Commentary: Book and Media Reviews

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

Key perceptions of—and at—the Second Vatican Council

Most of us have our own convictions about the nature and significance of the Second Vatican Council. Surprisingly, we often hold these convictions without having read the documents. At this point, over fifty years after the close of the Council, it is hard to insist that people go back and read...

Want to nudge someone toward holiness?

It is rare that I find a new and simple book aimed at spiritual development which I really believe will be of much use to anybody at all. The pitfalls are legion, but the two most common today are the twin temptations to break things down into baby concepts and baby steps, as if God’s...

What makes a good book? The case of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

This is a brief and very paradoxical review, because Silas S. Henderson’s new biography of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga is in several important senses a very good book. Yet one wonders if academicians who write books think much about what makes a book really good. Or whether their publishers...

The Dominicana Spirit

Over the past year, through a number of friends and acquaintances connected with the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, I have become increasingly fond of what I think of as the “Dominican spirit.” Dominican thinking—I say based on no expertise but my limited...

A thumbnail guide to new Catholic books: Choose what appeals!

I am going to turn a necessity into a virtue. Books have been piling up on my desk all summer. Even after giving about half of them away without a third glance, I am left with more than a dozen which are clearly worthwhile, but which I simply have not had the time to read and review individually....

The YOUCAT Bible: A Fresh Overview of the Word of God

The YOUCAT Foundation has published another outstanding reference for Catholic young people. Having released question-and-answer versions of both the Catechism (2011) and Catholic social teaching (2016), the Foundation has now issued what it calls the “youth Bible of the Catholic...

Ebook for Ordinary Time after Easter Released

We have just released the fifth volume in the 2016-2017 Liturgical Year series of ebooks. Volume five covers the first half of the long stretch of Ordinary Time between the close of the Easter Season on Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. Like all CatholicCulture.org ebooks, this volume is...

Honoring Mary on the 100th anniversary of her apparitions at Fatima

Pope Francis has chosen to honor the Mother of God, and to lend further credibility to her apparitions at Fatima in 1917, by canonizing two of the three visionaries on the hundredth anniversary of the apparitions. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who died very young, were beatified in the year 2000 by...

Three Catholic essay collections, useful in different ways

Recently three different collections of essays crossed my desk, from three different publishers. In some ways, these collections remind me of the various ebook volumes of our own collected essays which CatholicCulture.org makes available as free downloads. But such collections are as different as...

Cardinals who take up the slack

During a pontificate that is often confusing and even self-contradictory, we are fortunate to have two outstanding cardinals in charge of two key congregations. The Guinean Robert Sarah leads the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the German Gerhard...

Father Gabriel, Detective

Just because I gave up reading mysteries for Lent does not mean you should not be allowed to know of Ignatius Press’ latest foray into the mystery market. The publisher has considerable experience with mysteries, of course, having published works on the mysteries of Our Lady of Guadalupe and...

Family-based catechesis for home and parish: A breakthrough

Sophia Institute has recently published the materials for the first year of a new four-year religious education program which is firmly rooted in family life. This is an important development in catechesis. As one parent put it, “I’m so happy that we’re now treating our Faith as...

Lenten listening: two new Benedictine albums of Marian chant

Lent is an ideal time to get back in touch with the Church’s patrimony of Gregorian chant (particularly for those of us who aren’t blessed to hear it regularly at Mass). The penitential season motivated me to get caught up on a couple of recent albums—both, interestingly enough,...

Putting your hand to the Plough, with Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dorothy Day

Plough Publishing House is a Christian publisher focused primarily on a particular subset of Christian concerns: Solidarity with the poor, non-violence, the gospel of life, and simple Christian living. While Plough has published a number of authors famous in other contexts (from C. S. Lewis to...

Catholics today: Struggling when the wood is dry

I ran across a book on the Spanish Civil War the other day. I have never studied that war, but I know it was characterized by a wide variety of loyalties, often conflicting not only within families but within individual persons. By the 1930s people were hopelessly divided (and very frequently...

Tolkien the modernist: a glimpse of a unique creative process

[My work is] fundamentally linguistic in inspiration…The invention of languages is the foundation. The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows. That Tolkien’s creative work...

Catholics Confronting Hitler

Back in October of 2016, I praised and recommended Mark Riebling’s brilliant and exciting book, Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War against Hitler. Riebling focused almost exclusively on the relationship between the Vatican and the network of those within Germany who were seeking to...

Catholic drama: Matteo Ricci, China, and the problem of inculturation

Throughout history there has been an interplay between human culture and Divine Revelation. Different patterns emerge in the proclamation and reception of the truths of our faith in Jesus Christ. In each culture Christianity generates a different set of tensions, as the gospel builds on, purifies...

Combatting the dictatorship of relativism, one soul at a time

As an intellectual exercise, anyone who can think his way out of a paper bag immediately recognizes that relativism is a hopeless tautology. It affirms without a shadow of a doubt that truth does not exist, thereby proclaiming what would be, if it were possible, a very important truth. As a...

Scorsese’s Silence is a contemplative masterpiece

Warning: this review contains spoilers. Perhaps the most frequently noted characteristic of Silence—both book and film—is its ambiguity. Some revel in it, while others are deeply uncomfortable at best. (It is not necessary here to enter into psychoanalysis of the critics.) Most...