Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saint Mary's Press: Good News! Card Game

Today at Stuart's Study, we are taking a break from books to review a deck of cards published by St. Mary's Press called Good News! Card Game. Even I need a break from books and reading every now and then. And I like to keep things interesting on my blog; I am always looking for different types of products to review. It's like I tell people all the time, "If it's Catholic, I'll review it."

Good News! Card Game is a deck of 92 cards divided into nine different categories:

  • Apostles
  • Gifts of the Spirit
  • Fruits of the Spirit
  • Corporal Works of Mercy
  • Sacraments
  • Parables
  • Beatitudes
  • Miracles
  • Woman Disciples
On each card is description of the person or item and where it is found in the Bible, as shown in the picture to your left. There are several games you can play with this deck, but the main one is called "Proclaimer of the Good News!" Each player is dealt 9 cards, and the rest of the cards are put in a draw pile. The objective is to be the first one to collect one card from each of the above categories.

Overall, the concept of this deck of cards is awesome! Your kids get to learn about important people in the Bible and different aspects of their faith all while having fun! With the Scripture references on each card, the winner can pick a card from their winning hand, break open the Bible, and read the passage on the card to deepen their faith. The possibilities to learn with this game are numerous.

However, there is one BIG negative associated with this game that I must warn you about. The paper quality the cards are printed on is really bad. It's super thin and not like your traditional deck of cards. This makes shuffling the cards a challenge because they will bend or tear in no time. You would think a product designed for kids would be more durable, but this game will not survive one child, let alone multiple.

Unfortunately, I have to give this product 3 out of 5 stars. The idea and concept is top notch, but the execution of the idea was lacking and made me wish the product quality had been better. If the games sounds too appealing to you to pass up, I would recommend you gain access to an inexpensive place to laminate the cards, as that will be the only way to keep the game intact for more than one child.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Conciliar Press: Words for our Time

Another month is ending, and it's time for an Orthodox book review. I know I say this every month, but this will be my last Orthodox book review for a while. No, I mean it this time! I do have a couple of Orthodox books that might make it into the "Children's Corner" section of this blog, but for now consider this my final Orthodox book review. With that in mind, I can't think of a better title to review than Words for Our Time by Matthew the Poor, so thank you Conciliar Press for making it possible for me to review this work.

The back of this book starts by saying "Abba Matta of Egypt, known in the West as Matthew the Poor, is widely regarded as the greatest Egyptian elder since St. Antony the Great." Let that sink in for a minute. This is not a statement you make haphazardly. St. Antony the Great is regarded as the Father of All Monks, and it was his biography (written by St. Athanasius) that helped spread the idea of monasticism. To compare a 20th century monk to arguably the greatest of all monks is high praise! You can learn more about him in the introduction, but Matthew the Poor was also a prolific writer, who is credited with authoring 181 books in Arabic. Sadly, very few of them have been translated into English. However, Words for Our Time is not one of his books. It is instead a selection of his informal talks to monks and visitors.

This book is not presented chronologically, but is instead divided into four sections: 1. Spirituality, 2. Christian Living, 3. On Scripture, and 4. On Feasts and Fasts. Most of the talks in this book are from 1973 to 1979, but one was in 1987. I'm not sure why this decade was chosen to highlight, but it stood out to me, so I felt it was worth mentioning. Topics touched on are love, the Resurrection, the Epistle of Romans, etc. Looking at the Table of Contents, I honestly thought that I would be drawn to the section on Scripture. However, Abba Matta surprised me and instead fascinated me with his talks on Christian Living.

The talk/chapter that most spoke to me was called, "A Word to Married Couples." In this talk, there is much discussion about how a husband and wife become one. He states, "This union continues in Heaven," and, "The bond that links spouses is spiritual and eternal." That was very beautiful to read and made me appreciate my wife all the more. Later in this talk, he also tells us that we must give up our "self" to love our spouse more and that we are responsible for the salvation of our spouse and children. For someone who was never married, Matthew the Poor was spot on with his advice. I hope to take it to heart and practice it better with each passing day.

This is a 5-star book and a great introduction to Matthew the Poor. I look forward to seeing what future titles Conciliar Press will release, and if there will be any others by Matthew the Poor. If you would like to read more of Matthew the Poor, you could check out works such as "The Titles of Christ," or "Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way."

If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pauline Books and Media - Padre Pio: Glimpse into the Miraculous

The Catholic Church has thousands upon thousands of saints in her rich history. Most of them are only known in specific regions, because there are more saints than days on the calendar, i.e., St. Eulalia. (By the way, St. Eulalia has a fascinating story that you should check out here. Thanks to my friends for naming their future daughter after her and introducing me to a saint I didn't know.) Other saints are considered giants of the faith that everybody knows, like St. Peter or St. Paul. Today, I am reviewing a book about one of these spiritual giants - Padre Pio.

Padre Pio: Glimpse into the Miraculous isn't your typical biography of a saint. The author, Fr. Pascal Cataneo, assumes you already know the basics of Padre Pio, such as when and where he was born, educated, lived, died, etc. This book is more of a spiritual biography of Padre Pio, which focuses on his many gifts and charisms. Believe me. There are TONS of accounts of the miraculous deeds that Padre Pio performed, and this book covers over 100 of them. I imagine that would be considered only a drop in the well; there are probably thousands more stories just like the ones in this book.

Fr. Cataneo organizes Padre Pio's gifts/charisms into chapters to make for easier reading. Chapter 2 addresses when he received the stigmata. Chapter 4 recounts dozen of stories where Padre Pio would gaze into people's souls and be able to tell stunning revelations about them and their sins. Chapter 5 talks about his instances of bilocation, especially with regards to the Marchioness Rizzani Boschi, who was a spiritual daughter of Padre Pio's. Chapter 6 contains accounts of the healings people received when people sought the prayers of this great man. I could go on and tell you what every chapter is about, but you get the idea.

There are many parts in this book that I would say amazed me while I was reading. Several stories in the book involve people going to Confession with Padre Pio and him listing every sin they had ever committed. They then received absolution. This was both scary and awesome to me. I couldn't help but wish that I had a chance to visit Padre Pio for the sole purpose of going to Confession with him. I can't imagine how astonishing this must have been to experience, but I bet it felt even more liberating.

Another story that was scary and sad to me was Padre Pio's conversation with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. In this conversation, Padre Pio told Lefebvre to "Never cause discord among your brothers, and always practice the rule of obedience." Lefebvre said he would follow this advice, but Padre Pio retorted that he would not. He also said he would tear apart the Church and damage the whole Church. Lefebvre ended up doing just this when he formed the Society of St. Pius X and was removed from office by Pope Paul VI.

There are many amazing stories in this book related to the wonders deeds and gifts of Padre Pio. Some you will recognize, and others you will not. Each will leave you astonished, though. In fact, the hair on my arms were standing up for most of my reading of this book. You would be considered blessed if you had just one of Padre Pio's many charisms. He was truly an amazing man who was close to God from an early age, and this 5-star book provided me with more than a glimpse of how saintly he really was. May we all strive to be saintly like him.

If you found this review helpful, click the link and hit Yes!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Gingerbread House Publishing: Take it to the Queen

Today, I have another beautiful book to review from  Gingerbread House Publishing. It is not a sequel to The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith, but it is written and illustrated in the same style. The book is called "Take it to the Queen: A Tale of Hope." I would send you the publisher's link, but they are currently building a new website, so all links to it are broken at the moment.

"Take it to the Queen" is a tale which involves the relationship of a town and a king. In this story, a king chooses a town to lavish all his goodness upon as he awaits the birth of his future queen who will bear him a prince. The king finally meets his queen and she bears him a son. However, the town has grown selfish and takes for granted all the goodness the king has bestowed upon them.

Like her work, "The Weight of a Mass," Ms. Nobisso writes in allegory. To the adult reader, it is easy to see that the king is God the Father; the queen is Mary; the prince is Jesus; and the ungrateful town represents all of humanity. You might have to point this out to your children, depending on their age, but once they make the connection the story will click on two levels for them. There is a lot of rich symbolism in different aspects of both the story and the artwork. Don't feel bad if you miss a lot of it on your first reading through. I definitely did, but thankfully the inside flaps of the book explains everything to you.

Overall, this was a very good book with a great story and beautiful illustrations. It touched on various theological points including Sacraments, grace, forgiveness of sins, etc. Most importantly though, it will teach your children that Mary is a mediator between Christ and us. This book will show your children that they can turn to her in times of need. I give this book 5 stars. I did like "The Weight of a Mass" better than this book, but it's unfair to compare the two books, as I proclaimed "The Weight of a Mass" to be the best children's book EVER! I also noticed that the first book dealt with faith, and this one dealt with hope. I will have to contact the author to see if a third book is in the works that deals with love.

If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Our Sunday Visitor: Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History

Welcome back to Stuart's Study. Today, I am reviewing a history nerd's dream book - Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History. Before I open up a book to read and review, I make a mental list (sometimes physical list if the book is long enough) of topics, aspects, and features that I expect to be included. If something is missing from my list upon completion of the reading, then it can lower the rating I give it. My method definitely helped review this encyclopedia.

Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History is an up-to-date and thorough single-volume encyclopedia that lives up to its name. Before I even cracked open the book, I was hoping that there would be some sort of timeline in it. Well, the first thing after the Table of Contents is a chronology that begins in 1492 and ends in 2011. This chronology featured important events that took place, like the first martyr in the United States or the birth of Elizabeth Ann Seton. Also included in this chronology were negative events in our history, like the clerical sex abuse scandal. I appreciate that Mr. Bunson did not ignore these warts in our history. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

After the chronology, there are approximately 1,000 pages of alphabetized information, spanning from "Abbelen, Peter M." to "Zumarraga, Juan de." I would be lying if I told you that I read every article in this massive tome. I instead chose topics that I knew about already, like my Archdiocese for example, and read these entries to see how accurate they were. Of the many articles I did read, the information was spot on and did not disappoint. Unlike most encyclopedias, this one was  lacking on images. There are some, but they are just sketches, so that was a bit of a disappointment.

After the articles, there are four appendices in this encyclopedia:  "Missionaries to the Americas," "Saints of the Americas," "Catholics in Statuary Hall," and the most interesting one to me "Cathedrals, Basilicas, and Shrines in the U.S." The first two appendices would be good starting places for reading articles in this work, but the last appendix would be a good vacation planner. Simply look up a state; see what cathedrals, basilicas, or shrines they have; and then plan a pilgrimage for your family or parish.

Overall, I would give this encyclopedia 5 stars merely for the fact that it even exists. It wasn't perfect, and information is always changing, but it serves its purpose. I would say though that the audience for this book is limited. I could see a history or religion teacher or even a history enthusiast wanting to own it, but who else? The only audience that I could think of is parents who homeschool. When your child is studying a certain point in U.S. history, they can supplement their studies with this book and see what was going on in the Catholic Church of the U.S. during this same time period. For example, without this book, your child might never learn that 500+ Catholic nuns helped tend to the sick and wounded during the Civil War.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Anselm Academic: The Pauline Letters

When I was going through college, both for a BA and an MBA, I never read the textbooks. In fact, I stopped buying them my last few years, because you never got a fair price when they bought them back. Now that I have graduated though, I find myself reading more textbooks than I read in college. I attribute it to actually being interested in the subject matter. If I could do it all over again, I'd have gotten a degree in Theology. I'm not sure what I'd do with it, but I'd have enjoyed it more than my degree in Psychology. That's for sure.

Today, I am reviewing The Pauline Letters by Daniel J. Scholz. This book is a systematic study of Paul, his writings (both undisputed and disputed), and writings from the period after him. This book is divided into two main parts - the "Undisputed Letters" and the "Disputed Letters and Post-Pauline Writings." Before reading this book, I didn't realize that the authorship of so many of Paul's thirteen letters was disputed. However, only 1st Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon are undisputed.

Apart from just being rich in information, there are many aspects I like about this book. For starters, Dr. Scholz organized his book chronologically. It's always interesting to me to read about the historical context of a book of the Bible and arranging the letters chronologically enhances that for me. Another aspect I appreciated was the outlines of each letter. Each letter, undisputed or disputed, in this book comes with an outline of it's message. When you pair that with the PLETHORA of charts and tables in this book, it makes studying these works both enjoyable and rewarding.

There are also questions both for review and reflection at the end of every chapter. These questions help reinforce the author's main points and give the reader a chance to reflect on certain points. The reflection questions especially can make good dialogue in class or a group Bible study. They also would make good essay topics for all you professors out there. I think my favorite feature is the "Recommendations for Further Reading" at the end of every chapter. So many authors just tell you to read these extra sources; Dr. Scholz takes the time to tell you why to read them.

Just from a superficial reading of this work, I learned so much. As mentioned earlier, I learned that not all thirteen letters attributed to Paul are considered undisputedly written by him. I learned about post-Paul writings like the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Apocalypse of Paul, which the author claims to have influenced Dante's Inferno. I also learned that Paul's ministry didn't begin until 33 CE (author's dating), but his first letter wasn't written until approximately 50 CE. It makes you wonder if he didn't write anything during this period of if Paul's earlier writings have been lost or destroyed.

No person, apart from Jesus, had a greater influence on the shaping of Christianity than St. Paul. If you want to know more about this great man and his writings, pick up this 5 star book and read it. Then, go back and study this book. Work your way through it systematically with a Bible next to you. Take time to reflect and answers the questions at the end of every chapter. Then, when you've finally done that, pick up Jesus in the Gospels and Acts.

If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Primer for Philosophy and Education

Occasionally, I get requests from publishers or authors to review works of theirs. This is one such request.  Today, I will be reviewing Dr. Sam Rocha's book A Primer for Philosophy and Education. I wasn't initially sure that this book would fit my criteria of only reviewing Catholic and Orthodox products, but since Dr. Rocha is Catholic, I figured that counted.

In this brief 45 page primer, Dr. Rocha attempts to open the minds of his readers to what philosophy and education really are. I was a philosophy major for one month in college, when I thought I wanted to be a priest. However, the teachers at my school taught philosophers, NOT philosophy. There is a huge difference between the two as Dr. Rocha explains in Chapter 4.

He also points out in this primer that our society has brainwashed us into thinking that philosophy and education merely lead to good grades. These good grades then become the sole purpose of attending classes. People don't learn and acquire knowledge for the love of learning. Instead, they do it to get a good grade, which leads to a degree and ultimately a job. I must admit that I was more than guilty of that in high school and college. However, that changed years after I graduated when I started reading works interesting to me and not required reading by professors.

While this Primer is a short read, it is also a dense read. You can read the entire work in under an hour. However, it will feel like it took you longer because it was packed with basic and essential truths that make you stop and think. While this isn't a book about homeschooling, it definitely reinforces my belief in homeschooling my son and his future siblings. I'd recommend this work to anyone who has an interest in philosophy of education, especially those who don't know where to start.

If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Putnam Press: Pope Francis - Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio

Today, at Stuart's Study, I am highlighting another book about Pope Francis. You may recall that last month I spotlighted On Heaven and Earth.  I am doing a mini-countdown of my Top 3 books about Pope Francis, so be sure to tune in next month when I review my #1 choice. This month is I am reviewing my #2 choice for Pope Francis books, and it is called Pope Francis - Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio.

Pope Francis - Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio was the only biography available at the time of the papal election. However, in my opinion, it is the closest thing to an autobiography you will read about our new Holy Father. Each chapter starts off by providing the reader detailed information about various times or instances in Pope Francis' life. Then, there is my favorite part - a question and answer session.

The book begins by discussing Pope Francis' grandmother and the story of why the family moved from Italy to Argentina. We then move on and read about Pope Francis' first job, which leads to the development of his view on work and the homeless. Next, we learn about a time where he was so ill that he almost died. I could work my way through every chapter and tell you what they are about, but you get the idea.

Many people will buy and read this book for the biography alone. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, that is why I originally wanted to read it. It contained a lot of Pope Francis' life story in his own words, but there is so much wisdom in this book as well. One quote that stood out to me was on pain. It said, "Pain is not a virtue in itself, but you can be virtuous in the way you bear it." This was very profound to me, and there are gems like this scattered throughout the book.

If you have been keeping up with Pope Francis via the news, then you will know how humble this great man is. It should come as no surprise that his humility was present before he became pope and can be seen in his answers to the interview questions. However, one also gets to see Pope Francis' brilliance. I can't even begin to fathom how daunting a task it must be to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, one of the greatest theologian popes ever, but one can see that Pope Francis is no theological slouch either.

If you want to get a glimpse of the personal life of Pope Francis before he was Pope Francis, this 5 star book is for you. You will get to see details of his life that otherwise would have been unknown. You will also get to see key events in his life that shaped his views and made him the man he is today. Most importantly, it's in HIS OWN WORDS! That's what truly makes this book awesome and my #2 pick for books about Pope Francis.

If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Servant Books: Answer Your Call

I was driving home from work one day, and like most days, I was listening to our local Catholic radio station - Archangel Radio. I forget what program it was, but I heard Dick Lyles being interviewed and discussing his book, Answer Your Call. It sounded intriguing to me, so I knew I had to get in touch with Franciscan Media and see if I could get a copy. Thankfully, they obliged. Here are my thoughts on said book.

With the tagline of "Reclaim God's Purpose for Faith, Family, and Work," Answer Your Call is a both a call-to-arms and a self-help book for the Catholic person. This book is divided into three parts, which include six ways we lose sight of God's Presence in our lives; four ways we lose touch with our God-given gifts; and how to reconnect in our faith life, family life, and work life. The reader is urged not to skip ahead to part three, as the first two parts are designed to "remove blinders and influences that may have constrained you in the past."

I will be honest when I say that I felt the first part of the book dragged while reading it. Luckily, it was only 26 pages, or else I would have been tempted to skip ahead against the authors' wishes. The second part, however, hit home with me. I could definitely see how influence from others, education, path-determinate choices, and stagnation led me to losing touch with some of my natural gifts. It definitely made me feel even stronger about homeschooling our children. I want to encourage their individual gifts and not turn them into cookie-cutter people who pursue education that results in merely financial fulfillment.

Part Three was easily my favorite part, and I'm sure most people reading this book would agree. There is a ton of information and useful graphical representations. For example, there are Venn diagrams showing the three components that make up human perfection - our life, our natural gifts, and God's graces. In one graph he shows how little overlap between the three is, but he then explains that ideal integration should be a complete overlap. That's hard to accomplish, but it is truly a worthwhile goal. There are other such diagrams that show what make up our natural gifts and God's graces.

For me, the most beneficial, eye-opening, and humbling sections were the three self-audits of faith, family, and purpose. A list is given to you in each of the three categories, and you then check whether you are "excellent" or "could improve" with each aspect. Believe me, there were very few boxes I checked "excellent" on. That was disappointing, but at the same time it means that I now have clear and tangible aspects in my life to improve. Overall, I would give this book 5 stars. It is definitely a book I would recommend to high school graduates, college graduates, people starting their career, people burnt out in their career, or anyone looking to answer God's call for their life.

If you found this review helpful, please click this link and hit Yes!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Herald Entertainment: Brother Francis Presents Forgiven!

Today at Stuart's Study, we're taking a break from reading to review a DVD in my favorite Catholic children's series, Brother Francis. My regular readers will recognize this series from my review of their first three DVDs in this series. Well, today I am reviewing Episode 4 - Brother Francis Presents Forgiven!

This episode starts out with Brother Francis forgetfully wearing a heavy tool-belt, which he compares to carrying around sin before going to Confession. This leads us to an explanation of what our conscience is,  how it can lead us to make right or wrong choices, and several examples of both types of choices. A song is then sung called "God is a Loving Father," which reminds us that God wants to help and love us.

Sins are then compared to rules or laws. This isn't always the best explanation, but the DVD shows us that rules/laws are in place for our own good. This is a good way to explain it to children. Children are then presented with the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (or tax collector). For some reason, this parable is not read yearly in the Catholic Church. However, it is read every Lent in the Orthodox Church. I wish we read it more as it teaches an important lesson about approach God with a humble heart when seeking forgiveness. We are then told of ways we sin in thought, word, deed, and omission.

The remainder of the DVD explains how to make a good confession. It starts with an examination of conscience. Next, we go to see a priest, either face-to-face or behind a screen. Brother Francis then walks you through Confession and reassures you that the priests won't judge you but want to help you. What penance is and the necessity of it is then explained. Brother Francis helps your children learn an Act of Contrition. Lastly, there is the song, "Praise God, I'm Forgiven."

This was a great little DVD, like all the Brother Francis DVDs. I would recommend it for a First Communion class of second graders, as they have their First Reconciliation as well! However, it can also be used for slightly older children who need a gentle reminder that Confession is necessary and shouldn't be a scary event. Unfortunately, teenagers and adults need to hear this message as well. So pick up this and all the Brother Francis DVDs for your kids or your religious education class. The next episode is about Baptism and is called Born into the Kingdom, and there is supposed to be one coming out about The Mass soon. They also have DVDs for older kids about Jesus, St. Augustine, and St. Philomena, which I'm sure are great as well!

If you found this review helpful, please click the following link and hit Yes!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Image Books: Consuming the Word

I've known I wasn't normal for a while now, but every so often I realize something new about myself that reaffirms this truth. Normal people right now are probably looking forward to the summer's latest blockbuster at the theater. I, however, am more excited over the summer book blockbuster in the Catholic world, Consuming the Word available from Image Books. How do I know it's the blockbuster of the summer? For one, it's already #1 in Amazon rankings for Catholic books. Secondly, Scott Hahn wrote it...enough said. Lastly, super-blogger Sarah Reinard and "never say sleep" Brandon Vogt have already weighed in on it. Here are my two cents on the book.

As a convert to Catholicism, Scott Hahn was my security blanket for many years. I knew I could not go wrong reading him, and felt like I could relate to him in many ways. He wrote a mixture of accessible and scholarly works, and I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was able to upgrade to some of his more scholarly works. I would not be where I am today if it weren't for him and his many wonderful works. Consuming the Word is another one of those wonderful works.

If you ask a Christian today to tell you what the New Testament is, you will hear various answers like, "The second half of the Bible," or "Twenty-seven books," or "The Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation." All of those answers would be accurate by today's standards but not by the standards of the Early Church. Dr. Hahn points out that, first and foremost, books were a luxury in that time.  The Church was around before the official canon of the New Testament was even formed. In fact, depending upon your geographical location, you might have found guidance from some works that aren't even in the canon today, like the Epistle of Barnabas or Clement's Letter to the Corinthians.

Hahn then goes on to explain how the term "New Testament" as we know it today is different in meaning from the times of the early Christians. The actual "New Testament," as the Early Church knew it, was the Eucharist. Let that sink in for a moment.  It seems so obvious now, but I would have never made that realization without this book. Using and interchanging the terms testament and covenant, Dr. Hahn points out that the Eucharist is at the center of the New Covenant. He doesn't downplay the importance of Sacred Scripture, but instead tells us how Sacred Scripture, when we read at Mass, points us toward the "heart of the Church," which is the Eucharist.

I think what I liked most about this book is how Scott Hahn emphasizes both Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist. Even though Scripture is not considered a sacrament, it does possess a sacramentality. Using the examples of Ezekiel and the Apostle John, Dr. Hahn says, "We need to 'eat' the sacred texts - consume them - make them part of us. We have to assimilate the Word as food. We have to find the bread of life in Scripture just as we find it in the Eucharist."

Hands down, this was a brilliant book worthy of 5 stars. It is scholarly in that there is more than a smattering of Greek, but it is also an easy and captivating read. I couldn't put it down, even while rocking my 2 month old son. It definitely put the Eucharist in a new light for me. I wouldn't say it changed my view of the Body and Blood, but it deepened it. So whether you are a cradle Catholic, a convert, or a revert, you will want to pick up this book to not only read but to share.

If you found this review helpful, please click the following link and hit Yes! You can also check out a video below, from June 5th, 2013 where Dr. Hahn talks about his book.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Catholic Courses: Unveiling the Apocalypse

Before the birth of our son, my wife and I were involved in several different ministries. We both taught Catholic Religious Education, were active at our parish in the Young Adult ministry, led one Bible Study, and participated in another Bible Study. Some of you might be thinking, "Where do they find the time?" Let me assure you that we have a set of friends who do ten times (at least) that much WITH two kids! After the birth of our son, we have had to set aside more time for family life and some cuts had to be made. One painful cut was the Bible Study in which we were just participants. They were studying the book of Revelation at the time, and unfortunately it didn't fit into our schedule anymore. Fortunately, Catholic Courses has a study on Revelation!

Revelation is a book that fascinates basically every Christian of every denomination. In fact some denominations avoid the book altogether. In addition to being a fascinating book, it is also a grossly misunderstood book. If you asked five different Christians what a specific passage meant, you would get five different answers. In this course, Unveiling the Apocalypse: The End Times According to the Bible,  Fr. Alfred McBride looks to answer these types of questions:
  • Does the book of Revelation disclose the date of the end of the world?
  • Will there be a millennium?
  • Does Scripture support a belief in the Rapture?
  • When will the seven years of Tribulation begin?
  • Who was the book of Revelation written for?
You might recognize Father McBride from another Catholic Course - The Christ: A Faithful Picture of Jesus from the Gospels. I reviewed that course back in April, and he does another masterful a job in this course on Revelation. Like most Catholic Courses  this one is four DVDs and eight lectures. If you think that there is no way he can cover all of Revelation in four DVDs, you would be correct. For example, there are letters addressed to seven churches in the first few chapters of Revelation. Fr. McBride doesn't try to cover them all by cramming too much information into our heads. Instead, he picks a few, explains the meaning of the letters he does cover, and lastly explains the format of the letters so we can later study the ones he omitted. I greatly appreciated that.

I liked many things about this course. For starters, Fr. McBride approached the book of Revelation from different perspectives including historical and present day. Secondly, he taught this course from the idea that Revelation is inspiring and beautiful, not scary and to be avoided. I appreciate that viewpoint. I grew up Protestant and was basically indoctrinated to believe you could pick up a newspaper and find a passage in Revelation that relates to it. It definitely took a few years to eradicate that line of thinking. Lastly, he didn't bog you down with information, which is very easy to do when studying Revelation.

However, one aspect that I would liked to have seen touched on was Patristic thought on the book of Revelation. Since this book nearly was omitted from the Canon of Scripture, there was very little commentary on it. However, Andrew of Caeserea (6th to 7th Century) provided a full commentary on it, which I believe is very important as it gives us one of the earliest views of this book. This commentary is beneficial for Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants to read. because it is dated closer to the time Revelation was actually written than all modern commentaries.

Fr. McBride did an excellent job of cracking open the Scriptures. He provided a detailed but straightforward study of Revelation and also helped dispel some of the misinterpretation related to end of the world mania and fear. I recommend this course for anyone looking to better understand the most misunderstood book of the Bible. I especially recommend it for converts as it will provide you with the real way that Revelation is to be read and not some doom and gloom version you grew up with. To see a brief preview of this course, check out the video below. Also, tune in next month when I review The Hidden Meaning of "The Lord of the Rings."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pauline Books and Media: Man to Man Dad to Dad

With May officially over, the next "major" holiday on the market is Father's Day. This will be my first year celebrating as a father. So for the children (and wives who shop for their children) who read my blog, I am going to let you in on a little secret. We have enough ties. It seems like that's the generic Father's Day gift because no one knows what to get men, either because we are too picky or because when we want something, we'll buy it ourselves. I am guilty of both of those, but that's just because all I ever really want for gifts is either icons or books like the one I am about to review.

Man to Man Dad to Dad: Catholic Faith and Fatherhood is a book written by some of the male VIPs in the Catholic world. At first glance in this book, you'll recognize names like Cardinal Dolan, Mike Aquilina, Dr. Ray Guarendi, Patrick Madrid, and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, to name a few. Each of them takes a specific topic and writes a chapter on the subject.  These chapters include both personal stories and helpful ways to be a better dad, and all their advice relates to their original subject. For example, Dr. Ray wrote a chapter on discipline. No surprise there to those of you who know Dr. Ray. In fact, if you have ever tuned into his radio or TV show, you'll hear his distinct voice as you're reading the chapter.

The book is thirteen chapters long and covers topics such as St. Joseph as the model of fatherhood, Theology of the Body, the Millenial generation, and discipline (as noted above). One will also find two chapters at the end that address "Repairing a Broken Marriage" and "Breaking the Chains of Porn." Fortunately, these did not apply to me, but I do appreciate their inclusion. We are all sinners, and if you wrote a book only to saints, you wouldn't have an audience.

It's hard to pinpoint a section that I would label as my favorite, as each chapter served a purpose and provided valuable insight. If I had to pick one, though, it would be the chapter on Millenials. I have read a Christian book on Millenials before, and the statistics are depressing. I therefore feel that it is our responsibility as Catholic Millenial fathers to change the culture, and the best way to do that is by raising good Catholic children. If every Catholic dad did that, we could make a significant culture shift.

There isn't a book out there that has all the answers on how to be a perfect dad, not even this one. This book comes close though, and while it doesn't provide you with the end solution, it does give you simple ways to start on the long path of fatherhood. I am thankful to have read it as a new dad and hope that I can take the lessons to heart to be the best dad possible. If I didn't already own a copy, it would be at the top of my list for Father's Day. So pick up a copy of this 5 star book for your husband, father, and/or father-in-law.

If you found this review helpful, please click the following link and hit yes.