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Some people dread shopping for Christmas gifts. And it’s not always easy to think of a good gift for certain recipients. But there’s always books. Yes, people still read books — and some even appreciate getting them as gifts. The Register has a few ideas, including a novel, a book of Marian apologetics, and a humorous look at raising kids.
BY The Editors
Faith, Hope, Hilarity
FATHER, FOR I HAVE KIDS
Institute Press, 2009
By DAVID DEAVEL
There is a certain type of home-schooling mother
that gives home-schoolers a bad name.
She thinks and tells others, sometimes in so many words, that their
failure to home school — or even to home school in her own particularly intense
way — is actually a form of child abuse. She radiates a defensive sort of piety
that seems more heat than light. And she is humorless.
Lloyd ain’t that lady.
those who know her columns from Faith &
Family and The Latin Mass magazines, or have read her first book (Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water!), her new collection of humorous essays, Bless Me, Father, for I Have Kids, will be another call from a writing voice that
makes you wish Mrs. Lloyd were your own neighbor. Or at least a fellow
don’t have to home school to appreciate her writing. Lloyd’s writing is
anchored concretely in her life as a home-schooler, but her essays are not
sermons on the proper way to home school — or even raise kids. Instead, they
are wonderful glimpses at the domestic insanity that is the joyful lot of any
That Icon Frowning at Me?” gives a play-by-play account of the Lloyd family’s
attempts to make it through the Divine Liturgy at their Byzantine Catholic
parish. Anybody who’s carried a squealing child to the back during Mass knows
what will happen next, and Lloyd expresses it perfectly: “The three-year-old
sees, hustles out of Daddy’s pew, and patters down the aisle to catch up. Do I
send her back? No, I don’t want to risk the Boomerang Effect. So now I have two
“Boomerang Effect” is just one of the delightful terms she coins. “Hysterione,”
the mysterious hormone pervading pregnant women’s bodies, is another. But Lloyd
doesn’t just stop at clever terms. She also ranks up there with Gresham,
Neuhaus and others who have come up with iron-clad laws of life, though her
sense of humility causes her to name hers for somebody else: “Mrs. Murphy’s
Law” of bringing children out in public tells us, “Anything that can go wrong
will go wrong in front of other people.”
course being a mother or father is certainly about humiliation caused by
children (God’s own humorous way of sanctifying parents), but what always comes
through in Lloyd’s writing is how much joy her children bring her. She dedicates
her book “to the children, who are frequently called expensive. To us you are
fact, to label her simply a “humorist” is not really adequate. She certainly is
funny, but the laughter is in service to articulating a vision of Christian
family suffused with wonder. The first chapter, “Unto Us a Son Is Born,” milks
plenty of comedy from the birth of the only Lloyd male after six females. But
her account of how the six girls (who wanted another girl)
behaved was what caught my eye: “They took turns holding
him, cooing at him, claiming him. He weighed all of eight and a half pounds.
And yet I pictured him someday towering over them, teasing them, protecting
final chapter, “Our Father,” is a poignant stream-of-consciousness prayer at
the end of the day, enunciating the worries of inadequacy that modern parents,
especially mothers, feel. It ends with the true test of any worldview:
and not just home-schoolers, can be grateful for the off-beat, humorous witness
of Susie Lloyd. She shows how family
life can be lit up from within by thanksgiving, sacrifice and taking oneself
even makes one want to home school.
David Deavel writes from
Christian Realism, Alive
THE DEATH OF
Piers Paul Read
By JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND
when airplanes fly into skyscrapers and roadside bombs kill innocent civilians,
we tend to seek the guilty among the growing ranks of Islamic fundamentalists.
But not long ago, no one was surprised to read of Christian militants employing
violence to wreak vengeance and impose summary moral judgments against their
enemies, political and sectarian.
In his new novel, Piers Paul Read —
the British author of the international best seller Alive — draws us into the world of one such
contemporary Christian: Juan Uriarte, an ex-priest who has learned to justify
the violation of moral absolutes in matters of personal morality and now may be
preparing to advance his progressive ecclesial agenda through violence.
What does Uriarte seek to accomplish
— and why? Such questions lead the reader to move quickly through Read’s
unusual narrative, which provides context for the protagonist’s motive by
offering a comprehensive portrait of the Church in the wake of Pope John Paul
and idealistic, Uriarte once fought with left-wing guerrillas in El Salvador.
Now he works as an administrator of a Catholic foreign aid agency, but he
continues to espouse a radical form of liberation theology transplanted to
Africa, where the AIDS epidemic and political oppression combine to make social
advancement a near impossibility.
Angered by the late Pontiff’s
doctrinal orthodoxy — specifically John Paul II’s rejection of the use of
condoms as a means of reducing the HIV/AIDS infection rate — Uriarte yearns for
a new pope in a more progressive mold. But how far will this activist go to
achieve his dream?
The story begins in London, where
Uriarte is on trial as a terrorist, accused of “conspiring to cause an
explosion with the intent of taking human life.” He quickly attracts an
admirer, Kate, a young, disenchanted English Catholic and journalist who is
covering the courtroom drama.
Kate is looking for a cause that
will establish a bridge between her childhood faith and her growing desire to
effect change, to do something worthwhile. Maybe Uriarte can provide a solution
to her dilemma.
Uriarte also has attracted the attention of the British intelligence
establishment, including one David Kotovski, who suspects that the former
Basque priest seeks to acquire nerve gas for some sinister purpose.
Much to his surprise, Kotovski soon
finds himself attracted to Kate. But before he makes his move, Kate soon
becomes Uriarte’s latest follower. Now, Kotovski must
also discover whether she seeks to actively support Uriarte’s personal
When Kotovski turns for answers to
Kate’s uncle, a Catholic priest, he receives an ambiguous response. Father Luke
makes this observation:
“Now as I understand it, this man
Uriarte is charismatic in some sense. And my niece, though she seems at first
sight to be sane and sensible, has perhaps been looking for something — some
issue, some ideal — to take the place of her lost faith. We all have a yearning
to do good; it is implanted in our consciences by God. If Uriarte was to offer
her a role in some radical plan for the
betterment of humanity, then it is possible that she would take it.”
Such nuggets of Christian realism
are scattered throughout The Death of a Pope.
At times they advance the plot; at times they burden it with an excessive
helping of intrusive cultural context.
The author is well versed in every
aspect of modern Catholic life throughout the globe, from the fruitful legacy
of previous generations of European missionaries in Africa to the Gospel’s
fading relevance in Europe.
But what would make this novel even
more compelling is just plain unvarnished storytelling.
Frawley Desmond writes
from Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Mary at Christmas
MARY, MOTHER OF THE SON
by Mark Shea
Catholic Answers, 2009
Three volumes, $34.95
To order: catholic.com
By ELIZABETH YANK
evangelical Protestants, the whole idea of Mary — who she is and what she
stands for — is a major roadblock, akin to a megaton boulder, to the Catholic
With vim and vigor, Register
columnist Mark Shea tackles the topic of the Blessed Mother in Mary,
Mother of the Son, a three-volume set, unveiling the truth about her
and deconstructing misconceptions.
I plunged into Vol. III, Miracles,
Devotion, and Motherhood. I was drawn to the intriguing title of
Chapter One, “Spooky Feelings vs. the Law of Love.” This volume focuses on
Marian devotions, such as the Rosary, private revelations (Are they real?),
apparitions (more than Fatima), Mary’s role as mother of us all (Do Catholics
honor her too much?), and who Catholics really worship.
Armed with Scripture, Tradition and
concrete analogies, Shea gives life and meaning to otherwise incomprehensible,
or at least difficult, concepts about Mary.
He reminds us of how we should live
our faith: “Life in Christ and his Church can’t become the mere memorization of
dogma and doctrine. It would be like saying music ‘is’ little black dots on a
lined paper. Living the Tradition is like knowing your family — it’s not just
memorizing data and ideas, it’s a thing you swim in, something you eat and
drink and breathe.”
One thing is definite. When you read
Shea, you have entered the mind of a persistent, evangelical apologist. He
wants to know why Catholics honor Mary, why
Catholics pray the Rosary.
Shea meticulously answers those
all-consuming questions for evangelicals, paving the way for them to open their
hearts and minds to Mary and the Catholic Church.
At the same time, if we want to be
effective witnesses of the faith and evangelize evangelical Protestants, then
we need to know the way they think and where they are coming from, so we can
answer their numerous questions.
Shea addresses caboodles of questions, the reader may prefer to pick and choose
topics of interest rather than read it cover to cover.
Like my husband disassembling his
motorcycle, laying it all over the floor, working on individual parts, and
reassembling them, Shea meticulously breaks down a topic, defines and refines
the objection with clever analogies, and reassembles the issue. The reader will
want to read short passages and savor them, like a fine wine, not gulp them
Shea’s subtle wit and clear
analogies offer readers a fresh perspective on the topic. When you think there
is nothing more to be said about Mary, Shea shares, “For Mary is no more
Ashtoreth than an Easter egg hunt is a fertility cult.”
He presents what could be stuffy
theological dogma and doctrine in practical terms.
If you have ignored your Mother for
too long because you feared Marian piety, this may awaken a renewed sense of
the true beauty and scriptural soundness of devotion to Mary.
Yank writes from
South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.