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Phila. archbishop releases e-book on religious freedom

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At the heart of defeating attacks on the country’s religious liberty is the need for faithful to rebuild a Christian culture that serves as the essence of a democracy, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote recently.

In his new e-book titled “A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America,” the former Denver archbishop discusses the ties between religious freedom and a good society.

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Book review: New technologies globalize superficiality, writer says

April 19th, 2012 Posted in Books, Uncategorized

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“Compassion: Living in the Spirit of St. Francis” by Ilia Delio, OSF. St. Anthony Messenger Press (Cincinnati, 2011). 142 pp., $14.99.

In “Compassion: Living in the Spirit of St. Francis,” Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio shows that in spite of the valuable contributions of technology, we may be in danger of a “globalized superficiality.” Being inundated with information of every kind precludes our living at a deeper level from which compassion flows. Read more »

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Considering Irish Americans without emerald-colored glasses

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Catholic News Service

“The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multiethnic City” by James R. Barrett. Penguin Press (New York, 2012). 369 pp., $29.95.

If you are looking for a sentimental book about Irish immigrants in America — “The Irish Way” is not it.

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Brave students, trailblazing priest in turbulent times

March 5th, 2012 Posted in Books Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Fraternity” by Diane Brady. Random House (New York, 2012). 228 pp., $25.

In 1968, 20 young black men were recruited to attend the very white and oftentimes hostile College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. Many of the young men graduated to became successful men in their communities, among them Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, author Edward Jones, Wall Street CEO Stanley Grayson and trial lawyer Theodore Wells.

In her debut book, “Fraternity,” Bloomberg Businessweek writer Diane Brady describes in great detail the struggles and successes of these young men who survived collegiate life in part because of their persistent and trailblazing advocate, Jesuit Father John Brooks. In “Fraternity,” Brady not only has provided an account of a tumultuous time in American history, she has written an enjoyable story about brave young men who inspired permanent reform on their campus and in the nation.

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Life of trailblazing black Catholic journalist profiled in new book

February 23rd, 2012 Posted in Books, Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

It only seems ironic that a new book that tells the story of Daniel Rudd, the black Catholic journalist of the late 19th century, has been written by someone who is not black, not Catholic and not a journalist.

But, like Rudd and his newspaper, the American Catholic Tribune, the Rev. Gary B. Agee sought answers to vexing questions about the nature of racial equality and how it can be achieved. Read more »

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Biography depicts spiritual vibrancy of Maryknoll Sisters’ foundress

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“On the Threshold of the Future: The Life and Spirituality of Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, Founder of the Maryknoll Sisters” by Claudette LaVerdiere, MM. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, N.Y., 2011). 160 pp., $20.

This year the Maryknoll Sisters celebrate the 100th anniversary of their founding, making it a particularly appropriate time for the publication of this study of their foundress, Molly Rogers (1882-1955).

Maryknoll Sister Claudette LaVerdiere, a former president of the congregation who has worked in both East Africa and Myanmar, offers a concise portrait of this remarkable woman, known in religious life as Mother Mary Joseph.

This is the cover of "On the Threshold of the Future: The Life and Spirituality of Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, Founder of the Maryknoll Sisters" by Claudette LaVerdiere, MM. (CNS)

The book opens with a biographical section that illustrates the family and social environment that formed Molly Rogers. Most Catholic children were educated in parochial schools, but because Molly and her seven siblings attended Boston’s public schools, she was “relatively untouched by the Catholic culture of the time.” This would have a significant impact on her vision for Maryknoll, a congregation “shaped more by the resilience needed in foreign mission than by traditional expectations of religious.”

Molly wanted to be a nurse, but her father insisted she get a college education and during her junior year at Smith College she experienced her decisive call. “She had just witnessed the vibrant ‘mission sending’ of the Protestant Student Volunteer Movement. ‘Something — I do not know how to describe it — happened within me,’ and she proceeded directly to St. Mary’s Church. Kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, she pledged herself to the mission of the church, having no idea how she might follow through on this commitment. She simply believed that divine providence would show the way.”

“On the Threshold of the Future,” like other stories of the founding of religious congregations, can be read as a testimony to how divine providence works in, and through, the lives of generous souls. Beginning Jan. 6, 1912, Molly Rogers and a small group of other women volunteers supported Fathers James Anthony Walsh and Thomas Frederick Price in the establishment of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America.

These laywomen began as unpaid secretaries (the “Teresians of Maryknoll”) and after a lengthy period of formation and training, received approval to become a diocesan congregation in 1920. The following year, the first Sisters were sent to China.

The book’s great strength is its careful presentation of Mother Mary Joseph’s spirituality, whose description of a Maryknoll Sister is a remarkably accurate rendering of her own spiritual genius. “I would have her distinguished,” she wrote, “by Christ-like charity, limpid simplicity of soul, heroic generosity, selflessness, unfailing loyalty, prudent zeal, gracious courtesy, an adaptable disposition, solid piety and the saving grace of a kindly humor.”

The Maryknoll Sisters were imbued with the Dominican charism of contemplation and action. “I mean that we must be so trained, have so formed our affections … our inward gaze fixed solely upon (God), and no matter what distractions, no matter what works, what trials, sickness, separation caused by death — always our first thought, our involuntary action, even, is to accept everything with our eyes fixed upon the face of Christ.”

Mother Mary Joseph had great confidence in the Sisters’ maturity, diversity of gifts, bonds of charity (“mutual love in Christ”) and religious obedience to sustain the common good. When, on Jan. 2, 1947, she left the office of mother general, Mother Mary Joseph reflected on the 35 years she led her community. “These have been lovely years in which we have worked together and my heart will always sing its hymn of gratitude, to you, for your patience, your faithfulness and your love, and to God, for having given us each other in this glorious work of the extension of God’s kingdom.”

This carefully researched, well-written and intelligent book is not, ultimately, a work of scholarship. It is, instead, a “hymn of gratitude” for Mother Mary Joseph’s spiritual vitality, “a gift not only for Maryknoll missioners in the first part of the 20th century but for our time and for the world.”

Rachel Linner, a freelance writer and reviewer in Medford, Mass., wrote this review for Catholic News Service.

 

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Spiritual practices get a fresh look

January 13th, 2012 Posted in Books Tags: , ,

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“Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor”by Jana Riess. Paraclete Press (Orleans, Mass., 2011). 179 pp., $16.99.

“Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux” by Heather King. Paraclete Press (Orleans, Mass., 2011). 160 pp., $16.99.

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Book reviews: Heroic saints, saintly heroes still inspire

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“A Dangerous Dozen: 12 Christians Who Threatened the Status Quo but Taught Us to Live Like Jesus” by the Rev. C.K. Robertson. SkyLight Paths Publishing (Woodstock, Vt., 2011). 171 pp., $16.99.

“Ten African Heroes: The Sweep of Independence in Black Africa” by Thomas Melady and Margaret Melady. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, N.Y., 2011). 205 pp., $25.

By Regina Lordan

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Narrative history tells tales of conversion from 17th, 20th centuries

December 16th, 2011 Posted in Books Tags: ,

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“Conversions: Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America” by Craig Harline. Yale University Press (New Haven, Conn., 2011). 320 pp., $27.50.

 

Reviewed by Eugene J. Fisher

Catholic News Service

 

Craig Harline, the author of “Conversions,” a highly readable and in many ways fascinating exercise in “narrative history,” is a Mormon, a fact not unrelated to his study, and professor of history at Brigham Young University.

The basic narrative is that of a young man, Jacob Rolandus, son of a Reformed preacher and grandson of a famous Reformed preacher and scholar, who in the 17th century left his family and his home in the Netherlands, fleeing to the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium) to become a Catholic, ultimately joining the Jesuits and becoming a missionary.

CNS photo

Jacob’s story, written in novelistic fashion, is based upon his journals and extensive correspondence, especially with his sister, who remained staunchly Reformed despite Jacob’s lengthy treatises proving, to his satisfaction if not hers, the superiority of Catholicism to Reformed Christianity. Her counterarguments likewise fail to move Jacob from his faith commitment, which he sincerely believes to be a response to God’s call.

In the sister’s letters and in statements especially from Jacob’s father, one sees an astounding display of anti-Catholic diatribe, misinterpretation of Catholic doctrine, and invective in which terms such as “papist” for “Catholic” and “whore of Babylon” to refer to the pope are among the less incendiary, with Jacob returning anti-Reformed rhetoric common to Catholic usage of the time.

Though Harline does not go into the issue (as I believe he should have), it is no wonder that our immigrant Irish, Italian, Polish and now Hispanic ancestors encountered and still encounter today so much systematic anti-Catholicism and discrimination.

The Rolandus narrative is helpful for contemporary Catholics to understand our not-so-distant past in this country, while the inability of the Rolandus family to reconcile themselves to Jacob’s “apostasy” can help Catholic families to overcome and embrace similar situations of Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and other non-Catholic.

We live today, thanks to the Second Vatican Council, in an ecumenical age in which Catholic families can place love over sectarian differences without diminishing their own basic faith commitments.

Interspersed with the historical narrative is one from the 1960s and 1970s in which a young evangelical Christian becomes a Mormon, which is hard enough on his parents, but then in effect leaves Mormonism as he realizes he is homosexual and enters into a relationship that will last over three decades until his partner dies. Again, the lesson of the author is that family love should overcome not only religious difference but also sexual orientation.

On the pastoral level Catholic families will relate to the ability to continue to love and embrace one’s children and siblings despite serious differences. But the analogy between religious conversion and homosexuality, which is simply presumed and discussed by the author, is not really an automatic equivalency on all levels. And while accepting the principle of family love which is espoused, Catholics will need to look to Catholic sources to understand church teaching on the biblical, theological and moral issues involved.

 

Fisher is a professor of Catholic-Jewish studies at St. Leo University in Florida.

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Collections on saints, thinkers teach Catholic tradition

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“Great Christian Thinkers: From the Early Church through the Middle Ages” by Pope Benedict XVI. Fortress Press (Minneapolis, 2011). 328 pp., $16.99. “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul” by Lisa M. Hendey. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Ind., 2011). 320 pp., $16.95.

Reviewed by Brian Welter Catholic News Service

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