Diagnosis Critical

Author: Leonard J. Nelson III

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2009, 350 pp., $29.95 hardcover; 800-348-2440

Catholic health care institutions have been an essential part of the American medical system for more than 150 years. Today, a number of urgent threats are confronting Catholic health care, arising from complex moral and legal issues that must be faced.

People are living longer and new technologies are saving lives, with the result that the “right to death” is now debated as fiercely as the right to life. New treatments for infertility, disease and other health crises have opened up a Pandora’s box of new bioethical issues. Even the prospect of health care reform poses troubling moral dilemmas.

As Catholics face these issues, current political initiatives could result in disturbing developments:

  •  Tax dollars paying for abortions at all stages of pregnancy.
  •  Elimination of conscience-clause protection, forcing Catholic medical professionals to choose between their faith and their livelihood.
  •  Government mandates forcing Catholic hospitals to provide contraceptives and perform abortions, sterilization, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia and other illicit procedures.
  • The elderly and disabled being pressured to accept euthanasia.

This urgently needed volume was authored by Leonard J. Nelson III, an attorney, professor of law and specialist in health care law. Beginning with an essential chapter on the Catholic natural law tradition, he goes on to treat all the relevant topics in clear terms that are accessible to those outside the legal and health care professions.

Nelson’s approach is not merely theoretical. He fleshes out the discussion with several useful case studies, illustrating, for example, the struggle to maintain Catholic identity as reflected in two existing health systems, and Terry Schiavo’s heroic struggle as a case study in end-of-life care.

This book is indispensable reading for anyone facing the issues it tackles.

The Difference God Makes

Author: Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I.

Publisher: Crossroad, Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., 2009, 364 pp., $26.95 hardcover; 800-888-4741

This first major book from Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., archbishop of Chicago, explores the essential theme of communion in the life of the Catholic Church.

“Communion,” writes the author, “is understood as a network of relationships that are formed when the gifts of Christ are shared with others.” Three aspects of the Church are examined in this light: the Church’s mission (universal communion), life (hierarchical communion) and goal (communion with God).

Within this framework, the cardinal offers essays on a number of important topics for contemporary Catholics: apologetics and evangelization in American culture; the role of lay Catholics; Catholic dialogue with Jews and Muslims; the crisis of liberal Catholicism; liturgical renewal; and more. Two final chapters examine relevant aspects of the thought of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The Secret of Dreams

Author: Father Pedro Meseguer, S.J.

Publisher: Roman Catholic Books, Harrison, N.Y., 2009 reprint, 232 pp., $24.80 paper; 970-490-2735

What should Catholics think about dreams? Psychologist Father Pedro Meseguer, S.J., addressed this question a generation ago (1960), revealing the important work that dreams can play in the spiritual life of Christians. Penitents and confessors alike will benefit from his answers to these and other questions:

What is our moral responsibility, if any, for the content of our dreams?

What do the great Catholic spiritual writers have to tell us about discerning dreams?

How can dreams be used in spiritual direction?

What are the cause and significance of recurring dreams?

All in all, this is a fascinating study, from a spiritual perspective, of a universal human experience.

Fire of God’s Love

Author: Mike Aquilina

Publisher: Servant, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2009, 100 pp., $12.99 paper; 800-488-0488

Try as we may, we can never fully plumb the depths of the mystery we call the Eucharist. The supreme Gift of Christ’s own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity merits our unending meditation.

Mike Aquilina, the author of numerous books on Church history, doctrine and devotion, assists us in that challenge with this new collection of 120 reflections on the Eucharist. They come from across the centuries, gathered from popes and councils, saints and scholars, theologians and mystics, Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Each one is a devotional gem, valuable for seasons of Eucharistic Adoration or preparation for the Mass.

In addition to the quotes themselves, the author provides brief biographies of those quoted. A final list of sources allows readers to mine the original documents for further insights.

Use this collection to enhance your Eucharistic meditations, and you’ll find yourself wholeheartedly affirming the quote included from Pope St. Pius X: “Holy Communion is the shortest and surest way to heaven.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe 

Authors: Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chávez

Publisher: Doubleday, New York, N.Y., 2009, 240 pp., $22.99 hardcover; 866-522-8465

Carl Anderson, chairman of the board of the Knights of Columbus, has teamed up with Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, expostulator of the cause for St. Juan Diego’s cause for canonization, to take a fresh look at Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Finding in her the “Mother of a Civilization of Love,” they trace her history as a religious and cultural symbol from the 16th century to the present, exploring her message of peace and unity and its urgency for the world today.

111 Questions on Islam

Author: Giorgio Paolucci and Camille Eid

Publisher: Ignatius, San Francisco, Calif., 2008, 265 pp., $16.95 paper; 800-651-1531

In recent years the religion of Islam has increasingly captured the attention of the non-Muslim world. Islam is the fastest growing religion across the globe, with more than a billion followers. Muslim immigrants are multiplying and gaining new visibility in the United States and Europe. Muslim terrorist attacks continue around the world, as do hostilities toward non-Muslims in many Muslim countries.

These developments have provoked sharp tensions between the followers of Islam and people of other faiths, Catholics included. Questions arise about the nature of Islam, its beliefs and practices, its history and future — and, above all, whether it’s possible for Muslims to coexist peacefully with Christians, Jews and followers of other religions.

In an effort to address the most common of these questions, two seasoned journalists well acquainted with Islam conducted a series of interviews with Father Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. This Jesuit priest and scholar, who lives in Beirut, was born and raised in the midst of Muslims. Among the issues addressed are these:

  • What are the historical origins of Islam, and who was its founder, Mohammed?
  • What are the fundamentals of Muslim faith and practice?
  • What are the major differences between Muslim and Christian beliefs?
  • Why is Islam spreading so fast?
  • What is the position of Islam on human rights and the status of women?

Father Samir’s responses reflect not only considerable scholarship, but also realistic insights of personal experiences in Muslim culture.