TCA Reviews for May/June 2014

The Global War on Christians

Author: John Allen

Publisher: Random House, New York, N.Y., 2013, 320 pp., $25 hardcover; 800-733-3000

One of the most habitually and tragically underreported stories anywhere today is the severe plight facing Christians around the world. The Western media pays virtually no attention to the oppression and mistreatment of Christian populations who comprise more than 80 percent of the victims of violations of religious freedom. The persecution ranges from the Middle East and North Africa to the Indian subcontinent to China and North Korea. Journalist John Allen has assembled a well-researched survey on this alarming phenomenon in “The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution,” and he deserves credit for doing what he can to raise general awareness.

Allen uses three parts to make his case: “Anti-Christian Persecution around the World”; “Myths about the Global War on Christians”; and “Fallout, Consequences, and Response.” Especially interesting is his section on myths, including the myths that Christians are persecuted only where they are a minority, that it is all about Islam and that anti-Christian persecution is a political issue.

Allen’s coverage of anti-Christian persecutions makes for harrowing reading. As he estimates, the number of Christians killed every year could be as low as 7,500 or as high as 100,000, meaning that anywhere from 146,000 to 2 million Christians have died over the last 20 years. And that does not even count the tens of thousands in prisons and the millions living in a state of constant oppression or legal and social disability. This catastrophe is happening right now, and given the reality that more than two-thirds of the world’s 2.3 billion Christians now reside beyond the borders of the West, this is a problem that can no longer be ignored or discounted.

Praying for Vocations


Artist: Maria Regina Cleri

Publisher: Maria Regina Cleri, Free CD;

The organization Maria Regina Cleri exists to support priests and vocations to the priesthood. Part of that effort is prayer, and so the organization has created “A Meditated Rosary for Vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life,” a two-CD set with an accompanying book by Msgr. Peter Dunne and Vicki Herout. As Msgr. Dunne observes: “Pray for vocations. Prayer is the surest means of bringing life and love to fulfillment. By praying for vocations, we bring life and love to the Church and salvation to the world.” The CD is free, although the organization asks for a small donation to assist with costs.


Catholic Bioethics

Author: William May

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 336 pp., $26.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

In an age of nearly relentless medical and scientific research and breakthroughs, the need for the Church’s guidance and teachings assumes an even greater importance. This reality increases even more the relevance and value of the third edition of the classic text “Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life.” For many years, William May’s text has been the standard for understanding the Church’s teachings on bioethics and is an authentic appreciation of the dignity of the human person. The update is a needed one for several reasons. First, there are the recent developments in bioethics. Second, there was the release — after the publication of the second edition — of the instruction Dignitatis Personae (on certain bioethical questions), published by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008. This updated book is a significant contribution to the ongoing discussion of contemporary bioethics. Highly recommended.

Bringing the Gospel of Mark to Life

Mark gospel

Author: George Martin

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 496 pp., $24.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

Part of a series of Scripture commentaries, “Bringing the Gospel of Mark to Life” is a scholarly work that is nevertheless intended for the average reader. There are many commentaries available today, part of the renaissance in Catholic Scripture studies. Many are pitched too high for the Catholic in the pew, which increases the value of works like George Martin’s. As he writes in his preface: “The focus of this book is on what Mark’s words meant when he wrote them, with an eye toward their meaning for readers today. This book is intended for men and women who want to read and understand Mark’s Gospel as Scripture, as God’s word conveyed in human words.”

Martin provides running commentary throughout the Gospel text, including extensive background sections with word studies and explanations to provide further context to passages. There are also sections on the writing and interpretation of the Gospel, an index to the background material and maps. This work, in conjunction with the other volumes in the series, is ideal for Bible studies.

A Year with the Saints

year with saints

Author: Paul Thigpen

Publisher: Saint Benedict Press, Charlotte, N.C., 2013, 388 pp., $44.95 softcover; 800-437-5876

The former editor of The Catholic Answer and noted Catholic author Paul Thigpen has assembled a lovely collection on the saints, “A Year with the Saints: Daily Meditations with the Holy Ones of God.” The 365 reflections that can be started at any time of the year are drawn from the writings and lives of saints over the ages. Each day offers insightful, powerful and touching excerpts from the writings of the saints, as well as exhortations and a closing prayer. A beautiful gift book.

Witnesses to Mystery

Author: Grzegorz Górny and Janusz Rosikon

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2013, 336 pp., $34.95 hardcover; 800-651-1531

witnesses to mystery

The history of Christianity has been blessed with the presence of relics of the saints. Without question, however, the greatest of the relics are those traditionally associated with the Passion of Christ. They have long been the source of study, quests, research, controversy and debate. The list of the relics of the Passion is also a surprisingly long one, such as the True Cross, the nails, the crown of thorns, the pillar of scourging, Christ’s tunic, the Veil of Manoppello, the Sudarium of Oviedo and, of course, the famous Shroud of Turin.

Two Poles, writer Grzegorz Górny and photographer Janusz Rosikon investigated the relics associated with the Passion, traveling to museums, archives and churches that all form part of the legacy and history of these relics. The result is an extraordinarily beautiful and elegantly presented study that boasts not only the history of the relics but the work undertaken by scholars and scientists to assess their authenticity.

The book serves as a visual and scholarly travelogue. Most readers will be familiar with the famous relics — the Shroud or the True Cross — but particularly interesting are lesser known ones — for example, the Sudarium (or burial veil) of Oviedo, the Veil of Manoppello and the crown of thorns. There are also chapters on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) in Rome and the relics of Aachen. All of the relics are worthy of study as all of them help us to turn our prayerful gaze to the passion of Our Lord.