Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI Memoir Published: Last Testament In His Own Words

81eQcFzry1LIf you are interested in a reading a thoughtful book for Advent, Benedict XVI's interview with Peter Seewald compiled as the book, "Last Testament in His Own Words" will reward you well.

A thoughtful, humble and reaslistic assessment by the former pope of his time of service to the Church before, during and after his papacy. It is sad to listen to him report his declining health and energy, but his insight and most especially his love of Jesus Christ remains undimmed.


How To Sell and Give Away Used Books


There are quite a few suggestions online for selling, giving away or otherwise disposing of no-longer-needed books from our personal libraries, but here a few of my own suggestions.

I confess to being a book collector. Not only do I tend to purchase books about my hobbies and interests, but each time I have taught a course or given a lecture, I also purchased a number of books about the topic, especially since the local libraries do not have the books ready to hand that I need. Moreover, the last two times I moved from one parish to another I barely had a week's notice. The first time I dragged all my books with me, the second time I donated many to the parish library and threw a great number in the trash (mea culpa).

So, snowed in and surrounded by books, I decided to approach my collection in an orderly manner. Donations to our school library and the nucleus of a parish resource library in the St. Michael Media Room was the first step. Next, I put aside books I refer to frequently or anticipate using within the next few months/years for projects, interests or pleasure reading including some classics. I decided to be pretty stringent with these criteria. That left a lot of now unwanted books.

For example, after ordination, I began buying books on sacred art and for a few years photographed the art for 35mm slides (remember them?). At first very slowly and then almost explosively, high quality digital images of artwork became available on the Internet. So, no more lights, cameras or art books necessary...just lots of heavy, hard-to-move art books.

For each remaining book I asked: How much is it worth? A handheld scanner made answering this question easy. I scanned in the barcode and consulted for vendors likely to buy the book. Many were worth several dollars, some several cents, many more worth nothing. I put aside those worth several dollars or more for selling on the used book market.  If the book were worth nothing or very little on the used market, would any parishioner likely be interested in reading it or would it be worthwhile in the parish library and is it in good condition? If so, I added it to the donation pile. If not, the paperbacks were sent to recycling and after the hardcovers were removed from the others, so were their contents.

The used book vendors will acknolwedge your order and price your books before you ship them. Shipping labels and packing lists can be printed from your home computer. USPS and FedEx were the most commonly used carriers. All shipping is free. Packing, sealing and shipping the books isn't easy, but at least some of their worth is recovered and the idea that someone may actually still use the books made it a bit easier for me to discard them.

Packing and shipping the books isn't the hardest part though. Anytime we sort through any of our possessions, we are forced to ask difficult questions about ourselves. Why am I keeping this? Why did I acquire it in the first place? If I haven't read this yet, will I ever? Where I am likely to move next, remembering you don't get to take anything with you on the last really big move.

I consoled myself that if I ever need any of my old friends again, I can visit with them digitally. It's a lot easier to move around a Kindle than 20 cartons of books. I won't tell you what I did with my VHS tapes!

Am Blind, But Think I See

Right I just finished reading Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz, a perplexing book.

It's not an easy read, by any means. If you don't remember the name Leon Festiger and congnitive dissonance from social psychology, this book will remind you about them.  I read the book because of the difficulty we have forgiving others, in large part because we believe we are simply always right. In fact, our language, Schulz argues, allows only for the possibilty that we were wrong in the past, but not the present, "I was wrong" makes sense, but not "I am wrong."

More on the entire book later, but it contains a fascinating description of a condition called Anton's Syndrome, in which persons who are (cortically) blind, think they can see and will make things up, even contradict sighted persons with their perceptions. They are blind, but don't know it.

It's startling because I think this is the condition of modern society. We are not blind Bartimeus crying out for help by the roadside asking to see, we are all convinced we see just fine, thank you.

I hope you love the hymn, Amazing Grace as much as I do. It's contemporary revision to exclude the word "wretch" to appease modern senisbilities doesn't quite go far enough for some. How about this revision:

I once was wrong, but now I'm right

Am blind, but think I see.

Let us pray for the wisdom to see thing aright, and the humility to admit our fallibility.

"New Moon" Breaks Midnight Preview Box Office Records

That's not necessarily a good thing. The eerie mixture of eroticism, the occult and death along with the franchise's world-wide popularity has prompted Msgr. Franco Perazzolo of the Pontifical Council of Culture to remark, "The theme of vampires in Twilight combines a mixture of excesses that as ever is aimed at young people and gives a heavy esoteric element. It is once again that age-old trick or ideal formula of using extremes to make an impact at the box office. This film is nothing more than a moral vacuum with a deviant message and as such should be of concern."

One young teenage girl twittered: "Love knows no boundaries. Edward is a vampire and Bella is a human, and the difference is completely disregarded."

What a Coincidence!

Tonight for our Faith Seeking Understanding discussion, we viewed an interesting video on Gothic Cathedrals, especially the Gothic Cathedrals of France and discussed a chapter in Dennis R. McNamara's newly published book on Catholic architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy. They were an interesting starting point for a discussion of our church, present and proposed.

I surely didn't know that the Holy Father was also speaking about Gothic Cathedrals today! Here's the text of his remarks and a link to the YouTube video:

Romanesque cathedrals are distinctive for their size and for introducing to churches beautiful sculpture, including the image of Christ as the Universal Judge and the Gate of Heaven. By entering through Him, as it were, the faithful enter a space and even a time different from everyday life, somewhere they can anticipate eternal life through their participation in the liturgy.

Gradually, Gothic architecture replaced the Romanesque, adding height and luminosity to the previous style. The Gothic cathedral translates the aspirations of the soul into architectural lines, and is a synthesis between faith, art and beauty which still raises our hearts and minds to God today. When faith encounters art, in particular in the liturgy, a profound synthesis is created, making visible the Invisible, and the two great architectural styles of the Middle Ages demonstrate how beauty is a powerful means to draw us closer to the Mystery of God. May the Lord help us to rediscover that "way of beauty", surely one of the best ways to know and to love Almighty God.

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, November 18, 2009



New Statue and a New Book

A nearly life-sized statue of St. John Vianney arrived today, a little late for the beginning of the year ofIMG_0981 the priest, but in time before its end. It was a challenge to find one of his statues with an expression that wasn't either frightening or syrupy sweet and we waited for quite a while for a nun in Ars to figure out how to ship a statue we liked. St. John apparently wasn't ever going to leave Ars, so we settled on a statue in Latin America (I think Peru), which is now in our sanctuary. I'm not sure he'll find a permanent place in our church; let me know if you like the statue.

HCCA The newly published book written by Denis R. McNamara entitled Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy arrived Friday and I've read a good sampling of it. It's richly illustrated (which probably accounts for its $50 cost) and clearly written. It includes technical words and their defininitions on the bottom of each page to save the reader from referring to an appendix or dictionary. This is an important book, especially as the Catholic Church slowly recovers from the influence of modernist and post-modernist architectural church designs. The "Spirit of the Liturgy" in the title is not only the obvious reference to the church's liturgical expression itself, but also two documents of the same name, one written by Romano Guardini and another by Pope Benedict XVI. Our architect, James McCrery has written a testimonial in the front matter of the book and is referenced within the text as well. It's available directly from  Liturgical Training Publications or via Amazon (where it might be temporarily out of stock.)

We'll feature excerpts from the book on the Construction Blog. A major emphasis of the book is something that we have been discussing for several years, namely, the building in which a community worships is an integral expression of its prayer and praise to God.

God the Rock of My Life


It was a pleasure to meet Msgr. Luigi Genami from Vatican City and to hear his touching reflections on the meaning of suffering in our lives, illustrated so well through the eyes of his ailing mother.

Msgr. spoke at our 5:00 PM Saturday and 12 noon Sunday masses. There was an opportunity to make a donation for his book, "God the Rock of My Life," which discusses his mother's illness during a particularly challenging time in the Intensive Care Unit. 

Despite Msgr.'s daily work in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, his humble and prayerful ways were edifying. He promised to pray us and we for him.

For those who would like more information about Msgr.'s book or his work, check his website here.