Beyond Me, My Selfie, and I: A Review of Teresa Tomeo’s Latest Book

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In this technology-saturated world, Teresa Tomeo speaks from personal experience and candid observation on what we all need to do to be better followers of Christ.

It all stems from a trip to Italy. While seeing the sights, she couldn’t help but notice a couple of young people absorbed into their phones. What real reality were they missing while being stuck in the virtual reality of their phones?

The Church constantly preaches that while technology is not in itself morally good or bad, it’s use and misuse can certainly veer either way. In this book, Mrs. Tomeo tackles specifically social media and the ubiquitous selfie. She challenges us all to put our phones down for real face-time with those we love and with He who loves us.

She breaks down this huge issue into 10 manageable chunks. Each chapter starts with an introduction of a specific angle followed by a mini-quiz to help you think about how it applies to you. Then, she explains what the Church in her wisdom says about it and some pointers with how to take it to prayer.

When read with an open and prayerful heart, this book could make real changes to how you use and view technology. It certainly serves as a wake up call to the dangers of social media.

Beyond Me, My Selfie and I is available at your favorite bookseller now. I was given the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in Netgalley. Thank you Franciscan Media for the privilege.

Sign of Contradiction: A Review

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I thought I’d take a break after reading an academic treatise by Benedict XVI, so I foolishly picked this book up. It offers a very thorough examination of the history and the current status of the debates raging in our country over contraception. Like Benedict XVI’s book, I had a hard time reading this in large chunks. Like Benedict XVI’s book, I learned a lot.

This book is geared for devout Catholics who already support Church teaching in regards to family planning. It is, in a sense, a call to action for such Catholics to spur them to change the world with the gospel of life. It should be required reading for anyone in ministry, especially ministries that center on life issues and promoting Natural Family Planning.

I would broaden this invitation to include people who disagree with church teaching. This author tries terribly hard, almost too hard, to give a fair hearing to the other side of the debate. Read with an open mind, it may help people of the other side understand their own position and the position of others better.

I do think that this book could’ve been put together better. He seems to bounce around some and to rehash the same things over and over again. I wonder if this book would have been better if it were shorter or broken up into more than one volume. Covering the history of the modern debate over contraception and trying to give a good hearing to both sides is a very broad and involved subject for only one book.

The back of the book gives an excellent bibliography for deeper study, however. This whole book was like being back at my grad school with all the references he made to moral theologians that I know very well: Benedict Ashley OP, Jean deBlois CSJ, and Kevin O’Rourke, OP.

Overall, a good book. Definitely needs to be taken in smaller chunks.

Sign of Contradiction is available at your favorite bookseller now.

A Review of Benedict XVI’s Shortest Book

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Yesterday I finished the first book I’ve ever read by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. I’m quite proud of myself. This isn’t the first one I’ve started. One of the Lay Dominicans in my chapter has made the argument that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will one day be declared a Doctor of the Church. To be declared a Doctor of the Church, you have to be someone that people generally agree wrote or spoke in such a way as to clarify or develop Christian doctrine. Many commentators have pointed out that Benedict XVI was much more of a scholar and professor compared to his more charismatic predecessor St. John Paul II or successor Francis. This is very apparent in all of his writings, this book being no exception.

Even for someone like me with a Master’s degree in church stuff, I could only take this book in small chunks with long breaks. I highly recommend reading until it doesn’t make sense anymore then put it down. When you pick it back up with a fresh mind, it’ll all make perfect sense again.

It’s dense. As he explains in the introduction, it’s basically three college lectures elaborated, revised and edited into book form. It’s only 90 pages, the last 10 or so of which are end-notes.

It does, however, look deeply and thoroughly into our Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption. He actually digs into the Old Testament for proof and explanation. He shows how Mary is truly a daughter of Israel found in the Old Testament writings and prophets just as much as her Son. As an old hymn states:

O Mary of all women,
You are the chosen one,
Who, ancient prophets promised,
Would bear God’s only Son;
All Hebrew generations
Prepared the way to thee,
That in your womb the God-man
Might come to set us free.

O Mary, you embody
all God taught to our race,
For you are first and foremost
In fullness of His grace;
We praise this wondrous honor
That you gave birth to Him
Who from you took humanity
And saved us from our sin.

It was a very appropriate book to work on last week during the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.

If you would like to better understand how the Catholic faith fits into the Old Testament, give this book a chance. If you’d like to understand the role of Our Lady better especially in light of her identity as a Jewish woman, give this book a chance. If you wish you could brag to all your intellectual friends that you’ve read something by Benedict XVI, give this book a chance.

I’m glad I did for all of those reasons.

Daughter Zion is hard to find unless you look online. It is available in e-book  and paperback format from several sources. You just need to let your fingers do the walking.

A Call To Mercy from Mother Teresa

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This lovely book published just in time for the Year of Mercy and Mother Teresa’s canonization contains many previously unpublished stories and quotes by and about the world famous saint. When I read it this weekend, I honestly didn’t know much about her aside from the basic outline of her life and a very short book of quotes from her I read in college. I feel I know her much better now and have some practical tools for how to imitate her in my everyday life.

That might sound strange coming from a stay-at-home mom in New York, but bear with me. This book refers to Mother Teresa as nothing other than “Mother.” Seeing how she interacted with everyone, from the sisters in her order to the poorest person on the streets, there is actually a lot that a biological mother can relate to in this book.

Her example of patience and love can teach a biological mom just as much as it can a spiritual mom. Her struggles are much like our own. For example, several of the stories in the book feature Mother Teresa being up late at night to care for one of the sisters or for one of the poor or sick in their homes. Every biological mother can relate to that!

For everyone, the author, one of her spiritual children Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, breaks down the 7 corporal and the 7 spiritual works of mercy and shares insights from Mother Teresa and about Mother Teresa on how best to live out the calling of Christ.

This would be a great book to take a couple weeks and really meditate on each chapter. Since I did not have that luxury this time around, I can also say that reading it more quickly is also not without merit. I hope to return to this book sometime later, but this time was not a waste.

I got the opportunity to read this book through my membership in Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I would honestly recommend this book to anyone. And perhaps buy a copy for your mom or mom-friends as well.

Mothers of the Church: A Book Review

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I ❤️ this book. It was over far too soon, but it will encourage you to read more about these awesome women.

You hear about the Fathers of the Church, the early leaders and scholars who contributed so much to our understanding of God and His Son. But you don’t hear much about the Mothers of the Church. These are the women who were scholars also in their own right who lived the faith in their actions. They often inspired and supported the Fathers and the early Church. 

In today’s environment where you hear people frequently complain about the role of women in the Church, it is ever more important to hear these women’s stories and to understand that in the pagan Roman Empire, Christianity was truly a liberating force for all women. In a society where baby girls were left to die and women were the property of their husbands, Christianity brought with it the radical idea that women and children were people, too. This is still a radical idea needed in the world today.

This book is a reader and would definitely be a great addition for a Church history class. By “reader” I mean that it principally contains samples of early writings by and about the women featured. These writings have been cleaned up to be easily read by modern readers. 

It definitely is not limited to an academic audience, however. With short, easily digestible historical bites and entertaining background information, this book is really for anyone wanting to learn more about the Mothers of the Christian faith.

It is available at your favorite booksellers now. I got mine a year ago at Catholic Supply of St. Louis. It is among my favorite purchases there and it now has a well-earned place on my reference bookshelf.

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 Dominican Institute and 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.