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Eight challenging and inspirational new and recently released spring titles
Renew your mind and spirit with our new and recently released spring titles
Finding True Happiness Fr. Robert Spitzer Softcover, 320 pages $19.95 Finding True Happiness is both a philosophical itinerary and a practical guidebook for life’s most important journey—from the mundane and the meaningless to transcendent fulfillment. No other book currently available combines such breadth of practical advice and such depth of philosophical, psychological, and spiritual wisdom. Read a sample
Who Designed the Designer? Michael Augros Softcover, 244 pages $17.95 Here is essential reading for all people who care about contemplating God, not exclusively as a best-explanation for the findings of science, but also as the surprising-yet-inevitable implication of our commonsense contact with reality. Augros takes the reader on an easygoing yet extraordinary journey, beginning from the world as we all encounter it and ending in the divine mind. Read a sample
Vatican Council Notebooks: Volume 1 Henri de Lubac Softcover, 557 pages $34.95 “Surprising news!” With these words, Fr. Henri de Lubac, S.J., whose orthodoxy had been so vigorously attacked, responded to the announcement of his selection to participate in the 2nd Vatican Council. His participation as a theologian and expert would make a lasting impact on the Council, and his insights and comments are recorded in this long-awaited volume. Read a sample
Communion with Christ Sister M. Regina van den Berg Softcover, 165 pages $15.95 Pope Saint John Paul II declared that the great challenge for Christians today is to become "the home and school of communion." St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) in her life and her writings, is a sure guide to attaining the communion for which every human heart longs. This work considers St. Teresa's life and writings in the context of the "spirituality of communion." Read a sample
From the Kippah to the Cross Jean-Marie Élie Setbon Softcover, 158 pages $15.95 Jean-Marie Élie Setbon, the son of non-observant Jews, was first attracted to Jesus when he saw a crucifix as a child. His conversion story is about the battle between loyalty to his identity and fidelity to the desires of his heart. It is a love story between Christ, the Lover—the relentless yet patient pursuer—and man, his beloved. Read a sample
The Coup at Catholic University Peter Mitchell Softcover, 320 pages $19.95 1968 witnessed perhaps the greatest revolution in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. It was led by Fr. Charles Curran, professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America, with more than 500 theologians who signed a "Statement of Dissent" that declared Catholics were not bound in conscience to follow the Church's teaching in Humanae Vitae. Read a sample
The Wife of Pilate and Other Stories Gertrud von le Fort Softcover, 175 pages $14.95 These three novellas from the acclaimed German writer Gertrud von le Fort are from her later works of historical fiction, in which she displays her mastery as a dramatist of ideas. In these three stories von le Fort presents lyrical portrayals of conflicts in the souls and minds of powerful people. These are thought-provoking stories by a keen observer of humanity. Read a sample
Radical Discipleship Francis Cardinal Arinze Softcover, 112 pages $11.95 Since 2015 has been deemed the Year of the Consecrated Life by Pope Francis, this work by Cardinal Arinze is a very timely one-for this year, and for any time. A reflection on the consecrated life, Radical Discipleship represents a beautiful way for faithful Catholics to participate in this Church-wide theme and celebration by coming to a deeper understanding of the consecrated life. Read a sample
Left: The secular "holiday"; right: "Joseph the Carpenter" by Georges de La Tour (c. 1645).
"Labor Day" in Italy and The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker | Michael Severance | CWR blog
When divorced from God’s plan, work is merely labor—a rudderless everyday job
Today May 1 is Labor Day in Italy and in virtually all of Europe. Alas, it is hardly festive. There is not much to celebrate here in terms of job growth and wealth creation. Economic figures across this Old and Aging Continent are like proverbial diamonds in the rough: there is much potential for glory, but with a lot of precision cutting and polishing still to do.
Simply read the latest statistical lampoon on European GDP in The Economist on April 14: "Taking Europe’s Pulse". With a walking-dead growth of 0.3% in the first quarter of 2015, nation after European nation is stifled by union strongholds on hiring and firing practices, crony capitalist deals born in Brussels' backrooms, governments’ insatiable appetite for taxation to prop up bankrupt social welfare programs, and many other politico-economic and cultural tentacles holding back a not-so-free European Union.
Here in Rome, few are celebrating in an anemic peninsula with 12.70% unemployment and virtually no growth in the last 20-plus years. Absolutely no fist pumps are raised on this day in traditionally leftist Spain (23.78 %), nor in the communist party-run Greece (25.70%), and by no means in the rebuilding nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (43.78%).
Nonetheless today, for good measure, is a public ‘holiday’, whether the economic mood is truly merry or not. At least it is a day to put workers’ worries aside. It is a day to forget about the sorry state of many economies on this extended weekend when Europeans head to the mountains, sea and its many cities of art.
May 1 is also a ‘holy day’, the Catholic Feast of St. Joseph the Worker instituted by Pius XII in 1955 in response to the May Day communist celebrations installed across Europe. Therefore, it is no small coincidence of calendar or etymology.
According to the American Catholic web site, Pius XII’s intention was, in effect, to give deeper meaning to a public holiday de-christened merely as ‘Labor’ Day in a hyper-secularized and socialist Europe. It was a day, though mixed with revelry and parades, that had become, spiritually speaking, a hum-drum day off from routine of production lines and cubicles:
In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.
When divorced from God’s plan, work is merely labor, a rudderless everyday job. It even can turn us into hunchbacks, as if debilitated and humiliated by meaningless, repetitive, backbreaking activity.
This is exactly what I find lamentable about today.
One of the hottest topics in contemporary culture is happiness—so much so that the United Nations declared an International Happiness Day in response to the immense popularity of Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy”. The explanation for this current fixation seems to lie in the contrary phenomenon—unhappiness. Despite the fact that we have tremendous access to every imaginable form of entertainment, we experience a pervading sense of insecurity, emptiness, and malaise amid sporadic peak experiences.
The problem seems to lie less in the external environment than in the internal one. We seem, in the words of Viktor Frankl, to be suffering from an absence of meaning that pervades both individuals and societies, giving rise to a collective emptiness, loneliness, and alienation.
Finding True Happiness attempts to provide a way out of this personal and cultural vacuum by helping people to identify and then reach for happiness. As Aristotle noted 2,400 years ago, happiness is the one thing we can choose for its own sake—everything else is chosen for the sake of happiness.
After an exhaustive investigation of philosophical, psychological, and theological systems of happiness, author Fr. Spitzer developed the “Four Levels of Happiness”, which he based on the classical thinkers Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas; the contemporary philosophers Marcel, Scheler, Buber, Ricoeur, and Jaspers; and the modern psychologists Maslow, Frankl, Erikson, Seligman, Kohlberg and Gilligan.
Finding True Happiness is both a philosophical itinerary and a practical guidebook for life’s most important journey—from the mundane and the meaningless to transcendent fulfillment. No other book currently available combines such breadth of practical advice and such depth of philosophical, psychological, and spiritual wisdom.
Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D. is the former president of Gonzaga University and the founder of the Magis Institute, which educates the public about the relationship between physics, philosophy, reason, and faith. He is the chief education officer of the Ethics and Performance Institute, which delivers web-based ethics education to corporations and individuals, and President of the Spitzer Center of Ethical Leadership, which delivers similar curricula to non-profit organizations. He is the author of Healing the Culture, Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life, and Ten Universal Principles.
Praise for Finding True Happiness:
"Even in the darkest hours, happiness is available to us; it is always a choice. In our culture--riddled with cynicism, nihilism, envy, and anger--recognizing that this choice exists is difficult. With reason, with the logic of both the mind and the heart, Robert Spitzer not only convinces us that happiness is within everyone's grasp but also shows us how to seize it. This is an intelligent, warm, and life-changing book." - Dean Koontz, N Y Times #1 Best-selling Author
“How refreshing to hear from a mind like Fr. Robert Spitzer on the topic of happiness. Too often, books in this genre offer platitudinous advice that is only an inch deep. In refreshing contrast, Fr. Spitzer offers us a meaty book that dives deep into history, philosophy, and science to provide answers that truly satisfy.” - Jennifer Fulwiler, Author, Something Other Than God
“Fr. Spitzer is a fine guide to the one thing that every human being in the world is seeking: happiness. Read this book and grow wiser in the things of the Spirit.” -Mark P. Shea, Author, By What Authority?
“One of the most dangerous and destructive illusions of the modern era is the notion that individuals are entirely free to choose what will make them happy. Fr. Spitzer shows that there is a genuinely objective dimension to human happiness, and that some approaches to life are simply incapable of actually bringing about the happiness that human beings desire. He offers a timely explanation of the routes that are really productive of fulfillment and true happiness.” - Fr. Joseph Koterski, S.J., Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University
“All who are interested in true happiness—and finding it—will find this book a very valuable contribution to their search. Spitzer identifies many practical steps for finding the happiness that so many find illusive. I especially admired his rationale for the validity and importance of his highest level of happiness, that which is found in our experience of the transcendent. I recommend that all examine his brilliant summary of evidence for transcendence --and for its fundamental contribution to happiness. This is a book to read and ponder.” - Paul Vitz, Ph. D., Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Wolfe, Innocence, Literature, and Rock Monsters | John Herreid | IPNovels.com
In the past week I’ve ended up saving a number of links to read and re-read, and in the hopes that others may also get some enjoyment and interest from them I’m sharing them with you.
First up, there’s a short piece in the New Yorker about science-fiction writer Gene Wolfe, titled Sci-Fi’s Difficult Genius:
Moments [in his books] have turned many of Wolfe’s fans into something like Biblical exegetes, who dig deep into his texts in the hope of finding clues not only to the plots and the characters but to Wolfe’s larger intentions. Partly what readers are excavating is Wolfe’s Catholicism, which he is quick to say figures into his writing. “What is impossible is to keep it out,” he told me. “The author cannot prevent the work being his or hers.”
Over at The Catholic Thing, Daniel McInerney writes about Catholic Literature and the discussion about it between writers such as Gregory Wolfe, Paul Elie, and Dana Gioia. I’m not so sure I agree with his take on it, but it’s an interesting contribution to the discussion.
Fr. Joseph Illo processes up the aisle at Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco April 25. (Photo by Eva Muntean)
Attacks on San Francisco Priest Aim to Test Abp. Cordileone | Jim Graves and CWR Staff | Catholic World Report
Recent reports about accusations made 10 years ago against Fr. Joseph Illo leave out key facts and misrepresent the subsequent court case.
The embattled pastor of a San Francisco parish has been the target of an unrelenting campaign aimed at pressuring Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to oust him. At the same time, the charges against Father Joseph Illo are being used as part of a larger effort to lobby Pope Francis to remove the archbishop, according to local observers. This week, the Archdiocese of San Francisco quietly announced that a priest has been assigned as chaplain at the parish’s school.
The connection between the efforts to push out both priest and archbishop became national news when more than 100 “prominent Catholics” published a full-page open letter to Pope Francis in the April 16 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Please replace Archbishop Cordileone,” the letter asked the Pope. Many of the signers are known to oppose Catholic teaching on marriage.
Among the letter’s grievances against the archbishop was his selection of Father Illo as the pastor of Star of the Sea Parish. Father Illo “marginalizes women’s participation in the church by banning girls from altar service,” the letter claimed (Father Illo explained his altar-server policy to CWR in January; he later agreed to let girls serve as acolytes at school Masses at Star of the Sea, while retaining his “boys-only” policy for parish Masses, as this move had been welcomed by regular Mass-goers). Father Illo also “inexplicably distributed to elementary school children an age-inappropriate and potentially abusive, sexually-oriented pamphlet,” the letter states (Father Illo apologized for the incident as an “oversight” and said the pamphlet—an examination of conscience—should have been given to the parents instead of the children). Finally, the letter to the Holy Father alleges that Father Illo has a “troubled history of questionable judgment as a pastor outside our diocese.”
It now appears that the “troubled history” ascribed to Father Illo refers to a civil settlement from a decade ago. Certain documents concerning the case were recently distributed to parents and teachers at Star of the Sea School, and a series of local media reports indicate that some parents have renewed calls for Father Illo’s removal in light of this case. This week the archdiocese announced that Father Vito J. Perone has been assigned as chaplain at Star of the Sea School, although Father Illo has not been removed from his post as parish administrator.
In March 2005, a San Joaquin County Superior Court jury found that Father Illo had inflicted emotional distress on an 11-year-old girl who had accused his associate pastor, Father Francis Arakal, of sexual misconduct in September 2001. A criminal investigation after the girl’s accusation had found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Father Arakal, but the following year the girl’s mother filed a lawsuit against Father Arakal, Father Illo, and the Diocese of Stockton, alleging sexual battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other things.
Fr. Robert Barron, author of "Seeds of the Word" (www.WordonFire.org) and Dr. James A. Patrick, author of "Essays on Modernity and the Permanent Things" (www.TowerPressBooks.com)
Two Approaches To Culture: Evangelistic & Diagnostic | Carl E. Olson | CWR Editorial
New books by Fr. Robert Barron and Dr. James A. Patrick are exceptional guides to the confused and confounding dominant culture
“The best is the betting of one's very life on behalf of Christ, the good, the self-denying and the dangerous.” — Dr. James A. Patrick
"The authentically Christian spiritual itinerary never ends with something as bland as 'self-discovery.' Rather, it ends with the splendid privilege of participating in God's own work in bringing grace into the world." — Fr. Robert Barron
[Robert] Graves really is writing about our own age, not of some remote future: of life in today's United States .... He is saying that culture arises from the cult; and that when belief in the cult has been wretchedly enfeebled, the culture will decay swiftly. The material order rests upon the spiritual order.” — Russell Kirk, “Civilization Without Religion?”
A friend, having recently read Fr. Robert Barron's review of Kenneth Branagh's movie, “Cinderella”, sent me this quote from Cardinal John Henry Newman:
“With Christians, a poetical view of things is a duty. We are bid to color all things with hues of faith, to see a divine meaning in every event.”
It's an apt description of a Christian cultural critic, and Fr. Barron is an especially fine commentator on culture, whether it be “high”, “low”, or “pop” culture. His new book Seeds of the Word: Finding God in the Culture (Word on Fire, 2015) is a collection of over 80 of his essays about movies (“Imago Dei: God in Film”), literature (“Take and Read: God in Books”), politics (“City On a Hill”), and culture at large (“Rays of Truth”). It is an exceptional example of an accomplished academic—Fr. Barron is a skilled theologian and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary in Chicago—engaging with the good, bad, beautiful, and ugly found throughout American culture.
It's important to point out that Fr. Barron, who I've had the pleasure of working for on two catechetical series (“Catholicism” and “Priest Prophet King”), is fundamentally motivated by a love for God, truth, and souls. In an homage written a week ago for the late Cardinal Francis George, Fr. Barron highlights the missionary vision and heart of the late Archbishop of Chicago. He notes that Cardinal George was not satisfied with Catholics taking a “counter-cultural” stance only, as “this can suggest a simple animosity, whereas the successful evangelist must love the culture he is endeavoring to address":
But he saw a deeper problem as well, namely, that, strictly speaking, it is impossible to be thoroughly counter-cultural, since such an attitude would set one, finally, against oneself. It would be a bit like a fish adamantly insisting that he swims athwart the ocean. Therefore, the one who would proclaim the Gospel in the contemporary American setting must appreciate that the American culture is sown liberally with semina verbi (seeds of the Word).
This approach, as he explains in his book, is an adaptation of the patristic method of seeking out “seeds of the Word”—“hints and echoes of the Gospel that can be found, often in distorted form, in the high and low contemporary culture.”
Easter at Holy Resurrection Monastery (Photo courtesy of authors)
Beauty and Tradition in the “Church of the Poor” | Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis and Benjamin Mann | CWR
It would be a mistake to identify Pope Francis with a stripped-down, secularized style of worship – and a still-greater mistake, to see Christian humility and liturgical beauty as opposites rather than harmonious counterparts.
“And whereas such is the nature of man, that, without external helps, he cannot easily be raised to the meditation of divine things; therefore has holy Mother Church … employed ceremonies, such as mystic benedictions, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind, derived from an apostolical discipline and tradition, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be recommended, and the minds of the faithful be excited, by those visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice.” – Council of Trent, Session XXII
"[W]e must think of the wealth of the church as the wealth of the poor. The beauty of the cathedral is a beauty for the poor. The church's liturgy, her music and hymns, is a beauty of and for the poor. The literature of the church, her theology and philosophy, is distorted if it does not contribute to the common life determined by the worship of a savior who was poor. The church's wealth, Mary [of Bethany]'s precious ointment, can never be used up or wasted on the poor."– Stanley Hauerwas
Humility, Poverty, and the Temptation of “Liturgical Iconoclasm”
Since the election of Pope Francis, “humility” has become a watchword in the life of the Church. This seems, on balance, to be a good development: a reminder, for both the faithful and the public at large, of a virtue that has been described as the wellspring of all virtues. Humility is a quality notably lacking, too, in our uncivil and technologically-prideful age.
If Pope Francis can teach some measure of true humility to a polarized Church, and a dangerously embattled world, he will have accomplished a great thing. Granted, there is a danger of exaggerating the Pope’s actual virtues, and fostering a misguided cult-of-personality. Yet this is the risk one always takes when he allows the light of Christ within him to “shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
“Poverty,” too, is a watchword of the current pontificate. Shortly after his election, Francis spoke of his desire for “a Church that is poor and for the poor.” He has acted on this desire in several meetings with the marginalized, and actions on their behalf; and the same motive shows in his somewhat stripped-down lifestyle and appearance.
For many reasons, of course, it would be wrong to take Pope Francis’ words about a “poor Church” in a superficial and purely worldly sense, as though he were concerned only with material conditions rather than the salvation of souls (a tendency the Pope himself criticized in his inaugural homily). At the same time, those words cannot be spiritualized away: for even “poverty of spirit” (Matt. 5:3), to which Christ calls the whole Church, must bear fruit in tangible sacrifices and works of mercy. (It is worth recalling, in this connection, that St. John Paul II spoke of the “Church of the poor” in two of his 14 encyclicals.)
It is beyond reasonable doubt that Benedict XVI was – and is – a profoundly humble man, with a deep concern for the poor. Still, no two Bishops of Rome are quite alike; and it is clear that Pope Francis’ personality and pastoral style have allowed him to manifest these same qualities in ways his predecessor would not have attempted.
While acknowledging the differences, however, one must be careful not to overstate them.
Fifteen years ago, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a document titled, “Dominus Iesus”, on the “unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church”. Not surprisingly, it upset some non-Christians, who wrongly interpreted it as an act of arrogant triumphalism.
More surprising were the negative reactions from many Christians, even some Catholics. Then again, the document specifically addressed the teachings of theologians positing that Jesus is just one of many possible means of salvation, or that he only offers salvation to certain people. This position, the document said, “has no biblical foundation. In fact, the truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord and only Saviour, who through the event of his incarnation, death and resurrection has brought the history of salvation to fulfilment, and which has in him its fullness and centre, must be firmly believed as a constant element of the Church's faith” (par 13).
In presenting a wide range of biblical evidence, Cardinal Ratzinger referred twice to St. Peter’s sermon in Acts 4, today’s first reading. “In his discourse before the Sanhedrin, Peter, in order to justify the healing of a man who was crippled from birth, which was done in the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 3:1-8), proclaims: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).” The conflict between Jewish religious authorities and the nascent Christian community had developed quickly. Yet it was a logical development since the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and Messiah was the decisive point of contention. The uniqueness of Jesus Christ the Nazorean was always central to the preaching of Peter, Paul, and the other apostles. It is the name of Jesus—literally, in Hebrew, “God saves”—through which salvation is realized and offered to all men.
The uniqueness of Jesus is also evident in his Good Shepherd discourse (Jn 10). In the Old Testament, God is the depicted as the good shepherd (Psa 23); Moses (Ex 3:1) and David (2 Sam 5:2) were also described as shepherds of the people. Jesus the Good Shepherd is unique because of the depth of his sacrifice and the intimacy of his relationship with the Father.
In fact, the two are closely related: “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.” Key to that mission of sacrifice was obedience and humility. The Son, equal to the Father, accepted the Father’s call to become man, to dwell among us, and to suffer and die. His divine humility revealed the profound perfect love and complete trust radiating from the mystery of the Trinity.
This, in turn, points to the uniqueness of the Father’s love, not only for the Son but for us mortal men and women. “Beloved”, wrote St. John in his first epistle, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” By the sacrament of baptism, we are cleansed of original sin and filled with divine life, reborn as children of God and “partakers of the divine nature” (CCC 1692; 2 Pet 1:4). The Father’s greatest gift is his grace, “a participation in the life of God” that “introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life” (CCC 1997).
But that gift, coming as it does through the sacraments, is not a matter of just “me and Jesus”; it requires the Church, the mystical body of Christ, the soul of which is the Holy Spirit. Peter, in addressing the Jewish authorities, stood not as a solitary figure, but as the appointed head of the Church. St. John did not write his epistle to just anyone, but to the “beloved”, that is, the faithful united in Christ.
Jesus, speaking of his sheep, said “there will be one flock, one shepherd”. That shepherd, alone, provides salvation.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the April 29, 2012 edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
The program organizer, Fr. Pedro Barrajon, told Thomas D. Williams that actual demonic possession has particular hallmarks, such as “aversion for sacred objects, the sudden ability to speak languages that the person has never studied or had contact with, the movement of objects with no physical cause, sharp changes in mood that are not attributable to psychological reasons.” Fr. Barrajon, added, however, that Satan acts mainly through temptation, not possession, and that is “something we all experience.”
Also recently in Rome, exorcist Fr. Gabriele Amorth said that “ISIS is Satan”. Beyond personal possession, the demonic is introduced into larger populations, Fr. Amorth explained, “because evil is disguised in various ways: political, religious, cultural, and it has one source of inspiration: the devil.”
Part of the fascination of trying to understand the father of lies is that there is distinct pattern to evil, just as there is distinct pattern to holiness, seen both in individuals and entire populations. While possession is rare, the whispers of temptation are universal.
A laundry list of the previously unthinkable issues that have gained currency in the world over the last century can be studied to see how, once the right message was hit upon, entire populations fell hard for Satan’s subterfuge. The message may not even be the same from one country or community to the next as to what changes the tide of popular culture on a particular issue.
For example, one can imagine, in Screwtape Letter’s fashion, a different sort of annual conference taking place now somewhere in the depths of Hell: “Marketing Murder Through Suicide.":
Illustration credits (left to right): Portrait Study of Sir Thomas More, by Hans Holbein the Younger (1527);Henry VIII of England, by unknown artist after Hans Holbein the Younger (ca. 1537-57); Pope Clement VII, by Sebastiano del Piombo (1526).
On a Small Point of Doctrine | Fr. James V. Schall, SJ | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
He (Sir Thomas More) gave up life itself, deliberately; he accepted violent death as of a criminal, not even for the Faith as a whole, but on one particular, small point of doctrine—to wit, the supremacy of the See of Peter. (Hilaire Belloc, “The Witness to Abstract Truth”)1
Saints die for all sorts of reasons and in all sorts of ways. Some are thrown to the lions or crucified; others die in bed. Some affirm the Real Presence, others the Trinity. We sometimes think that it might be nobler to die upholding the truth of the Incarnation than in upholding, say, chastity, as Maria Goretti did. But the truth is that Catholic teaching is a whole; the denial of any one of its teachings, when logically stretched out, undermines the whole order. And someone will always be found to stretch it out. Not only is this teaching of the coherence of the whole true on the revelational side of Catholicism’s content, it is also an integral whole on its philosophical side. Both reason and revelation belong together in one coherent whole. Indeed, we can say that if even one central doctrine, taught or understood as infallible, is, in fact, clearly untrue, the whole edifice falls. Belief would be no longer feasible.
In fact, men like Thomas More died for upholding a specific teaching of revelation. Today, if we are not in Muslim lands where doctrine is still the public issue in persecuting Christians, we are more likely to be discriminated against or persecuted for issues that are, at bottom, of reason. We have come to a point where the issues troubling the public world about Catholicism have little to do with the side of the faith that concerns the Mass, the Holy Spirit, grace, or the existence and structure of the Church. Except for the permanence of sacramental marriage, the main public problems concerning marriage and family, virtue and vice, are issues of reason. Revelation may confirm reason, but the issues themselves—be it contraception, homosexuality, euthanasia, abortion—are based in reason.
The modern world now understands that the best way to attack the Church is, not through its supernatural claims and positions, but through its natural groundings. The Church does not claim to have an official philosophy. But it maintains that any philosophy that does not acknowledge or reach the objective reality of the world cannot be compatible with Catholicism. This latter position is based on the fact and affirmation that the Second Person of the Trinity, true God, became man in this world at a given time and in a given place. If we cannot be certain that the world exists or that our minds have a coherent relation to it, we cannot be certain that Christ dwelt amongst us. All, thus, becomes doubt or illusion.
This concern about reason, we might note, is the exact reverse of the original Catholic approach to evangelization, to how to present itself to the world.
Eduardo Verástegui presents a copy of the film "Little Boy" to Pope Francis on Friday, April 17th.
The movie opens in theaters nationwide on April 24th. (Photo: Metanoia Films)
The Faith to Move Mountains—And to Make Movies About Faith | CWR Staff
“At the end of the day,” says actor and producer Eduardo Verástegui, “if you take faith out of the equation, you collapse.”
Eduardo Verástegui is a man of many talents: singer, model, actor, producer, pro-life speaker. After a successful career in music as a young man, he began acting in Mexican telenovelas, earning the nickname “the Brad Pitt of Mexico”. After moving to Hollywood to pursue a career in films he returned to the Catholic faith of his youth. He then co-founded Metanoia Films with Alejandro Gomez Monteverde and Leo Severino. In 2006, the company released its first film, “Bella,” which was directed by Monteverde and starred Verástegui; it won the “People's Choice Award” at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival.
Metanoia Films' second film, “Little Boy”, opens tomorrow in theaters nationwide. It stars Jakob Salvati, David Henrie, Kevin James, Emily Watson, Ted Levine, Michael Rapaport, Ali Landry and Ben Chaplin, and is distributed by Open Road Films. (You can read Catholic World Report's review of the movie here.)
Verástegui spoke with Catholic World Report this week about his career, working in Hollywood, the success of “Bella”, the making of “Little Boy”, and the necessity of faith in every aspect of life.
CWR: When “Bella” was released in 2006, you said, "Hollywood doesn’t belong to the studios. Hollywood belongs to God.” How would you describe “Hollywood”? And what have you learned about it over the years?
Verástegui: Hollywood is a great platform that gives you an opportunity to send a message through art to the whole world; it's like a megaphone—when you speak through a megaphone, like the megaphone of Hollywood, the whole world listens to you. But at the same time that can be very dangerous because anyone can go there and say whatever they want, but it does not mean that any message that comes forward is truth.
In my opinion, a high percentage of what is coming out of Hollywood is very disconnected from the reality of who we are in this country and what families are—and that can poison the minds of the youth. At the same time Hollywood can be a great platform to do something good, and that's what I am trying to do—to be involved in projects that are rich. My goal is to produce movies that have potential to make a difference in society. My hope as a filmmaker is that as people leave the theater they will be moved, touched, and inspired to do the right thing.
In particular, with “Little Boy”, I hope that people will leave theaters full of hope, faith, and love. I believe art has the power to heal and bring people together. All of that exists in “Little Boy”. It surpasses those elements that are important for me to share with the audience. I am doing this not just to make movies, but to spark a movement of love, a movement of hope through the expression of art. Through art we can elevate the intellect toward what is good, beautiful, and true.
CWR: You've also indicated that “Bella” wasn’t meant to be a “religious film” but a film with universal themes appealing to a wide range of people. Did the success of “Bella” confirm the need for such an approach? And was the same approach taken with “Little Boy”?
Verástegui: Yes, Metanoia Films produces films for everyone, not just one group.
A Jewish convert’s remarkable journey to Catholicism recounted in a fascinating new book from Ignatius Press
San Francisco, April 23, 2015 – Ignatius Press has published another poignant and astonishing story of a Jew who discovers the truth of the Catholic faith. This latest book, From the Kippah to the Cross tells the moving conversion story of Jean-Marie Élie Setbon. Raised in a non-observant Jewish family, Jean-Marie first encountered Jesus Christ on a crucifix at the age of eight. He felt an inexplicable attraction to Christ on the cross and would spend hours contemplating Him and began to develop a deeply personal relationship with Christ.
Jean-Marie knew that this growing love for Jesus would not be tolerated by his family but his attraction to Christ was so intense that he could not fight it. His practice of making the sign of the cross and praying after his family went to bed soon turned into sneaking off on Sundays to visit Sacré-Coeur church and even to attend Mass. Finally, at fifteen, unable to bear his double-life any longer, Jean-Marie resolved to convert to Catholicism in spite of the scandal it would cause. But God had other plans.
Instead, Jean-Marie ended up delving deeper into the faith of his ancestors, moving to Israel to pursue rabbinical formation and returning to France eight years later as an ultra-Orthodox Jew. There he found work at a Jewish school and synagogue, married and had seven children. But, in spite of his sincere dedication to his Jewish faith, Jean-Marie’s love and attraction to Jesus remained, becoming the source of a long and difficult internal struggle.
Jean-Marie’s moving and unusual conversion is a story is about his battle between loyalty to his identity and fidelity to the deepest desires of his heart. Above all, it is a love story between Christ, the lover —the relentless yet patient pursuer— and man, his beloved.
Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, author of Mary of Nazareth: The Life of Our Lady in Pictures, calls From the Kippah to the Cross, “An absolutely riveting story! Filled with twists and turns, it will keep you on the edge of your seat.”
“Conversion stories touch the heart and mind deeper than a mere theology. They are theology put to story and song. From the Kippah to the Cross is such a story. It takes us soaring on the wings of eagles as Setbon’s story unfolds and we glimpse the panorama and beauty of the whole story of salvation,” says Steve Ray, author of Crossing the Tiber.
“From the Kippah to the Cross takes the reader on a remarkable journey. It is a witness to the persistent and transformative love of Christ, and gives readers valuable insight into the unique difficulties and questions of Jewish seekers and converts,” says Holly Ordway, author of Not God’s Type.
Roy Schoeman, author of Salvation is from the Jews, is another Jewish convert who was drawn to Christ and eventually converted to Catholicism. He says this book is “A gripping, unspeakably beautiful account of a human soul intensely in love with and seeking God, and a God who is intensely in love with, and seeks us. Along the way the reader learns a great deal about how Jesus works in the soul, the many ways He reaches out to us, and the way that the Catholic Church is the ultimate fulfillment of Judaism’s love for, and longing for, the Messiah – Jesus.”
About the Author:
Jean-Marie Élie Setbon was born in France in 1964. Trained in Israel as an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, he entered the Catholic Church in 2008. He is currently a lecturer and an educator specializing in theology and biblical exegesis.
Please note: The author of From the Kippah to the Cross does not speak English and therefore is not available for interviews. However, Roy Schoeman, a fellow Ignatius Press author, Jewish convert, and friend of the author, has agreed to do interviews and introduce readers to From the Kippah to the Cross.
To request a review copy or an interview with Roy Schoeman, please contact: Rose Trabbic, Publicist, Ignatius Press at (239) 867-4180 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Title: FROM THE KIPPAH TO THE CROSS A Jew’s Conversion to Catholicism Author: Jean-Marie Élie Setbon Release Date: April 2015 Length: 156 pages Price: $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-62164-018-9 • Softcover Order: 1-800-651-1531 • www.ignatius.com
The Legacy of Cardinal Francis George | Matthew A. Rarey | CWR
As Chicago’s shepherd, Cardinal George formed a new generation of priests, emphasized orthodox catechesis, and defended marriage and life
In his seventeen years as the Archdiocese of Chicago’s chief shepherd, Cardinal George, who retired last September, leaves behind a legacy as pastor, teacher, and defender of the Faith, including on the national stage during his presidency of the USCCB (2007-2010). He died April 17 after a long battle with cancer.
“He was a man of tremendous intellectual power and clarity and strength,” said Dan Cheely, vice president of Catholic Citizens of Illinois and president of the Chicago Church History Forum. “I’d go so far as to say that in the entire history of the American Catholic hierarchy, the only person I know who had the intellectual qualities comparable to Cardinal George was Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I’ve seen him give talks at the drop of a hat to highly sophisticated audiences that were literally breathtaking—and without notes.”
Rather than being a “bricks-and-mortar bishop,” Cheely describes Cardinal George as a “thought, word, and deed bishop” who communicated his “powerful love of Christ and his Church on both a personal level and as philosophical truth” to the people and clergy of the sprawling Archdiocese, which encompasses six vicariates. And Cheely, as others interviewed for this article, identifies Cardinal George’s dedication to the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary as one of his main achievements.
Forming a new generation of priests
Fr. Thomas Baima, vice rector for academic affairs at the seminary and a professor of dogmatic theology, praises Cardinal George’s deep personal engagement with the seminary community.
A Message from Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J. | IPNovels.com
Do You Ever Read Novels?
That’s a Yes or No question. Here are some thoughts on each possible answer:
No? Well, you should. Or if that sounds too moralistic: reading good novels can make you a better, happier person, a “new self and nobler me” (Hopkins).
Really? Why? The reasons are many and space is too short so I’ll give just one. You can call it an argument from authority. (I’ll omit bad reasons for reading even good novels.)
Who was the world’s greatest teacher? How did he teach? He sometimes held outdoor conferences, gave sermons—even an occasional homily—and he did use the method of the world’s second greatest teacher (Greek; name begins with “S”). But he taught “with authority” which means, among other things, that he was an “author” And mainly, he told stories.
God’s eternal Word became Incarnate in Jesus Christ. And Jesus incarnated his teaching in stories we call parables. He knew that was the best way for us to learn, to grasp the non-successive (eternal truth) in the successive (temporal plot).
Every good story is an incarnation of truth, beauty, and goodness—a participation in the Incarnate Word’s incarnate words.
Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell stars in a scene from "Wolf Hall," which premiered on PBS last Sunday. (CNS photo/PBS)
‘Wolf Hall’ and Upmarket Anti-Catholicism | George Weigel | CWR
The PBS series, based on Hillary Mantel’s novel, is brilliant television—and a serious distortion of history, rooted in the last acceptable bigotry
“Wolf Hall,” the BBC adaptation of Hillary Mantel’s novel about early Tudor England, began airing on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater” Easter Sunday night. It’s brilliant television. It’s also a serious distortion of history.
And it proves, yet again, that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable bigotry in elite circles in the Anglosphere.
The distortions and bias are not surprising, considering the source. Hillary Mantel is a very talented, very bitter ex-Catholic who’s said that the Church today is “not an institution for respectable people” (so much for the English hierarchy’s decades-long wheedling for social acceptance). As she freely concedes, Mantel’s aim in her novel was to take down the Thomas More of “A Man for All Seasons”—the Thomas More the Catholic Church canonized—and her instrument for doing so is More’s rival in the court of Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell.
Hillary Mantel does not lack for chutzpah, for Cromwell has long been considered a loathsome character and More a man of singular nobility. In the novel “Wolf Hall”, however, the More of Robert Bolt’s play is transformed into a heresy-hunting, scrupulous prig, while Cromwell is the sensible, pragmatic man of affairs who gets things done, even if a few heads get cracked (or detached) in the process.
All of which is rubbish, as historians with no Catholic interests at stake have made clear.
Introducing Children to Art | John Herreid | IPNovels.com
My daughter and oldest son have very different takes on this portrait by Raphael.
A while back I was asked for some thoughts on art, beauty, and God. A few of those comments made their way into this nice article on beauty by Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick in Our Sunday Visitor. I’ve written here before about art and developing an enthusiasm for it, and in a general way, about introducing children to it. As I was reading the OSV article, some more concrete examples came to mind about introducing children to art.
A general principle that my wife and I have tried to follow with our children: introduce art with them, not at them. By this I mean: don’t turn on some music, a movie, or toss a book of paintings at them and leave the room. Sit down with them, watch things, listen, and look. Discuss. If they are uninterested, don’t push it. If they show an interest in some good art, cultivate that interest and find ways they can engage with it.
I don’t kid myself about my children’s native artistic taste: they are just as likely to want to watch or read something that has little to no artistic merit as they are to want to watch something good. But if introduced to great art with enthusiasm, they pick up on it pretty quickly.
When we first watched Tomm Moore’s The Secret of Kells together, my kids were enthralled. We went online after the movie ended and looked at the images of the real Book of Kells. We printed up some coloring pages based on the book and displayed them in the house after we colored them in.
This year Song of the Sea—the second film by Tomm Moore—arrived in theaters. We went to go see it as a family. Afterwards I discovered that the Cartoon Art Museum here in San Francisco was having an exhibit of original work from both movies. We got a museum pass through our local library and went on a visit. Being able to see the drawings and concept sketches that went into the animation of these two movies was very interesting to our two oldest; our four-year-old just used the opportunity to run as fast as he could around the gallery. You can’t reach everyone!
Another favorite movie around our house is The Kid by Charlie Chaplin.
Cardinal Francis E. George, who retired as archbishop of Chicago in 2014, died April 17 after a long battle with cancer. He is pictured in a 2013 photo. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)
A Lion of the American Church: Thoughts on the Passing of Cardinal George | Fr. Robert Barron | CWR
Cardinal George was a spiritual father to me. In his determination, his pastoral devotion, his deep intelligence, his kindness of heart, he mediated the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Francis George, who died last week at the age of 78, was obviously a man of enormous accomplishment and influence. He was a Cardinal of the Roman Church, a past president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archbishop of one of the largest and most complicated archdioceses in the world, and the intellectual leader of the American Church. A number of American bishops have told me that when Cardinal George spoke at the Bishops’ meetings, the entire room would fall silent and everyone would listen.
But to understand this great man, I think we have to go back in imagination to when he was a kid from St. Pascal’s parish on the Northwest side of Chicago, who liked to ride his bike and run around with his friends and who was an accomplished pianist and painter as well. At the age of thirteen, that young man was stricken with polio, a disease which nearly killed him and left him severely disabled. Running, bike riding, painting, and piano playing were forever behind him. I’m sure he was tempted to give up and withdraw into himself, but young Francis George, despite his handicap, pushed ahead with single-minded determination. The deepest longing of his heart was to become a priest, and this led him to apply to Quigley Seminary. Convinced that this boy with crutches and a brace couldn’t make the difficult commute every day or keep up with the demands of the school, the officials at Quigley turned him away. Undeterred, he applied to join the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary congregation. Recognizing his enormous promise and inner strength, they took him in.
I bring us back to this moment of the Cardinal’s life, for it sheds light on two essential features of his personality. First, he was a man who never gave up. I had the privilege of living with Cardinal George for six years and thus I was able to see his life close-up. He had an absolutely punishing schedule, which had him going morning, noon, and night, practically every day of the week: administrative meetings, private conversations, banquets, liturgies, social functions, public speeches, etc. Never once, in all the years I lived with him, did I ever hear Cardinal George complain about what he was obliged to do. He simply went ahead, not grimly but with a sense of purpose. When he first spoke to the priests of the Archdiocese as our Archbishop, he said, “Never feel sorry for yourself!” That piece of advice came, you could tell, from the gut.
Second, his identity as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate deeply marked him as a man of mission.
Firefighters carry a victim on a stretcher at the scene of the deadly shootings at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper, on Jan. 7th. (CNS photo/Jacky Naegelen, Reuters)
The De-Christianization and Gradual Islamization of France | Charles Adhémar | CWR
Islamist networks in France and across Europe are increasingly organized and well-armed, but it is France that is sitting on a powder keg
Just before Christmas, as I was walking along the streets of Paris, I happened to see the disgraceful cover of the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo, a failing satirical magazine well known for its insults against religion and general vulgarity. It showed the Blessed Virgin Mary in an outrageous, almost pornographic position.
Such crudeness was not a first for Charlie Hebdo. Although the cover angered me, the spirit of Christmas overrode any hateful thoughts. Two weeks later, on January 7, the Kouachi brothers (of Algerian origin) shot the men behind the irreverent magazine, along with two policemen and a hapless maintenance worker. And a day later, Amedy Coulibaly (of Malian origin) murdered a policewoman and four Jews after taking hostages in a kosher supermarket.
The three gunmen who killed 17 French victims were of French nationality. They had been born in France, raised in France, educated in France, and fed by the French welfare state—before taking an all-too-common and desperate path: crime, prison, Islamism, delinquency, and commitment to global jihad. Along with their henchmen, they were engaged in a war against France, from within and without. Make no mistake: This is a civil war—although one camp is unarmed.
Are we Charlie?
The Charlie Hebdo killings compel us to look frankly at reality—without the hollow rhetoric of our political classes or the complacence of the media. In fact, for a while, a few days after the killings, it seemed like French people were beginning to wake up. When, on Sunday, the 11th of January, Paris and several other French cities witnessed the largest demonstration in the history of France, it seemed that there was a new realization of the threat now within our borders. A “Republican march” of around 4 million people (according to official sources)—more than during the funeral of Victor Hugo in 1885—with thousands of anonymous people following behind almost the entire political class, from France and abroad (including 44 foreign heads of state) seemed to suggest that people were ready to say, “enough is enough”.
The watchword of this moment of national unity was, of course, “je suis Charlie”. But are we really Charlie?
Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who knew a few things about preaching, once wrote, “The preacher who bores others in the pulpit is a bore before he even gets into it.” Why? Is it because the preacher hasn’t worked on his delivery? Or because he has failed to be relevant in his words? No, Sheen wrote, it is due to a much deeper reason: “He is not in love. He is not on fire with Christ. He is a burned out cinder floating in the immensity of catchwords. … Some other source than Christ is behind the sociological platitudes, moral chestnuts and political bromides of the preacher.”
Strong words, but words to be taken seriously. The Church and the world both need good preaching—and preachers who are in love with Christ.
Today’s first reading describes the second powerful sermon delivered by a man who would not ordinarily, as men gauge such things, be considered a candidate for “great preacher” status. Although the Apostle Peter had been a successful fisherman and businessman, he likely possessed a modest educational background; he certainly was not a theologian in the sense of having studied in academic halls and having earned degrees. In addition, Peter often displayed a rash, petulant personality ill suited for the responsibility of preaching.
But not only was Peter—who had denied Christ three times not many weeks prior!—not a boring preacher, he was a preacher who spoke with power, authority, conviction, and words cutting to the heart. His sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41) was a masterful and moving declaration that Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is Lord and Messiah. It centered, as all true preaching does, on the kerygma—the proclamation of salvation for mankind through the resurrection of Christ, “the Holy and Righteous One”.
At the end of both sermons, Peter exhorted his listeners to repent and convert so sins might be removed, or “wiped away”. The removal of sin is through baptism, by which the Holy Spirit cleanses and purifies man, bringing him into intimate communion with the Father through the person of the Son. As the Catechism explains, “From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism” (par 1226), and, “Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life” (par 1427).
St. John, in his first epistle, provides further theological insight into this saving work. The Son, he writes, is a righteous and holy Advocate for us before the Father, as we cannot merit any favor or grace by our natural efforts. Jesus “is expiation for our sins”, that is, he took upon himself the punishment we deserved for our sins, and therefore made divine reparation as only the Incarnate Word can do. Now made children of God, we are called to keep the commandments—not as mere duties, but as active and willing participation in the love of God.
These saving truths are communicated in various ways, and preaching is an essential part of that proclamation. Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., in his book, Why Preach: Encountering Christ in God's Word (Ignatius Press, 2009), notes what preaching is not. “But preaching is not speech-giving”, he warns, “No one was ever saved by a message. It would have been a waste of time for the Word to become flesh if it sufficed for the Father to send a memo instead of his Son. No one was ever saved by a mere discourse.” No, he insists, preaching discloses truth through “an encounter”.
That encounter is with the risen Lord. “Look at my hands and my feet”, Jesus told the frightened disciples, “Touch me and see…” There is the encounter: Look at Christ. Touch Christ. See Christ. Not just with physical sight, but also with spiritual vision. Then love is born—and it is never boring!
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the April 22, 2012, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
Pope Francis meets with representatives of the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious in his library in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Who really won? The sisters or the Vatican?” | Ann Carey | CWR blog
The various "LCWR vs. The Vatican" news stories have misunderstood or misrepresented many of the basic facts
A French journalist I know called me for help on an article she was writing about the reform plan for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) accepted April 16 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
She said she was confused by all the articles on the topic in the U.S. press and wanted to ask me “Who really won? The sisters or the Vatican?”
At first I was stunned by this win-lose terminology, and I wondered why she would have considered the doctrinal reform of a canonically-erected entity to be a conflict of some kind, with the outcome producing a winner and a loser.
My own impression of the outcome was that everyone won because the CDF had helped the LCWR to be a better organization for sisters by refocusing its role to be “centered on Jesus Christ and faithful to the teachings of the Church,” according to the final report.
Then I took time to read several media stories on the topic and discovered that some of the articles made it sound as if the CDF’s reform of the LCWR indeed was adversarial, akin to “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” or a new “Star Wars” sequel.
Consider, for example, this headline from the April 16 New York Times: “Vatican Ends Battle With U.S. Catholic Nuns’ Group.” Writer Laurie Goodstein then went on to use such inflammatory language as “confrontation,” “vexing and unjust inquisition” and “standoff.”
Several other articles used similar language, saying the reform effort was a “takeover” of the group, and some simply declared that the sisters had won a battle with the Vatican. Miriam Krule writing for Slate called the reform agreement a “victory and vindication for LCWR.”
It seems as if some writers simply shaped the outcome to reflect their own hopes and expectations. No wonder my French friend was confused.
Adding to her confusion were articles that contained downright incorrect information on the topic, making me wonder if the writers had actually read the CDF-LCWR joint final report. Perhaps accurate research is just not their thing.
For example, several articles reported that the reform was ended “abruptly” or “early,” an indication that the Holy See just wanted to be done with the matter.