Friday, 27 February 2009

More Books For My Bookshelves...

After the last book-related post I wrote, I received an email, through a mutual friend, from Brian of Catholic Word: would I be interested in receiving review copies of books?

Is the Pope a Catholic?

Well, yesterday I received a parcel. I love parcels. I'm not so fond of those styrofoam "peanuts" which fill so many parcels (no matter how careful you are, several of them always escape and stick to stuff... I'll be finding styrofoam peanuts for weeks!) but, every silver lining has its cloud.

Inside the parcel: six books and a CD.

The first book was The Signs of the Times: Understanding the Church Since Vatican II. It is a collection of writings by Fr. Richard Gilsdorf. At around 500 pages, I doubt that it'll be a quick read, but, having glanced at the Foreward, I am keen to continue.

"To read this book, then, is to understand the crises afflicting the Church. It is to understand why catechesis has lacked substance and been so ineffective, why some diocesan newspapers still feature dissenting columnists..."

Oooooh. Tabletistas explained...

The next book out of the box is Christopher West's Theology of the Body for BeginnersThis is not a book I would have chosen to buy, it not really being a subject I'm particularly interested in, but the book is quite a short one, so I shall give it a go.

Building on a Solid Foundation, by Fr. Antoine Bakh, Daniel Daou and Joseph Bakhos is a sort of shortened catechism, arranged under seven topics: The Holy Trinity, the Eucharist, Salvation, The Church, Confession and Reconciliation, Purgatory and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Each of the topics is followed by a section giving quotes on the topic by the early Church Fathers, and then a list of Scriptural quotes, which gives the book a very "Evangelical" feel. I think this is more a reference work rather than something to be read cover-to-cover, though the topics are surprisingly short, given the thickness of the book.

Brian told me that Made for More, by Curtis Martin, was a reason-based argument for Jesus' Divinity, in that it didn't use Scripture as a basis for proof. It's a small, pocket-sized book, so not too daunting. I am keen to see how it reads, as one of the most common objections I've heard from teenagers over the years is how we can't use the Bible to argue anything, because obviously it's biased! This is, of course, nonsense, but I'm interested to know what non-Scriptural arguments can be roped in for support!

Did Adam & Eve Have Belly Buttons? by Matthew J. Pinto is another reference-type book. The front cover proclaims that the questions (200 of them) are from Catholic teenagers, but many of the questions are the same (or similar) to the questions asked by adult converts to Catholicism - the cover will, I fear, put many people off this book, not least the teenagers the book is aimed at... because it is most definitely not "cool" (or whatever the latest buzz-phrase is) to be seen reading a book written specifically for teenagers.

If they overcome this hurdle, the book itself is excellent, though I wouldn't recommend reading it cover-to-cover. It's a book to be dipped into, with a question or two (along with the answers, naturally!) being read at any one time. Many of the questions seem pretty obvious: "Q. 82. Can you be forgiven for committing murder?" but these really are the sort of questions I've been asked by teenagers, even those who are preparing for Confirmation.

The final book out of the box was Ignatius of Antioch: A New Translation and Theological Commentary by Dr. Kenneth J. Howell. A small, slim volume, it nevertheless was the book that interested me the most.

I first encountered St. Ignatius from the writings picked for the Office of Readings. Fairly early on in the year, I think, there's a letter of his which describes how he expected to be thrown to the lions in the arena, and how he did not want his followers to try and save him. (I may be muddling two of the extracts together, but no matter, you get the general idea!)

This was all much as one might expect from a saint of the early Church. Then, his letter gets a little surreal... apparently, several of the beasts used for the games were rather poor specimens, and were rather reluctant to dispatch the Christians presented to them. St. Ignatius was a little anxious that his martyrdom might be impeded because of the indifference of the animals, and so he described his intention of persuading the animals to eat him... "I shall use force to them..." he said.

In anyone other than a Saint of the Church, this would be considered serious mental disturbance!

So, I've always been a little intrigued by St. Ignatius of Antioch.

The CD which was enclosed was one on Confession, by Fr. Larry Richards. It's distributed free by the Mary Foundation, and can be ordered online. I found the quality rather fuzzy (I guess we've been spoiled by near-perfect CD recordings) and the speaker was very "American-Evangelical" in his approach: referring to Bible chapters, and encouraging his audience to look up the quotes with him. It was, however, a good summary of why we need to go to Confession, and Fr. Richards gave a brief run-through of how the Commandments are relevent to our lives.

That lot should keep me out of mischief for a while!


8 comments:

Ottaviani said...

I hope you don't mind me saying this but I have always found Christopher West somewhat quiet cheesy, if not sometimes dubious. I find the whole "Theology of the Body" tending towards immodesty and that Christopher West's talks would just cheapen the whole thing.

There are too many people who are seem to organise conferences on this very subject and set themselves up as authorities on the church's teaching on sex and marriage.

Ironically, a good number of them always seem to be single themselves...

Mac McLernon said...

I don't mind at all, Ottaviani... As I said, I wouldn't buy this book myself, "JPII's Theology of the Body" not being a topic I find of interest...

Ttony said...

BTW: some of us BUY more books than this in a single go regularly (like at least monthly). What did you do to have the payment stopped?

the owl of the remove said...

Congrats on your new role - perhaps you will get a title in the Queen's Birthday Honours - maybe "Lady Fortis!" - it sounds appropriate!

Mac McLernon said...

Ttony, I have no idea why Brian picked me... though, to be fair, I had just given my latest purchases from the TAN bookstall (at the Day With Mary a fortnight ago) a sizeable plug on my blog.

Brian did mention that he could see that I was obviously orthodox and he respected my work... he also mentioned that he liked my humorous cat posts...

Given that your work is excellent, and you're also orthodox, the thing that swung it must be the cat posts...

;-)

Fr. Owl, if the rumours are true, and Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor is being considered for a peerage, I wouldn't touch one with a ten-foot barge pole, lest people conclude that I too had been toadying to the Government...

Victoria said...

I have read West's book and think it is excellent for late teens and 20s and those about to become engaged. I disagree that West's book 'just cheapens the whole thing.' If the book was written like a medical textbook or theological manual it would not find many readers among its target audience.

As for 'too many setting themselves up as authorities on the Church's teaching on sex and marriage'. Ottavani are you saying that these people don't speak as the Church teaches on this subject? If so who are they?

As for a goodly number being single aside from Mary Beth Bonnaci, and she is great, I am only aware of married people e.g. Dr Ray Guarendi, Jason and Crystalina Evert and Christopher West. Again, who do you have in mind?

I have Fr Richards' DVDs on Confession and Marriage and they are excellent. Yes they may sound a bit over the top for British or Australian ears but his target audience is American. He uses bible quotes because, Catholics surrounded by sola scriptura Protestants, expect that Church teaching be rooted in the Scriptures.

Mac McLernon said...

Sorry Ottaviani - WAY too much information!
;-)

Ottaviani said...

That's exactly what my point was aiming at.

(I'm sorry - I couldn't think of any way to get the point across!)

West goes way more than what the church has pronounced on the marital act and says that X and Y are good, without any basis for them in the catechism or any moral theology.

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