Book Reviews Galore

Called to Be the Children of God – Multiple Authors

Listening to the Al Kresta show I heard a interview with Carl E. Olson regarding Called to Be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of Human Deification, put out by Ignatius Press. I bought this as this is a subject I am somewhat interested in and knew just some of the basics. This is a book of essays on the subject from a variety of authors.

In the last essay in the book, David W. Fagerberg provides a good summary in his own included essay.

It is an impressive accomplishment in this book to see the theme of divinization laid out across the broad range of Catholic history: Scripture, the Greek and Latin Fathers, Dominicans and Franciscans, Trent, the embryonic Scheeben and Newman, the French schools, two Vatican Councils, and the current Catechism.

Fagerberg’s essay was on Liturgy and Divinization.

So the essays are very wide-ranging across the history of the Church. Previously I had thought that deification was primarily a focus of the Greek Fathers and and much more emphasized theologically in the Eastern part of the Church. There is a truth to that, but this book demonstrates just how much it is and has been a fabric of the whole Church. Mainly that it is covered under a whole range of words and ideas that express the same underlying concept. These essays show just how fundamental this is and again demonstrates how much God loves us. So this is recommended for anybody who wants to know more about the subject. While scholarly, it is also written for a general audience.

Mary of Nazareth – Michael Hesemann

Mary of Nazareth: History, Archaeology, Legends.

This book presents a very interesting approach to providing a biography of Mary. From scripture we can only gleam a little information, but via historical documents and archaeology there is actually a lot more that we can dive into.

While the text of the Proto-Gospel of James is an apocryphal early work and should be looked at critically. It does contain a wealth of information that can be “verified historically and archaeologically” as the author says along with “that we must assume that it has an authentic tradition at its core”. I knew that this document is where we got the names of Mary’s Parents Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, but I did not realize how much other information there was. The author does a good job of demonstrating what we can likely take as valid information along with what is more dubious.

I especially enjoyed how he was able to combine what is known of the history of the times around events in Mary’s life along with being amplified by archaeologically discoveries. This provides both context and flavor. I especially found interesting the connection with King Herod and the Essenes and a foretelling he received from an Essene by the name of Menahem predicting he would become King of the Jews. This led to the fact that after a great earthquake the Essenes likely moved to Jerusalem. Subsequently that Herod allowed them to be involved in the building of the new Temple, much to the chagrin of the Sadducees. Now I am rather suspicious of historians seeing the Essenes influencing everything, yet this is not the case in this book.

Really I can go on and on about what I found interesting and informative in this book. Information about Mary’s house, the Holy House of Loretto, what we can know about the Flight into Egypt along with her time in Ephesus. The wealth of archaeological discoveries is really amazing in what it provides in backstory.

I only had some very minor quibbles. Some of the dated chronology of events were presented without mentioning alternatives. He favors a birth of Christ being in 5 B.C. as do others. Jimmy Akin has a good post in favor of 3/2 B.C. This and other points of chronology I would have liked to see more of a caveat regarding them. Still I found this to be an excellent read along with many “wow” moments.

Caveat This book was provided by the publisher for review.

Continental Ambitions by Kevin Starr

Continental Ambitions: Roman Catholics in North America: the Colonial Experience

As a sad note Kevin Starr recently died of a heart attack in San Francisco on January 14, 2017.

This book provided by the publisher I have not read yet. This is a large volume history which I want to get to, so here is the publisher’s summary.

Starr begins this work with the exploration and temporary settlement of North America by recently Christianized Scandinavians. He continues with the destruction of Caribbean peoples by New Spain, the struggle against this tragedy by the great Dominican Bartolomé de Las Casas, the Jesuit and Franciscan exploration and settlement of the Spanish Borderlands (Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Baja, and Alta California), and the strengths and weaknesses of the mission system.

He then turns his attention to New France with its highly developed Catholic and Counter-Reformational cultures of Quebec and Montreal, its encounters with Native American peoples, and its advance southward to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. The volume ends with the founding of Maryland as a proprietary colony for Roman Catholic Recusants and Anglicans alike, the rise of Philadelphia and southern Pennsylvania as centers of Catholic life, the Suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, and the return of John Carroll to Maryland the following year.

Starr dramatizes the representative personalities and events that illustrate the triumphs and the tragedies, the achievements and the failures, of each of these societies in their explorations, treatment of Native Americans, and translations of religious and social value to new and challenging environments. His history is notable for its honesty and its synoptic success in comparing and contrasting three disparate civilizations, albeit each of them Catholic, with three similar and differing approaches to expansion in the New World.

Faith with Good Reason – Ben Butura

I received Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens from it’s author, of whom I know of from Two Catholic Men and a Blog.

An interesting look at using analytical problem solving to finding truths in the faith. He brings his experience in the field of problem solving for a large company to show how the same rules apply to matters of faith.

As so many have a narrow view of empirical science as being the only access to truth, this book provides the anecdote. He references part of a quote that Saint John Paul II went on to include in Fides et ratio.

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.

Not surprising all the circular logic when so many are trying to fly on one wing.

The book is presented in an accessible style providing plenty of examples, stories and personal stories, and thought experiments. I especially enjoyed his analogies. There is also a lot of apologetics information looked at via his analytical lens. It is always interesting how many tools can be used to look at the faith and to give us new perspectives. He does this ably here and provides tools to use from our reason.

As a note most of the proceeds are going to help the Mystic Monks of Wyoming build their monastery.

From A Dark Wayover – Dan Lord

I was very happy to receive a review copy of From A Dark Wayover: Book Two of the Von Koppersmith Saga (Volume 2) from the author. I totally loved the first book By the Downward Way: Book One of the Von Koppersmith Saga, which I previously reviewed.

Stunningly good and a flight of imagination that carries you along. Traveling from the Garden of Eden to the Pied Piper and its own mythology is brought together to present a fascinating story. A decedent of the pied piper and an evil act that must be atoned for is brought into a world not of his choosing. Enjoyed pretty much every aspect of the story. While it is apparent there are more books to come in this new series, the first book is totally self contained.

The second book does not disappoint and escalates the story. Leo has a lot more to save than just the boys. Lots of surprises along the way as things don’t turn out how you might expect them to do. This one does end on a cliffhanger and so is not as self-contained at the first book. Still my interest is highly peaked to see the final volume. I really enjoy fantasy that builds you up and has a decided moral viewpoint without being message fiction.

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