Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: The Heart of Catholic Prayer

Welcome back to Stuart's Study. Our Sunday Visitor has been very generous to me with the amount of books they have given me to review since my blog started. I am very grateful to them as they have been an integral part of the success of my blog. For that reason, I am dedicating Monday reviews strictly to them as long as I have books published by them to review. The book for this week is The Heart of Catholic Prayer: Rediscovering the Our Father and the Hail Mary by: Mark Shea, a famous Catholic author and blogger at Patheos.

As one could probably infer from the title, this book is broken into two parts, one on the Our Father and the other on the Hail Mary. Referred to as the "two anchors of our faith," this book breaks down both prayers line by line using a style of writing that blends theology, Shea's life story, and the occasional pop culture reference.

I really enjoyed how Shea explained that the Our Father is a community prayer. I had never thought of it that way, but it makes sense. As Shea points out, it is called the Our Father not the My Father. Every pronoun in the Our Father is a collective plural and not a selfish singular. This is why we pray the Our Father in the Mass, because we are all one body in Christ. There were some other good parts in Part One, such as when Shea explained that the line "Give us this day our daily bread" refers to the Eucharist, but overall I felt Part One was oversimplified.

Part Two: The Hail Mary went deeper than Part One: The Our Father. In this section, Shea manages to tackle key points in the Hail Mary such as Mary being Theotokos (the Mother of God), Mary's Immaculate Conception (Being conceived without original sin), and common complains and concerns Protestants have with Mary. A very excellent point made is that Protestants have no problem putting Paul on a pedestal, but cringe and object when the Catholics or Orthodox put Mary on one. I really enjoyed Part Two of the book and feel it would be a benefit to all to read it.

Overall, I would give this book 4 out 5 stars. It was good, but not great. If you have never taken the time to go through each prayer line by line and meditate on them, you will get something from the book. Unfortunately, as I was reading through Part One, I was mostly thinking "nothing new under the sun," and wishing it would have been better. Part Two was what saved this book for me and kept me from giving this book 3 stars.