Briefly Reviewed: October 2020
The Saint Monica Club: How to Wait, Hope, and Pray for Your Fallen-Away Loved Ones
By Maggie Green
Publisher: Sophia Institute Press
Review Author: Barbara E. Rose
A moment’s pondering on the title of The Saint Monica Club evokes a mental picture of the members of this unfortunate “club.” We all know them; perhaps we are them: parents who grieve that their grown children have fallen away from the faith. Maggie Green acknowledges the loneliness of this burden: “The world would tell us we’re upset over nothing,” that as long as our adult child is healthy and making money, life is good. The faith-full parent knows better. Green offers no “ten easy steps,” no method. Right off the bat she states that, in this particular form of suffering and waiting, “there is no trick.” But she does give wise advice and ample encouragement.
Through decades of prayers and tears, St. Monica converted her dissolute son Augustine, who would eventually become a saintly Doctor of the Church. She remains a model for parents of wayward grown children, writes Green, “not because she suffered but because she loved.” How Monica loved is key: She remained faithful, humble, level-headed, and persistent. In contrast, Green describes typical parental reactions to a child who’s dropped the faith. Parents put it out of mind, try not to “rock the boat,” perhaps “run through Rosaries like chain smokers,” or offer prayers to God full of “bargains, grand plans, and promises.” She relates from experience that her early prayers and fasting “presumed a quid pro quo. I do this, and You, God, fix that.” But as time passes, the illusion of one’s own merit dispels, leaving reliance on God’s grace alone.
Seasoned parents of grown children laugh at the suggestion that the “terrible twos” and potty training were the hard parts of parenting. Serious teenage rebellion and your grown child’s rejection of all you hold dear — now those are trials. Green calls these wayward youth prodigals, and when dealing with prodigals, parents must take the long view and resolve to endure God’s plan, on His timeline. In this situation, she says, “‘Thy will be done’ is not for the faint of heart.”
A parent begins by way of earnest prayer and enlisting the help of chosen saints. In cases of particularly unpleasant offspring, you can pray “for strength to endure the temptation to believe that your family life will never be better, never be healed.” If your prodigal is a fighter, an ascetical practice of self-control will be required of you. After all, says Green, “It’s hard not to take a child’s decision to leave the Faith as a critique of our parenting.” You’ll be tempted to fight, but “aggression is not the means by which to save or defend Jesus or even ourselves.” Equally to be avoided is the “All Dogs Go to Heaven” theory of easy salvation. Both approaches manifest vicious personal and spiritual pride. When prodigals stir up family discord, Green advises, “We must provide truth steeped in charity and wisdom laced with peace.” She adds, “Those words sound really pretty until you have to live them.”
Prodigal children come up with a thousand lousy reasons to abandon the faith. Even parents who offered solid Catholic formation often find themselves with a prodigal. Some kids just don’t take the faith to heart; after realizing this, the parent’s job “is to make sure we aren’t drowning out God’s invitation.” A parent must weigh his words so that defense of the faith looks not so much like trying to win an argument as witnessing more knowledgeably. Christian witnesses are “conduits and conveyors of God’s love, not the enforcers of God’s law.” Belief isn’t hidden, but neither is it pushed on another.
Many a worldly youth has a bone to pick with the Church’s teachings on human sexuality. Let’s face it, Green says, the world “dismisses as puritanical and bigoted all standards other than one’s own appetite.” What if Junior wants to bring an overnight guest to the next family holiday? “You can draw a line. You can say, ‘We can’t have this in our home because we have small children.’” Walking the line between not capitulating and not alienating your child is not easy. Resign yourself to listening to your prodigal’s reasons, which will require of you “sublimation of the self and the very real desire to ‘win’ in the conversation.” Green’s defense of Catholic teaching on sexuality is worth keeping close at hand: “It is not condemnation to hold that you don’t want anyone to use anyone else or to view anyone else as a disposable pleasure or an object.” In this area, of course, the witness given by parents’ example in married life is key.
Young adults are drawn away from the rigors of the faith by all the lures of modern life. Fornication is the obvious temptation, but desire for wealth is potent too. How do American-style comfort and security fit with Gospel warnings about the rich man’s peril? Any substitute for God is an idol, be it workaholism, excessive entertainment, or constant digital distraction — all of which overwhelm God’s still, small voice.
By the time a child is grown, a parent’s role is to inform and witness. This is done by frequenting the sacraments, performing works of mercy, and persisting in prayer. Redemptive suffering is hard! Before taking on a penance or fasting for your prodigal, you must first go to Confession and Holy Communion. Then Green suggests writing down “what you are doing, for whom you are doing it, why you are doing it, and for how long.”
Eventually, each of us faces a larger-than-life challenge, such as a battle for the soul of a beloved child. Holy Mother Church was made for this, and our Lord knows well the reality of stubborn, human free will. Our faith, as well as our child’s faith, is what He wants. Green suggests, “Our prodigals may be the means by which we come to love God and trust Him more and ourselves less.” Holy love and holy suffering are never wasted. “This life — this trial — will not go on forever, but our love will.”
The Reality Oriented Mathematician: A Memoir (5th edition)
By Dennis P. Allen Jr.
Publisher: Kindle Direct Publishing
Review Author: Jeremy Dunning-Davies
Dr. Dennis Allen was trained as a mathematician but has devoted much time to studies in other areas — specifically, physics. Like others, this reviewer included, he finds that while mathematics is a beautiful subject that should be studied in its own right, when it is used in physics it is merely a tool — an important tool, but still just a tool. Once mathematics is used outside its own precise closed domain, it is the detail of the other discipline that becomes all important. As The Reality Oriented Mathematician makes clear, disastrous consequences for science have followed whenever this crucial fact has been ignored.
Since the 20th century, most research in the physical sciences has concentrated on areas dependent on the new “gods” of relativity and quantum mechanics. Anyone who raises even minor queries relating to the truth of these disciplines is ostracized in the scientific community, even to the extent of being condemned in his own obituary. This has stifled progress and denied historically accurate facts, such as the realization that mass-energy equivalence was acknowledged and talked about openly in the late 19th century, having been suggested by Newton in his book on optics. This attitude remains, and those who have gained power in the scientific community (with no wish to relinquish it) neglect to inform incoming students that alternative solutions may exist to at least some of the problems they’re considering. This situation is widespread in the West; it is certainly not confined to the U.S.
Non-scientists must remember the often conveniently forgotten fact that the general public ultimately pays the bill for all the “toys” scientists use for play, even the Large Hadron Collider and large telescopes. More often than not, the results of these experiments and also of astronomical observations are produced via the use of statistical tests or computer programs. Sometimes the test or program may have been the one that would lead to the desired result. Illustrative examples of this occur in astrophysics. The public is regularly made aware of a newly found black hole, and pictures are produced. However, all the data collected have been analyzed via a statistical package that has been developed to rely crucially on presently accepted theory, and the picture is actually an artist’s impression or a computer-generated one. These points are rarely, if ever, made clear, and though the presently accepted theory is doubted by many, that too is never mentioned, and articles expressing this doubt rarely appear in the leading journals, having been blocked by those with a vested interest in the presently accepted theory. As huge amounts of money are involved, it’s worth noting that grave doubts have been raised among scientists concerning the actual validity of results supposedly obtained by the Large Hadron Collider. These concerns are not mentioned in the media and have not been adequately addressed. Allen makes clear that scientific research is certainly not as pure as many would like to believe.
Why should all this, and, indeed, Allen’s book, be of interest to readers of a religious magazine? Allen hints at the reason. We are living in an age when scientists and people whose careers depend on science are seemingly attempting to assume the role of God. Astrophysicists want to take credit for their dubious model for the start of the universe, the so-called Big Bang, but careful examination of its details reveals a striking similarity to the picture painted in the first 19 verses of Genesis, according to the King James Version of the Bible. (Incidentally, for atheists such as Richard Dawkins, the remainder of the chapter gives a pretty good account of evolution too.) The astrophysical issue should come as no surprise, though, as the Big Bang was largely the brainchild of Abbé Georges Lemaȋtre and so, when introduced, would not have offended the Church hierarchy. It is also interesting to note that, when discussing the alternative Steady State theory, astrophysicist Thomas Gold is reputed to have said, “At least it’s not Genesis.” (The so-called Steady State theory, developed by Fred Hoyle and his collaborators, essentially regards the universe as having existed for an infinite amount of time and continuing to do so, with matter being created at a uniform rate rather than at one specific point in time. This model has been refined over time and now offers credible answers to many basic questions relating to our universe.)
Many top scientists, consciously or unconsciously, have tended to assume the role of God, and nowhere is this seen more clearly than in interference in God’s plan for human reproduction. Allen rightly and bravely attacks abortion apologists for the true evil they are perpetrating. He says the ethics of Princeton professor Peter Singer boil down to “pleasure is good but pain is bad.” This easily leads to the now widely accepted view that “newborn babies can be ‘disposed of’ should their mother find herself troubled by the prospect of raising them to adulthood.” Allen also mentions physicist Stephen Hawking, whose first wife is reputed to have said (although this may be apocryphal) that her biggest problem during their marriage was convincing Stephen that he wasn’t God. Hawking himself was almost raised to the level of a deity by many in physics, and this meant that his work could never be criticized. Critics faced ostracism within the scientific community and would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to publish in mainstream journals.
Readers of The Reality Oriented Mathematician can ignore some of the mathematical terms and discussion (there are no equations) and simply reflect on the overall truths and their relation with knowledge and love of God. As he does in his other books, Dr. Allen dedicates this work to the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary in acknowledgement of the true sources of his inspiration.
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