Book Review: YOUCAT

Bottom Line: There are some major concerns regarding this catechism, which desperately needs a revision! Don’t let your children read this until these issues are fixed!

I hate to be a Debbie Downer when everyone is so excited over this youth catechism, but I can’t let the concerns I have go unnoticed.

Let me start off by saying that I had such high hopes for this catechism. Especially in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s foreward which exhorts youth to “study this catechism”. I can’t say that I agree with our Holy Father’s opinion here… and I wonder whether he read it or simply gave it a quick flip through. When I first received the catechism, I was excited and as I flipped through quickly I couldn’t help but thinking that this was a great idea. Aim a catechism towards the younger generation to help catechize and get them interested in their Catholic faith. The format is appealing–it doesn’t look like a lot to read, and it has fun little stick figures among the pictures, and quotes in the margins supporting the Catholic teachings discussed in the text. Sounds awesome, right?

Here’s where disappointment sets in. There are a few pictures which are questionable. Some are immodest: a girl wearing a spaghetti strap tank with an undergarment which does not hide certain parts best left unnoticed (pg. 55), and in the section on marriage a picture depicting a couple having a moment of intimacy–while not revealing anything, it is a close-up that shocks you when you first see it (pg. 226)– it’s just odd. There is also a group picture where a young man is making a gesture with his hand, I don’t know what it is–is it a gang sign? An inside joke?Who knows? (pg. 168). And while the stick figures were amusing towards the beginning, once you sit and read through the catechism, the stick figures only seem to trivialize whatever point the catechism is trying to make. In one instance, a stick figure is depicted with a gun pointed at a kneeling sweating/crying stick figure– execution style– under the section on the fifth commandment. Yes, the fifth commandment commands us to respect human life, and thus not kill… but cartoon violence does not get that point across effectively.

   

More troublesome than the pictures, are some of the marginal quotes. Many of them are obscure to today’s youth, and many of them aren’t even from Catholics or persons of good moral character. Martin Luther is quoted in a positive light, alongside several other Lutherans–and while I do acknowledge that some other Christian faiths have not completely repudiated the entirety of the Catholic faith, we are trying to catechize young Catholics about Catholicism– we want them to stay in the Church, not leave it because the Lutherans have similar enough beliefs! A Chinese policitian (identified as a philsopher in the catechism) who led an (objectively) sinful lifestyle and then committed suicide is quoted in support of the family (pg. 204)! Sure, he’s most likely unknown to the youth and most who would read the catechism would have no idea who he is or what sort of life he led or how he died… but that information is all readily accesible on the internet to those with an inclination to Google. As a last example (I could go on), some British actor is quoted in the section on Confession as saying “the closest thing to a father confessor is probably a bartender” (pg. 139)… WHAT?!?! If that doesn’t trivialize the Sacrament, I don’t know what does. That quote is completely out of place, inappropriate, and entirely unsuitable for a youth catechism.

Thus, I cannot in good conscience recommend or praise this catechism. We have so many wonderful Catholic Saints, philosophers, writers, etc. who remained faithful to the Church who could (and ought) to have been quoted instead. I hope they revise the quotes and perhaps rethink some of the pictures/illustrations and reissue the catechism.

I wrote this review of  YOUCAT for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Storeonline. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Advertisements

Book Review: Saints Who Raised the Dead

Okay, bottom line: Everyone should read this book. I apologize for not writing this review when TAN was selling it for $9.95 (half price!)… mea culpa! But it’s well worth even full price.

Father Hebert’s Saints Who Raised the Dead is truly an awesome book. We read a few accounts in the Sacred Scriptures about persons who raised the dead: the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha, of course Jesus’ resurrection miracles in the New Testament, and also the Apostles Peter and Paul. And we even read Jesus’ words in the Gospel to His Apostles telling them to perform such great deeds (cf. Matthew 10:8). However, the sheer volume of resurrection miracles recounted by Father Hebert is amazing. Before I read this book, I had no idea that so many Saints– even Saints who I thought I knew quite a bit about– had raised the dead. Nor did I have any idea that there were so many purported resurrection miracles!

In his introduction Father Hebert assures his reader that he has only included miracles of proven or accepted authenticity, and that this book is not meant to be an encyclopedia of all such cases. Still, the nearly 400 miracles recounted by Father Hebert are a testament to the veracity of the Catholic Church’s claims, and God’s action in the world in and through His Saints.

As Father Hebert also underscores, these miracles are not a testimony to the greatness of the Saints, but a testimony of the power, glory, and providence of God. The miracles are His actions. It is unfortunate that so many, even priests, theologians, etc., in our current day deny or downplay the miraculous; going so far as to deny even the miracles recorded in the Bible. Father Hebert’s book Saints Who Raised the Dead is their cure. We need to be reminded of God’s providence, of God’s power, and of the fact that God still is truly active in the world today. He hears our prayers, He performs miracles in confirmation of Faith. Read. Be inspired. Preach the Good News.

Why should it be thought a thing incredible, that God should raise the dead?

Acts 26:8

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Book Review: Handbook of Catholic Apologetics

It should be noted from the outset that this book is the earlier “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” with a new cover and partial title change, and one new chapter (about forty or so pages). I did not compare each and every page, but nearly every section I checked was exactly the same. The only differences being in font-size and the chapter outlines made more concise. They are good changes, but I am not sure if they are enough to demand a new publication.

As far as apologetical content goes, Mr. Kreeft and Fr. Tacelli do a decent job defending the reasonableness of faith and explaining some of the many philosophical proofs for the existence of God. However, since they renamed the book to Handbook of Catholic Apologetics I had been hoping for a stronger focus on apologetics for theists—for explaining and defending the faith to Protestants and persons of other religions. The book is divided about half and half: the first half addresses atheists and non-believers and the latter portion of the book focuses on defending commons objections to Catholic belief (ex. Mary, the Eucharist, etc.). It is a good resource, but far from and exhaustive and serves really as a good beginning, or grounding, in apologetics.

For example, one shortcoming is the gloss over Father Leonard Feeney. In (briefly) mentioning the dogma Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (Outside the Church There is No Salvation), the authors overcomplicate the matter, dismiss Father Feeney (yes, Fr. Feeney was excommunicated, but not for doctrinal reasons as the authors insinuate) and so Mr. Kreeft and Fr. Tacelli fail to give a really good apologetic defense for the doctrine. The brief sentence or two offered by the authors is useless to anyone who is familiar with the particulars of Fr. Feeney’s case about Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus.

Despite some of its shortcomings, Handbook of Catholic Apologetics is a book that has its apologetical merits for Catholics seeking an introduction to basic questions of faith.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Book Review: American Babylon

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ American Babylon is a weighty description of what it means for Christians to be in the world, but not of the world. It is an often repeated phrase that holds a variety of meanings, but Fr. Neuhaus likens it to the relationship between the soul and the body: “The soul is captive to the body, yet it holds the body together. So Christians are held captive to the world, and yet they hold the world together.”

While a good read, American Babylon is not light reading. Fr. Neuhaus does a great job demonstrating the difference between living in the city of men (earthly life) and the City of God (eternal life), but he often explains these differences by references to competing contemporary philosophies that could be confusing to the inexperienced reader unfamiliar with persons like Richard Rorty, Peter Singer, or the Niebuhr brothers.

Surely the most polemical topic of Fr. Neuhaus’ book is the chapter which asks, “Can an Atheist Be a Good Citizen?” Fr. Neuhaus responds in the negative. Surprising this may seem (to some) at first, I found it interesting that Fr. Neuhaus’ sentiments are echoed in our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s most recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate. The Holy Father explains that atheism is an impediment to integral human development (see Caritas in Veritate #29). Fr. Neuhaus says that the “new atheism” growing in the world today has no real moral accountability. The atheist is unable to give compelling reasons defending the society (and the actions of the society where he lives).

I found American Babylon to be a thought-provoking and necessarily slow read in order to digest the many wise words of Fr. Neuhaus. Fr. Neuhaus definitely had a talent for engaging the public square on matters of religion and philosophy.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Book Review: Called to Love

Overall: This is a GREAT book, well worth the read. I highly recommend it.

Carl Anderson and Father José Granados have done an amazing job interpreting and explaining Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”. Mr. Anderson and Fr. Granados have presented in Called to Love, a mature and all-encompassing understanding of the “Theology of the Body” that underscores the true subject of Pope John Paul II’s catechesis: the vocation of every Christian person to love. In this reviewer’s opinion, the authors here have one up on Christopher West– Mr. West presents a kind of introduction to the “Theology of the Body” that gets your feet wet. Here is the rest of the story. Carl Anderson and Fr. Granados have presented the main attraction: how the vocation to love transforms and informs our understanding of human sexuality and human love.

My favorite aspect of Called to Love is that the authors incorporate not only Pope John Paul II’s Wednesday Audiences which comprise the “Theology of the Body” but Mr. Anderson and Fr. Granados also reference Pope John Paul II’s poetry, his plays, and his other major work on love (the real point of the “Theology of the Body”): Love & Responsibility. Mr. Anderson and Fr. Granados see that the “Theology of the Body” is not just the Wednesday Audiences of catechesis, but that this vision extends throughout the whole of Pope John Paul II’s theology; it permeated everything he wrote. The “Theology of the Body” is the manner of understanding human sexuality and love in the light of Divine Love. Called to Love is then able to present a fuller view of Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” based on the nature and meaning of love.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Book Review: As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning

Bottom Line: Well worth the read. I recommend it.

I picked up this book out of curiousity after hearing about the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus, Catholic priest, former lutheran pastor, and editor of FIRST THINGS (a very good read–always–well worth the subscription!).  Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ (RIP) As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning is not your typical near-death experience account. Yes, Fr. Neuhaus does recount his “I almost died” experience, telling us what he remembers while lying in the hospital with doctors and nurses and friends whispering that he might not make it. The first half of the book is an interesting discussion–almost apologetic– for a Christian view of death. It took a while for my mind to adjust since it was not what I expected, and looking back, I would describe the first part as “slow” (not bad by any means), but this, again, only because of my need to adjust. The latter half of the book is Fr. Neuhaus relating his experience as he remembers it– everything from feeling stomach pain to recovering from several surgeries; and including a “dream” he had where he saw, what he describes and believes to be, angels. Very interesting. Very thought-provoking. Fr. Neuhaus account is better than most I’ve read (not merely because I tend to be more skeptical), but because it’s really not about him, in the end. It’s not a self-promotion. It’s a way of viewing one’s own experience in such a way as to help others see the truth about death and dying. Something we all perhaps need to spend a little more time meditating upon.

(As a side note, Fr. Neuhaus also has an article from FIRST THINGS called “Born Towards Dying” that he published just after his brush with death. It’s a good read too. And quicker, but I still recommend this longer version if you have the time)

Book Review: The 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation

Bottom Line: Yes, I highly recommend it.

The preface, by Fr. Cornelius Warren, CSSR, says that “the order of virtues considered is that followed by the spiritual sons of St. Alphonsus in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. For each month of the year is assigned a particular virtue to which they are to devote their special attention. This is a practice highly recommended  by the masters of the spiritual life, and is fraught with the happiest results.”

Thus, I began this book in January of 2008 and endeavored to read one of the 12 chapters(virtues) each month of the year. I usually read the chapter during my Holy Hour and afterwards tried to meditate on that particular virtue (the chapters are short, so they did not take long to read). I did find it a fruitful practice; however, though the chapters are short, they contain much and I think it would be good to continually read the same chapter throughout the month while adding in pious practices devoted to that month’s particular virtue. I like St. Alphonsus Liguori; his writing style is very direct and full of many pious examples and the witness of earlier Saints.

This was the breakdown of virtues:

1. Faith
2. Hope
3. Love of God
4. Love for our Neighbor
5. Poverty
6. Chastity
7. Obedience
8. Meekness and Humility
9. Mortification
10. Recollection
11. Prayer
12. Self-Denial and Love of the Cross

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.