Friday, July 20, 2018

The Battle of Lepanto: Blood-Red Crescent



by Henry Garnett

This historical fiction novel follows a young man who sails on his father's galley to fight against the Ottoman Turks. It is recommended at the grammar level of volume 3 in Connecting with History.

There are descriptions of death, mayhem, and destruction, so it is appropriate to wait for the grammar level (roughly grades 4-6) to read this novel. Second Daughter will read it independently for fourth grade. (It will be optional for First Daughter, in sixth grade.)

Though written explicitly from the Christian perspective, the author allows the main character and the reader to contemplate the Turkish perspective a little. I wouldn't say it's necessarily balanced, but it leaves room for compassion. At the end of the novel, Guido (the young man) says:
Then I don't understand how these miracles come to be mixed up with death, cruelty, and suffering.
In order to understand, he returns to the monastery of his education to learn and study more.


Links to RC History are affiliate links. I received nothing for this post which reflects my honest opinions. I purchased this book used from a member of the Cathswap Yahoo group.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Second Son's Kindergarten and First Grade Book Lists

I started some reading lessons with Second Son, my fourth and youngest child, during his pre-kindergarten year, focusing on phonics using Doodling Dragons and alphabet books. Read about that loose plan here.

Once he had mastered the letters and basic phonics, we started lessons in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (skipping the first 26 lessons on the letters). Each day, Second Son and I would work through a lesson or two (or half a lesson, depending on how it went) and then we'd read a book together. Sometimes we'd alternate paragraphs and sometimes pages. Gradually he increased how much he read until by the end he was reading whole chapters aloud to me.

This plan worked very well for Second Son. However...if I were just starting out to teach multiple children to read over the next decade (as opposed to having taught four children to read over the past decade), I would be very tempted to buy the Foundations series. (This is not an affiliate link and I've never seen it in person.)

So here you'll first find all the books Second Son read for our reading lessons. Given that he's read all seven of the Harry Potter novels and is currently working his way through Stormy (which I haven't read) and a graphic novel version of The Odyssey (which I'm not necessarily recommending for your seven-year-old), I probably didn't challenge him enough. I suppose that's what happens when you're the fourth and last; I didn't want to skip any of my favorites and I wanted to let him read whatever he wanted out loud to me.

Unless otherwise noted, these are books we owned. I would grab a handful of books and let him choose one. These are therefore only loosely in reading-level order.
First Son's lists: kindergarten and first grade. In comparison, they are generally much harder much faster than Second Son's list. Since they both read well and neither of them hate me (or reading), perhaps this is some slight evidence that there's a lot of leeway for mistakes in this business of teaching someone to read.

First Daughter's first grade list is here. She doesn't have a kindergarten list because I didn't read "real" books with her until she had finished the lessons in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.

Second Daughter's kindergarten and first grade book lists, which I only posted last week.

We are officially done teaching reading here on the Range!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Excellent Little Biography of a Great Saint: Joan of Arc

by Hilaire Belloc

This book is a recommended biography of Joan of Arc for the logic level (roughly grades 7-9) in volume 3 of Connecting with History. Because First Daughter has already read the biography for the grammar level, I thought I'd see if this would be a good fit. (I considered Mark Twain's Joan of Arc, and I think she could read it, but it would have to be an independent read as it's much longer than the Belloc one.)

This biography is relatively short and succinct, but excellently written.
As she stood, a dazzling light shone by her at her right hand, supplanting the day, and she was overcome with terror; till, from the midst of the glory, came a voice which spoke of the faith and its observance, and at last gave order that she should seek the uncrowned King of France, dispossessed by his foes, and rescue him and crown him at Rheims. At the third summons she saw St. Michael in his splendor and about him the soldiery of Heaven.
There are a few parts that made me laugh. Here, she's being questioned by theologians and clergy before the dauphin entrusts his soldiers to her:
The learned Aymeiri put her the question always put to those who assert divine aid: saying that if it were God's will to deliver the realm, He could do so without men-at-arms. Whom she answered that, if they would give her a few knights, they would work out God's will well enough.
Her end, of course, is clear from early on in the book. It's no secret she will be burned on the cross.
In those days--and now from the crowning nearly a month had gone by--as she was riding between the Bastard of Orleans and Regnault the Archbishop, she said in her joy at the people's cheering for the King: "Here are good folk, and here would I lie buried in this earth of theirs, when I die." But never was she to lie at peace in Christian earth beside the blessed dead, but more brightly, through the fire, to strike to Paradise.
There is a high-ranking soldier called the Bastard; it's not meant in a condemnatory way and is merely his title or nickname or something. If you have a child who might repeat it, you'll want to explain it's not a word we throw around casually.

This is a nice little biography of St. Joan of Arc that First Daughter will read this year in sixth grade. It's a good option for those looking who have already read the Vision biography and might not have the time or inclination for Mark Twain's much longer book.

I read a Kindle version of this book (linked below in the italics) which was a good copy overall. There were a few mistakes in the text ("main" instead of "maid") but only a handful. The table of contents was linked and the formatting was decent.

I received nothing for writing this review. The links above are affiliate links to RC History, the home of Connecting with History. I purchased a Kindle version of this book (affiliate link to Amazon). 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Wonder and Awe in Israel: In the Steps of the Master


by H. V. Morton

This book is on the list of optional additional reading for geography in Level 5 (ninth and tenth grades) on the Mater Amabilis™beta plans (available in the facebook group for high school). When I saw it, I immediately searched online for a used copy because I loved Morton's A Traveller in Rome which I read in 2016 before (mostly) going to Rome. I chose this book because there is a chance First Son will have the opportunity to visit Israel during his high school years and I thought this book would be an excellent preparation for that experience. I haven't quite decided whether he can handle any additional reading, but it's still a possibility. Either way, I had the pleasure of reading this book myself.

Morton travels through Israel with a Bible, his imagination, and immense curiosity. His writing allows the reader to see the world through his eyes beautifully.
As the sun goes down, a stillness falls over Egypt. Water channels that cross the fields turn to the colour of blood, then to bright yellow that fades into silver. The palm trees might be cut from black paper and pasted against the incandescence of the sky. The brown hawks that hang all day above the sugar-cane and the growing wheat are seen no more and, one by one, the stars burn over the sandhills and lie caught in the stiff fronds of the date palms.
The book was originally written in 1934 when Israel was under British rule. It reveals clearly the condescension of the British even while the author is trying to be sympathetic or complimentary to many of the people who make Israel or Palestine home. Once, a Belgian tells of how they have been traveling and visiting with the protection of the Arab Legion (a kind of police force of the time apparently organized by the British) and says:
"Things like the Arab Legion...justify your colonization."
If, however, you can recognize and overlook that attitude as a remnant of a time long past (attempting to avoid as much stereotyping as possible yourself), this book glows with the spirit of wonder and awe at being so near the home of Jesus.
 I do not know for certain whether the Via Dolorosa is really the road on which Jesus carried the Cross, and neither, I think, does anyone else. Its route depends on the situation of Pilate's judgment hall and the unknown position of the Gate Genath. But it does not seem to me to matter very much whether it is the actual road or a memorial to the actual road. What is important is that men and women who have walked upon it have met there the vision of Christ.
In some ways, Morton's sense of adventure and desire to explore deeply the geography and history of the land reminds me of Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels. Amazingly, he manages to find a guide to take him through Hezekiah's Tunnel even though:
It is wet, messy and dangerous, and you have to explore it at night in order not to stir up the water of the Virgin's Fountain in which the women of Siloam wash their clothes during the daytime.
Later, he writes of the journey through the tunnel.
The first three hundred feet were simple, but then the tunnel became low and we had to walk bent double. There were also pot holes in which we suddenly sank well over the knees. The total length of the tunnel is over a quarter of a mile, so that I had plenty of time to regret my decision to explore it and to admire the common sense of all those people who refused to go with me.
And yet, he describes the tunnel clearly, wondering about the men who created it, the fear through which they worked, and some of the mysteries that still surround it. Then he describes the beauty of the world into which he emerges.
As we went on through the lonely valley with its crowded tombs, we came to the foot of the Mount of Olives and saw the little walled Garden of Gethsemane, with the light of the moon falling between its cypress trees and lying across its quiet paths.
As he travels, he often sits with his Bible and reads the passages in the very places they happened. He describes them in detail, exquisitely filling them out with his imagination. At the end of his description of Salome's dance and the execution of John the Baptism, he writes:
The executioner goes with his sword down to the dungeon. He returns with the head of the Baptist, still warm. And the night wind moves the hair.
The book ends as Morton comtemplates Easter in Jerusalem.
The moon hung above the Mount, touching the ridge with a gold haze, washing every white track in light, painting each olive tree in shadow against the rocks. How hushed it was in the light of the moon. Not a footstep rang in the streets below me; no one moved in the silence beyond the wall. Above the black shadow of the Kedron Valley I could see the moonlight silvering the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane...
I don't know if anyone today is writing such lyrical travel books, but at least someone is reprinting the Morton ones. If I ever make it to Israel, I'm taking this book with me.

I received nothing for writing this post. I bought a used copy of In the Steps of the Master and borrowed a copy of A Traveller in Rome. The links above to Amazon are affiliate links.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Second Daughter's Kindergarten and First Grade Book Lists

Second Daughter just finished her third grade year in 2018, so of course it's time to post her kindergarten and first grade books.

In her pre-kindergarten year, Second Daughter and I read some alphabet books (though not as extensively as I did with Second Son) and played lots of phonogram games from the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book. She's always loved games. Then we worked through the lessons in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. With First Daughter, I waited until we finished all of the lessons before reading any "real" books, but I realized later that wasn't necessary. With Second Daughter, we started reading books together after her official lesson each day so she could have some actual stories along with her phonics.

First, we alternated paragraphs. (I would read one, then she would read one.) Then we moved up to pages. Eventually, she would read half of a chapter or a whole chapter out loud to me.

The combination of The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and reading books together worked very well. She can read! If, however, I were just starting out to teach multiple children to read over the next decade (as opposed to having taught four children to read over the past decade), I would be very tempted to buy the Foundations series. (This is not an affiliate link and I've never seen it in person, but I did purchase and use Essentials with First Son and, a little, with First Daughter, and I have heard good things about Foundations.)

Unless otherwise noted, all of these books are from the library.

The kindergarten books (2014-2015):
The first grade books (2015-2016):
I posted First Son's first fifty books of kindergarten. Apparently I intended to post more but never did and I suspect I don't even have them written down anywhere. Here's the list of books he read with me in first grade.

First Daughter didn't have any kindergarten books (because I was waiting to finish The Ordinary Parent's Guide), but here are her first grade books.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Power of Silence

by Robert Cardinal Sarah
with Nicholas Diat
translated by Michael J. Miller

This book is not a fully-formed, organized treatise on silence. It is instead a conversation between Cardinal Sarah and the reporter, Nicholas Diat. Realizing that about half-way through the book helped me to place it in perspective. I felt like he was circling around the major statements he was making, as if observing "silence" from multiple view-points but not articulating a single coherent thesis....because he wasn't.

Not that you shouldn't read this book. I think Catholics and non-Catholics alike will be gleaning insight from this book for years to come. It's a challenge to us all to eliminate the noise of our lives, both that coming from outside, which is often easy to recognize, and that coming from inside our own minds, which is much more difficult to assess and manage.

This book is presented in five chapters:
  1. Silence versus the World's Noise
  2. God Does Not Speak, but His Voice is Quite Clear
  3. Silence, the Mystery, and the Sacred
  4. God's Silence in the Face of Evil Unleashed
  5. Like a Voice Crying out in the Desert: The Meeting at the Grande Chartreuse
I read this book over many months, checking it out from the library and returning it when someone else wanted it, then checking it out again. It is the kind of book that benefits from slow reading and (ironically?) required relative silence for me to grant it my full attention. I could not, therefore, read it while children were running around and interrupting me at their whim. This would be an excellent book for quiet reflection in adoration before the blessed Eucharist, reading a paragraph or two then contemplating it while gazing at our Lord.

Looking back, the first three chapters have melded together in my mind without a clear differentiation between them. In those chapters, Cardinal Sarah defined silence in contrast with the modern world, clarified its place in liturgy, prayer, and adoration, and emphasized its role for the benefit of civilizations.

A recurring thought from Cardinal Sarah is the work of God done in complete silence. He talks about the moment of transubstantiation, as the bread and wine transform into the body and blood of Jesus. This miracle happens after the words of consecration, in silence.
Mankind must join a sort of resistance movement. What will become of our world if it does not look for intervals of silence?  Without it, life does not exist. The greatest mysteries of the world are born and unfold in silence. How does nature develop? In the greatest silence. A tree grows in silence, and springs of water flow at first in the silence of the ground. The sun that rises over the earth in its splendor and grandeur warms us in silence.  What is extraordinary is always silent.
Later, he talks about Christ in the Eucharist:
There is nothing littler, meeker, or more silent than Christ present in the Host. This little piece of bread embodies the humility and perfect silence of God, his tenderness and his love for us. 
Another point he mentioned more than once and that resonated with me, a layperson who spends my day listening to my children as I wash dishes or try to help another child, is the importance of silence when interacting with other people. Our interior silence, if we can cultivate and maintain it (we must!) is what allows us to truly hear, understand, and respond to those around us.
In order to listen, it is necessary to keep quiet. I do not mean merely a sort of constraint to be physically silent and not to interrupt what someone else is saying, but rather an interior silence, in other words, a silence that not only is directed toward receiving the other person's words but also reflects a heart overflowing with a humble love, capable of full attention, friendly welcome and voluntary self-denial, and strong with the awareness of our poverty.
This focus is an outward form of our love of others and our recognition of their dignity and worth.
The silence of listening is a form of attention, a gift of self to the other, and a mark of moral generosity. It should manifest an awareness of our humility so as to agree to receive from another person a gift that God is giving us. For the other person is always a treasure and a precious gift that God offers to help us grow in humility, humanity, and nobility.
Cardinal Sarah described an experience at World Youth Day in Madrid with Pope Benedict XVI. Delayed by a storm, Pope Benedict tossed aside his prepared speech and instead kneeled before the Blessed Sacrament.
There were more than a million young people behind him, drenched to the skin, standing in the mud; nevertheless, over that immense crowd reigned an impressive sacred silence that was literally "filled with the adored presence". It is an unforgettable memory, an image of the Church united in great silence around her Lord. 
In chapter 4, Cardinal Sarah addresses the problem of evil: How do we reconcile God's silence with the horrors of the world? Cardinal Sarah has personally experienced the a violent government in Guinea. Despite violence and threats, he does not encourage rebellion. Instead he denounces injustice wherever he finds it, including in western governments.

He has also personally observed how prayer helped displaced people in turbulent times and in poverty. He asserts poverty is not a bad thing, and that the Western world's war against it is misplaced. Later, though, he makes a distinction between a poverty that brings us closer to God and a poverty that is a misery.

In the end, we cannot ever truly understand the evil we see in the world around us.
Without God, man is torn, anxious, worried, agitated, and he cannot arrive at interior rust. True life is not in rebellion but in silent adoration. Of course, we have no answer to the problem of evil; yet our task is to make it less intolerable and to offer a remedy without pride, discreetly, insofar as we can, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta and many other saints did.
The last chapter, Like a Voice Crying Out in the Desert, was my favorite. In this chapter, Nicolas Diat, Cardinal Sarah, and the Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, Dysmas de Lassus, speak together about silence. The Grande Chartreuse is the great Carthusian monastery, where monks pray, live, and eat in the Great Silence within their own cells, rarely speaking to each other.

The Prior speaks about his order's focus on silence and prayer.
We are like children who watch the ocean for the first time. Fascinated by what they see, they nevertheless guess that what is found beyond it far surpasses their gaze and even their imagination. They can simultaneously say that they have seen the ocean, that they know it, and that they have still to discover everything. When we are talking about that ocean without a shore, Gods infinitude, the mystery offers an endless overture to him whom we will never finish discovering.
We are probably a family that seeks and cultivates silence more than most. We have relatively few devices that chirp at us throughout the day and night. We do not watch the news. We spend time in adoration every week. Our vacations are spent at national parks. Reading this book was a natural outgrowth of that lifestyle and was also a challenge to me to deepen our relationship with silence and learn to address the interior silence that often still rages within me.

I highly recommend you read this book but that you take your time with it.

I checked this book out from our library and did not receive anything for writing this post. The Amazon links are affiliate links.

Friday, July 6, 2018

June 2018 Book Reports

Our Lady's Feasts by Sister Mary Jean Dorcy - link to my post (own copy, probably purchased used)

Animal Farm by George Orwell - link to my post (own copy, probably received from my mom)

Know and Tell by Karen Glass - link to my post (purchased copy)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Over the Moon by Frank Cottrell Boyce - This is the third of a recent trilogy about the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was fun, and delightfully read by David Tennant, but I think Kansas Dad and I were happy when it was over. The very best part of the audiobook was the censored bit. (purchased Audible book)

Middlemarch by George Eliot - link to my post (library copy)

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge - The children loved this book which is kind of like a fairy tale. It bothered me how often they criticized the main character for being curious and talked about how it was a common fault of girls and women. There are also a couple of adults in the town who ask Maria to keep secrets from her guardian and her governess; that sort of thing always makes me feel uncomfortable, even when the secrets are innocuous. Also, the heroine is thirteen years old but marries her cousin at the end of the book (maybe a year older?), which was weird. The book we owned also ruined the surprise of the white horse by putting a unicorn on the cover. I would say it's an acceptable book, but I wouldn't read it aloud again. (purchased used)

Litany of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe - I took this book on vacation with us and was dismayed to realized I'd already read it. However, I had nothing else to read and, once I started, was entertained enough to finish it. (Kansas Dad's copy)

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - link to my post (library copy)

Books in Progress (and date started)
The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). Links to RC History and PaperBackSwap.comare also affiliate links to their respective stores. Other links (like those to Bethlehem Books) are not affiliate links.

These reports are my honest opinions.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Serving and Saving: A Man Called Ove


by Fredrik Blackman


My book club read this book for our June meeting. It's a story of rebirth for an elderly Swedish man who believes there's nothing left for him in this life until his new neighbor insists he open his eyes to the needs he can fill for those all around him.

Ove is a man of principles, principles established in his youth by watching and learning from his father, a quiet man of honesty and integrity.
Had Ove been the sort of man who contemplated how and when one became the sort of man one was, he might have said this was the day he learned that right has to be right. He contented himself with remembering that on this day he'd decided to be as little unlike his father as possible.
I felt like the author dumped about every tragedy he could on poor Ove, but I guess he also showed that Ove's love for his wife made everything else unimportant.
But then he saw her on the platform with all her rich auburn hair and her blue eyes and all her effervescent laughter. And he got back on the outbound train. Of course, he didn't quite know himself why he was doing it. He had never been spontaneous before in his life. But when he saw her it was if something malfunctioned. 
Doing what is right saves Ove's life and his heart.

I checked this book out of the library and received nothing for this post, but the links above are affiliate links to Amazon.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Homeschool Plans: Preparing for First Eucharist and First Reconciliation

Once you've decided to homeschool, sacrament preparation for First Reconciliation (Confession) and First Eucharist (Communion) takes on a whole new aspect. Some homeschoolers decide to forego the parish preparation program entirely. We choose to participate in ours but I always supplement that preparation in our lessons at home.

Here's what we do.

Sunday Morning PSR
The K-5 PSR program on Sunday mornings happens between the early and late Masses and at the same time as an adult education class Kansas Dad co-teaches. Even if the information and class time is redundant, the social time is not; all of our children have friends in the parish who attend the PSR program and they enjoy that time together.

Children's Adoration
When Second Daughter was preparing for First Communion, the leader of our children's adoration hour read many books focused on the sacrament. Some of these are ones I read with previous children but some were new to us. Regardless of the actual program, time in adoration before the Lord is probably the very best preparation for First Reconciliation and First Eucharist.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Level 2 classes, including many presentations to prepare children for Reconciliation and Communion. These are offered at our parish and there's even a daytime class for homeschooled students.

Our Preparation at Home

We have two "lessons" each week in second grade. One day we have "catechism" and on another day we have "sacrament preparation."

Catechism
We're going to read Jesus and I by Aloysius Heeg. This is one of my favorite books! It's sweet and straight-forward without being overly-simplistic. There are preparation questions at the end for First Reconciliation and First Eucharist, so it could almost work all on its own. I've written about it before on the blog. (I purchased this book from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts, though I don't see it on their site now in June 2018.)

Sacrament Preparation
This is a time, once a week, I have set aside for readings and conversations related directly to sacrament preparation. We'll be reading through a few books and, for those that might like to try something similar, I've included our complete schedule. I've planned 30-31 weeks, but it might need to be adjusted depending on when the parish schedules the sacraments. Sometimes I read this aloud and sometimes the child reads it independently and narrates to me, just depending on time and how comfortable the child is with the subject matter and with reading. After five years of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and two years of weekly adoration, Second Son is quite comfortable with the sacraments already!
Jesus with Us: The Gift of the Eucharist by Tarzia and Ferri - This book gives a good overview of the Eucharist through Scripture and history. (I can't remember where I bought this book, probably at a used homeschool sale.)
  • p 3-6
  • p 8-12
  • p 14-18
  • p 20-24
  • p 26-30
A Little Book about Confession for Children by Kendra Tierney - This book was recommended by Simcha Fischer. I used this book for the first time with Second Daughter. It seems clear and child-like (but not childish). (I bought this book from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts.)
  • questions 1-4
  • questions 5-8
  • questions 9-12
  • questions 13-16
  • questions 17-22
  • questions 23-24 (only 2 of the saints)
  • question 24, remaining 3 saints
  • First through Fourth Commandments
  • Fifth through Seventh Commandments
  • Eighth through Tenth Commandments
Seven Lonely Places, Seven Warm Places: The Vices and Virtues for Children by April Bolton - This book is a short picture book that attempts to place the seven deadly vices, four cardinal virtues, and three theological virtues into a child's ordinary life, showing how the vices separate us from other people (and God) and how the virtues can connect us to others (and God). It's not an essential book, but it's a quick read and a nice addition to preparation for Reconciliation. (I received my copy of this book from another member at PaperBackSwap.com.)
  • Read and narrate.
The Good Shepherd and His Little Lambs: A First Communion Story-Primer by Mrs. Hermann Bosch with supplements by Janet P. McKenzie - I used this book with both First Daughter and Second Daughter. Through the course of this book, a gentle and loving aunt guides just a few children in their preparation for Holy Communion. This text is a little longer than the books above and might need to be read aloud even for a proficient reader. (I bought this book from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts, though I don't see it on their site now in June 2018.)
  • "Feed My Lambs!"
  • Baptism
  • Penance
  • Obedience
  • The Holy Childhood
  • Children of Mary
  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Charity
  • The House of God
  • The Fair White Page
  • Service of God
  • Heaven
  • The Happy Day
The Brown Scapular Coloring Book by Mary Fabyan Windeatt - I bought this book years ago (from Seton, I think) in a set of Windeatt coloring books and it's one of just a few we've kept and used over and over again. Our parish gives each of the First Communicants a Brown Scapular and this book seems to prepare the children well to understand what it is, respect it, and wear it. It can be more difficult to find now, though a Google search turned up a few options. I think another book on Simon Stock would be a good substitute. The series, In the Footsteps of the Saints, has one.

Supplements
These are resources we have that complement sacrament preparation. If you're feeling overwhelmed by what's above, skip these.

My Path to Heaven: A Young Person's Guide to the Faith by Geoffrey Bliss, S.J., with pictures by Caryll Houselander - I bought this originally to read with First Son when we did Connecting with History volume 3 many years ago. It fits nicely with preparation for First Reconciliation and First Communion. I've read it along with some children and asked others to read it independently, depending on their ability to focus and mediate. If you follow Mater Amabilis™, this book is assigned for Lenten reading in Level 2 Year 1 (fourth grade). You could choose to wait until then, but I think it's the kind of book that benefits from repetition, so I plan to use it both years. (purchased new, affiliate link to RC History)

First Communion Days by a Sister of Notre Dame - This is a nice little hardcover book that was gifted to me when a local homeschooling family retired from homeschooling. It's one from Neumann Press that has not been republished by TAN books. (At least, I couldn't find it on the TAN site.) There are a number of the type of stories where young children receive the Eucharist and go to heaven happily when they die a little later of an illness, so I choose not to read it aloud. First Daughter loved the stories in it. Second Daughter read some of them but didn't want to finish it. We'll see what Second Son thinks.


I'd just like to mention a book I think is a great First Communion gift. It's Pray Always: A Catholic Child's First Prayer Book. Second Daughter received a copy of this book from a priest last year, I think just because we were in the right place at the right time. It's a lovely hardcover prayer book. I wrote a bit more about it here.

Links to Amazon, RC History, and PaperBackSwap.com are all affiliate links. Other links are not affiliate links. I received nothing in exchange for this post and it is only my honest opinion.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Marriage, Work, and Worth: Middlemarch


by George Eliot

This is a long book encompassing the lives of a nineteenth century English manor, village, and country-side, so it is full of lots of different stories, if not a lot of actual "action." Though all inter-twined, the stories themselves cover a variety of circumstances from romances and surprising heirs to disreputable pasts and tenuous futures. The whole is far more than I could write about in my little blog post.

One of the themes explored in the novel is that of making a good marriage. Two marriages in the novel are apparent failures though for different reasons: Dorothea finds herself in a marriage to a man who refuses to fully accept her as a wife.
He distrusted her affection, and what loneliness is more lonely than distrust?
When Dorothea married Mr. Casaubon, it was tacitly understood that he was the more educated and intelligent and that she would assist him. Before long she realizes his life's work is essentially meaningless. Her strength of character and innate goodness, her intelligence and continued devotion to him, repel him. He maintains a barrier between them and jealously attempts to control her life after his death.

Dr. Lydgate and Rosamond marry not after discerning they can be helpmates to one another, but because Lydgate finds her beautiful and Rosamond believes his high connections will raise her social status. Instead, he incurs great debt while continually failing to please her and her selfishness prevents her from understanding or adjusting to his life.

The strongest example is that of Mary Garth and Fred Vincy. Fred is a lackadaisical young man who lives in anticipation of an inheritance. His first and only love, Mary, refuses to marry him unless he makes something of himself in honest work.
"As if it were any pleasure to me to think ill of you," said Mary in a mournful tone. "As if it were not very painful to me to see you an idle, frivolous creature. How can you bear to be so contemptible when others are working and striving and there are so many things to be done--how can you bear to be fit for nothing in the world that is useful? And with so much good in your disposition, Fred, you might be worth a good deal."
Their relationship is assisted by the reverend Mr. Farebrother, who obtains Mary's promise to wait for Fred at Fred's request despite his own love for her. He later gently but firmly assists Fred in avoiding temptation and the loss of Mary.
"To think of the part one little woman can play in the life of a man, so that to renounce her may be a very good imitation of heroism, and to win her may be a discipline!"
Another example of a strong marriage is actually that of the Bulstrodes. As a young man, Mr. Bulstrode deceives his first wife into believing her daughter has died so he can inherit her fortune, a fortune built of ill-gotten gains in pawnshops.
There may be coarse hypocrites, who consciously affect beliefs and emotions for the sake of gulling the world, but Bulstrode was not one of them. He was simply a man whose desires had been stronger than his theoretic beliefs and who had gradually explained the gratification of his desires into satisfactory agreement with those beliefs. 
Throughout his life, Mr. Bulstrode sought wealth and power in order to serve God, but he did so in a pompous and arrogant way and callously threw aside the rights of others he deemed unworthy.
The service he could do to the cause of religion had been through life the ground he alleged to himself for his choice of action: it had been the motive which he had poured out in his prayers. Who would use money and position better than he meant to use them? Who could surpass him in self-abhorrence and exaltation of God's cause?...[snip]...There is no general doctrine which is not capable of eating out our morality if unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct fellow-feeling with individual fellow-men. 
When his deception is revealed, destroying his carefully created pious persona, his wife sets aside her fancy gowns but does not desert him, humbly enduring his misery as she had enjoyed his wealth.

As Mary encourages Fred to undertake meaningful work, the idea of a legacy is interpreted through the thrwarted desires of Dr. Lydgate, who must give up his research to accommodate his wife and their life together and Caleb Garth, Mary's father, who steadfastly and skillfully manages estates around Middlemarch, repairing and building structures, shaping and improving the land.

The last paragraph of the novel speaks of Dorothea, who forgoes her desires to build something grand to improve life for great numbers of people when she marries for love and retires to a modest life.
Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive, for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.
Given its length and slow quiet pace, I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading this novel. It was a lovely way to spend my time.

Some notes on the edition: I read this Penguin Drop Caps edition checked out from our library. Despite its length, the book did not feel heavy in my hands. The pages are soft on the hands and gentle on the eyes without over-glaring white. The text is a nice size, too. However, there are quotes before most of the chapters. When these were originally in Latin or French, there is no translation provided by an editor. Also, I found the cover color glaringly yellow-orange.