Why I named my son after a Pope and a 6th century monk.

Benedict!My dear wife and I welcomed our new son to the world back in July, and his name did not come to us easily.  With our daughter, her name came easily by comparison.  We had it figured out months ahead of time, were both comfortable and confident in our choice.  Not so this time around.

We did what most expectant parents did: we made a list.  We whittled down the list to a handful.  I proposed ridiculous (by modern sensibilities) names that I heard during the Liturgy or my theological reading to watch my wife’s reaction, usually this resulted in The Look.  Fun fact: Eusebius is not a favorable name… but I digress.

The big day came and our son was born, but we still weren’t sure about his name.  After some deliberation, and after waiting for the good pain medication to wear off, we made our selection.

We named my son Benedict.

Yes, yes, we know… there was that one guy from American History.

In fact, my own father was quick to point this out seconds after walking into the hospital room.  “They’re going to call him Arnold, you know.”  My father-in-law feels the same way, in an interesting coincidence.

Yes, I know all about Benedict Arnold… but let’s just say we were shooting higher.

via Flickr user Papist

via Flickr user Papist

Is he named after the Saint, or the Pope?

Both, actually… and here’s why.

I have a strong admiration for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  I started writing this blog as part of the Year of Faith and to participate in his call to the New Evangelization.  He will likely go down in history as one of the greatest theologians of our time, and he wrote 68 books, 3 encyclicals, and 3 apostolic exhortations.  He is a defender of the Liturgy and of Catholic doctrine, and literally followed in the footsteps of a saint.  If you haven’t done so yet, check out his Jesus of Nazareth series.  It is mind-blowing.

Medal of Saint BenedictOver the last year or so, I have found a growing affinity to Saint Benedict of Nursia.  His golden rule of ora et labora (pray and work) is a great, simple way to live life.  Saint Benedict lived an inspiring monastic life, authored a Rule that formed the foundation for Western monasticism, worked miracles, and was known to possess the gifts of sanctity and strong character.  His sacramental medal depicts a well known event in Saint Benedict’s life when his enemies attempted to kill him by wine.  He became aware of the plot as he blessed the cup, and it shattered.  It also contains a rebuke to Satan, commanding him to drink the poison himself.  The medal itself wards against evil, poison, temptation (all of these things through Christ).  He is considered to be the patron saint of exorcists, a pretty impressive pedigree… the man was basically a religious superhero, what boy wouldn’t want somebody like that as a namesake?

Both men provide stalwart examples of living an authentic life in Christ, and in different ways they provide some help for learning to live this way… it seems fitting to name my son after men such as these.  Our hope is that when he is old enough, Ben will look to the writings of these men for inspiration and find the examples set by their devout life a template for his own.

There’s at least a little sci-fi in there, too…

Sort of a role model?

Sort of a role model?

My wife and I enjoy multiple layers of meaning to a name, and while the above outlines the primary choices… we also really like Benedict Cumberbatch (from the BBC’s Sherlock, The Hobbit, and other great roles) and Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (Star Wars). This also seems to help our non-religious friends to relate to the name after their eyes glass over when I explain about the pope/saint connection.  Does that count as New Evangelization?

And yes, we are calling him Ben (and sometimes, Benny).  I had a woman at Church implore me to not call him Ben or Benny, because Benedict is just too awesome of a name.  I’m glad to hear that some people get it!


Help me renovate our Church!

saintmarkA few months ago, my priest asked Tasha and I to participate in a feasibility survey to look at the possibility of remodeling our beloved Saint Mark Catholic Church in Westminster CO.  Before long, we were asked to act as campaign directors for this effort.  Since then, we have produced a video outlining the project and we now have archdiocesan approval for the project.  That means it is time for the fun part: the fundraising.

Below is a link to the video, which outlines the reasons why this remodel is important.  We need to raise $6.2 million dollars.  It seems like a lot of money, and it is.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of the current Saint Mark building, and we looked at every option including bulldozing the entire building and starting over (that would have taken about $9 million).  To bring the building up to code, we would have to spend $1.5 million to do anything to add to the structure.  We all feel like the time is now to make a significant change, especially considering the demographics and growth of the Church.

We aim to build a renovated Church that can help us outreach to the growing community, and attract more families to our parish. If you are able to help financially with a one-time or recurring donation over the next 36 months, please contact me.  This is very important to Tasha and I, and can help us build the Kingdom of God here on Earth.  Please prayerfully consider helping us.

View the Partners In Faith Campaign video here.



My Radio Maria Appearance!

In case you missed it, here is the link to the audio of my appearance on Radio Maria’s Sacred Treasures program.  It originally aired on Monday, October 20.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to share the story of my faith journey, including my involvement with the Knights of Columbus and That Man Is You.  Thanks to Kathie Duggan for asking me to do this!



Welcome, Radio Maria Listeners!

Mary with Baby JesusI would like to extend a heartfelt welcome to any new visitors that have arrived via Radio Maria!  It was a tremendous honor to appear on Sacred Treasures with Kathie Duggan, and any listeners of hers are friends of mine.

I will admit a certain amount of nervousness… this was my first time appearing on the radio, as well as the first time speaking about my faith experience in a large public forum.

If you heard the show or would like to discuss anything further, feel free to use the comment box or send me an email!

I hope you enjoyed the program and that you’ll continue to enjoy the rest of the site!  God Bless!


The beauty of a retreat…

Sacred Heart Retreat House

Sacred Heart Retreat House

I spent the weekend at the lovely Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, CO for our annual Knights of Columbus retreat.  Until this point, I hadn’t been on a retreat since I was 16 (almost 20 years ago!) so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

This particular retreat house is situated on 280 acres outside the small town of Sedalia, over an hour drive from where I live.  On the way down, I was thinking about my last retreat experience and how this might measure up.  I arrived to the beautiful grounds and immediately understood that this was going to be a peaceful, relaxing place oriented towards true reflection.

The two day program was divided up around the primary principles of the Knights of Columbus: charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism.  Father Ed Kinerk was our spiritual director for the weekend and provided us several presentations to move us toward prayer and contemplation of each of these themes.  Father Ed presented some very complicated theological concepts in an approachable way… I especially found the discussion on charity, love, and forgiveness the most inspiring.  He spoke at length about the importance of love in the practice of our faith, and that we could not continue to true charity and unity without focusing on loving like God first.

Christ by the waterfall

Christ by the waterfall

Most of the time in between presentations was spent in silence, to allow us to truly pray in an introspective manner.  Father Ed counseled us regarding how best to image Christ as we prayed, so we could make a more conversational and real connection.  He encouraged us to speak to Christ as if we were speaking to a friend, but not to apologize as we did this.  It was an interesting challenge for me, because I didn’t realize how much my inner prayer life was based on apology for my inadequacies.  You can read more about this philosophy of prayer in Father Ed’s article “Meeting God for Lunch“.

A beautiful tree along the trail

A beautiful tree along the trail

After the first afternoon of presentations, I ventured out onto the 30 acre area that had paved pathways.  The views of the fall colors and the prayer areas were astounding.  It was inspiring to look around and see other men in silence, many with rosaries in their hand or sat in quiet reflection.  We were welcome to talk during our lunch and dinners, pray on our own, go to Confession, or just continue to explore the grounds.  After Mass, we returned to silence and I once again made it out onto the trails praying on my own and listening to the nighttime sounds.  I had brought a few books with me on the trip, so I closed the evening by reading “Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise” by Francis Carvajal by the fireplace.  Sleep came easily after that, and was very restful thanks to the silence in the building.

Saint Jude at night

Saint Jude at night

We concluded the retreat with two more sessions, closing with a special session to take these lessons and apply them to our daily life.  This was followed by Mass and then some social time, however I left quickly after Mass so I could be with my family for the remainder of the day.

I took away some practical advice from this weekend.  First, silence is important in prayer.  Second, trying to understand God’s love as it relates to charity and forgiveness is a lesson that I will be thinking about for quite some time.  Third, learning to image Christ as I pray in more real terms really helps to deepen the experience of prayer.  It becomes less of recitation and petition and more conversing with a friend that goes far beyond any other friend we can have in this life. Last, and most important: I’m not going to let it be another two decades before I go on a retreat again.  The amount of spiritual benefit that was had in two days was far worth the time spent away from my family and the small amount of money that was charged.  I returned to the “real world” feeling very recharged this afternoon, and I look forward to carrying that feeling into the work week with me.


2014 Catholic Answers National Conference – Day 3

Christopher Check in action!

Christopher Check in action!

Today was very much a history-focused day. It started off bright and early with a dynamic talk from Christopher Check entitled “Modern Martyrdom: Can It Happen Here?” which recounted the story of the Cristeros in great detail.  Normally history tales don’t engage me that much, however Mr. Check’s telling of the plight of the Catholic resistance to the socialist government was very interesting, and I was unaware of how the persecution continued much further into the last century than I had known before.  The most engaging part of the speech came in the retelling of the story of Blessed José Sánchez del Río, a young boy who begged to join the Cristeros and ended up paying the ultimate price for his unwavering faith.  This earned José the nickname of “Mexico’s Tarcisius”… the retelling of this story compelled people in the audience to yell out “Viva Cristo Rey!” – the battle cry of the Cristeros.

Karl Keating, telling us of the plight of the Japanese martyrs

Karl Keating

After a short break, it was time for Catholic Answers‘ president, Karl Keating, to take the stage.  Karl’s presentation was entitled “Fidelity Under Fire”, where he recounted an interesting story that I had never heard before… the plight of the Catholic faithful in Japan.  Mr. Keating’s speaking style is very ambient… carefully weaving a dramatic narrative that painted a very clear picture of the terrors that certain priests and clergymen were subjected to in “the pit”… they were bound with rags and lowered headfirst into a hole filled with sewage.  Some apostatized in hours, some weeks, and many died.  The story continued that after near total eradication of the Japanese Catholic culture, the Western Catholic clergy that arrived hundreds of years later found that some faithful remained entirely in secret and practiced without any clergy present waiting for someone to come that was safe to trust in.

For lunch, I had my first ever In-N-Out Burger while I got to know Trent Horn, his lovely wife Laura, her family and a few other new friends.  For more information about Trent’s talk, check out my coverage from yesterday and his new book, Persuasive Pro Life.  I plan on reviewing Persuasive Pro Life as soon as I can get through it, so stay tuned for that.

The Q&A Panel of Catholic Answers apologists

Q&A Panel

After lunch, the panel of apologists took the stage for a Q&A Panel.  The questions were too numerous to recount here, but they covered a great deal of apologetics topics, material, citations, and jokes in the 75 minute panel.  They took a round-robin approach where the question was assigned to an apologist and after they had completed their short and concise answer, the others could add to the answer to round it out a bit more.  This allowed each question to get a buffet-style response… you see a bit of this on the Catholic Answers Live radio program, but it was multiplied by several times with a stage full of apologists. Like last year, this was a high point in the day and showed the great rapport that the staff apologists have with one another.

Holy Mass with Archbishop Sample

Holy Mass with Archbishop Sample

There was a short break before Holy Mass with Archbishop Alexander Sample presiding and Father Vincent Serpa providing the homily.  Mass feels different when you are in the midst of several hundred devout, on-fire Catholics.  Hymns were booming.  Loud prayers rang out to the ceiling of the ballroom.  Archbishop Sample celebrates the Holy Sacrifice in such a beautiful way, using the traditional Latin prayers and responses and taking special care to display the utmost reverence in his actions and body postures.  Father Serpa’s homily was very moving… he recounted the reasons for our faith and how we must sometimes carry the cross, even when the burdens don’t make sense to us.  He recounted the story of a teenager that wrote him with same-sex attraction and how they were struggling to make sense of why God would create them with such an inclination.  His response showed how suffering can be an act of love, and how we can reciprocate his suffering love for us and how carrying such a cross can be a beautiful thing.  I located the question and answer, so you can read it for yourself.

Banquet and Keynote by Archbishop Sample

Banquet and Keynote

The banquet dinner was held on the marina-facing lawn, and after the food had arrived it was time for our keynote address from Archbishop Sample.  The archbishop spoke about how we must banish a lukewarm attitude and become on-fire in the faith, and how we must grow to know the faith, speak the faith, and live the faith.  He recounted his experiences in reading Francis Caravajal’s book “Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise” wherein he learns (and re-learns) to force the temptation to tepidity out of his life.  In the practice of the faith, he called on us to ask ourselves “where is the love, the joy, the devotion?” and challenged us to contemplate the face of Christ, learn to love him, and then do naturally what you do when you love someone – learn everything you can about him, give him 100% of yourself, and become on fire disciples.  We were outside, just off of a somewhat busy road and I often heard cars passing by, and the archbishop’s commanding voice reverberating over the marina.  I was reminded at once of two things: the commanding presence of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and the verse from Scripture, Isaiah 55:12:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

I challenge any Catholic to come to this conference, hear these presentations, answers, and words from the bishop and not be set on fire.  Archbishop Sample mused in his speech about how the Church’s work tends to be done by around 7% of the population… imagine what it would be like if we doubled that to 14%?  If we could all learn to transmit our faith as effectively as these men did this weekend, I suspect we would be headed for a change the likes of which the world has not seen for hundreds of years.

This conference was a tremendous experience.  The quality of apologetics is some of the best in the world, and the sense of community was palpable… people were excited to get the opportunity to get to know one another, to share and hear about each other’s struggles, and to learn to transmit the faith more effectively.  The biggest thing that I can take away from the conference is this: I don’t feel alone when it’s over.  This was as much of a retreat as it was a conference, and I feel rejuvenated now that it is through.  I have made many friends this weekend and with luck we can continue to work together to be the leaven for this world.

You can find the rest of my coverage of this year’s conference here.


2014 Catholic Answers National Conference – Day 2


Jimmy Akin, and his epic cowboy hat

The speakers got underway quickly, after a big continental breakfast provided by the Sheraton.  The day started off with Jimmy Akin‘s talk entitled “Pope Francis: The Man, the Myth, and the Media”, where he began by making an astonishing connection that only fellow nerds and Catholics would be capable of making… that the world reacts to changing of the Holy Father in the same way they respond to a change in the doctor from Dr. Who.  It struck me quickly that a game of Dungeons and Dragons would be very interesting with Jimmy Akin involved… but back to his talk.  Jimmy continued to discuss the way that Catholics understand this change and how we often make bonds with a certain Holy Father, but we must take caution not to factionalize this and take it too far.  He also spoke of the honeymoon period that all pontiffs experience, and how that can quickly wear off and the fervor and scrutiny of their words fades somewhat.  He also spoke of how important it is to view differing papal styles in the same hermeneutic of continuity that Pope Benedict XVI often spoke of.  Jimmy’s time went by far too quickly, and before long it was time for a break.

This year, they built in a longer break between speakers which is both good and bad… it is good because one needs a few minutes to process all of the received content.  It is also good because it gives far more time for mixing and chatting with the apologists.  The bad part is that has caused a continuous stream of money to fly out of my pocket as I keep finding more good things to buy.  It doesn’t help that they are offering their lowest prices of the year  right now… it’s a perfect storm of reckoning for my debit card.

Tim Staples

Tim Staples

Next, it was time for the indomitable Tim Staples with his presentation “What Our Lady Reveals To Us – About Ourselves”.  Tim began by providing an overview of his background, and how along the way he encountered the work of the evangelical Walter Martin.  Martin, as many evangelicals and Protestants do, rejected the teaching that Mary is the Mother of God.  Tim continued to examine Martin’s claims and found that if you claim to deny that Mary is the Mother of God… then who was she mother of?  And quickly, with a few steps of logic down that road you lose both Christ’s Divinity or his human nature, and if you lose Christ’s Divinity then you also lose the notion of the Father along with it.  Please understand here that I am doing a shockingly poor effort at recreating Staples’ argument, but suffice it to say the logic was very sound and the discussion compelling.  If you’re interesting in learning more, Tim has a new book coming out entitled “Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of Marian Doctrines” which he describes as a comprehensive attempt to outline Marian doctrines and how they are both Biblical and defensible and necessary for our adherence as Catholics.  For those of you that have never experienced Tim Staples’ presentation style… someone once described it as “Holy Spirit Power” and that’s the truth… I challenge any Christian to listen to him and not leave completely fired up.

Another break after Tim’s talk, luckily this time I succeeded in keeping my debit card in my pocket.

Trent Horn

Trent Horn

The last speaker of the day was Trent Horn, who helped us understand “How To Talk About Same Sex ‘Marriage'”.  Trent is a uniquely different sort of apologist from Staples and Akin, however he presented an equally densely-packed presentation about the common ineffective arguments against same sex marriage, common arguments for same-sex marriage and how we might refute them, and some more effective strategies to defend marriage.  The thing I appreciate most about Trent Horn is his practical advice for entering into dialogue about difficult topics.  I have heard him on the radio use pure logic to walk someone to a conclusion that a few minutes prior they never would have considered, and it is impressive.  He also had a few of the most genuinely funny jokes of the day, but I won’t spoil that for you… you’ll have to wait and buy the talks to enjoy those.

The last main break of the day caused another minor hemorrhage of cash, followed by the live broadcast of the Catholic Answers Live radio program.  The crowd participation was infectious and the guest, Archbishop Sample of Portland, was fantastic.  I don’t know if this is a charism shared by all bishops, but Archbishop Sample’s kind, direct, and charitable answers to difficult questions was just a marvel to behold.  The podcast should be up in a couple of days at the Catholic Answers radio archives, so check it out.

Catholic Answers Live, with Patrick Coffin and Archbishop Sample

Catholic Answers Live, with Patrick Coffin and Archbishop Sample

And thus, the conference adjourned for the night.  Thank Heavens the Sheraton offers free wi-fi in the lounge so I could use my laptop to hammer all this out… doing so on my phone like last night would have been pretty challenging.  More tomorrow!




2014 Catholic Answers National Conference – Day 1

IMG_3315.JPGI touched down to beautiful weather in San Diego, and a quick shuttle ride later I was at the conference! Things were moved to a new hotel this year and wow, what an upgrade… my room is beautiful with a view of the marina and the layout of the conference is dramatically improved over last year.

They had registration tables which took mere seconds to get me signed in. They gave away a convention bag with a Fathers of the Church calendar, Catholic Answers magnet, and a nicely produced program. I also noticed that there were signs to a Sales Room, which opened up alongside the main ballroom that would be hosting the speakers.

Inside, there were six sprawling tables loaded with Catholic Answers materials with most specially discounted for the event. Ringed around this were tables from other vendors, with a particularly interesting booth with a live demo of Verbum Bible Software.

After putting my credit card through some exercise, it was time for the Welcome Reception on the marina-facing lawn. What a gorgeous setting! It was a great mixer, with finger food and a number of the Catholic Answers speakers and staff present. I struck up some conversations with several other convention-goers, and was lucky to meet and greet Trent Horn, Karl Keating, Jimmy Akin, and Father Vincent Serpa.

Soon, it was time for the opening of the convention. After a few words from Karl Keating and Christopher Check, Hector Molina took the stage and delivered a high-octane talk entitled “Evangelization: Not Just For Protestants Anymore”. It focused on our necessary work as Catholics to spread the Good News and many of the common objections that keep people from going boldly forth to speak with others about the faith. I had not been exposed to Hector’s talks before, and was impressed by his enthusiasm and high energy delivery. It was a great way to start the conference… If this set the tone for the weekend it is going to be fantastic!

To find out more, check out the following links:
2014 Catholic Answers National Conference
Hector Molina
My coverage of last year’s conference


Heading to the 2014 Catholic Answers National Conference!

Catholic Answers ConferenceAs I write this, I am here at my gate at Denver International Airport on the way to attend the 2014 Catholic Answers National Conference in San Diego.  I have been looking forward to attending this conference all year long.

Someone recently asked me why I would travel to attend something like this.  Obviously, the top notch array of speakers is the primary draw… you just can’t find such consistent Catholic apologetics all in one place like this… but that wasn’t all.  The thing that I found most invigorating is the community aspect of the conference.  I was surrounded with Catholics that were passionate about their faith… that wanted to learn it, defend it, and live it.  To me, this just reinforces that the Church is alive and well… despite common claims of the secular media.

My parish in Westminster enjoys some great, passionate men and women.  The trouble is that only a few dozen of them are compelled to participate in events, to meet and discuss the faith, and to evangelize.  At the conference, I am surrounded by hundreds of people and you can feel the energy and enthusiasm all around you.

The other primary benefit is getting to hear an extended speech from an archbishop.  Last year, it was Bishop Conley of the Lincoln diocese.  This year, it is going to be Archbishop Sample of the Portland archdiocese.  The few times that I have gotten to hear an archbishop speak it has been very impactful, and the opportunity to discuss the faith directly with them and hear them speak at length on a topic is worth the price of admission.  I recounted that last year, Bishop Conley’s speech was so engaging and rich that it bordered on mystifying.  He spoke about the importance of beauty in evangelization and I still think about that speech today.

This year I thought ahead and I brought my laptop along.  This means that I will be able to do a much better job of covering this year’s conference, so stay tuned for more.  If you are interested in reading my coverage from last year, you can find it here.


Tobit’s Dog

Tobit's DogSometimes, good opportunities present themselves in strange ways.  In this case, it was a midday text from my wife, Tasha.  She explained that Ignatius Press had posted something on their Facebook page about wanting Catholic bloggers to review an eBook of one of their newest novels.  A few emails later, I received my review copy of Michael Nicholas Richard’s Tobit’s Dog.

Since my wife and I basically share an Amazon Account for our Kindle devices, Ignatius is going to get a bonus second review from her.  She was a bit ahead of me on this effort, and had reviewed and re-read the book of Tobit prior to reading the novel.  Upon hearing this, I decided explicitly NOT to review the Bible prior to reading the book so I could approach this story from a different perspective.

I’ll lead off with my clunky words and leave you with her elegant and edifying account to close with.

Josh’s Review

This novel is set in the South during Depression-times.  In this story, Tobit Messager is cast as black men of modest means and the story centers around his son Tobias’s quest to collect a debt from a distant relation.  Tobias is accompanied by a long-lost cousin named Ace Redbone, who seems to have a knack for staying out of trouble in such a tumultuous setting.

Despite taking a painfully long time to get going, the establishment of the setting and the depth of the characters was very profound in this book. The author does an excellent job of telling this story in a way that feels very natural.  The more providential and miraculous aspects of the story happen in very organic ways.  Tobit is made to suffer in a way that a poor black family in the South might have suffered in North Carolina prior to World War II.  Tobias and Ace decide to travel carefully due to the tension between the races at the time.  Folk superstitions were used to evoke the original Bible narrative concerning Sarah’s tribulations.  I was excited to see parts of the storyline weaving together and the Tobias/Sarah relationship was beautifully done.

My favorite part of the entire story was the interplay between Tobit’s dog, Okra, and his long-lost distant cousin Ace Redbone.  There were several surprising moments where the author uses these two characters to pull back the veil to let you glimpse how God’s hand is at work.  Ace Redbone was hands-down the most compelling character in the story for me.  The way his affable charm and savvy navigated Tobias through his trek was inspirational, and it was done in a light handed and surprising way.  Ultimately, what begins as a sad and depressing story for Tobit ends in a wonderfully crafted narrative of how God can bless through adversity and how one man’s life can ripple out to affect others.  I became very invested in the characters by the end and was very relieved to see the words “Epilogue” near the end… which provided excellent closure and a few more of those wonderful illustrative moments showing God’s hand at work.

I can provide a small warning to the reader: give this story at least three chapters to get going.  I found the opening of the book slow, and the initial character establishment somewhat difficult to get through.  By chapter four, the threads of the story are beginning to mesh in an interesting way and it really becomes great after that point.  The author sometimes repeats aspects of a characters mannerisms or personality in a way that becomes unnecessary after the midway point through the book.

That being said, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this book.  I have found myself thinking about this story in the days since finishing the book, leaving me to ponder the ways that God may be testing me through adversity.  It truly enlivened the Old Testament characters and made me excited to reread the Book of Tobit. I feel this story reinforced that there are really no coincidences, trials can also be blessings, and to never underestimate the power of God to bring good out of adversity.  It is a powerful and true message.

Tasha’s Review

Before reading Tobit’s Dog, I read the Old Testament Book of Tobit; I wanted to be familiar with the story before reading the novel. I found Tobit’s Dog to be a wonderful retelling of the Book of Tobit. Because it’s a retelling, there are differences to some of the plot elements; these differences are minor and really help the story development in the novel. Variations aside, at its heart, this is a story about being true to your faith in God despite adversity.

Changing Tobit the Israelite living in exile in Nineveh to Tobit Messenger living in North Carolina during the Depression perfectly emphasizes that Tobit is an outsider living in an hostile land. A man of faith, Tobit always tries to do what’s right, even when he knows it will bring him trouble. And when he finds himself blinded, he still lives his faith in his actions and with his words. As we might expect, though, being blinded is a trial for Tobit, and he prays to God for release, to die instead of living in misery.

At the same time (and true to the Book of Tobit), Sarah is praying to God for the release of death to free her from her own difficult situation: her three fiancés have all died mysteriously and everyone considers her to be cursed.

Tobit is visited by a previously-unknown cousin, Ace Redbone. Ace brings news of an old acquaintance who owes Tobit money, and Ace convinces Tobit to send his son, Tobias, to collect the debt. So Ace and Tobias, accompanied by Tobit’s dog, Okra, embark on the journey.

Along the journey, Ace offers Tobias advice to help both Sarah and Tobit. Some elements of the story vary from the Book of Tobit, but the end results are the same: Sarah is freed of her curse, and Tobit’s eyes are healed. God has answered their prayers, not in the way they requested but according to His will.

I found the first chapter of Tobit’s Dog to be a little tedious as the characters and background are established. After that, the pace of the story picked up, and I was easily immersed. Best of all, I loved reading this novel and comparing the story elements to the Book of Tobit. Without giving too much away, I want to share my thoughts on three of my favorite elements of the novel. The story of the catfish was beautifully adapted to fit the novel’s setting without removing the essential plot development. The snippets about Ace Redbone were perfectly timed in the story to help us better understand him and the essential role he played. And true to the Book of Tobit, the plot lines intersect to show how God answers prayers by bringing together those who need help and those who can provide it.

I want to close by sharing my favorite quote from the book. I feel like this sums up the story perfectly, and it really resonates with me as I continue to heal emotionally after my miscarriage a year and a half ago. Ace Redbone says: “For whatever reason, be it the work of evil or pure chance, misfortune comes, but even with such misfortune God will knit something from which we might learn and be blessed. Of that you can be sure.”

You can buy the print or electronic editions of Tobit’s Dog at Ignatius Press. Aside from receiving a free review copy of this book, we were not compensated for this review.  Special thanks to Rose from Ignatius Press for letting us take part in this fun opportunity.