USC Book Club 2010

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2010 Reviews

December 2010:

Reclaiming Catholicism: Treasures Old and New

Edited by Thomas H. Groome and Michael J. Daley

Review: Reclaiming Catholicism: Treasures Old and New, edited by Thomas H. Groome and Michael J. Daley, offers a fascinating glimpse of Catholic life in the days before Vatican II: no meat on Friday, the communion fast starting at midnight, the Legion of Decency ratings on movies. The essayists of this book, many of whom have written or been interviewed in U.S. Catholic, mine the practices and significant Catholic figures of this period for their spiritual significance and ask what might still enrich our Catholic life today.

The 16 essays in the section on personalities stood out as especially interesting. There are some great vignettes throughout, including Martin Scorsese’s defense of The Last Temptation of Christ: “My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else." 

—Catherine O'Connell-Cahill, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic

Orbis says: A stroll down the memory lane of American Catholicism, the contributors to this book assess whether reclaimed spiritual wisdom from the pre-Vatican II era can enrich the faith lives of Catholics today.

Paperback: $22

Available at book stores or from Orbis: 800-258-5838 or shop online at orbisbooks.com.

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November 2010:

Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life

By Don Brophy

Review: In this compelling biography of one of the most revered female saints of Christianity, Don Brophy offers a fascinating portrait of this passionate Italian mystic as she engages and confronts the political and religious machinations of what has been called the “calamitous” 14th century.

Recognized as a living saint by many of her contemporaries, Catherine of Siena also encountered intense opposition and plotting against her from male clergy and political leaders who resented this fiery and feisty woman who just “didn’t know her place.” Catherine combined a fearless social and spiritual activism and passion for reforming the corrupt church of her time with an intense and fervent faith and fierce loyalty to that same church. In that unique combination she remains an inspiration and role model across many diverse camps in today’s church.

 —Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, Executive Editor, U.S. Catholic

BlueBridge says: This new biography of the great saint and mystic Catherine of Siena is the compelling portrait of an intense and irreverent young woman and her turbulent 14th century.

Hardcover: $24.95

Available at book stores or from BlueBridge: 800-888-4741 or shop online at bluebridgebooks.com.

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October 2010:

From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism

Edited by Kate Dugan and Jennifer Owens

Review: The church does not have an excellent record of seeking or listening to the voices of young women, a fact that makes us lacking as a community. From the Pews in the Back offers a remedy. In personal, heartfelt, and sometimes heart-wrenching essays, 29 women offer a glimpse into how they’ve been navigating the Catholic faith and struggling with the limited expectations for being a woman in the church, finding them tricky, confusing, and sometimes all wrong.

As they share their stories and struggles of ministry, motherhood, and everything in between, they show us that faith still exists for young adults and the church still matters to them. But we may have to go to the very back pews to hear them.

Meghan Murphy-Gill, Assistant Editor, U.S. Catholic

Liturgical Press says: This collection of essays offers glimpses into what it means to be young, Catholic, and female in today’s church. These women ask hard questions and are not willing to take easy answers. 

Paperback: $19.95

Available at book stores or from Liturgical Press: 800-858-5450 or shop online at litpress.org.

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September 2010:

Essential Writings

By Daniel Berrigan; Edited with an Introduction by John Dear, S. J.

Review: Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “For me, Father Daniel Berrigan is Jesus as a poet.” In this new anthology John Dear has culled selections from his fellow Jesuit’s poems, journals, essays, and homilies. For Berrigan all spiritual writing is political—for it resists the culture of war and injustice by its very nature—and all political writing for peace and justice is quintessentially spiritual—for it points to the reign of God.

Throughout his writings—and a lifetime of committed action—Berrigan invites us to abandon war for a new life of peace. I echo Dear’s invitation to read Dan’s words in a prayerful, reflective manner, take his message to heart, and deepen our own journey toward the God of peace and a new world of peace. 

—Father John Molyneux, C.M.F., Editor, U.S. Catholic

Orbis Books says: Draws on 50 years of books, poems, and homilies to chronicle Father Berrigan’s life and work from the early days of his vocation through his ongoing witness for peace.

Paperback: $20.00

Available at book stores or from Orbis Books: (800) 258-5838 or shop online at Orbisbooks.com.

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August 2010:

Soul Fire: Accessing Your Creativity

By Thomas Ryan, C.S.P.

Review: Books to foster, uncover, augment, or otherwise call forth one’s dormant creativity abound, but few are as inviting and lighthearted as Paulist Father Thomas Ryan’s Soul Fire. Directed to his fellow “mid-lifers,” Ryan’s book begins with his own rediscovery of his love of poetry, a gift he generously shares throughout the book. This and other stories of creativity among those in mid-life above all serve as assurances to the timid that there is little to fear and much to gain from taking a chance on creativity.

Ryan knows many of his readers may have set aside play long ago in favor of work and productivity, and so each chapter ends with questions for personal reflection and activities to access what may be dormant or even hidden. Readers will additionally appreciate Ryan’s no-pressure encouragement to let your inner artist out.

Bryan Cones, Managing Editor, U.S. Catholic

Skylight Paths says: Explores the nature of creativity and shows how to cultivate a creative spirit as a way to encourage personal growth, enrich spiritual life and deepen a communion with God.

Paperback: $16.99

Available at book stores or from Skylight Paths: (800) 962-4544 or shop online at Skylightpaths.com.

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July 2010: 

Patience with God: The Story of Zacchaeus Continuing In Us

By Tomáš Halík

Review: Patience with God is for both people with doubts and those who want to understand them. The premise is that many today approach faith like Zacchaeus, the tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus: cautious but curious. As Jesus did, we are called to reach out those on the sidelines of faith—but not to demand orthodoxy from them. Patience is required from both seekers and believers.

As a priest who served the underground church in communist Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Halík brings an interesting perspective to the discussion of God, atheism, church, and current events. Though not a quick read, the book is thoughtful and worth a close—and patient—read. 

—Megan Sweas, Associate Editor, U.S. Catholic

Doubleday Religion says: The debate between believers and atheists about the existence of God often boils down to one thing—patience with God. Using the gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus and describing patience as a combination of faith, hope, and love, Tomáš Halík uncovers the treasures found in waiting on God; especially in times of doubt, burden, and unbelief. 

Hardcover: 
$23.95

Available at book stores or from Doubleday Religion: (800) 733-3000 or shop online at Doubledayreligion.com.

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June 2010: 

Habits of Priestly Heart

By Father Eugene Hemrick

Review: Any thinking Catholic should eat up this book. If tempted to pigeonhole it for priests only, think again. Hemrick’s wise, grounded suggestions for a healthier and holier life include universal challenges such as how to let go of resentment. He brushes aside the “we’re as busy as we can be” excuse (certainly not limited to priests) with straight talk on how investing in the life of the mind, regular contemplation, and a healthy lifestyle will improve your work as well as your faith.

Hemrick’s unwaveringly honest look at the relationship between lay and ordained in today’s church is refreshing.

—Cathy O'Connell-Cahill, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic

World Library Publications says: A must-read for all parishioners. Experienced priest Father Eugene Hemrick has designed this book to help today’s church better understand, accept, and live with the new and sometimes overwhelming challenges today’s priests encounter. 

Hardcover: $24.95

Available at book stores or from World Library Publications: (800) 566-6150 or shop online at www.wlpmusic.com.

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May 2010: 

Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference

By Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

Review: When South Africa’s Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu talks about goodness, we’d better listen. Tutu chaired the country’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, listening as murderers begged forgiveness from the mothers of their victims. If, after all that he has witnessed, he still believes that we are “made for goodness,” there must be something to it.

This remarkably down-to-earth and practical book, filled with stories, glows with deceptively simple wisdom. Blending utter confidence in God with a disarming personal humility and self-deprecating humor, Tutu and his daughter Mpho take on the big questions: Where is God when we suffer? How do I hear God’s voice? They make reliable guides to the difficult terrain of the human condition.

—Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic

HarperOne says: When South Africa’s Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu talks about goodness, we’d better listen. Tutu chaired the country’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, listening as murderers begged forgiveness from the mothers of their victims. If, after all that he has witnessed, he still believes that we are “made for goodness,” there must be something to it.

This remarkably down to earth and practical book, filled with stories, glows with deceptively simple wisdom. Blending utter confidence in God with a disarming personal humility and self-deprecating humor, Tutu and his daughter Mpho take on the big questions: Where is God when we suffer? How do I hear God’s voice? They make reliable guides to the difficult terrain of the human condition. 

Hardcover: $25.99

Available at book stores or from HarperOne: (212) 207-7000 or shop online at harperone.com.

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What do you think? Once you have read the book, discuss it in our online forum

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April 2010: 

Loving Creation: Christian Spirituality, Earth-Centered and Just

By Kathleen Fischer

Review: Drawing on her varied experience as a spiritual director, counselor, theologian, teacher, and environmental activist, Kathleen Fischer invites Christians to discover the invaluable guidance and resources our rich spiritual tradition offers for today’s urgently needed ecological conversion.

Loving Creation combines the wisdom of biblical texts, saints, sacraments, and spiritual classics with the insights of contemporary scientists, theologians, poets, activists, and spiritual guides, as well as stories and practical suggestions for more earth-centered living. Fischer concludes her book with a prayer and plea that we discern God’s face in all of God’s creation and forge new ways of living together in God’s universe. 

—Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic

Paulist Press says: Loving Creation fashions a holistic Christian spirituality that unites ecological concerns with social justice, personal struggles with those of the planet, theological reflection with scientific findings, and everyday grace with global outreach. 

Paperback: $19.95

Available at book stores or from Paulist Press: (800) 218-1903 or shop online at paulistpress.com

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March 2010: 

The Spirituality of Fasting: Rediscovering a Christian Practice

By Msgr. Charles Murphy

Review: Rather than woefully lamenting the loss of the Catholic tradition of fasting, Msgr. Charles Murphy challenges his readers to recover and adapt the practice for today. He agrees that the legalisms associated with fasting in the pre-Vatican II era needed to be discarded, but he also believes that, among other benefits, this age-old spiritual discipline can bring communities together, makes us more aware of the connection between body and soul, and increases our desire for and reliance upon God.

The Spirituality of Fasting offers more than just an argument, though, for why we should fast. It serves as a useful handbook, complete with history, reflection questions, and suggestions for how to translate this valuable ancient practice into our lives. Give it a try this Lent. 

—Meghan Murphy-Gill, Assistant Editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: With sensitivity and depth, Msgr. Charles Murphy explores the spiritual discipline of fasting, both in its historical tradition and in its modern significance for Catholic spiritual life. 

Paperback: $12.95

Available at book stores or from Ave Maria Press: (800) 282-1865 or shop online at avemariapress.com.

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February 2010: 

Good Girls, Bad Girls: The Enduring Lessons of Twelve Women of the Old Testament

By T.J. Wray

Review: In clear and engaging language Good Girls, Bad Girls presents 12 of the most important and fascinating women of the Hebrew Bible. In the book's two major parts-Liars, Lawmakers, and Lovers; and Victims, Volunteers, and Vindicators-the reader will encounter Ruth and Jezebel, along with lesser known women such as the Shunammite Woman (1 Kings).

The portraits of these ladies are refreshingly nuanced and multifaceted. Along with solid biblical scholarship, T. J. Wray provides sensitive insights into the contemporary relevance of these women's stories. This book will appeal to both students of the Bible and women and men interested in discovering what these biblical women can teach us today. 

—Father John Molyneux, C.M.F., Editor, U.S. Catholic

Rowman and Littlefield says: Impeccably researched and beautifully written, Good Girls, Bad Girls takes a nuanced look at the stories of 12 Old Testament women--from "good" Ruth and "bad" Jezebel to infamous Delilah and the mysterious Witch of Endor.

Available at book stores or from Rowman and Littlefield: (800) 282-1865 or shop online at avemariapress.com.

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January 2010:

Prayerfulness: Awakening to the Fullness of Life

By Robert Wicks

Review: So how preoccupied were you today with the past or future, on a scale of 1-10? Me, too. Robert Wicks shakes up readers with this from novelist Walker Percy: "What if life is like a train and I miss it?" Unless you become spiritually mindful, says Wicks, you risk getting left behind on the platform.

This brief gem of a book brims with wise, compassionate, in-the-trenches advice on how to practice "being in the present with your eyes wide open to experiencing God and life." Wicks visits with the greats of Catholic spirituality and tells tales on himself (he frets about stock losses while three family members struggle with serious illness). There's even a checklist of "spiritually mindless" habits. Bravo.

Catherine O'Connell-Cahill, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: New from Robert Wicks, this creative combination of ancient wisdom and contemporary psychology is designed to help readers develop a loving, clear, and spiritually balanced outlook. 

Hardcover: $20.00

Available at books stores or from Ave Maria Press: (800) 282-1865 or shop online at avemariapress.com.

Order now from Ave Maria Press!

Suggested discussion questions from Ave Maria Press

What do you think? Once you have read the book, discuss it in our online forum

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The U.S. Catholic Book Club is a collaborative project of U.S. Catholic magazine and the Catholic Book Publishers Association. The titles featured in the U.S. Catholic Book Club are selected each month by the magazine’s editors from submissions by participating book publishers. The publisher provides a paid advertising in U.S. Catholic magazine for the featured book.