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Commentary: Book and Media Reviews

The most recent Commentary items which review books and other media.

How to deal with suffering, suffering of any kind

We all suffer at one time or another, and some of us face chronic suffering. I am ever mindful, for example, of all those who regularly plow through my commentaries, an exercise which may be classified as the suffering of frustration. But we can also suffer from doubt, exploitation, failure,...

Isn't the Catholic Faith simply love unveiled?

Transmitting and teaching the Catholic Faith is a tricky business. The way you go about it depends on a number of prior assumptions. For example, we will emphasize certain things and present key concepts differently based on whether the audience doubts God’s existence or already accepts...

Tastes in spiritual reading and devotional books (mostly mine)

I confess that, for spiritual reading, I don’t use much but Scripture any longer. This is hardly an indication of virtue, though it could be a sign of approaching death. Over the years I’ve read quite a few of the most famous spiritual works by saints and doctors, some of them more...

A case study in the development of doctrine

The trouble with master narratives of history is the air of inevitability they lend to events that could have gone very differently. Historians are the ones who construct narratives, yet it is also their job to disrupt them, or at least to go beyond them so that rather than taking the past for...

How do we know we are transcendent beings?

The second volume in Fr. Robert Spitzer’s “quartet” on human happiness is now out from Ignatius Press. I described the overall project and reviewed the first volume back in July (see Fr. Robert Spitzer on happiness: An effective approach to God?). Entitled The Soul’s Upward...

The consecrated life really is a love story.

We live in a curious age when God will call someone to the consecrated life via YouTube. That’s what happened to 21-year-old college student Lauren Franko, who went to play her favorite song and, instead of the lyrics to “Only Hope,” heard the words “Will you marry...

A refreshing look at the proper role—and enormous power—of women in the Church

For well over a generation, questions about the role of women in the Catholic Church have generated angry debates without producing satisfactory resolutions. In the 1980s the US bishops’ conference, having tackled such controversial topics as nuclear weaponry and economic policy, set out to...

Catholicism and Evolution: not so compatible after all?

Recall your frustration when the media reported Pope Francis’s remarks in favor of evolution as though they represented a total reversal of the Church’s teaching on the subject. Sheer annoyance with the media is enough to explain why educated Catholics responded by emphasizing that...

Overcoming bad habits: Reuniting Scripture with theology and faith

A funny thing happened when the Bible began to be studied according to the methods of modern scholarship: The role of Faith was forgotten. During the first half of the twentieth century, Biblical scholars too often focused their attention on the text as if it were any other ancient book. The...

Same-sex attraction: Read this before you risk your credibility.

I mentioned two weeks ago that Living the Truth in Love from Ignatius Press is an important book, and that I would have more to say about it. Having now read each of its score of theoretical, testimonial and pastoral essays, I am even more convinced that everyone concerned about the...

The Ignatius Press conspiracy to control the synods on the family

While we’re on the topic of conspiracies, I think we have to be perfectly honest. Ignatius Press, a bastion of intelligent orthodoxy, has been trying to control the course of the synods on the family for the past two years. So when Ignatius published its own allegations of...

How Christian relationships create authority

Consider the problems. Contemporary Western men are taught not to exercise authority lest they diminish the status of their wives or other women. Feminists see authority exclusively in terms of political power, regarding themselves as powerless if they are not given prestigious positions. The...

Louis Bouyer’s Memoirs: A portrait of the twentieth-century Church

Louis Bouyer (1913-2004) was another one of those fine French minds of the mid-twentieth century who were relegated to the outer darkness by the secularism that overtook the Church in the West in the 1960s. In this he joined such men as Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Jacques Maritain and Etienne...

Famous actors bring the New Testament to dramatic life in this audio Bible

Hearing Scripture read aloud is, in some ways, more enriching than reading it on the page. It can be less of an “intellectual” experience—one has to give up the control that comes from being able to stop and think, go back, or skim. It is simply the Word of God coming at you in...

The confusion, complexities and dangers of marriage annulments: A call to order

It’s a sad thing, a broken marriage. I am referring literally to a broken or severed marriage. Of course, all relationships can be broken or severed, and there is sadness in each case. But marriage is the most intimate and fruitful union of a man and a woman, the nexus of the family, a...

What I learned on my vacation, about God and man

I returned to my desk full-time yesterday after spending a couple of weeks denying, as much as possible, that my desk even existed—attempting to slip quietly from routine into refreshment. Everyone knows that this process has inescapably limited results. The reason is found in a variation on...

God the Designer: Yes or No?

Two weeks ago we saw how Fr. Robert Spitzer explored the nature of human happiness as a means of opening others to both the presence of God and a relationship with Him. I reviewed his book in Fr. Robert Spitzer on happiness: An effective approach to God? Today I will examine a different way to God...

Fr. Robert Spitzer on happiness: An effective approach to God?

Those of us who consider it important to know and love Jesus Christ find ourselves frustrated by the difficulty of convincing others. Over the centuries, a great many Catholic thinkers have turned their attention to questions of apologetics, spiritual development and conversion in the hope of...

Acedia and the Unbearable Lightness of Being

In his recent book The Noonday Devil, Jean-Charles Nault suggests that one aspect of acedia, or spiritual torpor, in modern society is that man does not want to receive goods that have a source outside and above himself. This leads him to deny the infinite, which in turn leads him to a...

Marion Cotillard in Joan of Arc at the Stake

This weekend, the New York Philharmonic has been performing Arthur Honegger’s oratorio Joan of Arc at the Stake, with the wonderful French actress Marion Cotillard as St. Joan. I was fortunate to attend Friday night’s performance. Honegger, a Swiss composer born in France and...