So, I have a pile of books that have come my way, freebies–gifts from publishers or authors hoping I will read their book and recommend it–and I am feeling terrible that so many books have come in and received nothing but silence on this end.
Since I really do need a little downtime from the ordinary routine, I think I will spend the rest of January trying to get at least a good sense of some of these books and letting you know about them. Tonight, this book was on top of my pile, so I picked it up.
It’s Mark Shea. He blogs here at Patheos, of course, so you’d think I’d open the book the moment it arrived, but I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. I’m glad I opened it tonight:
Pope Benedict XVI writes an entire encyclical called God is Love, in which he reflects on the profundities of God’s revelation in Christ, and The New York Times can only think to say, with some mystification, that it does “not mention abortion, homosexuality, contraception or divorce, issues that often divide Catholics.”
Such observations are then punctuated with the eye-roll-inducing complaint that the Church is obsessed with sex and talks of nothing else.
In short, our manufacturers of secular culture overlook vast oceans of Catholic moral reflection that have given us everything from the hospital to the university to the most immense network of charitable works on the planet. That’s bad, because even most Catholics get what information they have about their own faith not from the Church, but from that media via chat around the water cooler, or something they dimly remember reading on the internet, or stuff on TV.
That’s just the first page of the introduction! The book is not an anti-media/bad catechesis rant, though; far from it. Rather this is an instructive assist in looking through all of the media and pop culture clutter, and (with a hope of deep joy) locating the “face” of God as it may be found via those over-familiar (and sometimes derided) things, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.Duh. This is why the book is called Salt and Light; The Commandment, the Beatitudes and a Joyful Life
Something else I like, on that often-minimized commandment that we Hallow God’s Name:
Blasphemy, like all sin, cuts a culture off from love and delivers only cheap thrills that leave us starving for true life. It makes the universe a cold, dead place. The apotheosis of this is the loneliness and coldness of hell. This is not some place God “sends” people because he’s a vain popinjay ticked about affronts to his ego. It’s a place to which people exile themselves because, despite God’s every attempt to love them, they remain the pathetic sort of people who prefer to scrawl obscenities on the bathroom wall and congratulate themselves for their “courage.” Worship enlarges the soul. Blasphemy makes it utterly small.
My own book, which is coming out in May, touches on both the Commandments and the Beatitudes but only briefly. Here Shea does a kind of full-on analysis of both, detailing how we are prone to miss their lessons and messages, and how we can work our way back. I actually wish I’d had this book while I was researching my own, because his insights are really great.
Lent is coming. It’s a Time of penance, of course, but it’s meant to lead us to joy. Mark’s book, I think, just like Dan Lord’s Choosing Joy, and Margaret Rose Realy’s gentle Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent, can help build up a very fruitful Lent so that Easter may become a particularly glorious renewal.
I’ll have more to say on Lord’s and Realy’s books, as we get closer to Lent, but I’m reading this one right now, and liking it a lot.