Archive for the ‘08 Book Corner’ Category

A Timely Message That We Need to Hear Again and Again.

In 08 Book Corner on 2016/12/15 at 12:00 AM

Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies; nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called an enterprise of justice. Peace results from that order structured into human society by its divine Founder, and actualized by men as they thirst after ever greater justice. The common good of humanity finds its ultimate meaning in the eternal law. But since the concrete demands of this common good are constantly changing as time goes on, peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly. Moreover, since the human will is unsteady and wounded by sin, the achievement of peace requires a constant mastering of passions and the vigilance of lawful authority.

But this is not enough. This peace on earth cannot be obtained unless personal well-being is safeguarded and men freely and trustingly share with one another the riches of their inner spirits and their talents. A firm determination to respect other men and peoples and their dignity, as well as the studied practice of brotherhood are absolutely necessary for the establishment of peace.

Hence peace is likewise the fruit of love, which goes beyond what justice can provide.

That earthly peace which arises from love of neighbor symbolizes and results from the peace of Christ which radiates from God the Father. For by the cross the incarnate Son, the prince of peace reconciled all men with God. By thus restoring all men to the unity of one people and one body, He slew hatred in His own flesh; and, after being lifted on high by His resurrection, He poured forth the spirit of love into the hearts of men.

For this reason, all Christians are urgently summoned to do in love what the truth requires, and to join with all true peacemakers in pleading for peace and bringing it about.

Motivated by this same spirit, we cannot fail to praise those who renounce the use of violence in the vindication of their rights and who resort to methods of defense which are otherwise available to weaker parties too, provided this can be done without injury to the rights and duties of others or of the community itself.

Insofar as men are sinful, the threat of war hangs over them, and hang over them it will until the return of Christ. But insofar as men vanquish sin by a union of love, they will vanquish violence as well and make these words come true: “They shall turn their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into sickles. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).

Gaudium et Spes, Chapter V on the Fostering of peace and the promotion of a community of nations.



Bishop Sheen’s Life of Christ

In 08 Book Corner on 2016/12/02 at 12:00 AM

LIFE OF CHRIST by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Ignatius Press.

There are two version: one with 480 pages; another with 658 pages. The longer one is recommended because it contains valuable materials for Catholics.

This book has been hailed as the most eloquent of Fulton Sheen’s writings. It is the product of many years of prayer, daily devotions and scholarly research. This brilliant scholar recounts all the major incidents in the life of Christ: not only in their historical content, but with deep and insightful comments on their theological significance and their practical application. Christ is its constant focus and is shown as the Incarnate Son on God, prophet, teacher and healer who brought salvation into the world then and throughout the ages

“It was not so much that His birth cast a shadow on His life, and led to His death,” writes Sheen. “It was rather that the Cross was there from the beginning, and it cast its shadow backward to his birth.”

Bishop Sheen’s historical, philosophical and sagacious insights as well as his probing into the motives and hearts of a myriad of persons in the life of Christ present timeless lessons for the reader.

You will always be grateful for having read this book: a book which has also inspired countless others to live the inspirations gain from this great narrative of the Saviour and His motivating love for each person.

I have personally led several studies of the Life of Christ (for Catholics, Anglicans and Episcopalians), using the outstanding narrative presented by Bishop Sheen. He has become a favorite of the participants, who treasure the book as a guide and a source: one to be read and re-read.


Sheen, Fulton LIFE OF CHRIST. Ignatius Press.


Christopher Dawson, Master Historian

In 08 Book Corner on 2016/11/25 at 12:00 AM

Christopher Dawson was a unique historian, a meticulous scholar who possessed the imagination to present history in a rich and lively manner. The author of an unbelievable number of books, he is perhaps the last in the line of the great “true” historiographers.

In the late 1950’s, I had the tremendous privilege of taking a graduate course entitled “THE SIX AGES OF CHRISTENDOM” presented by Christopher Dawson’s associate and editor, John J. Mulloy. Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) was Harvard’s first Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Studies. This course had a significant impact on my 36-year professional career of teaching college and high school history courses and echoed into my retirement career where I am still teaching history from a Christian perspective.

Dawson’s goal was to make us see that religion and religious belief are the cradle of all civilizations. His ideas are being recognized today as sound and essential to our understanding of our current realities.

Dawson traced the influence of religion on culture and civilization. His great concern was for the impact of Christianity in the development of Christendom (only recently replaced by the term Europe), and he was extremely aware of the advancing philosophy of secularization.

Dawson’s works echo his central belief that the Incarnation is the most important event in human history. The Christian needs to see history in terms of the Divine Will in order to interpret past events correctly. Dawson sought to have us see all events in their entire setting and in their proper relationship to each other.

Dawson wrote in his essay “The Christian View of History” that “for the Christian the doctrine of the Incarnation is not simply a theophany — a revelation of God to Man; it is a new creation — the introduction of a new spiritual principle which gradually leavens and transforms human nature into something new. The history of the human race hinges on this unique divine event which gives meaning to the whole historical process.”

Particularly in the class “Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Founders of Religious Orders”, I sought to highlight the same figures Dawson chose to demonstrate the power of the Christian faith to transform: St Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. To that list, I added now Blessed John Henry Newman. These men are models whom we need today in order to pass on the cultural heritage of Catholic Christendom to future generations.

Dawson presented Europe as a Christian creation. He wrote: “The essential thing is not to cram students with a complete knowledge of the history of Christian culture, but to introduce them to the subject, so that they will at least realize the existence of the whole, before they are irretrievably committed to a specialized study of the parts or of a particle of the part.”

Santayana wrote: “Those who do not know history are condemned to relive it.” Dawson was clearly concerned about the Europeans’ loss of memory as well as the distortions of Christianity into totalitarian systems.

The fragmentation of Europe and the loss of the power of historical memory was already beginning it’s own steady tempo like that of Ravel’s “Bolero.” He was concerned that more and more Christians would discard their religious past and accept falsehoods, oversimplifications and distortions.

Dawson wrote: “I believe that the study of Christian culture is the missing link which it is essential to supply if the tradition of Western education and Western culture is to survive, for it is only through this study that we can understand how Western culture came to exist and what are the essential values for which it stands.”

In studying Dawson’s works, I recognized that the average Christian lacked knowledge of the Roman persecutions, the Muslim tsunami, the real richness of the Middle Ages, the politically profitable division of Christendom called the Reformation. In addition, they lacked an understanding of the domino effect of discarding first authority, then faith, and, finally, reason and with it the natural moral code implanted by the Creator in the soul of every man. So, with Dawson as my “mentor”, I also wanted Christians to know their past. This was/is the task of my life as a professional historian.

In his essay “The Christian View of History ” Dawson states: “The Christian view covers the whole life of humanity on this planet and it ends only with the end of this world and of man’s temporal existence. It is essentially a theory of the interpretation of time and eternity: so that the essential meaning of history is to be found in the growth of the seed of eternity in the womb of time. For man is not merely a creature of the economic process– a producer and a consumer. He is an animal that is conscious of his mortality and consequently aware of eternity.”

The religious, moral, temporal and political histories revealed in Western Culture are a heritage of Western culture for every person. No one can ignore traditions, yet understand the problems of today.

This brilliant convert to Catholicism wrote shortly before his death: “We are living in a world that is far less stable than that of the early Roman Empire. There is no doubt that the world is on the move again as never before and that the pace is faster and more furious than anything that man has known before. But, there is nothing in this situation which should cause Christians to despair. On the contrary, it is the kind of situation for which their faith has always prepared them and which provides the opportunity for the fulfillment of their mission.”

Just as Christianity is essential to Europe, so the Catholic Church is essential to Christianity. As the Roman Empire disintegrated, it was the Catholic Church that preserved the culture, and as we see the current disintegration of our world, it is no less crucial. Today, there is a full-fledged rebellion against the moral principles of Western culture with the elevation of the individual’s conscience as opposed to the needs of society. We must preserve Christian values, the dignity of the human person and the freedom of the individual from the “I am god” mentality, which rejects objective moral values as a guide.

Dawson, like Pope Benedict today, stressed the need for the Church to use the technological changes in the world for evangelization. Dawson wrote in “The Movement of World Revolution” that all Christians need to advance the Church’s “universal mission to bring the Gospel of Christ to all nations.” The Catholic Church is the only body today in the world that defends human rights and the dignity of the human person, both essential factors in the preservation of our God-given Christian heritage.

On May 30, 2011 Pope Benedict addressed those members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization who will be holding a Synod in 2012. He told them: “The crisis we are living through carries with it signs of the exclusion of God from peoples’ lives, a general indifference to the Christian faith, and even the intention to marginalize it from public life.”

This is a message that we as Christians must carry with knowledge, understanding and conviction and express it with courageous action in the evangelization of an apathetic modern society.

Recommended books by Christopher Dawson:

Christianity and European Culture

Christianity and the New Age

Dividing of Christendom

Dynamics of World History, edited by John J. Mulloy

Medieval Essays

Formation of Europe

Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity

Modern Dilemna: The Problem of European Unity

Progress and Religion

Religion and Culture, the Gifford Lectures

Religion and the Rise of Western Culture

Understanding Europe

Dynamics of World History

Christianity and European Culture

Religion and the Rise of Western Culture

Historical Realities of Christian Culture

Inquires into Religion and Culture

The Making of Europe

Understanding Europe

The Dviding of Christendom


Classic Catholic Books

In 08 Book Corner on 2016/11/11 at 12:00 AM

From Paulist Press: This remarkable book brings together several powerful spiritual realities – all of them important to the believing Christian, and all of them apparently so diverse as to superficially appear unrelated: the end of the world and the daily Mass; the Apocalypse and the Lord’s Supper; the humdrum of daily life and the Parousia, the coming of the Lord.” (from the forward by Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R.). In The Lamb’s Supper, Scott Hahn explores an amazing interpretation of The Book of Revelation that has been almost forgotten over time. He reaches back to the second through sixth centuries to the teachings of the early Eastern Fathers of the church. In his study of their writings, Hahn shows us the link between the celebration of the Eucharist and the end of the world. He illustrates how the heavenly worship found in the Book of Revelation is really an account of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb – a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Beautifully written in clear, direct language, this book by bestselling Catholic author Scott Hahn will help readers see the Mass with new eyes, pray the liturgy with a renewed heart, and enter into the Mass more fully, enthusiastically, intelligently, and powerfully than ever before.


From Ignatius Press: This modern spiritual classic by Frank Sheed, the renowned author, publisher and lecturer, is brought back into print for the benefit of new generations of readers to develop a deeper, more profound knowledge of Jesus Christ. Sheed’s concern with the Gospels is to come to know Christ as he actually lived among us, interacted with all the various people he encountered from his infancy to his passion and death–the God-man who was like us in all things except sin.

Sheed has tried especially to see Our Lord in his effect upon others–seeing how they saw him, trying to see why they saw him so. There is much about Mary and Joseph in their task of bringing up a baby who was literally adorable; about John the Baptist; about Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalen; about Nicodemus; about people we meet only for a moment, like the man born blind and the owners of the drowned swine; and why the Pharisees, not only the worst of them but some of the best, would not accept Christ.

Faith, doctrine, prayer, worship–all the content and consequences of Christian belief–rest on the person of Christ Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. In this classic study, Frank J. Sheed employs wide learning, theological sophistication, spiritual insight, and a lucid style to bring the reader to a personal encounter with the living Lord. To Know Christ Jesus has been justly called “one of the most satisfying studies of the Gospel ever made.”

Frank J. Sheed had a distinguished career as a publisher, lecturer, street-corner evangelist, and popular writer. He and his wife Maisie Ward were the founders of the publishing house Sheed & Ward. His many books include Christ in Eclipse, What Difference Does Jesus Make?, Theology and Sanity, and A Map of Life.

“My concern with the Gospels is to see the Face which through all the centuries has looked out from them upon men. The object is not to prove something but to meet someone–that we should know Christ Jesus, know him as one person may know another. As Christians we love him, try to live by his law, would think it a glory to die for him. But how well do we know him?”

— Frank Sheed, from the Foreword


Foreword by Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

Widely proclaimed a classic work of Christian faith, Life of Christ has been hailed as the most eloquent of Fulton J. Sheen’s many books. The fruit of many years of reflection, prayer, and research, it is a dramatic and moving recounting of the birth, life, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Christ, and a passionate portrait of the God-Man, the teacher, the healer, and most of all the Savior, whose promise has sustained humanity for two millennia. With his customary insight and reverance, Sheen interprets the scripture and describes Christ, not only in historical perspective, but also in exciting and contemporary terms, seeing in Christ’s life both modern parallels and timeless lessons. His thoughtful, probing analysis provides new insight into well-known Gospel events.

Era of Christendom

In 08 Book Corner on 2016/10/23 at 12:00 AM

Costain,Thomas THE SILVER CHALICE (Medieval times)

Undset, Sigrid KRISTIN LAVENRSDATTER TRILOGY: Bridal Wreath, Mistress of Husaby, the Cross (Set in medieval Norway, deals with the three stages of Kristin Laversdatter who married Erlend Nikaulausson by whom she had seven sons, ending withthe days of the Black Plague.)
Follett, Ken PILLARS OF THE EARTH (Set in 12th century England during cathedral building time)
Dante DIVINE COMEDY (Hell, Purgatory, Heaven)
Walsh, James THIRTEENTH, GREATEST OF CENTURIES Age of Christendom.
Tuchman, Barbara DISTANT MIRROR: THE CALAMITOUS FOURTEENTH CENTURY (Time of Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death, Peasants’ Revolt.)


In 08 Book Corner on 2016/10/14 at 12:00 AM

“Man needs a place of holy tranquillity that the breath of God prevades….This place is the inaccessibility of God Himself, which only Christ opens to man.

All prayer begins by man becoming silent – recollecting his scattered thoughts, feeling remorse at his trespasses, and directing his thoughts toward God. If man does all this, this place is thrown open, not only as a domain of spiritual tranquillity and mental concentration, but as something that comes from God.

We are always in need of this place, especially when the convulsions of the times make clear something that has always existed but which is sometimes hidden…So we require more than ever this place of which we speak, not to creep into as a hiding place, but a s a place to find the core of things, to become calm and confident once more.” (Romano Guardini ROSARY OF OUR LADY.Ignatius Press)

The Kingdom of God

In 08 Book Corner on 2016/09/28 at 12:00 AM

Excerpt from “The Forty Days’ Teaching by Cardinal John Henry Newman in PRAYERS, VERSES AND DEVOTIONS. Ignatius Press.
My Lord Jesus, how wonderful were those conversations which You did have with Your disciples after your resurrection. When You went with two of them to Emmaus. You did explain all the prophecies which related to Yourself. And You did commit to the Apostles the Sacraments in fulness, and the truths which it was Your will to reveal, and the principles and maxims by which Your Church was to be maintained and governed.

And thus You did prepare them against the day of Pentecost…when life and illumination was to be infused into them. I will think over all You did say to them with a true and simple faith. The “kingdom of God” was truly Your sacred subject. Let me never for an instant forget that You had established on earth a kingdom of Your own, that the Church is Your work, Your establishment, Your instrument; that we are under Your rule, Your laws and Your eye-that when the Church speaks You speak.

…let not the weakness of Your human representatives lead me to forget that it is You who speak and act through them. It was just when You were going away, that then You did leave this kingdom of Yours to take Your place on to the end of the world, to speak for You, as Your visible form, when Your Personal Presence, sensitive to man, was departing. I will in true loving faith seeing You before me, teaching all the truths and laws of this kingdom to thy Apostles, and I will adore You, while in my thoughts I gaze upon them and listen to Your words.

I need you to teach me day by day, according to each day’s opportunities and needs….I need the mind of the Spirit, which is the mind of the holy Fathers, and of the Church….I need to be saved from originality of thought, which is not true if it leads away from you….Give me the gift of discriminating between true and false in all discourse of mind…My ears are dull, so that I cannot hear Your voice….You alone can quicken my hearing…cleanse and renew my heart….Give me the discernment to know Your voice from the voice of strangers….and answer me through my own mind.

Bonaventure on Heart of Jesus

In 08 Book Corner on 2016/09/23 at 12:00 AM

From the Sacred Heart of Jesus comes the infinite He has for each and every person regardless of any or all circumstances in his life. The loving heart of Jesus searches for us, to give us His love. We have been entrusted to Him for our salvation and He looks for us no matter how badly or far we have strayed. He loves us more than anyone ever has our could; He died for us, He died that we might live. In keeping with the above observations, listen to what St. Bonaventure observed centuries ago: “It is strange that given the fact that God is so close to the soul, so few are concerned with perceiving God within themselves. Distracted by cares, clouded by sense images, drawn away by concupiscence, the soul cannot renter into its self as image of God. It lies fallen, immersed in the things of sense, in need of someone to lift it up so that it can see its true self as image of God, with the eternal Truth shining within itself. Christ has come and lifted the soul, restoring the fallen Image. Eternal Truth itself took on human form in Christ and became a ladder, restoring the first ladder that had been broken in Adam. Thorough Christ the spiritual senses are restore to the soul.” Cousins, Ewert. Introduction to BONAVENTURE: The Soul’s Journey to God. Paulist Press. http://www.paulistpress.com/bookView.cgi?isbn=0-8091-2121-2

Guiding Media?

In 08 Book Corner on 2016/08/26 at 12:00 AM

Have you ever noticed that when a death occurs in movies or TV, or is portrayed in a novel, there never seems to be any consequences for the deceased. He or she is just dead and gone. The death is seen as the logical result of a series of prior actions or events. More often than not, the deceased had previously, perhaps even for a long time, engaged in actvities which 75 years ago would have been called “sin”: a word that is totally taboo in the media today….and in too many churches.

In 1960 Harold Gardiner, SJ, wrote an outstanding book: NORMS FOR THE NOVEL. (his observation apply equally to the TV and movies.) This book was and should be considered the best guide for evaluating novels from a moral perspective.

In teaching World Literature, I used his principles to guide students in gaining knowledge and understanding. After analyzing and synthesizing the themes, they could apply moral principles in order to make right judgments which were consistent with objective reality, truth, and moral standards.

Fr. Gardiner explained how a novelist can deal with any moral deviation correctly if he presents a moral deviation. In other words, fornication, adultery, incest, lying, stealing, coveting, for example, may be included in a novel or story if they are shown as moral deviations. Unfortunately sin is a part of the human drama and should be recognized as such.

Two powerful examples: In Count Leo Tolstoyʼs ANNA KARENINA, the illicit adulterous relationship of a woman destroy not only her, but her son, husband, lover, and leads her to despairing suicide.

In the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Sigrid Undset, who wrote the trilogy: KRISTIN LAVERNSDATTER, shows the three stages of bride, mother, and widow, her painful, slow, but satisfying transformation and transfiguration, from wrong living to right perspectives put into action.

One of the more precocious students tackled the second century brilliant social history of the ancient world by Plutarch: THE LIVES OF THE NOBLE GRECIANS AND ROMANS. Plutarch was interested in the personalities of his subjects and on the manner in which their characters adopted their actions, leading them on to tragedy or victory. He was a moralist of the highest order. Plutarch wrote: “It was for the sake of others that I first commenced writing biographies but I find myself proceeding and attaching myself to it for my own; the virtues of these great men serving me as a sort of looking-glass, in which I may see how to adjust and adorn my own life”

Plutarch was a man of immense erudition who had traveled widely throughout the Roman Empire, and the LIVES are richly anecdotal and full of detail. They were the principal source of Shakespeare’s plays set in Rome.

The problem today is clearly obvious. Man, having made himself God, and relegated God to the refuse heap of history, now decides what is right and what is wrong. He has given himself the authority (so he thinks). It comes down to what he decides. In the last analysis it is mere humans, self-appointed to determine what is true or false, worth or unworthy, moral or immoral, necessary or unnecessary. It is the media that now dictates our cultural and moral norms, and, they are totally unequipped intellectually or morally to do so. This is why most of the media offerings are on a par with what used to be called “rotgut whiskey”.

Consequently evil is presented as good, praised and presented in such a way that it is glamorized so attractively that it confuses and seduces the reader/viewer into accepting wrong values, and causing unease to his conscience….if it has not already been number. At best, it is presented as morally neutral. Then the reader often will experience what the worldly military man, Ignatius Loyola experienced: that while he saturated himself in the things of the world, he felt great pleasure, but later went into a depressed state. However, when he reflected on wholesome things, he experience joy during and after reflecting on them.

We can learn from the THIS later-converted founder of the Jesuit order, that what the world calls important and attractive can never give us the joy or happiness but instead usually leave us lonely and empty and morally confused.

Note: an interesting contrast. Franklin Delano Roosevelt when to Harvard, but spent most of his time socializing and both Churchill and De Gaulle were appalled at his basic lack of understanding and judgment, particularly in regard to Stalin and what motivated that man. However, Harry S. Truman, who was unable to go to college because he had to work on the farm during the Depression, was a voracious reader. He once said that he never met a man in Congress whose character he had not seen described in Plutarch. Roosevelt called Stalin “Uncle Joe” and later tragically admitted the “Joseph Stalin lied to me every time he spoke to me.”

Unfortunately, the same disorientation is taking place in the representation of classical works of literature, drama, and opera. Shakespeare would be appalled at how the Metropolitan Opera has mutilated Verdi’s operatic version of Macbeth.

Will things ever change back to a better time? History does not give much hope. Societal moral decline does not reverse. Too many members of the society are quite content with the status quo. Some are too ignorant to do more than bleat about “changing times”.

It may be time to walk up the gangplank to the modern Noahʼs ark called the Catholic Church. No matter what happens, the ark will still float.

Navigating the Interior Life

In 08 Book Corner on 2016/07/15 at 12:00 AM

How many times have you opened a book that promised to change your life, only to become disillusioned by the end of it (or long before!) upon finding that you did not understand it or agree with it or that you simply were not willing to exert the willpower necessary to follow the author’s advice on how to lose weight, improve your memory, speed read, or run for office and become the governor of your state?

The book you now hold in your hands is substantially different, but before I tell you why it might be helpful to share the vantage point from which I offer this observation. By God’s mercy and grace, I am a priest of 30 years and have had the great privilege of providing spiritual direction to souls ranging from a supreme court justice nominee, a United States senator, a prominent radio talk show host, priests and women religious of various orders, and good hardworking lay men and women. From where I stand there is nothing more important than the aggressive pursuit of progress in our relationship with God.

Why? Because death is inevitable. Billions of dollars are spent yearly and endlessly to cure diseases, push back the onset of mortal illness, and–in the case of diehard atheists–attempt to prolong life for thousands of years, anticipating a time when humankind will achieve immortality. Even a former President of the United States said, “I want unlimited scientific discovery and I want unlimited applications. We want to live forever and we are getting there” (William Jefferson Clinton).

But those of us who are sincere practicing Catholics know that our most important work in this life is to prepare ourselves for the next one, where we really will be immortal.

Continue reading…