Friday, October 24, 2014

The Hope of the Family and The Gospel of the Family

The Hope of the Family is a brief (70 pages not counting Introduction and Preface) dialogue between Gerhard Cardinal Müller and Carlos Granados Garcia, the editor-in-chief of Biblioteca de Autores (BAC). The purpose of this book is to "address the question that the Holy Father posed by convoking an Extraordinary Synod on the Family scheduled for October 2014, the question of the 'pastoral challenges of the family.'" The format of this book is question and answer, but instead of looking at problems, it looks at the family or domestic church as a source of hope and a solution, not a problem.

The book starts off by addressing contemporary challenges the world poses to the family. For example young people have a hard time believing in the permanence of love and therefore delay or forego marriage completely. There is also the modern idea that the family is something that should be private and therefore is not relevant among the general public. Cardinal Müller, however, sees marriage as the "original cell of the social organism." Other topics addressed include the sexual revolution, what marriage is, and divorced and re-married persons. Cardinal Müller is astute in pointing out that while civilly remarried Catholics are a problem, they are a minor percentage of the problem, and a bigger percentage problem is Catholics who live together before marriage or just choose to marry civilly as opposed to sacramentally. In this book, Cardinal Müller shows mercy and compassion, but he never veers from Church doctrine and authority. For that I am eternally grateful, and I can only hope that more bishops and Cardinals stick to the Church's teachings. 5 stars.

With the media frenzy surrounding the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family, it is easy for non-Catholics and possibly even Catholics to be confused on issues such as divorce and re-marriage and homosexuality. Cardinal Kasper's book did not help matters any, but thankfully, Ignatius Press has released a new book entitled The Gospel of the Family. This book is both an explanation and rebuttal to Cardinal Kasper's liberal and controversial book, with a similar name.

The book begins by discussing the cultural challenge of understanding the role of the family, both in the Catholic Church and in the world, of which the latter has become over-exposed to sex. One must start at this point to avoid confusion and misunderstandings. Chapters Two focuses on what makes up a real, sacramental marriage, and Chapter Three explains how the Early Church defined marriage, given the context of their culture and lack of tradition to fall back on for definition. The last two chapters then conclude by explaining the modern moral perspective and approaches for pastoral care regarding homosexuality and divorce and remarriage. There is also an appendix, which I found to be extremely helpful as it contained thirty questions for the synod. However, you could also use them to better understand, answer, and defend the Church's teachings. Such questions include, "How is marriage indissoluble?" and, "Why is it not possible to give absolution to those divorced and re-married?"

I admit I had a bit of curiosity regarding Cardinal Kasper's book. Part of me wanted to read it just to see what all the hubbub was about. However, this book squashed that curiosity. There were ample quotes and references to Kasper's writings, and they really did a nice job showing how he twisted Patristics and Church teaching to push his agenda. This book, however, shows that it is possible to be merciful without violating Truth and Church teachings. If you are looking to be more informed on two of the hot-button debates in the Church today, then you not only want this book but need this book. The material was presented in a way that was easy to understand, and I walked away from this book feeling more informed and more intelligent.

These books were provided to me for free by Carmel Communications in exchange for an honest review. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here hit Yes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Joy of the Gospel

Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of the Gospel was an apostolic exhortation delivered by Pope Francis on November 24, 2013, which was the Solemnity of Christ the King and the conclusion of the Year of Faith. In the introduction, Pope Francis gives Biblical examples showing the relationship between the joy of the Christian faith and the joy of missionary work. The rest of the exhortation is divided into five chapters:
  1. The Church's Missionary Transformation
  2. Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment
  3. The Proclamation of the Gospel
  4. The Social Dimensions of Evangelization
  5. Spirit-filled Evangelizers
Looking at the numbers of this document, it is clearly a large document. It is 47,560 words. In this glut of words, Pope Francis uses the word "love" 154 times, "joy" 109 times, "the poor" 91 times, "peace" 58 times, "justice" 37 times, and "common good" 15 times. These figures were taken from Wikipedia. I am not going to analyze the words in this document. More brilliant minds than mine have done so. Instead, I am going to briefly compare two editions released by two different publishers.

The Image Books edition screams papal edition with its bright white cover. The unique features of this books are as follows. 1. It is a hardcover, so you know it will last longer and have shelf appeal. 2. It is deckle edged, which gives it a unique look. 3. It has a Foreword written by Fr. Robert Barron and an Afterword by Fr. James Martin. 4. The notes are at the bottom of the appropriate page and not at the end like normally issued by the Vatican. The only weird thing is the Table of Contents of the actual document (not the book) is in the back instead of the front and listed as an Index. 

The Word Among Us edition is a paperback version like, the one released by the USCCB. Because of this, it is slightly less expensive than the hardcover edition listed above. The cover is similar to other Word Among Us papal document releases, including Lumen FideiVerbum Domini, and Evangelii Nuntiandi. This creates an appealing looking on your shelf to have these important documents similar in look. The great part of this book and what sets it apart is the study guide. This makes it ideal for individual study or small group study.

So which edition should you get? The price is very similar, so you'll have to decide which features are most important to you. Perhaps, you're like me and will get both of them. The important thing is to read the words of our Holy Father, because they do contain a great deal of truth in them. Enter to win a copy here.

These books were provided to me for free by Image Books and Word Among Us Press. If you found this comparison helpful, click here and/or here and hit Yes!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Number the Stars (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Number the Stars takes place in Denmark in 1943. World War II is affecting people globally and the Nazis are spreading their reach in Europe. The story's protagonist is Annemarie Johansen, whose best friend is Ellen Rosen, a Jewish girl. During this period of time, Denmark was occupied by the Nazis, and the Nazis had plans to "relocate" the Jews. The people of Denmark, however, actively resisted the Nazis and wanted to save the Jewish people in the country. For example, in this story, Annemarie's family takes Ellen into their home and pretends to be part of their family. In this story, we not only see the tragedy of World War II, but the character growth and development of Annemarie. It is truly a remarkable and eye-opening story that, while aimed at a younger audience, has reached older audiences as well.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released a 25th anniversary edition of this book. The cover looks like original cover, only with a Newberry Medal sticker on it. It is hardcover, which is nice because it will hold up to the multiple people in your house that will read this book through the years. The cons are that there are no added features. I'm not sure what I was expecting to be added, but it seems whenever a book or movie releases some significant anniversary edition, that there are "special features," like an author interview. So I was disappointed, even though I shouldn't have been. The book is fine as is. I have just been spoiled by what popular culture has taught me. With that said, if you already own a copy of this book, there's nothing new here for you. If you are looking for a new copy or a gift for someone, this makes a nice edition for that.

This book was provided to me for free by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!