Tag Archives: youth

‘Brother Hugo and the Bear’: cute and informative

May 8, 2014

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brother hugo and the bearAuthor Katy Beebe has crafted a cute story from a sliver of what may or may not be a true anecdote from the 12th century. Did a bear really devour much of one monastery’s copy of St. Augustine’s letters to St. Jerome?

Beebe’s fictional Brother Hugo gets the task of replacing it, and a good chunk of the tale illustrates how manuscripts were created by the monks in those monasteries in the Middle Ages.

Illustrates is the perfect word, too, because artist S.D. Schindler’s superb use of the style of those medieval illuminators adds a whimsical period touch that puts the story into the proper historical timeframe.

This is not just a good tale for young readers but an educational one as well.

There’s church and human history embedded in the Eerdmans book, with salutes to those ancient monasteries, the Benedictine’s Cluny and the Cistercian’s La Grande Chartreuse, and even a glossary that includes both church and manuscript making vocabularies.

What a nice idea, and nicely done.

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Publishers must think church saints are back in

July 28, 2011

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Saints are cool again. At least book publishers must figure they are.

Here’s a quick look at recent releases that target niche markets — teens and moms — people who might be searching for role models among the heavenly blessed — and one that could be for just about everyone.

Liguori Publications is aiming both at teenage readers and on-the-go mothers who might be looking for a spiritual boost — or at the least empathy.

In “Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints,” Colleen Swaim (http://www.liguori.org/productdetails.cfm?sku=820298) tells the real-life biographies of eight young people who lived relatively recently, all in an effort to help today’s young people understand that holiness is real and attainable.

Catholics will recognize names like Maria Goretti and Dominic Savio — well-known teens saints, but names new to me like St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, an Indian nun, and St. Kizito, a  Ugandan martyred for his faith.

What makes the this 130-page paperback work is that Swaim knows her audience has short attention spans so she keeps the stories brief and interesting, but she also challenges teens to put themselves in the situations the saints found themselves, asking them to reflect upon questions like:

“Think back to the last time you were in physical pain. How did you react to it?”

And, “Do you remember making your first Holy Communion? How did you feel? How do you approach the Eucharist differently today?”

Even the brief text is broken up with definitions and info boxes scattered throughout along with prayers, quotes, and “Saintly Challenges” like, “With the zeal of a new convert, fearlessly tell one person about your faith.”

 

For Moms-on-the-go

In a similar vein but purse-size and just 79 pages is “Saints on Call: Everyday Devotions for Moms” (http://www.liguori.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=11903. Author Christine Gibson takes common, real-life situations — for example, “When you feel ‘sacrificed-out’ for your family…” — and offers a simple explanation how a saint dealt with a similar issue. Each brief story is followed by a quote from scripture to ponder and a prayer.

For the sacrificed-out mom, Gibson holds up St. Gianna Molla who chose to deliver her baby knowing it would cost her her own life. Gibson’s prayer hits home:

“St. Gianna, you made the ultimate sacrifice for your little one. I ask you to please pray for me that I may rejoice in the sacrifices I can make for my dear children.”

Among the more than four dozen other situations — each tied to a saint — are issues such as “When you feel like life is not going as you planned it…” (St. Rose Philippine Duchesne); “When you can’t stand another house guest…” (St. Lydia Pupuraria); “When you are worried about your wayward child…” (St. Monica).

Every single one is a winner.

 

For scholars, art lovers and, well, everyone

Finally, there’s this book that will appeal to a number of niche groups — and perhaps a general audience, too —  with stories about saints from Agatha to Zachariah.

“The Lives of the Saints through 100 Masterpieces” (http://www.dupress.duq.edu/pubDetails.asp?theISBN=9780820704364) is a Duquesne University Press paperback is going to be loved by those who cherish Christian art, but those interested in saints’ stories, myths, legends and history will find it compelling reading and viewing.

Written by Jacques Duquesne and Francois Lebrette and translated from the French by M. Cristina Borges, this 221-pager is a collection of saints’ biographies — and tales, to be honest — each accompanied by classic paintings that hang is places both well-known — The Louvre, The Prado — and obscure (to me at least), and almost all in Europe.

Even if you think you know the stories of saints you’ll find new information here. I especially appreciated the transparency of the authors who frankly acknowledge when something about one of the saintly heroes may have been passed down as mere legend.

Readers will appreciated learning why a saint is pictured in a certain way — St. Denis carrying his own head! – or typically painted with a certain object — a sword, a palm leaf, a stag, which would be St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters.

There are saints, too, that you may never have heard of — St. Fiacre, for example — that show the European bent of the authors. But those tales are interesting, too, and the paintings that help tell the story are indeed masterpieces. Warning: The retail cost is a bit steep at $29.95, but it isn’t cheap to print all those color paintings, and the print job is superb, even in the smaller format.– bz

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Paulist and U of M Newman can add to your Lent and beyond

February 23, 2010

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Lent-Behnke cover

“Lent and Easter Reflections for the Younger Crowd,”

by John Behnke, CSP

Father John Behnke would make a great editor.

The Paulist priest has a terrific ability to condense Scripture readings to the meat of their messages, and that’s what he offers for each day of Lent, the Triduum and Eastertide for all three of our liturgical cycles. What is many verses in the original becomes 2-3-4 sentences in common, understandable English.

Packed into this 140-page Paulist Press paperback are these summaries of the readings, the Psalm and the Gospel for each day, a thought to reflect on from Father Behnke, plus two unique touches.

First there’s an unfinished prayer that invites personal completion. A sample is:

“Dear God, sometimes I jump the gun and blow things all out of proportion. Help me to keep a good perspective on life. Please help me to ….”

Each day also includes a thought from a college student, so the young readers this book was written for can get an idea of what their peers think about the day’s message.

Father Behnke was for several years chaplain of the St. Lawrence/Newman Community that serves the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and he invited students to add their voices to the work. For example, student Annette Johnson wrote this in her “My thoughts” comment about the Gospel story in which the Sanhedrin blast Jesus for performing a miracle on the Sabbath:

“Help me to not be such a hypocrite when it comes to people that I don’t like. Help me to stop having such a selfish view of my beliefs. help me to open myself to learning from others.”

I think you’ll find the comments brutally honest and touchingly personal.

A toe into the meditation pool

In the suggestions for using the guide, it’s pointed out that the re-written Scripture is a supplement to, not a substitute for, the readings contained in the Lectionary. “The author’s intent is an easy-to-read primer to help initiate the almost adult person into the joys and peace of spirit and mind one gains through personal contact with God that can be achieved by means of a structured meditation.”

The whole book is a great aid for anyone needing a useful tool to help get into the habit of prayerful reflection. This may be a worthwhile gift to someone upon their Confirmation, something that gets them started on a daily quiet time, time for prayer, reflection, a conversation with God.

And Father’s re-writing is so spot on.

Take his take on Exodus 20:1-7, better known as the Ten Commandments:

“One day God said to his people, ‘Here are some rules I want you to always follow:

1. Pray only to me because I’m the one who made you and saved you.

2. I don’t want to hear any of you swearing.

3. I want one day out of the week to be a special day for you. Don’t do too much work that day so you can relax and spend some time praying to me.

4. I want you to listen to your parents (even when you grow up) because they have lived longer and know more about life than you.

5. Don’t kill anyone for any reason.

6. Don’t fool around with someone you’re not married to.

7. Don’t take anything that isn’t yours.

8. Don’t lie about anybody.

9. Don’t always be wanting things that belong to other people.

All I’m really asking is that you ‘love me and keep my rules.'”

Although there are only nine re-written commandments, I still highly recommend “Lent and Easter Reflections for the Younger Crowd.” — bz

Paulist Press publications are available at many bookstores that sell religious goods and books, and are available by phone by calling the customer service department at 1-800-218-1903.

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