Monday, December 29, 2014

On Human Life and Evangelii Nuntiandi (Ignatius Press and Word Among Us Press)

Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini was the man who succeeded Pope John XXIII and continued and closed the Second Vatican Council. He chose the name Paul VI because he wanted to continue to spread the message of Christ worldwide. Like a lot of recent popes, he had a devotion to the Virgin Mary and issued encyclicals on her like Christi Matri and Signum Magnum. Perhaps his most important encyclical was called Humanae Vitae. It discusses married love, responsible parenthood, and rejection of most forms of birth control.

Ignatius Press recently released this encyclical, On Human Life, in paperback format. In addition to this book including the entire encyclical, there is a foreword by Mary Eberstadt (author of Adam and Eve After the Pill), afterword by James Hitchcock (author of History of the Catholic Church), and a postscript by Jennifer Fulwiler (author of Something Other than God). The encyclical itself does not need reviewing. It has been around for 45 years and has received a lot of commentary on it, including the book Why Humanae Vitae Was Right.

The foreword by Eberstadt was spot on and a perfect lead in to the text. It showed exactly how accurate Humanae Vitae proved to be. The afterword was sobering in that it showed how many priests immediately rejected the teaching on artificial contraception and said it was okay for spouses to use it. There was a bit of hope in the end, and that was found in Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and numerous laity who are promoting this encyclical. This is a very important document and one that every person (not just every Catholic) could benefit to read. The only thing that I would change about this edition is making it a hardcover, like Ignatius Press did for Pope Benedict XVI's encyclicals.

Evangelii Nuntiandi was written in 1975, close to the end of Pope Paul VI's fifteen year reign. This apostolic exhortation was directed at every Christian and affirmed the need to spread the Gospel to all men, women, and children. The exhortation is divided into seven sections with emphasis on different aspects of evangelization including content, methods, workers, beneficiaries, etc. In the book, with the same name, released by The Word Among Us Press, there is a brief study guide at the end with questions for both reflection and application. Since this is a manual of sorts for those embracing the New Evangelization, the study guide is extremely helpful for individual use or study within a small group/parish session.

This brief exhortation is nearing its 40th anniversary, but it has lost none of its truth and still packs a punch. I plan to make time to read this book again, a bit slower and a bit more carefully as I work through the study questions. I believe it will prove useful at the local level of the Church and can help us reach non-Catholics, lapsed Catholics, and also increase the understanding and faith of Catholics in good standing. So if you are interested in the New Evangelization, I'd pick up this book and pair it with Pope Francis' The Joy of the Gospel.

These books were provided to me for free by Ignatius Press and The Word Among Us Press in exchange for honest reviews. If you found these reviews helpful, click here and/or here and hit Yes!