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?)




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.

May Meeting: The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest (2)

We were glad to welcome Father Lawrence back from his travels and to hear a bit about his experiences.  Such a joy to have him back!

Discussion of the book began by touching on some difficulties with its frequent mention of persons met, visited, and/or helped by Gerard, and those who were of help to him.  Some members found this initially confusing, and one found it quite off-putting.  We went on to consider who were the people Gerard was calling “schismatics”,  and why he found them “much more difficult to move”. Talking about the dangers people faced, both personal and social, we could understand, to some extent, why people would change their religion based on the command of the king or queen.  We also talked about the differences between that society, where religion was very important and indeed a way in which an individual might find his identity, and today’s society.

From members talking about Gerard’s insistence on an exact and well-considered examination of conscience for those wanting to convert, Father Lawrence went on to talk about making a general confession, and in answer to some questions gave details about the circumstances in which a person might make a general confession.

In choosing a book for July, we considered that perhaps we have had enough history for a while, and chose the autobiography “The Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux.

St. Margaret Clitherow

For those who have access to EWTN,  that network will air an hour-long program on the life and death of St. Margaret Clitherow, who was executed in a particularly terrible way for hiding hunted Catholic priests during the reign of Elizabeth I.  This should be very interesting as it relates to our reading of The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest.  The program will be on May 23 at 11 a.m. and May 25 at 3 a.m. Pacific times.

Click on the above link to see what Wikipedia has on this remarkable woman.  This drawing of the saint is taken from Wikipedia.

English: Margaret Clitherow old depiction. Sou...

English: Margaret Clitherow old depiction. Source is here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest

Above is the title of the book we focused on for our April meeting.  Actually, we only discussed the first half, saving the second part for the May get-together.  The book is quite fascinating, and is by John Gerard, S.J., a priest who ministered to Catholics in England during the reign of Elizabeth I from about 1588 – 1606.  He was hunted, hidden in specially-constructed priest holes, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, escaped, and continued to work as a priest.  As I understand it, he originally wrote of this period under the order of his superior, writing in Latin and intending the book only to be read by other Jesuits.  In the early 1950’s, his writings were translated and published but went out of print,  and this book was re-issued only last year by Ignatius Press.

We began the meeting with a bit of historical background, considering Catholicism in the reigns of Henry VIII, his daughter Mary, and daughter Elizabeth I.  We also talked a bit, based on our previous reading, of the ongoing attempts of the English Crown over the centuries to control the Catholic Church and to foster suspicion of Catholic loyalty to the Crown because of the religious authority of the Pope.

As for our featured book, members spoke of being astonished by its contents and questioned why they had known nothing of these events.  Father Tom was particularly moved by Gerard’s ability to  debate, persuade, and convert so many people. We look forward to discussing the second half of the book at our May meeting.

As I read the second part of The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest, I jotted down a few topics that seemed interesting to me, and on which I would like to hear others’ views.  I’ll list them here.

  • Was it because the times were so dangerous that Gerard was able to convert so many people?
  • Were people generally more devout then?
  • Gerard says the “schismatics” were “much more difficult to move than heretics”.  Why do you think that was?
  • Gerard advises people to make a “good and exact” examination of conscience, and often had them take several days over it.  Does our practice differ today?  If so, why?  Any comments?
  • Gerard tells of many people who influenced relations and friends to convert (of course, there were also many who could not).  Would that be possible for us today?

That’s all for now.  I’ll let you know how our May meeting goes.