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THE CATHOLIC REVIEW: Four books to provide strength in difficult times

By DEACON RICK BAUER
04/17/2020 | Comments

Like two disciples in St. Luke’s Gospel walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus on Easter morning, through some strange set of affairs we seemed to have missed Jesus today. Perhaps we saw him on television or had an encounter via prayer. But we missed him in the Eucharist and with our brothers and sisters, and it might have caused our faith to shrink back a bit. But we are not of those who shrink back and are lost, but those who by faith hear the same words as came to Augustine in his garden, “tolle, lege,” which means “take and read.” May we find Christ opening himself to us the Scriptures, using words to call us closer in this time of testing.

We’ve selected a few books that might cause your heart to be strengthened by faith. Prayerfully, there’s something for each of us each day. Bless you during this quarantine, continue to do good works and strengthen one another (however apart we may be physically).

Christ in Eclipse: A Clinical Study of the Good Christian

From the perspective of a half-century of street preaching and teaching, first begun on a corner soapbox in London, Frank Sheed challenges our accepted way of thinking like someone barking out the gospel from a city street corner. “When questions arise as to what we should believe about hell,” he writes, “still more as to how we should behave about sex, say, or the use of money, it is possible for Christians at every level to think out their own solutions without it even occurring to them to as what Christ’s teaching on the question might have been.” Sheed observes that many Christians no longer find their lives bathed in the light of Christ but approach questions as if Christ were “in eclipse.”

For those new to Frank Sheed, he is brief and to the point. His insights are clear and unmistakable. Though written 50 years ago and now republished in this concise paperback by Ignatius Press, the book’s logic is tight and secure, built on a foundation of common sense. Sheed was one of the best-known Catholic writers and apologists of the 20th century. He also founded the Catholic publishing house of Sheed & Ward and is perhaps more qualified than almost anyone to write about the Christ who has been forgotten in today’s world. Few laymen have had such wide and varied contacts within the Christian world and seen the private face of so many of its public men. Theologically, his work is called Christology, but in the real-world words we use more often, it is a clear-cut guide to moral health — well worth the time invested.

The Catholic Faith Explained

Written in an engaging, respectful, and thoughtfully clear voice, Michel Therrien “directly addresses the doubts, difficulties, and deficiencies of a postmodern, post-Christian generation that’s simultaneously skeptical and credulous. This is the faith explained for today’s generation.” That is the opinion of Mike Aquilina, himself a gifted apologist for the Catholic faith, about this first book by Michel Therrien. A former professor of moral theology at the Augustine Institute, Therrien is currently president of Preambula Group, a lay apostolate serving the work of the New Evangelization in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

An expert teacher, Therrien walks through a crisp and concise 20 chapters addressing some aspect of the Christian faith as the Catholic Church understands it. Included are diverse topics as “How We Come to Know God”, “Christian Faith and Modern Science” (one of my favorites), “Revelation and Religious Pluralism”, “The Dignity of Human Life,” and “A Living Tradition,” along with other topics one would expect to be addressed.

“The Catholic Faith Explained” is a straightforward work without too much vitriol or combativeness, just the kind of friendly nudge that combines reason and revelation in a relatable, over a cup of coffee style. A good high school or graduation book (are we there already?), it is help and comfort for the questioning Catholic and the inquirer as well.

Chicken Soup for the Soul, Everyday Catholicism Series: Seeing God’s Action in Our Lives

Just like homemade chicken soup is nourishing for the body, these inspirational stories compiled by author Leann Thieman provide spiritual enrichment and support for the soul. These are real stories about real people, and you’ll share in their tears, joys and laughter as you discover their stories about God’s grace in their lives.

Divided into sections like “Challenges,” “Being Jesus’ hands,” “Angels among us,” “Moved by grace,” “Miracles and more,” the book is hearty and good for our souls. My own favorite was “Tuesday Afternoons with Sister Mary Patrick” (which you will enjoy if your Catholic faith was ever challenged growing up in the 1960s). These distinctively Catholic stories were each selected by Thieman to present convincing evidence that God is actively present in our lives, helping us and strengthening us.

Whether a few good stories would make your faith stronger, adorn a note to a friend, say in fewer words what your homily might say, or just give you greater faith on a rainy (or snowy) April afternoon, “Seeing God’s Action in Our Lives” is good for everyone’s soul.

Social Justice and Subsidiarity: Luigi Taparelli and the Origins of Modern Catholic Social Thought

The writings of Jesuit scholarLuigi Taparelli (1793-1862) concerning social justice and subsidiarity are fundamental to modern Catholic social teaching (CST) and were instrumental in papal encyclicals such as “Rerum Novarum” by Pope Leo XIII and “Quadragesimo Anno” by Pope Pius XI. This recent summary by Thomas Behr, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, moves us away from the simplistic traditionalist- modernist conflicts and into an authentically human, moderately liberal, modernity built on the harmony of faith and reason. Taparelli’s theories of the just society and ordered liberty are as timely nowadays for reasoned political and ethical discourse as ever.

Although it probably doesn’t fall into the category of bedtime reading, Behr’s book helps us revisit the fundamental questions addressed by Catholic social teaching.

As Christopher Blum of the Augustine Institute asked, “What are the goods constitutive of the various communities to which we belong — family, small business, local community, corporation, nation-state, and Church — and how are those goods to be rightly ordered and sustained?” This study is well worth the focus and reflection in light of our 21st-century world’s concerns and priorities.

(For comments, reactions, or to suggest a book or resource that might be helpful for Catholics, please write Deacon Rick at rbauer@diocs.org.)


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