Friday, July 25, 2014

Sacred Liturgy (Ignatius Press)

Sacra Liturgia 2013 was an international conference to study, promote and renew appreciation for the liturgical formation and celebration took place in Rome at the Pontifical University, Santa Croce. The proceedings of that conference are recorded in the book Sacred Liturgy: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church. The speakers included monks, abbots, priests, bishops, and cardinals. There were approximately twenty topics discussed including the Defence of Human Life, the New Evangelization, and Sacred Liturgy as the Foundation of Religious Life, to name a few.

The book begins by saying, "The Sacred Liturgy is not a hobby for specialists. It is central to all our endeavors as disciples of Jesus Christ. This profound reality cannot be overemphasized. We must recognize the primacy of grace in our Christian life and work, and we must respect the reality that in this life the optimal encounter with Christ is in the Sacred Liturgy." This is a very true statement, but looking at the book, the amount of topics, and the depth with which they dive, it is easy for the laity to be intimidated. I won't dive into all the topics, but briefly touch on a few that spoke to me.

Chapter 3 on ars celebrandi or the art of celebrating was an interesting read. In addition to talking about celebrating the Mass, Bishop Elliott also gave suggestions for both forms of the Roman Rites and some problems in the Mass. He also discusses what we can learn from the Eastern Churches, including some ways their Divine Liturgy is better than the Mass, i.e., the flow of continuity that makes their Liturgy feel like one action and not a series of separate and unlike actions. Chapter 4 talked about the early Christian altar and it's impact on today. I'm not really sure why, but I just found this chapter fascinating. Msgr. Heid talks about the idea and reform of Norma Patrum or the standard of the Church Fathers. I love the Church Fathers, but Msgr. Heid explains how it is problematic to rely on them solely as altars were different from region to region.

This book is no easy read. Though the opening words says that the Sacred Liturgy is for everyone, this book is more aimed at the scholar than the average layperson. There were times I wondered if I could hold my breath long enough to get to their level of depth. What I really appreciated was that they included the homilies that were given over this weekend. I believe they were equally as important to this conference as were the actual lectures given. Though some of this material went over my head, I walked away from this book feeling more educated on the topic of the Liturgy. If you have an interest in the Liturgy, then this is a book you'll want to read.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Wind in the Willows (Papercutz)

Most of us know the story The Wind in the Willows and the four main characters of Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger. They are four friends whose differences in personality help enhance their friendship. There are several themes that you can notice in this book including trying to find your place in the world, man vs. society, social classes, technology, adventure, and friendship. Each of the four main characters has an adventure. Toad actually has adventures and misadventures.

What makes the Classics Illustrated Edition different and special? For starters, it is a graphic novel/comic book. Each page is eloquently drawn animation that puts picture to story. The level of detail is extraordinary too. The comic flows much like the story with alternating action and lull. That's sometimes hard to pull off in comic format, but Michel Plessix did it well. I could have read through this entire book in an hour but the pictures kept drawing me in. I wanted to study them and appreciate them for their beauty.

What are the drawbacks of this book? As this is an adaptation, this will not be an exact replication of the book. It's like a movie in a way. Some dialogue gets shortened. Chapters get omitted, i.e., Chapter 9 -Wayfarer's All is skipped over. However, I really appreciated that they encourage you to read the actual book at the end. While this is a great way for younger readers to get introduced to the book, it is no substitute for the original. As this was my first introduction to this series, I am very pleased with what I saw and read. I hope others in the series will be as impressive as this one.

This book was provided to me for free by Papercutz. If you found the review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Swear to God and Lord, Have Mercy (Image Books)

Swear to God was one of the first books I read as a Catholic. I audiobooked it in fact from Audible. At the time, I didn't grasp the book fully, but I did appreciate it. I have since decided to re-read it, a decade later and see how much more it speaks to me today.

The book begins with Dr. Hahn recounting his first encounter with sacraments in Protestant seminary. In a nutshell, they bored him. He was more interested in the Bible and preaching. Frankly, I could relate with him. To a Protestant, sacraments aren't that interesting or essential to salvation. Having now experienced multiple sacraments within the Church, I have come to realize years after my conversion just how interesting, essential, and crucial to our salvation they really are.

Dr. Hahn then takes the time to explain what a sacrament is, how many there are, what exactly each one is, and where they can be found in Scripture. Next, he devotes several chapters to covenants and covenant theology. In these chapters, he explains what covenants and oaths are, important covenants in the Bible, how covenants were crucial to Creation, how oaths were important to society.

This book is easily understood, because it is written in true Scott Hahn fashion. It is a nice mixture of Scripture, patristics, and personal experience. This is an excellent introduction to the sacraments and the power and importance they have in the lives of Catholics. I highly recommend it for both old and new Catholics. It makes the perfect gift for those in the RCIA program or just those who are showing a little bit of interest in the Catholic faith.

Lord, Have Mercy is Scott Hahn's book on Confession. This too was a book I read as an early Catholic. As a former Protestant, Confession was one of the areas I had the most difficulty with. I don't think it was because of the common Protestant view of, "Why go to a priest, when I can just go straight to God?" No. This was a basic human fear of being judged by another human and how they will look at me after I am done confessing my sins. I don't know why, and I know it doesn't make any sense, but I still have that fear. Why are we afraid of what other people think of us, and not what God thinks of us?

In this book, Scott Hahn details the origins and history of the Sacrament. He explains the covenantal connections related to Confession, and he also explains the best example we have of Confession in the Bible - the Prodigal Son. Re-reading this book years later, I have a new appreciation for chapters 10 through 12. In this chapters, he gives advice on how to make Confession more meaningful and goes so far as to compare it to combat/warfare. Combat and warfare used to be more widely preached, but we have steered away from that now unfortunately. We have to remember though, that Satan is after our souls and everyday we are involved in a cosmic war where we must choose God and good over Satan and evil. The appendices also proved helpful as they walk you through how Confession takes place; prayers you can say before, during, and after; and an examination of Conscience.

This was a very helpful book on Confession and one that I am sure I will visit again, until I finally get over my fear of Confession. However, I think the cure for that will be to go more frequently. If you are struggling with Confession, I recommend this book for you. If you have Protestant friends or family who want to know what the point of Confession is, then recommend this book to them, or read it yourself and you can answer their questions. Anyone could benefit from reading this book though.

These books were provided to me for free by Image Books in exchange for honest reviews. If you found them helpful, please click here and/or here and click Yes!