Open Book: History Lessons

A year ago, I wrote that I was working my way through Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ (published 1958). The book still accompanies me to weekly Adoration, and when at home this Lent I keep it nearby. It takes only a few paragraphs to foster prayer and meditation.

While browsing through the Kindle store, I came across an interesting-looking book about Dorothy Day. I downloaded a sample that captivated me. Never mind the e-book; I had to have the hard copy! I’m now well into Dorothy Day: the World Will Be Saved By Beauty by Day’s granddaughter, Kate Hennessy. It’s a loving and lyrically-written portrait of Day by someone who loved her dearly, yet saw her clearly.

This seems to be my month for history books. I came across Crown and Sceptre by Tracy Borman thanks to my library’s online service. More a reference work than a compelling page-turner, it’s a survey of Britain’s monarchs from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II. Over the years I’ve had reason to study some of the Plantagenets and Tudors and Windsors, and the rest of the ruling houses are a mystery to me (aside from some dramatic figures like Victoria and George III). Time to fill in the blanks.

My favorite recent discovery from a used-book store is The Refugee: a North-side View of Slavery by Benjamin Drew. It’s a 1969 reprint of an 1855 book. Drew went to Canada to interview formerly enslaved people who had escaped the American South. He transcribed the brief oral histories and collected them for his fascinating and unsettling book.

What’s on your shelf this month? Let me know in the comments.

Open Book is a monthly blog roundup hosted at My Scribbler’s Heart and Catholic Mom.

“Chattin’ With Jeanine” about Pro-Life Journeys

Many thanks to Jeanine Notter for welcoming me to her show!

New Hampshire state representative Jeanine Notter is from my town, and she hosts her own program on the community channel. I had fun visiting her recently for an interview that started with my Pro-Life Journeys book and went on from there. Here it is, courtesy of YouTube.

A fine bumpy start to Lent

I didn’t spend Ash Wednesday waiting in line to get a cross on my forehead. I had a different memento mori: a day on the highways of the northeast corridor, racing home from Florida to beat a winter storm.

The New Jersey Turnpike is an aptly penitential place. Buckled into our car’s passenger seat as my intrepid husband drove, I looked up the day’s readings via the Laudate app on my phone. It was hard to concentrate when the guy in the next lane kept drifting over the line. All ended well: safe travel, only one real delay (the Jersey pike, of course), and we got home six hours before the snow started.

The day had reminded me of many Lents when my children were little. Back then, I always started my day with a list of to-dos (none dare call it a “schedule”), and by 10 a.m. the list had usually been amended beyond recognition. Kids got sick or I got sick or the fridge died or an appointment fell through or the car needed attention or the grocery store was out of whatever. Shift, adapt, cope, move on.

I observed and celebrated the liturgical seasons accordingly, with no time for anything fancy. We all muddled through together, sometimes with ashes on Ash Wednesday and sometimes without.

The rhythms of my life have changed since then. I can actually prepare thoughtfully, more or less, for the liturgical seasons and solemnities and feasts. I take time to pray for the young families in my parish, in an attempt to pay forward the gracious prayerful support we got from older parishioners back in the days when our kids were squirming in the pews. I can work on the long process of cultivating a calm and even temperament.

Then a winter storm, the interstate highway system, and some interesting drivers combine to kick “calm” in the teeth.

Shift, adapt, cope, move on. And laugh, too: our race home happened to be on Ash Wednesday, of all days, and all we could do was offer it up to God in reparation and thanksgiving.

Now I turn to more conventional Lenten disciplines: more frequent Mass and Adoration; focused reading (Fulton Sheen and Dorothy Day: how’s that for a combination?); 40 Days for Life, with a weekly vigil at an appallingly early hour for this night owl. Perhaps I aim low; the most arduous thing about the plan is getting up early. But it is a plan.

As Ash Wednesday reminded me, my plans can go awry. I’ll adapt. The season is what remains steady.

header photo: Steven Liao/Pixabay