TCA Reviews for November/December 2015

The Reality of God

Author: Steve Hemler

Publisher: Saint Benedict Press, Charlotte, N.C., 2014, 192 pp., $22.95 hardcover; 800-437-5876

The president of the Catholic Apologetics Institute of North America, Steve Hemler, offers a comprehensive but eminently approachable examination and defense of the arguments for the existence of God in “The Reality of God.” Hemler writes: “There are major challenges to faith in today’s increasingly secular culture. Both external challenges (from outside ourselves) and internal challenges (from within ourselves) to belief in God have caused many people to stop practicing the faith of their childhood.”

At a time, then, when atheism has achieved a kind of cultural chic, Hemler answers the key questions and accusations used by the enemies of belief to proclaim the absence of God by looking at three different perspectives: Cosmic Evidence, Biological Evidence and Human Evidence. All three categories are immensely detailed and well-reasoned, in particular the effort to demonstrate that the natural sciences — such as biology, chemistry and physics — do not actually disprove religious belief but actually reveal the existence of a Creator.

Hemler uses a positive approach, expressing his arguments in an explanatory way from the basic standpoint of “God Is … ” Hence, God is “The Origin and the Beginning,” “The Truth of Genesis,” The Evolutionary Creator,” “The Core of Consciousness” and “The Light of Reason.” Each section also includes study questions to enhance reader comprehension.

With its structure covering the cosmological, biological and philosophical evidence for the existence of God, “The Reality of God” covers virtually all of the bases for any believer needing to defend the most fundamental truth of our existence. As Hemler points out: “The question ‘Does God exist?’ is critical to understanding our place in the universe and how we will live our lives. That’s because what someone believes about God affects everything else he or she believes and does.”

Joy to the World

Author: Scott Hahn

Publisher: Image Books, New York, N.Y., 2014, 175 pp., $23 hardcover; 800-733-3000

Hahn

The Christmas story is certainly one of the most familiar in the life of the Christian, so much so that we can lose sight of the truly extraordinary nature of the event. In “Joy to the World,” Scott Hahn points out in the subtitle, “How Christ’s coming changes everything (and still does),” and he offers a superb study of the Christmas story as it is told in the New Testament. There are, like all great stories, villains and a hero. King Herod the Great looms large, but especially significant is the presence of Satan. But the hero is Jesus, the most unconventional hero imaginable, who stands at the center of the drama — the drama of salvation history. The New Testament Christmas story is, ultimately, a family one, a heritage, with a remarkable cast of characters, including a father, a mother and a child. As Hahn writes, this heritage is now ours: “We are Christ’s family and so the joy of Christmas belongs to us.”

Treasury of Traditional Christmas Carols

Performers: Daughters of St. Paul Choir

Publisher: Daughters of St. Paul, Boston, Mass, 2010, $16.95 CD; 800-876-4463

Treasury

Anyone who spends much time with the Daughters of St. Paul knows how infectious their joy can be. The award-winning choir of the Daughters manages to capture that joy in this lovely collection of well-known Christmas carols from around the world. “Treasury of Traditional Christmas Carols” includes such classics as “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night” and “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming,” as well as more obscure songs such as “Il Est ne le Divin Enfant,” “Bethlehem’s Poor Child,” “How Far Is It to Bethlehem” and “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light.” A sweet present for Advent and Christmas.

The Grace of Yes

Author: Lisa Hendey

Publisher: Ave Maria Press, South Bend, Ind., 2014, 160 pp., $15.95 softcover; 800-282-1865

Hendey

Noted Catholic blogger Lisa Hendey discusses the eight virtues that have played a significant role in helping her learn how to say yes to God in “The Grace of Yes.” She writes, “The more I ponder the connection between my faith and all other pieces of my life, the more intimately I am able to see the unbroken bond between God’s infinite grace and my profound desire to consistently choose the path of greatest generosity.” As Hendey notes, there is a vital importance to saying yes to God in our lives, even in the midst of the great struggles that everyone faces. A deeply personal account, she writes of the need to overcome “no” in her own journey and to overcome such difficult temptations as giving up a promising career to become a stay-at-home mom, the allure of Divahood with her growing online celebrity, and the sudden freedom and opportunities presented by empty-nest status versus the challenges of middle age. These moments are presented in light of the grace bestowed by what she calls the virtues of generous living: belief, generativity, creativity, integrity, humility, vulnerability, no and rebirth.

Laudato Si’

Author: Pope Francis

Laudato Si

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2015, 176 pp., $12.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

While controversial and misrepresented when published, Pope Francis’ second encyclical, Laudato Si: On the Care of Our Common Home,” issues a call to all Christians and people of goodwill to be aware of integral ecology, the essential relationship between the social environment and the natural environment and the need to work for the common good. In publishing this valuable edition of the encyclical, Our Sunday Visitor has included discussion questions for use in individual or group study.

What Do You Really Want?

Author: Jim Manney

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2015, 144 pp., $12.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

What Do You Really Want?

Our innate longing for only the happiness that God can bring requires proper discernment — that is, the careful discerning of what God truly wants for our lives, which is in rather short supply these days. For that reason, Jim Manney’s book “What Do You Really Want? St. Ignatius Loyola and the Art of Discernment” is so valuable.

The so-called Ignatian Exercises are ranked among the most indispensable spiritual tools for anyone seeking to find their way to a true vocation and the right road for their lives. Basing his work on this spiritual masterpiece by Ignatius, Manney examines the fundamentals of discernment, including “Discernment As a Way of Life,” What Is ‘God’s Will’?,” “The Language of the Heart,” “Becoming Aware,” “Great Desires and Disordered Attachments,” “Our Divided Hearts,” “Consolation and Desolation,” “How to Thwart Desolation,” “How Do I Know This Is from God?,” “What Do You Really Want,” “Good and Bad Decisions” and “Three Ways to Make a Decision.”

Ignatius understood the ability to discern God’s intent as one of the most important skills a Christian can have, and Manney offers a basic framework for acquiring the essential gift for making decisions congruent with God’s will. “Ignatius’ key insight,” he writes, “was that God speaks to us through the shifting sea of feelings, insights, leadings, and intuitions of our lives.… If everyone’s ultimate desire is to know and serve God, then the choices he makes — from the incidental to the critical — affect whether he fulfills that desire.”