Category Archives: Catholic Book Club


It seems that I’m putting off doing these write-ups until just before the next meeting.  I’m going to have to shape up!

A very lively and satisfying get-together centred around our April book, The Land of Spices by Kate O’Brien. Our discussion leader was Randy, and he presented a number of questions for us to consider, in the areas of heartbreak, convent life, moulding of character, and resemblance to the life of the author. The book is beautifully written, and Randy also asked us if we considered O’Brien to be a top-ranking author, which made for some interesting discussion.  The consensus seemed to be that she is, in our opinion, high-ranking, but not at the very top of her field.

We also talked about the spiritual, cultural, and literary aspects of the book, and really gave it a thorough going-over.  Members also chimed in with their personal connections, mostly from school and from our experience of working or volunteering side by side with sisters from various religious orders.

We will be moving on to our May meeting on the 8th, when the book under examination will be Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden. Dolores has volunteered to lead our discussion.





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.


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!



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!