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Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester lives and works in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York. Website URL:

Book review: 'The Best is Yet to Come'

“The Best is Yet to Come: Living Fully in Each Moment.” By Sister Anne Bryan Smollin. Indiana: Sorin Books, 2016. 192 pages. Paperback: $15.95; Kindle: $10.99; Nook: $10.99.
 
Let’s talk about a number, and that number is 86,400.
 
This is how Sister of St. Joseph Anne Smollin begins her final book, “The Best is Yet to Come: Living Fully in Each Moment,” and it becomes clear very quickly that she has not chosen this number arbitrarily. In the first of many parables – this book is full of them -- Sister Smollin proposes this hypothetical situation: Suppose you win a contest and the prize is a bank account in your name. Each day, the bank deposits $86,400 into that account, and you are free to spend the money any way you want.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?
 
But there are a few rules you must abide by. The first is that you and only you can spend the money. Second, you can’t transfer any of the money to someone else’s account. And third, anything you don’t spend is taken away at the end of the day. At the beginning of the next day, the bank deposits a fresh $86,400 into your account for you to spend on that day and that day only. The final rule is that the bank can close your account at any time without warning, and you will not be issued a new one.
 
We all have such an account, Sister Smollin says; it’s called time, and 86,400 is the number of seconds, or moments, we are gifted with each day.  How we spend this gift is totally up to us; we can use it to live in love and joy or we can squander it on complaining and negativity. What Sister Smollin’s book does is show us, through humor, personal experience and stories just how to do the former.
 
As a counselor and educator, Sister Smollin spent her life helping people learn to use God’s gift of time to the fullest. Many of the anecdotes in this book are drawn from those people and experiences; quite a few of them take place in airports and on planes. (She was an international speaker and spent her share of time traveling.)  All of them are positive and affirming, and several are just plain funny – Sister Smollin obviously took great pleasure in conveying an important lesson by way of a good joke. And she is just as apt to let the joke be on her; she has that rare quality of taking her message seriously and herself lightly.
 
There are 27 chapters in this book, and each one is easily manageable in a sitting.  This does not mean, however, that what is written is trite. On the contrary, these seemingly simple stories tend to creep up on the reader until he or she is suddenly aware that what made them laugh (or cry) has also made them think.
 
Sister Smollin died unexpectedly though peacefully on Sept. 25, 2014, having just celebrated 50 years of religious life.  This book was published posthumously, and the foreword, written by her best friend Sister of St. Joseph Patricia A. St. John, stands as a testament to the authenticity of Sister Smollin’s life and her words. “We never know what another person is carrying in their heart: what sorrow, pain, discouragement, devastation,” Sister Smollin once told her friend. “Let’s always err on the side of kindness.”
 
This is ultimately both a kind and a wise book, one which shows us the way to live in God’s joy, every minute of every day.
 
Sister of St. Joseph Anne Bryan Smollin (1943– 2014) was an international lecturer on wellness and spirituality. An educator and therapist, she earned a doctorate in counseling psychology from Walden University in Florida and was executive director of the Counseling for Laity center in Albany, N.Y. She is also the author of “Tickle Your Soul” (Sorin Books, 1999), “God Knows You’re Stressed” (Sorin Books, 2001), and “Live, Laugh, and Be Blessed” (Sorin Books, 2006).
 
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St. Pius V

It is never easy being the pope, but occupying the chair of Peter when the Church itself is trying to recover from great turmoil demands a person of constant prayer, deep humility and great holiness.  Thankfully, Pope St. Pius V possessed all those qualities, for he had the enormous responsibility of implementing the sweeping changes that accompanied the Council of Trent in the mid-16th Century.
 
Born in Italy in 1504 to poor parents, Antonio Ghislieri, as he was then known, spent his youth working as a shepherd; he later joined the Dominican Order and was ordained a priest in 1528.  For the next 16 years, he taught theology and philosophy in various Dominican houses.
 
During that time, however, the wider Church was in the midst of great upheaval.  Martin Luther had nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg chapel in 1517, thus inaugurating the Protestant Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church, which actually had been in need of reform, now found itself having to confront the issue head-on in the face of both resistance from within and challenges from without.
 
When Pope Paul III opened the Council of Trent in 1545, organized, concrete reform could finally begin.  For 18 years the Church wrestled with questions of renewal; finally, after much discussion and debate, the Council agreed on a plan of action and came to a formal end in 1563.  Now it was up to someone to actually implement these extensive changes.
 
When Antonio Ghislieri, now Pius V, was elected pope in 1566, he brought with him a personal history of piety, personal austerity and zealous opposition to any form of heresy. He had been appointed inquisitor of the faith in Como and Bergamo, Italy, in 1551 and later, Pope Julius III named him commissary general of the Inquisition.  His reputation for zealousness put him at odds for a time with his predecessor, Pope Pius IV, but it turned out that he would need every ounce of that strength of spirit to carry out the will of the Council of Trent.
 
One of the first things he did was to establish seminaries for the proper and thorough training of priests.  Under his direction, a new missal, a revised breviary and a new catechism were promulgated.  He enforced legislation against abuses in the Church.  And despite his responsibilities as pope, he continued to serve the poor and sick, giving the money that had been used for papal banquets to feed the destitute instead.
 
In addition to encountering disagreements within his own Church, Pius V also had to contend with strong opposition from such heads of state as Queen Elizabeth I of England and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II. The threat of a Turkish invasion was also never far from his thoughts and he was working toward a Christian European alliance to deal with this issue when he died in 1572.
 
Pius V’s feast day is April 30; he is the patron of Bosco Marengo, Italy.
 

Sources for this article include:
 
www.americancatholic.org
 
www.catholiconline.com
 
Lataste, Joseph. "Pope St. Pius V." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.
 
“Pope Saint Pius V“. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 November 2016.
 
Schreck, Alan.  “The Compact History of the Catholic Church.”  Ohio: Servant Books, 1987.

St. Augustine of Canterbury

Although the Christian faith had been introduced in the British Isles prior to his arrival in 596, it is St. Augustine of Canterbury who is known as the “Apostle of England.” This extraordinarily human saint, whose missionary activity turned out to be surprisingly modern, established, in a mere eight years, a Christian presence in that island nation that persists to the present day.
 
This does not mean, however, that Augustine met with no difficulties.  A monk and abbot of St. Andrew’s Abbey in Rome, he likely thought – as did many of his contemporaries – that he would live out his days quietly in that position.  However, Pope St. Gregory I, who had founded the abbey, had different ideas; he called upon Augustine and 40 of his monks to leave Italy in order to evangelize the Christians of “Angle-land” and to convert the pagans they encountered there.
 
The group had gotten as far as Gaul (present-day France) when tales of the savagery of the Anglo-Saxons and the dangers of crossing the English Channel frightened them enough to cause them to return to Rome.  There, Gregory assured Augustine that he and his monks would not meet with the dire consequences they had heard about, and so they were sent off on their journey once more.
 
This time, they arrived in England and landed at Kent, which was then under the rule of King Ethelbert.  Although the king was a pagan, his wife, Bertha, was a Christian, and so the missionaries were greeted with kindness rather than cruelty; the king allowed them to settle in and preach the faith from Canterbury.  Within the year, Ethelbert had converted but, unlike many other kings of his time, did not require his subjects to do so unless they wished to.
 
Following the advice of Pope Gregory, Augustine’s method of conversion did not set out to destroy pagan culture, but to build on it. Rather than raze the temples dedicated to other gods, for instance, he “converted” them to the worship of Christ.   Pagan festivals were transformed into Christian feasts and, wherever possible, Augustine retained the local traditions of the people.   Apparently these actions, coupled with the example of the king, were enough to convince many Anglo-Saxons that they, too, should be baptized.  As the faith spread, Augustine built a church and a monastery near where the present-day Canterbury cathedral still stands, and soon established sees in London and Rochester.
 
Although he was somewhat successful with the pagans he encountered, Augustine did not fare as well with evangelizing Briton Christians, who had been driven into western England when the Anglo-Saxons had invaded nearly 150 years earlier.  Separated as they had been from Rome, many of the practices Briton Christians had evolved during that period were now at variance with the wider Church.  This, combined with their lingering bitterness toward the Anglo-Saxons, made it nearly impossible for Augustine to convince them to change.
 
Augustine died in 605; the patron of England, his feast day is May 27.
 
 
Sources for these articles include:
 
 
www.americancatholic.org
 
www.catholiconline.com
 
Clifford, Cornelius. "St. Augustine of Canterbury." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907.
 
“Saint Augustine of Canterbury“. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 October 2016.
 
Schreck, Alan.  “The Compact History of the Catholic Church.”  Ohio: Servant Books, 1987.
 
 
 
 

The Letters of Bishop Robert F. Joyce from the Second Vatican Council 1962-1965

“The Letters of Bishop Robert F. Joyce from the Second Vatican Council 1962 – 1965”.  By Father Lance W. Harlow, MA, MDiv.  Barre, VT:  L. Brown and Sons Printing, Inc.  2016.
 
For readers who are old enough to remember the time of the Second Vatican Council, this book will feel like a combination of both objective history and personal nostalgia; for those who did not live through that period, Father Harlow’s book will be an interesting and even astonishing look at a Church in transition, as they are made privy to discussions and debates concerning practices that 21st-Century Catholics now take for granted.
 
The vehicle for telling this compelling history is a particularly apt one for people living in the Diocese of Burlington. Bishop Robert F. Joyce – who was born in Proctor in 1896, educated at the University of Vermont, ordained at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington in 1923, served as bishop of Burlington from 1957 until his retirement in 1971, and died peacefully at St. Joseph’s Home in Burlington in 1990 – was both a native son and an enthusiastic supporter of the Second Vatican Council.  For four years Bishop Joyce arranged his schedule so that he could be present at every session of the Council, and he was diligent about reporting back to his people, both in print, in person and on television, exactly what was happening at this historic event. His letters, which Father Harlow has reproduced here, were informative, pastoral and, at times, even humorous.  As primary documents, they give us an invaluable snapshot of this most historic period in Church history.
 
Father Harlow’s approach in this book demonstrates that his research was exceptionally thorough. In addition to Bishop Joyce’s letters, he also includes extensive information about what was going on in Rome at the time – issues under debate, who was participating, what was being said and how decisions were reached.  He also includes pertinent excerpts from the particular documents being discussed which are, of necessity, brief.  “It is my hope,” he notes in his introductory comments, “that the reader will continue to read the entire decrees and constitutions.”
 
Although all that transpired in Rome was of interest to Bishop Joyce, there were some issues that appear to have been especially near and dear to his heart, and these he communicated with particular enthusiasm.  The first, which was apparently on the minds of Catholic Vermonters as well, was the change in liturgical language from Latin to the vernacular.  “There was quite a response to my call for suggestions,” he stated at one point, referring to a diocesan consultation conducted prior to the opening of the Council in 1962.  “The greatest number of them…asked for a greater use of the vernacular, especially in the forepart of the Mass… [and] in the administration of the Sacraments.”
 
Also important to the bishop was the move toward ecumenism.  In an article he wrote for The Vermont Catholic Tribune in November 1963, he noted, “As the Council developed…ecumenism became more and more important as a chief aim, and insistent and universal has been the response to the subject throughout the world.”  He himself had close relationships with many Vermonters who were not of the Catholic faith and, in 1965, he was asked to fill in for an ailing Cardinal Cushing at the Grand Master’s Masonic Convention in Connecticut because “he had been hailed as one of the most imaginative and forward-looking leaders in the ecumenical movement.”
 
Father Harlow’s book is primarily an historical work and thus will probably be of greatest interest to historians and students of the Second Vatican Council.  However, that should not prevent the average reader from looking back at an event, the ramifications of which will be felt for centuries to come.  As Bishop Joyce himself said in a letter home in 1964, “Not only will the world be different as a result of the Council, but all of us who are part of it will be profoundly affected by it for the rest of our lives.”
 
The book sells for $20. Order it from Father Harlow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call the cathedral office at 802-658-4333. 

Author bio

Father Lance W. Harlow is the rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parishes in Burlington. His other books include “True Devotion to Mary by Louis de Montfort” and “Vermont's First Catholic Bishop: The Life of Bishop Louis De Goesbriand, 1816-1899.” He has also written three children’s books: “Holy Goldfish!”, “Sofia's Tea Party” and “Sofia's Ballet Lesson.”
 
  • Published in Reviews
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