Friday, March 7, 2014

Encountering Jesus in Word, Sacraments, and Works of Charity and A Concise Guide to Catholic Social Teaching (Ave Maria Press)

It's another two review day here at Stuart's Study. I'm not a fan of this format, but sometimes the books are just too plentiful that if you don't review two at a time, you'll never get to them all. Tough problem to have, right? Poor me. I have too many books. In all seriousness though, these two books are available from Ave Maria Press and are both quick but profound read that will help us grow in our understanding of the Catholic Faith.

Encountering Jesus is a brief 100 page book by the same author, Fr. Peter J. Vaghi, as the Pillars of Faith (4 Volume Set). Broken into three parts, Fr. Vaghi tells us how we can encounter Jesus in Word (the Bible), Sacraments (specifically Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist), and Charity. Weaving these three elements together, we get a clear message of what the New Evangelization is, and we also get a blueprint on how to draw closer to Jesus.

As a former Protestant, I am well-versed in how to encounter Jesus in Scripture, and as a convert, I have had experience drawing closer to Jesus through the Sacraments. However, I never considered charity as a way to accomplish this. That is why I chose that section as my favorite section. Using the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Last Judgment, Fr. Vaghi paints a picture of what true charity is and what it reveals. He says, "True charity, after all, is that which opens persons to knowledge of the Great Mystery: that of the Father's love for man in Jesus Christ, found concretely in and through someone else." If we see Jesus in the faces of those who need our help, the world would be a better place. It's easier said than done, I know. If you are looking for a short but powerful book on how to improve your relationship with Jesus, this is the book for you!

A Concise Guide to Catholic Social Teaching lives up to its name and then some! In this revised edition, Fr. Kevin McKenna touches on topics of social justice such as human dignity, rights of workers, and care for the poor, just to name a few. Under these umbrella labels, we can dive deeper and see specific issues. For example, Life and Dignity of the Human Person includes issues such as racism, capital punishment, and abortion. Fr. McKenna carefully and succinctly addresses all of these issues, using Church documents released by popes and bishops.

With recent talks in the news about increasing minimum wage, it was interesting to read what the great minds in our Church had to say about the rights of workers. However, these sections discuss more than unions and a just or living wage. They also discuss relationships between employer and employee, relationships between wealthy and poor nations, and the dangers of consumerism. Though the media chooses to ignore each of these sub-points and focus solely on sensational journalism, they are important as well and should be brought to the table.

Fr. McKenna has a masterful way of dissecting complex papal documents, like Evangelium Vitae or Caritas in Veritate, and explaining them in readable chunks. As great as the chapters are, the appendices are equally wonderful! I especially like the "Homily and Catechetical Message Guide." In this first appendix, the reader gets a list of Mass readings for all three years and which ones correspond to which issues. For example, the readings for the Feast of the Ascension fall under the category of "Dignity of the Human Person." In summation, I would recommend this book to all priests and any laity with an interest in the social teachings of the Church in a clear and concise manner.

These books were provided to me for free by Ave Maria Press. If you found the reviews helpful, click here or here and hit Yes!