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  • The Civilized Reader

    Edited by William and Amy Fahey, The Civilized Reader joyfully reviews classic, good books — books that will enrich the life of your family and the minds of your children.

    Lent is a detective story. It is the detective story in which the soul is investigator, victim, and culprit all at once. Out of the entire year, it is during Lent that the Church demands that we confess our sins,…

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    April 3, 2014

    The Rime of the Ancient Mariner & Lent: A Matter of Life in Death

    by Sean Fitzpatrick

    All are guilty. Unbridled assertion of self. Satanic pride. Pure and simple devilment. All are Judas. All are Caiaphas. All are Pilate. All have spit in the face of Christ wantonly, offhandedly, and spitefully. All have smilingly skewered God to…

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    March 20, 2014

    Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop

    by Mitchell Kalpakgian

    “Wherever there was a French priest, there should be a garden of fruit trees and vegetables and flowers”—the telltale signs of civilized life. In Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop two French Jesuit missionaries arrive in the American Southwest…

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    March 13, 2014

    Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

    by Paul Joseph Prezzia

    Literature is sometimes thought of as a treat, as a dessert, as a delicacy. The Diary of a Country Priest, by Georges Bernanos, is instead like a carrot, eaten whole, raw, and unwashed. But as a wise priest says in…

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    February 27, 2014

    Chesterton’s The Man Who was Thursday: Nightmare or Dream Come True?

    by Sean Fitzpatrick

    Although the delight of civilized readers everywhere, detective fiction is built upon an uncivilized pessimism that expects to find evil lurking behind the most civilized bulwarks—such as a butler. In the labyrinths of the mystery story, it is quite normal…

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    February 24, 2014

    The Common Core of a Child’s Heart (Part I): The Art and Purpose of Storytelling

    by William Edmund Fahey and Sara Cone Bryant

    Zeal for a national curriculum is not new, nor is the appearance of an entire well-financed educational bureaucracy obsessed with finding (and controlling) methods to justify its educational schemes.  The educational sorcerers may feel that they have conjured up some…

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    February 10, 2014

    Tennyson’s Arthurian Legend: Idylls of the King

    by James P. Bernens

    For many, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur forms the quintessential retelling of the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It is thought that earlier medieval writers, both nameless and named—men like Geoffrey of Monmouth…

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    January 27, 2014

    James Herriot: Resuscitating the Blind

    by Sophie Hileman

    If ever there was an author whose writings overflow with praise of the Lord, it is James Herriot.  This humble country vet of the Yorkshire dales was so full of wonder and animated love of life that it could not…

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    January 23, 2014

    Jane Austen’s Persuasion

    by Mitchell Kalpakgian

    Austen’s novel illuminates this proverbial saying: “If something is truly meant and intended for you, it will come your way another time.” Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth were in love and engaged, but her aristocratic father, Sir Walter Elliot, and…

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    January 16, 2014

    The Chimes by Charles Dickens

    by Edward Mordrake

    A hard year. But listen! Pick yourselves up. The voice of Time cries to man, Advance! A hard year still! A year to fill the mouth of Time with lamentation. Dare we turn back? The Boston bombers. The Cleveland kidnapper….

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    January 9, 2014

    Hesiod’s Works and Days

    by Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

    The centuries ebb and flow on a cosmic tide between faithfulness and depravity as men commit their lives to a seemingly infinite range of virtuous and vicious acts. Though man tears himself away from the face of God in pursuit…

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    December 23, 2013

    “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore: The Doctrine of Santa Claus

    by Sean Fitzpatrick

    Twas only a matter of time. And it came—as it comes to all. ’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, a small creature was stirring—my seven-year-old daughter. “Dad,” (I knew the time was come,) “does St. Nicholas…

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    December 19, 2013

    Dickens’ Forgotten Christmas Tale: The Haunted Man

    by James P. Bernens

    Everyone knows Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story A Christmas Carol. It is, arguably, one of the Victorian author’s most permanent masterpieces, adorning Christmas celebrations in every corner of the English-speaking world, and making the likes of Ebenezer Scrooge and the…

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    December 16, 2013

    “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry: The Wise Fools of Christmas

    by Sean Fitzpatrick

     Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat. As Christmas carols draw mind and heart to the spirit of the season, the Church also calls for spiritual preparation through Advent. All…

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    November 21, 2013

    A Noble Imagination: Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley

    by James P. Bernens

    If you would wish for your children to garner a love and fascination for the good things of God’s Creation, if you would have them embrace adventure, cherish what is noble, honor the poor, and attain to a sincere civility…

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    November 7, 2013

    Stalky and Co. by Rudyard Kipling

    by John Sercer

    Kipling’s first book championing the great man “Stalky” is near the top of my list of must-read literature for adolescent men, though it is a book that I have never recommended to said young men.  The reason for my reticence…

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    October 31, 2013

    Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover”

    by Mitchell Kalpakgian

    As liturgical time draws to an end, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King.  At this moment it is worth remembering one of the finest English efforts at honoring the glory, majesty, sovereignty, authority, liberality, and magnanimity…

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    October 28, 2013

    The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy: A Story for All Souls

    by Sean Fitzpatrick

    A man lies on his deathbed—screaming; screaming for three days without cessation. Even behind closed doors, the sound horrifies all who hear even its muffled suggestion. The death of Ivan Ilych was no peaceful affair. It was a fight literally…

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    October 24, 2013

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula

    by Edward Mordrake

    J.R.R. Tolkien once cautioned his friend, C.S. Lewis, concerning Mr. Lewis’ skill in depicting evil. Anyone familiar with Uncle Screwtape or Perelandra’s Un-man will know what Mr. Tolkien alluded to. There is an uncanny comprehension of evil in these works…

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    October 14, 2013

    Guilt Gone Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    by Sean Fitzpatrick

    If Oscar Wilde had been a man of our time, he might have had rather mixed feelings about the LGBT liberation agenda. Though Wilde himself had homosexual tendencies and would probably have approved of the gay rights movement, he probably…

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    October 7, 2013

    The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen

    by Mitchell Kalpakgian

    How does absolute nonsense pass for common sense? How does stupidity give the impression of intelligence? Why do lies dupe so many people, even the most outrageous lies? How do same-sex marriage, the right to kill babies, and physician-assisted suicide…

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