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Showing posts with the label literature

God, Mr. Darcy, and St. Therese

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Are you afraid of standing before God on Judgment Day? Does the thought of facing Him make you fear death? Even if you’ve committed mortal sin in your lifetime, you only have to fear God in one circumstance–if you die unrepentant, or with no intention of confessing your sin as soon as possible. Here’s how my husband, St. Therese, and Mr. Darcy taught me to think of the Final Judgment with peace.

My husband and I met through Single Catholics Online (now Ave Maria Singles). After emailing and talking on the phone for several weeks, we decided to meet in person. As I was preparing for our first date, my hands shook from nervousness. I told myself, “There’s nothing to worry about. It’s just Dan.” We had gotten along great in our conversations. We already knew a lot about each other. We were friends. We were old enough to have been completely genuine with each other, rather than acting a part. What did I have to fear? If it wasn’t God’s will for our relationship to deepen, it…

The Crown

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Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel The Crown takes readers on an odyssey through the England of Henry VIII during the bloody period of the dissolution of the monasteries as seen from the point of view of a young Dominican novice. There are many aspects of this extraordinary novel that contemporary Catholics will find that they can relate to, namely the confusion in the Church and the compromises of many of her members to political persecution and social expediency, as well as the heroic stand taken by those with the courage to speak truth to power. In Tudor England, speaking truth to power, or even silently trying to follow one's conscience, often meant dying a hideous death. Young Joanna Stafford finds that in those intense times there is no such thing as spiritual mediocrity; either she must take the high road or face perdition. Joanna is not one to settle for less than heroism anyway, having entered a strict Dominican monastery where she looked forward to an austere…

An Interview with Author Nancy Bilyeau

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I recently read a magnificent novel, The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau, which deals  with the fate of some English  Dominican nuns during Henry VIII's "reform." I was delighted and honored when Nancy agreed to be interviewed. I will be reviewing the book as well in a future post. To quote from the book description:
An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537. . .
EMV: Nancy, welcome! Congratulations on your magnificent novel, The Crown, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was especially impressed by the research that went into making it one of the most authentic novels of the Tudor era that I have ever read.  You bring to life the beauty and peace of the cloister even as it is about to be destroyed. Can you tell us a little about how you began your journey into the past, and where you found the best sources on such a turbulent, controversial epoch?
NB: I’ve been…

Redemption: The Thane of Cawdor, Ivan Ilyich and the Rest of Us

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This fall I've been teaching Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Macbeth to high school juniors. And this week I finished reading Tolstoy's novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich. In both stories, writers describe men at the end of their earthly lives, men guilty of serious sins and yet who find redemption at the very end of their days.

The possibility of redemption: I can think of no more compelling message this Advent season, a season in which we Christians await the birth of our Redeemer.
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Reading "To Kill A Mockingbird" with a Generation of New Americans

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Those of us who grew up in the United States and attended public schools probably remember reading Harper Lee's novel about racial justice and human dignity "To Kill a Mockingbird" sometime during our middle or high school years. I read it in middle school; most of my classmates were white and a few were African Americans. Now, as a high school English teacher, I am reading this story with students whose faces reflect every continent on the globe. This experience shows me how reading beautiful books can help us recognize universal truths that transcend time and place and culture.


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Feeling the Financial Pinch? Read the Wife of Bath's Tale for Wisdom about Poverty

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My husband and I are by no means economically poor. We own a home. We both are professionals employed full time. We are not worried about being laid off. We have health insurance. We do not use credit cards. We do not worry about making our mortgage payments or paying for groceries. And yet, like so many Americans, we are pinched. Right now, we need to replace our oven, our washing machine and, we just found out today, the engine on our used minivan. (That will cost us $2,100. Yikes.)

It's easy for both of us to feel burdened by the bills, to focus on how we are getting by instead of ahead financially. It can feel suffocating when I start to define myself by the bills we owe.

Thank God for the gift of literature. My high school juniors are reading Geoffrey Chaucer's  Canterbury Tales, the medieval story about 29 pilgrims on their way to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket. He paints a portrait of life in 14th century England and directs …

Encouraging Summer Reading That Speaks to Teens' Souls

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Our 14-year-old son returned from a vacation with the youth group of Communion and Liberation this week, eager to buy a copy of the latest translation of Giacomo Leopardi's "Canti" as well as a good translation of Fyodor Doystoevsky's "Crime and Punishment." His emerging interest in fine literature is yet another reason my husband and I are so grateful for CL, a lay ecclesiastical movement within the Catholic Church. Our son is learning that faith is a living entity and that the beauty expressed by poets, and musicians is one way we can gaze upon the Infinite. My conversation with him also is a reminder we parents have an obligation to continue to nurture our children's souls as they navigate adolescence.

Here is what Leopardi, a poet, essayist and philosopher of the early 19th century, has to say about the Infinite:

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