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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Summer Reads I

The Song at the Scaffold, by Gertrude von le Fort

This is my second time reading Song. It is a riveting account of the lives of thirteen Carmelite sisters during the time of the French Revolution. Based in historical fact, von le Fort tells a compelling narrative as the nuns ready themselves for the ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom.

The fictionalized part, which comes in the form of the character Blanche de la Force, is also a careful study of the way in which the Lord can use our weaknesses as strength. Blanche suffers from an inborn tendency toward extreme fear in all things. Despite this characteristic, which the Carmelites see as a grave weakness, Blanche is welcomed into the convent. As much as she might try, little Blanche cannot overcome her fear – of the coming revolution, of an untimely death, of even the most trivial things – and eventually flees from the convent right before the rest of the sisters are taken into custody. At the end of the story, in a moment of paradox, it is Blanche’s lone, courageous voice that carries the tune of the Veni Creator as the rest of her sisters are led to the guillotine.

I am inspired by von le Fort’s reflection on our weaknesses. Does the Lord ask us, as the mother superior tells Blanche, to “be loyal to” our weaknesses? Of course, this cannot mean being loyal to sin, but can it mean accepting what the Lord might do through us despite our human failings?  I think it does.  If we were not loyal to our weakness, we might forget that we have them and imagine we do not need the Lord’s saving grace.

Do What You Are, by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger

This is a very interesting book that relates your Myers-Briggs personality type to the career that would best fit you.  Of course, there are some discrepancies about whether the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is really a good way to understand a person, but if you take it from the perspective that it is one piece of the puzzle, I think this book could serve you quite well.

The book begins by asking you to evaluate yourself and place yourself in each of the four type categories. This section tends to drag on a bit, and the examples that are used often seem trite and unrealistic. After you evaluate your Type, the authors provide a detailed analysis of your working style and list preferred careers.

This book emphasizes people can be happy in a wide range of professional fields. It is the tasks we engage in in these fields that determine our satisfaction with our jobs. For example, someone who is introverted may not shine as a classroom teacher where lecture is required in every class period but may still happily be a guidance counselor.

If you’re looking for a view of personality more closely connected with the Catholic spiritual tradition, I would recommend The Temperament God Gave You, by Art and Laraine Bennett. I have to admit to only having thumbed through the book, but it gives a much more wholistic perspective and connects your temperament with the way you experience God. In addition, it provides some helpful reflection on how our temperaments – with both its strengths and weaknesses – come from God very specifically as the means by which we do his will. This can give one great consolation in times of personal struggle, because we can be reminded that God created us and loves us, just the way we are.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling (more…)

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