Monday, May 25, 2015

The Catholic Almanac and Would you Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (Image Books)

Image Books is a publisher I'm pretty loyal too. When I first started my blog, they were one of the companies that took a chance on me and provided me with free review copies of books. I don't always agree with everything that they publish, but I could say that about each and every publisher. Today, I am going to be featuring two of their Fall 2014 books, and yes I am embarrassed it took me this long to review them. The two books are The Catholic Almanac and Would you Baptize an Extraterrestrial?.

The Catholic Almanac is more than a book. It is a daily journey through American Catholic history. Each of the 365 days highlights a specific Catholic person and something that ties them to that specific date (birth, death, ordination, etc.). For example on January 15, 1844, the Indiana Legislature granted Fr. Edward Sorin a college charter, and that was the birth of Notre Dame. The beauty of this book is that there are both famous and ordinary people highlighted in this book; people who were great Catholics and people who had some general connection to Catholics. Some of the names in this book are John F. Kennedy, Al Capone, and Jack Kerouac to name a few.

The book is what I call an appetizer book. It whets your appetite, gets you interested in a specific person/subject, and hopefully leads you to read more about the specific person/subject. The best use of this book I see is in a Catholic classroom or a homeschool setting. It is also just an interesting read if you are a history buff. Just so we're clear, this book is not a devotional, but it is a book you can read after your daily devotional (if you are the daily devotional type). Another minor pet peeve of mine is that there is no February 29th. I know it only comes up every four years, but it would have been nice to have unless nothing interesting was found for that day. Four stars!

Would you Baptize an Extraterrestrial? is a unique book in conversation style between two Jesuits, Brother Guy Consolmagno and Father Paul Mueller, who work on the research staff at the Vatican Observatory. The fact that the Vatican has an observatory is pretty awesome in and of itself. There are six conversations in all:

1. Biblical Genesis or Scientific Big Bang?
2. What Happened to Poor Pluto?
3. What Really Happened to Galileo?
4. What Was the Star of Bethlehem?
5. What's Going to Happen When the World Ends?
6. Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?

Questions Four was most interesting to me, as I have read many explanations on the Star of Bethlehem before. Brother Guy and Father Paul address most of the planetary alignment theories and the possibility of the star being a nova or supernova. They never tell you what the answer is, because honestly they don't know the answer. Instead, they show you that science is able to provide a lot of possible explanations to something that so many people doubt. (I personally believe that it was the Holy Spirit and not a physical star, but to each their own.) This book isn't going to give you simple black and white answers to these complicated questions. Instead, it is going to invite you to stop trying to separate and compartmentalize science and faith from one another and look at these questions in light of both. This is just one of the ways the Catholic Church is more beautiful than Protestantism. We aren't a "one or the other" church, but a "both and" church.

Overall, I would give this book four stars. It is intelligent, but accessible. It is clever, but conversational. At times when they went off topic to talk about pizza or whatever, I found myself wishing they would stick to the matter at hand, and that is why I took a star away from it. These men, however, know what they are talking about, so I can see this broadly appealing to a wide audience. It might not answer all your questions, but it will open your mind and make you think more, which is never a bad thing.

These two books were provided to me for free by Image Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found the reviews helpful, click here and/or here and hit Yes!