The Saints Devotional Bible
Editor: Bert Ghezzi
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2012, 1,950 pp., $39.95 hardcover; 800-348-2440
There are many translations of the Bible available to Catholics today, so finding the one that is most ideal can be a challenge. Our Sunday Visitor has thus offered a translation that is of genuine value, especially for anyone seeking to deepen their knowledge of how the saints can illuminate holy Scripture. “The Saints Devotional Bible” offers the NABRE (New American Bible, Revised Edition), the translation approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is only the start, however, as editor Bert Ghezzi — a noted author on the saints and the spiritual life — has brought together a remarkable collection of readings and meditations by the saints on Scripture that will be equally a powerful spiritual experience and a powerful lesson in the wisdom of the holy men and women who have gone before us.
In his introduction, Ghezzi demonstrates the many different ways that the saints approached the Bible, including their study of the sacred word, memorization, prayerful reflection, its use in spiritual warfare, the guidance it offers, its proclamation and its application. He thus has a vast treasury at his disposal, and he certainly makes the most of them. Included are more than 200 readings from the saints, encompassing reflections, prayers and letters that focus on the Old and New Testaments; a 20-part lesson on studying, praying, and living the Scriptures, with longer selections from the writings of the saints; a searchable list of themes on study topics that will be of particular interest to readers; a calendar of saints and a list of patron saints; and mini-biographies of all the saints who are quoted. This is a tremendous resource for Catholics and a splendid gift for anyone hoping to learn more about Scripture and the saints.
The Creed in Scripture
Author: Stephen J. Binz
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2012, 189 pp., $9.95 hardcover; 800-348-2440.
Part of his Lectio Divina series, scriptural expert Stephen Binz offers a meditation on the Creed, including historical, theological and biblical perspectives. As Binz notes, the Creed is part of our liturgical life, and Catholics will benefit greatly from appreciating it more fully, especially given its origins in the most ancient Church and its affirmation of belief in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the Church as one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
Using the practice of the lectio divina, Binz walks the reader through the Creed with the sequence of Listening, Understanding, Reflecting, Praying and Acting.
One of the great values of the book is the way that Binz helps the reader to move beyond the familiar recitation of the Creed — which can cause the words to become mechanical and devoid of content — to a place of savoring “these cherished testimonials handed down to us.”
Gifts from God
Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2012, 60 min., $19.95 DVD; 800-651-1531
“Gifts from God” offers two documentaries on one DVD. The first is titled “Keys of the Kingdom: Understanding the Papacy,” and the second is “Confession: The Forgotten Sacrament.” Both films feature some excellent reflections from various informed and articulate priests and theologians, focusing on two often misrepresented and severely undervalued gifts that God has given to all of us. Among the experts are Father Thomas Crean (author of “God is No Delusion”), Father Timothy Finigan and Steve Ray (hosts of the “Footprints of God” series) and Joanna Bogle (host of several EWTN series). Aided by some excellent graphics and photography, the documentaries can be recommended for schools and parishes.
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
Author: Matthew Kelly
Publisher: Beacon Press, Hebron, Ky., 2012, 224 pp., $17.95 softcover; 859-980-7900
One of the most popular Catholic speakers, Matthew Kelly follows up his widely read “Rediscover Catholicism” with a book that aims to help Catholics to become much more engaged with their faith and to help others find that same enthusiasm. Kelly proposes that there are four signs that we can look for in engaged Catholics, and that we can change the world by engaging even 1 percent of the members of the Church.
“The Catholic Church in America is failing to meet people where they are and speak meaningfully about the real issues of concern in their lives,” he writes.
Kelly argues there are four things that separate highly engaged Catholics and disengaged Catholics: (1) a daily commitment to prayer, (2) continuous learning, (3) generosity and (4) a desire to invite others to grow spiritually by sharing the love of God with them. Each section allows the average Catholic to perform extensive self-analysis with various quizzes and reflection questions, as well as through chapter summaries and the clear presentation of key concepts.
History of the Catholic Church
Author: James Hitchcock
Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2012, 580 pp., $29.95 hardcover; 800-651-1531.
The arrival of a new and reliable history of the Church is always a happy event. James Hitchcock’s “History of the Catholic Church” is thus most welcome, but it is doubly so because of the reputation of its author and its value, immediate and obvious, to all Catholic and non-Catholic students of the past. Longtime professor of history at St. Louis University, Hitchcock has taken as his subject the vast, complex and magnificent history of Catholicism, bringing not only a comprehensive perspective but a frank and honest one. He is unshrinking in his presentation, looking at the modern challenges facing the Church, the crises after the Second Vatican Council, and the many episodes held up by critics. This honesty is a powerful element to the book as it gives defenders of the Church both the context for controversial historical events and the truth of what actually happened. Also notable is his global perspective, covering the planting of the Faith across the world throughout the centuries.
Structurally, the history is a readable narrative, but it is also organized with running sidebars on each page to allow for easy reference to the content of the paragraphs. For anyone looking for a specific topic within the chapters, this is a handy guide, especially if used in conjunction with the detailed index. The book is enhanced further by suggestions for further reading that includes a splendid list of books for the average reader. “History of the Catholic Church” is ideal as a textbook and can be used for parish study groups.
Fast, Pray, Give
Author: Mary Carol Kendzia
Publisher: Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2012, 86 pp., $8.99 softcover; 800-488-0488
A handy six-week guide to making the most of Lent, “Fast, Pray, Give” looks at Lent from the perspective of discipleship with suggestions and practical advice on how to focus more intently on the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Each week imparts the lessons with quotes from Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, inspirational texts, questions for reflection and discussion, a model saint, a Lenten practice and a prayer. Useful for group study and retreats.