Consecrated Phrases: A Latin Theological Dictionary [2nd ed.] by James T. Bretzke

The Reverend James T. Bretzke is the Professor and Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco, and he has presented a very concise and informative volume of Latin phrases utilized in Church liturgy and practice. This slim volume covers many phrases familiar to Roman Catholics and Protestants in addition to some classical Latin aphorisms.

Each entry gives a literal translation of a Latin phrase followed by a very brief explanation of the phrase and its usage within the context of Church theology or canon law. The text is designed to be a quick reference for theological students rather than an exhaustive explanation of Church terminology; however, even a lay person can enjoy reading Bretzke’s brief entries. Whether you are looking for a quick Latin reference or are just curious about the history or meaning of Latin phrases that have surfaced in our religious culture, Consecrated Phrases is a welcome addition to any library.

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Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

Forced by her parents to flee Iran in the face of the Iran-Iraq war, Marjane Satrapi picks up her story from Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood  (read my review here) in Vienna where her parents have sent her. Unfortunately, the safety her parents wanted for her in Vienna eludes Satrapi as she is shunted from one host to another while she tries to complete her education and fit into a secular society. Painfully honest about her relationships and her life on the streets in Vienna, Satrapi effectively conveys the difficulties of living in a foreign land combined with the angst of adolescence. A strong, independent woman even in her youth, Satrapi is unafraid to take risks and speak her mind in either Austria or Iran. Homesick in the extreme, she returns to Iran where she speaks about her depression and her struggle to return to such a tyrannical society. She shares with us the small acts of defiance that Iranian women perpetrate to speak out against their oppression, such as subtly wearing make-up or showing a lock of hair from the front of their headscarves.

I had thought the lack of women’s rights in Iran was appalling until Satrapi conveys her experience with a Kuwaiti immigrant who mistook her for a prostitute simply because she had walked outside drinking a coke. While I was reading this second installment to Satrapi’s life, I wondered what it would be like to live in a society where the sight of a lock of my hair would land me in trouble with the authorities. Satrapi talks about being forced to spend an entire day before the Committee for the crime of wearing red socks, then she eloquently explains in a brief panel how dictators utilize fear to prevent the people from thinking about their rights. By the end of Persepolis 2, I really felt bludgeoned by Satrapi’s experiences, but I was elated that Satrapi decided to leave Iran. I cheered for her, held my breath for her, and in the end I appreciated the courage she had in showing us herself so completely and so sincerely. And so shall you.

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Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland

The death of her father and the disappearance of her white stallion set the stage for Louise de la Valliere (1644-1710), or Petite as she is affectionately called, to become a maid of honor in the glittering court of the Sun King, Louis XIV (1638-1715).  Petite is pretty, athletic, pious and loveable and soon draws the eye of the King, married for political reasons to the dreary, dowdy Marie Therese of Spain.

As Petite and the King carry on a clandestine affair, the intrigues of the court simmer around them.  Petite secretly bears Louis four children, two of which die in childhood and two of which are eventually legitimized.  Making the affair public and legitimizing the children has it’s consequences and sadly Petite is the one that is forced to make the sacrifices. 

The book centers around Petite’s struggle to reconcile her guilt over her role in the death of her father and her adulterous affair, with her devotion to God and desire to live a pious life.  We grow to love Petite and wish the best for her, but sadly, as intrigue swirls around her we come to realize her limited options in a world where being the beloved mistress of the King is not the easy life one might expect.

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