TCA Reviews for January/February 2017

Catholicism: The Pivotal Players

Host/Presenter: Bishop Robert Barron

Producer: Word on Fire, Skokie, Ill., 2016, 379 mins., $149.95 DVD set; 866-928-1237;

Bishop Robert Barron and Word on Fire Catholic Ministries have been on the cutting edge of developing well-produced, intellectually developed and visually captivating digital resources for growing in the Faith. Those who watched the initial “Catholicism” series were introduced to the intellectual and spiritual depths of the Faith, the beauty of which is perhaps most concretely realized when witnessed in others who succeed in its practice. And so in “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players,” Bishop Barron brings to life the stories of some of Catholicism’s most significant people. As with its predecessor series, one of the strongest qualities of this series is that Bishop Barron brings the viewers on pilgrimage to some of the most significant Catholic sites. Filmed on location and including breathtaking scenery and sacred art, the series introduces viewers to more than biographies, specifically the essential witness these six individuals have bequeathed to the Church.

Viewers will learn about the indelible mark left on the world by St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, Blessed John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton and Michelangelo. The six-episode series comes beautifully packaged, and a study guide is available separately. The series is sure to be a valuable addition to home or parish libraries and is an excellent resource for adult faith-formation groups, RCIA or high school classrooms. Anyone who watches it will be sure to gain new perceptions of these important and influential figures.

Positively Medieval


Author: Jamie Blosser

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2016, 352 pp., $17.95 paperback; 800-348-2440;

The Faith in the Middle Ages flourished in a world much like our own — an increasingly secular culture antagonistic to Christianity, vulnerable freedom of religion, Church scandal, cultural dilapidation and more. In “Positively Medieval: The Surprising, Dynamic, Heroic Church of the Middle Ages,” readers will encounter some of the leading figures of the period who not only passed on the truths of faith, but also rebuilt Europe in the wake of societal collapse. Readers will be introduced to the faith and hope of the saints and scholars who lived in the midst of medieval darkness, which will surely inspire them to meet our world’s current challenges with the same confident, intelligent and creative zeal.

Catholics in America


Author: Russell Shaw

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2016, 144 pp., $15.95 paperback; 800-651-1531;

In his introduction to “Catholics in America: Religious Identity and Cultural Assimilation from John Carroll to Flannery O’Connor,” Russell Shaw poses the question: “Can we still be fully Catholic while also being fully American in American secular terms?”

A “remnant of believing, practicing Catholics,” says Shaw, “find themselves increasingly alienated from the secular society and deeply concerned to know what to do about it.” In this book Shaw provides a treasury of wisdom from which to glean in the profiles of 15 influential American Catholics who dealt with issues such as assimilation, anti-Catholicism, immigration, evangelization, patriotism, culture and the relationship of church and state.

Profiles of historic churchmen such as Cardinal James Gibbons, saints such as Frances Xavier Cabrini and candidates for sainthood such as Dorothy Day are included. The lives of cultural icons Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Flannery O’Connor are explored as well. There is much to learn from this book for any Catholic living in 21st-century America.

DOCAT: Catholic Social Teaching for Youth


Author: YOUCAT Foundation

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2016, 320 pp., $19.95 paperback; 800-651-1531;

“DOCAT” offers a useful compilation of Catholic social teaching and a helpful tool to teach and on how to apply it in the lives of Catholics young and old. Published in the same Q&A format as the youth catechism “YOUCAT,” “DOCAT” draws from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching. While its key audience is young people, “DOCAT” is a good resource for anyone wanting to know more about applying the Church’s teaching on issues of poverty, the environment, immigration and life issues.

Pope Francis says in the foreword, “The DOCAT answers the question: ‘What should we do?’; it is like a user’s manual that helps us to change ourselves with the Gospel first, and then our closest surroundings, and finally the whole world.” After all, the Letter to St. James teaches that “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17).

The Saints’ Little Book of Wisdom


Editor: Andrea Kirk Assaf

Publisher: Hampton Roads Publishing, available through ACTA Publications; Chicago, Ill., 2016, 400 pp., $14.95 paperback; 800-397-2282;

An indispensable source of Christian wisdom comes from the writings and sayings of the saints. “The Saints’ Little Book of Wisdom: The Essential Teachings” is chock-full of such inspiration. Broken into chapters categorized by basic spiritual themes, this book is a most helpful resource for anyone looking for a common source to glean from the wisdom of the saints for application to their everyday lives. It’s a perfect resource for anyone wanting mentorship in holiness.

The Holy Spirit: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics

Author: Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2016, 176 pp., $9.95 paperback; 800-348-2440;

The Third Person of the Holy Trinity remains a mystery to many. In order to properly understand the Holy Trinity, however, we must understand the proper role of the Holy Spirit in the life of faith. It’s more than fitting, then, to turn to scriptural sources of revelation in order to understand this more mysterious Third Person of the Holy Trinity, and “The Holy Spirit: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics” is the perfect tool to accomplish this. Authored by Father Mitch Pacwa — renowned spiritual leader and popular author and television-show host — readers are guided through seven specific scriptural topics relating to the Holy Spirit.

Each chapter is fully supplied with relevant Scripture quotes and is overflowing with enlightening commentary. Readers will learn about the Holy Spirit’s role in creation, what authority and gifts He bestows upon us, how the Holy Spirit worked through the prophets, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our spiritual lives. Chapters dedicated to Christ’s revelation of the Holy Spirit and His empowerment of the early Church, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, assist readers in coming to appreciate the fullness of the revelation of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.

Additionally, readers will gain an understanding of the relationship of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, as well as the relationship of the Holy Spirit with the Blessed Virgin Mary. This user-friendly book is written for groups and individuals, and each session includes catechesis and discussion questions, challenging learners to put the learning into practice.