TCA Reviews for November/December 2013

Dangers to the Faith

Author: Al Kresta

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 304 pp., $14.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

In full, “Dangers to the Faith: Recognizing Catholicism’s 21st-Century Opponents” is a superb analysis of the challenges not only to contemporary Catholicism but the whole of global civilization. Kresta is one of the modern Church’s most articulate, thoughtful and authentic minds. A former Protestant minister who became Catholic, Kresta sees the threats emanating from both outside and inside the Church. But he goes beyond a mere discussion of the challenges to its key philosophical, religious and theological foundations.

The list of the Church’s opponents is very long and includes the New Atheism, celebrity spirituality, the return of ancient heresies such as Arianism and Gnosticism under new names and guises, trendy consumerism, relativism, progressivism or transhumanism, secularizing governments, radical Islam and others. Kresta divides them all into four groups: “Abusers of Spirituality and Revelation,” “Abusers of Science and Reason,” “Abusers of the Past and Future” and “Abusers of Power and Wealth.” His argumentation is superb, and most impressive is his lucid command of facts and historical and modern examples. Kresta writes: “We have radically different, competing conceptions of human origin and destiny, or morality and the good life, even the nature of truth. This book gives you the tools to deal with the competing visions of secularity, Islam, New Age, Eastern thought, and so on in popular conversation.”

Kresta is honest in noting that we must know our opponents and be able to defend the Church against their attacks, but we also must know and love the faith, consider ourselves missionaries in our own land and love our enemies even though they hate us. This means trusting in the Holy Spirit, who “is already at work in people’s lives throughout the world.” Highly recommended.

Truth and Life Dramatized Audio Bible: New Testament

Director: Brenda Noel

Publisher: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., 2010, 22 hrs., $49.99 CD;

This impressive work offers a fully dramatized audio Bible that is faithful to the text and boasts original music and sound effects as well as a stellar cast of performers, including Michael York, Julia Ormond, Brian Cox and Stacy Keach. The text used is the RSV-CE, meaning that it is a reliable translation, and the presentation is far removed from the awkward amateur readings that are commonly available. It makes an ideal gift and is a valuable tool for hearing the Word of God in a new way. Recommended for schools and parish libraries, it is also excellent during travel.

The New Evangelization and You

Author: Greg Willits

Publisher: Servant Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2013, 160 pp., $16.99 softcover; 800-488-0488

There is no question that the New Evangelization is one of the most vital projects for Catholics today, but what exactly that entails is still a mystery to many of the faithful. To explain how the New Evangelization can apply to the average Catholic, Greg Willits has assembled a series of reflections on the different facets of the New Evangelization, starting with a clear definition of what the Church is talking about: “The New Evangelization is about re-evangelizing the world for Jesus Christ, starting with us.” It is a crucial observation given that, as Willits notes, average Catholics can have a difficult time seeing themselves as evangelizers or especially heralds of the New Evangelization. The book thus focuses on three tasks for Catholics: knowing the faith, living the faith more fully and sharing the faith more effectively. Throughout, Willits uses humorous but insightful examples and gives positive encouragement to help readers set out and serve the Church in a task that must involve us all.

Catholic Mom's Cafe

Author: Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 272 pp., $14.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

There are quite a few 365-day-meditation books that offer prayers and reflections for the average Catholic. Some are mediocre and others strikingly helpful. Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s new “Catholic Mom’s Café: 5-Minute Retreats for Every Day of the Year” is definitely one of the latter variety, especially because it is intended for Catholic mothers and is written with an awareness that moms are challenged to set aside even a few minutes a day to recharge spiritually. A mother of five, Cooper O’Boyle has organized a yearlong devotional book for Catholic moms, with daily reflections that highlight the virtues of faith, hope and love, yet are brief enough to be enjoyed in just five minutes. As she writes, “Each day becomes a grace-filled mother’s mini-retreat … I thoroughly appreciate how incredibly busy mothers can be.”

Each day’s meditation includes quotations from Scripture, a spiritual reading or relevant quote, an engaging and to-the-point meditation, a prayer that relates to the daily theme and a brief “sound bite” to ponder throughout the day. A great gift for busy mothers.

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Vincent de Paul

Author: John E. Rybolt, C.M.

Publisher: Liguori Publications, Liguori, Mo., 2012, 128 pp., $11.99 softcover; 800-325-9521

St. Vincent de Paul (c. 1580-1660) is honored as the Apostle of Charity and his wisdom is of considerable help to readers looking for suitable readings during Advent and Christmas. Father John Rybolt has gathered St. Vincent’s reflections that were largely given as part of the saint’s conferences or talks, and each day includes a meditation from Vincent, a Scripture reading, prayer and an Advent action. The author also includes different formats for using the book for nightly prayer.

Shakespeare on Love

Author: Joseph Pearce

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif. 2013, 160 pp., $14.95 softcover; 800-651-1531.

Virtually every high school graduate over the last century has studied Shakespeare’s famed tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet.” It is arguably the Bard of Avon’s most famous play, and according to Shakespeare expert and literary biographer Joseph Pearce one of his most misunderstood and misinterpreted. Building on his previous work in proposing Shakespeare’s Catholicism, Pearce turns to the “star-crossed lovers” with “Shakespeare on Love, Seeing the Catholic Presence in Romeo and Juliet.” Pearce writes: “Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the most famous love story ever written.… But what exactly does the world’s greatest playwright have to say about the world’s greatest lovers?”

Pearce points out that Romeo and Juliet are held up as a romantic ideal, but the play is a tragedy filled with moral calamity and ending in death. What is Shakespeare saying about these two lovers and the other participants in this tragedy? Are the characters mere victims of fate, or are there important moral questions that need to be examined?

Seen from the Catholic perspective of authentic love and a proper understanding of sexual desire that is ruled by reason, Romeo and Juliet become a powerful testament to Shakespeare’s moral genius. Pearce argues that the play was not intended to be some grand romance but a cautionary tale about naiveté, youthful infatuation, sexual immaturity and the moral failures of the adults in the lives of the two protagonists. This is a useful Catholic counterpoint, especially for students, to most of the approaches used in interpreting the play in contemporary education.