NOVEMBER 2016 MEETING

We met on November 14 to discuss Morte d’Urban by J. F. Powers, with Mary leading the discussion. Immdiately we saw a divide between those who had enjoyed the book and those who had not.  This opened up plenty of room for discussion. Some had particularly enjoyed some humorous bits and had even marked them so we could discuss them, while another member had an experience of having bitter memories revived regarding having been told of incidents of difficulties in living communal religious life.

The book had been reviewed and discussed back in 2014 in America, the national Jesuit magazine, and we examined some of the statements in that review. In particular, we focused on three discussion questions that had been included in the review. 1) What do you think of the claustrophobic priestly politics depicted by Powers? Is it stifling or comical or something else? 2) What constitutes success for a Christian? What constitutes success for a priest or a consecrated religious? 3) How has Fr. Urban been transformed at the end of the novel?

We enjoyed our discussion, and, just as it should be, we found that new insights were brought by hearing the discoveries and the opinions of others.  We were mostly in agreement in feeling that the book had provided us with a different vision of some problems of the serving priest, and the Church in the days just before the Second Vatican Council. All agreed that, for us, the ending was not successful and did not provide what we were looking for. We felt unsure what the author was telling us by the way he ended the book.

There were some decisions to be made about our future meetings, and we finally agreed that. because December is such a busy time for many, we would postpone meeting and reading our Dorothy Sayers radio play until January. After consultation with Father as to what Saturday night would fit with his schedule, the date has been set as January 7.

Our book for February will be The Lord by Romano Guardini, and it’s a good thing we have lots of time to read because it is a lengthy book, around 625 pages. It is available from Book Depository, and there is an e-book version as well. I would suggest getting a copy as soon as possible so that there is plenty of time to digest it. Sometimes over the holidays we have a little more free time for reading, and this will fill the gap very nicely.

OCTOBER MEETING

Our October meeting was on the 17th, and centered around an interesting book that has just been released–I BURNED FOR YOUR PEACE: Augustine’s Confessions Unpacked, by Peter Kreeft.  Our discussion leader pulled out some quotes from both Kreeft and Augustine and used them as the basis for discussion questions. He kindly provided us with copies of these so we could easily follow along, and we plunged right in, everyone enjoying taking part considering the questions.

He also reviewed the main factors of Augustine’s life, which of course was highly varied and interesting. In thinking back, I believe we could have profitably spent some time considering the very wide range of the influence of Augustine’s thought and teaching, but there just wasn’t enough time. Perhaps that is something we can look at in the future.

Posting Once More

Once again, the blog has been inactive because of health issues: cancer and its return, in fact. However, the chemotherapy sessions are finished (for now), and I can get on with some updating.

If you look at the What We Have Read page, you will see that our book guild has continued on with enthusiasm, doing some very interesting reads, and also having attended a dramatic performance of Everyman and seen a documentary on Oscar Romero. The grass has not grown under our feet!

I’ll give you a brief summary of our September  19th meeting. We had read Robert Hugh Benson’s The Lord of the World and, after a quick look at the outline of the life of the author, discussed the following  subjects:

-what is the place of emotion in faith?

-Benson postulates that people will feel a need for liturgy and worship. Do you agree? What do you see today?

-Apart from the ending, did you see a climax in the novel?

-What would you say is the dominant theme?

-Any favourite part?

Our discussion was stimulating and thorough. We then decided that our next meeting will be on October 17th, and the book for discussion will be Peter Kreeft’s newest, I Burned For Your Peace, in which he intends to consider key passages from Augustine’s Confessions and offer commentary for our consideration. Randy will lead us.

The book for November will be J. F. Powers’ Morte D’Urban, which has been described as “very funny…a satiric romp transforms into deadly serious and deeply moving exploration of faith”. Mary will lead this one.

We are considering the possibility of doing another of our play readings from Dorothy Sayers’ The Man Born to be King for our December meeting!

 

OCTOBER MEETING

Due to a number of personal difficulties, there were only three of us at the October meeting. This is quite unusual for our group; I can’t think of a time when such a thing has happened before. Nevertheless, those of us attending went to work and had a good time discussing The Betrothed.

We each responded to the question, “Who did you find to be the most interesting character?” Some chose The Unknown, some the noblewoman to whom Lucia is sent in the convent at Monza. We also talked about the historical figure Federigo Borromeo, how the actions of Pope Francis resemble what is told in the book of the doings of Borromeo, and wondered if Pope Francis had modelled himself in part after Borromeo, considering that the book is such a favourite of his, and that he has read it several times. Also, we considered the condition of the Church at that time in connection with what we had learned from our study of Owen Chadwick’s The Reformation.

A question arose as to the use of the appearance of the plague in the story–was it organic to the story, or did it tend to diffuse the plot? Generally, people felt that it fulfilled its place in the story, making it harder for Renzo and Lucia to come together, and also it contributed to the feeling of the hopelessness of the situation of the lovers.

We went on to discuss Lucia’s vow, and her dispensation from it by Brother Cristoforo. It was pointed out that the vow, under the conditions in which she made it, was like trying to bargain with God for her personal safety rather than trusting in His providence. Father pointed out that there is no scriptural basis for taking such a vow, no teaching of the Church that would lead one to do this. Therefore, her being dispensed from the vow made good sense.

After talking about a few of the other characters, the question was raised: was this book worth reading? It was agreed that it definitely had been worth the read.

For our November meeting, we will discuss Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. We look forward to having Father L. lead us in our discussion.

Back to the Blog: We’re Still Here

Because of various health issues and the lethargy that can follow, this blog has gone untouched for far too long. But now we’re back, and I’ll start by reporting on the meeting of September 14, 2015.

We had decided to give ourselves two months to read Manzoni’s The Betrothed, and this was our first month to begin discussion. It was a little confusing, since we had members who had finished, or nearly finished, the book, and some who had just read to the halfway point. One complaint was that the author had allowed himself to be sidelined very often and had strayed from the plot. Another concerned the lack of development of characters. We talked for a while about how we should evaluate these difficulties, since the first copyright for the book was in 1827: should we assume that the novel form was just developing at that time? A metaphor for a way of viewing the book was suggested: look at it as if it were an Italian opera! No need for development  or complicated plot twists, just good old boy gets girl with a lot of flourishes and drama thrown in. We agreed that it was quite helpful to consider the book from that framework, and then went on to talk about the various instances of piety and religious devotion we had noticed, trying not to stray into the second half of the book.

We also  addressed the need for a new name for our club, since with the transfer of Father Lawrence we are no longer associated with the parish of St. Jude. Our official name is now Catholic Readers Guild!

Because the Thanksgiving holiday comes on the same day as our usual meeting, we are moving the October gathering to the fifteenth of the month, when we will finish the discussion of The Betrothed.

For November, we will read Laudato Si’, the recent encyclical of Pope Francis. In December we will once again stage a reading of a Dorothy Sayers radio play.

Thanks for visiting!

March and April Meetings

I’m happy to say that we have found a friendly coffee shop with a private room for our meetings, and it seems to meet our needs very nicely.  We’ve met there two times and are now feeling quite at home.

Also working out well for us is the suggestion of having members volunteer to lead the discussion of the monthly book.  It has given us an improved structure which is a real help.

Our two books, Left to Tell and Father Brown: Essential Tales provoked interesting discussion of the authors as well as their works. We also devoted some time to putting together a list of possible books for our longer-term future reading, as well as choosing our books for May and June.

May’s book will be Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel,  with Fr. Lawrence leading, and for June we will read Francis of Assisi: A New Biography by Augustine Thompson. (Any volunteers for that one?)

 

 

FIVE YEARS AND MOVING ON

Our December meeting came unglued for us due to illness and people being out of town for the holidays.  But January saw us gathered at a nearby McDonald’s, eating cookies and discussing The Edge of Sadness, under the leadership of Randy. We had a lively discussion, with most people liking the book and some finding it a little disappointing and lacking in detail, particularly with regard to the struggles the lead character had in recovering from alcoholism.  We made comparisons with the way parishes are run today, talked about the responsibilities of a bishop and how he might make choices in the assignment of priests, and discussed various characters and how they were depicted.  It was a very satisfactory meeting.

In February we got together for a potluck supper in celebration of our fifth anniversary, and the combination of delicious dishes and interesting talk kept us at the table for quite a while.  The collapse of a chair, though, left one member laughing on the floor and got us moving to the study, where we were to watch a movie.  Sadly, the setup for the movie didn’t work out.  The good feelings left from the dinner, kept us contented as we waited, and cheery conversation continued until we had to give up on the movie and say our goodbyes.

March will bring us together to talk about Left to Tell, and we’ll be searching out a new spot for our meeting.  So many books, so little time!

November Meeting Brings Some Changes

Our October meeting didn’t come off, due to a misunderstanding about the changed date.  In November, though, after finding that several people had not read The Edge of Sadness, we had a searching discussion of what we wanted for the future, and how we wanted to proceed. We decided to revise our schedule a bit and institute a new format for our book discussions.  The suggestion was made and approved that for each book, a member would volunteer to lead, preparing a brief summary and a few possible discussion questions.  We’ll give this a try in the new year and see how we like it.

Our schedule for the next few months is as follows: December, a reading of another Dorothy Sayers radio play; January, a discussion of The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor; February, our anniversary celebration will be the viewing of a movie and follow-up discussion (movie not yet chosen); March, discussion of Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza.

September Meeting and Catch-up

I missed the July meeting due to making an airport pickup: family visits! In August, though, we had a relaxed outdoor picnic, based on a French wine and cheese theme.  We took the opportunity to discuss some changes we might want to make, and I wrote down suggestions for more fiction, possible scripts, and some specifics from C. S. Lewis and Dorothy Day.  Another suggestion was that we decide on our books three months ahead instead of two, thus allowing more time for members to order books or wait for library copies to become available.

Because some members’ book orders had arrived late, we agreed to push the Ways of Imperfection through to October.

Our September meeting was held at Father Lawrence’s Glebe House, and we had the pleasure of the company of Father Tom, just before he left for his assisted-living facility.  Members had still had difficulty getting the reading done in Tugwell’s Ways of Imperfection, and I’m wondering if next year we might do better not having assigned reading during the summer months.  We can talk about that in the future.

We decided to plan our reading a little into the future, and these were the works we chose:

October, finish Ways of Imperfection

November, Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor

December, one of the Dorothy Sayers radio plays on the life of Christ

January, Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza

February, as usual, a play for our anniversary party

March, some of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, title to be decided.

One of the things we enjoyed talking about is that there are so many good books out there just waiting to be read!  We have lots of interesting reading and fellowship to look forward to!  After all, this is only our fifth year.

By the way, our OCTOBER meeting time is changed because of a conflict with the Thanksgiving feast.  We will meet on Saturday, October 12, at 7:30, at Father Lawrence’s house.  See you then!

June Meeting: The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

Our numbers were diminished for the June meeting because of some on holiday, traveling, etc.  I found the meeting rather difficult, since I was the only one who had finished the book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, SJ. Another member had read half, so at least a little discussion was possible.  I found the book inspiring, practical, and a good read, and was a little disappointed not to be able to give it the more thorough discussion I felt it deserved.

Father Lawrence had a suggestion for our next book, and passed around a copy of it for us to examine.  We decided to read it over two months, so our book for August and September will be Ways of Imperfection by Simon Tugwell, OP.

Remember, for our July meeting we will be discussing  The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux.  See you then.