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Michael Bradley, managing editor of Ethika Politika, writes that Holly Ordway’s account of her journey from atheism to Catholicism, Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius Press, 2014), is "a delightful and searingly introspective account of the author’s moving journey from unbelief..."
Ordway's book is filled
with anecdotes and details from her early youth and young adult life, a much more robust account of how Christian literature—particularly the works of Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Chesterton, and Gerard Manley Hopkins—impacted and guided her conversion experience, and how her fencing career integrated with her growth in Christian discipleship.
A slim 187 pages (featuring 27 chapters and 7 “interludes,” none of which are longer than 10 pages) and written in the light and fluid prose befitting a former English professor, Not God’s Type is a quick and uplifting read, and eminently readable. Ordway opens with two quotes—one by John Henry Newman and one by Lewis—about “laying down one’s arms” before the sovereign Lord, thus situating the book’s title and its most persistent thematic element within the context not only of conversion from unbelief to belief, but of continual transformation of imagination and heart. Indeed, imagination plays a major role in Ordway’s conversion because it is an integral aspect of the Christian vision itself; each chapter opens with a snippet from a Christian poem or literary work.
"The meat of the book," Bradley notes, "concerns Ordway’s intellectual investigation of fundamental Christian claims. Did there exist a First Mover, a personal Creator through whose agency all things came into being from nothing? The evidence, as Ordway saw it, indicated ‘yes.’ And so forth for a host of claims that Ordway previous would dismiss with nary a second thought. The fortress begins to crumble, largely thanks those literary conduits of grace: Chesterton’s aesthetic sense, Lewis’s apologetic verve, always the poetry of Hopkins and the literature of Tolkien; seeds sown in silence, bearing good fruit in due season."
He concludes his detailed review by stating:
It is a beautiful account of the courtship of the living God, a person to be known more so than a theory to be investigated. Ordway catches herself by surprise in the book’s latter chapters by realizing that while she “tested” God as a hypothesis, he engulfed her with his Holy Spirit, emboldening her to make not a leap, but a joyful affirmation of faith in the God who is nearer to her than she is to herself.
Non-Negotiables in a Media-Driven, Relativistic Age | CWR staff | Catholic World Report
Veteran journalist Sheila Liaugminas's new book tackles the roots and meaning of hot button issues from abortion to social justice
Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy Award-winning, veteran journalist who has worked in both print and broadcast media. She reported for Time magazine in its Midwest Bureau for over 20 years, and co-hosted the Chicago television program “YOU”. Based in Chicago, Liaugminas is a regular contributor to MercatorNet.com, and has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Crain's Chicago Business, Crisis, National Catholic Register, and National Review Online. She currently hosts the daily radio program “A Closer Look” on Relevant Radio.
Her new book, Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture, was published recently by Ignatius Press. It has been widely praised, with Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., saying, "Combining the passion of personal conscience and the convictions of reason and faith, Sheila Liaugminas analyzes conflicted points in our culture in the light of first principles. It's a good tool in skilled hands."
Sheila recently took time from her busy schedule to talk with Catholic World Report about her book, the culture and the Church, relativism, human dignity, social justice, and Catholic social doctrine.
CWR: Let’s start with the very first sentence, in your Preface: “We the people are losing our ability to think clearly or reason well.” You also state that we have lost the “art of argument.” There’s surely a lot of blame to go around, but what are some of the foundational factors? And what is the trajectory you’ve witnessed in your years working in secular and Catholic media? Is it simply getting worse?
Sheila Liaugminas: We can look back at any number of periods in the past century, but at least to the Sixties and the rupture in the culture and the Church that seemed to happen suddenly in the chaos of that decade to see where and how the current confusion was sown. It was a revolutionary time when authority was not only questioned but ridiculed and rendered irrelevant, and we rapidly and all too easily lost our reference points to absolute truth and the Judeo-Christian ethics that formed this nation.
It ushered in Roe v. Wade which led to all that Pope Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae, redefining life itself and the terms for living a good life to fit the new secular orthodoxy. From then on, we’ve been plummeting further into the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ Pope Benedict XVI warned of, in which things become what culture shapers decide, changeable with the times. Words have been so distorted through that cultural disruption that ‘Choice’ covers abortion, ‘Compassion’ covers euthanasia, and ‘Equality’ covers the redefinition of marriage in law. It is getting worse with each successive movement claiming as its mantle a word that designates empathy and freedom and human ideals. These are persuasive to a population unable to counter with questions that challenge their premises.
CWR: There are, as your book emphasizes, certain truths “so foundational for our life and flourishing that they are simply not open to debate or mitigation—they are non-negotiable.” And yet those truths are, of course, not only debated, they are even dismissed. Why so? How did we arrive at this spot?
Perhaps you’ve noticed that some reporters describe the disagreement between Catholic leaders as between those who want to keep the status quo on marriage and family and those who want merciful and compassionate change.
What nonsense. What political spin.
Many of us dubbed “conservative,” who supposedly peddle a “closed system of theology,” and allegedly confuse the “gospel with a penal code” certainly don’t want the status quo. We believe in change.
In the book “The Gospel of the Family,” the authors, Father Juan Jose Pérez-Soba and Dr. Stephan Kampowski, underscore the transformative power of the gospel on marriage and family life. They want a full engagement of the gospel’s power, which they believe hasn’t been happening in the Catholic Church. That’s hardly status quo. As Cardinal George Pell writes in his foreword, the Church must provide “lifeboats for those who have been shipwrecked by divorce” but the Church must also direct people to a safe port, not toward the rocks or the marshes. And the Church should provide leadership and good maps to reduce the number of shipwrecks to begin with. Again, no status quo.
It’s not a matter of staying the course; it’s a matter of helping people get on the right course. ...
For decades, some Church officials sent mixed messages to young people, to those preparing for marriage, and to married couples about whether the Church really believes what she says. We haven’t collectively directed our creative energies into converting and forming our people. We shouldn’t pretend as if we have. Indeed, in some cases, in the name of being “pastoral”, some leaders formed young people with a vision contrary to the faith. Now we look up and wonder why the world’s problems with sexuality, gender, and marriage and family life so deeply affect the Church.
We need a renewed missionary effort here. How about a, well, New Evangelization? I’m not talking simply about teaching the truth — although that’s crucial. While things have begun to turn around, we have had far too little systematic and engaging teaching in so much of parish life. New resources are available, but we have a long way to go.
No, when I speak of evangelization I mean evangelizing for serious discipleship and doing so in the context of the Gospel of the Family — the good news of what life in Christ says about the family. Catechesis assumes and implies conversion. Conversion is bound up with evangelization. Far from being contrary to mercy, it is, as St. John Paul II, the Pope of Divine Mercy, taught, at the very heart of the Gospel. If we want to live the Gospel of Mercy, then we must convert the family.
Nicolas Cage stars in a scene from the movie "Left Behind." (CNS photo/Teddy Smith, courtesy Stoney Lake Entertainment)
The Worst Rapture Movie Ever Made | Carl E. Olson | Catholic World Report blog
The "Left Behind" reboot starring Nicholas Cage continues a dubious tradition of Fundamentalist "end times" movies that are unbearable, unbelievable, and unbiblical
A dozen years ago, I wrote an article, “No End In Sight”, for First Things, in which I wrote, perhaps with a dash of sarcasm: “Only two more Left Behind books to go and we’ll finally know how the world ends. I can hardly wait. I feel fortunate that I live at a time when someone finally figured out what the Book of Revelation really means.” I noted that the novel, The Remnant: On the Brink of Armageddon, which was the most recent Left Behind book at that time (it was #13, and three more followed between 2003-2007), had a first printing of 2,750,000 copies. “That’s a serious number of people learning the secrets of the Book of Revelation,” I wrote, “Unfortunately for them, the secrets are stale, recycled, and false.”
Four years ago, Christian Post reported that Cloud Ten Pictures, the company that produced the first Left Behind movie in 2000, starring Kirk Cameron, had finally settled a lawsuit with Tim LaHaye—creator and co-author of the mega-selling novels—that was rooted LaHaye's claim that “the producers made a lower quality film than the contract demanded.” That is funny in it's own right, since LaHaye (b. 1926), a high profile Fundamentalist pastor based in San Diego who has authored or co-authored some fifty books, should know that it's impossible to make a good Rapture movie—or so it appears, based on all available evidence (including the three previous Left Behind movies).
But LaHaye was persistent, saying, “My dream has always been to enter the movie theater with a first-class, high-quality movie that is grippingly interesting, but also is true to the biblical storyline – and that was diluted in the first attempt, but Lord willing, we are going to see this thing made into the movie that it should be.” And so LaHaye had agreed, in 2010, to allow Cloud Ten Pictures “to make a Hollywood version of the New York Times bestseller series.”
Two nights ago, I took two friends to the opening night of the Left Behind “reboot,” the so-called “Hollywood version” of the series. I can safely say, with my right hand on a Bible and a stiff drink in my left, that the new movie is not first-class, high-quality, grippingly interesting, or true to the biblical storyline. It's so bad that Nicholas Cage—apparently the “Hollywood” in “Hollywood version”—looks embarrassed to be in the film, and I'm guessing that Cage has rarely felt embarrassed about much of anything.
The Church soon begins the synod on the family, an Oct. 5-19 meeting at the Vatican of bishops from across the world who are discussing the meaning of family life in the contemporary world.
Accommodation to secular culture has been the dominant media theme surrounding the meeting. Will the Church change her teaching, her pastoral practice, her disciplines or processes? Will the Church endorse new ideas about family life? Or will she oppose the “progressive” march of Western culture?
Many of these questions are unreasonable — silly, really.
The purpose of the synod is not to change the Church’s teachings. The purpose is to understand family life more clearly, to support it more faithfully and to present it more robustly, more persuasively and more enthusiastically. The purpose of the synod is to witness to the rich beauty of Christian family life.
As a blueprint for this witness, the Church needs to look no further than Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s book TheHope of the Family. Cardinal Müller is the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — an expert and authority on the doctrinal teachings of the faith. He is also a pastor — for 10 years, he served as bishop of Regensburg, a beautiful Bavarian diocese that is a repository of Catholic life and culture.
In Hope of the Family, Cardinal Müller draws from his experience and insight to point to the needs of contemporary families, their role in the life of the Church and the beauty and richness they can offer to the world.
The book is written as an interview, in a style similar to Pope Benedict XVI’s famous Ratzinger Report. And it might be seen as a complement to that book — like the Ratzinger Report,Hope of the Family provides the honest and insightful evaluations of a thoughtful disciple of Jesus Christ.
As a matter of timing, the book is important. Published in anticipation of the synod, Hope of the Family offers a valuable resource for parents, pastors and for the bishops at the synod.
In substance, the book addresses several major topics. On the matter of doctrine, Cardinal Müller defends the unchanging teaching of the Church in a way that is palatable and persuasive. The faith, he says, cannot be “transformed into a new, politically correct civil religion, reduced to a few goals that are tolerated by the rest of society.”
Dr. Adam G. Cooper is a permanent fellow and senior lecturer in the theology of the body at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne, and author of two new books. (Photo: St. Andrew's Greek Orthodox Theology College: http://www.sagotc.edu.au/)
Theosis and Eros, Celibacy and Marriage | Interview with Dr. Adam G. Cooper | Catholic World Report
"The cross to me is everything," explains Dr. Adam G. Cooper in remarking on his two recent books, "It's the defining centre of God and human history."
Dr. Cooper recently corresponded with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about his newest books and his research into salvation, liturgy, theosis, the meaning of the body, and the crucial relationship between celibacy and marriage.
CWR:At first glance, these two books might appear to be about two rather different topics: soteriology and liturgy. But would it be accurate to say that each, in its own way, focus on shared topics, including the nature of man, the purpose of existence, and the end (or End) to which each of us is oriented?
Dr. Cooper: Yes, that's a fair observation. Much of my writing has tended to revolve around theological anthropology in one shape or another. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it revolves around Christology, from which a good deal of my thinking about what it means to be human and bodily emerges.
CWR:Naturally Human, Supernaturally God is rather unique in that it takes a topic—deification—usually discussed from a biblical perspective or a patristic foundation, and examines it in the writings of three great twentieth-century Catholic theologians: Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., Karl Rahner S.J., and Henri de Lubac S.J. How did you first become interested in the topic of deification? And how did you end up writing about Garrigou-Lagrange, Rahner, and de Lubac and their theological work about deification?
This book is important for many reasons. A courteous, informed, and rigorous discussion, indeed debate, is needed especially for the coming months to defend the Christian and Catholic tradition of monogamous, indissoluble marriage—focusing on the central elements of the challenges facing marriage and the family, rather than being distracted into a counterproductive and futile search for short-term consolations.
The health of an organization can be gauged by observing the amount of time and energy devoted to the discussion of various topics. Healthy communities do not spend most of their energies on peripheral issues, and unfortunately the number of divorced and remarried Catholics who feel they should be allowed to receive Holy Communion is very small indeed.
The pressures for this change are centered mainly in some European churches, where churchgoing is low and an increasing number of divorcees are choosing not to remarry. The issue is seen by both friends and foes of the Catholic tradition as a symbol—a prize in the clash between what remains of Christendom in Europe and an aggressive neo-paganism. Every opponent of Christianity wants the Church to capitulate on this issue.
Both sides in this discussion appeal to Christian criteria, and everyone is dismayed by the amount of suffering caused to spouses and children by marriage breakups. What help can and should the Catholic Church offer?
Auschwitz, 1941. One of the prisoners, Jan, escapes from the German concentration camp while working at a gravel pit. Thanks to the help of good-hearted people he finds shelter. There Jan hears tragic news about ten random inmates sentenced to death by starvation by the Nazis as a punishment for his escape. One among the convicts is Fr. Maximillian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who volunteered to die in place of one of the inmates.
Now Jan is not just fleeing the Nazis, but also from his guilt for his involvement in Kolbe's death. He goes to visit Niepokalanów, a very large Franciscan monastery where Fr. Kolbe had been the founder and superior. There Jan wants to learn what were the motives behind his decision to die for another prisoner, a complete stranger. Though free from Auschwitz, Jan will continue to be confronted by the life and death of Maximilian Kolbe wherever he goes.
In addition to Jan - torn between wanting to forget and a fascination with Kolbe - another key character emerges, Brother Anselm. He is a devout young Franciscan priest who quietly but strongly witnesses to Kolbe's heroic faith and love, and then rejoices at the Beatification of Kolbe by Pope Paul VI. Later Kolbe will be canonized by his fellow countryman, Pope John Paul II, who proclaimed Kolbe as the "patron saint of the difficult 20th century".
This acclaimed film was directed by Krzystof Zanussi, and stars Christoph Waltz and Edward Zentara in powerful performances.
In Polish, with English and Spanish subtitles.
Includes a 16-page Collector's Booklet and Study Guide with color photos, and text by Catholic film critic Steve Greydanus
Praise for Life for Life:
"Life for Life reflects thoughtfully on what the cult of the saints means for us, on the nature of hagiography itself. Perhaps more than any film I can think of, it explores how the saints can and should inspire us, if we are open to them, or how we may stumble at them if we are not. For this reason alone, it's among the most essential saint films I've seen." -Steven Greydanus, Film Critic, National Catholic Register
Rev. Robert Dodaro, OSA., is President of the Patristic Institute, Augustinianum, in Rome. He is the editor of the forthcoming book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, early October 2014), in which five cardinals of the Church, along with four other scholars, respond to Walter Cardinal Kasper's call for the Catholic Church to harmonize “fidelity and mercy in its pastoral practice with civilly remarried, divorced people.” Those contributors are Walter Cardinal Brandmüller; Raymond Cardinal Burke; Carlo Cardinal Caffarra; Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, CS.; Paul Mankowski, S.J.; Gerhard Cardinal Müller; John M. Rist; and Archbishop Cyril Vasil', SJ.
Dr. John M. Rist, one of the nine contributors, is Emeritus Professor of Classics and Philosophy at the University of Toronto, and former holder of the Kurt Pritzl, OP, Chair of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America.
Catholic World Report recently corresponded with Fr. Dodaro and Dr. Rist about the book.
CWR: What were the reasons for writing and production this volume?
Fr. Dodaro: The five Cardinals and four other scholars who contributed to this book wanted to respond to Cardinal Kasper's proposal [in The Gospel of the Family, published by Paulist Press, 2014] that the Catholic Church should adopt a variation of the Eastern Orthodox practice of admitting divorced and civilly remarried persons to the sacraments, specifically to penance and Holy Eucarist. We wanted to show the bishops and other faithful that Cardinal Kasper's proposal contradicts both Christ's teachings in the Gospels and the interpretation of His's teachings by the early Church.
Finally, we wanted to show that the current teaching and sacramental discipline of the Catholic Church offers a pastorally sound and, yes, even merciful approach to the care of civilly remarried Catholics.
CWR: What are the key issues and concerns that you and the contributors address in the book?
Left: Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ (Photo: CWR). Right: Cardinal Walter Kasper (Photo: CNS).
Vatican City, Sep 19, 2014 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Catholic Church sources have dismissed rumors that Pope Francis is annoyed by an Ignatius Press book critical of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s position on Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried.
The French Catholic newspaper La Croix said Sept. 17 that “a senior source close to the Argentine Pope” claimed that Pope Francis would be “annoyed by the publication of this collective work.”
However, sources close to the Pope denied this claim, telling CNA that the Pope is not even aware of the book.
The book, from Ignatius Press, is titled “Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church.” It is a collection of essays on the pastoral approach to Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried. Authors of the essays include five cardinals as well as other scholars.
Contributors include Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura; Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, one of the closest theologians to St. John Paul II in questions of morality and the family; and Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, president emeritus of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
The book is set to be published next month, around the time that the Synod of Bishops will be meeting in Rome to discuss issues involving the family.
The Ignatius Press book’s introduction says the essays in “Remaining in the Truth of Christ” are responses to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s 2014 book “The Gospel of the Family,” which includes his advocacy of giving Holy Communion to some Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried without an annulment.
Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., founder and editor of Ignatius Press, responded sharply to claims by Cardinal Kasper in an email exchange with CNA. He drew from Cardinal Kasper’s Sept. 18 interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, responding point-by-point to the cardinal’s statements.
"The purpose of the present volume is to answer Cardinal Kasper’s invitation for further discussion. The essays published in this volume rebut his specific proposal for a Catholic form of oikonomia in certain cases of divorced, civilly remarried persons on the grounds that it cannot be reconciled with the Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, and that it thus reinforces misleading understandings of both fidelity and mercy." — Fr. Robert Dodaro, O.S.A, from the Introduction
In this volume five cardinals of the Church, and four other scholars, respond to the call issued by Walter Cardinal Kasper for the Church to harmonize "fidelity and mercy in its pastoral practice with civilly remarried, divorced people". The contributors are Walter Cardinal Brandmüller; Raymond Cardinal Burke; Carlo Cardinal Caffarra; Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S.; Robert Dodaro, O.S.A.; Paul Mankowski, S.J.; Gerhard Cardinal Müller; John M. Rist; and Archbishop Cyril Vasil', S.J.
Cardinal Kasper appeals to early Church practice in order to support his view. The contributors bring their wealth of knowledge and expertise to bear upon this question, concluding that the Bible and the Church Fathers do not support the kind of "toleration" of civil marriages following divorce advocated by Cardinal Kasper. They also examine the Eastern Orthodox practice of oikonomia (understood as "mercy" implying "toleration") in cases of remarriage after divorce and in the context of the vexed question of Eucharistic Communion. The book traces the long history of Catholic resistance to this practice, revealing the serious theological and pastoral difficulties it poses in past and current Orthodox Church practice.
As the authors demonstrate, traditional Catholic doctrine, based on the teaching of Jesus himself, and current pastoral practice are not at odds with genuine mercy and compassion. The authentic "gospel of mercy" is available through a closer examination of the Church's teachings.
"Because it is the task of the apostolic ministry to ensure that the Church remains in the truth of Christ and to lead her ever more deeply into that truth, pastors must promote the sense of faith in all the faithful, examine and authoritatively judge the genuineness of its expressions and educate the faithful in an ever more mature evangelical discernment." - St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio
Walter Cardinal Kasper created an international media stir when he proposed allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments after a penitential period. But is this something the Church can even authorize?
As the Church enters into the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family, this book takes up the Kasper Proposal and sorts the helpful from the problematic. Never separating pastoral concerns from doctrinal considerations, the authors engage Cardinal Kasper’s ideas with respect, but also at times with some profound disagreement.
How can we heal the wounds of a broken culture? How do we best support families, given the challenges of modern life? What is truly merciful? If the family is central to both society and the Church, how do we best express the truth of its importance? As the authors delve into the matter, they discuss how the early Church addressed issues of marriage and separation, and review the history of Church practice and discipline on marriage. They also explore how contemporary moral attitudes have shaped modern perceptions of marriage and divorce, and how the Church can offer pastoral guidance in this area.
The good points of Cardinal Kasper’s proposal are discussed, but also the ways in which his proposal falls short in presenting the “Gospel of the Family” as the center of our understanding of married life. Stay informed with this essential guide to one of the most important debates in the Church today.
Stephan Kampowski is an associate professor of philosophical anthropology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. He is a coordinator of the masters in bioethics and formation organized in conjunction with the Bioethics Institute of the University of the Sacred Heart, Rome. His two other books in English are Arendt, Augustine, and the New Beginning and A Greater Freedom: Biotechnology, Love, and Human Destiny.
Juan José Pérez-Soba is a priest of the Diocese of Madrid, Spain. He is the director of international research in moral theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome, where he is a professor of pastoral theology. His other publications include El corazón de la familia, Il mistero della famiglia, and La pastorale familiare.
"A fascinating and compelling narrative; a story of discovery, adventure and eventual homecoming, all told with verve and honesty." — Malcolm Guite, Girton College, Cambridge
Not God's Type An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms By Holly Ordway
Chapter 1 A GLORIOUS DEFEAT
Here I set out to do what might seem to be a straightforward task: to recount how it happened that I walked away from atheism and entered into Christian faith.
But the story is not a simple one to tell.
When I said Yes to Christ, I thought I had reached the end of my journey, but I found that I had merely crested the nearest hill. The road, it seemed, went ever on and on, and I soon realized that the Christian life was not going to be easy...
This question and others answered in an unconventional story of love
San Francisco, September 9, 2014 – What does heroism look like? When does friendship become too costly? Do we ever truly touch one another, or are we doomed to walk alone forever? Can love survive trials, or does it inevitably wither and die? And what happens when an “accidental marriage” shows two people the power of sacrificial love?
The Accidental Marriage, an engaging new novel by Roger Thomas, is a contemporary story that explores these questions through vibrant, sympathetic characters whose struggles and triumphs illustrate that love doesn’t always look like you would expect.
Scott and Megan are friends who live and work in the vibrant San Francisco Bay Area. Mostly contented with their jobs and same-sex relationships, they meet for lunch and sympathetic conversation from time to time.
When Megan’s partner wants a baby, Scott offers to help. The ensuing complications force Scott and Megan to grapple with how much they’re willing to sacrifice for friendship and for the child they’ve conceived. When Megan’s situation unravels, Scott must step up to responsibilities he’s never assumed before. Then his circumstances start to crumble, and a series of misfortunes strip them of everything but each other.
Author Roger Thomas explains why he wrote this unique novel, “As St. John Paul the Great frequently reminded us, one of the roles of the arts is to reach across those walls and reconnect us with each other in our common humanity. When we read a story or hear a song or see a film and find ourselves saying, ‘Yes! That’s exactly how it is!’, then we’re connecting with one another. And even as Scott and Megan find their categories getting broadened by their life experiences, I hope the readers of The Accidental Marriage come to see the main protagonists for what they are: simply humans, fellow humans searching for love.”
Jennifer Fulwiler, author of Something Other Than God, praises The Accidental Marriage, saying, “Roger Thomas plunges into the hot button issues of our day. He fearlessly explores questions about what terms like ‘love’ and ‘marriage’ really mean, all the while drawing us into the lives of eminently relatable characters.”
Michael Richard, author of Tobit’s Dog, says, “If I ever have to cross a minefield, I want to follow Roger Thomas. Mr. Thomas deftly weaves his way through the shibboleths of modernity, while flipping them on their heads with great respect, charity, and clarity. The prose is concise without being sterile, and pulls you into a story that will make you want to knock the antagonists on their butts, and urge the protagonists over each obstacle. These are real people in a real world that way too many people can no longer see through the fog they call enlightenment.”
The Accidental Marriage is “a bold critique of modern challenges to the American family and a morality tale about the complementarity of the sexes. It’s a defense of fatherhood, especially, but also of motherhood and homemaking as honorable occupations,” claims Dorothy Cummings McLean, author of Ceremony of Innocence.
Sarah Reinhard, author, reviewer, and blogger at SnoringScholar.com says, “There’s nothing accidental about how delightfully this book is written. It takes a difficult topic and explores it in ways that are unintimidating and even laugh-out-loud funny. I have no idea how to describe this book, but I’m going to have no problem sharing it, raving about it, and promoting it to anyone with ears. I absolutely loved the journey from cover to cover!”
About the Author:
Roger Thomas, a lifelong Michigan resident, has been married to his wife Ellen since 1981. They have six grown children and eight grandchildren. He is a self-employed computer consultant. He loves reading, and his favorite authors include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, and P.G. Wodehouse. He has had two collections of short stories published by Ignatius Press, and is working on his fourth novel.
Author Roger Thomas is available for interviews about this book. To request a review copy or an interview with Roger Thomas, please contact: Rose Trabbic, Publicist, Ignatius Press at (239)867-4180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does heroism look like? When does friendship become too costly? Do we ever truly touch one another, or are we doomed to walk alone forever? Can love survive trials, or does it inevitably wither and die?
The Accidental Marriage is a contemporary story that explores these questions through vibrant, sympathetic characters whose struggles and triumphs illustrate that love doesn't always look like you would expect.
Scott and Megan are friends who live and work in the vibrant San Francisco Bay Area. Mostly contented with their jobs and same-sex relationships, they meet for lunch and sympathetic conversation from time to time.
When Megan's partner wants a baby, Scott offers to help. The ensuing complications force Scott and Megan to grapple with how much they're willing to sacrifice for friendship and for the child they've conceived. When Megan's situation unravels, Scott must step up to responsibilities he's never assumed before. Then his circumstances start to crumble, and a series of misfortunes strip them of everything but each other.
Roger Thomas, a lifelong Michigan resident, has been married to his wife Ellen since 1981. They have six grown children and eight grandchildren. He is a self-employed computer consultant. He loves reading, and his favorite authors include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, and P.G. Wodehouse. He has had two collections of short stories published by Ignatius Press, and is working on his second novel.
Praise for The Accidental Marriage:
"In The Accidental Marriage, Roger Thomas plunges into the hot button issues of our day. He fearlessly explores questions about what terms like 'love' and 'marriage' really mean, all the while drawing us into the lives of eminently relatable characters." — Jennifer Fulwiler, Author, Something Other Than God
"If I ever have to cross a minefield, I want to follow Roger Thomas. Mr. Thomas deftly weaves his way through the shibboleths of modernity, while flipping them on their heads with great respect, charity, and clarity. The prose is concise without being sterile, and pulls you into a story that will make you want to knock the antagonists on their butts, and urge the protagonists over each obstacle. These are real people in a real world that way too many people can no longer see through the fog they call enlightenment." — Michael Richard, Author, Tobit's Dog
"A bold critique of modern challenges to the American family and a morality tale about the complementarity of the sexes. It's a defense of fatherhood, especially, but also of motherhood and homemaking as honorable occupations." — Dorothy Cummings McLean, Author, Ceremony of Innocence
"There's nothing accidental about how delightfully this book is written. It takes a difficult topic and explores it in ways that are unintimidating and even laugh-out-loud funny. I have no idea how to describe this book, but I'm going to have no problem sharing it, raving about it, and promoting it to anyone with ears. I absolutely loved the journey from cover to cover!" — Sarah Reinhard, Author, Reviewer, and Blogger, SnoringScholar.com
The release of the complete adult faith formation series “Symbolon: the Catholic Faith Explained” hopes to offer a profound way of encountering the truths of the Catholic Church.
“Symbolon is designed to be a resource for adult faith formation for the new evangelization,” Dr. Edward Sri of the Denver-based Augustine Institute told CNA Aug. 20.
“The Symbolon video series proclaims the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith in a way that meets people where they are at, captivates their hearts and minds for Christ and His Church and forms them with a Catholic worldview that prepares them to engage the many cultural influences today that undermine Christian living.”
Mr. Sri is the program director for the Symbolon faith formation series, produced by the Augustine Institute and distributed by Ignatius Press and Lighthouse Catholic Media. ...
“We wanted to build a program that walks people through the entirety of the Catholic faith in a way that shapes their lives,” Mr. Sri continued. “Through the 20 episodes of ‘Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained’ we cover everything a Catholic needs to know about the faith.”
Dr. Sri says that "about 2,000 parishes have used Symbolon in parish life and 'thousands' of people brought the program into their homes for individual or family viewing."
CWR: What was the genesis of Symbolon, and how did the program come about? Who are some of the folks involved in producing the program?
Dr. Sri: The program originally was intended for RCIA, but we quickly saw that it would have a much wider impact being used by parishes and individuals for any adult faith formation setting. Many parish and diocesan directors of catechesis who saw some of the initial episodes said, “We want to use this for adult faith formation, for men’s groups, women’s groups, marriage and family ministry!” And that’s fitting. The Church teaches that the RCIA is the model form of adult catechesis since many adult Catholics need to go through the same stages of conversion as those who are entering full communion in the Church. Indeed, as John Paul II once said, many adult Catholics are “quasi-catechumens” (Catechesi Tradendae, 44).
So the Symbolon program, from its very beginning, had a focus on evangelization, on leading souls through the Catholic faith step-by-step in a way that inspires them to surrender their lives more to Jesus Christ and to live in communion with him in the Church.
The Augustine Institute produced Symbolon with our amazing video and print production team we have right here on our campus in Denver. Some bishops expressed to our President Dr. Tim Gray the challenges facing RCIA today and encouraged him to have the Augustine Institute develop a new program. It was his vision to go in this direction and build the team and the studios that made this all possible. His vision for the Augustine Institute to form Catholics for the New Evangelization through training and through resources like Symbolon has brought together a team of very talented people to serve in this mission.
And it truly is a team effort here at the Augustine Institute. I was blessed to work alongside our faculty, our production team, and many catechists around the country on the development of the curriculum, the video series and the supplemental parish resources. In particular, Lucas Police, who is the Associate Director of Symbolon at the Augustine Institute, was invaluable. His many years of experience in parish and diocesan catechetical work helped ensure we were not just making a beautiful Catholic video, but one that would serve the Church’s evangelizing and catechetical mission well.
CWR: There have been a number of catechetical programs produced in recent years. What are some of the particular strengths and unique features of Symbolon?
Dr. Sri: Many of the individuals and parishes leaders who have been using Symbolon have said it’s unique in that it provides a comprehensive A-to-Z presentation of the Catholic faith. One person described it as a “one-stop shopping” kind of program covering everything from The Trinity, Creation, the Cross, and the Church to the Bible, the sacraments, Mary, and the Church’s moral teachings on sexuality, marriage, human life, and care for the poor. A parish director of education said she loves the program because she knows anyone going through it will be getting the breadth of the Catholic faith
People also have told us they like the fact that Symbolon has a team of teachers. It’s not just one person or a talking head. Every episode features several dynamic presenters, teaching in different settings—sometimes in Rome, sometimes in an interview format, sometimes straight to camera, sometimes giving a talk in front of a live audience. The variety of teachers, settings, and styles keeps the videos moving and engaging. Each episode leaves people hungering for more. As one person said, it creates a “to be continued” feel.
Another key feature of Symbolon is the emphasis on life application and the call to conversion. It constantly is bringing the faith to real life—how do I live this out practically in my life? It also engages current cultural questions people have today: Why do I need a Church? Isn’t Jesus just one of many great religious teachers? What is marriage? Is there really a right and wrong for everyone? Do I really have a responsibility toward the poor? And every episode culminates with a call to conversion, inviting viewers to consider how they can give their lives more to Christ through the particular aspect of the faith being discussed.
Finally, people also tell us they are immediate impressed by the beauty of the video presentation. The videos don’t just teach the faith, they show the faith through the sacred art, spectacular cinematography, the beautiful churches of Rome and the beautiful music throughout.
"Symbolon offers a complete program for adult catechesis, with written text, video and DVD, and clear instructions for leading groups of adult learners, all at the service of the beauty and truth given us in divine revelation as interpreted by the Church. The immense effort expended in creating the program will, I hope, be matched by its success in shaping minds and hearts in the Catholic faith." - Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago
"Symbolon shows prospective Catholics and long-time Catholics not just Church teachings but the Catholic way of life-not just the what but the how of the faith. It does this with a sophisticated mix of images, sound, and text. Participants become intrigued with the Church without being overwhelmed with data. They see how doctrines and practices fit together and how they are meant to be lived out in their own lives. I've never seen a faith-formation program so well thought through as Symbolon." - Karl Keating, President of Catholic Answers and author of Catholicism and Fundamentalism
"I've admired the Augustine Institute for years as one of the finest engines of the New Evangelization in North America, and its new RCIA/adult faith formation series, Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained, is outstanding in every sense. Beautifully produced, rich in content and pleasing to watch, Symbolon is not just a great adult tool for teaching and learning the Catholic faith, but a joy to experience." - Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia
"Pope Francis, like John Paul II and Benedict XVI, has called every Catholic to be a missionary disciple, an agent of the New Evangelization. And evangelically alert Catholics must be well-formed Catholics.This splendid series will help prepare Catholics to enter mission territory every day, offering others friendship with Jesus Christ." - George Weigel, William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, Ethics and Public Policy Center
"I have long been looking for a substantial program of catechesis for the RCIA, as well as for adult religious formation. The Augustine Institute's Symbolon is the answer to my prayers. This is a beautifully produced and engaging presentation of the Catholic faith. Symbolon is not only an orthodox compendium of Catholic teaching, but also one that speaks to the questions of those searching for meaning in a secularized culture. I recommend Symbolon to any bishop or pastor who is looking for help in carrying out the New Evangelization." - Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs
"I like it! It meets the needs of an adult learner because it takes complex concepts and brings them into a practical form through visuals, discussion, and reflections, helping the learner apply it to their own life. It gives a wider view of what the Church teaches, rather than just what comes from Scripture." - Ginny, St. Joseph Parish
"There are so many levels of the Church, it gets us back to the basics of our faith and explains them at a level we can understand. Symbolon helps us to bring the foundations of our faith into our everyday life." - Ed and Karen, St. Joseph Parish,
"The videos and guides [for the leader and participants] are really good. They are good not only for RCIA candidates, but also for anyone looking for a refresher on their faith. We want to use the videos to do ongoing training with our catechists. For instance, this fall, I want to invite all our catechists to come together and delve into the episode entitled ‘Who is Jesus?' " - Brian Desmarais, Church of St. Mary, Tulsa, OK
"Everyone - parents, couples, older [parish] members - are all loving the richness of the videos, and what they are learning. The videos are so captivating and informative! The real key though is that parishioners can access the materials online, wherever they are at, and go deeper with them. Some of our parish moms can't make it to our Wednesday night sessions, so they are going through the sessions at home with their families. Recently, our parish's deacon came up to me and told me that he is hearing a lot of good things about Symbolon from parishioners. It is very exciting to watch it grow in our parish!" - Belinda Minzenmayer, St. Luke, Temple, TX
"I like the way it is presented, easy to understand. It takes the basics of our Catholic faith and gets right to the point. It seems to talk to everyone; anywhere they are at with their faith." - Francis, St. Joseph Parish
"I think Symbolon is awesome and I hope all RCIA programs will think seriously about using this program. What I like most is the way knowledgeable Catholic Scripture scholars and theologians present the material through a teaching dialogue. Also, the content of the class keeps the group focused on the truths of the faith and guides them with authentic Catholic teachings. I love the beautiful visuals presented in the videos and I like the way the presenters talk about the authenticity and beauty of our Catholic faith, along with their ability to simplify the truths of the Church's teachings. I think the format of the class provides a well balanced approach between class discussion and presentation. Great job, Augustine Institute!!!!!" - Mary, Blessed John the XXIII Parish
"I like using Symbolon because the brief videos fit with our busy schedules. The lessons are already prepared and I can focus on the faith." - Chris H, Parish Dad
"Every Sunday night we sit and discuss the readings. My kids remember and understand what they heard at Mass. " - Jan P, Parish Mom
Ordway, an atheist academic, was convinced that faith was superstitious nonsense. As a well-educated college English professor, she saw no need for just-so stories about God. Secure in her fortress of atheism, she was safe (or so she thought) from any assault by irrational faith.
But then something happened . . . How did she come to “lay down her arms” in surrender to Christ – and then, a few years later, enter into the Catholic Church?
This is the moving account of her unusual journey. It is the story of an academic becoming convinced of the truth of Christianity on rational grounds – but also the account of God’s grace acting in and through her imagination.
It is the tale of an unfolding, developing relationship with God, told with directness and honesty – and of a painful surrender at the foot of the Cross. It is the account of a lifelong, transformative love of reading – and the story of how a competitive fencer put down her sabre to pick up the sword of the Spirit.
Above all, this book is a tale of grace, acting in and through human beings but always issuing from God and leading back to Him. And it is the story of a woman being brought home.
Dr. Holly Ordway is the director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. She holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst; her academic work focuses on imagination and literature in apologetics, with special attention to the work of CS Lewis and Charles Williams.
Heinrich Denzinger had a good idea. So good, in fact, that his idea is still going strong after 160 years.
Father Denzinger, a German theologian of the 19th century, saw a need for a collection of creeds, ecumenical council decrees and teaching documents of popes to help theologians, homilists and serious readers concerned to know what the Catholic Church really teaches, as the teaching is set forth in official documents of the magisterium — the Church’s teaching authority.
German Catholic theology
The first edition of the volume users would come to call simply “Denzinger” rolled off the press in 1854 — by coincidence, the year Pope Pius IX infallibly defined the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.
It featured texts from 100 documents of the pope of that day, Pius IX. By contrast, the contents of the recently published 43rd edition extend from an Ethiopian “Letter of the Apostles” dating between A.D. 160 and 170 to an instruction on bioethics published by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008 (“Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals,” (Ignatius Press, $69.95)).
The English translation of this new edition is the first in that language since the 30th edition in 1957. It joins editions in Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Croatian — as well as German, of course. Korean and Chinese translations also are planned.
For people accustomed to using Denzinger in their work, the English version’s publication is a notable event as well as a formidable specimen of book publishing.
Along with the texts in their original languages (usually Latin, occasionally Greek) accompanied by versions in the vernacular, its 1,437 pages include a “systematic index” grouping the documents under 12 headings (“God Reveals Himself,” “God Saves Man through Jesus Christ,” “God Calls Man to a Moral Life in Community,” etc.), several specialized indexes and a historical introduction by the volume’s current editor, Peter Hünermann.
The texts are organized chronologically, with documents grouped according to the pontificates during which they were published.
By far the largest set is the one from the long pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, which began with his election on Oct. 16, 1978 and ended with his death on April 2, 2005. Texts in Denzinger from the Johannine era number 49.
A protester dressed as the Bible joins demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 30, 2014. (CNS photo/ Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)
The Roots of the Political Use and Abuse of the Bible | Dr. Leroy Huizenga | CWR
Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker's book, Politicizing the Bible, examines how the development of biblical scholarship has severed Scripture from the heart of the Church.
The Bible continues to play a large role in American public life, as politicians, candidates, and activists advert to it directly and employ its cadences in support of a variety of positions, programs, and policies. In recent decades, Barack Obama has been quite willing to employ the Bible in service of progressive purposes, while Bill Clinton went so far as to offer voters a “new covenant.” On the Republican side, George W. Bush called America “the Light of the World”, while Ronald Reagan appropriated biblical language and even declared 1983 "The Year of the Bible". This political use of the Bible in American discourse is not new, of course. The speeches, writings, and sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were well woven with the fine natural threads of biblical inflection and images. Decades earlier in 1896, William Jennings Bryan warned that advocates of the gold standard would “crucify mankind on a cross of gold.” And of course well before that the Puritan settlers envisioned America as a new promised land and the ultimate city on a hill, the latter a dominical phrase employed later by both John F. Kennedy and Reagan.
One does not find this political use of the Bible very much across the ocean in Europe, except among fringe Christian parties. Even politicians affiliated with historic parties with “Christian” in their very name—such as the Christian Democratic Union in Germany—generally don’t employ anything like “Gott segne Deutschland”in the way American politicians toss out the tagline “God bless America.” The reason, I suppose, is that the Bible holds little real cultural authority in secular, post-Christian societies, and if America is indeed heading that way, it’s not there yet. Enough American citizens regard themselves as Christians for politicians to keep using the Bible politically, often in ways that can only be deemed idolatrous in that they mistake America for God, or Jesus, or biblical Israel, and blasphemous in that they may violate the Second Commandment’s violation of taking the name of the LORD for vain purposes.
Modern Scholarship, Secular Ends
The rule, then: Where Christian faith matters to a substantial number of the electorate, there politicians, candidates, and activists will employ the Bible. But this is neither a new nor a uniquely American phenomenon. For the Bible has played a role in a number of empires, societies, tribes, and nations, and where it has, those who would wield power have tried to wield biblical interpretation to serve their purposes.