At the start of the 21st century, Catholics are able to look back and consider the challenges, but also the high moments, for Catholic culture in the last century. One of those moments — as it has been throughout all of Church history — is the Catholic intellectual tradition. Dr. Robert Royal, head of the Faith and Reason Institute, has written a sweeping and authoritative study on the Catholic intellectual tradition in the 20th century that encompasses the labors of great Catholic minds in philosophy, theology, Scripture, culture, literature and more.
While seemingly a towering subject for the average reader, Royal manages to make the depth of the material very accessible. One of the ways he especially excels in this is by focusing on the great figures, such as Jacques Maritain, Bernard Lonergan, Joseph Pieper, Edith Stein, Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, Romano Guardini, Karl Rahner, Henri du Lubac, Karol Wojtyla, Joseph Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Charles Peguy, Paul Claudel, George Bernanos, Francois Mauriac, G.K. Chesterton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Christopher Dawson, Graham Greene, Sigrid Undset, J.R.R. Tolkien, Czeslaw Milosz and others.
Royal needs to be credited with a fine work on its own terms — well-researched, well-written and a resource for any honest reader.
But his greater gift may be, in the broadest sense, helping to celebrate and recapture the intellectual tradition at a time of vast cultural, social and technological disruption that have been such a part of life inside and outside of the Church for the decades since the end of the Second Vatican Council. It is a legacy that must be preserved. Highly recommended.
7 Secrets of the Eucharist
Author: Vinny Flynn
Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2014, 2 CDs, $16.95 audio; 800-651-1531
A well-performed presentation of Vinny Flynn’s best-selling book, this audio is read by the author, with a supporting cast of voices and beautiful instrumental music.
Flynn, author of the best-seller “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” offers seven key “secrets” or hidden truths about the Sacrament. As Flynn notes, many Catholics have a very limited conception of the Sacrament instead of a deeper appreciation of its power and beauty. Above all, he writes, the Sacrament is a personal encounter with Christ and should be something a Catholic should look forward to receiving. Typically, audio versions of books are disappointing. This version of an excellent book is an exception.
Witness to Love
Author: Ryan and Mary-Rose Verret
Publisher: Saint Benedict Press, Charlotte, N.C., 2015, 196 pp., $14.95 softcover; 800-437-5876
The institution of marriage is — needless to observe — in great crisis. And one of the greatest challenges in reinvigorating marriage in society is to help young couples to prepare properly for the realities as well as the beauty of marital life. Put simply, we need to prepare young couples to have marriages that are grace-filled and true covenants of love.
Marriage experts Ryan and Mary-Rose Verret present a practical guide to marriage preparation for the married and soon-to-be married — a program for profound and transformative discipleship. “Witness to Love” gives married couples the tools and encouragement to share the grace, struggles, joys and blessings of their marriage with young couples in desperate need of mentors.
Commentary is both candid and practical, dealing with such issues as divorce, cohabitation and the importance of mentoring young couples to create not just couples ready to marry, but disciples who say “I do” every day of their marriage.
What Would Pope Francis Do?
Author: Sean Salai, S.J.
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2016, 144 pp., $14.95 softcover; 800-348-2440
A member of the Society of Jesus, Sean Salai uses a gentle combination of Ignatian spirituality, personal anecdotes and the teachings of Pope Francis to create a meditation on how we can all benefit from Pope Francis’ pontificate. Salai compiles stories of ordinary people, including his own journey into the Church, to give examples of how applying Pope Francis’ insights can be of great value. At the heart of the message Salai urges is joy. “Throughout his papacy,” he writes, “Francis has called on believers to pray for the grace to get out of our pews and shake things up by making a joyful noise. Rather than wait for people to come to our parishes, we need to go outside and meet them where they are.”
He describes a variety of ways that Catholics can hide from this call, in Catholic “comfort” zones, but then urges all of us to embrace seven characteristics embodied by Pope Francis: longing, closeness, dignity, weariness, tenderness, the model of Mary and courage.
You Can Share the Faith
Author: Karen Edmisten
Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2016, 160 pp., $14.95 softcover; 800-348-2440
The idea of evangelizing can be rather daunting for the average Catholic. Convert and gifted writer Karen Edmisten has written a guide of dos and don’ts for average Catholics in how to evangelize in ways that do not ask too much of the average person but can still be effective. She frames her guide around a series of one-on-one encounters using herself as an example of how this personal style of bringing people to Christ can literally transform a person’s life.
The Heart of the Diaconate
Author: James Keating
Publisher: Paulist Press, New York, N.Y., 2015, 96 pp., $12.95 softcover; 800-218-1903
The permanent diaconate, restored in the time after the Second Vatican Council, has emerged as a true blessing for the Church. Nevertheless, there are many who struggle with a proper understanding of the theology of holy orders regarding the diaconate. The head of the Institute for Priestly Formation, Deacon Keating has written a valuable reflection for those who are considering the diaconate. He writes: “The diaconate exists as a vocation of creative tension — a cleric living a lay life — and must remain in this tension if the church is to possess, in any concrete way, a diaconal imagination. A future diaconate must be one that involves a deeper appropriation of the servant identity of Christ, an appropriation that ignites the public witness of deacons so as to attract younger men and end what can only be called its ‘retirement’ culture.”
Keating looks at the Calling (including discerning the call), Formation and Ordination (the death of ego, the principles of ministry and the character of holy orders) and Ministry (communion with the Word, living Christ’s worship and healing and living Christ’s own charity). He stresses the importance of Christ’s charity within their hearts, what he considers a suffering that is diaconal formation: “Once the fruit of this formation sustains diaconal life, the witness of these men will penetrate the consciousness of other clergy and the laity, thus setting up the condition that makes diakonia a substantive part of the ecclesial imagination.”