One Catholic Life Blog

Ending the Cycle of Hatred and Violence – Homily for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

A few weeks ago we read how Jesus went up the mountain to teach his disciples. Just as Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Law, Jesus, the new Moses, speaks his Sermon on the Mount to deepen our understanding of the Law. This week he is still on the mountain and his words are clear: “Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” The message is simple, the challenge is difficult: Jesus is telling us to...

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

“Don’t go,” said Cedric. “Murder has made you practically one of the family.” I haven’t picked up an Agatha Christie book quite a while, but reading 4:50 from Paddington was like easing into a comfortable pair of slippers. It has all the elements I like in a mystery: a startling murder, multiple suspects with interesting back stories, a plot twist or two, and a creepy old English manor thrown in as a bonus. If you’ve enjoyed Agatha Christie before, you’ll like what  you find here. If you’ve never read anything by...

Welsh Valley

Classics Club Book #7: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come. How Green Was My Valley is a gem of a novel. It took me a while to warm up to it, since it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but instead is a coming-of-age story that unfolds the way life does. It’s the story of a coal mining community in South Wales as told through the...

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe

What a thing is the heart of man! Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther In The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe opens a window into the soul of his young protagonist, allowing the reader to witness first hand his tragic destiny. Young Werther suffers from a hopeless love for the enchanting Charlotte who is engaged to an older man. In a series of letters to his friend Wilhelm, Werther reveals the depths of his anguish. The Sorrows of Young Werther is a beautifully told tale of the interior of...

Unexpected Party

Cooperating with Grace: The Luck of Bilbo Baggins

“Just let any one say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house, and you can stop at thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging coal.” When Gandalf tells the dwarves in The Hobbit that he has chosen Bilbo Baggins as their lucky number, Tolkien has introduced his readers to one of the most important themes of all of his works. This theme that begins with the story of Bilbo Baggins comes to full fruition in The Lord of the...

Rivendell, detail by J.R.R. Tolkien

At the Last Homely House The Hobbit Becomes a Classic

I’ve just finished chapter four of The Hobbit, “Over Hill and Under Hill,” for Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong, and for me this is where the story really begins to pick up (Minor spoilers of the first four chapters ahead). I especially love the book’s opening opening chapter, in which the story feels like a tale told by a grandfather to his grandchildren, with its authorial intrusions: …what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits needs some description nowadays… Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what...

The Hobbit - Ballantine Silver Jubilee Edition

There and Back Again – Rereading The Hobbit

Today is the first day of Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong, and I’m happy to be rereading The Hobbit during the month of February. As I’ve written elsewhere, The Hobbit has been a part of my life since my early teens, and I’ve always enjoyed revisiting The Shire and accompanying Bilbo on his adventures. A wonderful gift of Providence has me rereading The Hobbit at the age of 50, precisely the age of Bilbo Baggins when his adventures begin. Bringing a Walking Stick Like many, I used to think of The...

The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu has all the weaknesses of the typical pulp stories of its era. It perpetuates racial and gender stereotypes, it relies too much on melodrama, and it overuses hyperbole. And yet, with all that, it still manages to entertain. The two protagonists, Petrie and Nayland Smith, are out to save the world from the evil genius Dr....

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls. I agree with Julie Davis: the less said about The Yellow Wallpaper the better, so that you can read it fresh, without any baggage or imposed interpretations. This horror classic gave me chills. It reminded me a little bit of The House on the Borderland, and it fits right in with the Alfred Hitchcock stories I’ve been reading for my...

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Deal Me In Challenge: Stories #3, #4 and #5

The Deal Me In Challenge continues with three more macabre stories, each from a different one of Alfred Hitchcock’s anthologies. Over the past three weeks I drew the K♦, 7♦ and 2♥, which were assigned to the following stories: K♦ – “Prolonged Visit” by Hal Dresner from Alfred Hitchcock’s Hard Day at the Scaffold (read January 15, 2017): This was a pretty mediocre story about a mother-in-law who comes to visit and overstays her welcome. Besides perpetuating the stereotype of the intrusive mother-in-law, the story did not interest me at all. 7♦...

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart

“You Peking weaklings call these things flies?” he yelled. “Back in Soochow we have flies so big that we clip their wings, hitch them to plows, and use them for oxen!” It would be hard to find a more original fantasy series than The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart. Set in “an ancient China that never was,” the series is a delicious concoction of Chinese mythology, detective fiction, epic fantasy quests, and ghost stories, sprinkled with generous helpings of ribald humor and...

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Roads Go Ever On: A Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Readalong

This year as I enter the world of reading challenges, I’ve also jumped into my first readalong: Brona’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Readalong 2017. It didn’t take much deliberation to decide to join. Since first reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in 1979, I’ve probably reread them a good ten times or more. I think it’s pretty safe to say that The Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien have had a profound influence on my life. In fact, my very first blog post ever, way back in...

Illustrated Man and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

I have admired Ray Bradbury’s writing for several decades now, so it was natural that I would love Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. Bradbury always writes from the heart, and this collection of writing advice is no exception. Here’s what I’m talking about: You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most...

Mark Link, SJ

One Heck of a Story – Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

There were many newsworthy events this past week and there are many more going on this weekend; but there’s one event that happened this past Wednesday that you probably didn’t hear about: one of the world’s best-selling authors passed away at the age of 92. They say that if a book sells more than 20,000 copies in a year, then it’s in the top one percent of all book sales. This author sold over 10 million copies of his books. And yet, despite being so successful, you probably...

Pope Francis Pursued: Pilgrimage by Mark Shriver

The subtitle of Mark Shriver’s book Pilgrimage is My Search for the Real Pope Francis. The implication is that there is some confusion, disagreement, or misunderstanding about who Pope Francis is. It’s almost as if Pope Francis is too good to be true. Or perhaps there’s a suspicion that the public persona of Pope Francis is a mask that conceals his real agenda. As Shriver himself writes in the prologue, I kept warning myself not to believe unconditionally in a guy who, I kept reminding myself, headed a...