Nov 222016

Just in time for Advent is Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations by Heidi Hess Saxton. With St. Teresa of Calcutta’s recent canonization, timely indeed.

This devotional is similar to many daily’s. An introductory snippet of scripture, a mediation for the day, a moment to reflect, and a closing prayer. The meditation is centered around an aspect of St. Teresa’s history, quotes, or both. I found the mediations worthwhile considering they are limited to a page or page and a half.

The number of days in Advent changes each year as to how much of a full four weeks of Advent there are in relation to Christmas. This book is able to cover a full four weeks along with Feast Days and Solemnities that occur. So it is pretty easy to follow.

  • Caveat: Review copy provider by publisher.
Nov 162016

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 October 2016 to 16 November 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.


General Audiences




Papal Tweets

  • “We should never forget about beauty, which humanity needs so much!” @Pontifex 10 November 2016
  • “Dear Friends, never forget that in our encounter with people in need we meet Jesus himself.” @Pontifex 11 November 2016
  • “I am before the Holy Door and I ask: “Lord, help me to thrust open the door of my heart!”.” @Pontifex 12 November 2016
  • “If you want to find God, seek him where he is hidden: in the neediest, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned.” @Pontifex 13 November 2016
  • “In a world which has been damaged by the virus of indifference, the works of mercy are the best antidote.” @Pontifex 14 November 2016
  • “If every one of us, every day, does a work of mercy, there will be a revolution in the world!” @Pontifex 15 November 2016
  • “We don’t have to go far or come up with grand projects to be charitable. Often the people closest to us could use our help.” @Pontifex 16 November 2016

Papal Instagram

Nov 142016

Jimmy Akin’s latest release from Catholic Answers Press is A Daily Defense: 365 Days ( plus one) to Becoming a Better Apologist.

I have become quite found of books in the format of reading a short page a day. In Catholic circles these usually involve the writings of a specific saint, saints in general, or other spiritual topics. This is a good format that you can always make time for and I have found them to be quite worthwhile.

Still I have never seen this format used for a specifically apologetics work. I have been taking A Daily Defense a day at a time for the review instead of just rush-reading the whole. Now I more than suspected that this would contains clear and concise summaries on typical apologetic topics as is Jimmy Akin’s style. What I had not quite expected was how often they were presented in a fresh way. As an avid reader and listener of Catholic radio I suspect I have heard the vast majority of questions and answers on these topics. Yet the daily topic on Sola Scriptura was quite different than the usual objections. Just cut to the quick regarding what it would mean in application for much of the life of the Church.

Even the presentation of common arguments was enjoyable just for their precision and deft use of analogies. Plus no surprise that even Star Trek gets referenced and put to use.

So while this is a daily format book, it is also intended as a resource. At the end of the book is an Alphabetical Index where you can quickly look up topics you might be interested in. Plus throughout when topics are linked in some way to another topic, this is referenced with the related topic number.

Just excellent.

Another recent release by Jimmy Akin is Justification by Faith and Works?: What the Catholic Church Really Teaches (A Quick Read Book 1). I believe this is self-published on Amazon. The format as the title says is a Quick Read book, 17 pages for this entry. This format dives into a topic more in-depth than a typical tract.

The issue of justification has long been a divide for Catholics and Protestants. But there is not just confusion regarding what Protestants in general think Catholic believe about justification. Really many Catholics themselves have a confused idea regarding faith and works. He cuts through these confusions to show where there is actually convergence on this topic and what is actually divergent. Part of the problem is terminology differences and another is what aspect of justification is being talked about. The distinctions made are very helpful so that dialog is not just talking past each other.

I hope he is able to do more of these quick reads. His full length book The Drama of Salvation: How God Rescues You from Your Sins and Delivers You to Eternal Life goes into this topic in a fuller way – bite size chunks regarding specific aspects could have their own audience.


  • A Daily Defense was provided for review by Catholic Answers Press.
  • Justification by Faith and Works? was provided for review by the author.
Nov 102016

I was not a Donald Trump supporter. For the first time since I started voting I not only voted third party, but wrote in a name Michael A. Maturen of the American Solidarity Party. A totally Don Quixote gesture tilting at a ballot box. Still I wasn’t railing over people who were supporting Trump. I have a hard enough time following my own conscience without dictating other people’s consciences.

Still I did feel much relief that Hillary Clinton did not win. That was certainly an upside. My disdain for her and her policies had developed over a much longer time. Still this does not wipe out the reasons I had for opposing now President-Elect Trump.

Still I am giving myself a Trump Reset.

“I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my President, and I hope he does a good job.” — John Wayne

So I am going to attempt to not let what has gone before color everything about a President Trump. To let events unfold and judge them on their merits. To support the good and the true and to call out error (not that my opinions have any consequence). No doubt I will have temptations towards I told you so!. It is not as if people are transformed as they step into being president.

The reality is that like everything we take the hand dealt and make the best of it. I have seen many cries of this being a pro-life win. No doubt Trump’s policies will be more generally pro-life than Hillary’s would be. Not exactly a high bar to exceed, but not something to ignore. I will let events unfold to see if there is actually merit in this. At a minimum the Hyde Amendment will continue. I doubt his priorities regarding pro-life causes will match what pro-lifers want. But like most elections I really want to be wrong.

The biggest thing people have talked about is his possible Supreme Court nominations. I hold this as very important for the most part. But I won’t be fooled again as so many disastrous appointments have come at the hands of Republican presidents. Democrats have the knack to pick justices that if they change at all it is in a more liberal direction. So only time will tell if even a well thought of pick actually stays that way. The Supreme Court like everything in the Federal government has grown more powerful than ever intended. Still I think supporting 40 Days for Life, And Then There Were None, and other direct pro-life groups will bear more fruit than any vote for President because of Supreme Court nominations. We have done this time and time again, yet these groups are helping to convert people and to actually close down clinics. As a both/and kind of guy both avenues are important.

I will be greatly interested in how he directs Religious Freedom issues. It has been quite an awful eight years in this regard on multiple fronts from the government. Trying to transform Religious Freedom into Freedom of Worship as a diminishment. So we will see how quickly he overturns the Obamacare Mandate that is affecting religious institutions right now. This mandate was not required by the law, but was a shameful edict that can be quickly removed.

There were certainly things that candidate Trump found the pulse on regarding his supporters. He tapped into some general problems that do need to be addressed. The economic climate is nowhere near what it should be and the media has maintained a rose-colored glasses filter on it. No doubt the media will find lots of problems in the country after he takes office.

“The Reformer is always right about what’s wrong. However, he’s often wrong about what is right.” G.K. Chesterton

So will he provide actual solutions to what he criticized? Time will tell. I would restate Chesterton’s quip in that also “The Reformer is always right about what’s wrong. Yet rarely right on how to fix it.”

I am certainly not optimistic regarding foreign policy. We have been blundering along for decades, if not more. We have been the literary Bull in the China shop when it comes to the Middle East. Making decisions from our cultural perspective as if you could rubber stamp the same assumptions on other cultures. So much arrogance there and failing to understand the differences and the forces at work along with all the nuances. Give them Democracy and everything is fixed. Still just perhaps Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn has at least some grasp of this and the extent of our blunders.

I will also not be fooled again regarding for example a removal of a government program such as so-called “Obamacare”. Exactly what government programs or parts of government promised to be removed that were. I score zero. Could Obamacare be reduced back to the reforms that were actually needed? I’ll believe it when I see it.

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.” – Illustrated London News (1924) G.K. Chesterton

I see Chesterton quip as pretty much an iron law verified by everything. Still I want to be wrong, very wrong.

So yeah I remain highly skeptical, but I hope not a pig-headed skepticism where evidence to the contrary is rejected out of hand. The Trump Reset I am attempting is to evaluate events as they occur and not to prejudge everything. So I certainly hope him and Mike Pence well and will pray for them as I try to do for any President.

Still I am also reminded how unhealthy the power of the Presidency has become and how much we invest in it emotionally. Instead of acting in our communities we try to put our hope in a person who is going to fix things and get things done. We always want to take the Federal government shortcut to fix everything everywhere.

I found this spelled out very well in Amy Welborn’s post today #NotMyCityCommissioner. Just exceptional writing and not just because I fully agree with it.

Nov 092016

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 September 2016 to 9 November 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences



Papal Tweets

  • “Let us try always to be united with Jesus, following him especially on the way of the cross.” @Pontifex 20 October 2016
  • “The sick, the poor, as well as the unborn, are all made in the image of God and worthy of the highest respect.” @Pontifex 21 October 2016
  • ““Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!” – Saint John Paul II, 22 October 1978” @Pontifex 22 October 2016
  • “We are disciples, but also missionaries, bringing Christ wherever he asks us to be present.” @Pontifex 23 October 2016
  • “Today there is an urgent need for politics and economics to be centered on the service of life.” @Pontifex 25 October 2016
  • “Love is a patient effort by persons who dedicate themselves to listening and drawing closer to others.” @Pontifex 26 October 2016
  • “The logic behind charity is to be willing to give up everything so that unity and love prevail.” @Pontifex 27 October 2016
  • “Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who encounter discrimination and pay a personal price for their fidelity to the Gospel.” @Pontifex 28 October 2016
  • “Let us abbandon a language of condemnation and embrace one of mercy.” @Pontifex 29 October 2016
  • “I ask you to please pray that my journey to Sweden might contribute to the unity of all Christians.” @Pontifex 30 October 2016
  • “Let us ask the Lord that his word, source of light and life, may help Christians be ever more united.” @Pontifex 31 October 2016
  • “Christian unity is a priority, because we realize that much more unites us than separates us.” @Pontifex 31 October 2016
  • “The saints have found the secret of authentic happiness, which lies deep within the soul and has its source in the love of God.” @Pontifex 1 November 2016
  • “The Father watches over us, and his gaze of love inspires us to purify our past and to journey towards unity.” @Pontifex 1 November 2016
  • “With faith we visit the graves of our loved ones, where we can also pray for those who no one remembers.” @Pontifex 2 November 2016
  • “Christian life is a journey, but not a sorrowful journey; it is joyful.” @Pontifex 3 November 2016
  • “Let us be moved by God’s watchful gaze. The one thing he desires is for us to abide like living branches in his Son Jesus.” @Pontifex 4 November 2016
  • “Forgiveness is the essence of the love which can understand mistakes and mend them.” @Pontifex 5 November 2016
  • “No cell is so isolated that it is shut to the Lord. His love reaches everywhere. I pray that each one may open his heart to this love.” @Pontifex 6 November 2016
  • “Prophecy is saying that there is something truer, more beautiful, greater, of greater good to which we are all called.” @Pontifex 7 November 2016
  • “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.” @Pontifex 9 November 2016

Papal Instagram

Nov 082016

Hostile Witnesses: How the Historic Enemies of the Church Prove Christianity is one of the latest books from Catholic Answers Press and continue their excellence in offerings. I had previously read Gary G. Michuta’s book Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger and was impressed by his thoroughness.

This book takes a very interesting tack. It is sort of a compilation of back-handed compliments to the Church. How the assumptions made by her attackers in fact gave credibility to what the Church proclaims.

I had assumed that the book would take up the common extra-biblical sources of earlier non-Christian historians that I was somewhat familiar with. Instead it starts with the New Testament itself as the apt historical source for how people reacted to Jesus. For example assigning the source of Jesus’ miracles to demons, shows that they admit hew was a miracle worker. Time and time again he takes the New Testament critiques of Jesus and his disciples and shows what it affirms. Surprising how much information he was able to cull from this.

Later he does move on to Pagan and Jewish sources concerning what we can find from those hostile witnesses. Again the detective work he engages in confirm so many of Christianity’s claims from those who would deny them. There is a good deal more of this from sources than I expected. One detail concerning a change in law regarding the Holy Land I found quite surprising in that I had never run across it before. Not that I am such a scholar or expert – it is just that this piece of information would be one you would think would be more well-known.

He covers information in this period from the 2nd century to the time of Julian the Apostate. Besides the previous mentioned Pagans and Jewish writers, there is also information to be retrieved from Christian heretics of historical value.

Interestingly later chapters involve Islam, the Inquisition, the Protestant “Reformation”, Lourdes and Fatima, up to WWII. Once again there is a surprising amount of information to be gleamed from the Church’s enemies that actually validates the Church and her teachings.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable book and not dry reading at all. He addresses various controversies regarding some historical sources fairly and makes sure to spell out where there are disputes regarding historical writings.

Oct 252016

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body is a collection of short stories with a theme involving the Theology of the Body.

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply?

I have mixed feelings about this collection of stories. Mainly because I have mixed feelings regarding message fiction.

Still I found myself involved in most of the stories and the thematic tellings isn’t blunt instrument message fiction. It mostly succeeds in telling stories about people and their difficulties that feel pretty true-to-life. Since these are all ToB related they of course involve the sexual sphere and the consequences involved.

Most of the stories are cautionary tales that try to provide insight into the characters situations and the natural consequences. So mostly I enjoyed the stories, but it is pretty hard to get theological nuance without exposition. Although surprisingly one of the stories which is Science Fiction was rather good in that regard.

I struggle to think exactly what the audience for this book is. As just a collection of thematic short stories, it works to some extent. As a teaching tool it better succeeds into opening up a ToB viewpoint in a relaxed way.

Oct 192016

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 8 September 2016 to 19 October 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.


General Audiences




Papal Tweets

Papal Instagram

Oct 142016

Ross Douthat in a Twitter essay yesterday (21 tweets) said in one tweet. Tweet’s listed here

That’s what there is to see here: Not anti-Catholic “bigotry” (an overused word), but a window into how the Catholic civil war is fought.

This is something that resonated with me as I was already thinking about how anti-Catholic was being overused. Not agreeing with Catholics is not anti-Catholic. No more than not agreeing with atheists or Protestants makes you anti-atheist or anti-Protestant in the pejorative way of reflexive bigotry. They are bigots in the classic sense of “prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own”. There is pretty much zero-striving towards understanding the arguments of those you disagree with. But there is a lot of that going around. This is not to deny true the existence of true anti-Catholicism.

No they are just fine with Catholics who reject the Magisterium like Biden/Kaine/Kerry. It is Catholics who actually believe and follow the faith they have trouble with on most issues. This is why they shift the terminology of “Religious Freedom” to “Freedom of Worship”.

In C.C. Pecknold’s fine article on The Progressives’ Plot to Change Catholicism he references:

In some ways, the Investiture Controversies of the 12th and 13th centuries never ended. Kings continue to want to bring the Church under their control.

There will always be efforts to bring the Church under control. The Chinese government has their Patriotic churches and John Podesta and others create astroturf groups to project their secular values as the faith of the Church. This is doomed to fail as it historically has always failed. Catholics keep trying to bring the Church under control.

If the Church is merely a human institution as the Church’s critics maintain then it makes perfect sense to try to subvert it to your own message. It is not anti-Catholic to do so, it is just mistaken as to the reality of Christ’s church.