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FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISH

Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

Venerable Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan spent thirteen years in communist prisons in his home country of Vietnam. A priest of extraordinary faith and courage, he still remained in contact with the faithful under his care by sending out secret messages of encouragement and advice on scraps of paper from his prison cell. In this book, drawn from his remarks to young people at the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris, Cardinal Van Thuan reflects on his life and his relationship with God and his Church.

The Cardinal's story of suffering for God and his Church, told his own words, is extraordinary enough. Bit it is the spiritual insights and reflections he shares in this book that make it a moving and essential read for any Catholic. Five Loaves and Two Fish is joyful and greatly encouraging, a powerful and contemporary testimony of faith. Like Saint Paul, also imprisoned for his faith, Cardinal Van Thuan reminds us that a life devoted to God is the only one worth living, no matter the circumstances. 

GOD WITH US

ENCOUNTERING JESUS

IN THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW

Edward Sri

 

During Sunday Mass we are reading the Gospel of Matthew. This book is an outstanding introduction to the first Gospel. Much has been said about why Jesus died. This book focuses on why Jesus lived. It shows that Jesus didn't just come to be our teacher, a miracle worker or a prophet, or even just Israel's saviour and redeemer. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.

Notable Scripture scholar, Edward Sri leads readers on a faithful exploration of Jesus' today. Helpful discussion questions are provided for personal and group study.

LAY SIEGE TO HEAVEN

Louis De Wohl

Louis de Whol devotes his considerable talents to an interpretation of one of the most unusual women of all time, Saint Catherine of Siena. The daughter of a prosperous dyer in fourteenth-century Siena, Catherine devoted herself to Christ.

Her career was extraordinary. In that confused and dangerous era of history, the Pope was living at Avignon: Catherine persuaded him to return to Rome. The City-States of Italy were at war with each other: Catherine subdued them. There was pestilence: Catherine served and saved. She performed miracles, she received the stigmata, she drew about her a crowd of devoted men and women.

A saint who would not leave the Lord God alone, she really did lay siege to heaven and changed the face of her world. This novel, which is also a vivid biography, brings Catherine of Siena to life in a remarkable way. She lives on in every page.

I'M NOT SCARED

Niccolo' Ammanniti

It is the heatwave summer of 1978, still remembered in Italy for its ferocity and duration. While the dozen adults in Aqua Traverse - a cluster of houses lost somewhere in the south of the peninsula - spend most of the day prostrate indoors, the children set off on their bikes to explore the countryside.  To spare the fat girl who tags along a humiliating forfeit, nine-year-old Michele volunteers to explore an abandoned farmhouse in a remote location at the very edge of the gang's territory. There he makes a mysterious and terrifying discovery that he instinctively decides to keep to himself. He later tries to tell his father, but he doesn't want to know. Indeed, the adults in this isolated community all seem to be unusually preoccupied and tense.  Then, without any explanation, a sinister and powerful stranger comes to stay. The long, stuffy nights are punctuated by loud quarrels among the grown-ups downstairs. Before long, the reader has unravelled the meaning of Michele's discovery, but he himself never does, although he must and does take full responsibility for it.

The success of the novel lies in a very well-crafted narration, with increasing dramatic tension, and a sensational setting in the warm Italian summer. But his fascination comes from two very suggestive aspects: the friendship between children and the desire to overcome evil with good. 

CHIARA CORBELLA PETRILLO:

A WITNESS TO JOY

S. Troisi - C. Paccini

Chiara Petrillo was seated in a wheel chair looking lovingly toward Jesus in the tabernacle. Her husband, Enrico, found the courage to ask her a question that he had been holding back. Thinking of Jesus’s phrase, “my yoke is sweet and my burden is light,” he asked: “Is this yoke, this cross, really sweet, as Jesus said?” A smile came across Chiara’s face. She turned to her husband and said: “Yes, Enrico, it is very sweet.”

At 28 years old, Chiara passed away, her body ravaged by cancer. The emotional, physical, and spiritual trials of this young Italian mother are not uncommon. It was her joyful and loving response to each that led one cardinal to call her “a saint for our times.”

Each saint has a special charisma, a particular facet of God that is reflected through her. Chiara’s was to be a witness to joy in the face of great adversity, the kind which makes love overflow despite the sorrow from loss and death.

THE PAINTED VEIL

W. Somerset Maugham

Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful, but desperate Kitty Fane.

When her husband discovers her private life, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

The Painted Veil is a beautiful affirmation of the human capacity to grow, change, and forgive.

And perhaps a nun serving orphans and the dying in the cholera epidemic gives the best moral of the story, by saying: “…the only thing that counts is love of duty; when love and duty are one, then grace is in you and you will enjoy a happiness which passes all understanding.”

A SONG FOR NAGASAKI

Paul Glynn

Takashi Nagai is born in southern Japan. The two major cities nearby are Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Raised in a household based on filial beliefs of Confucius, young Takashi is loath to challenge traditional Japanese society. But European science is sweeping across Japan and upon graduating high school, he enrolls in Nagasaki University. He studies intently and becomes a physician specializing in radiology.

As the Sino/Japanese War erupts, Nagai is called to the war front. There he is forced to confront the meaning of life and the political purposes of Japan’s military leaders. He has no religious faith and loses himself.  On leave from the war, Nagai meets a Christian woman in Nagasaki, named Midori Moriyama. Takashi is moved by her sincere faith and joyful life. After reading the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, he realizes that his atheism and belief in scientific progress cannot fill the huge hole he feels in his heart.

With the help of the beautiful Midori, Nagai converts to Catholicism. They are soon happily married. But Japan’s evil military leaders soon launch a second war with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Dr. Nagai warns the students at Nagasaki University of the terrible sufferings that will be inflicted upon Japan during WWII. They are shocked and stunned at his “disloyal” statements. Throughout the war, Nagai continues to improve X-ray techniques in Nagasaki and develops radiation treatments for those suffering from tuberculosis.

At the same time he continues to grow in grace and holiness. Then on Aug. 9, 1945, while at work in his hospital, the atomic bomb explodes, destroying most of Nagasaki and killing thousands. Over the next five years, until his death from radiation sickness, Takashi Nagai will become a symbol of light conquering darkness throughout Japan and the world.  What did Dr. Nagai do to accomplish this? How does his entire life become one with Jesus on Calvary? Why in the midst of all the evil that enveloped the world in 1945 does his life so brilliantly give an example of authentic love? What role does the Blessed Virgin have in his work? How does grace transform Takashi Nagai? To find out the answers to these questions we have to read this marvellous book that will edify and enlighten readers.

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