is an absolute must read for everyone, period.

One of my favorite quotes:
"How many, up there, think themselves great kings
Who here will wallow in mire like pigs.
Leaving behind nothing but infinite horrors."

Have you read The Divine Comedy?  Which part did you like best?

Are you going to read The Divine Comedy?  What made you want to?