Review of Catholic Realism: A Book for Evangelizing Atheists

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Catholic Realism: A Framework for the Refutation of Atheism an the Evangelization of Atheists is a good guide for anyone trying to convert anybody. Their definition of “atheist” is broader than I’d typically go. They include anyone who does not believe in a personal deity, which would include many people who are New Age or influenced by Eastern Spirituality. This does make you reconsider the importance of the “personal” in personal God and makes you think about what that phrase really means. It was a bit unsettling for me because under their broad definition I was once an atheist although I would never have called myself that.

This guide is helpful in illuminating the atheist mindset and some of the reasons why people embrace atheism. It gives great pointers for evangelization in general such as:

  • Meeting people where they are
  • Being a beacon of light
  • Converting people with our lives

The book definitely needed another trip or two to the editor’s desk. It wasn’t enough to be a distraction, but I did notice missing punctuation and some odd grammar, among of other little things. Again, it wasn’t bad enough to detract from the value of the book by a long shot, just enough to notice.

My only other concern was the second part of Chapter 6. In it, Dr. Ronda Chervin goes one by one through Church teaching on ethical issues. I think she provides a good summary that would be very useful in an RCIA class or for evangelizing fallen Catholics. With its heavy emphasis on magisterial teaching and the Bible, however, it would be completely unconvincing for an atheist. A little disappointing for me, as I was looking forward to that part of the book for a personal project of mine, but I think it would definitely be useful in other contexts.

Over all, I intend to loan this book out to a friend of mine who is active in St. Paul Street Evangelization. I think anyone involved in a ministry such as that would benefit from this book. As the authors of this book points out, however, we are all surrounded by atheists (especially with their broadened definition) all the time, so maybe we should all pick up a copy just in case.

I was given the opportunity to read this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you En Route Books and Media for the opportunity.

Defiant Daughters: An Inspirational Book

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Defiant Daughters is a collection of stories about inspirational women from all over the world and all over history who had deep religious lives and whose faith lead them to courageous action. It includes women you’d expect to see such as St. Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila and Dorothy Day. It also includes women you may have never heard of before such as Anne Askew, Honora Nagle, and Satoko Kitahara.

Reading it all the way through, it was a fairly quick read. It does inspire you to learn more about the women, which is a good thing for two reasons:

  1. They are praiseworthy women. When we are daily surrounded with such filth through the media, it’s good to learn about them. As the Bible says, we are supposed to think about those things that are godly.
  2. God bless the author, Marcy Heidish, but sometimes her depictions of these women aren’t 100% accurate. I walked away from the book not entirely sure if the author was Catholic or not because, particularly with the saint profiles, her depictions of it all had so many tiny flaws. She seemed more than happy on multiple occasions to paint the Catholic Church in a bad light and not always deservingly. She is a Benedictine Oblate but in many places, you don’t have to be Catholic to practice a Benedictine spirituality.

Overall, I hope that second point doesn’t turn too many people away if for no other reason than the women in this book deserve recognition.

I do have one major beef with this book, however. The vast majority of the women in this book either gave up family life all together or abandoned their children to pursue their calling. It’s a repeated theme. One woman sent all of her younger children to live with family so she could minister to people in a war-torn country. Another left her children with their father so she could travel the US preaching about injustice. Yet another left her baby, newly weaned, to be a martyr. These are only three examples in a book that contains more.

It serves as an insult to the vocation of motherhood. Like motherhood is not an heroic endeavor, but abandoning your own children to fight for other causes is. This is balanced somewhat with the second to the last story of the book in which women become heroines precisely because they are mothers. I would challenge the author, however, to write another book featuring stories of mothers.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and I hope that the complaints I had don’t drive people away. Books about strong women of faith can be hard to come by and they are important to read when one finds them.

 

 

Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Scholars Take On Feminism and Complimentarity

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Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, and The Church. Kinda says it all, doesn’t it? In this book a group of distinguished, faithful, Catholic women scholars take Pope Francis’ call for a deeper theology of women and run with it. They reflect on what such a theology would look like and where is the feminine genius needed in the Church today.

They go some surprising directions. A couple of essays tackle the question of a “theology of men” arguing that a theology of women demands a corresponding look at men. One can only be as good and thorough as the other. We are complimentary sexes after all. My favorite essay seeks to translate Church teaching on sexuality in terms that a stereotypical radical second-wave feminist would understand, framing it largely in terms of social justice.

If you’re a theology and women’s issues nerd like I am, this is definitely a book to be read and then placed in your reference pile. Quotes from this book will be found on this blog and on the John Paul II Center for Women’s FB and Twitter pages in coming months.

If you are one who wonders how the heck an intelligent, successful woman can stand by the Catholic Church in 2016, this book could help you with some answers if you approach it with an open mind.

This book is available now at your favorite bookseller. I got it a month ago at my semi-annual trip to Catholic Supply of St. Louis. (Just a shout out to home! I miss you guys!)

The Gift of Birth: The Book for Moms

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Since reading Theology of the Body Extended, I waited patiently for this book. This book, like the previous book, extends Pope Saint John Paul II’s work beyond the sex. This one, however, is specifically about child birth and is geared for a more general audience.

I was not disappointed. For those unfamiliar with JPII’s Theology of the Body, she opens with a brief introduction. From there, she discusses finding God in the ideal childbirth experience, the less ideal experience, and finally she shares the testimonies of several Christian women about their childbirth experiences.

If you have never thought about childbirth as a spiritual experience, this book will certainly help you. Each chapter concludes with probing questions to help you uncover where the Holy Spirit is in your experience. You will walk away from this book in awe of God’s creative work in women. The woman giving birth could not possibly be closer to God and His work in that moment.

This book is equally for mothers who have had children and for those who are preparing for their first child. I considered getting a copy for a cousin who will be soon having her first baby.

But this leads me quite naturally to my only complaint. My husband’s cousin who is due in a couple months is giving birth via scheduled c-section. I was hoping more illumination into birth via c-section. I know that the author has had a child via unplanned c-section. I’m still emotionally healing from my unplanned c-section experience. She spends so much of the book on the ideal situation, it can at times be a difficult read for women who have had complications. Every childbirth is different, even with the same mother, so it’s impossible to cover everything. Of all of the less than ideal situations, she does give c-sections some attention, but as one of the most common “less than ideal” situations, I think it could almost get its own book. After reading her first book, I considered writing my own book about c-sections and Theology of the Body. Maybe I should do it.

I bought my book directly from the publisher after personally corresponding with the author a few times to bug her (“Are you done yet?”). I recommend that you do the same to support the small publisher, but it is also available on Amazon.

 

The Year Without a Purchase: A book we all need

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I don’t know about you, but I’m drowning in crap. I have more books than I have shelves. My son has more toys than he has space. Our second bedroom can’t be used as a bedroom, it’s just a storage room. And our “living” space has a pile in every corner. It’s embarrassing. I don’t want people over. And I have a sinking suspicion I’m not alone in this.

The Year Without A Purchase is a collection of anecdotal stories of one family’s journey to free themselves from the tyranny of stuff. The parents had gone on a mission trip years ago and they wanted to recapture the of social responsibility that they had originally come home with. While they were on the trip, they had written a family mission statement and they had discovered years later that they weren’t exactly living up to it.

So the decision was made to go an entire year without buying anything. Of course, this had to have some caveats. They could still buy food and toiletries. If something broke, they had to try to fix it themselves. If that failed, then and only then could they discuss whether to buy a new one. Presents had to be “experience” presents like eating at a restaurant together or something made from materials on hand, rather than buying new stuff.

Looking at my mounds of stuff, I think we could easily do such a challenge without much trouble at all. Seriously, my son has gifts he hasn’t even opened yet. I don’t think he’d even notice if we didn’t buy him any new stuff for a while.

Each chapter is a story or two from that year. Some of the stories are fun. Some of them are thought provoking. The book as a whole is full of advice and ideas for doing this challenge yourself. Although the authors are Christians, I think everyone could benefit from this book. The advice and the stories have very broad appeal.

One of my favorite ideas from the book is to give children only three gifts at Christmas because that’s all Jesus got. I had never heard of this idea before. I’m not sure how well that will work for our family since we essentially have three Christmases because we live so stinking far away from our families, but it might work for yours.

The Year Without a Purchase is available at your favorite bookseller now. I got the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review due to my membership in NetGalley. Thank you Westminster John Knox Press!

A small disclaimer for my Catholic friends: Your heart may hurt a bit when you read that the author of this book is a former Catholic. This is particularly painful when he discusses getting a vasectomy and in one chapter where he discusses being inspired by Muslim prayer practices to start praying multiple times a day. Was he never exposed to the beauty of the Liturgy of the Hours? Was he never exposed to Theology of the Body? I would still encourage you to read the book, but I know some of my followers could be bugged by these passages, so I wanted to give you a heads up.

The Four Keys to Everylasting Love: A Book Review

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The Four Keys to Everlasting Love is in many ways the best marriage advice book I’ve read this year. It breaks down the four requirements of a Catholic marriage (free, faithful, fruitful, and total) and practically applies them to our real lives.

The book seems to be predominately written by Karee Santos with valuable input from her husband such as his side of certain stories and a look into some of the situations he has seen as part of his practice as a therapist. This is a good thing. Her story as a successful lawyer who now stays at home with the kids is a story that needs to be heard. Their story as a mixed faith couple, mixed background couple is one that can help many people. There are also many other stories from tons of other couples and individuals, I can guarantee someone’s story will speak to your own.

This book is helpful for anyone: engaged, divorced, married for 20 years…anyone. Each chapter concludes with questions, action steps, and a quote from the Catechism. The entire book concludes with a guide for using this book as part of a group study and a copious amount of resources for further study into the topics the book covers.

I got the opportunity to review this book through my membership in NetGalley. Thank you Ave Maria Press. This book is available now at your favorite bookseller.

The Navarre Bible: Acts of the Apostles- A Review

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When you can’t find a decent picture online, make one yourself.

The Navarre Bible is a Catholic study Bible created by the Theology faculty of the University of Navarre in Spain. It is filled to the brim with references to the Church Fathers, Papal documents and Vatican II documents. The commentators are clearly enamored with St. Josemaria Escriva. Barely a page goes by without a quote from him. (Granted, he is very quotable.)

Unlike many of the books I have reviewed recently, it took me over a year to get through this book. I went through it first reading the chapter in Acts then reading all the footnotes that applied to that chapter. I tried to stick to a chapter a day, but life and other books got in the way, not to mention the richness of this book, so a 28 day project turned into almost a year and a half.

The commentary has something for everyone. I’m one of those who likes to get into the historical meat of the Bible and the footnotes were very illuminating on that front. If you want a more spiritual reading, however, this book is good for that as well. They try to apply the experiences of Paul and the early apostles to our lives as Christians trying to live lives of holiness in today’s world. The commentary is from 1992, but what it has to say is still exceptionally relevant in 2016.

If you want to dive deep into any book of the Bible, I would recommend for you to find The Navarre Bible commentary for that book. There is one for all of the books of the New Testament and I believe for many (if not all) the books of the Old Testament. Don’t worry that it will be over your head. The read is challenging, but rich and not overwhelming. These Bible commentaries should be available at any Catholic book seller. If you don’t see it, definitely ask or look online.