As the astute observer will rightly surmise, Bad Shepherds is a book about bad bishops, just not the ones you might read about in today’s headlines. Rather, author Rod Bennett is reminding us that the Catholic Church has had corrupt and sinful leaders in its ranks since apostolic times — and the Faith has survived in spite of them. Should we ever become concerned the Church might collapse, we ought to consider the grave infighting and bitter divisions over the 4th-century Arian heresy, the bewilderingly scandalous popes of the 14th century, or the Catholic apostates behind the 16thcentury Reformation. This book lends hope through our present days.
Father Schall, professor emeritus of Georgetown University and essayist par excellence, has assembled yet another fine collection in his latest book. Always thought-provoking and often wry, the eminent Jesuit thinker tackles topics from abortion, multiculturalism, and the nature of music to death, funerals, and the afterlife — and all manners of subjects in between. For example, his chapter entitled “The ‘Declaration’ of Voluntarism,” written as a set of guiding societal principles or manifesto, would make for effective satire if it were not so chillingly reflective of the present state of our culture. Father Schall’s works are always edifying and recommended reading.
Dr. Schuchts, a marriage and family therapist, encourages us to turn our trials on their head by seeing them as something positive. Pain thus becomes a gift, an alarm that calls us to respond, seek healing, and allow God to restore us to wholeness so that we may become who He calls us to be. We must recognize the transforming power of the Holy Spirit as He draws us into closer communion with Christ and our fellow man. “Only when we experience our suffering in light of the Holy Spirit does it make any sense to us,” Schuchts said in a recent interview. Pain has a redemptive purpose, and we ought not let it go to waste.
Baptist minister Walter Hoye, an African American, was arrested in 2009 and spent time in a prison in Oakland, Calif. His crime: simply standing outside an abortion clinic holding a sign that said “God loves you and your baby. Let us help you.” This is the story of a brave but humble pro-life warrior who was rejected by many other African Americans for his stance opposing abortion, but held firm in his convictions. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., wrote the Foreword for this inspiring account of Hoye’s arrest, trial, and testimony of truth.
Dr. Guarendi is a clinical psychologist who sees the bigger picture: we are called to become more like Christ, and so following Christ’s example provides our pathway to resolving our everyday problems. That means, among other things, we must subjugate our will to what is good and how we must change, hold ourselves and others to high moral standards, communicate clearly and civilly without allowing emotions to take over, and make mid-course corrections rather than excuses. His helpful, easy-to-read book covers much territory, and we’re all likely to recognize ourselves within its pages. This is self-help at its best.
Socialism as an economic system has never worked, asserts George P. Schwartz, investment fund manager and founder of the Ave Maria Mutual Funds, which offer portfolios that respect pro-life and pro-family values. In addition to presenting a rousing endorsement of free-market capitalism, Schwartz describes how investors can reap the benefits of economic growth without backing morally objectionable enterprises — insurance firms that cover elective abortions, for example, or companies with ties to pornography or Planned Parenthood. Earning profit from principal does not require sacrificing principles, and Schwartz shows how this is not only possible, but also the right thing to do.
“When a movement becomes so ideologically committed to promoting abortion that it bullies and silences any woman who challenges the status quo and ignores or actively colludes in the abuse of women through abortion, it needs to be called to account,” Florella Nash said in a recent interview. Calling mainstream feminists to account is what she does here in arguing that “prolife” and “feminist” are not contradictory terms but rather are perfectly compatible, since as she noted in the same interview – “no movement that truly believes in justice and equality seeks to achieve those goals through the sacrifice of innocent lives.”
Do you want to think like St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest minds in Catholic history? His Summa Theologica runs over 3,000 pages in one popular edition, and even a freely paraphrased abridged version takes up over 500 pages. A wonderful shortcut is a letter the 13th century philosopher is credited with having written to a young monk on “How to Study.” Author Kevin Vost walks you through that letter and what it reveals about how to think, dissect arguments, and — yes — study and learn. Who knows? It might even give you the confidence to tackle the full Summa!
Ryan N.S. Topping St. Benedict Press/TAN Books, 260 pages
Martyrs, monks, scholars, crusaders, sinners, reformers, popes. These and other chapter headings in this work describe some of the individuals who shaped our Church and influenced the course of Western civilization. Ryan N.S. Topping here provides an overview of two millennia of Christian history by examining its heroes and villains and how, through them, the Church has bestowed its gifts on the larger world. It’s “Volume I” because Topping has a second volume in the works that will examine how the Church has transformed music, art, architecture, Western literature, films, and even our domestic life — and that’s something to look forward to in the new year.
Blessed John Henry Newman
Augustine Institute, 160 pages
Blessed John Henry Newman was a 19th- century leader of the Oxford Movement by which many intellectuals left the Anglican Church to embrace Catholicism. He also was an outstanding orator and prolific writer who inspired many to understand and live their faith more fully. These meditations stretching from Advent through Epiphany are in this vein as they invite us to contemplate such themes as our need for truth, our dependence upon God, Mary’s role in salvation, the meaning of suffering and martyrdom, and in what true joy consists. Pick up a copy now to reinvigorate your interior life this Christmas.