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Thomas E. Defreitas "C-33" RSS Feed (Massachusetts)
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Prayer and You
Prayer and You
Price: $8.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Winsome, accessible, and not too crabby!, May 17, 2014
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This review is from: Prayer and You (Kindle Edition)
Sister Mary Lea Hill, a Daughter of Saint Paul, has given us a cheerfully practical handbook on the spiritual life--which is nothing more than real life lived joyfully and prayerfully! These eighty reflections are chock-full of good humor and wisdom, often prefaced by a punning title ("You Had Me at Hallow," for instance). At first, I was surprised by how conversational Sister's writing is--but hers is a refreshing voice! The substance is sage and life-giving throughout. Bravissima, Sr Lea! (Do you have other books?)

Also recommended: See Yourself Through God's Eyes: 52 Meditations to Grow in Self-Esteem by Sr Marie Paul Curley, FSP.


Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits
Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits
by Michael Harter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.28
97 used & new from $1.23

5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous compilation!, May 13, 2014
This collection magnifies the Lord as surely as Our Lady does! There are prayers from the Society's saintly founder, from Gerard Manley Hopkins, from Peter Faber, from Claude de la Colombiere, and from 20th-century voices such as Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner, and Daniel Berrigan -- as well as a host of lesser-known but equally inspired Jesuits! The inflexibly traditionalist reader might balk at references to the maternal qualities of God in one or two of the prayers, or be concerned by the inclusion of writers whose work has fallen under the scrutiny of the Holy See (e.g., Fr Anthony de Mello), but most readers, one ventures to wager, will find Fr Harter's anthology to be both spiritually nutritious and aesthetically appealing. Recommended highly.


Discovering the Center: A Surgeon's Spiritual Journey
Discovering the Center: A Surgeon's Spiritual Journey
by Edward Gray
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.93
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4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome perspective, an affecting memoir, December 17, 2013
I'd recommend Dr Edward Gray's Discovering the Center. It's all about his discovery of prayer, the Mass, and specifically Centering Prayer, but despite my (perhaps fading) skepticism about that method, I found Dr Gray's book an affecting memoir. We certainly can't object to Dr Gray's advocacy of greater and more frequent "zones of silence" (quoting Bl. John Paul II), or for his very welcome prescription for longer periods of silent meditation and thanksgiving after receiving the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Communion. Dr Gray writes (wrote: he's now among the deceased) that he would spend up to 20 minutes in silent thanksgiving after each daily Mass, not budging from his pew. There are a half-dozen pages of journal entries at the end of the (96 pp) slender book -- entries entitled "Pensees" -- which I found quite beautiful and inspiring.

Earlier in the book we learn of Dr Gray's life as a surgeon, and not only of his triumphs but his tribulations. It was Dr Gray's belief that his discovery of meditative prayer enabled him to serve his patients more effectively and more compassionately. The salient note of this slender memoir is gratitude for a life that has brought its author many graces, not the least of which is his method of prayer, which the doctor winsomely describes as "consenting to the Holy Spirit."

There is a Bibliography in the back of the book containing recommendations for further reading. I would venture to say that even the reader who is uneasy with Centering Prayer could nonetheless read Dr Gray's account and be edified, even inspired. Once again, I recommend this book highly!


Sister Songs; an offering to two sisters
Sister Songs; an offering to two sisters
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4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant many-splendoured vision, December 3, 2013
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The language in this neglected work by the Catholic poet Francis Thompson (1859-1907) positively glitters with a brilliance from which cynical modern sensibilities might shrink; but, within the limitations of a dated diction, "Sister Songs" appears as seductively gorgeous as, let us say, Oscar Wilde's "Charmides."

It is one long poem, really; and the reader must occasionally suffer through an ineffective inversion of syntax, or a too-precious archaism -- but imperceptive would be the soul who remains unmoved by the beauty of Thompson's lustrous cadences. Read the verses aloud so as to more readily recognize the natural majesty of sound. Here is poetic grandeur, flawed at times by the effete or by the overly "poetic": nonetheless, the attentive reader will be more than amply rewarded.


The Seven Prayers of Pope Francis
The Seven Prayers of Pope Francis
Price: $2.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seven Ignatian Prayers, December 1, 2013
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An edifying treatise on the Jesuit spirit which formed our beloved Holy Father Francis, including seven prayers -- not by Pope Francis, but by Jesuits of the last 450 years, whose words encapsulate the charism and the character of the current pontiff.

The text is often written with a kind of enthusiasm that comes at the expense of literary polish; however, reading it, one dares not doubt the author's love for God or her reverence for the compelling figure of Pope Francis.


Juvenilia: Poems, 1922-1928 (Expanded Paperback Edition) (W.H. Auden--Critical Editions)
Juvenilia: Poems, 1922-1928 (Expanded Paperback Edition) (W.H. Auden--Critical Editions)
by W. H. Auden
Edition: Paperback
Price: $27.70
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5.0 out of 5 stars Proficiency and maturity at an early age, November 26, 2013
Poetry fans, and especially W. H. Auden fans: Do yourselves a favor and check out Auden's Juvenilia 1922-1928, ed. Katherine Bucknell. Intriguing, to see the development of this famous poet, to notice his early influences (Hardy, Frost, Edward Thomas), and to observe the sheer amazing-ness of Auden's apparently innate virtuosity. Read poems such as "November at Weybourne" and "After a Burial" and marvel that a seventeen-year-older produced such work!

There are critical notes appended to each poem, of interest primarily to the Auden scholar, but the presence of these notes is not burdensome to the reader. This is a capacious selection of Auden's schoolboy work, and it is likely true that not every poem will be to the reader's taste; however, I found myself oftener than not agape with astonishment at the formidable prowess of Auden as a youth. Highly recommended.


Christmas Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets)
Christmas Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets)
by J. D. McClatchy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.15
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5.0 out of 5 stars Comfort and joy, November 5, 2013
This collection contains many poems about Christmas by illustrious poets from John Donne and George Herbert to our own day with W. S. Merwin and Donald Hall. Two of the finest poems are by British poets laureate C. Day Lewis ("The Christmas Tree") and John Betjeman ("Christmas"):

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum ...

This reader is overjoyed by the inclusion of Countee Cullen's "Christus Natus Est."

The manger still
Outshines the throne;
Christ must and will
Come to his own.
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Also, I was grateful to discover Merwin's "Carol of the Three Kings." Tennyson is here, twice, the poet-martyr Robert Southwell, twice (Southwell's "New Prince, New Pomp" perhaps surpassing in splendour the more famous "Burning Babe"). Poems by John Donne and George Herbert enhance this collection, and Richard Wilbur's "Christmas Hymn" inspires our appreciative reverence.

Ably edited by J. D. McClatchy and the late John Hollander, the anthology consistently rewards our expectations. For the poetry lover who loves Christmas, this collection is a "must."


Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud
Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud
by Robert Pinsky
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.47
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Viva voce, November 5, 2013
Mr Pinsky's anthology is truly a pleasure, introducing this reader to many excellent poems he had not hitherto encountered, notably Fulke Greville's "Epitaph for Sir Philip Sidney," Ogden Nash's "Columbus," and Stuart Dischell's "Days of Me." There is a bias toward the formal -- or do I overstate, with Allen Ginsberg, Lloyd Schwartz, W. C. Williams, and others represented? We are grateful for the inclusion of lighthearted poems, including Edward Lear's "How Pleasant to Meet Mr Lear," of parodies such as "Chard Whitlow" by Henry Reed -- an effective lampoon of T. S. Eliot -- and of savage poems like Jonathan Swift's "The Lady's Dressing Room."

All of these poems, from Wyatt to Williams, from Greville to Ginsberg, read well aloud, as Mr Pinsky believes they should. As an editor, his choices are catholic (small c) and capacious. Unexpected selections exist side by side with "traditional" choices. In an anthology which stresses the vocal quality of verse, we are surprised by the exclusion of W. H. Auden and Dylan Thomas, but are grateful to see old favourites such as Countee Cullen, W. B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, and the glorious poets of the 16th and 17th centuries. Pinsky's introductions and editorial comments are teacherly without ever becoming burdensomely didactic. Accessible, inviting, intelligent, surprising -- this anthology is highly recommended.


Walking with Henri Nouwen: A Reflective Journey
Walking with Henri Nouwen: A Reflective Journey
by Robert Waldron
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.96
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the company of a wounded healer, August 5, 2013
Robert Waldron's "Walking with Henri Nouwen" (the second of a series of books in which Waldron examines the writings and lives of various spiritual masters) is a gem. He turns a sympathetic eye to the Dutch-born priest and author of many books now considered classics. The assessment of Nouwen's achievement is generous, but not to the extent that Waldron loses sight of Nouwen's flaws and limitations.

To be candid, I found this book especially inspiring because of the attention paid to the woundedness, the brokenness, the human-ness, if we may, of Henri Nouwen. "Our wounds," Waldron writes, "are our greatest gift. If we accept them in the right spirit, they can break us into beauty." (The imagery of those last few words!) Our wounds can become "gateways to a closer relationship with Christ" (p. 33); we should learn, Waldron suggests, paraphrasing Nouwen, to become "hospitable" to those inner wounds which cannot be dispelled, but are rather "the permanent furniture of our inner being" (p. 52).

Nouwen seems to have been plagued by a perfectionism instilled in him at an early age, by insecurities regarding the stability of his friendships, by a need to be affirmed that perhaps went beyond the ordinary. (One of the more nakedly confessional lyrics of '80s alternative music comes to mind: "I am human and I need to be loved ...")

It complicated Nouwen's life as a Catholic priest that he was homosexual: Waldron tells us that Nouwen was adamant in not wishing to "come out," and further stresses that Nouwen remained celibate. Waldron briefly raises the question of homosexuality-as-wound, but is quick to dismiss this pejorative view. (But perhaps it could be stated, without injustice, that there is a special vulnerability that the homosexual endures in a culture where hostility toward gays and lesbians -- or even toward those perceived to be gay -- is not entirely absent.)

Waldron draws instructive comparisons throughout the book between Nouwen and Thomas Merton (Nouwen had an unrequited attraction toward, and intense affection for, a co-worker at L'Arche; Merton famously fell in love with a young nurse at a Louisville hospital). Both men, Nouwen and Merton, remained loyal to their vocations -- and their hearts were doubtless expanded by the joys and the agonies associated with their respective loves. More importantly, Waldron stresses that both men were men of prayer, who examined their lives in such a way as to bring many others to God. There is, one should note, a consideration of Nouwen's fascination with, and desire for, the monastic life, and a few reasons offered why Nouwen was not suited to the same life as Merton.

Also, Waldron briefly compares Nouwen to the 19th-century Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who shared Nouwen's sexuality. Waldron suggests that either man could become a saint, or at least a patron or paragon, to homosexual Catholics. (The writer and blogger Eve Tushnet sees Oscar Wilde in a similar light -- if Augustine, why not Wilde?) Certainly, both Nouwen and Hopkins can be considered role models for homosexual Catholics -- and I would submit, for all Catholics and Christians.

Nouwen's love of art (both iconographic and secular) is examined, with attention to the way that meditation on art can become spiritual in nature. Especially potent are the observations pertaining to Nouwen's love of Rembrandt's "Prodigal Son," a painting which inspired one of Nouwen's most popular books. With respect to art and meditation, Waldron is fond of quoting Simone Weil: "Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer."

Waldron's examination of Nouwen's life and work is interspersed with the genial diaristic notes that we have come to expect in the "Walking With ..." series. There's something comforting, even fortifying, about reading the words of someone who shares our enthusiasm for Henri Nouwen, and someone whose wise and attentive reading affords us new vistas into Nouwen's achievement.

I fear that, despite the length of this review, I've given a somewhat inadequate picture of Robert Waldron's engaging and illuminating book. Suffice it to say that Waldron's book can be enjoyed by any admirer of Henri Nouwen, and by those who know that their woundedness is an essential component of their humanity. "Our wounds are a blessing," Waldron writes, "when they allow others to act as a balm." As Christ's body was wounded, the members of his Mystical Body are wounded. Waldron reminds us of Nouwen's healing words, and of our own vocation to be "wounded healers" to those whom we encounter.


Committed to Memory
Committed to Memory
by Eavan Boland
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from $1.68

4.0 out of 5 stars A noble effort, July 17, 2013
This review is from: Committed to Memory (Paperback)
John Hollander's compilation COMMITTED TO MEMORY is a noble effort at gathering approximately one hundred poems (the exact tally is, I believe, 104) for the purposes of deep reading and memorization, and perhaps ultimately for "performance" or recitation. There are, of course, many poems which Hollander (and his Advisory Committee, including illustrious poets such as Richard Wilbur, Michael S. Harper, Mona Van Duyn, the late Thom Gunn, and Eavan Boland) could have chosen, but didn't. This reader laments the exclusion of the eminently memorizable poems of Theodore Roethke, perhaps "The Waking" or "I knew a woman..."; also, the inclusion of Christina Rossetti's pedestrian rhyme, and of inferior poems by poets whom we admire (D. G. Rossetti, E. E. Cummings), puzzles us somewhat.

However, there are more than enough felicities to sustain the reader in search of poetic nourishment. We have "The Road Not Taken" and "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night"; we have "The Darkling Thrush" and "A Noiseless Patient Spider." And I had the chance to re-acquaint myself with some poems to which I hadn't paid serious attention since the days of Mr Waldron's English class, thirty years ago! (I think here of "To a Waterfowl," "Dover Beach," and "Casey at the Bat.")

There is, for lack of a better phrase, a "formalist" bias to the selection. It is a bias that this reader shares. Poems in "received" or "traditional" form are quite often easier to memorize than poems in vers libre. (I can't recall ever having "tried" to memorize Shakespeare's 18th sonnet; nonetheless, I do know it by heart; it entered my memory indelibly, but effortlessly, after just a few readings.) Mr Hollander does an excellent job of explaining his choices in the Introduction, which also contains a plea to resuscitate the lost arts of memorization and recitation.

All in all, any reader who has capaciously and thoroughly explored the poetry of our language will have cause to wonder about certain inclusions and exclusions; but most of the time, the urge to cavil is squelched by our enthusiasm for Hollander's sagacious choices. Recommended.


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