TCA Reviews for July/August 2014

By What Authority?

Author: Mark Shea

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2013, 231 pp., $16.95 softcover; 800-651-1531

Originally published in 1996, this updated and expanded version of Mark Shea’s popular work of apologetics remains a valuable discussion of the Church’s tradition. The book is especially useful in two ways. First, there is Shea’s remarkable conversion to Catholicism from evangelicalism and his discovery of Christian tradition. Second, he documents his own journey out of the evangelical position of sola scriptura (Scripture alone) as the basis of faith to a full understanding of Sacred Tradition and its central role in Divine Revelation.

Shea describes the book as “about a change of heart and mind. Specifically, it is a book about how an Evangelical who believed the Holy Scripture to be the sole source of the Christian revelation came to discover and embrace the ancient Catholic teaching that Sacred Tradition is a source of revelation too.”

While a comprehensive, full and faithful work of apologetics in an area of great dispute with Protestants and evangelicals, “By What Authority?” is also sensitive to the evangelical community in which Shea grew into a believer in Jesus Christ. As such, it is an ideal gift for those who were also raised in the tradition of sola scriptura.

Shea includes many of the difficult questions that he asked while on his journey to the Catholic faith. One of the most interesting chapters is “Blind Alleys,” which pertains to claims of those who believe in sola scriptura, including the claims of “No Inner Witness of the Spirit,” “No Direct Witness to the Canon by Christ,” “No Witness to the Canon by the Apostles,” “Does Quotation Equal Canonicity,” and others. The blind alleys led him inexorably to conclude that God must have ordained some sort of revelation outside of Scripture.

Francis, The People’s Pope


Director: Juan Martin Ezratty

Publisher: Rome Reports, Rome, Italy, 2013, 55 mins., €17.95 DVD;

The popularity of Pope Francis is by now well-attested, as evidenced by the sheer number of books about him or offering his teachings and writings. Still rarer are high quality documentaries. Rome Reports, based in Rome, has created a well-made and interesting study on the life of the first Latin American Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The documentary includes a study of his life in Argentina and is especially notable for its interviews with his only living sister, Maria Elena, and his successor as superior general of the Jesuits in Argentina, as well as some of the souls who have been touched by his pastoral care. Excellent for parishes and schools.

St. Peter’s Bones

Author: Thomas J. Craughwell

Publisher: Image Books, New York, N.Y., 2013, 144 pp., $13.99 softcover; 800-733-3000


One of the most fascinating and historically controversial questions in the historical life of the Church is whether St. Peter actually lived, served, was crucified and buried in Rome, and especially whether he was buried on Vatican Hill as has been attested by long and venerable tradition. Protestants and enemies of the Church long claimed that his burial on Vatican Hill was a pure fabrication. History, of course, has vindicated the Church’s tradition, and author Thomas J. Craughwell documents a truly amazing archaeological adventure that he describes as “How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found … and Then Lost and Found Again.”

Craughwell uses a lively but thorough and scholarly style to tell the story of the relics of St. Peter, with particular attention paid to the vital role of Pope Pius XII in bringing the relics once more out of the darkness of history through his secret and heroic authorization of a full-scale excavation.

The Holy Land

Author: Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

Publisher: Servant Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2013, 136 pp., $24.99 hardcover; 800-488-0488

Holy Land

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a dream of many Christians. This often can be unrealized, therefore the popular Jesuit writer and television and radio host Father Mitch Pacwa offers a richly detailed and beautifully presented guide to the holy places.

In “The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage,” Father Pacwa provides a geographical survey that encompasses a typical pilgrimage, from Bethlehem and Ein Karem to Jerusalem Old City and Mount of Olives to Western Galilee and the Sea of Galilee.

Each section contains a short but insightful commentary focusing on its importance in salvation history, relevant Scripture to encourage meditation and the prayers used by Father Pacwa on his annual pilgrimages.

The objective of the book is very focused as the author writes, “I hope that you armchair pilgrims — both those who might never have the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land and those who have already been there and want a refresher pilgrimage — may find an opportunity in this book to pray more and come closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Through the Year with Pope Francis

Author: Pope Francis

Through the Year

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 127 pp., $16.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

In the more than a year since his election, Pope Francis has proven truly remarkable in communicating the Faith. He has especially a gift for the memorable turn of phrase. In “Through the Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections,” the reader is offered a collection of reflections and meditations from the pope’s homilies, addresses and general audiences during his papacy, as well as letters, homilies and talks from his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires. An excellent gift.

A Journey to the Heart of Jesus

Author: Archbishop Peter Sartain

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 192 pp., $16.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

Seattle’s Archbishop J. Peter Sartain is a bishop with the ability to write, preach and touch the hearts of his listeners. In his new book, “A Journey to the Heart of Jesus: Guideposts Along the Way,” the archbishop offers deep and insightful counsel for living a Christ-like life. The chapters are taken from a collection of 90 brief and frequently humorous reflections originally written by Archbishop Sartain for the diocesan newspapers where he has served previously, including Little Rock, Ark., Joliet, Ill., and Seattle. Archbishop Sartain writes: “These are simple words, intended to convey a message of hope in Jesus Christ.… Perhaps you will find a thought here or there which will strike at your heart as an invitation to accept God’s surpassing love for you poured out in his Son, Jesus, and nurtured in the Church.”


The topics include embracing humility and “knowing one’s place in the world,” persevering through trials and temptations, human respect, seeking forgiveness and accommodating others, authentic prayer, growth and closeness to Christ through suffering, emulating modern saintly mentors and, ultimately, detaching from the impermanence of this life and clinging to what is eternal.

In a final chapter, Archbishop Sartain offers a meditation on St. John Paul II, the pontiff he describes as a personal hero. He writes, “This man of the twentieth century allowed himself to be so completely transformed by the Gospel that in him we saw the face of Christ.” Highly recommended.