Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to Identify Good Solid Catholic Books

How do you know if a Catholic book, either fiction or nonfiction, is a good Catholic book? That it contains authentic Catholicity?

Just browsing the internet or bookstore, it's hard to decide until you delve into the book. For the reader or gift giver, it's difficult enough, but if you're a Catholic bookstore owner, your job revolves around choosing appropriate books to sell. You don't have time to read them all, though you have enormous responsibility.

I hope this post will help.

If a book holds the Imprimatur, of course it is obedient to Catholic teachings. The Fisheaters explain the Imprimatur as well as the Nihil Obstat.

The Imprimatur says that the bishops give the a-ok for the book to be printed and that the book is free of doctrinal error. However, many very good Catholic friendly books don't have this. Your bishop doesn't have time to read hundreds of books to sort out the good ones, so please don't mail him your billion word novel about the wizard boy living under the castle stairs who discovers he's a Catholic when a friendly giant bursts down the door with a Vatican shaped birthday cake. "You're a Christian, Harry!"

Check out Jimmy Akin's podcast, (I believe it was the second question, about 1/2 way through the podcast) in which he discusses Canon Law about when to seek the Imprimatur. He's addressing a question about blogs, but he discusses printed material.

The Catholic Writers' Guild has a Seal of Approval they will give books in line with Catholic teachings. If you're a Catholic writer, go check out the Guild website to learn how to apply for the Seal and about how to join the Guild. They're a wonderful organization.

Other good ways to find good Catholic books is to shop publishers and reliable Catholic web sites. Sophia Institute Press, Catholic Answers, Ascension Press, and Our Sunday Visitor are all examples of reliable resources. However, you don't have to ignore smaller presses, secular publishers, or the self published. That's why the CWG Seal of Approval is so helpful.

The discussion boards at are another super resource. If you're not sure, you can do a search for a book or author and there just may be a thread that will tell you what you want to know. Or start a thread of your own and ask if others have read what you're interested in.

What? Don't tell me you haven't signed up for the Catholic Answers discussion forum! Well, go do that now. It's free and you get to make up a cool name for yourself. Which you never get to change. No matter how stupid you later realize it to be. Yeah. Hmm...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Must See Movie This Weekend

Do you want to see a movie this weekend? A movie about a girl on a journey to find out who she is? A girl who learns she was adopted after a failed abortion?

Go see October Baby. It's coming to theaters this Friday and it sounds powerfully emotional and beautiful. I just watched the trailer and I'm excited about this movie.

Here's the synopsis from the website.

"You saw me before I was born." Psalm 139:16 (NLT)

As the curtain rises, Hannah hesitantly steps onto the stage for her theatrical debut in college. Yet before she can utter her first lines, Hannah—unscripted—collapses in front of the stunned audience.
After countless medical tests, all signs point to one underlying factor: Hannah's difficult birth. This revelation is nothing compared to what she then learns from her parents: she was actually adopted … after a failed abortion attempt.

Bewildered, angered, and confused, Hannah turns for support to Jason, her oldest friend. Encouraged by his adventurous spirit, Hannah joins his group of friends on a Spring Break road trip, embarking on a journey to discover her hidden past … and find hope for her unknown future.
In the midst of her incredible journey, Hannah finds that life can be so much more than what you have planned.

It's a good idea to see it on opening weekend because Hollywood pays attention to how many people see it on opening weekend.

10% of all gross ticket proceeds will go toward the Every Life Is Beautiful Fund, which will help support organizations helping women with crisis pregnancies, life-affirming adoption agencies, and those caring for orphans.

A tab at the website helps you locate a theater in your area where they're showing October Baby.

It's rated PG13, so it may not be for all of your kids, but consider showing it to your teens and tweens. Good life lessons in there. You don't often see pro-life movies. The Dove reviewed it and said it was okay for ages 12 and up. Go on their site and read their thoughts on that. Then, as always, use your own judgement. You know your kids and what they can handle.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Easter Gifts with Meaning

You too can do your Easter shopping from the comfort of your own cozy bed. Oh wait, my title sounded better than my first line-- like maybe I had a lofty plan. Then I blew it by sounded like I was lazy. Oh well, we're all a little of both.

My twins (nearly 11) wear the cool Catholic t-shirts we bought them from RomanticCatholic all the time, so back there I went, and sure enough, I had trouble settling on just two.

A note on size- the shirts pictured below are size small and I've never dried them. My girls usually wear about a girl's size 10 and they're a tiny bit big on them, but not much.
Fiona in her Romantic Catholic shirt
Daphne in her Romantic Catholic shirt

Then, off to find some books!

Last year, we got the Ignatius Bible for the whole family. This is the Revised Standard Version and is available through This year I thought the girls might enjoy The Action Bible, because they're interested in graphic novels. (Fine! I'll admit it. So am I.) I know it's not the go-to Bible for scripture for serious study, but it has its place, and I've heard good things about it. I'll review after we receive it, so watch this space.

The Vision book series (for ages 9-15) about saints are well written and there are many to choose from.  Whether your child wants to learn about Kateri Tekakwitha, the Indian woman who devoted her life to God, or about the priest who out-talked the devil in The Cure' of Ars, there's bound to be a book to spark their interest!

And I suppose we'll have candy too. What's Easter without marshmallow peeps?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stations of the Cross, With Heavy Metal Passion

A while ago, an anonymous commenter on my post, "ChristianRock, Catholic Punk, and Other Awesomeness" suggested I check out some of the bands at So, I did and discovered a project for the Stations of the Cross. What a Lenten Find!

The album is called Via Crucis. It contains 14 tracks by 8 Catholic metal bands. They go through each of the Stations of the Cross.

And please visit to learn more. There, you can hear the song for the Fourth Station of the Cross: Jesus Meets His Mother.  It's gritty. It's moving. Your heart will join Mary's, when it's pierced with sorrow.

Using heavy metal music for meditating on the Stations isn't for everyone, but I urge surprised Catholics not to turn away too quickly. Have you ever, in the depths of prayer, shed tears? Wanted to scream? Had an urge to throw your arms around our crucified Lord? I mean, I'm pretty sure It's not just me because folks have kept up our religion (not to mention died for it) for quite a while before I came along.

Metal is a deeply emotional and raw music and lends itself to expressing the feelings we experience while walking with Jesus through the Stations of the Cross.
Via Crucis cover art

WELL, for those who want something more tradional... EWTN has a Stations of the Cross meditation online. Also, check your local parish. Like mine, they may lead a weekly Stations of the Cross during Lent. Or, just lead yourself. If you buy a booklet at a Catholic bookstore or print off a Stations meditation from the internet, bring it to a local parish and follow the stations one by one saying the prayers, meditating on each one during non-Mass time. Nobody will thing you're weird. It's a popular devotion. Or sit in a park, your sofa, your backyard swing...  You get the picture.

Have a blessed Lent. Not much longer to go!

*All image sources embedded in image captions

Lent Poetry

I wrote a poem for Nissa's Christian Lent poetry contest. Go here for more on that good thing!
We're also supposed to write about God in our lives. Well, I'm a Catholic, though I spent a good many years of my life trying to ignore God. But now that I'm back practicing the faith, I feel happier and way more blessed than "doing my own thing," and you know what? I actually feel more myself. Ironic, isn't it? I think it's because He loves me more than anybody else in the universe, so I feel free to be me.

Anyway, here's my Lent poem. Below that, is the poem my daughter, Daphne, wrote.
Veronica Wiping the Face of Jesus

A Lent Sonnet
Amanda Borenstadt

I hold my torn heart, its blood spilt o'er night,
Wretched; blurred vision, slipping sorrow;
A pace away, his eyes meet mine, a knight;
But will he still be there in the morrow?

My heart says, "Yes," though she understands naught,
That perfect, gentle knight lingers back, and
He shows me scenes; are they battles he's fought?
His lash-ripped flesh, wounds through each foot and hand;

By his bloody brow, his poor pierced side,
My own limp, ragged heart seems such small pains;
Wrapping his cloak 'round himself, he smiles wide;
My soul's afire, heart stirs, my sorrow wanes;

Like Veronica, knight's lady, I wipe his brow;
In return, he holds my mended heart now.
Sir Gawain's story is one of my favorites!

Lent Poem
By Daphne (age 10)

Lent, Lent, o glorious Lent,
So purple, so violet, so much love of God on high;
It's the best,
Lent o Lent.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Children's Catholic Mystery Series

Book Review Time!

My ten-year-old daughters and I read two mysteries with a Catholic bent. These are the "Adventures with Sister Philomena" books by Dianne Ahern. The first one is called Lost in Peter's Tomb and the second is Break-in at The Basilica.

The stories are set in Rome. Two kids, a brother and sister, are staying with their aunt, who  happens to be a nun and a secret agent to the Pope. They help her solve crimes. It's a very cool premise and these are fun books.

The setting is Italy, of course! The reader learns about saints, architecture, and various things Catholic, and it's all used as a vivid backdrop for the exciting, fast-paced stories.

We look forward to reading the third book in the series, Curse of the Coins.

You can get the books at Amazon , Catholic Child , and maybe even your local Catholic book store! :) Order soon. Easter is coming! :)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Meat Free Days At Lent and Beyond

I think it was simpler when I was vegetarian.

Anywhoo. My father-in-law told me a Catholic must abstain from meat every day of Lent. A friend said on every Friday of the year we were to abstain from meat. So, I went to my friendly neighborhood (well, web-wise) site,, to find answers.

At Lent, we abstain from meat on Fridays. It used to be on Wednesdays too, but not anymore. Of course we're free to give it up more often. Read the Q and A about that here.

At times other than Lent, we're still supposed to treat Fridays as special. It's the "chief day of penance." The law of abstinance from meat is binding unless the local bishops say otherwise. In the United States, the bishops have permission from the Vatican to allow a substitution for the no meat thing. So, we may choose the form of penance we wish to do. I think this makes sense. For a lot of people not eating meat isn't a big sacrifice. Skipping a cup of coffee or giving up your daily Facebook is a better choice. Remember, this is for NON-Lent Fridays and the the U.S.A. (I haven't read the guidelines for other countries.) You still must give up meat on Lenten Fridays.   Please read Jimmy Akin's answer for the complete answer to this.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Heroes For Life in Films: Featuring Characters from I Robot and House

*For information about healing after abortion and why surgery for a tubal pregnancy is not considered an abortion (as long as there's no direct attack on the fetus), see the bottom of this post.

An Excuse to Talk About a Will Smith Movie-- Does he play one of the best reluctant heroes you ever saw?  Maybe it's just me. :)

In the film I, Robot, Will Smith's character, Detective Spooner's, mistrust of robots stems from an incident a few years back. He was in a car wreck. A trucker smashed Spooner's car into another car, running them off the road into a river. Everybody's doomed until a robot jumps in. It has just enough time to save one person. A little girl's trapped in one of the cars. We see her through the window. Spooner looks out through the window of the opposite car, yelling, "Save the girl!"

Who will the robot rescue?

In this heart-twisting flashback scene, we watch as the robot saves a protesting Detective Spooner.

As a robot, it has made the logical choice. It calculated that he, Spooner, had a 45% chance of survival, while the girl only had an 11% chance. Spooner explains through clenched jaw, "That was somebody's baby. 11% is more than enough. A human being would've known that." {I still get choked up, thinking about that line.}

This is the hero spirit, the knightly heart, the stuff legends are made of. ...Wait, wrong movie. (Coincidentally, it begins with "I" too.)

A while back, I wrote a blog post about sacrificing mothers. Similar theme, right? Knight in shining... er... black leather. Heroic Mom.  (BTW, I wish I could add another mother to that post, but we'll get to that in a moment.) We admire this self-sacrificing hero spirit in film, literature, and life. So, why the fight for the right to destroy babies in the womb on demand?

Some say it's because the pro-choicers don't realize a fetus is a human baby. That may be true for some, but not for my pro-choice friends. They all admit the unborn are human babies. One friend has even declared that human life begins at conception.
Disturbingly, all of my pro-choice friends are mommies and daddies. Our kids play together. They love their kids, breastfed their babies (well, the mom's did), snuggled them in slings, wouldn't dream of letting the little darling "cry it out" in a crib. Yet, they claim that sometimes it's the right thing for a mom to put her unborn to death. (I assume they aren't yet advocating for Dutch-style newborn euthanasia or what the Australian ethicists call "after-birth abortion".)

I can't understand why they have their belief, but I've tried digging into their brains to at least get parameters such what the cut off gestational age should be for abortion. Nobody gave me that, though one person advocated for anesthesia for the unborn being aborted. How kind. (I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.)
I'm not what you'd call a brave person. When the robots or zombies attack, I'll be whimpering under the bed, peeing my pants. But I'm glad that I can honestly look my children in the eye and tell them I would never put them in harm's way. I would protect them and their siblings (current and any future who may come to live in my womb) with my life. They know it. Even my youngest know what abortion is and my opinion of it.

The thing is, all kids are important enough to live, not just mine. Poor kids who love to ride bikes, rich kids with freckles, kids of teen moms who read comic books, kids of 42 year old moms who have contagious laughs, kids who have six older siblings and are the joy of the family, kids who are their mom's first kid and have big smiles and dark brown eyes, kids of mixed race who love to run, kids with one leg who like mint chocolate chip ice cream, and kids with low IQ's who love trains.  But you won't know these kids unless you let them live.

A Fictional Hero Mom
Cuddy and Emma

Now, I take you to an episode I saw recently of House. It's not a recent episode; I'm just a rerun junkie. Season 3, episode 17, "Fetal Position."

A highly successful photographer is pregnant, but the baby has multiple, obscure, hard to diagnose problems, because this is House, after all. Her liver is shutting down and she has about two days to live because of whatever is happening with her unborn baby. Doctor House wants her to terminate her pregnancy via D and C, aka kill her 21 week old fetus (as he keeps insisting on calling it). She absolutely refuses to consent to the abortion. So, Cuddy does her best to "pull a House like move" and come up with innovative solutions to save the baby, as she keeps calling him.

I love these lines:

House: You let this woman refuse to terminate, you’re helping her commit suicide. As her doctor, my recommendation is against suicide.
Cuddy: If the baby had a doctor, I think she would recommend exhausting all possibilities before taking its life.

In a moving scene the photographer's unborn baby hold's House's finger as he performs surgery on him in the womb. This echoes a famous photo.
House and Fetus hand

21 week fetus in surgery for spina bifida grips Dr. Bruner's hand
#Sources for fetal and "House" pics embedded in photo captions.

* Rachel's Vineyard offers healing after abortion for both men and women. God loves you no matter what!

*A Tubal pregnancy (or ectopic pregnancy )is one in which the baby stays in the fallopian tubes. The placenta cannot get nourishment for the baby, but the tube will usually eventually rupture and could kill the mother.
Removing the fallopian tubes in an ectopic pregnancy is morally acceptable because the procedure is not directly attacking the baby. The doctor is removing the infected tissue which, sadly, contains the baby. Please see this article at Catholic United for The Faith or this one from EWTN written by Edwin F. Healy for more information on the ethics of treating ectopic and other non-viable pregnancies. I wrote more about this in a previous blog post.