Review: Unraveling My Father’s Suicide

Unraveling My Fathers Suicide

Unraveling My Father’s Suicide is Catholic revert and blogger Kathleen Laplante’s memoir exploring the impact that her father’s suicide has had on her family. Roger Laplante died on Kathleen’s 21st birthday, the same age his father was when he too died in “suspicious circumstances”. Kathleen’s cousin Mark also died by his own hand a few years later, as did her cousin’s daughter Ruth.

The memoir details Kathleen’s family life, her struggle with depression, and her Catholic faith. It was and continues to be a difficult journey.

Of particular interest are the unique struggles of families who have lived through suicides and the heavy toll it takes. The damage includes the loss of the person, but also leaves a lasting and malignant scar on the survivors. There is no getting over it, just living day by day and working to save future generations.

You will find this book to be a window into one family’s story. The book will be of particular interest to those who have suffered this in their own family or who are close with others who have.

People often think of family legacy in terms of material goods passed from one generation to another. Money in the bank, a life insurance payout, grandma’s old clock, and the antique piano come to mind. Legacy, however, refers to intangibles as well: a grandmother’s legacy of love and respect, a legacy at a university, and a legacy of pain from the Great Depression. I never considered something as horrific as suicide to be a legacy, but the concept emerged more clearly during my research for this book.

I found its oppressive force contaminating past and current generations of my family tree, and I became suspicious that it was a factor in the unfolding of our genealogy. By no means is suicide a desirable family legacy, but it is a real one. In a relatively brief thirty-year time span in my family, there were two suicides, one nonfatal suicide attempt, and four ongoing battles against its mental and physical torment.

The book is available in inexpensive paperback and e-book formats. It is 151 pages long, divided into the following chapters:

  1. Into the Abyss
  2. After the Funeral
  3. Return to the Mausoleum
  4. The Holy Catholic Bible
  5. The Family Legacy
  6. My Unrelenting Ideation
  7. My Birthday
  8. The Quest for Treatment
  9. Further Investigation
  10. Memorials
  11. Intimacy
  12. Turning Fifty
  13. Silver Linings

Additionally, there is a preface, introduction, epilogue, photographs, appendices, notes, resources, acknowledgments and information about the author. After each chapter is a “Memorable Minutiae” with the author’s brief recollections of an event in her life.

This is an interesting, though not an entertaining book! However, if you or someone close to you has suffered with suicide and its lasting impact, this book will offer insights that may help on that journey.

Review: Consuming the Word

Consuming The Word

Dr. Scott Hahn is a convert and superstar Catholic teacher, author and speaker. His recent book, Consuming the Word, is a sequel of sorts to his earlier work The Lamb’s Supper. Here, Dr. Hahn again looks at the liturgy of the Mass and its relationship to Holy Scripture.

Jesus spoke of the new covenant (a/k/a new testament) not as text, but of Himself and present in the Eucharist. He did not command the Apostles to write anything (and few did), but rather to, using sacrificial language, DO something in His memory. This book explores this fact, the early Church and scripture.

Mass is the liturgy of the new covenant, the new testament, and is the once and for all sacrifice of our Lord. In the time-line of history, Christians observed this sacrificial liturgy before the text of the New Testament document was written and long before it was canonized as the Bible. Dr. Hahn notes:

What the first Christians knew as the “New Testament” was not a book, but the Eucharist. In a cultic setting, at a solemn sacrificial banquet, Jesus made an offering of his “body” and “blood.” He used traditional sacrificial language. He spoke of the action as his memorial. He told those who attended to repeat the action they had witnessed: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:10). Thus he instituted the Christian priesthood and established the Church’s liturgy. He authorized clergy to do what he was doing: to make a memorial offering of his body and blood.

Jesus did not say “read this” or “write the following” but rather He said “do this.” Specifically, He told His priests (the Apostles) that this liturgy is the “new covenant in my blood.” Indeed, that is what they did and have done continuously to this very day. That is the Mass!

The book is medium sized, 5.5″x8.5″ at 159 pages. It is divided into 15 chapters, structured thus:

  • Forward by Cardinal Donald Wuerl
  • Taste and See: A Prefatory Word
  • Chapter 1: The Sacrament of the Scroll
  • Chapter 2: Before the Book
  • Chapter 3: The New Testament in the New Testament
  • Chapter 4: The New Testament After the New Testament
  • Chapter 5: The Original Setting of the New Testament
  • Chapter 6: The Church of the New Testament
  • Chapter 7: The Old Testament in the New Testament
  • Chapter 8: The Canon of the New Testament
  • Chapter 9: The New Testament and the Lectionary
  • Chapter 10: Trusting the Testaments: The Truth and Humility of the Word
  • Chapter 11: The New Testament and Christian Doctrine
  • Chapter 12: The Mysterious Plan in the New Testament
  • Chapter 13: The Sacramentality of Scripture
  • Chapter 14: The Testament at the Heart of the Church
  • Chapter 15: Coming Full Circle
  • Sources and References

I found the points Dr. Hahn makes to be excellent. Every Christian should be intimately familiar with them as foundational for our faith. That said, the book was a hard read for me and took a unusually long time to complete. Not that it was difficult, but more that it does not flow smoothly from chapter to chapter and the points somehow did not standout as strongly as they deserved. Your mileage may vary.

I strongly recommend that you study this topic. It may be an eye opener for Protestants (you will find the book to be very biblical with copious references). Consider the book, seeing Dr. Hahn speak in person or on recorded media (e.g. YouTube). He is an insightful and inspirational scholar.

Notice:  Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Catholics Come Home

Catholics Come Home

I discovered three years ago when I was converting to Catholicism. The videos they produce are excellent overviews of the faith, moving and produced at the highest level of professionalism. They are really, really good and officially some of my favorites – occupying top slots on my video favorites page.

Who are these people? I read the About Us information and learned a little about their mission. Tom Peterson’s new book Catholics Come Home: God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life fills-in the complete story.

Author Peterson, a “cradle Catholic,” was a successful businessman with material wealth but distant from his faith. Looking for answers, he went to a retreat during which the Holy Spirit pointed him in a new direction. It was a life-changing conversion experience. First, live simpler. Second, use his media skills for the Church. The Catholics Come Home and Virtue Media (pro-life) lay apostolates were born. Later, Tom also founded to support and encourage vocations.

Today there are so many people who are lost and broken. Helping these souls find their way back home is not only a duty; it is an act of mercy. It means doing what you can do to bring a soul back into a state of grace. This will not require preaching on street corners or confronting notorious sinners. Instead, I’m hoping this book will help demonstrate how the right word or the right action at the right time can be decisive in helping your relatives, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers find their way home. This book also suggests ways to circumvent roadblocks and overcome challenges that lie ahead of you in your apostolic mission to get to heaven and help bring as many people with you as apossible.

This book is about Tom’s experience, the success of Catholics Come Home, the New Evangelization and – most important of all – our individual roles. The book is upbeat and encouraging, with many interesting details and tips. Pope Paul XVI reminded us that “the Church exists in order to evangelize” and Tom tells us how to begin strengthening our own faith and develop basic apologetic skills to fulfill our baptismal role of evangelist.

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” (Luke 10:2). About 24% of Americans are baptized Catholics, but only 1 in 4 regularly practice their faith. Mass attendance is down 71% from 1965 hitting a low of only 17% in 2008. These lost sheep need you. My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).

This is a medium sized book, roughly 5×8″ at 158 pages. It is divided into 7 chapters, structured thus:

  • Forward by Dr. Scott W. Hahn
  • God’s Extraordinary Plan for You
  • Chapter 1: Downsize and Simplify
  • Chapter 2: Don’t Look Back
  • Chapter 3: Fast Before You Feast
  • Chapter 4: Ask, Seek, Knock
  • Chapter 5: Embrace the Mystery, Discover the Adventure
  • Chapter 6: Love Somebody to Heaven
  • Chapter 7: Home for Good
  • Afterword
  • Appendix
  • Acknowledgments

The Appendix has 11 pages of book recommendations, 2 pages of “wisdom,” 9 pages of “powerful prayers” and a 2 page list of organizations of interest to the budding apologist.

I recommend this book for faithful Catholics wondering if they are called to do more or who see others near them (i.e. “neighbors”) who are lost and hurting. You do not need a degree in theology nor do you need to be ordained to be effective, just the will and a little preparation.

Full Disclosure:  This book was provided to me at no charge by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review. They seek only my honest, real opinion and that is what I give!

Review: Jesus of Nazareth – The Infancy Narratives

The Infancy Narratives

Pope Benedict’s latest and final book as pope has been out since Advent. Those of you with a better sense of timing than mine may have already read Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives. Yet it is also fitting to reflect on the story, in light of Lent.

The period is one we know well, of course. Here it is looked at through the lens of the Gospel writers – the historicity, their audience, probable intentions and so on. Pope Benedict guides the reader gently, not too technically, but his deep theological knowledge shines through. This scholarly work remains quite accessible.

For me, it was like a guided tour through the Joyful Mysteries. It has increased my understanding of this period in salvation history and given me new insights on which to reflect. For example, this excerpt from The Annunciation to Mary:

Now, though, it is time to look more closely at the story of the annunciation to Mary of the birth of Jesus. First let us consider the angel’s message, then Mary’s answer.

A striking feature of the angel’s greeting is that he does not address Mary with the usual Hebrew salutation shalom — peace be with you — but with the Greek greeting formula chaĩre, which we might well translate with the word “Hail,” as in the Church’s Marian prayer, pieced together from the words of the annunciation narrative (cf. Lk 1:28, 42). Yet at this point it is only right to draw out the true meaning of the word chaĩre: rejoice! This exclamation from the angel — we could say — marks the true beginning of the New Testament.

The word reappears during the Holy Night on the lips of the angel who says to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy” (Lk 2:10). It appears again — in John’s Gospel — at the encounter with the risen Lord: “The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (20:20). Jesus’ farewell discourses in Saint John’s Gospel present a theology of joy, which as it were illuminates the depth of this word. “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22).

Joy appears in these texts as the particular gift of the Holy Spirit, the true gift of the Redeemer. So a chord is sounded with the angel’s salutation which then resounds throughout the life of the Church. Its content is also present in the fundamental word that serves to designate the entire Christian message: Gospel — good news.

The book is small, closer to a paperback in dimensions and only 132 pages in length. It is nominally broken into 4 chapters with sub-chapters for individual topics:

  • Abbreviations, Publisher’s Note and Forward
  • Chapter I – “Where are You From?”
  • Chapter II – The Annunciation of the Birth of John the Baptist and the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus
    • On the particular literary character of the texts
    • The annunciation of the birth of John
    • the annunciation to Mary
    • The conception and birth of Jesus according to Matthew
    • The birth — myth or historical truth?
  • Chapter III – The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
    • The historical and theological framework of the nativity story in Luke’s Gospel
    • The birth of Jesus
    • The presentation of Jesus in the Temple
  • Chapter IV – The Wise Men from the East and the Flight into Egypt
    • The historical and geographical framework of the narrative
    • Who were the “Magi”?
    • The Star
    • Jerusalem — stopping point on the journey
    • The worship of the Wise Men before Jesus
    • Flight into Egypt and return to the Land of Israel
  • Epilogue – The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple
  • Bibliography

I enjoyed this book and recommend it to everyone with at least a basic knowledge of the events of this period. It is a good book to dust-off and re-read from time to time, in Advent, Lent, or any other liturgical season.

Full Disclosure:  This book was provided to me at no charge by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review. They seek only my honest, real opinion and that is what I give!

Review: Catholicism


It seems presumptuous for a 279 page book to have a title like “Catholicism” with its history of thousands of years and a deep, beautiful faith. Yet, somehow, Father Robert Barron‘s book captures its essence surprisingly well.

My hopes for the book, the written accompaniment to the excellent Catholicism DVD series, was high. Moreover, Fr. Barron is someone I follow and respect so my expectations were further elevated. While I have not seen the full DVD series, I have seen those portions broadcast on television. They are a work of art: an excellent narrative skillfully told, breathtaking video, beautiful soundtrack – all skillfully woven together. This book essentially takes the story told there and presents it in a complimentary form.

The story is presented in classic Father Barron style. If you are familiar with his videos, you will find the same sort of insight, reasoning, excitement, phrasing and pacing in the book. I heard him reading it to me.

One thing the book is not – a fast read. It took me much longer than usual for a book this size. Not that it was particularly difficult, but because it is thought provoking.

Like Catholicism itself, the target audience for the book is really everyone. Don’t like Catholicism but are fair minded? Thinking about possibly, maybe, tentatively looking into Catholicism? In any stage of RCIA? Fallen away from your Catholic faith? Faithful Catholic head-over-heals in love with your faith? Read this!

Father Barron describes it thus: “What I propose to do in this book is to take you on a guided exploration of the Catholic world, but not in the manner of a docent, for I am not interested in showing you the artifacts of Catholicism as though they were dusty objets d’art in a museum of culture. I want to function rather as a mystagogue, conducting you ever deeper into the mystery of the incarnation in the hopes that you might be transformed by its power.”

I think that he succeeds. I was particularly pleased with Father’s presentation of the Mass, the source and summit of the Christian life. You will not find a dull, mechanical catalog of its component parts together with an overview of the vessels and vestments used (as I have found by some authors). Instead, Father Barron eloquently and beautifully presents the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as it really is. A small snippet:

From a Catholic point of view, this coming together of faith in the Incarnation and faith in the real presence is of great significance, for the Eucharist is nothing other than a sacramental extension of the Incarnation across space and time, the manner in which Christ continues to abide, in and embodied way, with his church.

The book is structured into 10 fairly long chapters:

  1. Amazed and Afraid: The Revelation of God Become Man
  2. Happy are We: The Teachings of Jesus
  3. “That Than Which Nothing Greater Can Be Thought”: The Ineffable Mystery of God
  4. Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast: Mary, The Mother of God
  5. The Indispensable Men: Peter, Paul, and the Missionary Adventure
  6. A Body Both Suffering and Glorious: The Mystical Union of Christ and The Church
  7. Word Made Flesh, True Bread of Heaven: The Mystery of The Church’s Sacrament and Worship
  8. A Vast Company of Witnesses: The Communion of Saints
  9. The Fire of His Love: Prayer and The Life of The Spirit
  10. World Without End: The Last Things

Also included are Acknowledgments, an Introduction (“The Catholic Thing”), A Coda (“It’s All About God”) and an Index. Black and white pictures of people and places are sprinkled throughout the text. The center of the book includes a nice bonus: 8 pages of full-color artwork and other images printed on high-quality paper.

I recommend this book without reservation and have added it to my Great Books list (very few, very select, highly recommended books). I am in very good company recommending it: Archbishop Charles Chaput, Scott Hahn, George Weigel, Raymond Arroyo, Mike Aquilina and many more. Buy it for yourself and give it as a gift. You probably know a lot of people who could benefit from it.

Full Disclosure:  This book was provided to me at no charge by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. They seek only my honest, real opinion and that is what I give!