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Friday, February 24, 2017

Sister of Wisdom - Barbara Newman

Hildegard of Bingen's works have been translated into many languages and interpreted in many different ways. In this book, Newman focuses on the feminine both divine and human to bring about a better understanding of this particular aspect in Hildegard's theology.

In order to provide better understanding and context, Newman begins chapter one, A Poor Little Female, with a brief biography of Hildegard, a survey of her works, and an explanation of the difficulty of delivering her message in the cultural climate.

Each of the following chapters focus on a particular topic. The Feminine Divine explores her ideas of theophany, counsel, creation, wisdom, and charity. The Woman and the Serpent explores womans' reflection of God, her creation by Adam's rib, and her
responsibility in the fall of mankind. Daughters of Eve talks about sex, fertility, and healing. The Mother of God discusses Mary, the atonement, and the ideal role of women. The Bride of Christ is about the Church's place in the kingdom of heaven. The final chapter, Sister of Wisdom serves as a recap of the content within the book and also contains final conclusions on Hildegard's feminine theology.

Although Newman does a splendid job quoting Hildegard's work, a familiarity with the full context of the works these quotes came from would aid the reader. There is a similar issue with the cultural climate. A base knowledge of medicine, Vatican law, and political occurrences of her time will help put Hildegard's ideas into context. The content is detailed and well-explained. For those interested in this specific part of Hildegard's theology I would definitely recommend this text.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Postmortal - Drew Magary

John Farrell is an early adopter of "the cure", a new procedure that prevents a person from dying of old age. For many years it is only offered on the black market, due to the political and moral debate. Eventually it is offered to the general public through doctors and then finally even in home kits.

Living forever has unforeseen consequences, though. Individuals who thought it would be fun to explore the world and try new things, soon find that it's too easy to achieve their dreams. Faced with the prospective of spending life together, not just for a lifetime, but forever, leads couples and families to seek new contracts for marriage.

Beyond the personal consequences there are larger societal and environmental consequences. New fanatical cults arise, as both religions and gangs. Overpopulation leads to food and water shortages. And new government euthanasia programs become an essential part of life.

The novel is written in a scrapbook format where John Farrell's personal journal entries, filled with complex experiences, emotions, and relationships, are interspersed are news reports and articles of current events giving his personal experiences more context with the world he is living in. At times it was difficult to get through this due to the realistic events. I look forward to reading future works by this author.

More by the Author:
The Hike

Friday, February 10, 2017

Take Heart, My Child - Ainsley Earhardt

Before you were born
Before you came to be
I dreamed a love song...

Jaime Kim's vibrant and dreamy illustrations awaken Ainsley Earhardt's heartfelt wishes for her daughter's life in this picture book. Her wishes are the same as many other parents: love, growth, confidence, companionship, and more.

The rhymes are beautiful and sentimental, but there are times when the rhymes are a bit nonsensical, with the inclusion of a "polka dot tree" and a "grand deer ballet". Despite these awkward moments, the illustrations bring the poem to life.

Both mothers and daughter will enjoy the gorgeous illustrations. The sentiments in the poem are nothing unusual, but the meter is pleasant to read. While I'm not sure children in the 4-8 age range, as the book is written for, will understand the full meaning of the sentiments in the book, they will learn to absorb the lessons as they get older.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Between Heaven and Mirth - James Martin

For many people religious practice is strict and serious. It is filled with quiet periods of meditation and prayer, study of scripture, and the hymns or songs sung in services.

James Martin, a Jesuit priest, is one of many who finds that both joy and humor are important aspects of both his daily life and his spiritual practice. Martin shows that these two aspects can be found even within the pages of the Bible, both in the Old Testament established by the Judaism and the New Testament that Christians added.

There is also a long-standing tradition of wit that can be found throughout the ages in Christianity. Quotes and stories found in the pieces of The Desert Fathers, the tales told and attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, and in modern times where religious leaders tell anecdotes from their own lives. Martin even tells a few of his own.

I enjoyed giggling with familiar stories and laughing aloud at the experiences Martin shared in this piece. Those looking to add a little levity to their own practice will find this book a useful tool to finding their own balance in life.

More by the author:
My Life with the Saints
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
The Abbey

Recommended Reads:
The Desert Fathers
Little Flowers of Saint Francis