Friday, April 17, 2015

Let's Not Forget Got (Image Books)

Let's Not Forget God is a book I have been sitting on for months. I keep looking at it on my shelf, wanting to make time for it, but other books win the battle instead. This week I finally decided to bite the bullet and read and review this book. The book is approximately 130 pages, but it is a very dense book. I felt like I needed a Latin-English dictionary when reading it, because Cardinal Scola so casually drops Latin in his writing that, I found myself googling as I was reading.

In this book, Cardinal Scola discusses the crisis of religious freedom in the 21st Century. He does this by providing us a lesson in history, dating all the way back to the persecution of Christians and the Edict of Milan. Scola doesn't glibly give state that the Edict of Milan made Christianity legal, but he dives deeper into it and focuses on the impact it had on other religions and the empire. He also briefly examines whether Constantine's motivation for taking up the banner of Christianity was purely personal or also political in nature. Chapter Two speeds us through the centuries to see the evolution of religious freedom, including the Middle Ages and present day times. Chapter Three is devoted to Dignitatis Humanae how it developed leading from papacies leading up to Vatican II and the interpretation of it in the papacies of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The remainder of the book focuses on present day challenges and the Catholics role in this intersection of their faith and society.

This was a fascinating, but challenging read. There were times I had to put it down and look up a phrase and times I had to turn back several pages and re-read what I just read to let it sink in. Religious freedom is something that affects all Catholics, whether they are aware of it or not. This is not the first book I would recommend to those looking to learn about religious freedom. However, it is a book I would recommend to someone who has more than a general idea about the subject and wants to better understand the historical basis and how it affects us today. Four stars.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The End of the Fiery Sword (Emmaus Road Publishing)

It's been a bit slow going for children's books in the Catholic publishing world. Therefore, when I see a new one released, I immediately jump on it to see how good it actually is. One of the latest books I've discovered is called The End of the Fiery Sword, available from Emmaus Road Publishing. What initially drew me to this book was that it presented Biblical typology to a young audience. For those unfamiliar with Biblical typology, it is a kind of symbolism where something in the Old Testament prefigures something in the New Testament. The two most well-known examples of this are Jesus being the new Adam and the Virgin Mary being the new Eve, and these are exactly the subjects of focus for this book.

In this book, Maura Roan McKeegan walks us through the Creation passages in Genesis and contrasts them with the life of Jesus and Mary. For example, Eve was created and made to be the mother of all the earth. Mary was created and chosen to be the Mother of God, and thus our Mother as well. A serpent visited Eve and tempted her to disobey God. An angel visited Mary and asked her to obey God. Through Adam's sin the gates of Paradise were closed. Through Jesus dying on the Cross, the gates of Paradise were opened again. There are several more examples in the book, but you get the idea.

Overall, I was impressed with the content in this book. It took a very difficult subject matter, and made it simple for kids and adults alike. The drawing style was not exactly my cup of tea. I think it was something about the faces, but I won't hold that against the book. Perhaps, the most exciting thing to me is the potential. I read on the website that this was part of "Old and New Series." I hope this means that there are more books coming, because there is so much more typology that can be discussed like the Burning Bush prefiguring Mary, Moses or Joseph prefiguring Jesus, and all the Baptism typology such as Noah's Ark and the crossing of the Red Sea.

This book was provided to me for free by Emmaus Road Publishing. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Saint Faustina (Ignatius Press)

Divine Mercy Sunday was yesterday. For those unfamiliar with what exactly we celebrate this day, allow me to provide the briefest of facts about it. St. Faustina Kowalska received many apparitions from Jesus, which she wrote about in her diary. In these apparitions, Jesus told her about His merciful love to all mankind, which flows from His Sacred Heart. He wants us ask for and obtain the mercy of God; trust in Christ's abundant mercy; and show mercy to others as if God were the one showing mercy to them. Pope John Paul II had a special place in his heart for this devotion, and placed Divine Mercy Sunday on the Roman Calendar on the Sunday immediately following Easter. Also associated with this devotion are the image of Divine Mercy, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the hour of mercy which occurs at 3 P.M. when Christ died on the Cross. Recently, Ignatius Press has released two products about St. Faustina, and it is my pleasure to share them with you today.

Faustina: The Apostle of Divine Mercy is a twenty year old movie, but you wouldn't know that by watching it. It is considered the first feature film of its kind in Poland. Yes, you read that right...Poland. The entire movie is in Polish with English or Spanish subtitles, so this is not a movie you casually watch. I had to watch it twice, and I feel I could still watch it several more times, because I'm sure I missed some elements what with my mind wandering some and having to remember to read subtitles and try to absorb the scenes at the same time.

The movie begins dramatically in that we see a young Helen (later Faustina) dancing and then all of a sudden a tree is on fire, which only she can see. Fire plays a big role in this movie, as it did in St. Faustina's life. She did see Hell after all. We then fast forward many, many years into the future to another nun (Sister Felicia) who is lamenting the way she treated St. Faustina when they were both in the convent. It is here that we meet our narrator. The movie is a series of flashbacks to different parts of St. Faustina's life, both before she was a nun and afterwards. We not only learn of her simple pursuit to love others as God would but of her mystical experiences and her attempt to fulfill God's mission for her.

The entire story was based, at times loosely, on St. Faustina's Diary. Even though there was a language barrier, you could still feel the emotion that Dorota Segda portrayed. There was a genuine love in her eyes for both God and other people. There's also a short (30 minutes) bonus feature which discusses the making of this film. This film is a great addition to the Ignatius Press video library and is sure to be a bestseller. I'm very thankful that Ignatius Press continues to add great movies from other countries to their collection and can't wait to see what else is in store in the coming years. For other great foreign faith films, check out Life for Life: Maximilian Kolbe and Pope John Paul I: The Smile of God.

After you have watched the movie on St. Faustina, you need to read the book Trust: In Saint Faustina's Footsteps. The book begins by telling us about Poland and the nothingness that it was. In the late 1700s, Poland was partitioned by Austria, Prussia, and Russia. There were multiple uprising attempts over the next 100+ years, but they were unable to declare their independence until 1918. The author, Grzegorz Górny, tells us that Poland was considered nothing and it was from this nothing that Jesus chose to bring his message of Divine Mercy to the world. After the context of St. Faustina's life is set, we are then introduced to the girl before she became a saint. We learn of her family and home life, what they had planned for her life, and how she longed to join a convent.

We then trace her journey from postulancy to novitiate to juniorate. Then, she is confronted with the reality of a tuberculosis diagnosis and the realization of knowing death could come quickly and at any moment. This did not decrease her love for God or others, though. The last parts of the book chronicle the Divine Mercy Movement, St. Faustina's beatification and canonization, and Pope John Paul II entrusting the world to Divine Mercy. As in her life, in death her message was not easily understood or accepted.

This is a beautiful, detailed book on St. Faustina and Divine Mercy. It is done in the same manner as Górny's book Witnesses to Mystery and makes an excellent companion volume for it. The best part of this book is the sheer amount of images and illustrations in it. Every page is a treasure trove of history, both Polish and Catholic history. It takes a reporter/journalist to compile a book of this magnitude, because they have a nose for finding the pictures and stories that others cannot. Each flip of the page is like another step on a pilgrimage, which you can take from the comfort of your home or wherever you happen to be reading this book. If you have a love for St. Faustina and Divine Mercy, you'll want a copy of this book!

These products were provided to me for free by Ignatius Press. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!