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THE CATHOLIC REVIEW: All I Want for Christmas Are A Few Good Books

11/19/2021 | Comments

With global supply chains stressed, and holiday travel appearing a possibility, we may yet find our holidays with loved ones, or the opportunity to give a gift to a loved one near or far away. We’re running our annual Christmas reading recommendations earlier this year, so you can brighten the heart of someone special — and perhaps get a book or two yourself for winter reading.

We know and love Peter Kreeft, and are usually enthused about anything the Boston College professor of philosophy writes these days. We loved “Socrates’ Children,” a four-volume series on the hundred greatest philosophers of all time, but even your old curmudgeonly deacon was a bit surprised to see that all the philosophers were men. Apparently, I was not the only one. In fact, Kreeft self-deprecatingly opens “The Greatest Philosopher Who Ever Lived,” just released, with this very fact and a big apology. Kreeft had not only forgotten women; he had forgotten that philosophy is a love affair with wisdom — and he had forgotten the greatest philosopher of all — Mary, the Mother of God.

As Emily Dickenson wrote, telling the truth sideways is often best; Kreeft theorizes that if philosophy is the love of wisdom, then Jesus is wisdom incarnate. Mary loved Jesus more than any other human being ever did. Therefore, Mary was the greatest philosopher (philo+sophos in Greek, lover of wisdom) who ever lived.  As described by the publisher, Ignatius Press, “This book is a one-of-a-kind study on Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus. With precision and humor, Kreeft not only unpacks the thought and spirit of Mary as we know her through Scripture and Church doctrine, but offers a heartfelt crash course in the basics of philosophy — methodology, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, cosmology, ethics, politics, aesthetics, and more — all through the lens of the Mother of God. For seekers of wisdom, lovers of thinking, and adoring of the Blessed Mother, there is ample written here to reflect upon.”

Catholics love Sacred Scripture, and have a special love and reverence for the Gospels. “The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture” series has been widely acclaimed by leading Catholic scholars and popular Bible teachers. We have reviewed several of these individual gospel commentaries when they were originally released over the past few years. This deluxe boxed set includes special hardcover editions of the four Gospel volumes, which are sure to serve as a reliable resource for those who study, teach, and preach their message. The set is available for pre-order at and other retailers and is scheduled for release on Dec. 21.

If there is anything the Church might need a bit more of this Christmas, as she renews her mission and purpose, it just might be powerful, informed, and Spirit-anointed preaching and teaching. We can think of no better Christmas present to pastors and priests, deacons, and catechists (and all those in such formation) than these gifted Catholic scholars breaking open the Word of God for reflection and teaching.

For any children on your Christmas list, we highly recommend “Saints Around the World” by Meg Hunter-Kilmer. As described by the publisher, the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, “The lives of the saints are one of the most powerful ways God draws people to himself, showing us the love and the joy we can find in him. But so often, these saints seem distant — impossibly holy or dull or unlike us in race and age and state in life. In ‘Saints Around the World,’ by Meg Hunter-Kilmer, you’ll meet over 100 saints from more than 60 countries, including saints with different disabilities, strengths, and struggles.”

Any Christian home would be blessed to have these stories around to thrill and inspire children; the paintings are beautiful, and the stories are surprising and current. As one who has come to the saints later in life, I find them to be an inspiration and joy. A visit to the book’s website has additional information about the author, books written expressly for adult audiences, and examples of the wonderful watercolor paintings that grace the book’s pages.

Jeannie Gaffigan, Catholic producer, writer, and mother of five, said of “Saints Around the World” that “My children, aged seven to 16, were transfixed by the stunning artwork and captivated by the beautifully written biographical details.” This book is a wonderful addition to your story-telling family traditions.

With so much fear and anxiety in the world, believers need a remedy, and Father Antonio Maria Sicari provides it in his book “How Saints Die: 100 Stories of Hope.

Father Sicari is a Discalced Carmelite priest in Venice, Italy. Writing in short, succinct, and moving vignettes, Father Sicari gives us insight into the lives and holiness of saints through the ages, but unifies his collection by grouping them into that reason or purpose which for they died.

Chapters include “Dying as Martyrs” (Thomas More, Maximilian Kolbe, and the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne);  “Dying of Love” (Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, and Elizabeth of the Trinity); and “Dying as Saints” which is a fitting summary for the 100 men and women who, though dead, yet speak to our hearts. They teach us not only how to face the challenges of life with grace, but how we can face our inevitable death with hope and peace. “How Saints Die” is an inspiration for how saints-in-training today can live.

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