Assessing and Looking Foward

Last year, I resolved to read more and included a photo of the books I intended to read in 2019.

Someone commented on that post that he need not finish every book he starts. He resolved “to free [him]self from boring books by freely abandoning them.” 

Without realizing it, he gave me permission to do the same. And I did, more than once. Yet here I invoke a paraphrase of Reagan’s eleventh commandment that no writer say anything bad about another. And my cup of tea may just not suit you.

As is always the case, the list of books I finished is quite different from those I wrote about a year ago. Other books just shouted to go to the head of the line. And I brought them forward.

So this year, my list still contains a few books from last year. I still resolve to read more by managing television and internet time better than I did in 2018 and then in 2019.

Two books that jumped to the front of the line immediately upon my acquiring them were both by Abby Johnson. Unplanned (the basis for the film of last year) and The Walls are Talking are Johnson’s accounts of having worked in the abortion industry and now working to help others escape employment therein.

I read them out of order, reading The Walls first and following up with Unplanned. In her Preface to The Walls, she states, “This will not be an enjoyable read. It is a necessary one[.]”

She is correct on both counts.

Also jumping to the front of the line last year was My Father Left Me Ireland by Michael Brendan Dougherty. My son gave me this book for Mothers’ Day ahead of my journey with my husband to the land of my heritage. The book provided a solid context about Ireland’s history of the Easter Rising and the Troubles. As an American who grew up in a single-parent family, Dougherty also provides a clear diagnosis of the crisis America faces today.

I read one and a half other books on Ireland–but neither matches Dougherty poetic and profound account.

Among the books on last year’s list that I finished is Everything Happens for a Reason–Kate Bowler’s stellar, sometimes humorous, discussion of what it’s like to live with a terminal diagnosis–emphasis on live.

I also consumed A Pope and A President by Paul Kengor. This book allowed me to relive some of the history I’d seen on the evening news over the decades and to get a behind the scenes, in-depth understanding of God’s working in that historic news. There’s always so much more to the story–and Kengor provides it.

I’m still working through Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak–an amazing piece of literature. I get the sense Zusak may have been trying to stay off the Young Adult shelf in America where The Book Thief had landed from his native Australia. However, some of the language he uses in the book’s dialogue does seem to accurately reflect the way teen boys would talk without an authority figure directing them otherwise.

An off-list book I continue to work through is Raising Jesus: The Skeptic’s Guide to Faith in the Resurrection. E.J. Sweeney’s book offers an amazing discussion of the reasons we can trust the veracity of Christ rising from the dead–from a viewpoint skeptical of the miraculous. I frequently underline and make notations as I read.

Even if you’re not a skeptic, this book is still a great apologetic tool for any discussion you may have with someone resistant to faith. I don’t agree with all Sweeney writes (I’m not that skeptical), yet his scholarship is dead on, and his arguments sound.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life is one I had planned to read in 2019 but didn’t get to. It’s on my list for 2020. I was gratified to see a student reading it on campus last semester. He assured me that it’s a worthy read.

I plan to pick up Man and Woman, He Created Them: A Theology of the Body by Saint-Pope John Paul II again this year. You can read this book as you would a devotional. It seems meant to be digested slowly.

Sonia Pernell’s A Woman of No Importance is on my list for the new year upon the recommendation of a trusted friend.

Also in my pile of books are Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. You might think that watching a couple of episodes of the Tale on Hulu would discourage such a goal in me, but articles like this one and this one push me the other way.

On my list–but not yet in my pile–is Robert Sarah’s The Day Is Now Far Spent. I thoroughly enjoyed his The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, another book you can read as a devotional.

On my list but not pictured is Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen, a book about what we should do when we find the civilization around us crumbling. Sounds timely.

And I couldn’t resist John Zmirak’s title The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins. I’ve thumbed through the book and read most of the introduction. Zmirak seems orthodox in his faith and hilarious in his outlook.

Blessings to you this New Year. What do you plan to read?

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Snakes Return to Ireland

“[G]hosts of dead men . . . have bequeathed a trust to us living men.” Patrick Pearse,

Patrick Pearse was an Irish Republican (one who sought independence from the British) during the Easter Rising–the failed insurrection in 1916 that preceded eventual independence for Ireland.

His full name–Patrick Henry Pearse–might lead us to assume that he is the namesake solely of the great American orator who called the Virginia Assembly to liberty or death. America’s Henry survived our rebellion. Pearse did not survive the Rising. He gave his all to it.

But there is an older Patrick of Ireland whom Pearse’s parents may also have had in mind as they named their new babe.

It was Saint Patrick who chased the snakes out of Ireland, the Irish say. But the Irish admit that serpents didn’t inhabit the Emerald Isle in Patrick’s day. The snakes in Patrick’s metaphor refer to pagan practices of ancient, pre-Christian days.

Among those pagan practices was human sacrifice.

Today, Ireland is a beautiful paradise for tourists. Small farms and large ones dot the countryside between a few big cities–growing cities as the young begin to abandon the rural for the urban and urbane–as the country reaches perceived heights of sophistication.

Ireland has come a long way from its pagan days and from its hungry days since the potato famine of 1845 and following. It’s now a land with a solid economy and a growing population. That growth is from immigration.

In 2017, the Republic of Ireland had the highest birthrate in the European Union–yet it was still below replacement levels. And that was before abortion became legal at the beginning of this year–an occurrence that seemed impossible to many even as it unfolded.

In Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change, 1970-2000, R. F. Foster includes a chapter entitled “How the Catholics Became Protestants.” That chapter explains the country’s shift from Catholic values to secular ones.

“The notion of Catholicism as indivisible from Irish nationalism and even from Irish identity might be counted as one of the casualties of the last thirty years’ cultural upheaval,” he writes.

Ireland has taken the same path other western countries have followed from a rejection of sexual license (including nonacceptance of contraception) to the embrace of LGBT sensibilities. From traditional marriage to a no-holds-barred free for all.

Legal abortion was another step on the path to today–although, unlike in America, abortion is limited to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, barring a risk to the mother’s health and the euphemistic “fetal anomaly”–a death sentence for the challenged at every stage of development. A human sacrifice to convenience, cost-effectiveness–ultimately to self.

Foster: “[T]here is a point at which a la carte Catholicism becomes a kind of Protestantism” (57). It’s the same point at which any Christian decides he or she knows best. Whatever our denomination, it’s when we follow our own way.

Hence, legal abortion in Ireland and the rest of the West. And so we abandon some children to death and others to a different kind of desertion.

Michael Brendan Dougherty is an American-born man who grew up hardly knowing his father who eventually married and built a family in Ireland. Dougherty’s mother instilled in her son a deep understanding of his Irish roots. The boy grew into a man who would relish his Irishness and seek a deeper bond with his father.

In My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search for Home, Dougherty explains the shift of heart that’s happened in the West. In the past, we revered and appreciated those who came before us. Our humility in light of sacrifices they made on our behalf “leads to self-sacrifice in the present and new life and regeneration in the future. . . .

“When we do have children we so often have them as consumable objects, as part of our life-style choices. We do not receive them as gifts, as living things, inviolate and inviolable. We calculate about them, not worried over what we might give them, but what they take from us. . . .

“We are great consumers. We are useless as conservators. Useless in this way, we deepen the pattern, failing to have children, or failing the ones we have” (205-07).

Dougherty, however, has found humility and respect for those in the past. He is breaking the pattern in which he grew up. He and his wife together are raising two young children. He intends to pass Ireland onto them. But he will pass along more than that.

He is chasing away the snake of selfishness and embracing self-sacrifice.

The ghosts of Ireland’s Patrick speaks through Dougherty. “[T]he past reproaches the present on behalf of the future. . . The ghosts of a nation reproach the living on behalf of posterity” (204).

Those same ghosts of Ireland speak to us today–even those of us an ocean away in Dougherty’s America. They call to us to chase away the snakes of selfishness once more–to cleanse our land by washing ourselves in humility and self-sacrifice.

Dougherty quoting Pearse: “There is only one way to appease a ghost. You must do the thing that it asks you” (213).

Photo Credit: Paul Head

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”