Jeffrey Miller

Oct 212014
 

I love to read and mostly I have transitioned over almost totally to ebooks. That transition started four years ago with the introduction of the original iPad in April of 2010. At the start the apps for reading ebooks was rather limited with only basic features. The original version of iBooks was pretty good and the notes and highlighting features worked from the start. The introduction of the Kindle app opened up reading books from the Amazon store. Still as time went on I wished for more powerful features.

One of the positive features of eBook readers is being able to quickly highlight text for later along with attaching notes. In both iBooks and the Kindle apps there were some mechanisms for seeing these notes/highlights outside of the app.

The feature I wanted most was to be able to copy my notes/highlights to a text file for easy access and search outside of an app.

  • With the iBooks app you could see all notes/highlights for a specific book but couldn’t easily share the whole set. Now that OSX also has an iBooks app, it is a bit easier to access/copy these notes. If you import a book into your library this all works the same way.
  • Amazon allows you to view all your notes via a web page. This works fairly well and you can even navigate to location in the book referenced. Unfortunately if you import a book into your Kindle library not purchased from Amazon, no notes/highlights will show up.

So I started looking around for an eBook reader that would better fulfill my requirements. Specifically I wanted to be able to export all notes/highlights in plain text for reference. I did not want to be tied down to any proprietary system where I could loose access to these notes.

My search for these features along with a wealth of others was fully satisfied when I found an app called Marvin which is iOS only (I will give an Android suggestion at the end of this post). With Marvin you can annotate away and then via email:

  • Send highlights and notes. A HTML and a comma-separated values (CSV) version are attached to the email that is sent. The body of the email also includes title information.
  • Send vocabulary (any words you wanted defined while reading). You can choose to send any vocabulary words for the selected book or any vocabulary words from any book you read via this app. Format is also HTML along with CSV.
  • Export annotations (all highlights/notes/bookmarks/vocabulary). This sends an .mrv file which can be imported back into Marvin at a later date or shared with somebody who has the same book and the Marvin app.

These features alone sold my on the app. The fact that this app is constantly updated and well maintained adds to the joy of using it. The interface is aesthetically pleasing without getting in the way.

As with most third-part eReaders the books you read must not have Digital Rights Management (DRM) which is copy protection added to many books. There is little movement towards publishers releasing books without DRM, but some publisher do. For books on Amazon it will note whether the book has DRM or not. Ignatius Press does release there books without DRM. Sites such as Project Gutenberg have books in the public domain that can be used along with other sites. For the more adventurous it is relatively easy to remove DRM from books you have bought.

Since I have a number of ebooks I use the open source and multi-platform application called Calibre to manage my library. Besides providing a central location to manage ebooks it will also convert from one format to another along with a wealth of other features. I keep my Calibre library stored on Dropbox since this provides both backup and can be accessed from iOS/Android apps.

Calibre

To read my books from my library in Marvin I can import them directly from Dropbox or I could use the Calibre connector. What I found unique about Marvin is that when I select from Dropbox it lists recently added files first. This makes it very easy to find recently added books regardless of where they are stored in Dropbox.

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It is very easy to manage the local library on your device to both add content and to just swipe to delete. You also have access to themes to change out the UI. As for the main reading environment you have all the features of other eReaders such as font size and foreground/background color. But a wealth of other elements to tweak are also available such as margin width, line spacing, paragraph indent etc. Along with setting your preferred gestures to navigate from page to page. The wealth of features can be a bit overwhelming.

A rather unique feature is called Deepview which searches the book for characters and often used terms and then lists them by number of uses. From this view you can also quickly connect to an authors Wikipedia page or other articles about them. You can even create your own summary quickly including what is found in Deepview.

Book syncing is provided via Dropbox. So it is quite easy to continue reading the same book going from an iPad to an iPhone and I found this worked well in practice. Marvin is now a universal app for both the iPad/iPhone. In the past they were separate apps. Searching for text in a book works well and I only mention this because I have not found this true for all eReader apps.

The app even includes a timer so you can be reminded to stop, although not a feature I use. More importantly it does tell me how many pages are left in the chapter so I know if I can squeak in some more reading before finally quitting for the night. I really love this app and it just keeps getting better.

Now for those who are on Android there are two apps I have used that I could recommend. They are not as good as Marvin, but have their own strengths.

  • Moon+ Reader Pro – You can import books from Dropbox or Google Drive in multiple formats including PDF. You can also use Text-To-Speech (TTS) and switch between reading and using any voices available on your device. This worked, but I found it buggy, which is why I found a different app to use.
  • Montano Reader – Fairly advanced with many features. For Android this was my preferred reader. Sync though is a paid feature requiring a subscription. TTS worked very well here and I could easily switch between reading and listening.

Marvin is geared towards EPUB formatted books and that is my format of choice. I use Calibre]calibre to convert Kindle books to EPUB. What Marvin can not handle is PDF documents. For PDF I use an app called Goodreader which is also only for iOS. Goodreader is also very powerful also allowing you to note/highlight and export this information out. It also works with multiple cloud services such as Dropbox and make reading PDF’s almost a delight. You can visually crop a document to get rid of excessive margin whitespace making it more readable. Marvin and Goodreader together pretty address all my reading needs.

Oct 202014
 

Well now that the synod is over until they meet again next year it is time for a little wrap up.

Thankfully Tom McDonald saved me from writing an inferior post so I will just point to The “Thank You God the Synod Is Over” Post. I totally agree with his synopsis concerning the synod and that while there were certainly areas to be concerned it was not the gates of hell some anticipated.

There was a soap opera aspect “As the Synod Turns” and once again highlighted how bad the Church can be a communication. The initial publishing of the relatio post disceptationem, the translation problems, the pushback by Cardinals regarding it, and the final release of the document as voted on by the synod. This was a total mess. Jimmy Akin described the document It’s written in turgid ecclesiastical bafflegab.

Now if this was a soap opera I would certainly vote for the character of Cardinal Kasper to be the one to develop amnesia.

Still all this reminds me is that we are not the Church of the document. Documents can be useful and to clarify matters. Yet they hardly ever settle anything. Remember how the issuing of Humanae Vitae settled the issue of contraception or how Ordinatio Sacerdotalis stopped people supporting women’s ordination? Me neither. The majority of Catholic are likely never to read documents issued by the Vatican or even bishop conferences. Mostly what they hear is mediated through the news media which means most of what they hear is just plain wrong. Fr. Longenecker recently describe how twice in one week people came to him who were in irregular marriages thinking they could now receive Communion.

The continuing problem, which will likely always be so, is how to provide ongoing formation when the main vehicle is a ten minute homily on Sundays. Sure there is such a wealth of resources now for committed Catholic to seek this out. This is just not much of a priority seemingly for most Catholics. Too often it is the Culture not the Catechism that is providing formation. So regardless what shape the final Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation takes, this problem will of course remain.

It was not the synod of bishops, the curia, or bishop’s conferences that Jesus gave the great commission to. It was to each and everyone of us. It is an easy habit to want to outsource this responsibility to them and then complain about how they are handling our individual responsibility.

Oct 202014
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 2 – 19 October 2014.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

Oct 152014
 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The leader of Rhode Island’s Catholics suggests voters could write in Mother Teresa or sit out the Nov. 4 election because of a field of candidates he says isn’t “terribly promising” on the abortion issue.

Bishop Thomas Tobin says in The Rhode Island Catholic diocesan newspaper that writing in Mother Teresa in protest would send a signal that some voters want an anti-abortion candidate.

Tobin recently took aim at Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gina Raimondo (ray-MAHN’-doh), who is Catholic, after she won the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and spoke in favor of reproductive rights. Republican nominee Allan Fung also supports abortion rights.

Tobin says it’s a “pathetic spectacle” when Catholic candidates “choose” Planned Parenthood over the church.

He says voters don’t necessarily need to vote for every office or at all. Source

In the runup to the 2008 election I proposed voting for two Doctors of the Church instead in this parody video.

Oct 132014
 

Today the Synod released Relatio post disceptationem which as Jimmy Akin describes

(i.e., a report after discussion), which summarized the discussions held in the first week of the synod.

As with most things regarding the Synod or the Church in general there are narrative reactions with people always looking for major changes in the Church and those who panic that such changes are going to happen. The truth isn’t always in the middle, although with Vatican documents the truth is usually in the muddle.

The invaluable Thomas L. McDonald posts a initial reaction on a first pass through the document Fisking the Synod “Relatio”. Well worth reading in full.

It’s a summary of the discussion as it stands. Most of it is very good. Out of 58 paragraphs, about four are awful.

Which means that all the attention (media and otherwise) will be on those four paragraphs. Unfortunately the awful paragraphs are truly awful and remove clarity in an area that is such a modern hot issue. Fr Longenecker posts regarding this I fear this is ill thought out, sentimentalist, wishy washy, secularist nonsense.

Since the “law of gradualness” has been much discussed recently along with showing up in this document it is very helpful to read The Law of Gradualness: 12 things to know and share. A couple of points he makes specifically regarding this subject and the document released.

10) Is this same understanding of the law of gradualness present in Familiaris Consortio and the Vademecum for Confessors?

It does not appear so. At least from what has been said thus far, it appears more to reflect the “gradualness of law” that was warned against in those documents, according to which a decisive break with sin is not required before receiving absolution and holy Communion, and in which a different standard of what constitutes sin would be applied to some than is applied to others.

11) Does the Relatio change Church teaching regarding the law of gradualness?

No. The Relatio is a summary what various bishops proposed in discussions. It is not a document of the Magisterium.

The document accurately reports that one group of bishops proposed this—and that others opposed it—but it does nothing to change Church teaching.

John Thavis, a reporter covering the Vatican, called it a “Pastoral earthquake” and that terminology has spread out into plenty of article. Although as we know from scripture, God is not in the Earthquake. Plus after reading John Thavis’ book “The Vatican Diaries”, I am not impressed by his analysis in general.

“Acts of the Apostasy” has some humorous analysis BREAKING! JERUSALEM COUNCIL ISSUES REPORT; CHRISTIANS BRISTLE

Oct 132014
 

While the modern idea of the rapture as popularized in the 1830s by John Darby is a modern invention believed by some Protestants, there seems to be even a more modern version of the rapture regarding Catholics.

Now this is all guess-work and not yet proven. Purely speculation, although it seems to fit some of the facts.

I think I had always been aware of this phenomenon, but I started to connect the dots. Usually sitting in close to the back I am one of the last to receive Communion. Going back to my pew I find that almost half the people sitting around me are now gone. Now since often during Mass I close my eyes to concentrate to attempt to pray I can’t say for sure what happened to these people. Still I draw a couple of speculations together. As Cardinal Arinze said “The Apocalypse, or the Book of Revelation, as it also known, presents a striking imagery of the heavenly liturgy and helps us appreciate how the Eucharistic celebration, as it were, looks heavenward.” Maybe these missing Communion recipients were so caught up in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receiving Holy Communion that they were raptured up into heaven?

Looking at Matthew 24:40 “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.” That sounds a lot like the proportion of people that make it all the way past the first verse of the closing hymn.

Still I could find nothing in the Catechism or the writings of the Church Fathers to validate this. Another theory which I much less prefer is that people are just leaving after receiving Communion. I would rather believe in the Catholic rapture than that. I really can’t discount this though in this materialistic age. People can be so caught up in the idea of shopping that they have to leave early to go to the mall and do even more shopping. In Catholic shopping Eschatology this can be described as:

  • Pre-mall: Christ returns before a thousand day shopping spree.
  • A-mall: The shopping occurs in heaven and those who have died in the faith share in this shopping during the current church age.
  • Post-mall Christ returns after a thousand day shopping spree.

Photo credit: itmpa via photopin cc

Oct 132014
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 2 – 11 October 2014.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “Come, Holy Spirit. Bestow upon us your gifts during the Synod. #prayforsynod” @pontifex, 6 October 2014
  • “Let us ask the Lord for the grace not to speak badly of others, not to criticize, not to gossip, but rather to love everyone.” @pontifex, 7 October 2014
  • “Dear young people, Christ is counting on you to be his friends and witnesses to his infinite love.” @pontifex, 10 October 2014
  • The spiritual power of the Sacraments is boundless. With grace, we can overcome every obstacle. @pontifex, 11 October 2014
Oct 062014
 

The Weekly Francis – Volume 75 – 6 October 2014

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 18 September to 5 October 2014.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

Oct 022014
 

Cardinal Gerhard Müller who is Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has a new book coming out on October 10th during the Synod of Bishops as they discuss ‘The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.’ The Hope of the Family: A Dialogue with Cardinal Gerhard Müller. This book is done in the interview format with questions from Spanish journalist Carlos Granados.

I’ve never read any of Cardinal Müller’s writings so I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed what he had to say. As a rather short book of under a 100 pages, still there is much to reflect on and I copied out a bunch of notes to further reflect on.

Due to all the punditry regarding the upcoming synod you would think it was called “The Divorced Receiving Communion.” You would have no idea of the breadth of the schema to be discussed as specified in Instrumentum Laboris. The actual interview involves a range of issues regarding the family. The hot buttons issue regarding divorced Catholics is addressed in part, and it is obvious the interviewer tried to draw out more on this. This gives just a taste of his reply which is much broader.

Cardinal Müller: Saint Thomas Aquinas said that mercy is precisely the fulfillment of justice, since God thereby justifies and renews his creature man (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 21, a. 3). Therefore, it should never be used as a justification to suspend or invalidate the commandments and the sacraments. To do that would be a crude manipulation of genuine mercy and, therefore, a vain attempt to justify our own indifference toward God and man. — Page 54

If we turn to the Gospel, we observe how Jesus, in his dialogue with the Pharisees concerning divorce, also has recourse to the two terms “divorce” and “mercy” (cf. Mt 19:3–12). Precisely in this passage he accuses the Pharisees of “hardness of heart”, of being unmerciful, since in their tortured interpretation of the Law they have concluded that Moses supposedly granted permission for them to dismiss their wives. Jesus reminds them that God’s mercy is contrary to our human weakness. — Page 55

What struck me the most was what he had to say about the individual in the context of the family and how “our society exalts individual rights.”

The individualistic family is another typically modern category: how many families languish because they are confined to themselves! — Page 38

There is much in that simple statement and category of “individualistic family” that is an accurate diagnosis of the state of the family. Maybe this simple statement hits me because of my own self-absorption.

As for pastoral practices, in my former archdiocese of Regensburg, it is quite common to offer Eucharistic liturgies for families with very young children. This seems to me to be a very good idea. We no longer talk about “a children’s Mass” but, rather, more accurately, about “a family Mass” since the attempt to introduce a child to the faith is useless and even counterproductive if this is done behind the back of his family. — Page 40

Throughout I could see his sense of urgency and his concerns for the family.

As a pastor, I tell myself: This cannot be! Someone will have to present the truth to them! Someone will have to open their eyes and tell them that they have been cruelly deceived by a false anthropology that leads only to disaster! — Page 78

Another unfortunate trend lately has been the “Cardinal vs. Cardinal” narrative. No doubt there has been a very lively debate and at times even name-calling, still there has also been simply discussion and critique without that stain. This book avoids that narrative and while the Cardinal critiques ideas and the manipulation of citations from the Church Fathers, he does not mention specific people.