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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Category: Reviews

Our writers do reviews for two reasons: As a way to call something excellent to the attention of readers; or as a springboard for making their own contributions to the topic.

Most Recent Posts

You, the Church, God: Ratzinger’s sacramental homilies

This collection presents two homilies on each of the seven sacraments, book-ended by homilies which express more fully the essential sacramentality of the Church. These are not scholarly texts but real words spoken to real congregations on real sacramental occasions. They communicate their wisdom through specific moments in time, and at what we recognize as a genuinely human length. They are marked by a profound simplicity from which we can all benefit as participants in the sacred.

Vision Book Cover Prints

New takes on old issues: Catholicism, history, biology

Among the few very interesting and worthwhile books that have come across my desk recently are one on “the secret history of Christianity” and one on “the first humans”, back in the days before we had a historical record to consult. In conception, both books are quite complex. In execution, both provide what I would call permanent insights to readers willing to hear out the authors’ extended arguments.

The prophet who foretold Christianity

Mike Aquilina’s presentation of the “forgotten” prophecy of Malachi, though grounded in his thorough study of the Fathers, succeeds where a more academic approach would fail. His book expands our vision, teaching us once again to take Malachi seriously—in other words, to recognize an eternity already present on earth, in which we are called to participate ever more fully.

Mercy, revisited by useless servants

Fr. Moloney treats many things in exploring the meaning of mercy, including: Mercy as a political virtue, justice-only politics, solidarity and mercy, the role of mercy in civil and ecclesiastical punishment, mercy in the sacraments of the Church, mercy and the nature of God, God’s merciful discipline, mercy and the Fall of man, Our Lord’s covenant of mercy, our own devotion to mercy, works of mercy, and a last chapter on Mary which is brilliantly entitled “Mother of Mercy, Mirror of Justice”.

Final Liturgical Year volume for 2019-2020 available now

Our liturgical year ebooks include all the liturgical day information for each season just as it appears on CatholicCulture.org. These offer a rich set of resources for families to use in living the liturgical year in the domestic church. Resources include biographies of the saints to match each feast day, histories of the various celebrations and devotions, descriptions of customs from around the world, prayers, activities and recipes.

Now Available: Liturgical Year Ebook for Ordinary Time after Easter

We have just released the fifth volume in the 2019-2020 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 downloadable free of charge.

Reverence for the body (with notes on cremation)

What attracts Hahn’s and Stimpson’s undivided attention in this book is modernity’s disregard and even contempt for the human body along with the need for a Christian understanding precisely to overcome this disregard and contempt. In our technocratic era we tend to see all matter, including bodily matter, as something to be manipulated in accordance with our own desires, and we tend to regard our desires as independent of and somehow superior to our bodies.

Coffee Table Catholic: Vatican Secret Archives

This book provides a light history of the Vatican Archives while surveying some of the more interesting chapters of the Church’s history: The Patristic era, the trial of the Knights Templar, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the conquistadors and missionaries in the New World, the Galileo Trial, the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, and the famous (and often exaggerated) silence of Pope Pius XII.

Escape from the flames

Having escaped from a self-destructive lifestyle, a former homosexual asks why the Church did not help him earlier-- and why priests still encourage other young men to explore the same perilous path.

Doesn’t matter how long Lent is, don’t start your spiritual reading late: 10 books

I frequently do not figure out what special spiritual reading I will do in Lent until after it starts. Even in the days of speedy delivery, this often leads me to find something on the shelf that I can read again. That’s not a bad practice—I mean reading great books repeatedly, especially in the Bible—but if you are looking for something brand new, you might find one of the following to be just what you need.

The best books we read in 2019

It’s that time of year again! As usual, I’ve invited the CatholicCulture.org staff to list their favorite reading of the past year, not restricted to books published in 2019. And as usual, I’ve included some other media in my selections at the end of this article.

Being Single: State of life, vocation, or both?

Some are being called by God to commit themselves permanently to the single state in order to serve Him as He wishes them to serve, but without switching over to long-established vocational categories like priesthood, religious life, or even any organized form of consecrated life.

Toward a deeper understanding of Vatican II

Every Catholic who has struggled to understand the nature and the importance of the Second Vatican Council owes an enormous debt to Aidan Nichols for this book. It is one of the best books of 2019, clarifying many of the human questions surrounding the Council and certainly increasing my respect for the Council’s achievement. The documents should have enabled the whole Church to grow in faith and love—without in the least justifying the widespread errors which followed.

On purpose: Four blows against scientism to lift your spirit

The so-called scientific experts are fond of telling us that the world and all that is in it are not the result of an intelligible process caused by an intelligent agent but rather the result of random combinations of elements. These people think that God creates as we do, by recombining elements to make new things. But that is not at all what they must explain. What they must explain is why there is something rather than nothing at all.

Robert Cardinal Sarah’s dilemma, and our own

Cardinal Sarah works hard at creating the illusion that he is following up lines of thought proposed by Pope Francis himself.... But in fact, the grand alliance of what we might call “The Friends of Pope Francis” constantly tries to bring against Cardinal Sarah this charge of opposition to the Pope, precisely because it is so obvious that Sarah’s constant recommendations are seriously at odds with much of what Pope Francis says.

Pressures on the Faith in the American Civil War. And now?

In an intriguing new book by Fr. Charles P. Connor, the Catholic position on slavery leading up to and during the American Civil War (1861-1865) is explored in considerable depth. What we learn from it is how much cultural conditioning and competing interests can modify or “slant” the...

Reason, faith, and the pursuit of wisdom

“However secularized a civilization may become,” writes Samuel Gregg in his excellent new book, “it can never entirely escape from the burden of its spiritual inheritance.” The civilization of the Western world is the product of a singularly fruitful marriage between faith...

Episode 40—Tolkien and Aquinas—Jonathan S. McIntosh

Tolkien is well known to have been concerned with the internal consistency of his fictional world, from geography to history to language. But he was also concerned with another sort of consistency: metaphysical consistency, not only within the...

A touch of whimsy for Catholics

I don’t know about you, but there are days when I just want to enjoy myself. It is unhealthy to spend all of our time moaning about the state of the Church and the world when so many other pursuits are possible. There was once a young priest in our parish who, according to legend at least,...

Cardinal Müller on the Truth

Gerhard Cardinal Müller, who served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017, has sometimes been compared with his great predecessor, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), who not only appointed him but filled that position himself from 1981 until his election...

His Excellency Theodore Hesburgh

If you received a review copy of the impressive new biography of the famous Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame—the university president who firmly set this Catholic university on the spiritually devastating road to secular prominence—you may have hesitated to expend the effort to read...

Unbelievable category mistakes

It is difficult to know how best to review Michael Newton Keas’ new book, Unbelievable, published by ISI Books. Subtitled “7 myths about the history and future of science and religion”, the book very successfully debunks the following myths: Christians traditionally...

Life Is Worth Living: The Message of Fulton Sheen

In the mid-1950s, Bishop Fulton Sheen became the Catholic voice of America with his groundbreaking television series, Life Is Worth Living. But there was a second series with the same title, recorded only in audio in 1965 and released just after the close of the Second Vatican Council. The...

Swimming the Tiber from Teheran

Sometimes a good, long look in the mirror can set the stage for evangelization. When I look in the mirror I see a mortal man: a man who will die. But I don’t want to die. How can I escape that fate? When I look in the mirror I see a sinful man: a man who has done things of which he is...

Sanctity under fire: Fr. Willie Doyle and the rest of us

Sometimes we benefit from practical examples of how to grow in holiness. That’s why we turn to the lives of the saints. But one drawback is that so many of those who are canonized followed particular paths of life to which the vast majority of us are not called. A gap in understanding arises...

Liturgical Year Volume 2 Released: Ordinary Time before Lent

This liturgical year ebook includes all the liturgical day information for the period of Ordinary Time before Lent just as it appears on CatholicCulture.org. It offers a rich set of resources for families to use in living the liturgical year in the domestic church. Resources include biographies of the saints to match each feast day, histories of the various celebrations and devotions, descriptions of customs from around the world, prayers, activities and recipes.

Episode 25: Phil Lawler, Dr. Jeff Mirus and Thomas V. Mirus on Our Favorite Books of 2018

Phil Lawler, Dr. Jeff Mirus, and Thomas V. Mirus discuss selections from their list of their favorite books and other media of 2018. Links Full list: The best books we read in 2018

The best books we read in 2018

Jeff, Phil and I thought it would be fun to do a review of our favorite reading of 2018—not only books published this year, but which we encountered for the first time or which made a new impression on us. This doesn’t only include the specifically Catholic material we would ordinarily...

Send The Smoke of Satan to your bishop. Really. Do it.

Phil Lawler’s new book, The Smoke of Satan, is more than a superb analysis of what has gone wrong in the Church that has led to our current crisis. It also gives you something simple you can do all by yourself to help right the barque of Peter. And you really should take advantage of that....

Avoid discouragement, feed your soul: New books that can help

Given the problems facing the Church today, from both within and without, it is easy to become discouraged. It is easy to wonder whether it is any longer worthwhile trying to draw people into a Church which seems to do its best to betray them. And it is easy to wonder whether it is even possible...

The surpassing relevance of Mary’s Jewish roots

Brant Pitre just won’t quit, and we should be grateful. Image Books (Random House) has just sent me an uncorrected proof of the fourth in his series of books exploring the Jewish understanding of key Messianic texts at the time of Christ. The purpose of the books is to shed greater light on...

Marshalling our forces: Politics in America today

I am sure Robert G. “Delegate Bob” Marshall is sick of bad puns on his last name, but full disclosure forces me to reveal that I’m a friend…so he’ll have to live with it. Happily, Marshall has just had a new book published by TAN entitled Reclaiming the Republic....

Discouragement is not an option: Weigel on the fragility of order

In the midst of the disturbing now of a crazy Summer (see, for example, Phil Lawler’s two latest posts on political priests and Italian influence in the Curia)—in the midst of this disturbing now, I say, perhaps it is time to refresh ourselves with calm and studied reflections on the...

Six books to tell you what you need to know

The sad truth is that I do not have time to keep up with all the sound Catholic books being published today. How different this is from the 1970’s when I got my start, a time in which nearly every Catholic publisher deliberately undermined the teachings of the Church! Moreover, the books I...

Catholic renewal in the long defeat: Engaging Conor Sweeney

I’ve just finished a fascinating new book by Conor Sweeney from Angelico Press entitled Abiding the Long Defeat and subtitled “How to Evangelize Like a Hobbit in a Disenchanted Age”. While I do not think every emphasis in this book is directly on target, important insights leap...

Benedict XVI’s gift to priests: The ministry people really need

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the remarkable embodiment of the priesthood by Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) was a great gift to priests. Thanks to a collection of his homilies for chrism masses, ordinations and other occasions, this is a gift that keeps on giving. While I...

My book on Pope Francis—available for pre-order now!

Although I can’t claim to have predicted that criticism that has suddenly arisen around Pope Francis, I think it’s fair to say that anyone who had read my new book, The Lost Shepherd, would have been prepared. Did Pope Francis overlook charges that a Chilean bishop had ignored...

Four ways to grasp natural meaning from the God Who Is

I have set myself a bit of a task here, and it is all the fault of four excellent authors who have tackled the modern dismissal of God in four significantly different ways, all during the past fifteen months. I say “tackled the modern dismissal of God”, but they might not all conceive...

Encountering the Heart of Jesus, Now

In her Liturgical Year commentary on Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Jennifer Gregory Miller identified Tim O’Donnell’s Heart of the Redeemer as “one of the best books” on the subject—as indeed it is. That’s why Trinity Communications published the book...

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...

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. I also wish to note that this article grew out of conversations with two friends, to whom I owe many of the points made below. Perhaps the most frequently noted characteristic of Silence—both book and film—is its ambiguity. Some revel in it,...

Benedict XVI faces his toughest critic: himself

Toward the end of his 4th (and presumably final) book-length interview with Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, Last Testament, journalist Peter Seewald asked the now-retired Pontiff to name his own greatest weakness. Benedict replies: “Maybe clear, purposeful governance and the decisions that...

John Labarbara’s surprising take on “knowing God’s love”

This afternoon I skimmed through a book recently published by Sophia Institute Press. The title is Knowing God’s Love, and the subtitle is “8 Essential Truths Every Catholic Should Know”. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that author John Labarbara shifts his discussion...

A unique Advent/Christmas album sets the O Antiphons to music

As Jennifer Gregory Miller has noted, tomorrow begins the O Antiphons prayed at Vespers for the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve. Few enough even among practicing Catholics are probably aware of the O Antiphons that it is a pleasant surprise to see that an album largely based around them has...

Sing of Mary, 4b: Everything there is to know about the Mother of God, Part 2

Having introduced Michael Hesemann’s remarkable book last week, I’d like to complete my consideration, as promised, of Mary of Nazareth: History, Archeology, Legends. The pervious installment closed after considering the Holy House of Loreto, where Mary lived with Joseph. Let us press...

Sing of Mary, 4a: Everything there is to know about the Mother of God, Part 1

One way to retreat from vexing situations, without failing to grow in our ability to handle them well, is to turn our attention to Mary, who faced so many of these situations without being able to change the unpleasant outcomes—outcomes which had their own role to play in Divine Providence....

Living the Sadness of Christ

The other week, when I was trying to think of something I should write about, I was fresh out of ideas. Even worse, I was feeling bored and lethargic. There can be many different causes for these problems, but in my own case, running out of ideas typically means I am spending too much time...

The Pius Wars? No longer a slur on Pius XII, but the Pope’s own war against Hitler

Do you recall the Pius wars? The conflict over the legacy of Pope Pius XII is probably best known from John Cornwell’s highly-biased book Hitler’s Pope, a title that is also a shameless bit of name-calling. But that was in 1999. Since then so many scholars have leapt to the...

YOUCAT and DOCAT: Catholic teaching for teens and young adults

After Pope St. John Paul II promulgated the preliminary French version of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church in the 1992 and the final Latin edition in 1997, the Church mandated that all catechetical materials should be consistent with this new and comprehensive official text. The desire for...

Unlocking the mystery of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Earlier this year, Ignatius Press brought out an English edition of a remarkable coffee-table book entitled Guadalupe Mysteries: Deciphering the Code. Authored by film director Grszegorz Górny and photographer Janusz Rosikoń, the 280-page oversize hardback book is printed in full color on...

Are you grieving? Here is hope and consolation.

I’m a sucker for old Catholic books. Not having been written in the midst of our own controversies, they have an air of solidity. The authors do not typically fall all over themselves responding to the least sensitivities of our modern naysayers, and in most cases they were written during a...

The Better Pastor: Learning to really manage your parish

Patrick Lencioni is a well-respected business author, writing primarily about team leadership and management. The magic of his popular books, written in the fable format, is that he uses storytelling to engage the heart and the mind—and unbeknownst to either, to begin the change...

Reading Mother Teresa: A Public Service Announcement

With the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta coming up on September 4th in Rome, there is renewed interest in her life and work. On the other hand, Mother Teresa was so famous during her lifetime that many of our older readers will already be very familiar with her story, which has been told...

Don’t discount meaning. It leads to happiness.

I’m gazing out a window overlooking Willsboro Bay on Lake Champlain. I have an opportunity to do this for a few days most Summers, because my mother-in-law has a “camp” up here. Each time I do so, I am struck by the beauty of the place. And each time I experience this beauty, it...

Is your family life an adequate school of marriage for your kids? Think about this now.

Have you had the facts-of-life discussion with your kids? If so, it is just one step along the way. Even more important is giving them the formation they need to properly approach relationships with the opposite sex, including dating, courtship and matrimony. Ideally, sound parental attitudes...

Angelus Bells

Last week I wrote about Ordinary Time, Writing Our Acts. A large part of living in Ordinary Time is establishing a rhythm of prayer in our lives. Our family has been trying to remember to pray the Angelus once or sometimes twice a day. In times past, local church bells gave reminders of the...

A better marriage preparation (and preparation for a better marriage)

In the furor over the recent apostolic exhortation on marriage (Amoris Laetitia), few commentators have paid much attention to the most important point made in the entire text. In the first paragraph in the section on “The logic of pastoral mercy”, Pope Francis wrote: To show...

Emmanuel: The dominant theme of Fr. Spitzer’s third volume on happiness

The third volume of Fr. Robert Spitzer’s quartet on happiness, suffering and transcendence is now available. Those who have followed the progress of this impressive initiative will recall that the first volume explored the nature of human happiness and concluded that our greatest...

The Pontifical Swiss Guard’s Vatican Cookbook: A Family Cookbook

Images of the Pontifical Swiss Guards always seem to invoke intrigue. Eyes are immediately drawn into the colorful and unique uniforms. The Guard’s exclusive role as protector of the Pope and the Vatican City invites lots of questions about their life. The publication of The Vatican Cookbook...

Personal testimonies: Effective ways to deepen faith

I suppose everyone is interested in personal religious testimonies, whether conversion stories or anecdotes which provide glimpses of the presence of God. Such accounts have a personal element which is not typically present in apologetical arguments or academic theology. For most people they are...

Praying with Mother Angelica

Mother Angelica died on Easter Sunday at the age of 92 and Pope Francis is convinced she is in heaven. If you were a fan, you may wish to continue to pray with her by using a well-crafted prayer book published by EWTN entitled “Praying with Mother Angelica.” This is a reworking of...

A Catholic sci-fi classic: Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun

Published in four volumes between 1980 and 1982, Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun is considered by many to be the greatest science fiction novel ever written, and by some to be one of the great works of twentieth-century literature. It is also well known to be a significantly Catholic work....

Holy Week viewing: Pasolini's Gospel According to St. Matthew

How is it that a man who was an atheist, a Marxist, and homosexual came to make what is considered by both secular critics and the Vatican to be one of the greatest Jesus movies ever made? It was the fruit of Pope St. John XXIII’s invitation to dialogue with non-Catholic artists. Inspired...

Debunking the debunkers: how the best scholarly evidence confirms the Gospels

Any day now, a major media outlet will release a feature story which, with a great deal of promotional ballyhoo, will claim to call into question the ordinary Christian understanding of the Gospel story. It’s become an annual tradition: as Easter approaches, and secular journalists look for...

George William Rutler, always attentive to words—and to the Word—made flesh

With intense enjoyment, I’ve just finished reading Ignatius Press’ new collection of essays by George William Rutler, convert, priest and man of letters. The name will be familiar to most readers through his fame as a preacher and his many recorded talks. As a writer, Fr....

How I won’t grow spiritually, but you might: New efforts to keep it simple.

There are three elements in spiritual reading which will generally put me off. I am going to enumerate them because your own case may be very different. These elements are characteristic of five otherwise perfectly fine new books on spiritual growth from three publishers which have been sitting on...

Contrary to popular belief: Relativism cannot enlighten; it can only darken the mind.

We live in a culture in which people brag about their enlightenment. The logic for this self-delight is surprisingly thin. There is the fallacy of progress, of course, which leads us to assume that the latest developments in human thought and attitudes are invariably the best. And of course there...

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...

Evangelism in a Glass

In my last post I shared some simple ideas on ways to bring different wines to enhance adult celebration of the Liturgical Year. Those thoughts were originally scribbled on the back of an envelope 10 years ago. My husband and I have enjoyed inserting a bit of the “liturgical” in...

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...

Watching The Diary of a Country Priest: Bresson's film adaptation

Since I've just finished a series of articles on Bernanos's novel The Diary of a Country Priest, I’d like to say something about the famous film adaptation by Robert Bresson, which deserves its reputation as one of the greatest Catholic films ever made. The film hews very...

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest: Suffering and Humility

[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.] Suffering I can understand how a man, sure of himself and his courage, might wish to make of his death a perfect...

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest: Hell

[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.] In the following two passages, the protagonist tries to give a member of his flock some idea of the true horror of hell, much worse...

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest: Spiritual riches and poverty

[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 the Curé de Torcy, a fellow priest who serves as a mentor to the protagonist, on...

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest: Scandal

[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

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

[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

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

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

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

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

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

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...

Praying in Rhythm with the Feasts and Seasons: The Rural Life Prayerbook

There were two Catholic publications printed in 1946 that were ahead of their time. The National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) published a small booklet entitled With the Blessing of the Church, translated by Most Rev. J. H. Schlarman and Father Philip T. Weller published a Latin and...

Recognizing the Noonday Devil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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...

The proverbs of Henri de Lubac

Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), a French Jesuit priest, is widely regarded as the most influential faithful theologian of the twentieth century. De Lubac is most known for his insistence that theologians must escape from the formulaic theology of the Thomist schools and return to the sources. In...

Surprise! Marriage is the foundation of Catholic social teaching.

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

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...

Celebrating St. Nicholas: New Picture Book Review

One of the most popular saint days of Advent is the Optional Memorial of St. Nicholas of Myra. St. Nicholas is a contemporary of St. Martin of Tours, Nicholas being the saint of the Church in the East and Martin the saint of the West. Both are the first of the class of "confessors" and...

Anatomy of Conversion

Each person is drawn to God in slightly different ways. There are probably as many “motives of credibility” in the Catholic Church as there are personality types. But as I mentioned yesterday (see It is a failure of mercy to deny sin), most conversion stories turn on a moment when the...

Replacing problems with persons: Eve Tushnet’s new book, Gay and Catholic

Over the last three days I’ve read Eve Tushnet’s remarkable book, Gay and Catholic. Tushnet, who is now in her mid-30s, realized that she was “gay” in middle school, admitted it to herself at age thirteen, and told her parents shortly thereafter. But while in college she...

Adding Trust to your Christmas list

For those who love the Church’s revived emphasis on Divine mercy, a beautiful and touching Christmas gift would be the new coffee table book on St. Faustina, simply entitled Trust. Anyone familiar with the enormously popular Divine Mercy Chaplet will understand the importance of St. Faustina...

Helping troubled marriages; making good marriages stronger

With Pope Francis and the recent Synod of Bishops attempting to place marriage and the family at the heart of evangelization, it is an excellent time to consider the ways in which we can strengthen and protect our marriages against the stresses, misunderstandings and conflicts that tend to break...

Bergoglio’s List: Pope Francis and political oppression in Argentina

Within hours of the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy, the world press began to retail stories that Fr. Bergoglio may have been complicit in serious human rights violations under the military regime which ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983. This innuendo was based primarily on...

Saving the 21st century?

The title screams but the book is pretty good. I’m referring to The Race to Save our Century by Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak. Recently published by Crossroad, this book explores (as the subtitle puts it) “five core principles to promote peace, freedom, and a culture of...

Ignatius Press into the Breach: Trumping the Kasper Proposal

Ignatius Press deserves the gratitude of English-speaking Catholics for its publication of three books in direct response to the Kasper Proposal, as part of the discussion encouraged by Pope Francis leading up to the synods on the family. These books succeed in refuting the arguments in favor of...

While his cause is stalled: Remembering Bishop Fulton Sheen

The cause for beatification of the Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen is on hold because of a dispute over Sheen’s body between the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois. Born in 1895, Sheen was ordained for the Diocese of Peoria in 1919, and it is Peoria that has taken...

The Mystery of Music, Part III

In the next world I shan’t be doing music, with all the striving and disappointments. I shall be being it. —Ralph Vaughan Williams Our experience of beauty and mystery is often most intense when dissimilar things are united; the supreme example of this is the Incarnation, in which...

The Mystery of Music, Part II

Speak, you who are older, for it is fitting that you should, but with accurate knowledge, and do not interrupt the music. —Sirach 32:3 The task Labat sets about in The Song That I Am (see The Mystery of Music, Part I) is to consider “music as a language communicating an...

Each of us is destined to marry Jesus Christ

Long ago and far away (I mean the mid-1970s in North Carolina), I wrote a book. Trained as an historian but always more interested in evangelization, I decided to do a sort of popular survey of history from creation to the end of the world. The purpose was to trace the action of God in His plan of...

Gregory the Great, Christ, the Church and the Soul in the Song of Songs

The Song of Songs is a fascinating book of Sacred Scripture, and one that has an equally fascinating interpretive history. It has the form of an erotic poem of love between a man and a woman, but nearly all commentators have understood it as an allegory of the love between God and His people. For...

Calvary is a must-see Catholic film

The first half of 2014 saw the release of a number of high-profile films with religious themes which have ranged in quality from abysmal to decent. I don’t even need to tell you to forget them all, because you probably have already. The only one you need to see came out last month –...

The Mystery of Music, Part I

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. —Victor Hugo The unique power of music to move the human heart is universally acknowledged. Music is often given a special place among the arts, as in Walter Pater’s claim that “all art...

Another glimpse of Tolkien

On a whim, I recently went to the library and picked up a book that may interest Tolkien devotees like myself. Every year from 1920 to 1943, Tolkien wrote letters to his children in the character of Father Christmas, who sent them not just presents but lovely drawings and stories of his home at...

How we should and should not think of the Church

Between about 1960 and 1985, some remarkably weird theories about the nature of the Church emerged in fashionable theological circles. As a general rule, these theories were mirrors of the prevailing Western cultural euphoria. Indeed, they were based almost exclusively on wishful thinking. All of...

Talk to your kids about porn!

Parents typically find it easy to talk to their young children about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, peer pressure and “stranger danger.” So why is it that so many parents are so afraid of or uncomfortable with talking about sex? It could be because sex is the most personal of all of...

In other words, to be a Christian means this:

After reading my three part exploration of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s trenchant book, Who Is a Christian?, some have wanted a more precise explanation of how to be a truly devout Christian. Here is the best advice I can offer. The virtue of devotion is nothing other than a general...

Renewal with God before Us: Christ Determines All

As I outlined previously, Hans Urs von Balthasar found the main lines of Catholic renewal sullied by various human evasions—by our pervasive eagerness to soften our goals according to human standards. It is in the third section of the book we have been discussing that he finally sets forth...

Renewal with God Behind Us: Man Determines All

In the first section of Who Is a Christian?, Hans Urs von Balthasar discusses the difficult situation the Church finds herself in today (or, to be more precise, in 1983 when the book was published; for background, see the previous installment, Hans Urs von Balthasar on Renewal that Matters). He...

Hans Urs von Balthasar on Renewal that Matters

The brilliant Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 – 1988) was for a long time a controversial figure. Perhaps in some circles he still is. During his formation and education as a Jesuit, von Balthasar encountered Henri de Lubac and Jean Daniélou, and so found himself drawn...

Self-Esteem: Beyond Pop Psychology

There are words and concepts in certain disciplines – philosophy, theology and psychology come to mind – which, as they enter the popular lexicon and become operative in daily life, lose their power to illuminate and require immediate clarification in order to retain their...

John Allen’s Take on the Catholic Church

Our readers have sometimes wondered why we make occasional references to the reports and insights of veteran Rome correspondent John Allen—considering that he was employed for so many years by that scurrilous rag, the National Catholic Reporter. Our excuse has always been the same: Allen is...

Ideology vs. individual: a novel of ideas

One of the tragedies of World War II is that, as much as it was “the good war,” many of its winners never completely understood what they were fighting for. This is true even in an external sense – the British and Americans were simply unaware of much of what was going on in...

What’s Wrong with Historical Criticism of the Bible?

When Pope Benedict XVI wrote his trilogy of works on Jesus of Nazareth, one of his purposes was to blend the useful aspects of historical criticism with a neglected tradition of Patristic exegesis. He wanted to suggest the limits of modern historical criticism and call new attention to the...

The Hound of Heaven Never Rests

Stories of conversion or reversion to Catholicism are very captivating. I love to read how God works His grace and unfolds His plan; we are seeing the Hound of Heaven in active pursuit. I respect those who make those big leaps of faith and answer God's call. I often wonder if I would be able...

Making Gay Okay: Robert Reilly Explains How and Why

Ignatius Press has recently published an excellent book by Robert R. Reilly, entitled Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything. The focus is on the extraordinary rapidity of the change from social rejection to social affirmation of homosexuality. The author...

Laying the Foundation: The Little Oratory

The family is the root of society, and a miniature reflection of the Mystical Body, the family of God. We can all agree there is a crumbling of the traditional family. Oftentimes the family is isolated, no longer having the support system of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins or even...

Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism

For as long as atheism has existed as a significant intellectual movement, there have been attempts by atheists to psychoanalyze religious belief – to explain it or explain it away not with regards to its inherent truth or falsehood, but rather in terms of psychological needs, as...

Round Trip to the present moment: a Catholic jazz artist’s latest offering

“Art is not something that has ceased to be created.” Michael Levey began and ended his History of Western Art with these words, and what with the tendency of modern Catholics towards cultural pessimism, we could always do with a reminder. Of course, since a mere assertion will not be...

The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer

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

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...

Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches Book Review

I don’t keep a written bucket list, but I do have a mental list of things I would like to do some day (with most of the restrictions being lack of funds). One item on the list is to travel to Rome with my family. I have been been blessed to have visited Rome twice, the second time with my...

Noah: far from a natural disaster

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

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

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...

Cloistered: The Inside Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...

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

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.

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

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

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

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...

The End of Modernism: Joseph Ratzinger’s Dialogue with Love

When the Modernists came on the scene in the late nineteenth century, they were abuzz with historical consciousness. There is actually a good reason for this, though the use they made of it was seldom helpful. Nonetheless, by the 20th century, Modernist ideas were having an enormous impact on...

Rash Judgment and Vatican II: The Antidote

First let me demonstrate an important principle: An Irish bishop was severely faulted in the Murphy Report in 2009 for mishandling allegations of sexual abuse as an auxiliary between 1982 and 1996. He had already recognized, as early as 2002, that, while he handled things in the manner...

Church in Crisis: What is wrong? Why? Can we fix it? How?

If you had to pick one central factor to explain both the collapse of Western civilization and the contemporary crisis of the Catholic Church, what would it be? For Martin R. Tripole, SJ, that factor is the shift in the modern world from the primacy of faith over reason to the primacy of...

Sisters in Crisis: The Definitive Guide

Among the more important books released by Ignatius Press recently is an updated edition of Ann Carey’s Sisters in Crisis. Originally published in 1997, the initial study closed before the more dramatic efforts of the Vatican to reform women religious in the United States. The new 2013...

Newman for the Rest of Us: Holiness, not Argument

Back when I was teaching at Christendom College, I assigned Blessed John Henry Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua (the title means a defense of his life) to a class of freshmen. This is the absolutely brilliant prose classic in which Newman explains and defends his spiritual progression into the...

Making the Sign of the Cross on the Road

My wife and I are in the midst of an experiment. Earlier this year I put a bed in an old Ford van and made a few other modifications for convenient work and travel at very low expense. Last Friday we set off to visit some of our far-flung children and one or two national parks. The theory is that...

The Catholic Guide to Depression: Start Here

If you’ve ever experienced even a little bit of prolonged depression, or you have a close friend or family member who has, you know how devastating depression can be. It is a growing problem in the modern world but, thankfully, there is enough understanding of it in our culture to avoid...

The Rise and Fall of the (American?) Church

Writing about the rise and fall of the Catholic Church in the United States is a very tricky thing, and Russell Shaw has done a fine job of it in his new book from Ignatius Press, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America. The task is...

The One Very Substantial Key to the New Evangelization

If you treasure your Faith, you never want to lose it. Your Faith is the pearl of great price, the guide and goal of your very existence, the one thing you simply cannot do without. And this means you find it difficult to understand the immense indifference toward the Christian Faith on the part...

Are the End Times Near?

Reading Heralds of the Second Coming by Stephen Walford is a salutary reminder of the eschatological and even apocalyptic character of Christianity. But reading the book also requires constant vigilance. The reader must distinguish the intrinsic link between the present and the end times (which...

Rebuilding Catholic Culture: a new gem of apologetics

“A vibrant Catholic culture makes intelligible a mode of life and the habits of being that fit us for Heaven,” writes Ryan N. S. Topping in Rebuilding Catholic Culture. The reverse, unfortunately, is also true. In the absence of a distinctive Catholic culture, the path toward...

Matching Books to Readers, II: Stroik’s The Church Building as a Sacred Place

Duncan Stroik has, over the past several decades, led a crusade to restore a sense of the sacred to Church architecture, gradually forcing the Modernists into retreat and establishing a beachhead of spaces clearly set apart for God for the purpose of communicating the mysteries of Faith. A...

Matching Books to Readers, I: Monti’s A Sense of the Sacred

Occasionally a truly fine book will come across my desk which deserves to be more widely known, meriting close and enthusiastic reading by a particular Catholic audience, but which simply does not cover a subject in which I have the requisite personal interest. Two perfect examples have...

Evangelical Catholicism: George Weigel’s Vision of Catholic Reform

George Weigel, whose biography of Pope John Paul II was brilliant, and whose analysis of Catholic affairs is always incisive, has a theory about the modern Church. Most of us would point to the Second Vatican Council as the starting point of a vast and difficult Catholic renewal, but Weigel argues...

Pope Benedict on Prayer: The Complete Set

Readers of CatholicCulture.org will remember that over about an eighteen month period before the start of the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI had devoted many of his weekly general audiences to an extended catechesis on prayer. Earlier he had done similar series on great spiritual figures...

Epistemic Authority: Preferring the True and the Good to the Self

Catholics who have made a deep commitment to their faith find the modern world puzzling. Every time they try to argue a position they are met not so much by counter-arguments as by ridicule. This ridicule takes the form of dismissing out of hand all those who permit a religious authority to...

How to Reach People? Christopher West on filling hearts.

We fail so often to “get through” to others with the love and joy of our Faith that we all have to wonder if there is a better way. I discussed several different approaches recently in Models of Apologetics. That title may seem to blur the question, because it implies argument,...

Catholic Social Thought? Not Your Father’s Encyclopedia!

Would it not be wonderful to have an encyclopedia of Catholic social thought? I’m not referring to something like the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church issued in 2004 by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace—which is available in the CatholicCulture.org library....

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