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Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Maria Goretti Teenage Martyr for Chastity - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston - CTS 20th Century Martyrs

Maria Goretti: Teenage Martyr for Chastity
CTS 20th Century Martyrs
Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 
9781860820250
eISBN 9781784692995
ASIN B072MJC5VR


This was the seventh volume in the CTS 20th Century Martyrs series that I have read. It is also the sixth by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston. Over the last few years, I have read over 150 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I believe there are eight volumes in this series. And about half of them have eBook editions. This is one that does. I believe there are few Catholic who have not heart at least the name Maria Goretti. And though I knew the name and the basic details I was not aware of the whole story. This volume though small gives that whole story. The description of this volume is:

“In 1902 in an Italian village a young girl, Maria Goretti, was murdered during a sexual attack. Her killer, Alessandro Serenelli, himself a teenager, was a close neighbour well known to her and her family. He had been threatening her for some time. What does it mean, how can it help, to say that she is a virgin and martyr? This is an often misunderstood and sentimentalised story. When many parents and teenagers strive for a balanced view of sexuality, of personal integrity, of Christian family life, and forgiveness to those who do irreparable harm, Maria's story speaks powerfully and authentically. It echoes John Paul's cry to today's youth - 'Do not be afraid to be saints!'”

 This volume was first published in 1997 and the eBook edition was released in 2017. 

The chapters in the volume are:

Saint Maria Goretti
The Goretti Family
Living with Serenellis
Death of Luigi Goretti
Maria’s New Circumstances
First Communion
Troubles with Alessandro
The Day of the Attack
Maria Mortally Wounded
Maria Forgives Alessandro
The Aftermath
Alessandro Serenelli
Alessandro’s Repentance
Beatification and Canonisation
Love is Stronger than Death

The book begins with these words:

“Maria Goretti was an eleven year old girl who, in 1902, was murdered in the course of a frenzied, sexually-motivated attack. She was beatified in 1947, in the face of much cynicism from the secular press who did not believe that a child could have shown that kind of depth of faith and only three years later she was canonised and named patron of youth.

Why is she a saint, recommended to us in the 21st century as a powerful Christian witness? A virgin and a martyr! – but what does that mean, how does it help? This all happened nearly a hundred years ago in an obscure Italian village. It involved an uneducated farm girl and a boy, not that much older than her, who was a close neighbour. Some say that this kind of tragedy happens all the time. What makes this one different?

Maria Goretti’s story touches on several important themes: the dignity of the human person; the objectifying of sexuality; the importance of Christian family life; how an individual and a family can forgive a person who has done them violence and irreparable harm and how Christian love can change someone’s life.”

And further on:

“In an age which demands justice, we are shown that in Christ it is possible to forgive. At a time when no one accepts blame, there is a story of repentance.”

And that is what we find in the biography of this saint. We have an example of Christ. We see in action the turning the other cheek. Carrying the pack a second mile. But this is also the story of her family, that instilled in her a deep faith. And the story of her attacker, and his eventual repentance and changed life.

This book is not an easy read. It is a wonderful witness. An amazing story of Christian virtue, and of forgiveness. Well worth the read.  An excellent volume in an important series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the 20th Century Martyrs Series:
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Maximilian Kolbe, F. Jagerstatter, K. Leisner, R. Mayer: Victims of the Nazis - Franz Jagerstatter
Edith Stein, Marcel Callo, Titus Brandsma: Victims of the Nazis – Matthew Monk
Saint Maria Goretti: Teenage Martyr for Chastity - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
The Atlas Martyrs – Jean Olwen Maynard

Jerzy Popieluszko Victim of Communism - Grazyna Sikorski
Isidore Bankanja - Jean Maynard

...

Books by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston:
Biographies:
Maria Goretti Teenage Martyr
Pier Giorgio Frassati Inspiration for Students
Father Damien Apostle to the Lepers
Martin de Porres

Rita of Cascia 
...

Prayer Books:
Handbook of Novenas for Feasts and Seasons
Devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
The Infant of Prague
Handbook of Novenas to the Saints: Short Prayers for Needs & Graces
Handbook of Scriptural Novenas: For Various Needs and Intentions
Devotion to St Jude: Patron of Hopeless Cases

...








Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Author profile and Interview with Glynn MacNiven-Johnston

Author profile and Interview with Glynn MacNiven-Johnston


I have read several books by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston and have picked up a number of others to read. I reached out to her through The Catholic Truth Society, which has published all her works to date. When I reached out across the pond to see if she would do an interview, she made an off hand remark about not really being an author. But I have found the books of hers that I have read to be of great spiritual value. And Wished to proceed with the interview to highlight this woman and her works.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How are you nurturing that dream?

To be honest I never thought of becoming a writer, but I wrote a lot of letters when I was a child - to family, and to pen pals which was popular in those days.

2. Who were some of the biggest supporters of your writing?

The CTS encouraged me in that they commissioned me several times.

3. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

I was really influenced by being a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. 

I try to be clear and concise. Raymond Edwards (a real author) with whom I collaborated on some prayer books has always helped with editing my work and lamenting my horrible punctuation.

4. Your books are mainly in two genres, prayer books and biographies. What caused you to focus on those two types?

I was working as manager of the CTS Bookshop (a long story). The CTS had a work experience student doing a project who suggested a biography of Maria Goretti. The CTS asked me to write it. (Why me is another long story). I wasn’t too keen at first as I thought Maria Goretti really mushy but discovered that her story is not only inspiring but surprisingly modern. I was surprised at how helpful biographies were. 

So, I went on from there trying to make things relevant to a modern audience. Some I was asked to write. Some I chose. St Damien de Veuster is a hero of mine - for his good works and energy of course but also because he started out rough and impatient which is helpful to those of us who are not by nature saintly.

From there I saw the kind of books my customers were buying and thought the CTS could do better ones- the Infant of Prague for example. I also learned not to dismiss all the old devotions and tried to make them accessible to the less pious.

5. Writing is not your day job, what is it that keeps you busy when you are not writing? 

Last year I started work at Westminster Cathedral Shop but then lockdown happened. My day is taken up with Zoom meetings, praying on the phone etc.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

I try to read everything I can about a person and then ask myself - Why should I care about this person? Then I do several drafts and hope it comes together. I have only written short booklets, so I try to keep to the main points. If I am writing a novena to a saint, I look at the problems and experiences they had in life and ask their intercession in those areas.

7. What is your favorite book that you have written and why?

Fr Damien. As I said he is a hero of mine. When I was about 4 years old my Presbyterian grandmother took me to church and in the children’s Sunday School, I saw a slide show of his life and I’ve been devoted ever since. Odd, I know, that I should meet him there, but Robert Louis Stevenson introduced him to the Scottish public.

8. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?

I am not writing anything at the moment.

9. If you could write only one more book, what topic would you want to write on? 

I have nothing in mind.

10. You have written about several novena’s, what is your favorite novena?

I like A Handbook of Scriptural Novenas that Raymond Edwards and I wrote. I am happy we were able to pray using lives of biblical characters I think I like the novena to St Martha best though to be honest i can’t remember if it was me that wrote it!

11. Of all the devotions you have written about what is your favorite devotion?

As above.

12. If there was a single prayer you could recommend to my readers that they might not know what prayer would you recommend?

I pray the Jesus Prayer every day: 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a Sinner.

13. Some of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of eBooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

The copyright of my work is retained by the Catholic Truth Society, so I leave it to them.

14. Some authors monitor torrent sites and contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

See above.

15. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?

When I was a child, I read all the children’s and other classics - thanks to the local library endowed by Andrew Carnegie and to Blackie, a publisher who produced simplified forms of Dickens, the Brontes etc.

I was very fond of Anne of Green Gables and read the whole series several times. 

16. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

In my teens I read translations of foreign classics but also a lot of things about misery especially Thomas Hardy.

17. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

I like to relax by reading detective stories, but I prefer those where I learn something too but not ones with interminable opinions from the author. At the moment I am reading books by Jonathan Dunsky set in 1950’s Israel and Cay Rademacher set in 1940’s Berlin.

As for religious books I am very taken with Brand Pitre and Scott Hahn (despite the annoying puns). I have also found Caryl Houselander very inspiring.

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

I am shocked by the shutting down of debate and the totalitarian persecution of dissent. I think students should learn to put ideas in context, think round them, see how they work in practice and only then decide whether they want to take a position.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

I am assuming we already have the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare. That’s usually in the rules.

I am not a patient person so I like short books but then I might have a lot of time on a desert island so long ones would be better! I certainly want to choose hopeful ones a mixture then of long, short, hopeful and helpful in no particular order.

1 Tolkein - Raymond Edwards
2 The Eternal Woman - Gertrud von le Fort
3 The Reed of God - Caryl Houselander
4 Grimms Fairytales 
5 The White Ram - Isaac Beshevis Singer
6 Poems and Fables - Robert Henryson
7 A Father who keeps his promises - Scott Hahn
8 Persuasion - Jane Austen
9 Enchanted April - Elizabeth Von Arnim
10 The Hidden Face - Ida Görres

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Decide why you are writing and then follow through.

There you have Glynn MacNiven-Johnston in her own words. If you have not read one of her biographies or her devotional booklets you owe it to yourself to check them out. 

Books by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston:
Biographies:
Maria Goretti Teenage Martyr
Pier Giorgio Frassati Inspiration for Students
Father Damien Apostle to the Lepers
Martin de Porres

Rita of Cascia 
...

Prayer Books:
Handbook of Novenas for Feasts and Seasons
Devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
The Infant of Prague
Handbook of Novenas to the Saints: Short Prayers for Needs & Graces
Handbook of Scriptural Novenas: For Various Needs and Intentions
Devotion to St Jude: Patron of Hopeless Cases

Monday, 13 July 2020

Pier Giorgio Frassati - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston - CTS Biographies

Pier Giorgio Frassati – Inspiration for Students
CTS Biographies
Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860828089

eISBN 9781784692636
ASIN B072LR5JTP
CTS Booklet B749


Over the last few years I have read 2 other books about Pier Giorgio, I have one on my wish list, and I have listed to an excellent audio presentation by Fr. Tim Deeter. I was fascinated by this saint from my first encounter. Also, over the last few years I have read over 100 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I have read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and the Great Saints Series. I have read a few different volumes by  Glynn MacNiven-Johnston, across a number of series. I decided it was time to give this one a read. And it did not disappoint. Even having read and listened to other resources about this man, reading this little volume was of great benefit. This book was first published in 2012 and the eBook was released in 2017. The description of the book is:

“A young man who spent his short life caring for the sick and infirm. A handsome and active young man from an influential family in Turin who dedicated his short life to the care of the poor and the sick and working for social and political reforms. Pier Giorgio Frassati's generosity was legendary. He often gave the clothes he was wearing to poor people he met who were in need. An open anti-fascist, a keen sportsman and mountaineer, an enthusiast of the theatre and literature, and a young man with a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, he stands as a great example of Christianity in action. His life was cut short by polio at the age of 24 and thousands of the Italian industrial city's poor lined the streets at his funeral. He was beatified in 1990 by Blessed Pope John Paul II.”

And the chapters are:
Introduction
Family Background
Schooldays and Faith
Love of Neighbour
Disdain for Pomp and Possessions
Climbing and other sports
Love and Sacrifice
Politics and Social Justice
Death and Recognition
The Cause of Pier Giorgio Frassati
Prayers
Beatification Homily of Bl. Pope John Paul II
Further Reading and Information

The beginning of the Introduction states:

“In 2008, World Youth Day was held in Sydney, Australia, and hundreds of thousands of young people came from all over the world to participate. Among them was Pier Giorgio Frassati, an Italian from Turin. Unlike the others, though, he came in a one hundred and fifty kilogram zinc-lined coffin. He had died in 1925 at the age of twenty-four but the Australian Catholic Church held him in such high esteem as a patron of youth that they asked for him to be brought to Australia. The sealed casket remained in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney for the time of the meetings (since World Youth Day actually lasts about a week) and many liturgies were built round his life and example.”

This was one of the facts I had not encountered about his life. Before. I was also unaware haw hard his home life was. I knew his father was hard on him, and his parent’s marriage was strained. But this booklet is very clear on his life and circumstances. But Pier rose above them. He lived a life of virtue, a love of service. This volume is a great introduction to this man’s life and ministry. And for those with a devotion to him, there will likely be a few things you were unaware of, or that you will see in a new light. We are told: 

“Pier Giorgio loved the mountains, saying that the higher you went, the more clearly you could hear Christ’s voice. Once the group reached the top they would have a ski race down.”

And Pier in responding to his sister stated:

“Any Catholic can’t help but be happy ... Pain is not sadness which is a disease worse than any other ... so long as faith gives me strength I will always be joyful.”

Anyone who reads the story of this man will be blessed. The two prayers in that chapter are one for his canonisation and the other is a wonderful litany. It is an excellent read.

Another great biography from the Catholic Truth Society. An excellent read, I highly recommend it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For other reviews of CTS Biographies click here.


Books by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston:
Biographies:
Maria Goretti Teenage Martyr
Pier Giorgio Frassati Inspiration for Students
Father Damien Apostle to the Lepers
Martin de Porres

Rita of Cascia 
...

Prayer Books:
Handbook of Novenas for Feasts and Seasons
Devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
The Infant of Prague
Handbook of Novenas to the Saints: Short Prayers for Needs & Graces
Handbook of Scriptural Novenas: For Various Needs and Intentions
Devotion to St Jude: Patron of Hopeless Cases

...









Friday, 22 March 2019

Devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston and W. Raemers CSsR

Devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
W. Raemers CSsR
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860829284
eISBN 9781784694333
ASIN B073H38R3Z
CTS Booklet D779


This book was originally written by W. Raemers CSsR, in 1997. It was later revised and edited by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston and the eBook edition was released in March of 2017. This book was a very fascinating read. The history of the painting, the devotion to it. It trading hands, and eventually being placed in a new church on the original site of the devotions was exciting to read. To read about the spread of the devotion, about replica paintings being touched to the original and sent all over the world, literally completely surprised me. I was enjoying this booklet so much on my way to work I nearly missed my stop, as I was so engrossed in the read.

The description of this booklet is:

“From the cross, Christ gave his mother to be mother of all Christians and of the whole Church. Her tender care and intercession in turn have long been sought by means of this devotion, and captured in the image of the celebrated icon dating from the fourteenth century.

The devotion’s history is here explained and accompanied by a rich collection of appropriate prayers, litanies and novenas, for private and communal use.

Cardinal Nichols has written a preface to this edition because he was created Cardinal-Priest of the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori in Rome, where the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour can be found, on February 22nd 2014.”

Cardinal Nichols states:

“… the original image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, which, now widely reproduced, is venerated in churches throughout the world. It movingly depicts the Christ-child, his redeeming Passion already in view, tenderly clasping his blessed Mother’s hand. Mary looks upon her son with such loving compassion. The image has inspired, and still inspires, immense comfort and hope in the hearts of millions. Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour powerfully helps the Church’s universal mission to lead everyone into that joy flowing from a living relationship with Jesus. I therefore very much welcome this new edition of devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour published by the CTS.”

And reading this booklet I could not help but feel my heart and spirit stirred to even greater devotion to Jesus and Mary.

The chapters in this booklet are:
Preface
Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
The Icon
The History of the Icon
The Icon and the Redemptorists
Devotions
Morning Prayer
Invocations
Act of Consecration
Litany of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
Prayer for Perseverance
The Perpetual Novena
Prayers to Our Lady
Perpetual Novena Prayers with a Leader
The Simple Novena
Prayer to Our Lady
Nine Prayers for a Novena
More Prayers to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
Daily Devotions
Hymn: O Blessed Mother

The book begins with these words:

“This icon was painted in the fourteenth or fifteenth century; it was given the name Mater de Perpetuo Succursu in 1867 by Pope Pius IX. The name is literally translated into English as Mother of Perpetual Help, but it is also variously rendered as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This name reminds us that when we need help, the Virgin Mary will be there to guide us to see God’s presence in our problems or suffering. The icon reminds us she saw her own son die in a cruel and horrible manner. She understands suffering and she is with us to support us in the suffering of our lives.”

And as mentioned reading this book drew me closer to Jesus and our lady. This book is part history, history of icons, and of this specific icon. It is the history of the devotion which bloomed in popularity, faded and has had a great resurgence. It is part prayer book, and it is part devotional. Because of the size of the volume it can easily be read in a single sitting. Or you can take your time and work through it section by section, prayer by prayer. 

Of the nearly 70 books from CTS that I have read over the last few years, This one is one of the best. I have come back to it and reread it already. And know that I will be using it as a prayer book for years to come. It is a wonderful little read and so I encourage you to pick it up and give it a try.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.


Books by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston:
Biographies:
Maria Goretti Teenage Martyr
Pier Giorgio Frassati Inspiration for Students
Father Damien Apostle to the Lepers
Martin de Porres

Rita of Cascia 
...

Prayer Books:
Handbook of Novenas for Feasts and Seasons
Devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
The Infant of Prague
Handbook of Novenas to the Saints: Short Prayers for Needs & Graces
Handbook of Scriptural Novenas: For Various Needs and Intentions
Devotion to St Jude: Patron of Hopeless Cases

...



Monday, 25 June 2018

Father Damien Apostle to the Lepers - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston - CTS Biographies

Father Damien Apostle to the Lepers
Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860820540
ISBN 9781860826184
eISBN 9781784692612
ASIN B072BZZL8D



I have been fascinated by Father Damen now Saint Damien since encountering his story while on retreat with Michael W. Higgins, who was using hos book 'Stalking the Holy' for a series of talks about saints. Wile on the retreat we watched the movie Molokai: The Story of Father Damien, and I have been addicted to books and movies about Damien even since.   Abd this is an excellent little read on Saint Damien. This book has two different sub titles, the title of the eBook is 'Father Damien Apostle to the Lepers' and the physical booklet has 'Father Damien de Veuster Apostle to the Lepers'. But not matter which version you read it is an excellent book.

The chapters in this booklet are:
Introduction
Early Life
Work in the Leper Colonies
Towards the End
Novena to St Damien de Veuster

With everything I had read and watched about father Damien prior to this book there was still new information I learned. Some of it was about his canonization process, and some of it about his life, times, and legacy. I was unaware that Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote to Pope John Paul II on May 7th 1984 lobbying for the canonization of Father Damien to be the patron saint to lean and protect those who serve lepers today.

Damien was a man dissuaded after in life. He was encouraged not to pursue a religious vocation. Once he was accepted he was told he would not be a priest, but a brother instead. He was denied the chance to go on missions, and then he filled his brother's shoes for the mission field when his brother was already commissioned but became ill and could not travel. He was originally discouraged from his ministry and service to the lepers. He was told not to come back to the main island, and he was told to stop asking for more. But he always asked to give to others.

The novena at the end of the book is from the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Leuven. And to be honest the book is worth owning just for this novena. If you already have a devotion to Saint Damien this book will be a great read, and if you are not familiar with him, please do your self a service and read about his inspired service.

The first edition of this book was published in 2009. A new edition of the print book was released in 2009, it was updated at this time with information on his impending canonization. And the eBook was released in 2017. Coming in at just under 75 pages this book is a quick read, but because of the content is not easy. The book would be accessible to tweens, teens and adult readers. It Can be read alone to help us understand more about this great saint, or be a jumping off point into studies about the man, his life, his work, and the service on Molokai by him and many others. This is an excellent biography and I highly recommend it!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Reviews of Books and Movies about Saint Damien:
Apostle of the Exiled St. Damien of Molokai - Margaret Bunson & Matthew Bunson
Pilgrimage and Exile: Mother Marianne of Molokai by: Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, O.S.F.
Molokai: The Story of Father Damien by: Paul Cox
Molokai: The Story of Father Damien
Saint Damien of Molokai - Virginia Helen Richards and D. Thomas Halpin
Father Damien de Veuster Apostle to the Lepers - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston

The Life and Letters of Father Damien, Apostle of the Lepers - Edited by Pamphile De Veuster 
Father Damien's Letters
...

Prayer of the Day - Saint Damien Prayer

Books by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston:
Biographies:
Maria Goretti Teenage Martyr
Pier Giorgio Frassati Inspiration for Students
Father Damien Apostle to the Lepers
Martin de Porres

Rita of Cascia 
...

Prayer Books:
Handbook of Novenas for Feasts and Seasons
Devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
The Infant of Prague
Handbook of Novenas to the Saints: Short Prayers for Needs & Graces
Handbook of Scriptural Novenas: For Various Needs and Intentions
Devotion to St Jude: Patron of Hopeless Cases

...