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Book and Media Reviews

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

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest: Scandal by Thomas Van - Wednesday

[This is part of a series of articles collecting insightful passages on various themes from Georges Bernanos's classic novel The Diary of a Country Priest.] The two quotes below are from non-Catholic characters who have been scandalized by the failure of Church leaders to...

The Coup at the (Catholic) U by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Tuesday

It was a remarkable thing even for the 1960s—the takeover of the Catholic University of America by its heterodox Department of Theology. I am referring, of course, to the wholesale defiance of episcopal oversight as soon as the bishops on the Board of Trustees tried to put a stop to the...

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest: Stagnation by Thomas Van - Monday

[This is part of a series of articles collecting insightful passages on various themes from Georges Bernanos's classic novel The Diary of a Country Priest. Since the novel is in the form of a diary, any passages not in quotes are the protagonist's narration, while those in quotes are...

Reuniting Exegesis and Theology: Toward an Incarnational study of Scripture by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 14, 2015

If you have been reading my highlights from Henri de Lubac’s Vatican Council notebooks, you may already have seen this trenchant observation from 1962 by the great twentieth century theologian: It must be confessed that our exegetes...withdraw into a philological and critical role; they...

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest by Thomas Van - May 13, 2015

I've just finished reading the classic Catholic novel The Diary of a Country Priest, written by Georges Bernanos in 1936. Bernanos's moving tale of the spiritual battles of a sickly young priest tending to a small French parish is so densely packed with wisdom that rather than trying...

Beyond Our Ken: Henri de Lubac's Paradoxes of Faith by Thomas Van - May 4, 2015

From the truest truth to the falsest falsehood, there is often only one step. It has often been noted, quite rightly. But from the noting of that fact to the condemning of certain truths, as being dangerously near falsehood, there is also one step, and that step as well is often taken, this time...

Not Fully Human: Anthony Esolen’s compelling verdict on personal formation today by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 27, 2015

The modern notion of freedom is a kind of slavery. Over the years, I’ve tried to make this point by explaining that we are free only when we have the power to direct ourselves toward the good. Insofar as we fall into evil or sin, it is because we are enslaved by vice. To take but one...

Tips for getting comfortable with evangelization by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 17, 2015

Sophia Institute Press has hit the spot again with a new and very straightforward book on how we can make ourselves more comfortable with the task of spreading the Gospel. The author, Shaun McAfee, is a convert who currently serves as Director of Marketing and Content for Holy Apostles College and...

Piano improvisations, chamber music, Irish dances: Catholic musician Mark Christopher Brandt presses forward by Thomas Van - Apr 15, 2015

Catholic pianist and composer Mark Christopher Brandt has had a productive year—the busiest in his career so far. Back in March 2014, he released Round Trip, an album of duets with guitarist Dan Leonard. Several months later came December Moment, his jazz trio’s Christmas...

Recognizing the Noonday Devil by Thomas Van - Mar 27, 2015

If you had to guess the characteristic vice of our age, what would you pick? Some might say lust, and that’s certainly a big one, but it doesn’t seem to get to the root of the problem. The safe choice, perhaps, would be pride. It’s certainly true, but the same could be said of...

Scientific Evidence for the Creator by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 26, 2015

Back in 2012 I wrote an extensive review of Fr. Robert J. Spitzer’s impressive book, New Proofs for the Existence of God (see Proving God). Spitzer examined both scientific and philosophical proofs, and he did a brilliant job, but his book was not targeted at the casual reader. That’s...

The Apostolic Age opens Easter night on NBC by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 16, 2015

Following the massive popularity of the 2013 miniseries The Bible, NBC will air a 12-part sequel, A. D. The Bible Continues. The original series, produced by husband and wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, aired in 2013 on the History Channel. A. D. The Bible Continues will premiere this...

Gertrud von Le Fort: Tracing our tangled approach to God by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 12, 2015

The Baroness Gertrud von le Fort (1876 - 1971) was a remarkable German Catholic novelist and poet. She studied under the brilliant and highly-influential Protestant philosopher of religion, Ernst Troeltsch, whose works she edited. But von le Fort herself converted to Catholicism in 1926. Her...

Two good publishers, six new books for Lent by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 26, 2015

I try to follow the new titles coming out from both Ignatius Press and Sophia Institute Press, because I trust the judgment of these Catholic publishers. Particularly in the realm of spirituality, they will typically make sure their authors are firmly rooted in the Catholic tradition, and they...

St. Katharine Drexel shows how spiritual poverty and submission to Providence go hand in hand by Thomas Van - Feb 1, 2015

After St. Katharine Drexel founded her religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, everyone around her urged her to set aside some of her annual income to set up a fund which would endow the order’s works after her death. It would have been easy for her to do so, and certainly the...

The Didache Bible Is Here by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 21, 2015

I already mentioned the new Didache Bible, before it was actually available, in Two beautiful books to give as Christmas gifts. But I definitely want to call it to your attention again now that you can purchase it. It’s a brand new Bible developed and published jointly by the Midwest...

Why believe in God? And why are some answers so unbearably thin? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 8, 2015

I just spent a very enjoyable couple of hours reading a collection of essays from religious artists answering the question of why they believe in God. By religious “artists”, I mean religious persons who are involved in the arts—creative writing, the visual arts, and music. The...

The Hobbit Party: Tolkien and the Social Order by Thomas Van - Jan 5, 2015

It is well-known even among non-Catholic readers that J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic and that his Catholicism deeply informed his fiction. Indeed, there is something of a cottage industry in Catholic interpretations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. But Tolkien also had a unique...

Surprise! Marriage is the foundation of Catholic social teaching. by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 5, 2014

When I write about Catholic social teaching, I often highlight key principles such as the universal destination of goods, solidarity, the common good, and subsidiarity. All of these principles fit together to make a seamless whole, with each drawing life from the others. But articulating a series...

December Moment: A jazz trio's lovely, tasteful take on traditional Christmas music by Thomas Van - Dec 2, 2014

For working musicians, the season leading up to Christmas presents a twofold artistic challenge. The traditional holiday repertoire, whether sacred or popular, has been played and recorded so many times that creative musicians naturally want to find some new take on the old classics. At the same...

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