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Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe (CCC of America)

Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe is a 35 minute animated film that tells the story of an Indian man named Juan Diego. During this time, Mexico was undergoing colonization by the Spanish. In an attempt to Christianize Mexico, Spanish men tore down temples to Indian gods and goddesses and replaced them with Catholic churches. This was marginally effective in that it did result in conversion. However, those that converted, like Juan Diego, did not receive proper catechesis and were left trying to explain their new beliefs by referencing their old beliefs. To make matters worse, most all of the Spanish looked down on the Indians and treated them as inferior in every way. Juan Diego prayed to Jesus and Mary for unity among the Spanish and Indians and that is when Mary appeared in the apparition known as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to Juan Diego in his native tongue, which is pretty remarkable. In true Marian fashion, she also asked that a church be built where she appeared to Juan Diego. As per the norm, he was not widely believed and proof was demanded. The proof was given in the form of roses and her image miraculously appearing on his tilma. The animated film does a wonderful job not only being historically accurate, but also welcoming to younger children. Juan Diego’s love for Jesus and Mary shines through as an example for young and old. At the end of the film is a song called Lady of the Roses and after that is a brief summary of the major impact that Our Lady of Guadalupe had in the conversion of millions! Like all CCC of America Saints and Heroes titles, this movie is available in English, Spanish, and French. It’s also available for purchase individually or discounted in the Marian Collection which includes Bernadette (Our Lady  of Lourdes) and The Day the Sun Danced (Our Lady of Fatima). Highly recommended.

This DVD was provided to me for free by CCC of America in exchange for an honest review.

Bernadette: The Princess of Lourdes (CCC of America)

This week I am taking a break from book reviews at Stuart’s Study. It is a welcome break as it allows me to catch up on some reading of heavier thinking books. However, it also gives me a chance to review products I normally wouldn’t have as much time to do. CCC of America sent me their Marian Collection from their Saints and Heroes Series. There are eleven total movies in this series, but based on their home screen (the image above), there is potentially another one coming. The three pack of Marian animated movies includes Bernadette (Our Lady  of Lourdes), Juan Diego (Our Lady of Guadalupe), and The Day the Sun Danced (Our Lady of Fatima). I will be reviewing one Monday, one Wednesday, and one Friday. Today, we will start with Bernadette.

Bernadette: The Princess of Lourdes is a story that is within a story. It begins with the story of a young family that includes a father, mother, and a sick little boy. I’m not sure exactly what the little boy has, but he cannot see and cannot walk either. It seems the parents have tried everything to get the child healed, but nothing has worked. The mom seems to be having a crisis of faith, which is sad, but I would hate to pass judgment on her (even if she is a cartoon), because I don’t know how I would act in her situation. The dad, however, is taking the family to Lourdes to see a cure for the boy, which leads us back to Lourdes in 1858.

The story of Bernadette Sobuirous is a pretty familiar one for most Catholics. She was a sickly little girl who was always behind in school. However, she had a deep love for the Lord. One day she was out with other girls and she say a “small young lady.” She was asked to come back to this grotto for fourteen days straight. She was told that by the “small young lady” that there should be a Church built where she was appearing. And Bernadette was also told to drink water at a place there was no water yet. Bernadette followed all these instructions, despite ridicule and people thinking she was crazy. All she wanted to know was the “small young lady’s” name. Eventually, she learned that her name was “The Immaculate Conception.” A church was built in her name, and the waters where Bernadette was told to drink healed not only people in her day, but still continue to heal people this day.

The animation style for this film is not Disney “quality,” but reminds me of older movies like The Last Unicorn or The Hobbit, kind of Rankin and Bass if you know what I mean. The film itself was short, approximately 30 minutes, but each DVD contains the film in both English, Spanish, and French. The time and availability of several languages makes it great for not only home use, but also religious education use. It’s just long enough to give your children the basic message, but just short enough to leave them wanting more and asking questions, which is what you want when instructing your children in the faith. I highly recommend this for children aged 2-8. If you’d like a preview of the video look below.

This DVD was provided to me for free by CCC of America.

Bernadette from CCC of America on Vimeo.

Green and Yellow Fairy Books (Hesperus Press)

Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books are a series of twelve books that were compiled and published between 1889 and 1910. The colors in order are Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, Pink, Grey, Violet, Crimson, Brown, Orange, Olive, and Lilac. There are approximately 400-500 tales total, and they are gathered from all over the globe. Some you will recognize, and others you won’t. Truthfully, you can find all but the Grey Fairy book on Amazon for free for the Kindle, and that’s fine, but they lack the illustrations. Also, there’s something about a nice hardcover; turning the pages; and smelling the paper while reading it. Hesperus Press has been slowly republishing these books at the rate of about two a year. I assume this is to make sure there is enough interest before printing all twelve books, but I know I am going to be sorely disappointed if they don’t publish the other eight.

The Green Fairy Book contains 42 tales, if I counted correctly. The ones which you will immediately recognize are The Three Little Pigs and The Story of the Three Bears. However, these stories aren’t always the way that you remember them. Another one, which was my favorite, was The Fisherman and His Wife. You might recognize this tale, and you might not, but it is about a poor fisherman who catches a flounder who claims to be a prince. He decides to release it but the wife berates him saying he should have asked for a reward in return. He does so the next day, and instead of being happy the wife gets greedy. She keeps demanding more and more, and eventually loses it all. Other interesting and lesser known stories include The Enchanted Snake. which is an Italian fairy tale, and The Riddle, which  is a German fairy tale that the Brothers Grimm compiled.

The Yellow Fairy Book contains 48 tales, if I counted correctly. This collection contains two very well known tales in Thumbelina and the Emperor’s New Clothes, a personal favorite of mine. There is also my wife’s and most girls favorite How to Tell a True Princess. Many might not recognize it by this title, but if I told you that it involved a princess, a bunch of mattresses, and a pea, you would immediately know the story. In fact, I know a few people who tried this very test when they were little. Unfortunately, none of them turned out to be princesses. Within this book, there are also Polish tales like The Glass Mountain and French tales like The Wizard King. Not all the tales are happy. Though, one should never expect them to be. But each are enchanting and expose you and your children to different cultures and different takes on familiar tales.

If you are a fan of fairy tales, this series is for you. The books are wonderfully constructed, and the vibrant dust jackets stand out on your shelf and make for a beautiful collection. I hope they will continue to publish these wonderful books until my collection is complete. Judging by the previous release schedule, there should (emphasis on should) be another two put out at the end of this year or beginning of next year, and they would be the Pink and Grey books. Until then, remember that if you like tangible books and want good books like this to continue to be available in print, then you have to support smaller publishers like Hesperus Press.

These books were provided to me for free by Hesperus Press in exchange for honest reviews. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!

Commentaries on Galatians-Philemon (InterVarsity Press)

This is my second review in the Ancient Christian Texts (ACT) series available from InterVarsity Press. If you recall, at the beginning of March, I posted a review on Ambrosiaster’s Commentaries on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians. This month I am reviewing his Commentaries on Galatians – Philemon. This is the second volume of his entire commentary on the Pauline Epistles. As a refresher, I am providing you with some similar information from the other review, in case you didn’t get to read the first review or don’t remember who Ambrosiaster is and don’t feel like looking it up on your own.

Ambrosiaster (“Star of Ambrose”) was an anonymous author of the earliest complete Latin commentary on St. Paul’s thirteen epistles. The commentary was written during the reign of Pope Damasus, which occurred from 366-384. Originally, these commentaries were attributed to St. Ambrose. However, it was Erasmus who shed doubt on the author being St. Ambrose, and he was later proven right. The Latin text differs from the Vulgate and is probably taken from the Bible version known as the Itala. In fact, it seems he was opposed to St. Jerome’s efforts to revise the old Latin version. Ambrosiaster’s commentaries do not search for hidden or allegorical meanings, but instead focus on the plain and simple. He is more interested in logical or literal meaning of the text. Knowing this, it clearly distinguishes him from St. Ambrose who was very interested in a higher, mystical meaning of Scripture.

At approximately 190 pages, the Commentaries on Galatians – Philemon volume is a lot thinner than I expected it to be, especially since it’s counterpart is approximately 300 pages. It’s not like there is a significant difference in number of Biblical chapters 45 (Romans and 1-2 Corinthians) vs 42 (Galatians-Philemon). This is not something the publisher could help, but just an observation. Each book of the Bible contains a preface by the author that range from one paragraph to one page. The commentary is verse-by-verse, meaning that each verse is followed by an explanation from Ambrosiaster on what the text means. I personally like Ambrosiaster’s style/attitude. He is not above calling a group of people stupid, i.e., the Galatians, for turning their back on the true Gospel and accepting a false gospel. As in my last review, here are a couple of quotes from key verses in these Pauline epistles.

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Paul is nailed to the cross of Christ because by walking in his footsteps he is not bound by any desire of the world. By living to God he appears to be dead to the world. There is nothing unclear in saying that Christ lives in the person who has been delivered from death by faith. By granting pardon for sin to someone who is worthy of death, Christ dwells in him, for it is by his help that such a person has been rescued from death.

Ephesians 2:8-10 – For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

It is true that we must render all thanks to God who has given us his grace to recall sinner to live even when they are not looking for the true way. Therefore there is no reason for us to glory in ourselves, but rather in God, who has regenerated us to a heavenly birth through the faith of Christ, so that tested by the good works, which God has appointed for those who are already born again we may deserve to receive the things promised.

As one can see from these two quotes, Ambrosiaster is very intelligent and straightforward in his commentary. Though, I believe the price should be less than $60, given the size, I understand the price since it is an academic work. If you are a serious student of Biblical interpretation or interested in lesser known Latin commentaries on the works of St. Paul, this would make a great addition to your library.

This book was provided to me for free by InterVarsity Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

The Prophets: Messengers of God’s Mercy (Ascension Press)

If you’re looking for a solid Catholic study program, you used to have to either use a book in the small group format or find someone with the right mixture of qualifications, free time, and willingness to lead the program. Thankfully, we are living in a golden age of Catholic media. Great companies like Word on Fire, Catholic Scripture Study International, and my personal favorite Ascension Press are bringing great teachers/scholars like Dr. Edward Sri, Tim Gray, Fr. Robert Barron, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, etc. into our living rooms or parishes via modern technology. Today, I am reviewing one of the latest programs from Ascension Press called The Prophets: Messengers of God’s Mercy.

The Prophets is led by Thomas Smith, who helped co-author another Ascension Press series called Revelation: The Kingdom Yet to Come. Smith is a convert, serves on the Curriculum Advisory Body for FOCUS, and co-founded the Philippine Catholic Biblical Mission Foundation. His presentation style can be described as knowledgeable with some lighthearted humor sprinkled in. What I really appreciate is that he starts and ends each talk with a prayer. It’s something so simple, but so crucial when studying Scripture. There are ten sessions total, and they are as follows:

1. Introduction to The Prophets
2. Hosea: Living God’s Love Story
3. Jonah: God’s Reluctant Messenger
4. Isaiah Part 1: Prophet of Woe
5. Isaiah Part 2: Prophet of Consolation
6. Jeremiah: The Broken-Hearted Prophet
7. Ezekiel: God’s Watchman on the Wall
8. Daniel: Faithful to the End
9. Haggai and Malachi: Messengers of Hope
10. New Testament and Modern Prophets: Messengers of the New Covenant

As you can see from the topics above, Mr. Smith focuses on prophets who left a written record, so that rules out prophets like Elijah and Elisha. You will also notice that he takes the time to cover all the Major Prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. There are two sessions dedicated to Isaiah, and he could have easily done a ten session series on Isaiah alone. But what will you specifically learn from this series? You will learn:

1. What a prophet is
2. Who they were individually
3. Where they were coming from and where were they speaking to
4. When did they speak
5. Who did they speak to
6. What did they say when they spoke
7. How did they say it as prophets

With so many great lessons, I had a hard time picking one that I enjoyed the most. The one on Daniel was very interesting. I grew up Southern Baptist, and for them the Book of Daniel is all about the end times, so it was interesting to hear the Catholic explanation. However, the one on Hosea was very interesting. I have read all the way through the Bible before, and I know I read this book. However, I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. Thomas Smith laid it out in beautiful detail, explained the significance of Hosea’s wife, the names of their sons, and explained how Hosea’s life, his wife, and his sons mirrored Israel at the time. Mind blown!

There are a couple big takeaways from this series. First, as said at the beginning of this series, “A great prophet is one who afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.” This is true not only for prophets, but priests and parents as well. Second, prophets always point us toward Jesus. That was true in the days of the Old Testament. It was true of John the Baptist. And it is especially true in the present day where we still have prophets, like Pope Paul VI. If you are looking for a great Bible study for your parish or small group, I highly recommend this one!

This study was provided to me for free by Ascension Press in exchange for an honest review. Check out this preview of it below!

First Communion Books (Ignatius Press and Magnificat)

First Communion season is upon us! This is an important milestone for Catholic children in their faith life, and one that should be celebrated! To commemorate this joyous occasion the child is presented with many gifts to help them grow closer in their walk with Christ. The typical gifts are either a Bible or a Rosary, and both are fine gifts. If those gifts have already been covered, and you are scrambling for a gift to get them, I have two book recommendations for you. Both are available from Ignatius Press.

Your First Communion: Meeting Jesus, Your True Joy is a 45 page hardcover, which features the words of Pope Francis to first communicants. The book is divided into five sections:

Meeting Jesus in Holy Communion
The Power of the Sacraments and the Light of Christ
Holy Confession – Meeting Christ Who Loves us Dearly
The Church is Like a Mother
Messages for Life

The book looks like First Communion should with a white cover and gold lettering. It goes nicely with other Magnificat books, like The Catholic Bible for Children and Catholic Saints for Children. The font is nice sized for little readers, and though there is a lot of text on every page, it isn’t so much to overwhelm a timid reader. There are also illustrations on every page as well. I especially loved the chapter on Confession. We make such a big deal about children’s First Communion that we completely forget/downplay that it’s their first Confession as well. It is important to remember that before you go to the table to eat, you must first wash yourself. Perhaps, if we did a better job catechizing our youth about Confession, there wouldn’t be such a fear about going. At the very end of the book is a place for your child to write their own prayer to Jesus and a memory page for pictures. Those aren’t my cup of tea, but I can see where some parents would find it appealing. What I like best about the book is that the message is simple, but it’s not dumbed down. The words are easy enough for a child to understand, and that’s vitally important, especially if you are supposed to have faith like a child.

Friendship with Jesus is an illustrated hardcover by Amy Welborn. Amy is no stranger to children’s books, and this book does not disappoint. The book begins in a narrative style. Children in Rome had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, and they got to ask him questions. This book records some of the questions the children got to ask the Holy Father. Topics included Pope Benedict’s First Communion, Confession, the Real Presence, and the importance of Sunday Mass to name a few. The questions just make sense, and you can see any child asking the same questions that these children did.

I especially loved the section on the Real Presence. A child asked how can we know that Jesus is present in the Eucharist if we cannot see Him? Pope Benedict compared it to electrical current. We can’t see it, but we can see and feel the effects. We cannot physically see Jesus like His apostles could, but we see His presence in the lives of His followers. Each question page is flanked by a picture page done in a watercolor style by Ann Engelhart. As a big fan of Pope Benedict XVI, my child(ren) will definitely be receiving this book before their First Communion. I highly recommend it. Be sure to check out the companion to this book by the same author and illustrator combo called Be Saints!

The first book was provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!