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Book and Media Reviews

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

The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer by Thomas Van - Wednesday

One thing I have come to realize over the past few years, especially during the reign of Pope Francis, is that in a culture hostile to religious orthodoxy, it is easy for Catholics to fall into the trap of treating orthodoxy as an end in itself. When Francis warns us not to become a...

Journey to the Sun: A Strange Biography of Junípero Serra by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Wednesday

Gregory Orfalea’s biography of the great missionary to California, Junípero Serra, is exceedingly strange. In the good sense of the word, it is genuinely foreign and fascinating. The author has a gift for telling an exotic story with plenty of intriguing detail, even when the evidence...

Noah: far from a natural disaster by Thomas Van - Mar 29, 2014

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah lets us know within the first thirty seconds that it isn’t a literal translation of the Biblical account. In the course of a text opening that quickly recounts the story of Eden, the fall of Adam and Eve, and Cain’s murder of Abel, we learn that Cain and...

Two great, chart-topping Benedictine chant albums by Thomas Van - Mar 29, 2014

Weeks ago, we reported the unusual phenomenon of two chant albums reaching the top of Billboard’s traditional classical music chart. I say this is unusual, but not unheard of, because it seems to happen every few years since the ‘90s chant craze was kicked off by the 1994 rerelease of...

Mother Teresa, the Enigma by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 26, 2014

Is David Scott’s biography of Mother Teresa of Calcutta a disaster or a smashing success? It’s published by Sophia Press, so there are no qualms there. It is spiritually sound, even illuminating, so there are no qualms there, either. But like every other study of Mother Teresa, it...

A Strange Case: The Clash’s drummer-turned-chiropractor on music, healing, and his return to Catholicism by Thomas Van - Mar 15, 2014

The Clash is one of those bands you’re almost guaranteed to have heard whether you know it or not. The seminal English punk act made a dent in the rock music scene in 1977 with their first, self-titled album, featuring a simple, aggressive style with political lyrics, exemplified by songs...

Cloistered: The Inside Story by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 10, 2014

It is very interesting to see how secular publishers deal with our contemporary cultural objection to serious religious engagement. An author cannot advocate Christianity, but he can do a study of somebody else’s theology. An author cannot urge fallen-away Catholics to return to the Church,...

Bought with a Price: The Gold Standard for Dealing with Pornography by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 4, 2014

Today, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington released a new and expanded edition of his 2006 Pastoral Letter, Bought with a Price (see the original edition in our library). The new edition—available in a very attractive booklet or downloadable as a PDF file—is advance-dated to March...

An Aquinas Primer by Thomas Van - Feb 21, 2014

Sophia Institute Press has published a new popular presentation of the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas’s work defined Catholic theology for the greater part of the past millennium, guaranteeing that any properly catechized Catholic will have been influenced by the...

God, Character, and Literature: Paula Huston’s Land without Sin by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 20, 2014

As longtime readers may have noticed, I occasionally pick up and review newly published examples of what we loosely call “the Catholic novel”. Unfortunately, since Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy passed from the scene, there seems to have been a dearth of top-tier Catholic...

The Children’s Guide to the Papacy by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 18, 2014

Magnificat and Ignatius Press have teamed up to publish a striking children’s book entitled Our Holy Father, the Pope. As the subtitle indicates, it briefly covers “the Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present”. The text is by Don R. Caffery, a father who decided to write this book...

Bishop Bossuet: Get him before Lent begins by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 12, 2014

I haven’t read it, but you can still get it before it is too late. I’m talking about the new book from Sophia Institute Press, Jaques-Bénigne Bossuet’s Meditations for Lent. So far, I know Bossuet by reputation only, but that is exactly why I am going to use this book for...

The Courage to Live by Thomas Van - Feb 6, 2014

For all the popularity in pro-life rhetoric of the phrases “culture of life” and “culture of death,” it seems as though the majority of words in pro-life literature have been spent making moral and political arguments against abortion, rather than exploring the meaning of...

Being a Good Father by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 31, 2014

When I look back on the roughly thirty-five years my wife and I spent raising our six children, I tend to remember my own deficiencies as a father more than anything else. Some parents have a wonderful capacity to remember all the good times in extraordinary detail, but the specific moments which...

Speaking of temptation... by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 2, 2014

Over the Christmas break, I was given some insights but little joy in my spiritual reading. The emotions we experience in prayer and spiritual reading are, of course, incidental; it is the insights (and the transformations occasioned by them) that are important. And when I say I was given little...

Can there be too many good Catholic writers? Four books on Catholicism by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 20, 2013

In the most important sense, the question in my title can be taken rhetorically. “Certainly not!” we should reply, for it is eminently desirable that every person on the God’s green earth should be able to write, and write well, about the Catholic Faith. At another level,...

Political principles rooted in Christ? This is not easy. by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 12, 2013

It is a rare treat amid all the December fundraising to sit back and reflect on deeper issues. Surely one of the most vexing of these is the strange relationship between Catholics and the left-right dialectic in American politics. When it comes down to individuals, this relationship is confused...

Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 27, 2013

When I wrote my introductory essay on the role of the arts in evangelization (see The Problem of High Culture: The Arts and Evangelization), I acknowledged my limitations in handling this complex subject, and I also recommended Gregory Wolfe as a far more able Catholic guide. In doing so, I...

Self-Esteem and the Love of God by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 19, 2013

It is possible to make a circle through four rooms in my home, and I frequently pace that circle when I’m praying a Rosary or trying to work out ideas for a column. On each circuit I notice a large photograph of my youngest son surrounded by six of his nieces and nephews (of which there are...

Nothing Short of a Miracle: Three New Books by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 5, 2013

Most of us get into a kind of rhythm in living our faith. We get into a groove, but sometimes the groove can become a rut. When this happens, we need something to jolt us—to make us recognize once again that we are called to much that is not yet incorporated into our daily habits. Sometimes...

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