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 the writers they represent, and each of these three new ones will serve a particular audience well.
The publishers are Sophia Institute Press, EWTN Publishing (these two form a joint publishing group with production in Sophia Institute’s hands), and Ignatius Press. All three are extraordinarily reliable Catholic sources.
Fr. Michael Kerper: A Priest Answers 27 Questions You Never Thought to Ask
Fr. Michael Kerper studied politics and economics at LaSalle University, labor relations at the University of Massachusetts, and moral theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. He brings broad knowledge to his ministry as a priest throughout New Hampshire. His answers to common Catholic questions originally appeared in the magazine of the Diocese of Manchester, Parable. As you might expect, the questions answered are those that occur to many Catholics who have not yet been well-instructed in the Faith. Each answer is clear and concise—usually about two pages long.
Can the divorced receive Communion? What’s the difference between mortal and venial sin? How do we fast? Must we give to everyone who asks? Why can’t women be priests? What happened to Limbo? Is cremation allowed? What is a plenary indulgence? Are guardian angels real? And my personal favorite: Why doesn’t Pope Francis like pets? As the title suggests, there are 27 of these questions, most of which will be of interest to just about everybody.
The proper “market” for this book consists, as I said, of Catholics who have not yet made a significant study of the Faith—but also potential converts, who usually wonder about a good many of these things. Obviously, more questions could be asked and answered, but it is not necessary to be comprehensive. Rather, the value of a book of this type is that if the author gives clear answers which make sense, then the reader will become ever more convinced that equally good answers exist for every one of his or her questions about the life of the Catholic Church.
Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ: The Proverbs Explained: A Blueprint for Christian Living
Born in Chicago in 1949, Fr. Mitch Pacwa entered the Society of Jesus in 1968, and has taught Old and New Testament at a number of colleges as well as on EWTN. After making a number of EWTN programs, Fr. Pacwa went full time with the network in 2002, hosing EWTN Live and Threshold of Hope, among other programs. He has authored more than twenty books, most of which deal with Scripture. This one takes up the Book of Proverbs.
Now if you’ve ever read Proverbs, you know that it contains some peculiar sayings, oscillating at times between a deep spiritual wisdom and an almost humorously pragmatic grasp of what works in the world. As Our Lord said, “The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8). There is a good deal of old-fashioned practical wisdom in Proverbs! But Fr. Pacwa groups the various proverbs to treat such topics as Husbands and Wives, Parents and Children, God and Government, Wealth and Poverty, Pride and Humility, Work and Holiness.
In fact, what Fr. Pacwa has done here is to use the proverbs to shed light on the way we are to live as children of God. Selecting twelve topics under the headings of Family, Justice and Virtue, he uses several proverbs in treating each topic, to explain the faithful and sensible manner in which Christian should conduct themselves. The advantage of this approach is that the reader begins to see the book of Proverbs thematically, in a way that communicates the wisdom of God, rather than as a scattered collection of constantly shifting aphorisms.
Fr. Paul D. Scalia: That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion
Fr. Paul Scalia studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Ordained in 1996, he currently serves as Episcopal Vicar for the Clergy in the Diocese of Arlington. A frequent contributor to the Arlington Catholic Herald and the diocesan blog, Encourage and Teach, Scalia’s short essays (typically about a thousand words each) are characterized by considerable spiritual insight and charm.
That Nothing May Be Lost has an unusual structure. Collecting his essays into nine sections, the author decided to have each section introduced by other well-known Catholic thinkers—such as Fr. Paul Check, Scott Hahn, Helen Alvaré and Mary Ellen Bork. These sections include such topics as:
- The Lord: Knowing and Loving Jesus of Nazareth
- Paradoxes of Faith: The Tension and Balance of Catholic Teaching
- The Saints: The Mortal Masterpieces of God’s Grace
- The Life of Grace: Christ within Us
Each of the nine sections includes between six and nine essays, and each essay takes up a Catholic theme as exemplified in Scripture, the life of the Church and, of course, our own lives. Of the three books examined here, That Nothing May Be Lost is the largest collection and the one most suited to personal spiritual reading. In fact, this is exactly the way I am using it myself.
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