Archive for the ‘books’ Category

But what about the BOOKS?

July 17, 2009

The New Liturgical Movement blog is posting a three-part series on Cardinal Newman.  The first one offers a glance, with photos, into Newman’s private study.  Apparently, the room remains in the same state that it was when Newman lived in it, right down to the books on the shelves, which is cool. 

The author of the peice is not identified, other than to say that he is a member of the Birmingham Oratory.  But I can’t help thinking he’s not a book-geek.  How do I know?  Because when you are one, it’s easy to spot one.  And I can tell you, the first thing I’d have done when I wlaked into the room was head for the shelves.  I’d have questions!

What are the books on the shelves?  I’d have to take a good, long look over the theology books — oh my, one visit would not be enough — their titles and authors.   Any fiction, and if so, what?  Which ones seemed to be the most used, and which barely opened?  Did he mark them at all?  Write notes in them?  Did he put his name inside them?  How many books are there? 

These questions aren’t addressed.   But you do get some nice photos of the books.


Saints for Kids

June 5, 2009

goldenMaybe the most constructive thing I can say about Golden Legend of Young Saints is that my son – who is 11 and a kid who is more than happy to tell you when he doesn’t like something, particularly a book – has read it and had some positive things to say about it.  In fact, when I borrowed his copy, he told me to make sure I get it back to him. 

The book is written by Henri Daniel-Rops, a popular Catholic author and historian in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.  This book was originally published in 1960, but was published in French earlier than that.  (The original French publication date is not noted in this volume.)

This book is a collection of stories about young saints from Christian history.  It strongest quality, especially from a kid’s point of view, is that it presents the stories of the saints in narrative form, reading like a novel rather than a biography.

The earliest saints it features, like Marcellus, Mark, and Paul, are from apostolic times.  There are more, like Agnes and Blandina, from the time of the early Church.  As the book progresses chapter by chapter, we move up through time as well, meeting Odilia, Joan of Arc, and Aloysius Gonzaga.  The most recent are the Ugandan martyrs and Dominic Savio (the chapter on him tells the interesting story of an encounter with St. John Bosco), all from the 1800’s. 

I’d recommend it.  I’d say the reading level would be for about ages 9 and up.

(This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company.)

Worthwhile Reading on Sheen

May 30, 2009

sheen bookI’m working on an article about Archbishop Fulton Sheen for The Catholic Answer, planned for publication to mark the thirtieth anniversary of his death this December.  Sheen died  at the age of 84 on December 9, 1979. 

As part of my research for the article, I’m currently working my way through America’s Bishop: The Life and Times and Fulton J. Sheen, by Thomas C. Reeves.  It’s an excellent and very worthwhile read, providing far more than the standard and commonly known facts about Sheen’s remarkable life and ministry. 

Sure, everyone knows he was the greatest evangelizer the Catholic Church in America has ever known.  And he was certainly a full-fledged television star, with the same clout and popularity as just about anyone else on television in his heyday.

But the book also reveals some other truly admirable aspects of his character, as well as some of his interesting and surprising flaws.  It also has a lot to say about the tragic impact on his life and career of his conflict with Cardinal Francis Spellman. 

The article will be an interesting one to pull together.  I recommend the book to anyone interested in looking a little more deeply.

Grace Cafe

February 27, 2009

I came upon Grace Cafe before my wife did. It’s for mothers, but familiar with Donna Marie Cooper-O’Boyle’s work, I took a look and knew my wife would like it. I quickly found out I was right, because she made several comments to me as she read it about how good it was. When I picked up the book later, I noticed that she had highlighted several passages and even made notes to herself in the margins. Seems to have been worth her time! And it led me to spend even more time with the book, too. Much of the author’s wisdom is just as relevant to being a good dad and husband as to being a good mom and wife.

Donna Marie easily weaves practical, personal experience together with the wisdom of the saints and the teaching of the Church. I love that she can write about teaching a child to pray, doing laundry, and handling family dinners that are less than Norman Rockwell-perfect as comfortably and helpfully as she can draw out the teachings of Pope John Paul II and the Second Vatican Council.

This book is a sure recipe for a healthier, happier family life.

( This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. )

Books of 2008

January 1, 2009

If Peggy Noonan can do it, I suppose I can, too.  Since I have this odd habit of keeping a list of the books I read, I may as well make use of it.  Here are the books I read during 2008. 


Project Pendulum, by Robert Silverberg
Derailed, by James Siegel
The Disappearance, by J.F. Freedman
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, by Orson Scott Card
Cell, by Stephen King
Manifold: Time, by Stephen Baxter

Other than Orson Scott Card and, of course, C.S. Lewis, it was a rather forgetable year for fiction for me.  Project Pendulum and Cell were both horrendous.


Jesus Our Redeemer: A Christian Approach to Salvation, by Gerald O’Collins
The True Cost of Low Prices: The Violence of Globalizaton, by Vincent Gallagher
The Regensberg Lecture, by James V. Schall, SJ
Meet Henri de Lubac, by Rudolf Voderholzer
Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, by Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera
Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion, by Francis J. Beckwith
Lovely Like Jerusalem: The Fulfillment of the Old Testament in Christ and the Church, by Aidan Nichols
Just War, Lasting Peace: What Christian Traditions Can Teach Us, by Dolores Leckey, ed.
God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life, by Joseph Ratzinger
The Celebration of the Eucharist: The Origin of the Rite and Development of Its Interpretation, by Enrico Mazza
Because God Is Real: Sixteen Questions, One Answer, by Peter Kreeft
The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, ed. Robert Ellsberg
The Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite, by Enrico Mazza
Thomas Aquinas and the Liturgy, by David L. Berger

Of these, O’Collins, Schall, and the Day diaries were excellent.  Ratzinger, too, of course. and Nichols.  Mazza’s work is very interesting to me.  The Berger book was a bit disappointing.

Peggy Noonan on Mother Teresa

December 28, 2008

I’m a pretty big Peggy Noonan fan.  I have been since she produced a series of truly extraordinary columns that appeared in the Wall Street Journal in the weeks and months following the 9/11/01 attacks (like this one, for example).  So I’ve paid fairly close attention to her work since then.

Her most recent column features a run-down of the books she read during 2008.  (She seems to share the same quirky habit I have — keeping a running list of books read.)  One of them, and the one she spends the most time on in the column, is Fr. Joseph Langford’s Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire,  published this fall by OSV Books (which is, by the way, running a free shipping sale right now).  

Fr. Langford’s book is on my wish list, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.  Noonan’s column has whetted my appetite a bit more.  After going through a series of interesting books that were on her reading list this year, Noonan writes:

None of these books were more important in the end than a modest and unheralded book called “Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire” by Joseph Langford, a priest of her Missionaries of Charity and her close friend of many years. You wouldn’t think there’s much new to say here, but there is. Everyone knows that as a young nun in Calcutta, Mother Teresa, then Sister Teresa, left her convent, with only five rupees in her pocket, in order to work with the poorest of the poor in the slums of the city. But what made her do this?

On Sept. 10, 1946, on a train to Darjeeling, on her way to a spiritual retreat, she had, as Father Langford puts it, “an overwhelming experience of God.” This is known. But its nature? It was not “some dry command to ‘work for the poor,'” he says, but something else, something more monumental. What? For many years, she didn’t like to speak of what happened, or interpret it. So the deepest meaning of her message remained largely unknown. Says Father Langford, “What was deepest in her . . . is still a mystery even to her most ardent admirers. But it was not her wish that this secret remain forever unknown.”

In this book, based on her letters, writings and conversations, he tells of how she came to serve “the least, the last, and the lost,” not as a female Albert Schweitzer but as “a mystic with sleeves rolled up.” Father Langford tells the story of her encounter on the train, of what was said, of what she heard, and of the things he learned from her including, most centrally, this: You must find your own Calcutta. You don’t have to go to India. Calcutta is all around you.

It’s better than I’m saying. But this is a good time to have Mother Teresa’s life in mind, and to remember, perhaps, that all can change, that a life—and a world—can be made better all of a sudden, out of the blue, unexpectedly. But you have to be listening. You have to be able to hear.

Check out the full column, “A Year for the Books.”

Apostolic Letter on John Duns Scotus

December 20, 2008

Today, the Vatican released a brief apostolic letter by Pope Benedict XVI (though it is date October 18, 2008), marking the 700th anniversary of the death of Blessed John Duns Scotus.  Scotus, a Franciscan friar, was one of the most important philosophers of the Middle Ages. 

The Pope’s letter is not addressed to the whole Church, but rather to Cardinal Joachim Meisner and the participants in an international congress that took place last month in Cologne, Germany (Meisner’s see city), marking the occasion.

The Vatican news service page does not specify an official title, but I suppose it’s Laetare, Colonia urbs, which is “Rejoice, city of Cologne.”  (The titles are generally the first two or three words of the Latin version.) 

In the letter, Pope Benedict praises Scotus for emphasizing the harmony between faith and reason, for his fidelity to the Church’s magisterium, and for anticipating the Church’s teaching on the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  It is, however, available only in Latin and Italian at this point. (It seems odd that’s it’s not in German, too, given the group it’s addressed to.) 

John Duns Scotus was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993. 

Interestingly, though, there are some reliable voices who point to Scotus as the source of contemporary Western society’s cultural and philosophical woes.  Pope Benedict himself makes an attempt to get to the root of these woes in his encyclical Spe Salvi (see the section that begins with article 16).  He starts with Francis Bacon, the British 16th/17th century scientist-philosopher.  Robert Barron, in his extraordinary book The Priority of Christ, is an example of one who traces things back a bit farther, to John Duns Scotus’ revision of Thomas Aquinas’ conception of what being is all about.

Blessed John Duns Scotus, pray for us.

UPDATE: An article on the letter from the Congregation Propaganda Fides is here, and one from Zenit here.

“Behind Bella” on Today

December 18, 2008

Since we gave away the book here last month, and since both it and the movie are of interest to Catholics, I’ll point this out to visitors here.  Tim Drake‘s book, Behind Bella, was recently recommended to viewers of The Today Show by Kathie Lee Gifford.  Take a look.

Congratulations, Tim!  It’s well-deserved recognition.

The Holy Father on the Fathers

December 4, 2008

It doesn’t take a detective to discern, based on the books I’ve published and the material found on this blog, that I’m particularly interested in both the saints and in the ministry and teaching of the popes.  Given those two interests, I followed along attentively a year or two ago through the series of Wednesday audience talks offered by Pope Benedict, first on the apostles, then on the early Fathers of the Church.

So I was happy, but not surprised, to see that both Our Sunday Visitor and Ignatius Press have published compilations of these talks.  (I should also point out that OSV has more recently produced an illustrated edition of the collection of talks on the apostles, as well as a study guide to accompany it.)

The Fathers serves as an excellent resource that I’ll hang on to and no doubt refer to many times.  Benedict’s teaching is clear and succinct.  The most important thing about these talks, to me, is that they both put these great saints and teachers in the context of their times and help us apply their teaching and example to our own lives and times as well.

This book would also make a great resource for lectio divina – some reading to be incorporated into one’s quiet prayer time

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Fathers.

November 27 book giveaway: DMC O’Boyle’s “Grace Cafe” and “The Domestic Church: Room by Room”

November 27, 2008

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s two newest books are Grace Cafe: Serving Up Recipes for Faithful Mothering and The Domestic Church: Room by Room.  And they’re both going to one fortunate visitor this Thanksgiving Day.  But feel free not to enter to win them, because we’d love to keep them in this house.  I’m kidding, come get them, you’ll be glad you did.  (Or one visitor will, anyway.)

To enter, leave a comment in this comment box of this post, naming one thing for which you are thankful today (of course!).  As usual, you’ll have to include your e-mail address so that I can contact you if you win, but it will not be viewable publicly.  The winner will not be chosen randomly this time; rather, my kids will pick the response they like best.