Shrines: Images of Italian Worship by Frances Mayes (Introduction), Steven Rothfeld (Photographer)
This ia a beautiful coffee table book of predominately Marian shrines in Italy. Considering the large number of small and roadside shrines in Italy the photographer was working in a target rich environment. The book is worth buying just for the photos alone. The one caveat is the text that goes along with the book. For the most part the photo’s have no text associated with them and it would have been nice to know the exact location of some of these beautiful shrines. There is a index in the back with thumbnails of all the pictures in the book along with the name of the city, but no address.
You get the feeling that those involved with this project are not Catholic themselves. Using the word worship in the book title when most are Marian shrines is a mistake and the introduction contains a real theological whopper "She’s a friend, divine but still a friend." This though is a book you get for the pictures and not the articles.
This book is partly an introduction to the spirituality of Opus Dei and also how Opus Dei was a influence in Scott Hahn’s conversion and daily spiritual life. This book is not meant as a in depth introduction to Opus Dei and it’s founder St. Josemaría Escrivá, but it does cover the basics. I was a loosely familiar with the charism of Opus Dei and some of the writings of St. Escrivá via the excellent commentary in the Navarre Bible, and through Scott Hahn’s book I found that my understanding of Opus Dei was loose indeed. After reading this I found myself wanting to read deeper into St. Josemaría Escrivá writings. The spiritually of Opus Dei was much richer than I had suspected and that divine filiation was a cornerstone of it.
Scott Hahn’s books are always easy to read and he is able to explain complex theological ideas in an easy to grasp way. In this book he refrains from the massive punning that is characteristic of some of his other books. I generally love his puns, but I know some are turned off from his use of them and there feel they mar an otherwise serious work. I found it very interesting his description of the founding of Opus Dei and how its founding was many years in genesis. That St. Escrivá vision of this order had no expression until the Second Vatican Council and the creation of personal prelature of which Opus Dei is still the only one. We now mostly take for granted that ordinary life is a path to sanctity, something that was not much emphasized before Vatican II and that it was really St. Josemaría Escrivá who really lead the groundwork for the The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church in Lumen Gentium.
Scott Hahn also details parts of his personal journey and how Opus Dei helped him in both incorporating devotions into his life, but in the times when his wife Kimberly was still not Catholic. Considering that Opus Dei has become such a boogeyman for some and that there are so many media distortions about it, it is rather surprising that Scott Hahn did not mention any of this or answer any of the common misconceptions. I realize he didn’t write this as an apologetically work defending Opus Dei, but with such outright confusion considering The Da Vinci Code it is a rather odd oversight.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and it gave me much to think on in how work is incorporated into your life and how it can really be a work of God.
Let God’s Light Shine Forth: The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI Edited by Dr. Robert Moynihan.
When I received this book not being previously aware of the author I had some trepidations about it. Reading it and finishing it I found myself quite glad to have been introduced to it. Dr. Robert Moynihan is the founder and Editor of Inside the Vatican magazine of which I have heard many good things about.
The first major section details the life of Josef Ratzinger from his birth through most of his life in the Church. I was aware of some of what is mentioned, but the book goes into detail on his early life as their family moved around trying to live their life without falling under control of the Nazis. His life is followed through seminary, his life as a priest, his time at Vatican II, and concentrates on his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The section that covered Fr. Ratzinger in his work as a theological consultant at Vatican II to have some interesting tidbits of information. The author describes that even though there had been a loose movement of reform of the liturgy, that it was really only a hot topic in Germany and Italy. The fact that Sacrosanctum Concilium was the first document of Vatican II had nothing to do with a priority towards reforming the liturgy, but that they though that a document on the liturgy would be the least controversial and easiest to get through.
Also covered is his time as Prefect as the CDF and how he dealt with the issues of liberation theology and the increase of those who were dissenting from the magisterium. This chapter gives a good over view of Ratzinger the man and the the caricature of him that is finally being dispelled by this actions as the Pope.
The second major section of the book covers his spiritual vision. The author for the most past lets the writing of Pope Benedict himself to do the talking. This section contains multiple chapters on various topics and each chapter is subdivided into various themes. Under the themes are the writings of Pope Benedict as they relate to the subjects the editor has picked out. I found this format to be very good in delivering on the promise of the book’s title to give us the spiritual vision of Pope Benedict XVI. This provides a excellent guide to looking up the Pope’s understanding on a slew of topics. The Pope is such a beautiful and deep writer and so much can be learned from him on a plethora of subjects. I also thing that this section of the book can be fruitfully used for meditation by reading one of the short paragraphs on a topic and reflecting on what he has to say about it.
I have read several of the Pope’s books before and after his election though I am still quite the amateur in understanding the Pope’s spiritual vision, though this book is quite helpful in piecing together. Highly recommended.
When I first saw this title a couple of years ago I knew it would be one I wanted to read. I came across it in a bookstore last year and it finally made its way through my book queue for books to read. I enjoy listening to Fr. Pacwa for both his knowledge and humor and both come through admirably in this book. He addresses the many topics that frustrates faithful Catholics from the liturgy wars to other frustrations.
He starts from the basics though the basics seem to be often forgotten when it comes to these issues. So often anger is directed primarily in griping with very little or anything done in a positive direction. One of the things that gripe me about many so-called reform groups is that they largely seem to be focused on changing others. All true reform starts at personal reform. The removing of the log in your own eye. The book focuses on the steps in personal reform and analyzing what you are frustrated about and what steps you need to address it.
There is much practical advise in this book and I think it should be required reading for anybody starting an apostolate or who finds themselves frustrated or angry about what is happening in the Church. This book will let you get grounded first before addressing problems. Or dealing with frustrations in situations where you are doing what is right, but are not being treated rightly. He builds that chapter around St. Teresa of Avila’s famous line "God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!"
Along the way he also reflects on example from his personal life and how he overcame these problems by following the steps he outlines. There is nothing revolutionary in this book since it is mainly an application of Matthew 18, but sometimes repeating what should be basic to the Christian life is revolutionary in effect.