Book Review: Manual of Practical Devotion to St. Joseph

I freely admit that this title first struck me because it boasted of being “practical”. After all, what good is something to me if it’s unpractical? We can theorize all day long, but it won’t benefit us unless we can put it into practice. Thus, I am happy to report that ‘A Manual of Practical Devotion to St. Joseph’ fulfills its claim. The work is divided into three parts: the first part is dedicated to telling the motives for devotion to Saint Joseph, the second describes the protection and patronage of Saint Joseph, and the third and final part consists of practices, prayers, hymns, etc. in honor of Saint Joseph.

Father Patrignani does an excellent job. After Our Lady, St. Josephis the man we should turn to in our need. His patronage is extensive and effective, as Fr. Patrignani outlines in the first two parts. St. Teresa of Avila had a great love and devotion to St. Joseph which Fr. Patrignani describes well in the first part. St. Theresa said of St. Joseph that,

“Among all those who are sincerely devoted to him, and who make an open profession of honoring him, I know not a single individual who does not daily advance in virtue, so powerfully does he assist all those who place themselves under his protection.” (p. 85).

St. Joseph has granted numerous gifts and favors to those devoted to him, and Fr. Patrignani gives plenty of examples. Once we have been sufficiently convinced of the motives and efficacy of devotion to St. Joseph, the third part of ‘A Manual of Practical Devotion to St. Joseph’ provides practices for every day, particular seasons, numerous prayers and hymns (some in Latin!) to honor St. Joseph. Especially helpful is the breakdown for the month of March, traditionally dedicated to St. Joseph. Fr. Patrignani provides a short meditation (taken from the motives for devotion to St. Joseph), a hymn, and a prayer toSt. Joseph for each day in March.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of A Manual Of Practical Devotion To St. Joseph for the free Catholic book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts.

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

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

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Movie Review: The Rite

Throw in a quote from Blessed Pope John Paul II at the beginning of a movie and apparently all the Catholics will think it’s a great movie.

On the contrary, Catholics need to be more discerning. Besides, it wasn’t even that fantastic of a quote about exorcism, evil, and existence and influence of the devil in the modern world. And it wasn’t even that fantastic of a movie. I also disagree with the USCCB’s overly positive review (which I read after watching the movie myself), and think the movie does nothing to underscore the value of priesthood. Rather, I think it undermines it through the excessive portrayal of a layman performing priestly duties. I am therefore not inclined to read the book.

Problems with the movie:

~Michael Kovak (the seminarian) absolves a dying girl– or rather, pretends to, with a priest (albeit, injured) no less than 10 feet away. Without ordination, his blessings and absolutions are ineffective. Plus… the priest was RIGHT THERE… It was the cruelest thing he could’ve done to only pretend to offer a dying girl what she desperately wanted when the real thing was readily available.

~Unrealistic. They would never send a seminarian… or ANY person of weak faith into a room with a demon. Bad idea. That doesn’t help a person find faith, but it does make them an excellent candidate for the next possession. The best line of the movie was probably, “choosing not to believe in the devil won’t protect you from him”. The truest thing said in the movie. However, they did the exact opposite– the seminarian doubts the reality of possession, and the existence of the devil, so they throw him into a room with him and his demons ready to devour a doubting soul.

~The priest takes a phone call on his cell phone in the middle of an exorcism. Yes, this portrays priests in a bad light. Anthony Hopkins makes a bad priest (… typical Hollywood style).  They tried (inappropriately) to inject some humor into the movie. It’s a scary situation. A scary portrayal. The attempt at a laugh was pathetic, pitiful, and inappropriate.

~A layman (Michael Kovak) performs an exorcism, even wearing a stole (a vestment proper to a priest) part of the time.

To be fair, they did get some things right:

~The fear factor was there, though I  think perhaps it was a bit overboard at times which made it seem less realistic. Nonetheless, evil is a scary thing. It should be scary, but we should not have an irrational fear about it. Our Lord has conquered and triumphed, and we do so in and through Him.

~The demon telling Michael (the doubting seminarian) that he’s followed him. When he didn’t believe, when he doubted, he was really following the devil; though he falsely believed he was following no one. This is not a battle where one can ride the fence or sit on the sidelines. If you don’t play on God’s team, then you play for the devil. It’s that simple.

This is not an exhaustive rendering of the pros and cons of the movie, but I had no desire to watch it a second time to really parse through it scene by scene or line by line. And if I had to watch a girl die begging for Last Rites with a priest 10 feet away and a doubting seminarian pretend to mutter a powerless absolution all over again, I probably would’ve broken the disc. At the very least.

Practical tips in response to evil:

Get yourself some holy water and USE it. Frequently. (… as an added bonus, holy water remits venial sin!)
Pray the Our Father. Frequently.
Pray the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Frequently.
Pray the Rosary. Frequently.

*NB: “Frequently” means “at least daily”.

Good reads on exorcism/the struggle against evil:

The Spiritual Combat/Treatise on Peace of Soul by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli
An Exorcist Tells His Story
by Father Gabriele Amorth
An Exorcist: More Stories by Father Gabriele Amorth

Tis the season…. of ADVENT!

This time of year brings out one of my greatest frustrations– the rush to reach Christmas whilst passing over Advent, as though time would move faster. Advent is probably the most under-appreciated and most forgotten liturgical season. Advent and Lent are similar liturgical seasons in that both demand an attitude of repentance (in preparation for the celebration of the coming Christmas/Easter). However, Advent is  less somber than Lent and is a season of joyful expectation. It’s also a season of waiting and patience. We join ourselves to those in the Old Testament who awaited the coming of the Messiah. Though the length of Advent is short, it’s impact is great. And while at the time of the writing of this post, Christmas is but a week away, let me remind you: IT IS STILL ADVENT! So whilst you rush around to finish your Christmas shopping and prepare for your Christmas traditions, take a few moments to remember that Christmas is not about anything other than the Incarnation of the Son of God. Nothing else matters. Nothing. So if your plans are going to keep you too busy to bear in mind that great truth, then trim your plans so you can focus on what really matters: the Infant born to bear our transgressions and pour out His Precious Blood for us.

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear…
O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who orders all things mightily,
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go…
O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty, and awe…
O come, O Rod of Jesse free,
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave…
O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery…
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight…
O come, Desire of nations, bind,
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of peace…

Good reads for Advent:
the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, especially in light of the “O Antiphons
The Incarnation Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus Living in Mary by John Saward

Happy Feast of All Saints!

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Church Triumphant– all those glorious Saints in Heaven, whether canonized or not, who have fought the good fight of faith and won. It’s a great day to pray the Litany of the Saints. Praying the Litany of the Saints always brings to mind the first verse of Hebrews 12, and when reading Hebrews 12, I call to mind the Litany of the Saints…

“And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. For think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds.”

Hebrews 12:1-3

We are not alone in the battle for sanctity. We are surrounded by the witness of those who have gone before us and left us examples of heroic virtue in faith and holiness. We look to them for guidance, strength, and encouragement knowing that we can do all things by the grace and merit of Jesus Christ.

So today, pray the Litany of the Saints… ask the Saints to intercede for you… and read up on the lives of the Saints!

Good Reads for All Saints Day:
Any biography on the lives of the Saints
Saints Who Raised the Dead by Fr. Albert Hebert
Mysteries, Marvels, Miracles: In the Lives of the Saints by Joan Carroll Cruz

The Real Story of Halloween…

… Or “All Hallows Eve” (i.e., the evening of All Hallows– All Saints–Day) as it was traditionally known, is a Catholic holiday which unofficially recalls the reality of Hell and the despair of the damned. This ‘scary’ subject is the source for the scary/gory/evil ideas about Halloween which popular culture has turned into a celebration–not of triumph over evil– but a celebration of it. Is Hell a scary topic? Of course, but along with the reality of Hell and the punishment of the damned Catholic parents (and all in charge of handing on the Faith) are responsible for teaching the end of the story… namely, Our Lord’s words, “… rest assured for I have conquered the world.” (cf. John 16:33).

Instead of dressing up as secular/profane characters, today would be a good day to dress up as Saints and talk about their virtues and holiness. Instead of gorging on commercial candy, make some Italian ‘Ossi di Morto’ cookies (bone cookies), sugar skulls, toasted pumpkin seeds, “Soul Cakes” (doughnuts), etc.  and celebrate the triumph of Jesus Christ over sin and death (… and Hell) and the fact that through Him we can also be spared the eternal torment of damnation.

Lastly, since it is the last day of October (the month of the Rosary) pray a Rosary today for the conversion of unbelievers and the lukewarm.

Reads for Halloween:
The Dogma of Hell: Illustrated by Facts Taken from Profane and Sacred History by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, SJ
(TAN Books has an edition that also includes How To Avoid Hell by Thomas A. Nelson)
Hell and its Torments by St. Robert Bellarmine
Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Life Everlasting by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Ossi di Morto Cookie Recipe (taken from FishEaters)

1 1/4 cups flour
10 oz almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 oz pine nuts
1 TBSP butter
A shot glass full of brandy or grappa
The grated zest of half a lemon
Cinnamon
One egg and one egg white, lightly beaten

Blanch the almonds, peel them, and chop them finely (you can do this in a blender, but be careful not to over-chop and liquefy).

Combine all the ingredients except the egg in a bowl, mixing them with a spoon until you have a firm dough. Dust your hands and work surface with flour, and roll the dough out between your palms to make a “snake” about a half inch thick. Cut it into two-inch long pieces on the diagonal. Put on greased and floured cookie sheet, brush with the beaten egg, and bake them in a 330-350 oven for about 20 minutes. Serve them cold. Because they are a dry, hard cookie, it is good to serve these with something to drink.

(I made these cookies last year along with some (poorly crafted) sugar skulls, and they are relatively easy to make and rather tasty!)

Book Review: True Devotion to Mary

How can one praise this book enough? St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary is a must-read on  Marian devotion in the Catholic Church. Next to the Eucharist and the Papacy, Marian devotion is probably one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Catholic Church. Most Protestants accuse Catholics of paying too much attention to Mary, and too often in response Catholics will downplay or outright deny the necessity of Marian devotion in the teachings of the Church and the spiritual life. Yes, necessity.

“It was through the most holy Virgin Mary that Jesus came into the world, and it is also through her that He has to reign in the world.”

St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary is the handbook on Marian devotion– what it is, in what it consists, why such devotion is necessary, and he also distinguishes between true and false devotions. St. Louis de Montfort demonstrates that those who would accuse the Catholic Church of being excessive in her devotion to Mary are confused, and that the Church is right and obliged to reveal the truth about the necessity of devotion to Mary. Mary’s role in the history of our salvation is far greater than simply giving birth to Jesus Christ. Is her role utterly, completely, and entirely dependent upon the grace of God? Of course! But this does not diminish her role. Mary is but a mere creature of the Creator; but she is a creature to whom great graces have been given. She is our means of finding Jesus, and we go to her only that we may more perfectly find and love her Son, Jesus.

“The Son of God became man for our salvation; but it was in Mary and by Mary. God the Holy Ghost formed Jesus Christ in Mary; but it was only after having asked her consent by the one of the first ministers of His court.”

We cannot find Jesus without Mary. And the more perfectly conformed and united to Mary that we are, the more perfectly conformed and united we are to her Son. This is the essential truth of authentic Marian devotion: it leads to a deeper understanding of and union with Jesus, necessarily. Just as Mary led the servants to her Son in the Bible (cf. John 2:5, “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you”), so too, does she lead us to God when we become the servant of the handmaid of the Lord. It was her will to do the holy will of God, and this is what she will teach us through imitation and prayer.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of  True Devotion to Mary for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

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

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Good Reads on Christian Marriage

With the recent news regarding the decline in belief in the Church’s teachings on Christian Marriage (i.e., sex), I thought some might appreciate a compendium of good reads on the topic of Christian Marriage: encyclicals, books, articles, etc.

From the Popes:
Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Pius XI
Arcanum (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Leo XIII
Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) — Pope John Paul II

The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II (* a general audience, which makes up the teachings contained in the theology of the Body, is not on the same level of teaching as a Papal encyclical or Conciliar document)

From the Bishops:
Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality – Pontifical Council for the Family
Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage – Pontifical Council for the Family
Love & Life in the Divine Plan — United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Cohabitation Before Marriage — the Bishops of Kansas
Pennsylvania Bishops Document on Cohabitation — the Bishops of Pennsylvania
PDF on Fornication & other Sexual Matters — Archdiocese of Washington
Pastoral Letter on Cohabitation & Marriage in the Church — Archbishop Sheehan, Archdiocese of Santa Fe
The Vocation of Marriage in God’s Plan — Archbishop Stafford

From Priests, theologians, etc.:
Cana is Forever — Fr. Charles Hugo Doyle
Three to Get Married — Msgr. Fulton Sheen
Clean Love in Courtship – Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik
Chastity: A Guide for Teens & Young Adults – Fr. Gerald Kelly, SJ
Questions Young People Ask Before Marriage – Fr. Donald Miller, CSSR
When Is Company Keeping Lawful & Prudent? – (“Company Keeping” = courtship/dating)
Little Book of Instructions for Christian Mothers – Fr. Pius Franciscus, OM Cap.
“Casti Connubii 60 Years Later” – John Kippley

Books not currently available (to my knowledge) online: (Get ‘em from your library or cool Catholic friend)
The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand
The Sins of Parents by Fr. Charles Hugo Doyle
Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) (you can catch a decent size preview on Google Books here)
Called to Love by Carl Anderson & Fr. José Grenados (I briefly reviewed it here)

This is (and will be) constantly updated. Feel free to recommend something I may have missed.