My bookcase is filling up with great reads–things which deserve more time and thoughtful reporting than I’m going to give them here today.
I know, though, that Father’s Day is coming–and I don’t want to miss the chance to help you with your shopping, and help some excellent Catholic writers to get the word out about their newest titles. If you’re considering giving Dad the gift of the printed word, let me recommend a few ideas to get you started:
Randy Hain’s Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men is right on-point. Like Randy’s earlier work, Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work, this book is highly readable and chockful of practical ideas for heaven-bound guys. Randy talks about faith, family and the public square, and shows how men can excel in living the gospel in each of those areas.
And while we’re talking about the world of work, how about this one: Taming the Wolf: Peace through Faith by Greg Stone. Greg marries the timeless peacemaking legacy of St. Francis of Assisi with contemporary conflict resolution. Starting with the famous legend of Saint Francis taming the fierce wolf of Gubbio, this guide takes the reader on a step-by-step journey through the peacemaking process.
If Dad’s concerned about politics and culture, then he’ll want to know that Joseph Bottum has recently published a great book on spiritual anxiety and the moral compass of America. An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America explains how the decline of mainline Protestantism changed the nation’s cultural landscape. And I’m fascinated by how he’s done it: Bottum uses case studies to prove his point: (1) “The Poster Children” who are, as he explains it, the college-educated members of the upper-middle-class who are “the elect”; and (2) “The Swallows of Capistrano”– Catholics formed by the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Finally, Bottum’s “Erie Canal Thesis” traces the progress of Protestant religion through Upstate New York to its culmination in Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel movement, and points to the figures which America decided not to follow. Bottum is a good analyst, a clear writer, and this book is good stuff!
Speaking of America, you might have heard something about Fox News & Commentary host Todd Starnes‘ just released book, God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values. “We are facing uncertain times,” Starnes warns. “America’s values are under assault. Religious liberty has been undermined. We live in a day when right is now wrong and wrong is now right. The vicious left-wing attacks against the recent traditional marriage stance of Chick-fil-A and Duck Dynasty should serve as a wake-up call to people of faith. It’s not about ducks or chicken sandwiches. It’s about religious liberty. It’s about free speech. It’s about the future of our nation.” This is a tough book to read, but we need to understand what we’re confronting; and Todd Starnes documents his concerns with facts, then calls on Americans to take a stand. “I issue this call to you, my fellow countrymen,” Starnes writes. “Onward. Christian soldiers. Onward.”
Ignatius Press has just released an important book which outlines essential principles of a just society. Sheila Liaugminas’ Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture outlines four issues which are so important to Catholic thought that we cannot yield to a secular culture on these. She includes (1) dignity from the womb; (2) dignity without end (looking at aging, vulnerability and death); (3) dignity in love (about marriage); and (4) dignity of conscience (the hot-button issue of religious liberty). Liaugminas, like Starnes, issues a battle cry “Onward”. We have our work cut out for us; for without these non-negotiables, we cannot have a true, just, and virtuous society.
Lastly, in case you’re feeling discouraged after all that culture-war talk, let me point you to a new book which, while acknowledging the challenges confronting Christians in contemporary society, reminds us of the reason for our hope. Let’s Not Forget God: Freedom of Faith, Culture, and Politics by Cardinal Angelo Scola relates theology to everyday life, giving attention to how religious freedom has affected the development of democracy in the United States in light of the HHS mandate. He makes his point, beginning with a speech celebrating the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, and shows how these centuries-old debates have contributed to the development of Western societies from the Roman Empire in 313, to the American Revolution in 1776. John Allen calls Let’s Not Forget God “a must-read for anyone concerned with religion and the common good.”
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It was fun, actually, compiling this list of sure-to-be-favorites. I think I’ll do it again soon!