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Part Two of "The Best Books I Read in 2011..." | Ignatius Press Authors, Editors, and Friends | Part
One | Part Three | Ignatius Insight
Joseph M. Callewaert, Knight Commander of the French Order of Merit, was born in Belgium and educated in France. Now a U.S. citizen, he
lives in Gulf Breeze, Florida, where he enjoys life as an ardent historian of St. Paul the Apostle. He is the author of
The World of Saint Paul (Ignatius
Press, 2011), and he has also written delightful travelogues about undiscovered France
as well as Lights out for Freedom, a retelling of his youthful experiences of living in Belgium during 52 months of Nazi occupation.
I have, at home, a library consisting of a few thousand of
books acquired during my lifetime, I like to re-read many of my favorites and
this year 2011 was particularly interesting.
The Harvest of Hellenism. By F.E Peters. Simon &
Schuster, 1970. 800 pp.A history of the Near East from Alexander the Great to the
Triumph of Christianity. This is a masterly work of history. Eastern Hellenism has
produced Gnosticism, the University, the catechetical school, pastoral poetry,
monasticism, the romance, grammar, lexicography, city planning, theology, canon
law, heresy and scholasticism!
Founders of the Middle Ages. By E. K. Rand. Harvard University
Press. 1928. 365 pp. A classic which I consult regularly. The aim of the book is
to make clear the importance of certain great men (Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine,
Boethius, Cassiodorus and others), of certain great movements in thought and
culture during the early Christian centuries, particularly the fourth, fifth
and sixth, and to point out the significance of these men and these movements
as precursors of certain aspects of medieval civilization.
The Aeneid of Virgil. Translated by R.F Fitzgerald. Random House, 1983,
402 pp. On my vacation in the Bahamas, I took with me the Latin
edition of Virgil's Aeneid published in the "Collection Budé, in Paris, with
the French translation with the necessary notes and explanations. I think it is
the best translation in the English language.
I sing of warfare and a man at war
From the sea-coast of Troy in early days
He came to Italy by destiny
To our Lavinian western shore.
The Birth of the Modern. Modern Society 1815-1830. By Paul Johnson. Harper Collins
1992, 1095 pp. This book presents the fifteen years (1815-1830) as those during
which the matrix of the modern world was largely formed. The post-Napoleonic
wars saw great and rapid changes in Britain and continental Europe and still
more fundamental one elsewhere. The United States transformed itself from a
struggling ex-colony into a formidable nation, growing fast in territory and population.
Never before had so much cheap land become available, and the hungry people of
Europe were moving overseas in vast numbers to possess it. The age abounded in
great personalities: warriors, statesmen and tyrants; outstanding inventors and
technologists; and writers, artists, and musicians of the highest of genius are
brought to the fore. The author has tried to get the men and women who lived in
those days to tell the story in their own words. Those distant
voices—happy and angry, shrill and passionate, cynical, frivolous,
evocative always—constitute the vivifying principle of this book.
The Third Reich. A New History, by Michael Burleigh. Pan
Macmillan, London, 2001- 965 pp. This work was read to prepare for a conference
in which I had to present a paper about the Holocaust. It deals with the
progressive and almost total, moral collapse of an advanced industrial society,
at the heart of Europe, many of whose citizens abandoned the burden of thinking
for themselves. They put their faith in evil men promising a great leap into a
heroic future, with violent solutions to Germany's and modern society's
problems. The consequences for Germany, Europe and the wider world were
catastrophic, but no more so than for European Jews, who were subjected to a deliberate
campaign to excise and expunge every one of them, which we rightly recognize as
a uniquely terrible event in modern history. This extraordinary book will
remain unmatched for years to come.
The World of Saint Paul. By Joseph M. Callewaert. Ignatius
Press, 2011, 210 pp. I strongly feel that my book is an engaging work that
reads like a novel. It recounts the story of the great Apostle to the Nations.
This no dry tome or ponderous biography. It is a fascinating and
well-researched work which provides a popular and informed account of this
great apostle and his age. For those who know very little about St. Paul
– which unfortunately includes many Christians—Catholic and
Protestants alike—it is a superb introduction.
Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Asian History at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.
He completed his doctoral studies at the University of
Oregon, where he studied Chinese history, literature, philosophy, and religion.
His current research centers on the history of the Church in China, and he has
recently finished a book on the Catholic martyrs saints in China. His other
interests include East/West religious dialogue, especially between Catholic and
Buddhist ideas of faith and salvation. Dr. Clark has written several academic
books and articles on the topic of Chinese history and has been a guest on
"EWTN Live," "Catholic Answers Live," and Relevant Radio to talk about
Catholicism in China. His "Saints of
China" series, an in-depth history of the Catholic Church in China, recently aired on EWTN.
Every year I confront the same unhappy conundrum; good
writing is accomplished by good reading, but writing takes time away from
reading. Emerson said that, "There is creative reading as well as creative
writing"; reading and writing are indispensably wed. That said, I was able to
read a some good works this year, though the best books I read are the one's I
haven't yet finished. Yes, I suffer from starting a good book, setting it down
after marking my place, and then starting another – so that now there are
books with marked pages scattered throughout my house. I agree with the oft
asserted claim that the worst thing about new books is that they distract us
from reading old ones, so I made an effort to read the older, and more dusty
volumes, that sag my wooden shelves. But here's what I read in 2011:
By far the best book I read this year, and any year for that
matter, was St. Augustine's City of God. I'm embarrassed that I haven't read this before, but at 44 I know that the old
adage is correct; it is never too late. . . . Augustine's inerrable logic is
refreshing, and his ability to humbly admit the impossibility, at times, of
inerrable logic, is also humbling. I relished in his meditations on time, its
impossibility, and God's transcendence of temporal materiality. And, yes, as I
read the daily news I am reminded daily of the real, and disappointing,
confrontation between the "two cities."
In keeping with my usual China theme – it is, after
all, my academic discipline – I read Paul Mariani's recently-published, Church
Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai. This is a highly-readable and compelling study of
Communist-Catholic antagonisms in 1950s Shanghai. I was particularly moved by
Bishop Kung's prescient assertion that, "If we renounce our faith, we will
disappear and there will not be a resurrection. If we are faithful, we will
still disappear, but there will be a resurrection."
I also read the short work by Pope Benedict XVI, Christianity
and the Crisis of Cultures. Despite my
resolution to avoid this year books with the word "crisis" in the title (I
witness enough crisis in the news), I was nourished by the Pope's usual
insights on being a Catholic in the modern world. Benedict reminds us all of
Pascal's advise to, "begin with the folly of faith, and you will attain
Back to China: Since last year marked the 400th
anniversary of the death of one of history's greatest missionaries, Matteo
Ricci, I read Ronnie Hsia's, A Jesuit in the Forbidden City: Matteo Ricci
1552-1610. It is indeed a pleasure to read
a work that manages to combine literary clarity and scholarly enterprise.
Ricci's legacy remains a testament to the prominence of Jesuit history in the
Church, and the importance of cultural understanding when transmitting the
Gospel to other lands.
In preparation for the book I am presently writing on the
Catholic martyrs of Shanxi, I read Nat Brandt's absorbing book on the
Protestant martyrs of Shanxi, Massacre in Shansi. For anyone who does not normally read books on Chinese topics, I
recommend this work, which carries one along a gripping narrative of
perseverance and sacrifice in the face of cruel anti-Christianism. It is also
advisable for those of us who are Catholic to read works that remind us of the
not infrequent holiness of our Protestant brothers and sisters.
George Santayana once wrote that, "A country without a
memory is a country of madmen," and as a historian I am certain that he is
correct. But now and again we who love history should read about the history of
history (historiography). So, I was happy to finally read John Lewis Gaddis'
delightful commentary on how historians "map the past," in The Landscape of
History. I was so impressed with Gaddis'
remarks that I assigned this book in one of my courses, to the unanimous
appreciation of my students.
I'm not sure if this counts as "a book," but I did read
through the fascinating personal memoirs of Shanghai's bishop, Aloysius Jin Luxian,
who I have met several times. Yes, I have mixed feelings about a few of Jin's
assertions, but I have no mixed feelings regarding his tireless efforts to
restore the Church in China. These memoirs are soon to be published by Hong
Kong University Press, and their historical value is such that anyone
interested in Chinese Catholicism must buy and read this interesting work.
As a Church news junkie, I was raptly attentive to each page
of Benedict's recent interview with Peter Seewald in, Light of the World. The Pope confronts several sobering realities in
today's ecclesial context, though not without the hopefulness of a mature
theological understanding of the Paschal mystery. This book is also a summons
to greater attentiveness to our own actions: "Man is clearly in danger, and he
is endangering both himself and the world." In his usual wisdom, the pontiff
reminds us that all can still be repaired through "an encounter with God."
During Lent this year my priest recommended St. John Climacus',
The Ladder of Divine Ascent, which sat
for weeks on my nightstand. While largely written for the monks, most
specifically of Mount Sinai Monastery, it nonetheless offers trenchant insights
into the spiritual life and the ascent toward God. This work is little read
today, which is a pity, as it is one of those rare classics that render
timeless advice for living the Christian life. I paused when I read, "It is the
property of angels not to fall, and even, as some say, it is quite impossible
for them to fall. It is the property of men to fall, and to rise again as often
as this may happen. But it is the property of devils, and devils alone, not to
rise once they have fallen."
Does my own book count? I finally received the codex version
of my book on the martyr saints of China, China's Saints, which I read through enough times to count for all
ten books on this list. Writing is painstaking work; it is, as Hemingway said,
a form of "bleeding." ("There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at
a typewriter and bleed.") Authors fear that after years of writing their books
are consigned to neglected shelves, ornaments that little change the world
around them. So, in my final entry I commend the authors of the previous nine
books on my list, and render my thanks for bleeding onto pages that, hopefully,
shall change the world we share.
Dr. Eric Cunningham has been at Gonzaga since 2003. A specialist in modern Japanese history, Dr. Cunningham also teaches courses in
world and East Asian history. He earned his BA in History from the University of Colorado in 1984, an MA in East Asian Languages and Literatures from the
University of Oregon in 1999, and a PhD, History, also from the University of Oregon in 2004. Dr. Cunningham's other areas of scholarly interest include
intellectual history, popular culture, psychedelia, postmodernism, literary critical theory, Zen Buddhism, and eschatology.
Meditations on the Tarot by Anonymous (Valentin Tomberg).
In spite of its controversial title, a very holy book!
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxis. Not the best writing in the world, but an
amazing story and an amazing person—some good spiritual direction.
Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life by Sr. Mary Margaret Funk.
Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret
Societies by Mark Booth.
Scandalous, but fun and thought-provoking.
Beauty Will Save the World by Gregory Wolfe. A wonderful book.
The Book of Genesis. Illustrated by Robert Crumb.
How Can Mankind Find the Christ Again by Rudolf Steiner. A classic in
the Steiner library.
China's Saints: Catholic Martyrdom During the Qing
Anthony E. Clark. Great scholarship.
Humility by Dietrich von Hildebrand. Short and sweet.
Lucid Dreaming by Robert Waggoner. Maybe the most comprehensive book on
Meaning in History by Karl Lowith. I read it once a year at
Thomas Howard is a highly acclaimed writer
and literary scholar, noted for his studies of Inklings C.S. Lewis and Charles
Williams as well as books including Chance or Dance: A Critique of Modern
Secularism, Hallowed be This House, Evangelical Is Not Enough: Worship of
God in Liturgy and Sacrament, If Your Mind Wanders At Mass, On Being Catholic,
The Secret of New York Revealed, Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome and Dove Descending.
He has also produced a video series, aired on EWTN, titled
"Treasures of Catholicism."
The Night Is Far Spent: A Treasury of Thomas Howard was published by Ignatius Press in 2007.
Visit his IgnatiusInsight.com
author page for a full listing of his books published by Ignatius Press.
Jesus of Nazareth. Benedict XVl. 2 vols. Reading these two volumes made
one want to shout them from the housetops. Mighty vistas of theology, biblical
studies, and sane spirituality are unfurled.
The Spirit of the Liturgy. Benedict XVl. The Bishop of Rome
carries on from Romano Guardini's earlier volume of the same title,
with the same breadth, depth, and sagacity that marked Guardini's
The Life of Dr. Samuel Johnson. James Boswell. This is perpetual
reading for me—virtually daily. It is the best antidote against the fatuity,
vacuity, and sheer ruin of modern discourse and imagination.
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. Pure delight. Language in its most
finely-wrought perfection. Common sense and moral perspicacity enough
to leave modern discourse in tatters.
Brian Jones is currently an MA philosophy student at the University of St. Thomas in Houston;
he received an MA in theology from Franciscan University. He and his wife,
Michelle, recently welcomed the birth of their first child, Therese Maria.
The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God by Michael Pakaluk. Walker Percy once
said that "this life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at
the end of it and then be asked what you make of it and have to answer,
'Scientific humanism.' That won't do. A poor show." The mysterious nature
of life lay in the fact that it is continually mixed with the splendor of
goodness and also the bitterness of pain. Yet, thanks to this wonderful book,
we see the abundant goodness of God's mercy everywhere, especially in midst of
suffering. The story of Ruth Pakaluk, Michael's first wife, is a magnificent
display of sanctity in the midst of the world. I bought the book for my wife,
and read it in a week before giving it to her. I just could not put it down.
The portrait of Ruth's life is an inspiration for anyone who truly seeks to
become a saint. As Michael mentions in the book, "heroic virtue" has
become rather distorted in our day because it seems to entail that saints are
only those who do the most extraordinary of things. But the true meaning of
heroism, and of holiness, is to cultivate a disposition of interior openness
and transparency in our hearts so that God may work through us. This is the joy
of Ruth's life and, like all the saints, the greatest argument for the
existence of God.
The Very Rich Hours of Jacques Maritain: A Spiritual Life by Ralph McInerny. Maritain is one of
the greatest figures of the Thomistic revival inaugurated by Pope Leo XIII. The
scientific rationalism that bombarded Maritain and his wife Raissa at the
Sorbonne led them to the brink of despair, and ultimately a suicide pact. Yet,
their journey into the Catholic faith, and their rich life of friendship is
beautifully detailed. McInerny also provides insights into the real depth of
the Maritains spiritual life and their integration of the intellectual life
with the call to holiness. What better reminder this Christmas season than to
recall the greatest tragedy of all: "not to become a saint."
Another Sort of Learning
by Fr. James Schall, S.J. In reality, a book by Fr. Schall could be
put on anybody's book list. McInerny once quipped that Fr. Schall is
undoubtedly the Chesterton of our times. Reading tidbits of Fr. Schall each day
provides a framework for gazing upon the world in true wonder and amazement.
The book is really what a university education should entail, and any student
worth his water ought to read Schall. Of course, the book is not merely for the
university students, but for fostering what Sertaillanges called "the
intellectual life." This is not some ivory tower
"intellectualism," but living and experiencing the delightful joys of
knowing truth, of conforming ourselves to what is.
The Death of Psychiatry by
E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. Written back in 1974, Dr. Torrey's succinctly details
the impending fall of the field of psychiatry. Not only has psychiatry gone
awry, the current model is unsalvageable and, in Torrey's words, "must be
destroyed." A view of the human person that is limited to a materialistic
or biological conception cannot affect and further any real psychological
integration. Anyone interested in the destructive tendencies of modern
psychiatry and psychology, and how to recover what is still good in them, would
be wise to read this excellent piece.
Thomism in An Age of Renewal
by Ralph McInerny. McInerny provides an illuminating analysis of the
gradual eroding of the Catholic intellectual tradition since (not because of)
Vatican II. St. Thomas Aquinas, in most Catholic and non-Catholic circles, was
(and is) seen to be rather archaic, and no longer relevant for an age anxiously
wading in the waters of progress, nihilism, and egalitarianism. McInerny has
shown that Thomism is relevant for all ages and cultures because it is not one
philosophy among others (i.e., pragmatism, post-modernism, language
philosophy), but is philosophy itself. The Church has put forth the Angelic
Doctor as the model philosopher because what he taught is in fact true. Those
who dismiss Aquinas do so with a biased agenda, and not because they have
actually read or sought to understand him. McInerny continually calls to mind
that St. Thomas has provided the best framework for the integration of the
richness of faith and reason, something to which the modern world so desperately
Rev. Mr. James Keating, Ph.D., is Director of Theological Formation at the Institute
of Priestly Formation at Creighton University, Omaha. Before joining the staff of the IPF Deacon Keating taught
moral and spiritual theology for 13 years in the School of Theology at the
Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio. He has given over 400 workshops,
retreats and days of reflection on the Catholic spiritual/moral life. In the
field of his professional research, the interpenetration of the spiritual and
moral life, Deacon Keating has authored or edited ten books and dozens of
essays for theological journals.
Cardinal Francis George, The Difference God Makes (Crossroad)
Scott Hahn, Covenant and Communion (Brazos)
Wilfrid Stinissen, Into Your Hands, Father (Ignatius)
Nancy Klein Mcguire, An Infinity of Little Hours (Public Affairs)
John of Avila, Audi, filia---Listen, O Daughter (Paulist)
Dennis Billy, Contemplative Ethics (Paulist)
Jean Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence (with
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College.
His books include
The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press,
Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism,
God and Ronald Reagan, and the newly released Dupes:
How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, among others.
Father Donald Calloway, No Turning Back: A Witness to
Mercy. This is the
best book I read in 2011. It is the remarkable, shocking story of an
ex-Grateful Dead "deadhead," drug abuser, thief, and someone who imbibed in
every hedonistic pleasure, only to turn himself around completely and become a
remarkable man of the cloth. Every Catholic in America should read this book
and pass it along to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. It is a crucial read
for fallen-away Catholics and for rebellious young Catholics who think they're
too cool for the faith. This book will put them in their place—a
page-turner they will not be able to put down. If Father Calloway was a
Protestant with a story like this, this book would have sold a million copies.
Every Evangelical in America would be talking about it in their book clubs.
That this book isn't a bestseller and household title among Catholics shows yet
again how ill-informed and unread Catholics are when it comes to their own
faith. Sorry if that's a bit harsh, but it's true—and as a former
Protestant, I know what I'm talking about.
Joseph Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of
Cultures. This is a
profound little book published by Ignatius Press. It is worth the price for
this one nugget of wisdom alone: the West suffers from a "confused ideology of
freedom," one that ultimately leads to the "self-destruction of freedom."
Abortion is the single best illustration of that. When a woman exercises the
"freedom" to abort, she destroys the first and most fundamental freedom of
another: the freedom to exist.
Augustine, The City of God, with Introduction by Thomas
Merton. I purchased this Modern Library edition of Augustine's classic simply
for the introduction by Merton. I pulled it from a shelf at the local Barnes
& Noble and couldn't stop reading the introduction. I had to own it.
Merton's was one of the most gifted Catholic writers of the last hundred years,
Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather's Son. This is a wonderful book about a
terrific man—and devout Roman Catholic—who has been horribly
maligned by the secular left. His story is captivating. Supreme Court Justice
Clarence Thomas has suffered, and he has persevered, largely because of his
faith. This is another must-read. Here again, every Catholic should know about
this book. If Thomas was a Protestant...well, you know.
Walter Eckman, Meet the Presidents. I did a Q&A with Eckman on this
book. This is a fun, vivid, artfully constructed tour of our presidents, their
birthplaces, and various historical sites. It is an excellent travel companion,
absolutely ideal for home-schooling families. If you home school, you should
get this book. If you enjoy history and historical sites, you should get this
book. If you like studying our presidents, you should get this book.
Tim Goeglein, The Man in the Middle. This is the most redeeming book
of 2011, done by the man who did outreach to faith-based groups for President
George W. Bush—including outreach to Catholics. Goeglein is not Catholic,
but he greatly respects Catholics and knows and reads and quotes Catholic
figures better than most Catholics. Goeglein endured a humiliating fall from
grace in a plagiarism incident that cost him his job. It was front-page news.
This book is a candid admission of his guilt and redemption. The role of
President Bush in that redemption is deeply moving. Please see my review for Catholic
Exchange. You must read the amazing dialogue between Goeglein and Bush in the
Oval Office. It is wonderful. You'll want to forward it to friends.
Steve Turner, The Band That Played On. This is a neat book on the lives
of the eight extraordinary musicians who continued to play while the Titanic
sunk. Cool theme, eh? We've seen this moment represented in movies, and it is
indeed true. This book covers those eight lives, all the way to their mutual
tragic end. As the ship went down, they calmly played "Nearer, My God, to
Frank Kravetz, Eleven Two: One WWII Airman's Story of
Capture, Survival and Freedom. Here is a heartwarming story of a man who survived a stay
in Hitler's POW camps. His name is Frank Kravetz, Pittsburgh native, Roman
Catholic, alive and well at the age of 88. I had the pleasure of reviewing his
book and meeting him. The Catholic elements are touching, especially how Frank
pulled a loose thread from under his prison mattress and weaved it into a
Rosary decade. That was the kind of thing that got Frank through the hell of
Nuremberg Prison Camp. I strongly recommend this book to home-schooled
youngsters. It offers an excellent historical/autobiographical narrative for
teaching about life and major events from the 1930s and 1940s era, particularly
WWII, of course.
Lee Edwards, William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a
Movement. I mentioned
this book in my review last year, but I found myself referencing it several
times again this year and cracking it open again. The material on the Catholic
faith of Buckley is very interesting. Click here for
my review for The National Catholic Register.
George W. Bush, Decision Points. Likewise, last year I mentioned
George W. Bush's Decision Points, which I started reading in 2010 but really dug into and
returning to again in 2011. The chapter on Bush's decision on embryonic stem
cell-research alone is worth the price.
Fr. David V. Meconi, S.J., is Professor of Patristic Theology at St. Louis University, where he is also the Director of the
Undergraduate Studies Program. He is also Editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review as well as the editor of Ignatius Press'
upcoming Annotated Confessions of St. Augustine, as well as a ground-breaking
study, The One Christ: St. Augustine's Theology of Deification (Catholic University of America Press).
The best book I read this year was Dr. Eleonore Stump's Wandering
in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Eleonore is a colleague of mine here at St. Louis University and, daresay, is
among the most sought-after philosophers of our age. Her work here uses the
insights of St. Thomas Aquinas to address the reality of how a benevolent God
can allow a human life to go terribly wrong but argues that suffering should
never be easily dismissed but perhaps, just perhaps, there is an invitation to
a greater love than what any evil could spoil. Throughout this work there are
some of the most profound insights into intimacy, desires of the human heart,
and attentive presence to others, both divine and human, which I have ever
encountered on the printed page.
The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and
Historical Representation: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation by Hayden White (Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1990). While this may not be the kind of book one reads quietly
before bed, it has proven very important in my understanding the recent
emphasis on the importance of narrative in the humanities, especially in art
and literature. Far from White's intention, his reflections here helped me to
see how theology is a "story" about the ultimate Word in Whom all
other stories and words find their truest meaning and this book explained how
postmodernism, while making us all suspicious of over-arching narratives, has
also ushered in a new cultural situation with new opportunities for real
Oxford & Cambridge Conferences by Fr. Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (1903).
Every couple of weeks another Jesuit here at St. Louis University and I go out
for an ale and enjoy a "N-ox", playing off the Latin words for night
(nox) and Oxford (Oxoniensis) where we met during studies. Over the year we read
various texts and are now making our way through the lectures Rickaby gave to
undergraduates while serving as chaplain at the Oxbridge schools. The
erudition and the humanism of the early 20th century Jesuits only confirms the
goodness of God's creation and how Christ is the answer for every human heart and nation.
The Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry (1999). Each
Sunday I try to sit with a few of Berry's poems here and enjoy some quiet and
his multi-layered invitations simply to be.
Persuasion by Jane Austen. Surely I was assigned this in high school
but I am just now getting around to it for the first time and as I found myself
welling up inside and at times howling outside, I came to realize why many
regard this as Miss Austen's best work.
In this House of Brede as well as The Battle of the Villa
Fiorita by Rumer Godden (1969 and 1963). While many of us are familiar with the first novel
about a hard-headed London business woman leaving the world behind to join a
cloistered Benedictine community, The Battle is an equally strong "Catholic" piece of
literature where marriage and children are held sacred and the Church emerges
as the guardian of all things the pure of heart desire.
Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History by Robert Hughes. Does Rome ever
fail to fascinate? From Bernini to Benedict, Mussolini to Marcus Aurelius,
they're all here.
Prison Writings of Alfred Delp, S.J. (Orbis Press' Modern Spiritual
Masters Series). This Jesuit resistor is
not too well known, but the reflections he put down while awaiting execution in
Berlin's Plötzensee Prison during 1944-45 are unmatched for the forgiveness
they convey and the insights into the human condition they offer.
The Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo. While I may teach the Confessions at least twice a year, this year was different as I
prepared the annotated version for Ignatius Press. Going through this classic
line by line and thus significantly slower than usual, the brilliance and even
the humor of Augustine struck me in new and unexpected ways.
Lorraine V. Murray's latest book is Death of a
Liturgist, a mystery about a groovy liturgist who meets a rather satisfying comeuppance when he tweaks the
traditions at St. Rita's parish. Another recent book is The Abbess of Andalusia, the story of Flannery
O'Connor's Catholic journey. In Confessions
of an Ex-Feminist Lorraine writes about her own journey from faithful Catholic to rabid feminist
and atheist, and back again. Murray, a religion columnist, lives in Decatur,
Georgia, with her husband, Jef, a Tolkien artist, and a hamster named Ignatius.
All seven of her books can be seen www.lorrainevmurray.com.
Here are my favorite books from 2011:
The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God. Every Lent I pull out my tattered copy of this book and marvel at these short sermons, delivered by Dominican priest
Gerald Vann at Westminster Cathedral in 1947. Vann takes readers on a
soul-wrenching journey that begins with Christ's agonizing night in the garden
and ends between the two thieves. Along the way he probes the sacred dimension
of time, and elucidates why the Act of Contrition once contained a deeply
powerful thought, namely that a penitent was sorry for his sins "because they
have crucified my loving Savior, Jesus Christ." Vann also explores how we can
better recognize our own sins, especially our daily betrayals of others.
The Love That Keeps Us Sane. So many books about St. Therese of Lisieux paint her as a
sugary-sweet, simpering soul surrounded by cloying clusters of roses. In fact, Therese
herself recoiled from such overly pious portraits of saints, and I believe she
would have really appreciated this book, since it explores her struggle to lead
a hidden and humble life. Author Marc Foley, a Discalced Carmelite priest,
shows that Therese maintained her sanity by keeping her sights set on God
rather than the world's adulation, and knowing when to keep silent.
Why Catholics Are Right. Michael Coren explores in great depth and with an admirable
amount of factual background the most common attacks on Catholicism. It will be
a great help to anyone who has ever found himself floundering by the punch bowl
at a party, somewhat startled by a remark about, say, the priest-abuse scandal,
and wishing he had a few facts at hand to help dispel the errors and
exaggerations that too often pass for truth when it comes to Catholicism. The
chapter on the abuse scandal alone was reason enough for me to declare this
book a favorite--but the author also clarifies common misconceptions related to
Church history, theology, and teachings on life.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A
Personal Portrait. As is the case with St. Therese too many books about Mother Teresa
portray her as a dry and stuffy saint, far removed from us ordinary mortals.
This book is a gem indeed because author Monsignor Leo Maasburg —who
traveled with Mother Teresa for many years—reveals something I suspected
all along, which is that she had a very vivid and delightful sense of humor.
The author himself has a priceless penchant for detecting humor in difficult
situations, and reveals many heretofore unknown facts about Mother Teresa. Who
knew, for example, that over the years she gave out over 40,000 Miraculous
Medals, including a handful to Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega?
Part One | Part Three
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