Friday, November 27, 2015

Books as Gifts

 I love to shop online; I like to give books as gifts, to those who are readers, that is. Books are gifts which keep on giving. They can be read again and again, and can be lent to friends. A good book can alter one's perceptions of life for the better; it can strengthen faith, deepen insight, and increase understanding. Last but not least, reading is one of the most enjoyable pastimes in the world, allowing one to travel through time and space, to see faraway places and meet people who lived long ago. There few gifts I relish more than a good book, which is why I have written the kind of books I myself like to read. The Paradise Tree was listed by Kirkus as one of the top 20 indie books of 2014, and among the top 100 best books of the year, according to the December 2014 issue.

Here are my books:

 The Paradise Tree: A Novel

 “With this marvelous immigrant saga, Elena Maria Vidal reminds us why our forebears left the Old World for the New: for Faith, family, and freedom! Through three generations of an Irish clan in Canada, she invites us into their home for struggle and triumph, celebrations of joy and sorrow, music, feasting, and dancing. The Paradise Tree makes ‘the past and present mingle and become one’ for the reader’s great delight.” ~Stephanie A. Mann, author of Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation

“Elena Maria Vidal’s latest book, The Paradise Tree, is the fictionalized true story of the author’s devoutly Catholic ancestors who immigrated to Canada from Ireland. It is filled with rich detailed history recounting the hardships and joys of the 19th century O’Connor Family. Beautifully written with great attention to historical, geographical and religious accuracy, this fascinating and moving family saga is a treasure that I highly recommend!” ~Ellen Gable Hrkach, award-winning author of In Name Only and four other novels

"An Irish immigrant builds a new life in Canada, the decades marked by marriage, children and the odd otherworldly encounter....An imaginative, meticulously told history that will especially appeal to those with Irish roots." ~ from Kirkus Reviews

"This is a stunningly lovely book, the perfect thing to get lost in for an afternoon." ~from the San Francisco Book Review (starred review)

"...Historical fiction at its best" ~D.Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

The Paradise Tree does what good novels should. It tells us a story, it shows us what it means to be human—replete with the triumphs, sadness, and conflicts entailed in being human—while whisking us away to another world that is not our own. For 232 pages we are extracted from our lives and into the lives of the O’Connor family. We root for them. We feel their hardships. We feel their connection and disconnection as a family while we are shown a distant time and place, filled with potentially unfamiliar folkways. In the end we are pleasantly reminded that the O’Connors’ story is just as much ours as we traverse the familiar territory of faith, family, and love, and how we still find ourselves dancing in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.~ The Portland Book Review

"Vidal does an excellent job of demonstrating the lifeline that the Catholic faith becomes for the O'Connor family and how it binds them together in the toughest of circumstances." ~Savvy Verse and Wit

"Weaving fact with fiction...realistic and stirring. An emotional tale of hardship, struggle to survive...with vivid descriptions of life in that place and time period. This book will appeal to those that like a good historical fiction story with depth and new beginnings." ~Just One More Chapter

"Vidal was able to write about devout Catholicism in a way that Protestants and other non-Catholics could follow." ~West Metro Mommy Reads

"The Paradise Tree by Elena Maria Vidal is a sweeping tale of an Irish-Canadian family that I happily dare to mention in the same breath as Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind" ~ from Back Porchervations

"As we journey through the years of the O'Connor family the author brings alive the joys, triumphs, struggles, and sorrows in such a vivid way that often you feel as though you are experiencing them yourself." ~Peeking Between the Pages

"Despite the sadness of many of the scenes, there is great charm in the lively portrayal of a family filled with love of learning and poetry. The hope of eternal life sustains Daniel, his wife and children through many tragedies.  Joy continually mingles with sorrow." ~Cross of Laeken

"The Paradise Tree is one of those books that made me feel happy and secure while reading even though some really terrible things happened to the family. I always had the sense that they would persevere and thrive. The Paradise Tree is a sweeping family saga that I will be suggesting to my friends and family. It was such an enjoyable book."~A Book Geek

"The people in the story felt so real to me and almost like they could have also been my ancestors."~Book Drunkard

"I loved the historical perspective that Elena Maria Vidal presented in The Paradise Tree: A Novel. It was interesting and informative to learn about the Irish. Vidal's writing was engaging and the story was filled with heart, soul, family loyalty, history, and unexpected twists and turns. I enjoyed this beautiful story and recommend it." ~Book Nerd

"Whoever you are, wherever your people came from, and whatever you enjoy doing with your free time, I don’t hesitate for a moment to recommend purchasing Elena Maria Vidal’s latest historical fiction novel The Paradise Tree." ~Lear, Kent, Fool

"A good historical fiction novel takes you back in time and presents the good, the bad and the ugly in a manner that informs and clarifies. A great historical fiction novel goes beyond that to lift up your soul as the heroes and heroines overcome obstacles both man made and natural. The result is the reader is left open jawed amazed and transformed. This book is a great historical fiction novel. I wept with them, I laughed at them but most importantly, I felt privileged to be invited to gaze inside their paradise tree." ~Stephen's review of The Paradise Tree on Goodreads

 Purchase The Paradise Tree HERE.  

Trianon: A Novel of Royal France

"What distinguishes this short and readable book from others is Vidal's examining their lives in light of their Catholic faith in a country that, until the Revolution, was the 'eldest daughter of the Church.'" ~Mike May, Pittsburgh Magazine

 "Exhaustively researched and yet completely accessible for those who wish to understand the events from a very personal perspective." ~Genevieve Kineke, Canticle Magazine

"Through the tragedy and the violence, the genocide and the thousand petty cruelties, Trianon remains, resolutely, a novel of hope." --Gareth Russell, author of Popular and The Emperors

"It's very refreshing to see fiction that strays away from the popular view of Marie Antoinette. Vidal has done extensive research on the royal family and it truly shows." ~Anna Gibson at Reading Treasure

"For me, reading Trianon was like the Heavens opening up and hearing the angels sing.  It's the 'be all and end all' of all things Antoinette." ~Book Drunkard

"A master of storytelling, the author makes you laugh and cry, right along with the characters. A true masterpiece, I rank this book along with the great Classics." ~Wilsonville Public Library Blog

"Be prepared to learn history as it should have been told. You will experience their life, their love, their faith, for you have never known them as you will after reading this book...Be prepared to be moved beyond belief." ~Enchanted by Josephine 

"Elegantly written, it is, quite simply, a heart-wrenching account of the trials and martyrdom of the king and queen of France, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette." ~Christine Niles, radio host of Forward Boldly

Purchase Trianon HERE.

Madame Royale: A Novel

"An unforgettable portrait of a royal life... Madame Royale is a fantastic tribute to one of Europe's most tragic, but courageous princesses." ~Gareth Russell, author of Popular and The Emperors

"The...backdrop of this heartrending story is that none of us can choose the circumstances into which we are born, and yet those...circumstances are the very proving ground of virtue, our own gymnasium of charity." ~Genevieve Kineke, Canticle Magazine

"Vidal gives us a gripping portrait of a woman whose personal destiny is enmeshed with the convulsions of the French Revolution and European history." ~Catherine Delors, author of For the King and Mistress of the Revolution

"In Trianon, faith gives the King and Queen the courage to face death; in Madame Royale, faith gives their daughter the courage to face life. Marie-Thérèse's story is truly one of bloodless martyrdom." ~Cross of Laeken

Purchase Madame Royale HERE.

The Night's Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars

"From the first page, Vidal draws the reader into a vibrant world of action and emotion. Raphaelle de Miramande is an engaging young heroine, bravely facing physical and moral dangers and dilemmas in search of truth and love. Vidal's novel captures the spirit of the Middle Ages." ~Stephanie A. Mann, author of Supremacy and Survival

"A harrowing and engrossing journey." ~Catherine Delors, author of Mistress of the Revolution and For the King

"The novel illustrates how easily and insidiously the abhorrent becomes desirable, the selfish honorable when individuals seek nothing beyond the fulfillment of their own desires, a message perhaps even more relevant today than it was centuries ago." ~Julianne Douglas, Writing the Renaissance 

"Elena Maria Vidal has been gifted with an eye for historical detail, an energetic imagination, an elegant writing style, and a keen and informed faith, all of which blend attractively together in this her latest work." ~Christine Niles, radio host of Forward Boldly

"In the first chapter the setting, plot, and all the main characters are all well-established....The novel moves on, mixing history and drama, at a good pace. Raphaelle is caught up in several major dilemmas; we can truly sympathize with what she is going through." ~Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller, blogger

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 Purchase The Night's Dark Shade HERE. Share

Hunger and Politics

From New Statesman:
 Chronic malnutrition and famine cannot be understood, let alone prevented, if they are detached from the realities of power. Consider the role of war. As Rieff writes, “While there have been famines in times of peace, there have been few major wars without famine.” Somewhere between 50 and 72 million people died on account of the Second World War. Roughly 20 million deaths were caused by hunger, about half of them in the Soviet Union. The famine in Greece in 1941-42, when some 300,000 people perished out of a population of less than 7.5 million, was mainly a result of plunder by German occupying forces and a British naval blockade. Exacerbated by a harsh winter, the last European famine of the Second World War occurred in those regions of the Netherlands still under German occupation in 1944-45.

Going further back, the Great Irish Famine of 1845-50 and the Great Bengal Famine of 1943-44 were both artifacts of imperial rule. The Soviet famine under Lenin in 1920-22 occurred during a civil war, but the famine in Ukraine in 1932-33 was a direct result of Stalin’s policies of collectivisation. The Chinese famine of 1958-62, which Rieff describes as “probably the most lethal single event in history”, was caused largely by Mao’s disastrous rush to industrialisation. Summing up, Rieff writes: “To the extent that one can view the last part of the 19th century as the age of imperialist famines, it is equally appropriate to view much of the 20th century as the age of socialist ones.” (Read more.)

Hard Sayings About Terror

From Robert Royal:

If there’s any general lesson to be drawn from this history, it’s that Islamic terrorism is non-partisan. It’s an understandable human trait to want to think that: if only we leave them alone, or speak more nicely to them, or deny that their apocalyptic visions or political aspirations are unrelated to deeply held religious views, that these outrages will slowly melt away. And that eventually we can all go back to pretending that everyone in the world really aspires to our American metrosexual, urban (or suburban), secular, skeptical, digital, consumerist lifestyles.

It’s a silly to think that we “created” such radicalism. We didn’t. Modernity in general generates reactions against its obvious corruptions and defects. Our multicultural universities, instead of obsessing over microaggresions or Islamo-, homo-, and other “phobias,” perhaps might help us better understand such reactions if they devoted some time to studying how they have emerged in other cultures, and in such murderous form. And from historical circumstances over which no one, not even an American president, has full control.

All of us need to be more engaged in thinking through what we can now do about them. Part of the solution is military, part a battle of ideas. Though let’s be brutally honest: Our influence on Muslim ideology is and will be quite limited. (Read more.)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Facts

From Dr. Talyor Marshall:
The first American Thanksgiving was actually celebrated on September 8 (feast of the birth of the Blessed Virgin) in 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida. The Native Americans and Spanish settlers held a feast and the Holy Mass was offered. This was 56 years before the Puritan pilgrims of Massachusetts. Don Pedro Menendez came ashore amid the sounding of trumpets, artillery salutes and the firing of cannons to claim the land for King Philip II and Spain. The ship chaplain Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales chanted the Te Deum and presented a crucifix that Menendez ceremoniously kissed. Then the 500 soldiers, 200 sailors and 100 families and artisans, along with the Timucuan Indians celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in gratitude to God. (Read more.)
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Seek The Face of God

From Catholic Exchange:
To be always looking in faith and hope for what is known to exist but evades discovery is not only of the essence of religion, but is also the motive of every generous adventure and the stuff of heroism. The search for the Christ-life is the supremely generous adventure, the one completely worthwhile heroism. But it would be a mistake to see in this the call merely to explore. Souls are not invited to experiment in di­vine love; they are invited to give themselves to it.

Love and sacrifice are not the same thing, but they are inseparable. To think of Christ and to think of the Cross is not the same thing, but the association is so close that the implication is immediate. Where love has been preached without sacrifice, it has led not to love but to license. Where Christ has been preached without the Cross, such preaching has led not toward Christ, but away from Him. And because the crucifix is to us Christians the symbol of our Faith, the service that we render as Christians is seen in terms of the crucifix. The love that we bring to Christ and the sacrifice that it costs us to bring it to Him are thought of together.

A price must be paid. The price of love is normally the price of faith. And this is as much the case in human love as in di­vine. The cost is the suffering of believing against all outward evidence that the prolonged search is in fact a progressive discovery. If the price of loving Christ is the pain of having to look for Him, the price of finding Him is the pain of having to share His loneliness in the Garden of Gethsemane. Loneli­ness is the worst suffering, and if we can endure this in faith, we have as good as won our way to Him. (Read more.)

First Catholic Martyr of Massachusetts

From Catholic News Agency:
In the courtroom, Ann refused to speak English and instead answered questions in her native Irish Gaelic. In order to prove she was not a witch, Mather asked Ann to recite the Our Father, which she did, in a mix of Irish Gaelic and Latin because of her lack of education.

“Cotton Mather would have recognized some of it, because of course that would have been part of your studies in those days, you studied classical languages when you were preparing to be a minister, especially Latin and Greek,” Father O'Grady said.

“But because it was kind of mixed in with Irish Gaelic, it was then considered proof that she was possessed because she was mangling the Latin.”

Allegedly, Boston merchant Robert Calef, who knew Ann when she was alive, said she “was a despised, crazy, poor old woman, an Irish Catholic who was tried for afflicting the Goodwin children. Her behavior at her trial was like that of one distracted. They did her cruel. The proof against her was wholly deficient. The jury brought her guilty. She was hung. She died a Catholic." (Read more.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Confronting Genocide in Iraq

From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
In the summer of 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) conducted a violent campaign against civilians in northern Iraq, in particular targeting ethnic and religious minorities. In less than three months, IS decimated millennia-old communities, driving more than 800,000 people from their homes, kidnapping thousands, and killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people. In September 2015, Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, and photojournalist Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin visited the region, documenting atrocities and interviewing displaced persons. Their findings, photographs, and videos present compelling evidence of present-day terror. (Read more.)

Learning From Our Ancestors

From Amazing Catechists:
Our Catholic ancestors did not shy away from the faith. With few exceptions, they went to Mass every Sunday (with their Latin/English missal) and attended Mass often during the week, they abstained from meat on Fridays, recited the rosary, wore medals, proudly displayed crucifixes in their homes and religious statues in their gardens. Most had holy water fonts in their homes. They proudly proclaimed their faith and were not ashamed.

Recently, my scapular was hanging out in front of my shirt. A fellow parishioner asked me what it was. “It’s a scapular, a sacramental,” I replied. This fellow parishioner was around the same age and yet had never seen a scapular “up close” and didn’t know what a “sacramental” was.

When my parents attended grade school and high school in the 1940’s, catechism was memorized and learned from an early age. Young Catholics knew and understood when sin was sin; there was no watering down of the faith. There was no “subjective truth.” Pre-marital sex and contraception were sins and even if they fell into temptation and took part in these acts, they knew it was sinful and headed to confession immediately.

Now? Well, it’s a different story. Although some Catholics do know the teachings of the faith, many do not. In fact, I’ve spoken to Catholics who are under the mistaken impression that the Catholic faith is a democracy or opinion-based church. I’ve talked to Catholics who had no idea Sunday Mass was an obligation and missing it was a sin. I’ve spoken to Catholics who had no idea that living together before marriage was a sin or that birth control was a sin.

Sacramentals remind us of our faith. They remind us that our life here on earth is temporary and that heaven is our goal.

We have a lot to learn from our ancestors. Our Mass going, rosary reciting, scapular and medal-wearing ancestors understood the importance of sacramentals and the importance of knowing–-and practicing–-their faith. (Read more.)