"Poustinia" by Catherine Doherty
Grade: 3 1/2 stars
I love the idea of Poustinia--it's epic. And some of Catherine's ideas are just so true and beautiful, and not something you see talked about anywhere else (at least in our culture). But I struggled a lot with her style, especially her seeming anti-intellectualism. This was a very up-and-down reading experience for me because of that. But I recommend this heartily! I think almost anyone could get something new and helpful out of it, at least.
"The Power and the Glory" by Graham Greene
Grade: 5 stars
SO Catholic, in the best possible sense of that phrase. Greene gets so many things--what real sanctity is, the silliness that is sin, and how people think deep down to themselves. He reminds me of a grittier version of C. S. Lewis in those ways. This is a book worth a good, long sit-down discussion over beer or hot chocolate. Yet all this might give the impression that it's a "difficult" book, or preachy, or only relate-able to Catholics or something, but that's totally false. It's easy to read, excellently written, brilliant characters, gets to the bottom of LIFE. Man, I don't even know how to describe my thoughts properly, but I am so glad I finally got around to reading this.
"In the Night Garden" by Catherynne M. Valente
Grade: 4 stars
The structure of this book! It totally thrilled me. A layered, interlocking series of tales and stories, with unexpected connections and call-backs and Inception-like depth. The unending nature of the structure was a little annoying for me personally, though. I wanted everything wrapped up in the end, in an incredibly complex bundle of imagination and creativity. Instead it emphasizes the fact that stories don't really have a beginning and end, which is probably actually the best route to take, despite my personal preferences.
"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Henri Nouwen
Grade: 4 stars
A beautiful little book that gives you a new appreciation for Rembrandt's famous painting. I didn't find it quite as helpful as the last Nouwen I read, but excellent none the less.
"Shirt of Flame" by Heather King
Grade: 5 stars
Profound and difficult and consoling simultaneously. It came at an absolutely perfect time in my life, and gave me a relationship to St. Therese for which I'll be forever grateful. Also good coming so soon after The Power and the Glory, since King also get the grittiness and paradox and beauty of Catholicism.
"Paladin of Souls" by Lois McMaster Bujold
Grade: 3 stars
The gods in this series! With the religion in this series, and how Bujold presents the theist character of Cordelia in the Vorkosigan saga, I can't help but think she's had some experience of Faith. She just seems to get how it works (though the Bastard weirded me out a bit...). The rest of the aspects of this story were good enough, and entertaining, but I think the first book, The Curse of Chalion, remains my favourite by a large margin.
(There are some personal notes below this break. Feel free to skip them; they are pretty unintelligible anyway.)
I took tons of notes while reading these books, but I don't have the time or inclination to make them legible or organize them into a longer review. But I still want to remember them without keeping my note paper forever, so I'm writing them down here. They are pretty much just for me, so it would probably be best to ignore this section completely. It hardly makes sense to me anymore, let alone you.
- Pg. 4: need silence + solitude
- Pg. 6: her list of solitudes make me happy not lonely; don't worry about lack of time, God can enter your heart in an instant, take solitudes when you can, we must just be attuned
- Pg. 8: silences will start out few and far between, but nourished by mental, liturgical, and sacramental prayer, will grow and stay
- Pg. 11 *curtain off part of room for prayer spot*, should make "room of silence" a thing in houses, prayer space for religious (our family's prayer area is too public)
- Pg. 14: burning coal on lips of prophet, "As for you, little child, you shall be called a prophet of God the most high", gather courage to speak truth in poustinia
- Pg. 19: pilgrims who constantly criss-cross Russia, as a vocation
- Pg. 21: their vocation is so attractive, they must go there or die; poustinia is for others, as holocaust; poustinia is climbing of God's mountain
- Pg. 25: think she has too much distrust of the mind
- Pg. 47: idea for parish priests: just go for walks!
- Pg. 52: poustinia is a date with God
- Pg. 66: contemplative/active dichotomy artificial if silence in heart (means I can be active without guilt)
- Pg. 69: people NOT tired of logic in theology :( Maybe this is a 60s attitude?
- Pg. 71: But FIRST thing he did was TEACH, EXPLAIN
- Pg. 97: Catherine against the mind again :(
- Pg. 104: beautiful on freedom; also 106--whole chapter really, profound
- Pg. 110: God gentle, doesn't show us all heart at once
- Pg. 113: terminal disease good example
- Pg. 116-7: good to remember about speaking for me
- Pg. 121: peeling of skin like Eustace (ask Mary because she's gentle)
- Pg. 132: The head WILL touch the martyr, prostitute, and publican! She so does seem anti-intellectual, sigh.
- Pg. 138: listening to the Trinity in your heart requires effort
- Pg. 141: it is possible to "listen a person's soul into existence"
- Pg. 143: "Christian so mire in the opaqueness of modern theologians' excesses" :(
- Pg. 152: the efficiency of bureaucratic charity increases loneliness
- Pg. 162: ! 2 Cor. 9:6-12, God loves a cheerful giver!
- Pg. 163: "Man felt that he was unimportant", exactly what I feel at MH
- Pg. 170: no fire in purgatory, hmmm.... bit like Lewis, but I like the fire of growth
- Pg. 189: seems like I can listen and love people without all this extreme poustinik silence stuff
Shirt of Flame:
- The Eliot poem at the beginning is great. I love him.
- Pg. xvi: still don't get that "pickup pin for love" thing... It just gets me all scrupulous. Also, don't need take extra suffering, but joyfully participate in small daily ones.
- Pg. 7: think about compliments for children... I'm glad my parents didn't tell me I was smart when I was little.
- Pg. 7, 11 (prayer): can't save and fix other people
- Pg. 10: sensitive types (like me?) shutdown when hurt--"To choose...heart."
- Pg. 13: psychological suffering! that's mine!
- Pg. 19: yes, confluence of will + grace difficult mystery
- Pg. 25: receiving harsh words + reproaches really hard for St. Therese: perfect intercessor!
- Pg. 25-6: when gave trouble to loved one, made it worse by crying
- Pg. 26: hypersensitivity comes from unimaginably deep hunger for connection? thinking + thinking about people who don't think about you back
- Pg. 27-8: find it too scary, right now, to think of not finding people to love who love me
- Pg. 31: "walking our own paths while leaving our loved ones to theirs"; lunch date breaking a good example
- Pg. 32: giving up misery deprives ego of nourishment (so applicable to me!), old self must be weak/miserable or strong/unselfish
- Pg. 35: Therese wants all the vocations! I empathize
- Pg. 36-7: loneliness :( scary
- Pg. 41: called herself a saint... huh...
- Pg. 45: "To reduce our desire is to reduce God"
- Pg. 46: good prayer (especially for right now)
- Pg. 50: "Chastity...respecting inner timetable..." Chastity meant carrying unresolved tension
- Pg. 52-3: loneliness :(
- Pg. 54: YES! This is me, so so much--also the prayer
- Pg. 70: Therese didn't make penances! (69) take advantage of what comes; refrained from close bonds :(
- Pg. 76: we can't be perfect! (But what about "Be perfect"?)
- Pg. 81: I don't know if I can do that... :(
- Pg. 82: no "right" technique for payer, goal is surrender; don't be afraid of desiring or asking for too much
- Pg. 83: result of prayer was more wholeness, closer to reality, sure that everything would be all right in the end
- Pg. 84: increasingly able to handle minor setbacks (letting go, not having last word, not swearing)
- Pg. 85: loneliness :(
- Pg. 86: need undergo not penance or punishment, but purification
- Pg. 87: Carl Jung on Transubstantiation??
- Pg. 89: she started going to daily Mass without real thought or effort of her own!! (Lord! :) )
- Pg. 90-1: PRAYER (don't know how to turn life to You, feel like any move I make is wrong, feel invisible, alone all my life, don't trust You)
- Pg. 97: called to refrain from surrounding ourselves with people just like us
- Pg. 98: can see how people commit all sins--like me!--I totally get torturers
- Pg. 113: we are not intended to succeed; human life is failure
- Pg. 120: Corinthians 12, 13: everyone cannot be apostles, etc. I shouldn't fret about not being able to do other people's vocations
- Pg. 124: **desire!!!***
- Pg. 125: great story of girl and love
- Pg. 126: forget trying to achieve your own holiness
- Pg. 127: can't be afraid to look foolish; help me not anesthetize