TCA Reviews for September/October 2013

The Fathers of the Church Bible

Author: Mike Aquilina, ed.

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 1,926 pp., $39.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

The Fathers of the Church are a truly important and powerful source for Catholics to understand their faith, and also to live it. The arrival of “The Fathers of the Church Bible” is thus a most welcome event. Presenting the text of the NABRE (New American Bible, Revised Edition), the translation approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, this new Bible assembles a vast collection of reflections by the Church Fathers on Scripture.

In his introduction, Mike Aquilina — one of modern Catholicism’s great writers on the Patristic era — writes, “The Fathers loved the Holy Scriptures, studied the Holy Scriptures, meditated upon them day and night, and preached them to a waiting world.” He goes on to present nearly 100 different reflections by the Fathers on Scripture, including: “Allegory in Scripture”; “What Was God Doing Before Creation?”; “Temptation of Idols”; “Belief in Purgatory”; “Christ in the Psalms”; “The Real Presence”; “Martyrdom as Baptism”; and “The New Covenant.” Aquilina also helps the reader to approach Scripture from a Catholic standpoint, to understand the canon of Scripture, to appreciate the authority of Tradition and to know the Creed as a summary of belief.

This is a tremendous resource for Catholics and a splendid gift for anyone hoping to learn more about Scripture and the Church Fathers. It is especially helpful in dealing with Protestants and evangelicals who carefully select the writings of the Fathers for their own arguments on matters of belief. This resource presents the authentic teachings of the Fathers within the context of Scripture, making it doubly pertinent in the area of scriptural apologetics and catechesis.

Bakhita

Director: Giacamo Campiotti

Bakhita

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2011, 190 min., $26.95 DVD; 800-651-1531

St. Josephine was a native of Sudan and a one-time slave who became a Canossian religious sister in Italy. She gave her life to the Canossians in Italy and was revered for her holiness and wisdom before her death in 1947. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 2000. This extraordinary woman is the subject of an Italian-made film focusing on her journey from slave to sister, including her conversion and her struggle to escape a life of servitude through the Italian courts. Fatou Kine Boye gives a terrific performance as St. Josephine. The DVD set includes a 16-page booklet on the saint by Daria Sockey. A very good resource for parish and school libraries.

Louder than Words

Author: Matthew Leonard

Louder Than Words

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2012, 160 pp., $14.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

“Louder than Words: The Art of Living as a Catholic” presents a well-crafted guide for Catholics striving to live their faith in the modern world. As Matthew Leonard asks, Jesus called His followers to strive for perfection, but is that possible in such an imperfect world? Was He exaggerating? Not according to Leonard. A convert, he argues that our goal must be sainthood, even if that goal seems at first to be very difficult to reach.

Leonard uses stories of the saints and his own conversion to Catholicism to demonstrate the true art of Catholic living. The saints are vital role models because they struggled with the same things we all do: tempers, temptation, impatience and the pressures of daily living. Through grace, however, they triumphed over themselves for love of God and the good of others. “Saints,” Leonard writes, “are game changers. And let’s be honest, the game is in need of change.”

Strange Gods

Author: Elizabeth Scalia

Publisher: Ave Maria Press, South Bend, Ind., 2013, 133 pp., $15.99 softcover; 800-282-1865

Strange Gods

Known in the Catholic blogosphere as The Anchoress of the widely read website Patheos.com, Elizabeth Scalia has crafted a deepy thoughtful meditation on idolatry in all of its forms. “Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life” reminds us to be mindful of the story of the golden calf in Exodus, because while today’s idols are much different, they have become much more pervasive in everyday life. “Our present-day idols,” she adds, “are much less obvious, but they are also less distant and more ingrained within us.” And we often fail to recognize our own idols.

Scalia teaches that we can easily fall into the trap of being blind to our own idolatry because we assume we could not succumb to the temptations faced by Moses’ followers, and because we delude ourselves into assuming that we are too sophisticated and educated to be like them. The truth is that there are many ways that we can become idolaters, enslaved to our weaknesses, such as anger, fitness, careers and political ideology. Her book then offers ways to clear out all of “the cluttering self-created deities that stand before God and before us — between us and the satisfaction of our deepest longing, which is ecstatic union with our Creator.”

The Catholic Prayer Book

Author: Msgr. Michael Buckley

Publisher: Servant Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2013, 319 pp., $14.99 softcover; 800-488-0488

Originally published in 1984, “The Catholic Prayer Book” has been updated to include the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary and the new translation of the Roman Missal, making it even more valuable to readers. This is a handy and helpful treasury of Catholic worship that reflects the rich traditions of prayer in the Church. As Msgr. Michael Buckley notes: “Prayer is as natural to us as breathing. For Christians both are necessary for life.”

American Church

Author: Russell Shaw

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2013, 233 pp., $16.95 softcover; 800-651-1531

Shaw

One of the great questions in the life of American Catholicism is that of cultural assimilation. Has the embrace of American culture been a good thing or a bad thing for Catholics in the country, and, indeed, is it even possible for an American Catholic to be both American and Catholic? It is a provocative question, and one worth discussing at a time when cultural influences of materialism, secularism and relativism seem so diametrically opposed to everything we are called to be as members of the Catholic Church. Russell Shaw, one of the most respected minds in American Catholicism, has taken on the task of looking at this topic. The result is “American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America.”

Shaw is unblinking in his conclusions and looks at all of the results that have come from cultural assimilation. He provides a superb analysis of the long process of assimilation out of the “Catholic ghetto,” focusing in particular on the labors of one of America’s greatest Church leaders, Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore (archbishop from 1877-1921). The effort to integrate American Catholics into the wider culture brought many benefits, but the 20th century witnessed calamities for the Church owing to the rise of a secular culture that threatens the Catholic identity of the faithful and a host of Catholic institutions. As Shaw writes, “Catholics absorbed into the ethos of today’s secular culture feel very at home there.” “American Catholicism” can be difficult reading, most so his chapter “A Fearful Modernity,” which focuses on modern culture and the Catholic response. This is essential reading, as we need to appreciate how we got here and what our options are going forward.