Monthly Archives: October 2010

New Edition of a Classic Biography

The Road to Siena:  The Essential Biography of St. Catherine by Edmund G. Gardner was recently reviewed by Brian Welter in The B. C. Catholic, and because I’ve always had an interest in Catherine of Siena but have not found a good readable biography, I checked out the book on Amazon.  To my surprise, I found that ” this book was first published a century ago and was praised by Evelyn Underhill as the best modern biography of a saint ever written.  Long out of print, this new edition has been slightly abridged and generously supplemented with the reflections of other biographers, historians, and artists–who shed fresh light on what we know about an amazing woman.”

Sounds interesting, eh?  Catherine lived in the 14th century, a disastrous time for the Church, as the papacy had transferred to Avignon and many of the clergy as well as the papal court lived in corruption and scandal.  She was a mystic but also worked with great energy for the reform of the Church, and was eventually declared a Doctor of the Church.

I’ve added this book to our Suggested Books page, thinking that when we’re ready to read another biography, this one might be a fascinating study.


A Novel About Saint Luke

On this feastday of St. Luke the Evangelist, I received a link to this Foreword to Taylor Caldwell’s novel, Dear and Glorious Physician: A Novel About St. LukeSince this book is on our Suggested Books list and is one that Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed, I thought I would pass it on to you, with a small commentary on our reaction to reading it.

Taylor Caldwell’s Foreword Here

When we read this book, we felt immersed in the sights, smells, and sounds of the time.  The author does a wonderful job of recreating the societies and families in which her scenes are set, and you really do feel as though you are viewing that history.  The book has been around for a long time and I had heard of the title but never read it, until it was mentioned to me by a friend who had recently converted to Catholicism.  She is an athletic type, not usually a reader, but when she described to me how she had been swept away by this novel and how very much she had enjoyed it, I decided I had better have a look at it.  And that was all it took–I too was immediately immersed in the story.

May our celebration of the feast of St. Luke bring blessings to us all!

October Meeting

The discussion of this month’s book, John Henry Newman: His Inner Life, was lively and the atmosphere sparked with strong views of this character, Blessed Newman.  All agreed, however, that his overriding goal in life was to do the will of God, come what may, which led him down unexpected paths.    His remarkable giftedness and keen sensitivity has often led Blessed Newman to be misunderstood, both during his life, by friend and foe, and down to our own time.  Since this month’s gathering covered only the first seven chapters of the book, we can hardly wait for the discussion of the second half of the book at the November 8th gathering of the “Getaways”.

  At the meetflannery-oconnor-self-portraiting, members, again after lively banter, tea, and chocolates, lighted upon the Flannery O’Connor novel, Wise Blood, for the December 13th gathering.   Since most of the books we have read have been non-fiction, it was time to tackle a novel.  Flannery O’Connor was born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia.  She was  a devout Catholic her whole life and died at the age of 39 of lupus.  As a Christian writer, her work is message-oriented, yet she is far too brilliant a stylist to tip her hand; like all good writers, crass didacticism is abhorrent to her. Nevertheless, she achieves what few Christian writers have ever achieved: a type of writing that stands up on both literary and the religious grounds, and succeeds in doing justice to both.  The novel Wise Blood can be read as a dark comedy, a philosophical novel,  and an unsual case study of heresy and redemption.  Although none of our members had read this novel, the synopsis and reviews of it promise to make it intriguing fodder for our December 13th getaway get-together.  Here are a couple  random reviews of the book:

“I was more impressed by Wise Blood than any novel I have read for a long time. Her picture of the world is literally terrifying. Kafka is almost the only one of our contemporaries who has achieved such effects. I have tremendous admiration for the work of this young writer.”—Caroline Gordon

“No other major American writer of our century has constructed a fictional world so energetically and forthrightly charged by religious investigation.”–Brad Leithauser, The New Yorker

wise blood

Check Out the New Suggested Books Page

The  “Suggested Books” page has now been updated and has links for each book to  My purpose in doing this was to make it easy for members to read summaries to help in deciding what our next book should be, and, of course, there are usually reader reviews as well, which could assist your decisions.  You will notice that I have also indicated which books are likely to be found in libraries.   It would be good if you could look the page over before our next meeting.

Just a reminder–our next meeting has been changed to Tuesday, October 12, because of the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday.  The time stays at 7:30.