New Evangelization

Author: Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 96 pp., $14.95 hardcover; 800-348-2440

In October 2012, then-Pope Benedict XVI brought to Rome bishops from all over the world to take part in a Synod of Bishops with the express purpose of speaking about the New Evangelization and the best ways to implement it in the Church today. The New Evangelization has a particular urgency because, as Cardinal Donald Wuerl writes, “the New Evangelization responds to a real and urgent need in the Church today. The context of our faith proclamation is the highly secular view of life in our culture that bleaches out recognition and appreciation of God and religious.”

Aside from being one of the great minds in American Catholicism, Cardinal Wuerl served as the official relator of the synod for the New Evangelization and was a key figure in the process, deliberations and results of the synod. He is thus uniquely qualified to discuss the New Evangelization and to offer a concise discussion of the synod’s work and documents. Titled “New Evangelization: Passing on the Catholic Faith Today,” Cardinal Wuerl’s book covers the entire work of the synod and focuses on the 58 new propositions that came out of deliberations for effective New Evangelization — the renewed teaching of the Faith. These topics include: the three most important priorities of the New Evangelization; the three “isms” that block society from hearing the Gospel; how to galvanize people around one simple truth of the Gospel; the four theological foundations of the New Evangelization; and the four characteristics of great evangelizers.

This is a helpful book for the average reader, and it explains the New Evangelization in clear, enjoyable and practical terms. Highly recommended and an excellent resource for parish study groups.

Choosing Joy

Author: Dan Lord

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2012, 142 pp., $13.95 hardcover; 800-348-2440

Titled in full, “Choosing Joy: The Secret to Living a Fully Christian Life” offers what author Dan Lord calls “a serious discussion about an ecstatic topic” — that is, Christian joy. Lord demonstrates that this is a transformative experience — using stories to make his point — and also shows the many ways that life’s worries, anxiety, pain, suffering and the daily grind can prevent joy from being in our lives. The differences help Lord to show what joy is and what it isn’t, describing four major obstacles to joy: self-loathing, anxiety, being an Issachar and trials.

Especially notable is Lord’s focus on the Eucharist, describing it as essential to the experience of joy. He terms the Eucharist “food,” “medicine” and “family.” Finally, he helps the reader appreciate the inexpressible joy of heaven where “no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22, RSV), with a reminder that we must abandon ourselves to God’s will.

Saint Philip Neri

Director: Giacomo Campiotti

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2011, 205 mins., $24.95 DVD; 800-651-1531

A large-budget film on the life and holiness of St. Philip Neri, one of the great saints of the 16th century, this is an enjoyable and moving presentation on the labors of the Apostle of Rome. One of the challenges for films on the lives of saints is to present their heroic virtue and their labors in a way that is meaningful for viewers without reducing them to caricatures or two-dimensional figures. Thanks to a great performance by actor Gigi Proietti, Saint Philip Neri: I Prefer Heaven" captures the saint’s sense of humor, love for the Church and thirst for holiness, bringing to life Philip’s maxim, “A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.” In Italian with English subtitles. Recommended for schools and parishes.

Salt and Light

Author: Mark Shea

Publisher: Servant Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2011, 187 pp., $16.99 paper; 800-488-0488

In full, Salt and Light: The Commandments, the Beatitudes, and a Joyful Life is a fascinating study of what Mark Shea terms the “twin pillars of the Catholic moral life,” the Ten Commandments and the beatitudes, and the way that they complement each other. He sees the Ten Commandments as the “ground floor,” which provides the contours of the moral life. In contrast, the beatitudes show the way for us to live as God intended and to share in the life of God.

Shea is systematic in his presentation, dividing the book into two parts and then centering on each commandment and beatitude. He stresses that the Ten Commandments are indispensable as the foundation for the moral life, but in Christ they are the bottom, not the top, of Christian morality. The beatitudes, meanwhile, are given to us by Christ “to teach us that the goal is to actually love God and neighbor with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, not merely to get away with venial sin and minimal obedience.”

Padre Pio

Author: Pascal Cataneo

Publisher: Pauline Books and Media, Boston, Mass., 2013, 171 pp., $12.99 paper; 800-325-9521

The life of St. Pio of Pietrelcina remains today a source of inspiration and a demonstration of God’s presence in our lives. Pascal Cataneo, who knew Padre Pio, documents the host of ways that St. Pio touched the lives of women and men, what he calls i Fioretti di Padre Pio (“the Little Flowers of Padre Pio”).

The collection is an impressive one as each story points to the mercy of God and helps us to see our lives through the eyes of faith.

Married Priests?

Author: Dom Arturo Cattaneo, ed.

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2011, 178 pp., $19.95 hardcover; 800-651-1531

One of the most common questions that Catholics are asked by co-workers, non-Catholic friends and those who do not understand the Church is why priests cannot marry. Usually, the questions are asked in a purely negative context, especially as Catholics are told all the time — erroneously — that the Church’s rule of celibacy was a primary cause for the sex abuse crisis. And then there is the claim that vocations would increase if the Church allowed priests to wed. Many Catholics wonder if this is true. To provide reliable information on this important subject, Dom Cattaneo assembles 17 experts on the subject who answer 30 specific questions.

The questions are divided into categories: “Priestly Celibacy: A Bit of History,” “What Theology Says on the Subject,” “Emotions and Sexuality,” “Celibacy in the Life of a Priest” and “Celibacy and Inculturation.” The specific questions in each section provide a truly comprehensive examination of the subject and will answer virtually every conceivable point that is raised in popular culture as well as in theological discussion. It takes head-on such controversial issues as the idea that permitting married priests will foster vocations; that celibacy supposedly fosters homosexuality among the clergy; that celibacy is the purported root cause of the sex abuse crisis; and whether celibacy causes loneliness and frustration in the life of a priest.

Especially striking is the way that the answers not only provide concrete and succinct answers to key questions, but help to remind readers of the supernatural reality of the priesthood against the common belief that it is little more than “a form of social service.”  The book also offers a comprehensive collection of papal teachings on the subject.