The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run

Author: María Ruiz Scaperlanda

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2015, 256 pp., $19.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

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Award-winning journalist and writer María Ruiz Scaperlanda examines the life and legacy of Venerable Father Stanley Francis Rother, an American priest who was martyred in 1981 at the age of 46 while serving in Guatemala during a time of that country’s brutal civil war.

A native of Oklahoma, Rother was ordained a diocesan priest but then felt called to become a missionary. He arrived in Guatemala in 1968 and set about giving completely of himself to the local people, including learning their difficult language. Known as “Padre Francisco” to the local Tz’utujil Indians, he was beloved for his pastoral care of his flock and established a school, hospital and a Catholic radio station in his work.

When, therefore, political upheaval arrived, he did not want to abandon his people despite the presence of his name on a death list. He returned reluctantly to Oklahoma, but then made the decision to go back.

Scaperlanda has written a moving and detailed life of a priest who was recently recognized by the Holy See as a martyr. This is an important designation as it brings with it a faster process toward beatification and, God willing, canonization. Scaperlanda writes: “Regardless of how he is eventually recognized, Stanley Francis Rother was a faithful man who dared to love Jesus with everything he had — and that changed everything. To paraphrase what G.K. Chesterton wrote of St. Thomas More: If there had not been that particular man at that particular moment, our Church and history would have been different. Not only because of Father Stanley’s death as a martyr. But even more significantly, because his life and his priestly service remain a testament to the difference that one person can, and does, make.”

Christ

Author: Luigi Giussani

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Publisher: McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, Canada, 2015, 128 pp., $14.95, softcover; 800-621-2736

Father Luigi Giussani (1922-2005) was a brilliant and holy Italian priest, theologian, educator and founder of the international Catholic movement Communion and Liberation that is now found in 80 countries. His writings have long been prized for their depth and profound teachings on how to nurture an encounter with Jesus Christ. “Christ, God’s Companionship with Man” is a collection of some of Father Giussani’s greatest writings. As such, this relatively modest volume in size is packed with spiritual insights that will be enjoyed by anyone familiar with his work. It also serves as an ideal introduction to those first coming to grips with his theology.

Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture

Author: Mark Giszczak

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2015, 192 pp., $16.95 softcover; 800-348-2440

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One of the most common attacks made against Christianity (and those who follow the Bible in general) is rooted in the so-called problematic passages of Scripture, including such perennial criticisms of God’s apparent cruelty and capriciousness and His condoning of violence and genocide. The appalling events found in the Old Testament are the subject of “Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture” by biblical scholar Mark Giszczak. He writes: “The God of fierce justice is the same as the God of abundant mercy. The one who reigns over the universe in justice, the one who punishes sins, is the same one who dies on the cross for us.” Giszczak notes that, in Scripture, God reveals himself through a beautiful text that was authored by the Holy Spirit and human authors, “but God cannot be sugarcoated.” Punishment, he notes, must exist — by God’s mercy — to enforce moral responsibility, including the ultimate punishment of hell.

The Soul’s Upward Yearning

Author: Father Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2015, 356 pp., $19.95 softcover; 800-651-1531

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The immensely popular Jesuit scholar Father Robert Spitzer has grappled with many of the intellectual and philosophical issues and crises of our time. In his latest book, he tracks the impact of scientific materialism in withering away our belief in the human capacity for transcendence. Such has been the malign influence of this trend that people today in greater numbers have come to doubt both the existence of God and the human soul. This is utterly contrary to human nature, which has an innate “upward yearning” within the soul. This problem has been noted by such intellectuals as C.S. Lewis, Carl Jung and Gabriel Marcel, and the consequences include documented increases in suicide, substance abuse and a host of psychological problems.

Father Spitzer takes on the task of proving the transcendent in contemporary terms by applying both classic and contemporary approaches for proving the existence of God and a transphysical soul. He writes, “Though faith is ultimately grounded in the heart — in our affinity and need for God — we must also believe that the reality of God is not only credible, but worthy of certainty and conviction.”

7 Secrets of Divine Mercy

Author: Vinny Flynn

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Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2015, 200 pp., $14.95 softcover; 800-651-1531

In 2000, Pope St. John Paul II canonized Sister Faustina Kowalska and proclaimed the Sunday after Easter to be celebrated annually as Divine Mercy Sunday. As Pope Francis has proclaimed an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, author Vinny Flynn examines the most vital elements of Divine Mercy as part of his popular “7 Secrets” series. Flynn was one of the original editors of the official English edition of the Diary of St. Faustina, and he brings his expertise clearly into focus.

Encountering Truth

Author: Pope Francis

Publisher: Image Books, New York, N.Y., 2015, 416 pp., $25 hardcover; 800-733-3000

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Since the early days of his pontificate, Pope Francis has chosen to say morning Mass in the chapel at the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guest house where he has chosen to live instead of the Apostolic Palace. Every day, he is joined by different guests, but they are most often the humble workers who help in the day-to-day functioning of the Holy See and Vatican City State: gardeners, office workers, nuns and priests, and other visitors fortunate enough to attend. The homilies are always off-the-cuff, without any written or prepared notes, exactly like parish priests are wont to do all over the world every morning.

The Pope’s daily homilies, of course, have become some of the most widely anticipated expressions of the mind and heart of Pope Francis. “Encountering Truth” is a collection of highlights from these homilies from March 2013 to May 2014. The homilies were recorded and transcribed by Vatican Radio, and special commentary is provided by Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor of the leading Jesuit publication, La Civiltà Cattolica. In a foreword to the collection, the Vatican Press spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., writes that the homilies reflect the character of the daily liturgy — “sober, essential, intense.”

In their lengthy preface and introduction, Fathers Lombardi and Spadaro provide fascinating and revealing details into the way that the daily Masses are celebrated, but they likewise allow the reader to glimpse the heart of the pontiff.

This collection is the closest we will come to an official and complete treasury of his morning homilies. This is, consequently, a work of considerable significance.