Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Two good publishers, six new books for Lent

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 26, 2015 | In Reviews

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 will often republish older proven works in new editions, but without trying to freeze spirituality in, say, 1950.

In this spirit, Sophia Institute Press has put out a new edition of Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard’s famous work from the early 20th century on acquiring the habits and spirituality of a truly apostolic life. The work has been published in many languages in addition to the original French, and under a wide variety of titles. I first encountered it as The Soul of the Apostolate. Sophia published it some years ago as The True Apostolate. This new edition has a title reframed for our contemporary modes of spiritual expression: Spiritual Handbook for Catholic Evangelists.

In a similar way, Ignatius Press has turned to St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), who wrote at about the same time as Abbot Chautard. Her “spirituality of communion” won her the recognition of the Church and a devoted following among Catholics seeking greater perfection. The new Ignatius title is a study of this spirituality by Sister M. Regina den Berg, entitled Communion with Christ. Edith Stein was a philosopher, a convert from Judaism, and a consecrated religious who died under the Nazis at Auschwitz. There are significant insights here.

Moving toward more contemporary authors, Ignatius gives us A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., who died just a few years ago after serving in the real trenches of the spiritual life—over forty years as the abbess of a Poor Clare monastery. Her indomitable spirit is reflected in the title of another book, written early in that process, A Right to be Merry. This new offering consists of inspiring meditations which teach us how to pray well and increase our union with God.

Meanwhile, Sophia Institute has come out with new reflections from the incomparable George William Rutler. Entitled, Hints of Heaven, the book offers Fr. Rutler’s observations on twenty-four parables of Our Lord, which originally appeared as a series in Crisis magazine. His theme is “seeing, but not seeing”, which is also the title of the Introduction. Fr. Rutler is a pastor in Manhattan and a popular television personality on EWTN. I still recall his book from the early 1990s, also appropriate to Lent, on the seven last words of Christ.

Two Particular Problems

For those working on particular problems, Sophia Institute has published Fr. T. G. Morrow’s little book, Overcoming Sinful Anger. Though Fr. Morrow holds a doctorate in Sacred Theology, he writes in a very simple, self-help style which combines sound spirituality with practical strategies. Many readers will balk at his recommendation to wives to employ a half-humorous, childlike, pouty, and deliberately “feminine” sort of anger to overcome the transgressions of their “big brute” of a husband against a “poor helpless woman” (this sounds like something from a previous generation that “only a priest” could write, even though it is drawn from a popular book on the subject). But I suppose this must have worked for somebody, and it is only a few strange pages in a book that is otherwise spot-on.

Finally, Ignatius offers Jean-Charles Nault’s new book on acedia: The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times. Fr. Nault is a French Benedictine abbot who also happens to be a theological expert on acedia—a spiritual problem which results in weariness, sadness, and lack of purpose. I share Fr. Nault’s view that this is a serious problem in our time, in which the prevalent culture invests heavily in narratives of life which make purpose impossible. That’s why we have one of our staff looking into this title more carefully, to see if we might present a more thorough review in the future.

For now, the point is that there is still plenty of time to purchase and read any of these titles, which are so appropriate for Lent.

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Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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