Review: “Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family”

When I was a child my favorite movie was the The Sound of Music. I think being an only child, living with just my mother, made me appreciate a large, loving, two-parent family enormously. My favorite book, Cheaper By The Dozen, about a fun-loving family of twelve children, settles it.

Maria Von Trapp, the mother of the large family in The Sound of Music, wrote her book of memoirs that the movie was based on, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers in 1946. Author of several books, she has an exuberant writing style that is natural, pulls you in, and makes you want to be right there in the action.

Originally from Austria, the family who were a very talented folk singing group, fled during World War II to escape the Nazis and came to America in 1938. The family built, mostly on their own, a large home in rural Vermont, and a lodge for visitors to stay and hear their concerts. They toured the world singing, and some, including Maria, became Catholic missionaries to Papua New Guinea. They were always on the go and had seemingly endless energy. Once they decided on a project, whether it was a family singing tour, building a barn, clearing land, or creating a restaurant, they all pitched in and got it done in short order.

In 1955, Maria published “Around the World With the Trapp Family.” She wrote about how their family lived their Catholic faith in Austria throughout the year. I’ve read a few of her books, but this has been long out of print. Sophia Institute Press, has now republished it, so this wonderful Catholic life can be enjoyed by everyone.

My first impression upon receiving it was that this is one substantial book. Hardcover and beautifully printed, this book is meant to be kept for years, and meant to be used all through the year.

The contents follow the liturgical year, explaining the seasons and why we celebrate them. Each feast day is lovingly explored with songs and music, recipes, and simple crafts, along with wonderful memories of Catholic family life in Austria before WWII.

A separate section elaborates on how to celebrate each Sacrament within the family, anniversaries, birthdays and other special family moments, including how to handle sickness and death within the family. There is a definite focus on the spiritual life and the life beyond. I found the section on how they actually lived Sundays to be particularly significant in our culture that treats Sunday with no sense of the sacred. 

What is so lovely about this book is that Maria explains the faith and how to incorporate it into your family’s life so beautifully. It makes one long for a time past when faith was seamlessly woven into the tapestry of the community. We can, at least, weave it into our own family’s life now. It would be great to start the New Year with this book.

I really enjoyed it and recommend it to you. Sophia Institute Press is having a 25% off sale for Christmas, but you have to act on it now. Use the
Use Discount Code radio25 when ordering the book using this link:  http://sophiainstitute.com/aroundtheyear.




25 Great Catholic Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Father’s Day is coming soon and you want gift ideas for the Catholic father(s) in your life. I thought I would help. Let’s cut to the chase and jump right in. Here are some gift ideas that might please you both.
First up is books. I moonlight as Catholic Book Lady, so I’m immersed in books. I decided to poll some trusted, faithful Catholic men as to what books they think are good for men. I’ve got some new books, some popular, and some classic for your perusal.
New Books:
No matter what you get for your man, you should also first include Journey to Heaven by Randy Hain, co-founder of Integrated Catholic Life, one of my favorite Catholic websites. I know Randy, and he is the epitome of the great, faithful, Catholic dad. I’ve been reading it myself, and I really like it. He takes the wisdom of many wise, real contemporary Catholic men (not some lofty theologian, or a 500 year old dead monk) and distills it into an easy-to-understand, quick-to-read format. My favorite parts are “Integrating Faith and Work,” “What is Really Important,” and how to be a Catholic Rebel. We women love a rebel, right?
How can you go wrong with any book by Scott Hahn? Angels & Saints is his new one. Can you guess what’s it about? I’ll wait….Yep, angels and saints. Don’t like that topic, Dr. Hahn has tons of other books, including the now classic Rome Sweet Home, he and his wife’s conversion story.
Now some Ever-Popular Books that came highly recommended from my men’s poll:
  • The Catholic Briefcase:  Tools for Integrating Faith and Work by Randy Hain. This one won 2012’s About.com Reader’s Choice Award. 
  • Navigating the Interior Life by Dan Burke, Executive Director of the National Catholic Register and founder of SpiritualDirection.com. I saved this one for last in this list because I think every Catholic, especially every Catholic man, should own a copy. It is an excellent book on how to figure out your main faults so you can begin to work on rooting them out, and how to find spiritual direction so you can progress in your path to God. I know Dan Burke personally and he is the real deal. Get his book for your guy because you won’t be disappointed.

Now for some Classic Books:
  • Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo, the very first conversion story, Augustine was a brilliant man with a concubine and illegitimate child who suffered from pride, ambition, pain and regret to become a convert, a bishop, a doctor of the Church, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived.
  • The Sinner’s Guide by Venerable Louis de Grenada, the 16th century classic on resisting temptation and overcoming sin.
  • Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. Amazing logical arguments for the Christian faith.
  • In Conversation with God by Fr. Francis Fernandez, absolutely excellent set of books with meditations for every day according to the Mass readings. You can buy each book individually to try it out.
  • Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, for beginners in the spiritual life.
If you want more ideas for books, here is Scott Hahn’s list of recommended books for men. And some great new novels from Ignatius Press.

Now, maybe your guy isn’t into books (gasp!) so here are a few alternatives so we cover all our bases.
If the father in your life is not just Catholic, but extra-Catholic (you know, he bought you a new veil to wear to the Latin Mass, maybe prays the Divine Office every day, perhaps keeps a pebble in his shoe on Friday or Wednesday, etc.) He might like Fr. John Zulsdorf’s (Fr. Z!) über-Catholic gifts from his store: such as the “To Be Deep in History is to Cease to be Protestant” mug or stein – sure to be a hit at the office! It is apparently a favorite of Fr. George Rutler.
Or maybe Dad loves coffee or tea. Don’t hesitate to buy Mystic Monk Coffee and help the Carmelite Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel build their monastery in Wyoming to last the ages. This is quality stuff Dad will love. Lots of flavors. Check out the Monk Shots.
Perhaps the kids want to make Dad a gift. Here is something I love to do. Make him a knotted rosary. Easy to do, easy to keep in the pocket, and silent in use. Something I certainly value. Check out Greg & Jennifer Willet’s apostolate the Rosary Army for details.
Finally, I asked my 11 year old son what he thought a dad would want on Father’s Day. Here is his list: grill cleaner, power tools, iPad, a camera, utility belt, pet snake. “Pet snake?” “Yes, all fathers like snakes.” 
So there you have it, 25 great ideas for the father in your life. Don’t forget the snake!

P.S.  There are more than 25 ideas now because I keep remembering more great stuff. If you have an idea please comment and let me know. I may add it to the list.

Update: My former neighbor, a protestant missionary, and wonderful friend Glenda, who is one of the best Christian women I know, had a suggestion for the list. She says “I have an alternative idea to C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. We just listened to C. S. Lewis at War done by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. It is the story behind Mere Christianity plus the audio book. Jeff really enjoyed this. It definitely appealed to his logical engineering mind! We listen on long car trips… the audio book is a great alternative for those who rarely sit down to read a book, and the dramatization of this one holds your attention.

I Know That Trick

Today is Sunday and this morning while getting ready to go to Mass my 7 year old son had an amazing discovery.  ALL of his shoes, every one of them, were MISSING!  His sandals, his school shoes, his sneakers, every pair disappeared.  “Really? I said.  So, of course, we looked for them and they were nowhere to be found.  “I can’t go to Mass if I can’t find my shoes!” he said.  Yeah….right.

Now, I was not born yesterday, maybe the day before, but not yesterday.  I do have experience in these matters, having reared his infinitely more sneaky and Mass avoiding brother.  “Well,” I say, “then you are going to have to go barefoot.”  I did mean this – he would have gone barefoot.  “WAIT!” he says, “let me check one more place….”

Garbage Follies

So I have a 15 year old who is, shall we say…garbage challenged.

It’s simple really – the “garbage man” (not garbage-person, sorry ladies) comes on Wednesday and Saturday. The “recycle man” comes on Saturday too. So I ask my oldest, #1 son, fruit of mine loins, to please bring in the garbage can because today is Wednesday, and the empty can has been sitting out there all day, waiting patiently for him to bring it in. “And while you are going that way,” I ask, “could you please take the recycles from under the sink and put them in the recycle bin?” Pretty standard request really. Recycles live in a bucket under the sink. Simple. Number One Son comes back in the house and goes back to doing teenage boy things. All is well with the world.

So my husband and I go out front for a moment and low and behold…could our eyes deceive us?…maybe I’m not seeing right since I don’t have my glasses on? I squint. I walk over. Yep, here it is a Wednesday night and this is what I see:

It is the Saturday recycle bin sitting at the curb…he did bring in the garbage can, and in the recycle bin, amongst the plastic milk bottles, soup cans, and aluminum soda cans that were supposed to be separated from the rest, sits the bucket from under the sink. In the bin…at the curb…on Wednesday.

Can’t you just see the neighbors panic as they get up and leave the house for work and think…”Oh no! It’s recycle day! Crap! I forgot to put it out again!” And either be annoyed, OR turn around and put their recycles out! It could affect the whole neighborhood. Alternately, the neighbors think it is Saturday and turn around and go back to bed, missing a whole day of work. The thought is hysterical and all I can do is laugh.